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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Malpass

The Fittest

My name is Andrew Matheson, and I used to be a high school biology teacher. To listen to me now, most of you will probably conclude I'm a full-time conspiracy theory nut job. So be it. In the last year or so, I've learned to ignore the scoffing, snarky comments of those who will not hear the truth. Or even worse, the disinterested glances at watches, the patronizing pats on the shoulder, the vapid stares of the semiconscious proles oblivious to the engulfing doom.

But maybe a few of you can still be reached. Maybe you will comprehend the truth of the looming malevolence that will soon destroy our species. Or more likely, keep us poor dim-witted Homo sapiens enslaved in perpetual ignorance.

You politely point out, "Andrew, are you aware you haven't actually explained what it is you're talking about?"

True. That is a fair point. Okay, hang on tight—here we go.

One morning last November, just before I left teaching forever, my ninth-graders and I are discussing the evolutionary concept of "survival of the fittest." Most of my students are slightly bored with the worksheet I've passed out, so the unvarnished reality this morning is we're a little light on the discussion part.

Then in third period, there's this bright, nerdy-in-a-good-way kid Daniel. I like him a lot even on regular days, and today he gets special mention because he doesn't think this stuff is the least bit boring. In fact he's downright animated. He's one of those engaged learners. So Daniel says, "Mr. Matheson, does survival of the fittest ever turn off? Does a species get so completely adapted to its habitat that there's no further room for improvement?"

I like Daniel's question. It's thought-provoking. "Before I answer you, Daniel, I'm curious to know what you guys think. How about it, class? In your opinion, are some organisms so optimized within their habitats there is essentially no practical opportunity for further adaptation? That is, which organisms are the fittest? What examples can you think of?"

Tiger sharks like this one are among the fittest of all species.

Well-adapted to their habitats as a result of natural selection, apex predators like this tiger shark are among the fittest of all species.

I'm anticipating responses like cockroaches, or sharks, or jellyfish. Maybe even giant sequoias or bristlecone pines, since survival of the fittest isn't just a Kingdom Animalia thing. All of these are very reasonable answers. And I'm halfway expecting someone will suggest Homo sapiens is an optimized organism, although I would say from an evolutionary viewpoint, it's too soon to tell about us.

But there's no way I'm ready for Daniel's actual answer. With a completely straight face he says, "Supernatural beings like ghosts and demons seem to be the fittest to me. They are essentially immortal, and they don't have to adhere to the natural laws like living organisms do."

And while my brain is still trying to process Daniel's freaky response, something even weirder happens. I get a text message from one of my best buddies in college, a guy I haven't heard from in the better part of a decade: Aaron Mackenzie. Yes, that Aaron Mackenzie—the great-great-grandson of the founder of Mackenzie Oil and Gas, with an estimated net worth of $4.6 billion. Yes, with a "B."

And get this—the text reads, "Hey Andrew I've got to meet with you TODAY about Daniel's answer just now. Throw some stuff in a suitcase and get to the airport. I'll send a company jet for you. VERY IMPORTANT: DON'T TELL ANYONE WHAT YOU'RE DOING. Trust me buddy. Aaron."


(Image by Albert Kok - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia. org/w/index.php?curid=8969258)

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