This is probably the one of the comments I prefer; staring by an apparently simple phrase and being quit complicated.
… for whom Darwinism is a tautology (it predicts the survival of the fittest. But which are the fittest? Those that survive!)
Let’s assume that Darwinism predicts the survival of the fittest, in front of a particular selection pressure. That doesn’t mean that they are the best ones, just the fittest.
Is there one way to survive? No, there may be a lot of combinations with the same fitness. Darwinism can’t predict which one would be available at the particular moment the selection pressure appears, neither if there will be one or several ways to bypass it.
Now, is Darwinism predicting survival? In other terms, is there always a way to survive? No, conditions may exist that there will be no survivors.
If Darwinism predicts something, it’s the fact that part of the biosphere will continue to evolve as long as local conditions allow it. This isn’t even about a large part of the biosphere, more the 99% of that variance was already lost, and this percentage will continue to raise and could go up to 100 %.
The survivors aren’t always the fittest 🙂 Do I seem to be some kind of heretic here? Well, no! Quite Darwinian thoughts I’ll deliver here: The survivors may be just the descendants of the fittests. I don’t need to have inherited some particular character from my ancestor, a character that permitted to him to survive as long as necessary for me to be conceived (not even born), if the corresponding selective pressure disappeared. It may even have killed him, after my conception, that doesn’t matter. I couldn’t overcome the same selective pressure he did. For this particular selective pressure, I’m not the fittest, my ancestor was, but I’m the survivor. My ancestor might even be the one that changed the selective pressure to which I couldn’t resist, say by completely extinguishing some species of predator.
That’s may seem tricky because I’m using individuals here, but this is true about species. The fittest not always survive, their descendant do. It depends how much time the selective pressure needs to take you out of the genes’ pool.
On the other hand, the fittest’ , in front of a particular selective pressure, descendants aren’t always surviving 🙂 I mean, they should have descendants for them to survive. Isn’t it? But this doesn’t depend on a particular character, there are a lot of them, and one should also consider including the opinion of the ladies and the possibility to avoid that less fittest idiot who’s driving drunk, or to make it less cultural, some tsunami passing by. You don’t just need to fit to survive you have also to have an opportunity to prove it. So let’s make it the fittest between those that had the opportunity to survive.
To finish, why Tom Bethell consider Darwinism as a tautology? Because he is using a teleological mode of thinking. For Bethell the Darwinism must predict something (I think that this I will call the Mentonian syndrome in reference to the plutonian Dichael Menton of Jean Staune; I hesitated with the meteorology syndrome but that would be unfair for meteorologists). The Darwinism observes evolution and explains how it happens. And use the term of fittest to describe those life forms that survive, without being able to predict if there will be any of them, or any survivor at all, in the future. Evolution forecasting, if any, should be over short periods and be accompanied by the disclosure that they represent possible events, each accompanied by the probability to occur, within the limits of known conditions.