Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection and Social Darwinism

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Anyone with even a moderate background in science has heard of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. Since the publishing of his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859, Darwin’s ideas have been debated by everyone from scientists to theologians to ordinary lay-people. Today, though there is still severe opposition, evolution is regarded as fact by most of the scientific community and Darwin’s book remains one of the most influential ever written. Its influence has even extended into realms other than biology and science. An entire method of looking at and interpreting society has come into being partly from the ideas of Darwin. This methodology is known as social darwinism. One can trace the roots of this idea all the way back to the time of Darwin and his contemporaries, and proponents of the theory remain strong even today. Social darwinism has shown its influence in many ways throughout history and is seen to be just as controversial as Darwinian evolution. The theory of social darwinism was first introduced to the public[1] in “A Theory of Population, Deduced from the General Law of Animal Fertility”, an article by Herbert Spencer published in 1852. This work preceded the publishing of Darwin’s book by seven years, and “given the timing, it is curious that Darwin’s theory was not labeled ‘natural Spencerism’ instead of Spencer’s theory being labeled ‘social Darwinism.’”[2] Spencer’s article, though mainly focused on biology and the ways in which animal populations develop, does include an inkling of the social ideas he would later more fully examine. His main theory of population deals with survival of the fittest, a phrase he coins in this a... ... middle of paper ... .... ed. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1893. Spencer, Herbert. “A Theory of Population, Deduced from the General Law of Animal Fertility.” Westminster Review. LVII (1852): 250-68. [1] McIntyre, The Practical Skeptic, 21. [2] McIntyre 21. [3] Spencer, “A Theory of Population”, 267. [4] Spencer, Social Statics, 216. [5] Spencer, Social Statics, 135-36. [6] Spencer, Social Statics, 127. [7] McIntyre 22. [8] Hofstadter, Social Darwinism in American Thought, 39. [9] Haller, Eugenics, 8. [10] Newman, Evolution, Genetics and Eugenics, 441. [11] Haller 9. [12] Newman 441. [13] Haller 9. [14] Haller 10. [15] Haller 17. [16] Haller 95. [17] MacDougall, Biology: The Science of Life, 751. [18] MacDougall 751. [19] MacDougall 750. [20] MacDougall 751. [21] Arthur, Morality and Moral Controversies, 17.

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