In my last post, I mentioned one of McLeroy’s bad arguments against evolution: “It is a tautology … The survivors survive.” I wanted to drop a link in there pointing to a good rebuttal, but when I did a google search, I didn’t immediately come up with any good, succinct rebuttals. Which is unfortunate. When evolutionists can’t immediately come up with a good way to explain the fallacy, it leaves creationists with the feeling that evolutionists have no good rebuttal. I’ve rebutted this argument numerous times. So, here it is:
According to the tautological argument, the fittest are those who survive, and the survivors are deemed ‘the fittest’. In other words, if we say, “survival of the fittest” and define “the fittest” = “survivors”, then “survival of the fittest” really means “survival of the survivors”.
Yet, no biologist would seriously believe that those that survive are always the fittest, or that the fittest always survive. It’s trivially obvious that ‘the fittest’ can and do die. “Survival of the fittest” is a merely simplified version of the observation that, in nature, the fittest tend to survive *more frequently* than the unfit. For example, let’s assume we have a species of animals and divide them into two groups: the fit and the unfit. Further, let’s say that all of the “fit” organisms are genetically identical, and all the “unfit” organisms are genetically identical (thus removing the argument that I did a bad job of picking which organisms go into which group). Let’s say that 50% of the ‘fit’ organisms die before reaching maturity, but 75% of the ‘unfit’ organisms die before reaching maturity. This case confirms the idea that the fit tend to survive more frequently than the unfit, and illustrates the point that “the fit” and “the survivors” are not identical groups — half of the ‘fit’ organisms died early, and 25% of the unfit organisms survived. Similarly, let’s assume we have two rabbits identical in every way except that one rabbit can run faster than the other. Since the ability to run is important for the survival of rabbits, we would say that the faster rabbit is more fit – and therefore, more likely to survive. However, if the faster rabbit happens to get an infection and dies, we do not simply say that the slower rabbit *must* have been more fit to survive because it survived when the faster rabbit didn’t. We maintain our original idea that the faster rabbit was more fit, but that *in general* the fittest organisms tend to survive more frequently than the unfit. The argument that “survival of the fittest is a tautology” claims that evolutionists believe that “the fittest” and “survivors” are identical groups (evolutionists don’t believe that), and that evolutionists have no way to judge fitness other than survival (which is false). From a definitional standpoint, “fitness” means possessing traits which aid in survival, which is correlated with (but not identical to) survival itself.
Further, if we seriously believed creationist’ arguments about the tautology, imagine how else we could apply it:
– People who run fast win foot-races. And, people who win foot-races run fast. It’s tautological, and therefore, meaningless to say that fast runners win foot-races. It’s the same as saying “people who win foot-races win foot-races”.
– People who are in the World Series of Poker are the best poker players. The best poker players are in the World Series of Poker. Therefore, people who are in the World Series of Poker are in the World Series of Poker. It’s tautological! See – we have no reason at all to think that people in the World Series of Poker are any better than any random group of people.