Darwin had been influenced
by Thomas Malthus when he developed his thesis of
the struggle for life. But observations and experiments
proved Malthus wrong.
The essential assumption of the theory of natural
selection holds that there is a fierce struggle for survival
in nature, and every living thing cares only for itself. At
the time Darwin proposed this theory, the ideas of Thomas
Malthus, the British classical economist, were an important
influence on him. Malthus maintained that human beings were
inevitably in a constant struggle for survival, basing his
views on the fact that population, and hence the need for
food resources, increases geometrically, while food resources
themselves increase only arithmetically. The result is that
population size is inevitably checked by factors in the environment,
such as hunger and disease. Darwin adapted Malthus's vision
of a fierce struggle for survival among human beings to nature
at large, and claimed that "natural selection" is a consequence
of this struggle.
Further research, however, revealed
that there was no struggle for life in nature as Darwin had
postulated. As a result of extensive research into animal
groups in the 1960s and 1970s, V. C. Wynne-Edwards, a British
zoologist, concluded that living things balance their population
in an interesting way, which prevents competition for food.
Animal groups were simply managing their population on the
basis of their food resources. Population was regulated not
by elimination of the weak through factors like epidemics
or starvation, but by instinctive control mechanisms. In other
words, animals controlled their numbers not by fierce competition,
as Darwin suggested, but by limiting reproduction.8
Even plants exhibited examples
of population control, which invalidated Darwin's suggestion
of selection by means of competition. The botanist A. D. Bradshaw's
observations indicated that during reproduction, plants behaved
according to the "density" of the planting, and limited their
reproduction if the area was highly populated with plants.9
On the other hand, examples of sacrifice observed in animals
such as ants and bees display a model completely opposed to
the Darwinist struggle for survival.
In recent years, research has
revealed findings regarding self-sacrifice even in bacteria.
These living things without brains or nervous systems, totally
devoid of any capacity for thought, kill themselves to save
other bacteria when they are invaded by viruses.10
These examples surely invalidate the basic assumption
of natural selection-the absolute struggle for survival. It
is true that there is competition in nature; however, there
are clear models of self-sacrifice and solidarity, as well.
8 V. C. Wynne-Edwards, "Self
Regulating Systems in Populations of Animals, Science,
vol. 147, 26 March 1965, pp. 1543-1548; V. C. Wynne-Edwards,
Evolution Through Group Selection, London, 1986.
9 A. D. Bradshaw, "Evolutionary
significance of phenotypic plasticity in plants," Advances
in Genetics, vol. 13, pp. 115-155; cited in Lee Spetner, Not
By Chance!: Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution,
The Judaica Press, Inc., New York, 1997, pp. 16-17.
10 Andy Coghlan "Suicide Squad",
New Scientist, 10 July 1999.