Reverse Darwinism is a satirical evolutionary theory proposed in jest by Dr. Alan Grant in 2001. It is a commentary on the apparent luck which befalls people who make foolish decisions, summed up as “survival of the most idiotic.” It is unlikely that Dr. Grant ever intended this as a serious theory, but it provides an insight into his views and assumptions about Darwinian evolution.
The idea of Reverse Darwinism was inspired by Dr. Grant’s colleague Billy Brennan and Brennan’s “lucky pack.” The pack was considered lucky because during a hang-gliding trip in New Zealand, Brennan was blown off course and collided with a cliff face; the pack snagged on a rock, saving Brennan from a fall that would likely have killed him.
Reverse Darwinism is a parody of Darwinian evolution, often summed up by the phrase “survival of the fittest.” This phrase is intended to mean that the organisms best adapted to their environment will be most likely to survive; “fitness” in this case does not necessarily refer to physical strength.
The apparent luck which surrounds people who make foolish decisions is a social illusion. A person who makes a dangerous decision and survives will be seen as incredibly lucky, while another person becoming seriously injured or killed in the exact same scenario will be seen as the unfortunate, but predictable, result. In contrast, people who live safely and survive are not perceived as benefiting from any particular luck, while people who live safely but still suffer injury or death from untimely causes will often be seen as victims of an inherently perilous world. Thus, the foolish person who survives unlikely situations is likely to be perceived as luckier than anyone else.
Dr. Grant’s jest about Reverse Darwinism being the “survival of the most idiotic” reflects his own views on evolution. If Dr. Grant believes foolishness or low intelligence to be the reverse of fitness, it stands to reason that he believes “fitness” in a Darwinian sense means high intelligence. In reality, fitness comes in many forms, and high intelligence is exceedingly rare among species. This kind of bias toward intelligent life is likely a result of Dr. Grant’s extensive research into deinonychosaurian intelligence; he postulated that animals such as Velociraptor would have become the “dominant species” on Earth had they not become extinct. In this case, “dominant species” is used to mean a globally-present apex predator and environmental engineer in the manner that humans currently are.