Social Darwinism

Back to Contents

    A not-so-ulterior motive behind the Creationist movement grew out of the Christian response to a disease in the theory of evolution, an intellectual fraud that uses science for protective coloration. That fraud goes by the name of Social Darwinism.

    Putting it most simply, we can say that Social Darwinists justify their oppression and exploitation of other humans with reference to the phrase "survival of the fittest", which Darwin used as part of the title for Chapter IV in "The Origin of Species". That phrase certainly stands as part of the theory of evolution, but does it actually justify the abuse of one human by another? Or does it stand as a meaningless rationalization of the kind of parasitism that nearly destroyed the worldís economy at the end of AD 2008?

    Darwinís theory of evolution by natural selection applies only to organisms reproducing in a natural environment. In nature species cannot control their environment, so they must adapt to it. We live in an almost purely artificial environment, one of our own creation, that should free us from the "law of the jungle". Indeed, the very fact of civilizationís existence testifies to the inherent desire of humans to cooperate with each other for mutual benefit. No civilization worthy of the title could survive a Hobbesian "war of all against all".

    But within any civilization there exist those few who feel completely inadequate to survive and prosper in a decent and honest society. Those people will resort to indecent and dishonest means to obtain what they want and will seek dominance over others to compensate their own feelings of inferiority.

    The Creationists rightly point out that Social Darwinism appeals to the most degenerate members of the human race, exemplified by the Nazis and racists. And those who would assert a dictatorship of the inadequate over the competent draw comfort from a scam that lets them claim superiority over others to justify their abuse of those others. In light of that statement, we canít go far wrong in saying that Social Darwinism constitutes an act of treason against Humanity. In addition, the doctrine has absolutely no validity.

    The industrialist who enriches himself by grinding the workers, who actually create the wealth, into poverty is not a superior being at all: he is a soul-dead parasite upon his own kind, a traitor to his own species. In the 1987 movie "Wall Street" Michael Douglas portrays a vile sleazebag of a corporate raider named Gordon Gekko, who delivers an infamous speech to a meeting of shareholders of a paper-making company:

    "The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be survival of the unfittest. Well, in my book you either do it right or you get eliminated. ... The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit."

    What an elegant statement of the central thesis of Social Darwinism! But we donít have to resort to fictional characters, even if their creators based them on real people, to get an elegant statement of the thesis. Vince Lombardiís statement that "Winning isnít everything; itís the only thing" gives us the purest essence of the doctrine.

    We tend to think of art and science as the radiant glories that crown Humanity as the Lords of Earth. We conceive ourselves as gods, reinterpreting and reshaping Nature as we think best. But I could make a strong case for nominating our social welfare institutions, such as hospitals, disaster relief organizations, and so on, as representing the most brilliant halo emanating from the archetypal human; for it reflects not our cleverness, but our compassion. Look at the Special Olympics and see how such organizations offer testimony to the sheer power of our civilization. We do not surrender meekly to the Malthusian cruelty of evolution, as the Social Darwinists would have us do, but defy it and strive against it.

    And the Social Darwinists would, indeed, have us surrender to the law of the jungle. In one of its more abject manifestations that surrender took the form of Eugenics, a pseudoscience based on the assumption that we know what constitutes the best design for a human (blonde, blue-eyed, and white coincidentally enough) and how best to breed humans to realize it. Instead of applying our vaunted intellect to treat disease and birth defects, to heal them, and ultimately to eliminate them, the Eugenicists would have had us eliminate people instead, either directly (as the Nazis did) or indirectly by preventing their birth. In essence, they would have had us burn an entire genetic library in order to eliminate one misprinted book.

    Yes, art and science give us immense power, but power in and of itself has no meaning. The ability to do essentially anything we can conceive necessarily raises the question of what do we want to do.

    So we must also address the issue of choice. The leech doesnít choose to be a parasite; the landlord who demands extortionate rents does. We cannot properly fault the former: the latter deserves the full brunt of our scorn. The ichneumid wasp does not choose to reproduce itself by paralyzing caterpillars and laying their eggs in the still-living bodies; the investment banker who puts other peopleís money at risk, loses it, and reaps a huge bonus for doing so makes a very clear choice. We cannot justify despising the waspís hideous reproductive style; we stand fully justified in damning the banker. Called to account, both the landlord and the banker would likely appeal to the idea of "survival of the fittest", clearly misunderstanding what that term means and hoping that we do too.

    We can dismiss the thiefís appeal to "survival of the fittest" as nothing more than self-serving delusion. Someone who covers his inadequacy to participate in his society by resorting to stealth, threats, and violence does nothing to advance the cause of Humanity as a species. Again, only the parasite upon his own kind finds Social Darwinism appealing. And again it comes from a willful misunderstanding that "survival of the fittest" actually means the preferential reproduction of those who fit their environment best. Thus we dismiss Social Darwinism as a doctrine of cowardice, one utterly unworthy of human assent.

    In his 1895 novel "The Time Machine" Herbert George Wells illustrated the consequences of applying Social Darwinism a little too insistently. He hypothesized that the social divisions of his culture became impermeable, that eventually, over a great elapse of time, that separation led Humanity to split into two species Ė the working class evolving into the omni-competent Morlocks and the ruling class evolving into the indolent Eloi. The horror that Wells put into his story came from the realization that the Morlocks eat the Eloi, in essence raising them as cattle. And that fact brings us to an all-too-common justification of Social Darwinism.

    We have all heard, at one time or another, the statement that we live in a "dog-eat-dog" world, stated as if it were some natural law that we are helpless to change. But we can change it, because we created it. The civilization that we have laid over our world is entirely artificial, so if we dislike it, we can change it. The clear and obvious fact that we built it tells us that we have the power to reshape it. Those who claim helplessness in the face of the forces of history in order to justify their own predation upon their own kind might do well to contemplate what Charles Darwin himself had to say on the subject: "If the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin."


Back to Contents