The Survival of the Most Intelligent

  • Adolf Heschl


Before we attempt to apply the idea of an evolutionary“struggle for existence” (cf. Darwin 1859, title of chapter 3) to the development of intelligence in Homo sapiens, we should stop thinking of it as being any kind of physical struggle since the matter is a far more subtle and, above all, more imperceptible affair than one would normally suppose. It should be emphasized that the metaphor of there being a real physical struggle, in many respects, is even confusing. The most common mistake is to confuse the mechanism of evolution with one of its special results. Aggressive behavior occurs in almost all animal species in intraspecific competition and has obvious evolutionarily adaptive functions for solving certain problems for individuals, e.g., acquiring territory, defense, choosing mates, defense against predators, etc. In plants and fungi, in contrast, aggressive bodily conflicts of the kind animals partake in do not make any sense since most plants cannot move from the spot and driving away their opponents by behavioral strategies such as threatening gestures, blows, and bites. However, even for peaceful beings like plants, the Darwinian metaphor of the struggle for survival still applies since this, when correctly interpreted and not understood word for word, simply states that evolution takes place by the variously successful reproduction of genetically different individuals. In this, it does not matter at all how the difference in reproductive rate comes about. This means it does not matter if it is achieved with or without aggression, by sexual or asexual reproduction, as a utilizer of sunlight or as a predator, whether cooperatively or solitarily, the only decisive factor is an actual difference in the final reproductive success and the latter is often brought about, since habitats and resources are always characterized by spatial and material limitations, by the minutest changes in the structure of the organism concerned (see: “On the manifold origins of species”, Science273:1496–1502).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adolf Heschl
    • 1
  1. 1.Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition ResearchAltenbergAustria

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