Page:The Scientific Monthly vol. 3.djvu/498

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WAR AND THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST 493

pointed ont ^^ that the fittest throughout a wide range of cases — perhaps the widest range — ^are not "the best/'* Professor Huxley is quite as explicit on this point. In a well-known passage he says :

There is another fallacy which appears to me to pervade the so-called ^'ethics of evolution." It is the notion that because^ on the whole^ animals and plants have advanced in perfection of organization by means of the struggle for existence and the consequent survival of the fittest"; therefore men in society, men as ethical beings, must look to the same process to help them towards perfection. I suspect that this fallacy has arisen out of the unfor- tunate ambiguity of the phrase "survival of the fittest," "Fittest" has a connotation of "best"; and about "best" there hangs a moral flavor. In cosmic nature, however, what is "fittest" depends upon the conditions. Long since, I ventured to point out that if our hemisphere were to cool again, the survival of the fittest might bring about, in the vegetable kingdom, a population of more and more stunted and humbler and humbler organisms, until the "fittest" that survived might be nothing but lichens, diatoms, and such micro- scopic organisms as those which give red snow its color; while, if it became hotter the pleasant vaUeys of the Thames and the Isis might be uninhabitable by any animated beings save those that flourish in a tropical jungle. They, as the flttest, the best adapted to the changed conditions, would survive.^

Since the survival of the fittest does not necessarily result in pro- gress, what becomes of the argument that war is essential to progress because it results in the survival of the fittest ? Plainly it is unfounded. As a matter of fact this " law of nature " has no more bearing upon the wisdom or expediency of striving to abolish war than the law of gravita- tion has upon the possibility of success in aviation.

The idea then that war is '^ a moral obligation " because it results in the survival of the fittest is as unwarranted as the inference from the law of the struggle for existence that it is a "biological necessity .'* Hence the related idea that it is impossible and undesirable to abolish war betrays a very imperfect conception of the laws of biology and of social advancement.

The prevalent notion with regard to the survival of the fittest is belied by the commonest experiences of life. In wild life, among ani- mals, for instance, the fittest are determined usually though not always by battle, but under domestication the fittest are determined by the ap- plication of intelligent tests. No precedent stockman would encour- age battle among his flocks and herds in order to determine the fittest. He would not even look with indifference upon such a battle, or with the optimistic hope that "somehow good will be the final goal of ill.^' He would see at once not only its waste, but also, the improbability of his deriving anything but accidental good from

• See Spencer, H., "Mr. Martineau on Evolution," Essays, Vol. I., p. 379, N. Y., 1910.

7 Huxley, ' ' Evolution and Ethics and other Essays, ' ' pp. 80-1.

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