Blind scientists write a lot of nonsense about evolution; claiming that nature forces us to "compete for survival".
Most recently they've hyped the "selfish gene" 01 as a supposed `winner' of an evolutionary battle for `success'. Wrong! 02 & 03
Altruist Survivor Theory says selfish genes are evolution's dead-ends 04 because the `selfish' fish remained fishes, `selfish' reptiles stayed as reptiles, `selfish' apes are currently apes.
Real, successful evolution is a non-selfish process: mutual co-operation within a species and, ideally, within an entire eco-system. 05 & 06
Update: Aug. 2013 - Human Brain is `Hard-Wired for Giving'
Some `Mechanisms' at work :-
Contingency (`Luck') - at any primitive or re-radiating state, when a species has few members and/or may be geographically isolated, it can be wiped-out (or its competitors could be), by any relatively common event. I.e. - earthquake, mud-slide, tsunami, meteor-strike etc.
["Explanation does not rest on direct deductions from laws of nature, but on an unpredictable sequence of antecedent states, where any major change in any step of the sequence would have altered the final result. This final result is therefore dependent, or contingent, upon everything that came before - the unerasable and determining signature of history." - from `Wonderful Life' by Stephen Jay Gould]
Prior Occupancy (`Panda Principle') - for long intervening periods, any niche (or `survival opportunity') may be occupied by a relatively inefficient but numerous species which, merely by occupying that niche, prevents the development / adaptation of potentially more efficient species.
["Evolution leads to the occupation of niches by locally optimal creatures, not by globally optimal ones." - from `The Panda's Thumb' by Stephen Jay Gould]
Degeneration by Privilege - species which `rule' 07 for long periods - maybe as a result of the mechanisms above - will tend to stagnate while other `deprived' species are forced to adapt mentally or physically to cope with harsher conditions.
The fitness error started after Darwin hurriedly wrote "On the Origin of Species", (1859), to justify stealing credit for Wallace's evolution discovery. 08
Darwin then allowed the inaccurate use of Spencer's self-justifying phrase "survival of the fittest", probably through ignorance. 09
Darwin also probably agreed to the phrase for social (class) and political reasons. The politics of competing empires demands chauvinist, even genocidal 10 attitudes; scientists of Darwin's day were often rabidly racist and genocidally `nationalistic'.
But later in life Darwin wrote that nevertheless "the human race is improving morally". I.e. due to some other evolutionary interaction. 11 & 11A
After all, "survival of the fittest" - as used by `neo-Darwinists` and `social Darwinists' 13 - is scientific nonsense, else house-mice would now be tigers, all human males would be thieves, rapists and murderers. 14 and our planet would probably soon be dead, sterile. 15
Even now, racial and sexual chauvinisms permeate the scientific establishment, preventing a logical 12 & 16 evaluation of facts.
Evidence for a more realistic theory is now overwhelming. Here is the gist of it:-
At every stage the less aggressive life-form is compelled to adapt, and therefore make progress, while the "successful" form - is left behind, to stagnate or become extinct.
This happened when the earliest ostracoderms - small, fishy ancestors of amphibians (and humans) - had to subsist at the margins where water and land merged. They became the first recognizable branch of our family tree and, being soft-bodied, were continually terrorized and eaten by much bigger water-scorpions - the eurypterids.
Later, great armoured fish - Dunkleosteus (above) could grow to 30 feet or more - also dealt out death for our ancestors and other freshwater and marine animals.
Next in our family line, small, slim reptiles called Pelycosaurs began changing toward mammalian form - their descendant Cynognathus is described as looking like a cross between a lizard and a dog.
Later descendants among the early mammals were small arboreal omnivores, eating fruit and insects, although more recent findings gave science a surprise. 17 & 18
And by this time more "successful" forms - huge reptiles and dinosaurs - ruled the land.
Subsequently we see that at every stage of our development our direct ancestors came from the smaller, weaker forms, physically dominated by more `successful' competitors.
In fact our recently revised family tree shows the distant ape-like ancestor 19 was very small indeed and even successors such as Australopithecus afarensis - who lived from 4 million to 3 million years ago - were less than 3 foot 6 inches tall, existing as herbivorous / insectivorous gatherers and scavengers. 100 & 101
After A. afarensis came some larger descendants - Australopithecus africanus, A.robustus and A. boisei, 102 who were all able to make tools - and then one smaller offspring: homo habilis ["homo" because it gave rise to us, "habilis" or handyman due to the conviction of its discoverer - Leakey - that this was the originator of human technology]. 103
H. habilis lived alongside bigger cousins for about 500,000 years, surviving when those relatives died out some 1.5 million years ago.
Then came more emergences, and of these we are just now getting more archeological knowledge.
Recent mtDNA analysis shows the Neanderthals 104 Homo sapiens neanderthalensis were very different, even from our own ancestors, and so may have diverged around half a million to a million years ago.
Large brained (much bigger than ours), and supremely fit (both male and female were three or four times stronger than modern humans) they moved rapidly throughout Europe and to the East, and, with a body plan structured for chilly environments, seemed to prosper. 105 & 106
Update:- we're only now beginning to be able to check their social life, 107 which was based on hunting. 108
The solid circular shape and thickness of most Neanderthals' leg-bones tell us that they held their territory close, not walking far nor ranging widely 107A (our own homo sap. leg bones normally have a slimmer teardrop cross-section, a `braced' shape which comes from lots of walking exercise).
A similar and maybe allied group of hominins, called the Denisovans have recently been discovered who seem to have inter-mixed (and interbred) with Neanderthals.
At around the same time, or maybe earlier, another type of human 109 had evolved. Recent archeological evidence from China and India hint at its surprisingly early spread, and at an origin maybe 250,000 years ago or even earlier. 110
This `human' - Homo sapiens sapiens - was weaker and slighter. 111
The female in particular differed from all who had gone before her. She was even more `gracile' (graceful) than the male and, from the number of "Venus" figurines 112 - the earliest human statuary art - had an emotional effect on the males.
Indeed, Homo sapiens sapiens, of both sexes, seems to have been a budding artist from earliest times. 113
Their males cared for and showed attachment 114 to their families - maybe first development of what is humans' strongest drive.
Fossils show that Homo sapiens sapiens, wide-ranging and cooperative, 115 spread quickly throughout the world, and it is now seems they lived alongside Neanderthals for several thousand years - maybe allowing some inter-breeding. 116
Those `strong', `successful' Neanderthals died out. 117
Sentimental, artistic and weaker humans survived. And now we were all one race. 118 That is, able to mate across all of humanity - as we still can today. 119
* - Darwin used the term "natural selection" in his book `On the Origin of Species' but was afterwards persuaded that Spencer's "survival of the fittest" was probably 'more convenient'.
There is evidence of at least six hominid species existing (co-existing?) during period 3M - 1.5 M years ago.
N.b. Dates/timings are only relative estimates. Their accuracy depends on the debatable efficiencies of a variety of 'clocks' or time measurement methods.