Survival of the Fittest
“To be politically correct, organisations don’t use the term ‘Darwinian’ or talk about ‘survival of the fittest’, but I am increasingly finding that at elite dinner parties there is already discussion of who the survivors will be.”
– James Martin (multi-millionaire), Oxford Today, Summer 2011
How has this changed? Under the comfortable notions of meritocracy, the “elite” can smugly misinterpret Darwinism and plan for their survival. Meritocracy that ignores the uncomfortable truth that most success is inherited; that conveniently smoothes over structural inequality; that calmly writes off Somalia – “let them starve or kill each other, whichever comes first, so long as they don’t elect Muslims, disrupt our shipping or hijack our yachts”; that dismisses Bangladesh – “we’ll move the factories elsewhere, there’s too many in the world, let the rising waters swallow them, Noah and I will wait till it subsides.”
Survival of the fittest. Not even Darwin’s phrase.
How has this changed? In the opening of Much Ado About Nothing, the Governor of Messina asks a messenger about how many “gentlemen” have died in the war that precedes the comedy. The messenger replies suavely, “But few of any sort and none of name.”
Drunk on their importance, the calling of their destiny, how different are the meritocrats of this age from the aristocrats of Shakespeare’s? Rule by the deserving, rule by the best – they’re almost synonymous.
And yet, real Natural Selection – not pseudo-scientific eugenics – works on many levels: the gene, the organism, the species, the eco-system. How can we know which part is not necessary for the whole? There are many cases when cooperative, altruistic groups outperform competitive ones. What is “fit” to survive is not a moral judgment but just what is suitable, what is sufficient. To consume at levels way above your needs and to let climate change kill off those fellow human beings (as much a part of the overpopulation as yourself) is murder, is it not, if you have the power to prevent it?