Natural Selection or Natural Process?

By Branden Holmes (Surroundx) on November 25, 2010

When Darwin coined the phrase natural selection, he made it clear that it was roughly equivalent to Herbert Spencer's phrase "survival of the fittest". He called it natural selection to contrast with artificial selection, whereby humans consciously select for the traits (actually the trait values) that appeal to them. But nowadays natural selection is not considered to be a type of selection itself, but rather a label given to all of those non-random but unconscious types of selection: viability selection, fecundity selection, kin selection, sexual selection etc. Darwin considered sexual selection to be logically distinct from natural selection because the two could seemingly be at odds with each other when sexual selection produces traits which made the individual (generally male) susceptible to predation. Today we still recognize this friction between the two, but consider sexual selection to come under the banner of natural selection.

Thus, natural selection is not as simple as "survival of the fittest" any more. Such simplistic examples of "natural selection" as the peppered moths are inaccurate. They only illustrate one aspect of natural selection: viability selection. This simply means that individuals too visible to predators, sick, injured or deformed do not live long enough to pass on their genes. Whereas natural selection is so much more besides this. Because every individual which reproduces and passes on their genes tend to be a tenable configuration of genes, they also tend to propogate such likewis sets of genes. Most individuals born, save for mutants, are sufficiently fit to survive into adulthood. They may not do so however because they are eaten by predators or befall an accident. But this does not mean that they are unfit. Most of the time it is mere coincidence, being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Evolution, natural selection

About Branden Holmes
I am an amateur evolutionist interested in the theoretical side of the subject.

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