Author: Jennifer Malcolm
According to Bernard Shaw, Darwin's theory of evolution creates a sense of hopelessness for human kind; it ignores the beauty and purpose of life, and focuses on a fate that is unchangeable. His distrust of not only science but of religion too, leads Shaw to embrace his own kind of faith, which focuses on the spiritual will and the capabilities it could have. Essentially, he believes that the human will can influence and alter the process of evolution. Though he has persuading ideas, Shaw appears to apply Darwin's theory too rigidly to all aspects of life, and in a sense, seeks a human betterment that is questionable. Shaw's belief in evolution was more influenced by Lamarck than Darwin. Lamarck based most of his evolutionary theory on characteristics being achieved through want and desire, rather than through adaptation over time. According to him, living organisms change because they want to and have the drive to. In this sense, Shaw appears to intensify the power of the personal will; he ignores the physical abilities of the body and the environment in which it lives in. He essentially gives an unrealistic account of the will's capabilities while dismissing all other kinds of development that could be occurring.
Shaw's beliefs also seemed to be persuaded and seduced by the political world around him. He lived during the time when fascism was emerging, and oppression of the human race was desired. During this time strong controlling leaders were considered to be the answer to the unruly masses of humanity and that the weak and inferior should be disposed of if progress was to occur. This in a sense skewed Shaw's opinions; it created this belief that an ideal state of being was a controlled one. To him, the stronger will that dominated and conquered the weaker, led to human betterment, which for many, would seem to be untrue.
Shaw appears to apply the theory of evolution to society, when really it shouldn't be. Darwin's theory makes sense in biology, but doesn't explain the nature of human culture and how it develops. Everything from politics to economics evolves in different ways, and cannot be accounted for through the theory of evolution. This could be the reason why Shaw chose Lamarck's theory over Darwin's; it attempts to explain behavior and its effect on evolution. Shaw, essentially, is attempting to justify the importance and influence of the human will by applying a form of Darwin's theory.
Bernard Shaw's belief that the human will can alter and influence evolution is an interesting one. Though his ideas may have some truth to them, he applies the theory of evolution to the human mind, which it was not made to explain. The "Creative Evolution" he believes in, is at times, hard to believe.