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"'Social Darwinism' is often taken to be something extraneous, an ugly concretion added to the pure Darwinian corpus after the event, tarnishing Darwin's image. But his notebooks make plain that competition, free trade, imperialism, racial extermination, and sexual inequality were written into the equation from the start- 'Darwinism' was always intended to explain human society." (Desmond, Adrian [Science historian, University College, London] & Moore, James [Science historian, The Open University, UK], "Darwin," , Penguin: London, 1992, reprint, pp.xix).[top]
"A peculiarity of Darwinism, both in biology and in other fields, is that it explains too much. It is very hard to imagine a condition of things which could not be explained in terms of natural selection. If the state of various elements at a given moment is such and such then these elements have displayed their survival value under the existing circumstances, and that is that. Natural selection explains why things are as they are: It does not enable us, in general, to say how they will change and vary. It is in a sense rather a historical than a predictive principle and, as is well known, it is rather a necessary than a sufficient principle for modern biology. In consequence its results when applied to social affairs were often rather odd." (MacRae, Donald G. [Reader in Sociology, University of London], "Darwinism and the Social Sciences," in Barnett S.A., ed., "A Century of Darwin," , Mercury Books: London, 1962, reprint, p.304).[top]
"Finally, there is the question of natural selection. In one sense, the influence of the theory of natural selection on sociology was enormous. It created for a while, in fact, a branch of sociology. It seems now to be felt that the influence on sociology of the doctrine of 'survival of the fittest' was theoretically speaking, unfortunate, chiefly because it seemed to offer an explanatory short cut, and encouraged social theorists to aspire to be Darwins when probably they should have been trying to be Linnaeuses or Cuviers. As Professor MacRae points out, in sociology the principle explains too much. Any state of affairs known to exist or to have existed can be explained by the operation of natural selection. Like Hegel's dialectic and Dr Chasuble's sermon on The Meaning of Manna in the Wilderness, it can be made to suit any situation. However, 'Social Darwinism ' was only a subspecies of the intellectual movement we are considering. Neither Maine, nor Tylor, nor McLennan made much use of the theory of natural selection and Spencer used it only as a garnish for a theory he had already developed." (Burrow, John W. [Professor of Intellectual History, University of Sussex, UK], "Evolution and Society: A Study in Victorian Social Theory," , Cambridge University Press: London, 1968, reprint, p.115).[top]
"At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla." (Darwin, Charles R. [English naturalist and founder of the modern theory of evolution], "The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex," , John Murray: London, Second Edition, 1922, reprint, pp.241-242).[top]
"The more civilized so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilised races throughout the world." (Darwin, Charles R. [English naturalist and founder of the modern theory of evolution], "The Life of Charles Darwin", , Senate: London, 1995, reprint, p.64).[top]
"It may be quite true that some negroes are better than some white men; but no rational man, cognisant of the facts, believes that the average negro is the equal, still less the superior, of the average white man. And, if this be true, it is simply incredible that, when all his disabilities are removed, and our prognathous relative has a fair field and no favour, as well as no oppressor, he will be able to compete successfully with his bigger-brained and smallerjawed rival, in a contest which is to be carried on by thoughts and not by bites. The highest places in the hierarchy of civilisation will assuredly not be within the reach of our dusky cousins, though it is by no means necessary that they should be restricted to the lowest." (Huxley, Thomas Henry [Anatomist, Dean of the Royal College of Science, and "Darwin's Bulldog"], "Emancipation-Black and White," in Rhys E., ed., "Lectures and Lay Sermons," , Everyman's Library, J.M. Dent & Co: London, 1926, reprint, p.115).[top]
"With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed." (Darwin, Charles R. [English naturalist and founder of the modern theory of evolution], "The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex," , John Murray: London, Second Edition, 1922, reprint, pp.205-206)[top]
"Since Darwin's death, all has not been rosy in the evolutionary garden. The theories of the Great Bearded One have been hijacked by cranks, politicians, social reformers-and scientists-to support racist and bigoted views. A direct line runs from Darwin, through the founder of the eugenics movement-Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton-to the extermination camps of Nazi Europe." (Brookes, Martin.,"Ripe old age," Review of "Of Flies, Mice and Men," by Francois Jacob, Harvard University Press, 1999. New Scientist, Vol. 161, No. 2171, 30 January 1999, p.41).[top]
"Haeckel was the chief apostle of evolution in Germany. Nordenskiold (1929) argues that he was even more influential than Darwin in convincing the world of the truth of evolution. ... But, as Gasman argues, Haeckel's greatest influence was, ultimately, in another, tragic direction-national socialism. His evolutionary racism; his call to the German people for racial purity and unflinching devotion to a "just" state; his belief that harsh, inexorable laws of evolution ruled human civilization and nature alike, conferring upon favored races the right to dominate others; the irrational mysticism that had always stood in strange communion with his brave words about objective science-all contributed to the rise of Nazism. The Monist League that he had founded and led, though it included a wing of pacifists and leftists, made a comfortable transition to active support for Hitler." (Gould, Stephen J. [Professor of Zoology and Geology, Harvard University], "Ontogeny and Phylogeny," Belknap Press: Cambridge MA, 1977, pp.77-78).
"The case for Darwinism cannot be based on any edification that is supposed to come from its truths. Through eugenics, Darwinism was a bad influence on Nazism, one of the greatest killers in world history. Darwinism probably contributed to the upsurge of racism in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and thus it helped foment twentieth-century racism generally. Darwinism was also used to exacerbate the neglect of the poor in the nineteenth century. All things considered, Darwinism has had many regrettable, and sometimes actually vicious, effects on the social climate of the modern world. Modern Darwinism does not offer any guarantee of unending progress. It is understandable that so many hate Darwin and Darwinism. It is often a bitter burden to live with Darwinism and its implications. Unlike so many doctrines, religions, and ideologies, it certainly isn't intellectual opium. No one can make a case for Darwinism based on moral hygiene." (Rose M.R. [Professor of Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine], "Darwin's Spectre: Evolutionary Biology in the Modern World," , Princeton University Press: Princeton NJ, 2000, Third printing, p.210).[top]
"In science's pecking order, evolutionary biology lurks somewhere near the bottom, far closer to phrenology than to physics. For evolutionary biology is a historical science, laden with history's inevitable imponderables. We evolutionary biologists cannot generate a Cretaceous Park to observe exactly what killed the dinosaurs; and, unlike "harder" scientists, we usually cannot resolve issues with a simple experiment, such as adding tube A to tube B and noting the color of the mixture. The latest deadweight dragging us closer to phrenology is "evolutionary psychology," or the science formerly known as sociobiology, which studies the evolutionary roots of human behavior. There is nothing inherently wrong with this enterprise, and it has proposed some intriguing theories, particularly about the evolution of language. The problem is that evolutionary psychology suffers from the scientific equivalent of megalomania. Most of its adherents are convinced that virtually every human action or feeling, including depression, homosexuality, religion, and consciousness, was put directly into our brains by natural selection. In this view, evolution becomes the key--the only key-- that can unlock our humanity." (Coyne, Jerry A. [Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago], "The fairy tales of evolutionary psychology." Review of "A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion," by Randy Thornhill & Craig T. Palmer, MIT Press, 2000. The New Republic, March 4, 2000.).[top]
"This problem of just-so story telling is not some minor irritation to do with the perennial problem of giraffes, dismissable as some naive caricature of what you really proposed in your theory of evolution. The problem runs much deeper and wider, embracing many new disciplines of evolutionary psychology, Darwinian medicine, linguistics, biological ethics and sociobiology. Here quite vulgar explanations are offered, based on the crudest applications of selection theory, of why we humans are the way we are. There seems no aspect of our psychological make-up that does not receive its supposed evolutionary explanation from the sorts of things our selfish genes forced us to do 200,000 to 500,000 years ago. ... Not only is there the embarrassing spectacle of psychologists, philosophers and linguists rushing down the road of selfish genetic determinism, but we are also shackled with their self-imposed justification in giving 'scientific' respectability to complex behavioural phenomena in humans which we simply do not so far have the scientific tools and methodologies to investigate. There is a naivety about genetic determinism in both evolution and development that signifies intellectual laziness at best and shameless ignorance at worst when confronted with issues of massive complexity." (Dover, Gabriel [Professor of Genetics, University of Leicester], "Dear Mr Darwin: Letters on the Evolution of Life and Human Nature," , University of California Press, Berkeley CA, 2000, reprint, p.45).[top]
* Authors with an asterisk against their name are believed not to be evolutonists.
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Created: 3 January, 2000. Updated: 8 July, 2014