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  Home  > Child/Family Wellness  > Myth: Evolution Is Directed by Survival of the Fittest

Myth: Evolution Is Directed by Survival of the Fittest

Fact: In the Darwinian view of natural selection, nature selected the organisms with the genes most likely to survive but, beyond that framework, environment is believed to have no impact on the expression of the genes. Today, molecular biologists are challenging this view, with their theory of "directed evolution."

This theory draws on research that shows that the mutations driving the evolution of new traits or characteristics are not always random. Rather, microorganisms are whipping up mutations especially suited to their surroundings--as if some molecular scientist were helping the cells adjust to environmental requirements and needs. In the light of such findings, these scientists have come to recognize living organisms as dynamic systems capable of actively reprogramming their genes to lead to behaviors that accommodate environmental challenges.

Every living organism has two categories of survival-oriented behaviors: those supporting growth and those supporting protection. Growth-related behaviors include the search for nutrients, supportive environments, and mates for species survival. Protection behaviors are activated by organisms to avoid harm. In single cells, survival related to growth and protection can be distinguished by movement toward or away from a given source. As with every living system, the choice of growth or protection is programmed into the unborn child based on her perception of her environment.

While signals relaying the presence of a loving and supportive maternal environment encourage the selection of genetic programs promoting growth, a pregnant woman in distress relays distress signals to her unborn baby, and the balance of brain development in her child shifts from growth to protection. Since the offspring will likely live his early years in the same environment as he is born in, developmental programming of the newborn by the mother has adaptive value in species survival.

One important part of the new credo is turning away from the Darwinian notion of the "survival of the fittest" and adopting a new credo, the survival of the most loving.

--Bruce H. Lipton


Bruce H. Lipton, The Biology of Belief

Thomas R. Verny, Preparenting: Nurturing Your Baby from Conception

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