Survival of the Poorest: Another Evolutionary Paradox - Evolution News & Views

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Survival of the Poorest: Another Evolutionary Paradox

Here's another evolutionary paradox: the "demographic transition." We've alluded to this before, but why not recall the point? Darwin notwithstanding, it seems to support the view that the meek shall inherit the earth.

By all accounts, the rich should be, in Darwinian terms, the fittest. They have the most resources, and the most opportunities for advancement. Yet they leave fewer offspring. That's the finding of a large study of Swedish families that's just been completed.

Nature recently recognized that this has been a known contradiction to evolutionary theory. The article pointed to a possible resolution of the problem: that subsequent generations, by inheriting more resources per child, would eventually leave the most offspring. Does that do the trick? Nope.

Not so, say Anna Goodman of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and her team. In their analysis of 14,000 Swedish people born between 1915 and 1929 and their descendants, small family size predicted greater socioeconomic success in children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, particularly among families that already had high socioeconomic status. But small family size did not translate into greater reproductive success among the descendants.
Nature left the paradox unresolved. "The tendency of families in wealthier societies to produce fewer children is hard to explain in evolutionary terms," the report admitted. Just so.