Survival of The Fittest

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Survival of the Fittest Meaning

"Survival of the fittest" is a phrase, developed from the evolutionary theory of Darwin. In this theory, he explained the way of describing the complete process and mechanism of natural selection and fittest meaning. 

The success of this biological concept of fitness can be determined by examining reproductive success. In the terms of Darwin, the phrase survival of the fittest meaning is best understood as “Survival of the form that in successive generations will leave most copies of itself.”

In the fifth season of "On the Origin of Species", by British naturalist Charles Darwin, the survival of the fittest concept became popular, which indicated that organisms better suited to their environment are the most effective in survival and reproduction. Darwin coined the phrase from Herbert Spencer, an English sociologist, and philosopher, who had first said it in his 1864 Principles of Biology book.  

Herbert Spencer Survival of the Fittest

Herbert Spencer was a philosopher and social idealist of the 19th-century. In Herbert Spencer’s survival of the fittest, He was considered to be a strong advocate of Darwin's evolutionary methods and also he supported these evolutionary processes with the help of his writings.

As already stated, the sometimes misquoted line of 'fit survival' was written by Darwin. Herbert Spencer then adopted this idea and started using it in several forms, applying evolutionary theory as a way of justifying the environment he lived in.

The works of Herbert Spencer changed the thread, rendering it the survival of the fittest.

Social Darwinism

Survival of the fittest means the strongest will survive and the weak will die. The 'fittest' will succeed over the weaker and they're the fittest to do so. This would mean the individual who is the strongest and has the longest spear rules over everyone in a harsh world without social order, class, and social customs.

The principle of 'the fittest' or the meaning of survival of the fittest was thus extended to what was respected by the highest society: capitalism and political influence. This concept was picked up and applied by the representatives of the capitalist world—the Rockefellers, the Carnegies, and many more. The application of one understanding of the rule of evolution is social Darwinism: those who excel in society are superior to those who have not succeeded.


Darwin suggested that species would evolve over time, that new species are derived from preexisting species, and that a common ancestor is shared by all species. Every species has its own diverse collection of heritable (genetic) variations from the common ancestor in this model that have progressively evolved over quite long periods of time.

Repetitive branching events, wherein new species are isolated from a common ancestor, create a "tree" of multiple levels that connects all living organisms.

Darwin pointed to this phenomenon as' descent with alteration,' in which groups of species alter their heritage characteristics over centuries. Today, we call it evolution.

Natural Selection

The mechanism of natural selection or survival of the fittest theory was logical and elegant, and it gives us the knowledge about how individuals and populations could evolve in such a way that they were better adapted to their environments over time (undergoing descent with modification). Human beings are inherently variable in a society, implying they are all distinct in certain ways. This difference suggests that certain people have attributes that are better adapted than others to the climate.

The idea of natural selection or survival of the fittest theory by Darwin was based on a few main points:

  • Often, traits are inheritable. Many features are inherited, or passed down from parent to progeny, in living organisms.

  • Organisms were capable of producing more offspring than can be sustained by their habitats. Thus, in each generation, competition for limited resources exists.

  • The siblings vary and change over time in their inherited characteristics. The progeny in the generations tend to be slightly different from each other.  These traits may include color, shape, size, etc.,  and a maximum of these characteristics would be inheritable.

On the basis of these simple observations, the following conclusions were made by Darwin:

  • Some individual organisms tend to have the characteristics that help in the process of survival and reproduction (in the favourable conditions of the environment, for example, the food sources and predators present). Over the next generation, people with useful characteristics will leave more offspring than their peer group, as the characteristics make the process more efficient in surviving and reproducing.

  • Since the beneficial characteristics are heritable, and since species with these characteristics leave more offspring, the characteristics will appear to become more prevalent in the next generation.

  • The population will adapt and adjust to its atmosphere over centuries (as individuals with such unique traits tend to have consistently higher reproductive success as compared to their peers).

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. The Evolution and "Charles Darwin Survival of the Fittest" are Different or the Same Theory?

Ans. Evolution and "Charles Darwin’s survival of the fittest" are not quite the same thing. Over time, evolution can be explained as the gradual changes in a population or species whereas "Survival of the fittest" is a common phrase that represents the natural selection process, a mechanism that drives change in evolution. Natural selection is involved in offering a benefit over those that are not as well suited to populations that are ideally suited to a defined set of environmental conditions. The theory of survival of the fittest usually makes one assume that the winners are the highest, fastest, or smartest individuals, but evolutionary fitness refers to the ability to survive and reproduce in a specific environment in a biological sense.

2. Give Some Examples of the Survival of the Fittest.

Ans. Natural selection is a phenomenon first theorized by Charles Darwin, and is focused on factors that help live organisms survive the adaptation of genes over generations. This is the survival of the fittest or the adaptation of species that in some respects are better adapted to the environment. Some of the examples of the survival of the fittest are:-

  • Red bugs and green bugs can be examples of the survival of the fittest. Birds are found to like the taste of red bugs. The green bugs replicate and generate more green bugs, and as a result, there are more red bugs.

  • The deer mice that moved to Nebraska's sandhills switched from dark brown to light brown to be protected and better hide in the sand from predators.