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Return to September/October 2016 articles.

The title of this month's lead article is SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST: THE AMERICAN WAY? The picture is of a flag with the first phrase on the flag and the second part of the phrase below.

Evolutionary beliefs come in many forms and are stated in many ways, but certainly one of the most commonly accepted beliefs that has grown out of elementary evolutionary teaching is the belief stated above. This belief has been used to justify slavery, dictatorships, war, economic control, political campaigns, and now is seen in children's video games. One could argue whether or not that is “the American way,” but there is no question about its prevalence, and how often it is used to justify some human behavior.

Top View of Boot on the trail with the text: How To Survive.

My favorite story of “survival of the fittest” is an experience I had when participating in a National Science Foundation Institute program designed to teach teachers how to teach students an approach to learning called “The Investigative Approach.” The idea was that instead of lecturing students about something, you would have a laboratory experiment or demonstration that the students could do which would show them the principle you were trying to teach.

We were at a museum in Chicago in a section designed to show us how to teach students the way natural selection works. A very hungry northern pike was going to be put into a large aquarium that had a bunch of small fish in it. All of the fish were the same size, but some of them were the same color as the sand and the reef rock in the aquarium. Some were of a radically different color than the sand and reef rock, and others had some of the reef coloring but none of the sand coloring. One of the fish was injured and had different coloring than any of the others. That fish stood out because it was so different from all the other fish and swam in an odd, jerky way because of the injury. We were asked to predict which fish would be eaten first and which would be eaten last.

The big pike was carefully admitted to the aquarium and the small fish scattered. The injured fish seemed oblivious to the Illustration of three fishes in different sizes hunting and eating each otherpresence of the pike. We suspected that was because he was missing one eye and seemed to be unable to see at all as he kept running into things. All of us expected the injured, blind fish to be easy prey and thus eaten first by the big pike. We predicted that the fish that were hard to see and hid against the reef rock and sand would be eaten last. The big pike scooted past the injured, blind fish and attacked three fish that were hard to see. The aquarium became a cloud of sand and fleeing fish as the pike charged around grabbing one fish after another. Very quickly the fish that were hard to see were eaten, and then the radically different colored fish. The injured blind fish was never eaten and swam aimlessly around the aquarium occasionally bumping into the pike.

There were some 30 of us teachers watching this, and explanations began to fly as to why this happened. Maybe the pike sensed a disease in the injured fish. Maybe the injuries affected the taste of the injured fish. I finally said “maybe survival of the fittest doesn't always work,” and after a good laugh the group moved on to the next project. The fact is that in nature the fit do not always survive, and the less fit do not always die out.

What is most significant about this discussion is the incompatibility that “survival of the fittest” has with the teachings of JesusHelping hands care for the elderly Christ. Humanity has many severe issues confronting it that bring the teachings of Christ and thoughts like those of Ray Kroc in direct conflict with each other. What is humanity to do with people who seem to be so severely mentally ill, or so mentally challenged that they have to be cared for by society for their entire life? Do we continue to extend the life expectancy of humans by creating artificial organs that replace the heart, kidney, pancreas, liver, etc., of dying patients and allow them to live much longer lives? Some atheists suggest the answer to that should be a resounding “no” and would, in fact, euthanize nonproductive humans emptying nursing homes, mental hospitals, prisons, and care facilities and saving the cost of caring for those individuals.

The biblical perspective on this subject is in opposition to this view. The Bible portrays all human beings as being special. We are all created in the image of God, no matter what our physical, emotional, or spiritual condition might be. In Bible story after Bible story the weak defeat the strong with God's help. The weak nation of Israel defeats the strong nation of Egypt. Tiny David defeats mighty Goliath (1 Samuel 17). Gideon with 300 men defeats a Midianite army of 120,000 (Judges 7 – 8). Jesus Christ comes from an insignificant town and from a family with a dubious history (three harlots in direct ancestry to Christ), and successfully opposes the religious hierarchy and ministers to the poor and the downtrodden. The early church fed and clothed the less fit (Acts 2:42 – 47) and was commanded to comfort the feeble-minded (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Another contrast between the proponents of “survival of the fittest” and the principles of Christianity is the segregation of humans based on fitness. The history of humanity is full of cases where one population denigrated a group of people who were different from them on the assumption that the denigrated group was inferior to them. America has a bad track record on human rights because of this. Black people were denied the right to vote for many years because they were deemed unfit. The history of women's rights everywhere on the planet has been a tragic history of men deeming women less fit and denying them equal status, equal education, and equal pay.

The biblical record goes to great lengths to point out that Jesus viewed all people to be of equal value. The writings of the apostles make it clear that “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male nor female, for you all are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). One of the more interesting accounts of Jesus' life is in John 4. Jesus was passing through the land of Samaria. Most Jews made it a habit to detour around Samaria if they could. Under no circumstances would they talk to a Samaritan or have any relationship with them (John 4:9). Not only does Jesus talk with a Samaritan, but the Samaritan was a woman. In that culture, women were considered to be less fit and usually walked behind a man and had no public conversation with him. The disciples of Christ are shocked at what Jesus was doing (verse 12). Later the chapter, Jesus and the Samaritan woman talk about where people will worship God in the future and Jesus says, But “a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth.”

Senior woman with a doctor or caregiver

So is survival of the fittest the American way? As our country drifts away from the teachings of Christ, and we become more concerned with things and competition than we are with the quality of life for all people, the answer appears to be that Kroc is right. Christians need to bring Christ to a lost and dying world. If the world does not die to sin as Romans 6 tells us, we will see more Americans being led to “the works of the flesh [which] are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, …” (Galatians 5:19 – 21 NET). Not only is “survival of the fittest” not a sole agent in the development of living things, but it will destroy us if we adopt it as our way of dealing with each other. The passage in Galatians goes on to describe “those who belong to Christ” as having a different way of living — one we want to urge our fellow human beings to embrace. This way of living involves “the fruit of the Spirit [which] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22 – 23).

— John N. Clayton

* http://www.evancarmichael.com/library/ray-kroc/Ray-Kroc-Quotes.html

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