When Charles Darwin was coming up with the Theory of Evolution, he had to find a mechanism that drove evolution.Many other scientists, such as Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, had already described the change in species over time, but they didn't offer explanations as to how it occurred.It also worked against the idea that everything moves towards homogeneity rather than heterogeneity (the second law of thermodynamics).
by Herbert Spencer (1864) looked at biology in terms of themes, such as Function, Adaptation and Variation.
In this book Spencer introduced the expression ‘survival of the fittest’, in the sense of ‘the most appropriate to its environment’.
Now that this idea is stuck in our lexicon, there isn't much that can be done to help others understand the actual meaning of the phrase beyond explaining the intended definition of the word "fittest" and the context in which it was said.
An alternative could be to avoid using the phrase altogether when discussing the Theory of Evolution or natural selection.
Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace independently came up with the idea of natural selection to fill that void.
Natural selection is the idea that species that acquire adaptations favorable for their environment will pass those adaptations to their offspring.
Someone not familiar with what natural selection really is might take "fittest" to mean the best physical specimen of the species and that only those in the best shape and best health will survive in nature. Individuals that survive aren't always the strongest, fastest, or smartest.
By that definition, then, survival of the fittest might not be the best way to describe natural selection as it applies to evolution.
Charles Darwin’s ideas had a profound impact on the understanding of human life.
Carolyn Burdett looks at the way he developed his theory of evolution, and how it became part of the Victorian imagination.