The Social Darwinism And The Development Of The Humanity

Herbert Spencer’s theory dominated society for much of the twentieth and nineteenth centuries. The Industrial Revolution was a major shift in Europe’s economy. It transformed agriculture into an industry-dependent economy. People started to move to the city to change their lives. The city saw a huge increase in crime, poverty, and malnutrition due to the large number of residents. It became clear that there was a distinction between the upper- and lower classes. Many of the greatest thinkers in history began to question why poverty exists. Herbert Spencer and others used science, reason and logic to solve the many social problems of the Age of Enlightenment. There are issues like social-class, discrimination and race. Herbert Spencer, who was inspired by Charles Darwin’s theory regarding natural selection, suggested a theory known as Social Darwinism. [2] Applying the theory to human society’s evolution nearly cost humanity its existence. Social Darwinism was wrongly interpreted the sociological progression of humans to justify social differences. It led to movements to ostensibly advance mankind such as sterilization and eugenics.

Social Darwinism was founded on Charles Darwin’s theory about natural selection. Charles Darwin published the book On the Origins of Species (published 1859) which discusses the evolution of species and plants due to competition for survival. Darwin believed that an organism’s behaviour and anatomy would change due to an adaptation that gave them a competitive advantage. This increased their survival chances. Although heredity is the main cause of species continuity of certain genes, mutations that occur during reproduction can give an advantage to species living in a particular environment. If the mutation allows for a specific advantage, the offspring of the affected species will inherit that gene. This will increase their survival and reproduction. Darwin claimed that natural selection would lead to the creation and elimination of new species over time. [3] Darwin was inspired in part by Thomas Malthus’s work. According to Darwin, this process would result in organisms continuously competing for resources. Thus, the most successful species would win “the fight for survival.” Thomas Malthus (18th century) is a British philosopher. Malthus’ essay on the Principles of Populations argued that organisms will have more offspring to sustain the environment than they can. Malthus argued that if an organism doesn’t have the resources to survive in its environment, there will be constant competition for survival between members of a population looking for food and other resources. Malthus wrote that plants and animals can produce more offspring than they can survive in nature. Malthus also stated that humans would die if there was no regulation on the human population. Darwin applied Malthus’ theory to show that organisms with the best adaptations to their environment are more likely survive and to produce offspring that will pass these desirable traits on to the next generation. Individuals that are not well-adapted to their environment won’t be able to survive, so they will eventually die. [4]In addition to Darwin’s book, many philosophers started to develop their own theories about the evolution of humankind. This was what historians call the “eclipse of Darwinism”.[5] Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher, is well-known for his interpretations of Darwinism. Social Darwinism, which is the application and interpretation of natural selection to human populations, is also known as social Darwinism. Social Darwinism is not only about the physical evolution of humans, but also the psychological traits that play an important role in social interaction. Social Darwinism is a view of the human nature as a cultural and social being. Social Darwinism holds that religion, politics, religion, ethics, culture, society, and civilization all can be explained by natural selection. Spencer also stated that society should emphasize technology, skills and intellect to promote human advancement. Social Darwinism does not exist. It is simply an assumption about the nature of human beings that has influenced society’s views in the 19th and 20th centuries. Spencer’s work was immensely popular due to its suitability for American society and the assurance of progress for the human race. Social Darwinism was a response to the times. It was a time where everything was defined and controlled by scientific thought. The Atlantic Monthly wrote in 1864 that Mr. Herbert Spencer is already an influential figure in the world…He’s already made an impact on the thinking of a few people whose beliefs define the point at which society must rise. Spencer’s ideas influenced every philosopher of his time. Spencer believed that the ability to inherit mental and physical traits could make the human race superior, even if only the desired alleles are passed on. Therefore, vice was justifiable in the Gilded Age by using the analogy “struggle of survival” to describe human nature. [8]

Next, Social Darwinism was a dangerous rebuke of creationism. It caused extreme controversy among creationists. Darwin’s theory was based on the Bible’s account of creation, which is the only source of information. [9] Genesis describes God creating the earth in six day, and He rests on the seventh. Genesis’s story of creation describes how God created humankind in His image and likeness. The bible was believed to have been written by God. This is how Christians interpreted it at the time. Darwinism was argued by Christians who take the Bible literally. Darwinism was a new way of explaining nature’s laws, using the concept of creation. [10] Natural selection theory must have God as superfluous. Darwin supported Darwin’s analogy and stated that creationism wasn’t true. Darwin argued that all life forms aren’t fixed and are constantly changing to meet their needs. According to natural selection theory, evolution is caused by the abundance of genetic variation produced in each generation. A well-developed mix of inheritable characteristics and individuals who survive are the ones that produce the next generation. The controversy between Darwinism and Darwinism led to it becoming very problematic. Darwin said, “When two races are met, they act exactly as two species, fight, eat together, bring about diseases, etcetera. Then comes a more deadly struggle, which is which organization or instincts have the best chance of winning the day.” [12] Darwin asserts that humans and animals are alike in the way they interact with each other in situations of life and death. Darwin reduced humanity down to an animal when he removed God from human life. The laws and nature of life suddenly made humanity a definition. The Bible’s laws, teachings, and Ten Commandments were ignored. Or, competition and “survival-of-the-fittest” were what defined differences in human lives. Darwinism was able to unreasonably justify all human social structures. Intelligent thinkers argued that the Age of the Enlightenment showed that the higher-class were more advanced because of their descent of lineage. The lower-class are still developing their lineage. Creationists contend that the poor were there to push people to help those in need, as God wills. Social Darwinism encourages society towards a rejection of human virtues and man’s inherent moral values. Darwin stated that

The need to aid the helpless comes from the inborn result of the instinct for sympathy. A surgeon might become hardened when performing an operation. But, if he were to neglect the weak and the helpless, it would be only for a momentary benefit. Although it is possible to expect more from the weak, we have to bear the negative effects on their survival and the propagation of their kind. [13]

Social Darwinism is a philosophy that many philosophers supported. It was unjust because it was good for humanity. Numerous catastrophic events were caused by the lack of God in every day morals to replace Social Darwinism.

In the wake of Social Darwinism’s popularity in the early 20th Century, a national Eugenics Movement was established to eradicate the “defective” members of society to help advance the human race. These movements were directly related to Social Darwinism. Francis Galton, inspired in part by Social Darwinism, developed the science of Eugenics in 1883. Eugenics studies the possibility of improving human species standards by encouraging reproduction of those with desirable traits, while discouraging those with unfavorable characteristics -negative Eugenics. Galton understood Eugenics as rational planning for humankind, based upon his understanding of how heredity works. Galton stated that eugenics was “the study and control of social agencies that may affect the racial characteristics of future generations either physically or mentally.”[14] An investigation of the Jukes’ family revealed much about their social behavior due to their mental abilities. Henry, a psychiatrist, said that over two thousand Jukes relatives were “feeble minded.” H Goddard claimed that the Jukes family didn’t become “feeble-minded” due to environmental factors, but because they were inherited this trait. [15] Eugenicists assumed that people with low intelligence were inherited and would be more likely to reproduce them. Revisions of the study used the laws and methods of eugenics in order to remove the “feeble minded” from family lines. The Juke’s next generation displayed normal behavior. [16] Juke’s families were examined and it was concluded that eugenics could create a superior race of philosophical thinkers based on their belief that eugenics can be applied to a greater society.

Eugenicists had to first identify those who shouldn’t reproduce. Galton suggested that laws be established to regulate fertility rates for those with genetic diseases and other unwanted genes to ensure a society of ideal citizens. Oneida in New York tried to create an ideal society by controlling the rate of reproduction in 1884. The town leaders imposed rules regarding reproduction. One woman said that she had no right to her personal feelings about children. If necessary, she would be a martyr for science. However, the majority of women were against eugenics. [17] American psychologists Leta.S. Hollingsworth suggested offering incentives or compensation for the promotion of marriage and reproduction in those considered fit or desirable. Germany’s 1960s debates on compensation payments and the acceptance of eugenics were intense. The law was confirmed by Western Germany at the start of 1945. The law requires that both male and female young people undergo a mental and physical screening. The registrar needs to see a certified health certificate before registering a couple. This is to verify that they are both in good health. [18] Couples who are in good health will be offered incentives to have children. Most eugenics programs started with marriages in mind. They were primarily motivated to promote eugenics, force sterilization, and other eugenics.

In addition, mental disorders resulting from heredity were also a major target. Eugenicists often targeted criminals, prostitutes, or other unacceptable social behaviors they believed were inherited. The American Neurological Association (USA) promoted sexual sterilization to treat certain mental disabilities and epilepsy. Germany sterilized those who had cognitive disabilities such as Huntington’s, blindness and feeblemindedness. Many men of high education embraced eugenics because they believed it was a scientifically sound process. German biologist and author, Oneta Heinz, said that it was important to ensure that the “infertile” do not reproduce. [19] Germany’s eugenics became extreme in comparison to other countries. The Davenports Eugenics Record Office proposed sterilizing one-tenth the population in 1914. The Eugenics Record Office stated that sterilizing the “worthless one tenth” would allow the next generation of people to experience the benefits of eugenics. [20] Even though no country in the world has implemented eugenics at the same level as Germany’s, the United States Supreme Court supported the concept of eugenics. Eugenicists also tried to persuade Americans of the benefits of eugenics. Popular books that explained the importance and benefits of eugenics were popular. High school students were taught eugenics. Teachers encouraged students to select “socially attractive mates” to help them not only avoid eugenics, but also to apply it to society. [21] Eugenics in America did not attract the same level of attention as Germany but caused much controversy.

Eugenics was also a pioneering branch of science that led to sterilization. Sterilization can be described as the prevention of a mentally or physically “defective woman” passing on her genetic traits to her offspring. This involves surgery or medication to prevent the passing of hereditary characteristics to their offspring. [22] People who are mentally or physically disabled, such “feebleminded” people, are forced to sterilize. Sterilization was a way of segregating the socially marginalized and the unfit. Japan was a strong advocate for sterilization in the post-World War II era. Japan’s Eugenics Protection Law was approved in 1948. The Law allowed the sterilization of a person by a physician with her consent and that of their partner. Japan believed the Law would “prevent the eugenically poor offspring from being born” and also protect the mother’s health and life. Japan allows abortion if either parent has a mental illness, a psychoopathic disorder, or a disability. These laws were popularized by the Japanese and became a common practice in the country. One million abortions were performed and twenty three thousand sterilizations occurred since 1951, according to a statistic. [23] Great Britain also has sterilization in practice. Great Britain drafted The Mental Deficiency Act in 1913. The act gave the government the power to imprison anyone with a mental disorder. They also permitted doctors to sterilize women who were not up to their standards. In Britain, Eugenics considered the “feeble minded” a hereditary condition. This led to many social problems such as poverty. The onset of World War One in Britain led to depression and the laying off those less qualified. Social Darwinism was created to keep mentally ill people out of worsening society’s conditions in World War One. Great Britian’s department panel reported that women were at high risk for developing mental disorders. [24] Social Darwinism was influential in sterilization. This led to millions of deaths and some people suffering from anxiety and depression. Two cities in Sichuan, China were the subject of a comparative study by the US National Library of Medicine (NIH). According to the study, surgical sterilization can have long-term psychological consequences. Sterilized women and men were significantly more likely to experience depression. The risk of developing depression after tubal and vasectomy was 2.34 and 3.97, respectively. The risk of anxiety increased by 2.88 percent after tubal, and 4.79 percent after vasectomy.

Social Darwinism was also very popular in Germany, as we have already discussed. Social Darwinism was popularized in the mid-1990s to exterminate the “unfit” members of German society by selectively breeding with eugenics. [26] Social Darwinism certainly raised the consciousness of race to a higher degree. The Nazi Racial Propaganda was also inspired by Social Darwinism. Early 1900 German biologists have documented that Spencer’s Social Darwinism theory was influential on Nazi motivations. They also said that Adolf Hitler’s government was heavily influenced by Social Darwinism when it formulated its racial policies. Hitler’s ideology was based upon Darwin’s theory on natural selection. It took the context literally and applied it to the population. [27] Richard Weikart, author of From Darwin and Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics and Racism. In his book, Darwinism did not cause the Holocaust. But without Darwinism, Hitler and the Nazis would not have been able to use the evolutionary theories of their time periods to form their political philosophy. He said that Darwin’s ideas and observations about struggle, selection, survival of fittest were already in full bloom in German social philosophy of 19th century. Thus, he developed the doctrine that Germany has an inherent right to control the world on the basis “superior strength” [of a] “hammer-and-anvil” relationship between the Reich’s weaker countries.[28] Social Darwinism was frequently considered a scientific reference because it resembled Hitler’s ideology. The purpose of Germany’s eugenics program was to purify the poor and those with mental and physical disabilities. Social Darwinism was also known for teaching unethical virtues in schools. Hitler eliminated Christian Doctrines from schools in order to promote Nazi racial hatred. Instead, he introduced Social Darwinism. The curriculum included lessons on racial cleansing. Hitler had stated that no child should be sent to school without understanding the importance and significance of blood purity.[29] This was the main reason Nazism became a national phenomenon. Germans were taught by Hitler to accept his words. His rule was based on changing natural selection theory with the goal of socially engineering the most superior German race. Hitler stated that “we [the Nazis] need to understand and work with science.” [30] But unlike modern times, the idea of all being equal didn’t exist due to the massive eugenic movements inspired by Social Darwinism. Social Darwinism was also a German ideology that ensured that the superior traits of all human beings were cultivated. Hitler believed humans are animals. This was similar to Darwin’s observation. The Aryans had to control the evolution of the human race to make it possible to develop it. The Nazis used selective breeding techniques to create laws that oppressed the less privileged races. Social Darwinism was believed by the Nazis to be a fact and they were applying scientific knowledge to the human race. Historian R. Hickman says that Hitler “… was a strong believer in evolution and a preacher of it. Whatever his deeper, more profound, and complex psychosis may have been, it is certain that Hitler, “…was a firm believer and preacher of evolution.” [31] Social Darwinian ideology was the reason the Nazis used extreme eugenics. Nazi policies inflicted severe hatred not only towards Jews, but other races as well, including the Slovaks. Gypsies. Hitler saw the need to eliminate all non-Germans from Germany in order to prevent the ‘pollution of the superior races’. [32] Hitler instituted the Blood Protection Law on September 15, 1934, which is more commonly known by the Nuremberg Laws. All Jews were forced to live in segregation and all basic human rights were removed. Nazis believed outcasts could reproduce and infect the Aryans by passing on their undesirable characteristics. Nuremberg Laws also prohibit the union of German-related blood people and their sexual relationships. Hitler demanded that all Jews be killed in private, shortly after the laws were put into effect. [33] The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates that six million Jews, two-hundred thousands disabled people, and seventy thousand repeat criminals were murdered by Hitler’s irrational logic based on Darwinism. Hitler believed Social Darwinism to be true. He thought he was a’savior’ for humanity, believing he could raise it to an unimaginable level. His attempt at murdering the entire Jewish population is a crime that will remain in the history books. Spencer’s philosophy was considered the cause of this atrocious incident in human history.

Although racism existed long before Social Darwinism emerged, many philosophers used evolution theory to support the notion of competition and the superiority of racial races. Spencer’s sociological changes in society were dominated by the issue of racial struggle. Social Darwinism served as a defense against oppression of minorities. Although Darwinism didn’t cause aggressive ideology or racism it was used to explain the struggles of some races. Max Nordau wrote in the North American Review 1889 that Darwinism could be used to justify the oppression of poor people and the class divide in Europe and America. Social Darwinists utilized scientific explanations for the apparent differences in wealth and poverty to further explain. Some Social Darwinists believed that human evolution is dependent on competition between races. Ernst Haeckel, a man of German descent, stressed the importance of racial and imperial competition. Because it would “sow future racial degeneracy” and stop the expulsion of the unfit, he hated charitable organizations. Oliver Wendell Holmes, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, stated in 1927 that it was better to have society prevent the births of certain races than to have them executed later in life. Social Darwinism holds that the poorest member of a society is the one that continues to produce offspring and breeds them. [37] Social Darwinians considered competition between nations a major factor in the evolution and development of the human race. These men believed in “racial superiority,” which is the creation of a supreme race. Gustave Le Bon, an African-American psychologist, was inspired to think that superior races were good for society. But, the idea of superior races being bred would be disastrous and lead to the end of the world. Le Bon’s book L’Homme et les Societies mentions that “it was always those who bred prolifically and endangered the quality of the race” and strongly opposed social and racial equality. Jean-Baptiste Lamarck also saw human races at different stages in their biological hierarchy. His theory was that the lower-hierarchical races were less developed and that as they mature, the evolutionary process would continue until they became civilized. Spencer and Haeckel viewed humanity as being divided into hierarchies of evolving race and said that the “Germanic race in North West Europe and North America” was at the top and that the “Negro race is still growing.” [38] Social Darwinism, which explains why different races are responsible for natural selection and evolutionary change, was also used.

Spencer’s book Social Statistics also states that civilized people monitor the elimination of the mentally ill and sick by building institutions and laws for the poor. This is why the weak are able to continue to reproduce and survive, which is pernicious for humanity. Malthusianism, an opposing belief, was popularized in England. Malthusianism, which contradicts equality and helps the poor, is a reason why the rich are oppressed over the poor. The rich often felt that they were free from the responsibility of caring for the poor because of this belief. This theory is often used to give the rich a “guilty-free pass”, as they believe that it is not their duty or obligation to care for the poor. Darwinism taught those in higher classes to respect the natural evolution and not interfere with it. The belief that the poorer members of society are in a lower taxonomic category meant they should be allowed to live in poverty and not interfere with the natural evolution of humankind. As a result, the death rate among the poor increased. Modern scientists, however, have not yet found a gene which proves that one race is smarter or more advanced. Although intelligence is genetically predetermined, there have been no discoveries of genetic variations that increase intelligence. The American Anthropological Association states that “Race isn’t real in the way we see it: as deep and primordial, biological. It is, rather, a foundational idea with disastrous consequences because it has been so for centuries and cultures. The foundations of race are predominantly human inventions and not biological. Unfortunately, natural selection theory and the idea of “the survival of fittest” came at a risky time. Social Darwinism influenced poorly-developed perceptions of race and ethnicity as well as class. Darwinism was born during a period when people sought scientific explanations for life’s outcomes. People misunderstood social Darwinism to mean social progress among people of different statuses, races, and ethnicities.

Philosophers reached many dangerous conclusions from the multiple interpretations that Social Darwinism allowed. Social Darwinism was the catalyst for many reprehensible theories regarding racial “hygiene,” and the birth of the Eugenic and Sterilization movement. Herbert Spencer developed his theory about Social Darwinism starting with Charles Darwin. He started a movement in 19th century. Social Darwinism was the first to persuade many prominent thinkers and scientists to adopt their theories based upon Social Darwinism. This led to a shift in philosophy’s view of society. Many people wanted higher standards and a better race. Spencer proposed the idea that evolution would require the extermination of the weak to ensure a larger population with the best characteristics. Eugenics is one popular way to accomplish this goal. Eugenics manipulates and disrupts one’s natural lifestyle in order to create a better society. Sterilization of women became a popular practice in Britain, Japan, Germany and other countries. Hitler used the Social Darwinism context and the phrase “the survival if the fittest” to his advantage in Germany. Many millions died. [43] Social Darwinism led to poor ethical opinions regarding race, ethnicity, gender, and class. Additionally,


  • ernestfarley

    Ernest is a 26-year-old education blogger and teacher who writes about a variety of topics related to teaching and learning. He has a passion for helping others learn and grow, and believes that education should be accessible to everyone. Ernest is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, and he has taught high school students in the United States, Mexico, and Chile.