Robert D. Leonard and George T. Jones
Perhaps no idea provided by Darwin is more significant than the concept of natural selection. Darwin (1959) defines it as follows: “[the] preservation of favourable variations, and the rejection of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection.”
While reproduction is implied in Darwin's definition, the biologist Ernst Mayr makes the role of reproduction clear by stating that natural selection is “the differential reproduction of individuals that differ uniquely in their adaptive superiority” (1982:57). Here Darwin's “favorable variations” are Mayr's reason for “adaptive superiority.”
E. O. Wilson, perhaps the greatest evolutionary thinker of the latter quarter of the twentieth century, adds the concepts of genes and populations to his definition: “The differential contribution of offspring to the next generation by individuals of different genetic types but belonging to the same population” (Wilson 1975).
Hodge (1992) makes the point that natural selection is best conceptualized as an analog of artificial selection (human manipulation of animal and plant varieties), as was Darwin's intent when he coined the term “natural selection.” The difference between artificial selection and natural selection is that while people select the favorable characteristics in the former, nature does so in the latter. Darwin (1998:108) himself compared the respective efficacy of the two processes:
How fleeting are the wishes and efforts of man! how short his time! and consequently how poor will his products be, compared with those accumulated by nature