Survival for the fittest and extinction for the weakest.

I know that should be the way.

But ethically if you think about it just because it happens in reality, does that statement make it morally right? Because weakest is the lowest tier of Human World and they just become extinct just because they have inadequacy. There is a value to human life. I am not challenging Darwin's Natural Selection Process in anyway. Rather I am trying to find an answer from the point of view of moral philosophy.

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    Darwin was writing about a phenomenon that happens in biology. Why do you think it applies to anything outside of biology?
    – E Tam
    Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 13:56
  • @ETam Aren't people part of biology?
    – user52804
    Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 14:34
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    Lets say you were talking to someone about the Trolley Problem, and they said 'According to Einstein, nothing with mass can travel at the speed of light, so we know the trolley must be moving at less than 300,000 km/s.' That may be true, but it is unrelated to the conversation at hand. Unless they are going to explain the connection, there is no reason to consider a physical phenomena when discussing morality. The same thing goes for biology.
    – E Tam
    Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 14:45
  • @ETam: except that without certain physics insights, we wouldn't have trollies in the first place. Just saying... Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 14:51
  • Why would you expect anything in nature to be moral? A male lion will kill the cubs of another male. Chimpanzees will kill and eat baby chimps. And that's not even mentioning normal predation and parasitism. Morality is a category that doesn't apply to nature (where by "nature", I mean "not human"). Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 20:58

3 Answers 3


There are a few points to discuss here...

First, 'survival of the fittest' (in Darwin's model) is concerned with the fitness of a group or species, not so much the fitness of individuals. Any specific individual might meet its end by purely random events (e.g. volcanic eruptions). Darwin was concerned with how traits might spread through a population across generations, so that species adapt themselves to the environment.

Second, the concept of 'fitness' is intended to be ambiguous and value-free. Non-scientific people tend to impose human value judgements on the term, believing that those things we humans tend to value as individual strengths, skills, or competencies are necessarily more 'fit', when in reality — as nuclear weapons, anthropogenic climate change, sociopathic leaders, and the vast spread of global pollution show — our individual strengths, skills, and competencies might actually kill us off as a species (demonstrating a spectacular lack of fitness). Natural selection doesn't care whether the human species thrives, falters, survives, or dies; natural selection is at best an ex post facto 'I told you so'.

Third, the whole concept of fitness is far more subtle and complex than most people realize. People tend to think of fitness as a 'red in tooth and claw' matter: predators are more fit when they are stronger, smarter, and stealthier; prey are more fit when they are quicker, more agile, and more wary... But that's overly simplified. Many creatures — bees, ants, certain birds and fish, wolves, chimpanzees, etc. — have evolved social structures and group dynamics which increase the fitness of the group overall, even though each individual loses something to the group. There is a persistent thread in both philosophy and biology which tries to argue that human morality is itself a successful fitness strategy for our species: so successful, in fact, that it can accommodate certain amounts of 'unfit' selfish (immoral/amoral) behavior without threatening the survival of the species as a whole. Note that historically, large-scale efforts by the strong to squeeze out the weak — through expropriation, oppression, expulsion, or even genocide — are viewed with revulsion and disgust, and are often met with opposition, insurrection, revolution, or external attacks that decimate the putatively strong in defense of the putatively weak.

I'm not suggesting that we cannot or should not apply Darwin to human societies. But we cannot do so blindly or simplistically without ending up at some tragically poor theory (like Social Darwinism, biological eugenics, or 'clash of civilizations' type reasoning).


Excellent Question! It leads to the follow-on question -- under what circumstances does morality apply. The answer is that morality applies when a situation involves decisions by moral agents.

So, is "natural selection" moral? IF our universe is undesigned, and just operates off blind forces, then whatever it ends up doing is amoral -- morality does not apply to it. But if it IS designed, then your question becomes highly relevant. I consider it the penultimate question to drive a "problem of Evil" discussion.

For natural selection to operate, we would have to have a world of excess individuals, and intrinsic scarcity. Life then must compete, and destroy each other in that competition for scarce resources, and this process leads to selection for better competitive features. Building this into our universe -- destruction, starvation and death on a massive scale, would be a VERY evil choice by a designer, per basically every one of our best moral models (rights, virtues, utility).

Extending this to humanity, WE are moral agents, and we construct our societies and control our own individual behavior. We can CHOOSE to behave in a "red in tooth and claw" social Darwinism fashion, and abuse/kill/steal-from the weak. Or we can CHOOSE to behave morally. Again, rights, virtues, or utility, whatever your ethic of choice, all reject social Darwinism.

So good question, and understanding where it applies or does not, is a very useful exercise.


It is of course not morally ethical. Consider a situation of overpopulation for example. Getting rid of a bunch of people just, because they're considered weak by some charismatic leader? Think about it? Didn't that happen before in history?

It is by no mean morally ethical, not by christian morals, not by norms of society, any civilizated view should reject it!


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