“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”—Charles Darwin
A friend of mine recently posted this quotation on Facebook. I commented that this is one thing that too many people get wrong about Darwin’s theory—too many people assume that survival of the fittest means survival of the strongest. But that’s not necessarily the case.
I was all set to write a blog about all the other commonly held misunderstandings that people have about the Theory of Evolution. First, though, I wanted to verify the quotation my friend had posted.
- A quick Google search to start off led me here: Wikiquote: Charles Darwin – Misattributed
- Following the link in the Wikiquote entry led me here: Darwin Correspondence Project: One thing Darwin didn’t say: the source for a misquotation
- Which, in turn, led me here: Panda’s Thumb: Survival of the Pithiest
Turns out, this isn’t a quote from Darwin. It’s a misattributed paraphrase of someone’s summation of Darwin’s theory. Coulda fooled me…
Which begs a fundamental question: Is this quote wrong?
It may not be a quote from Darwin—or, technically, even a quote from anyone—but it’s still an accurate encapsulation of Darwin’s theory. It’s correct in its assessment and critique.
It has value to help combat one of the most commonly held misunderstandings about Darwin’s survival of the fittest doctrine. And it’s very likely something Darwin might have said in response to people’s automatic assumption that “fittest” = “strongest”.
As an information professional, and as someone who values the importance of accurate information, this presents an interesting dilemma: This is not a quote from Darwin, so in that sense it’s incorrect—but it does present an accurate understanding of his theory; further, it has great utility as a tool to communicate that understanding. So while part of me wants to correct everyone who thinks Darwin said this, I can’t bring myself to believe that it’s a bad thing for this misattributed quote to make its way around social media sites.