A tautology is a logical truth that is often considered redundant and empty with respect to explanatory power. Stating that “all dogs are dogs” does not reveal any new information about the world, and therefore is considered a fairly useless insight. Some critics say the “survival of the fittest” is tautological because “fitness” is said to be defined by survival rates, reducing to “the survival of the survivors.” This criticism is mostly raised by creationists, who often believe this “tautological problem” leads to the failure of evolution.
If this problem is genuine, there is a great potential impact to the integrity of evolutionary biology as a whole. All explanatory power is lost in redundancy if evolution is tautological at its base, for simply stating “the survivors are the ones who survive” offers no substantial insight that is not definitional and therefore cannot be the adequate explanation for observations in nature. This would also mean that “the survival of the fittest” would no longer be considered a testable, falsifiable hypothesis, for tautologies are true a priori and thus cannot be disprovable. As we will see, not only is the “survival of the fittest” not tautological, but it is both testable and contains massive predictive power.
The “tautological problem” with regards to the “survival of the fittest” stems from a revisement Darwin made between editions of On the Origins of Species. The change was in regard to the title of Chapter Four, which was modified from “Natural Selection” to “Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest.” Because it seems that Darwin spoke of “natural selection” and the “survival of the fittest” as synonyms, many creationists often unjustly extend the tautology criticism to capt...
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...esent, which explains the dogmatic and continual advancement of this unfounded criticism.
While the impact of the “tautology problem” is seen as detrimental in the eyes of creationist critics, it has been proven to be largely inadequate in its goal. “The survival of the fittest” is a descriptive label used to represent the process of natural selection, does not innately hold any weight in the actual theory, and does not capture the entire theory. “Fitness” has been shown to be not an abstraction, but rather representative of specific traits that are environment-relative, can be predicted with great accuracy, and can be tested with great rigor. Overall, the “tautology problem” plays word games with a label that is only possibly problematic in a semantic sense, and is proposed by individuals who clearly are misguided as to what the theory of evolution actually states.
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