To give a brief background on myself, I have always loved biology. I ended up minoring in it in college for my undergraduate degree. I find the science behind life fascinating and love Darwin’s contribution to the field. However, with that said, Darwin is often one of the most misunderstood individuals in history.
You have heard it before. Someone does something we consider “stupid” and someone remarks “Darwinism” when they get a consequence for said action. That is not accurate. Let me inform you as to why.
When Darwin stated “survival of the fittest, the strongest survive” he was referencing adaptability. Adaptability when it comes to biology deals with those who can adapt to the ever-changing environment with minimal consequences. These are the frogs that can survive a slightly colder than normal winter. These are the cacti that can withstand a heavier than normal rainy season. These are the artic foxes that can survive a warmer than usual spring and summer seasons. Because these animals and plants have a slight “edge” over their fellow animals within their own species, they are more likely to survive. This is because their body can better adapt to the changes.
I remember sitting in one of my biology classes and the teacher stated something along the lines of “Every animal is perfectly adapted to their habitat, they are not “more or less primitive” than their ancestors or successors.” This quote hit me, hard. The idea of “primitive” is solely a human idea pushed onto our animal brothers and sisters. That ant you see crawling across the ground? He is well adapted to finding food and bringing it back to the colony. If you tried to make any other animal do its “job”? It would fail. That horse you see defending its family from that mountain cat? Mother nature gave it a unique set of strengths to properly defend it against that wild cat. Mother nature is constantly doing a balancing act of predator and prey. Mother nature is constantly presenting the current species on his Earth challenges to survive (like the ant finding food to bring back to its queen).
How does COVID19 play into this? Every day on social media I will see a headline that states something like “Woman dies from refusing to wash her hands amid covid19” and someone will write in response “natural selection” or “Darwin be praised”. No.
A person’s stupidity is not natural selection. This pandemic is putting huge stress on the human population as a whole. It is unlike any biological hazard we have had to face in recent history. Even those who wash their hands regularly and take all the right precautions risk dying from COVID19.
A person who refuses to wash their hands, practice social distancing, etc. might get COVID19 but survive the disease with little to no side effects. This specific scenario described is Darwinism. Their body was able to fight off the infection and recover. A person who washes their hands on a regular basis and takes all the other precautions recommended by the CDC and WHO gets the disease and they’re able to fight off the disease and recover? This is also Darwinism. Both the reckless and safe person in this scenario had their body create its own immunity so they can not become infected with this specific strand of COVID19.
I am writing this because as someone who loves biology, it upsets me on a very deep level when people are constantly misusing Darwin’s name and his theory of adaptability.