Social Darwinism

Jul 16, 2013

Social Darwinism is an adaptation of the theory of national selection by Charles Darwin, adopting it into the context of social, political, and economics issues. The concept of Social Darwinism was coined by Herbert Spencer, a 19 th century philosopher. In the simplest of terms, Social Darwinism follows the intonation “the strong survive ”, which is then applied to human issues. This theory was mainly used to promote the impression that the white European race was superior to others, which gives them the authority to rule above everyone else. As the years went, this concept was used to justify the crimes brought about by racism, eugenics, imperialism, and social inequality. 

After Darwin’s publication of his theories on biological evolution and natural selection, Herbert Spencer swooped in to draw parallels between his own economic theories and Darwin’s scientific principles.  Spencer applied the concept of “survival of the fittest” to his “laissez faire” (unrestrained capitalism) during the Industrial Revolution, where businessmen were permitted to operate with little to no regulation from the government. Unlike Darwin’s theory, Spencer proposed the concept that human beings could pass learned qualities genetically, such as morality, to their off springs. His belief extended to the opposition of laws that favored laborers, the poor, and everyone else he deemed genetically weak. These laws, he postulated, went against the evolution of society as it delays the elimination of the “weak”. During Spencer’s promotion of Social Darwinism, the empire of the “White European” dominated in terms of technology and economy compared to other cultures. This apparent advantage was used to justify that natural selection was merely playing its course, and their race was more suited to survival and therefore, winning. Their advancement in terms of conquests and riches were merely part of the equation, as their colonies were deprived of their inherent riches.

Its worst ever implication was used as a scientific basis of the Holocaust, used by many apologists as justification for its significance. The Nazis argued that the systematic murder of the Jews during World War II was merely an instance of wiping out the genetically inferior, which was necessary to preserving the balance of nature. Moreover, philosophers have noted that the theory of evolution echoes most of Hitler’s propaganda. Various dictators and criminals also sought refuge in the implications of Social Darwinism, claiming their acts justified by the theory. However, even with the absence of such actions, Social Darwinism has been proved to be not only a false philosophy, but a dangerous one to believe in. 

To this day, both evolutionists and scientists uphold the notion that this interpretation is only loosely based on Charles Darwin’s natural selection. There exists an obvious parallel between Spencer’s beliefs and Darwin’s theory, however. To clearly understand the picture, here is how they look side-by-side: In the natural order, the strong survive and those equipped with the means outlive the weak. In Social Darwinism, those with power flourish and those who do not walk in their fate towards extinction. While scientists and evolutionists cannot deny their parallelisms, it is important to understand that Darwin did not extend his concepts and theories into an economic or social level. 

According to the evolutionary theory, however, nature operates in a kill-or-be-killed system. Such is the subject of many popular stories of fiction, such as this generation’s Hunger Games and Battle Royale. Those who cannot keep up fall behind or are completely cut off.  From everything gathered, if we’re to agree that evolution, through chance, is responsible for this life we know, why should the process be contradicted? If the so-called survival of the fittest or killed or be killed  cannot be applied to what we believe to be as “decent” society, then which is wrong – evolution or society? If neither is wrong, then how do we explain humanistic acts of charity, morality, and compassion? Why should resources be drained from the powerful to support the inferior? Although Darwin had nothing to do with the emergence of Social Darwinism, the evolutionary theory poses some questions. 

As with many things in the world, it only takes a few people to ruin something, even the purest of things. To this day, Darwinism continues to gain many detractors, which includes Creationists who wrongly blame Darwin and his theory for the crimes committed against humanity in the last century. For many reasons, equating natural selection to the ills of Social Darwinism is a tragic mistake. Science will remain science, religiously funded through facts, while Social Darwinism continues to exist mainly on generalizations and misreading – forever to remain in the realm of pseudoscience.

The fact that Social Darwinism, and those theories that followed suit, nearly destroyed us should already serve as a powerful lesson.

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