Sunday, November 21, 2010

Social Darwinism: An Immoral Progression of the Human Race

Author: Ava Davis

  Darwin's theory of the natural progression of life is one theory that explains the natural growth, and changes, of species on Earth, amongst many others. He believes in a struggle for existence where the tools with which a species are equipped randomly appear: this is what makes his theory unique. Herbert Spencer, who led many others during the late 19th Century, took this random selection, when applied to the human race, to mean that some people were 'unfit' to survive. This view has led groups of people to come together to lobby against social, welfare-state politics. The worst of these people led to Eugenics: a process of sterilizing 'unfit' people in order to cleans the human gene. Each country has developed differently in terms of their political systems; however, Victorianism, and now capitalism, has reigned internationally as a popular social, political and economic structure. Capitalism, representing a 'survival of the fittest' mentality towards markets and thus much of life today, has produced extreme inequalities throughout the world. I mention politics to illustrate an example of how social Darwinism affects society, today.

  I would argue that social Darwinists have manipulated Darwin's theories to represent a human race void of morality, sympathy, and wholeness. Darwin's assumptions that things exist, and life just 'is', brings to question social Darwinists' assumptions that life's one driving force is a need to progress through destructive methods. Mr. Bernard Shaw is someone who follows this perspective of Darwin's theories. His writing reflects this through a stress on human progress as well as the ruling of the upper class. These rulers always concentrate on progress, and portray little compassion towards the faults of a human being. Shaw feels that if someone is not a positive contributor to society then they should be forgotten. Furthermore, if they are a burden on society he believes they should be killed. Just uttering these words seems wrong and begs to question if Bernard Shaw has any morality at all. How can it be that we all lead perfect lives and that those who have made mistakes never change?

  These social Darwinists are acting on extremists ideologies: they are determinists. Just because Darwin explained a struggle for survival does not mean that it is the one reason for living. G. K. Chesterton, in Orthodoxy, argues that there is far more to life than 'winning' the struggle for survival. He believes the two things that a person needs in life are "familiarity" and "unfamiliarity": things both "strange" and "secure" (4). Progress is not a criterion of life, according to Chesterton. Social Darwinists support taking away part of the unfamiliarity in life by weeding out those who are considered the least bit strange. Society is a living, constantly changing body that relies on some of these 'strange' people to create new, unfamiliar, ways of thinking. Social Darwinists advocate moulding the human population to a homogenized, middle- class society that leaves the lower class behind without sympathy or aid. I, with the support of Chesterton, believe that the rationalist, determinist, view of life followed by social Darwinists lacks morality, completeness and freedom.

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