Monday, November 22, 2010

Shaw's Views and Arguments Against Darwinism

  Similar to Butler’s argument against Charles Darwin, Bernard Shaw also claimed that Darwin was unoriginal in his ideas of evolution.  In providing his own beliefs of evolution, he takes a Lamarkian stance and believes in creative evolution: the notion that change is possible through desire and the will to survive. In Back to Methuselah, he claims that longetivity (long life in humans) is possible through creative evolution, and is the solution to societal problems: society has become very complicated and longetivity is required to understand these changes. His position generalizes to if people are able to live longer, they can better understand how to handle problems in society. He believed that longetivity was necessary for self-government. In the play, the last act displays a society in A.D. 31,920, where humans have evolved to become immortal against time, but he fails to provide any solutions to any societal problems as a cycle occurs where the characters from the first act (Adam and Eve) reappear – we (as an audience) are brought back to the start. People in this futuristic time period are still experiencing societal and social problems.

   Shaw does not make the critical mistake of making Charles Darwin and Darwinism synonymous.  He clearly states that Charles Darwin is a naturalist who promoted more ideas than just natural selection and sexual selection as Darwinians do.  However, to claim that Neo-Darwinism was to blame for wars and societal problems is far-fetched at best. Because Shaw was a socialist activist and one of the founders of the Fabian society, I believe that his political views have created a bias in his critique of Darwinism.  Charles Darwin, who was from a wealthy family, was a Whig in a Whig society. Darwin’s theory was accepted over any other mechanisms of evolution by the majority of the people because it was the simpler idea. As a Fabian, Shaw opposed Whiggism, thus, his engagement of Darwinism at a social level may be a politically driven argument.  He believes that Darwinism is socially malevolent and has caused no good in society.

   It is difficult to conclusively pin point what caused WWI. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was the trigger, but there were series of events occurring at the time: the power balance tensions between the European regions of Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman Empire, and British Empire to name a few.  It is possible that Neo-Darwinism in a Whig society was another factor in propelling the world into a regrettable era in history, but it is hard to believe that if Shaw was a Whig, he would have made the same claims. Fabians despise Whigs and coincidently, Darwinism is similar to Whiggism – a capitalist society where the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ is very relevant. It appears that he is committing a fallacy of affect as he is questioning the validity of Darwinism as he believes it resulted in the war. Not to claim that Shaw was wrong at any point in his arguments, but it seems as though his political agenda was a strong driving force in his critiquing against Darwinism.

Hiroshi Asada

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