Natural selection exists everywhere. If you are into sports, then you already know that you have to be a good team to win the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, or the NCAA Championship. From your everyday experiences, you know that the stores in East Cleveland will only survive if they do good business. The stores that have prices that are too high, things to buy that are of low quality, or are not well maintained will fail.
Sports teams and stores on the street are both excellent examples of natural selection, even though it may not seem like it at first! You may think that some scientist came up with some very complicated and hard to understand theory, but natural selection is actually the simplest explanation of what has been going on for billions of years. If you do well, you survive – if you don’t, then you die.
Going back to sports, if the Cleveland Browns (magically) won the Super Bowl this year, that would mean that they were a good team. It doesn’t matter what you think, but because they out-competed all of the other teams, that means that they played the game better than those teams. It’s important to realize that natural selection isn’t about what scientists think should happen, it’s about noticing what does happen. So, if the Browns win the championship, they are a good team. Furthermore, if they win, then companies will want to give them money so that the company can be associated with a “winner”. With this money, the Browns can improve their training, their stadium, or go out and get better players. This means that because they won, they will be better prepared for the future.
Natural selection says that the best organisms will survive and reproduce more individuals like themselves. The weakest individuals die and do not get to reproduce. In a population of wild cats, the cats that are able to hunt the most birds survive and produce kittens; the cats that are unable to hunt birds die.
Going back to the stores, if Bob’s Discount Gas offers gas for $3.00 a gallon, even though it costs them $3.50 a gallon, then they will eventually go out of business. This means that the other gas stations will benefit and get more money that people aren’t spending at Bob’s. The weakest die off, leaving the strongest with the rewards.
When scientists are talking about living things and natural selection, there are a few key terms that are used in order to make things easier. The individuals that have characteristics which make them stronger than the others are the advantaged offspring (in the example, this would be the Browns). The characteristics that make them stronger are called advantageous characteristics. Again, it doesn’t matter what you think is a better characteristic – it all depends on what ends up helping an organism survive and reproduce!
Even more importantly, what happens when the environment changes? In other words, what happens if the NFL decides to make the field 20 yards longer, the NBA decides to move the 3-point line to half-court, or the NCAA decides that the shot clock should be 24 seconds instead of 35 seconds? You can imagine that different teams would do better under these circumstances. The same thing would happen to Bob’s Discount Gas if all of the other gas stations went out of business; all of a sudden, they would be doing very well because they could set whatever price for gas that they wanted! If the environment changes, then some characteristics that did not help the organism before may now be advantageous. If suddenly there are no birds for our wild cats to hunt, then the cats that are better mouse hunters will survive better and reproduce more good mouse-hunters.