FACT CHECK: Did Charles Darwin Say, ‘It Is Not The Strongest Or The Most Intelligent Who Will Survive’?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

An image shared on Facebook attributes the following quote to biologist Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”

Verdict: False

There is no evidence that Darwin ever said or wrote this statement.

Fact Check:

Darwin was a 19th century English scientist best known for his theory of evolution. In the 1859 book “On the Origins of Species,” he expounded upon the process of natural selection, whereby organisms are more likely to survive and reproduce if they are well adapted to their environment.

However, nowhere in that book, or in any of Darwin’s writings, is the quote featured above to be found. A database of his collected works, Darwin Online, returned no matches, and the University of Cambridge’s Darwin Correspondence Project includes a version of the quote on its list of “six things Darwin never said.”

The statement appears to have originated with a 1963 speech by a Louisiana State University professor named Leon C. Megginson, according to the website Quote Investigator.

During that speech, Megginson states: “According to Darwin’s Origin of Species, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

The quotation is Megginson’s attempt at summarizing, in a digestible way, the primary tenet of the theory of evolution, but is not a direct quote from Darwin or his book “On the Origins of Species.”

“This is a known mechanism for the generation of misattributions,” says Quote Investigator. “Person A summarizes, condenses, or restates the opinion of person B. At a later time the restatement is directly ascribed to person B.”

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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