Anti Social Darwinism
by Alan Allegra
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The notorious Scopes “Monkey Trial” in 1925 helped to focus the nation’s attention on the theory of evolution, naturalist Charles Darwin’s explanation for the origin of man and other species. When he first published his theory in 1859, many critics who believed in the biblical account of creation ex nihilo by Almighty God condemned his teaching, while others praised it as the answer to the mysteries of origins. Fierce debates have raged in the decades since then, and some have stood back and thought, “What difference does it make where we came from or where we are going?” Many answers have been posited for that very question, yet the disputes continue.
The answer to the significance of a theory or any other idea or practice is best discovered in the fruits of its implementation. The theory of evolution has had nearly a century and a half to develop and influence society. This theory has been examined scientifically, mathematically, theologically, and by many other disciplines, but an examination of the consequences of life lived according to Darwinian evolution is necessary to evaluate its usefulness. Popular pastor and author Dr. John MacArthur boldly asserts that “the simple fact of the matter is that all the philosophical fruits of Darwinism have been negative, ignoble, and destructive to the very fabric of society. The moral catastrophe that has disfigured modern Western society is also directly traceable to Darwinism . . . ” (MacArthur 16). An examination of these fruits can only lead to the conclusion that this theory, although popular to a fault, must be rejected as a rationalization for life.
The implications of the theory of evolution can only be understood when the theory itself is understood. Some citations from recognized authorities can help define evolution:
“Evolution […] can be defined as a directional and essentially irreversible process occurring in time, which […] gives rise to an increase of variety and an increasingly high level of organization […]. [T]he whole of reality is evolution—a single process of self-transformation” (Huxley 272).
“Evolution comprises all the stages of the development of the universe: the cosmic, biological, and human or cultural developments. … Life is a product of the evolution of inorganic nature, and man is a product of the evolution of life” (Dobzhansky 409). In other words, the universe, including man and every living thing, is the result of a purposeless progression from non-life to life in a self-contained system, where what exists came from less complex forms and is changing into more complex forms. The belief that all existence is the result of natural forces, laws, and chance is called Naturalism.
Darwinism emphasizes what is popularly known as “survival of the fittest,” or “natural selection.” This view is based on the struggle for survival, in which the weaker beings die off in favor of the stronger, higher organisms. Nature and its laws favor the superior organisms that can adapt to changing conditions. To put it colloquially, “May the best man/bird/fish/amoeba win.”
One of the fields that have been heavily influenced by Darwinism is politics. Political views and movements are based on philosophies, and a leading philosophy resulting from evolutionary theory is “Social Darwinism.” “The term Social Darwinist is applied loosely to anyone who interprets human society primarily in terms of biology, struggle, competition, or natural law (a philosophy based on what are considered the permanent characteristics of human nature)” (“Social” par. 2).
The founder of Social Darwinism, Herbert Spencer, believed that since adaptation was a natural law, the rich and powerful were better able to adapt to the times, and natural selection made it proper for the strong to survive at the expense of the weak. Two of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century were Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche, who argued that there is no room in society for the weak, and that life is a continual struggle for survival in the political, economic, and social realms. Marx used Darwin’s book The Origin of Species as the basis for his communist views, while Nietzsche deduced from Darwin’s theories that the only hope for humanity would be the evolution of a race of supermen, unencumbered by the weakness of moral values, who would dominate the world and carry it to the next stage of evolution (MacArthur 16). The fruit of Marxism was Communism, socialism, and anarchy, while Nietzsche’s works fanned the flames of German militarism, Fascism, and, eventually, Nazism.
Darwinism justified and encouraged the Nazi practices of the twentieth century. Hitler believed that “the human gene pool could be improved by using selective breeding similar to how farmers breed superior cattle strains” (Bergman Par. 1). A modern day outworking of this philosophy was recently seen in the Internet egg auction in which bidding took place for the eggs of desirable female models. The process was touted as “Darwin’s natural selection at its very best” (Zacharias “Being Human” par. 2). The decision to have children was based on the chance of having a sufficiently attractive baby. Presumably, the less attractive would lose out and disappear. The Aryans believed they were the superior race and had the right to breed, while subduing the inferior races. Could Darwin have approved of such a use of his research? The often-overlooked subtitle of his seminal work Origin of the Species is The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. In The Descent of Man Darwin posits:
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 civilised 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 172).
It is clear that Darwin wrote about differences between the races, and that these differences were matters of superiority and hope for existence.
Hitler embraced these beliefs and was determined to speed up the evolutionary clock in favor of the Aryan race. Darwinism influenced his attitude toward all ethnic and cultural groups. He eventually deemed women, gypsies, Jews, homosexuals, older people, the mentally ill, terminally ill, and any other human being that could pollute the pure race as unfit to live (Bergman par. 35). The world still remembers the fruit of Hitler’s practice of Darwinism.
The concept of Naturalism strips humanity of its dignity and worth. If man is a product of chance, luck, impersonal natural laws, accident, or whatever term one has for the process, then life is essentially meaningless. With no cause and no purpose, life becomes an outworking of nihilism, the belief that everything is without meaning, logic, and reason. Nihilism ultimately leads to the conviction that everything must be destroyed, including value systems and property. This is the type of despair that grows from the seeds of evolution. Life has no value, so let’s get it over with.
Along those lines, once humans are disrobed of worth and value, reduced to mere animals, then they can, and will, act like animals, or at least treat one another like animals. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is an activist group that is well known for elevating animal rights the same level as human rights (or vice-versa). PETA is opposed to the keeping of pets as “slaves,” the eating of meat, wearing of animal fur or skins, and anything else that can harm an animal physically or emotionally. Ingrid Newkirk, PETA’s founder, says, “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy” (Newkirk qtd. in McCabe 114). She told a Washington Post reporter, “Six million Jew died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses” (Newkirk qtd. in Brown B-10). Clearly, Ms. Newkirk equates the value of human life with the value of animal life, even the most pestilent and dirty. And why not, if man is just a rung on the evolutionary ladder, put there by random chance, a twig a little higher up the same tree as the other animals?
The meaning of life has been sacrificed on the altar of Naturalism. If there is no purpose or design to life, how can there be any meaning? To quote a cab driver in a philosophical mood:
We’re here to die, just live and die. I like driving a cab. I do some fishing, take my girl out, do a little reading, then get ready to drop dead. You’ve got to be strong about it. Life is a big fake […] You’re rich or you’re poor. You’re here, you’re gone. You’re like the wind. After you’re gone, other people will come. It’s too late to make it better […] The only cure for the world’s illness is nuclear war—wipe everything out and start over. We’ve become like a cornered animal, fighting for survival. Life is nothing (Zacharias “Where is Meaning” par. 2).
According to this cab driver, life is a mere animalistic fight for survival. With nothing to give meaning to our lives, we are on our own to manufacture meaning. If life is just a series of random events, then we must learn to adapt or perish, hoping that nature selects us instead of the other guy.
The issue of human rights, a prominent and volatile topic in today’s society, has been influenced by the philosophies of Darwinism. If there is no higher authority to assign rights and judge the violation of said rights, then from whence come these privileges? With no preexisting ethical system, the basis for human rights becomes the means necessary to win the struggle for life. According to survival of the fittest, one has the right to do whatever necessary to survive. Since no one has any inherent dignity or worth, than anyone who gets in the way of one’s existence has no rights and can be eliminated. Perhaps spurred by the Declaration of Independence’s assurance of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the concept of rights has come to mean the license to do whatever is necessary to make one happy. If a pregnancy gets in the way of a woman’s happiness, it is a simple matter to destroy the offending “tissue.” Someone else’s property can be mine if I want it and I’m strong enough or clever enough to take it. If your driving pattern makes me lose a second or two on the way to work, I can just push your meaningless heap of metal into a guardrail, and if your 98 cents worth of bodily chemicals gets mangled in the course of our struggle, I win. If a woman is stupid enough to spill hot coffee in her lap, a restaurant chain’s millions become hers if she has a smart lawyer. Rights are dictated by the evolving rules of struggle.
Family values are deeply affected by the evolutionary mindset. Animal behavior becomes the norm for human societal behavior. “[S]ince animal behavior and animal instincts are what got us to this stage, we can look to our ancestors for a model for our behavior” (Morris d). Many animals raise children in what might be called a commune, with many adults contributing to the raising of children. On the human level, this is socialism at its core. The child becomes the property of the group, which becomes, in reality, the state. The parents become baby machines, pumping out fodder for the state’s purposes.
Monogamy and fidelity are common in the animal kingdom, but there are cases of animals “cheating” on their mates. There are some male animals that keep “harems” of females. This creates a solid excuse for the adulterer, pimp, and prostitute. After all, immorality must be in our genes, so we are not responsible for our behavior. If a spouse or child is hurt by my actions, well, they are just weak.
Cannibalism has been documented in some animals and insects. Some perform infanticide, eating their offspring. Once again, if it’s good enough for an insect, which could be my uncle, it’s good enough for me. Civilized society is still, for the most part, horrified by blatant cannibalism, but barely winces at abortion and euthanasia. What a strange twist: abortion and euthanasia, while degrading human beings, serves very little function. However, cannibalism can at least provide a warm meal.
Social Darwinism, the application of Darwin’s theories to society, birthed a new species of psychology known as Behaviorism. If, indeed, surroundings can influence the actions of an individual, then positively controlling a child’s surroundings should result in the perfect child. Psychologist B. F. Skinner, in the middle part of the twentieth century, developed his school of behavioral psychology, “in which human behavior is explained in terms of physiological responses to external stimuli” (“Skinner” par. 1). Skinner’s techniques used, in its simplest forms, rewards and punishments to control and retrain a person’s behavioral responses. This technique proved somewhat effective, but it reduced, at least externally, a human to the status of the simplest of creatures, responding to pain and pleasure, but with no effect on the character of the individual. A person becomes just another salivating dog in the Pavlovian parade. Ethics and morals become irrelevant; the reactions are what matters. This technique is basic to cults and other dictatorships and repressive societies all over the world.
The assumptions of Darwin’s theories of origins, natural selection, and survival of the fittest have influenced societies worldwide for generations. Almost every discipline, whether social, scientific, economic, or political, has been tainted or at least challenged by his views. The consequences have been detrimental to mankind in general, and often fatal to the disadvantaged individuals. Even among evolution’s adherents, there linger many doubts about the validity of the theories as explanations for existence and actions. For example, countless stories can be told about acts of heroism, courage, and altruism. What could propel someone to risk his life to save a stranger? Why would men carry a lady in a wheel chair down dozens of flights of steps to save her life when they could have escaped so much more quickly in order to save their superior selves? According to the “laws” of nature, the weak should be left behind lest they mix their genes with the pure races. The Darwinist would like to explain this as the evolutionary call to preserve the species, but saving the undeserving organisms goes against the process.
Darwin himself professed his doubts when he said, “With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of a man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” (McAllister par. 1). If we are monkeys, responding to our environment, then we must only believe in evolution because we have been manipulated into believing it. Therefore, the propagation of Darwinian evolution as fact is untenable, because not only does it reap bitter fruit, but it is self-contradictory and, itself, of questionable worth.
Bergman, Jerry. “Darwinism and the Nazi Race Holocaust.” Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal 13(2) (1999). 10 Dec. 2001
Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. New York: Hurst & Company, n.d.
Dobzhansky, Theodosius. “Changing Man.” Science 27 Jan. 1967: 409.
Huxley, Julian. What Is Science? Ed. J. R. Newman. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1955.
MacArthur, John. The Battle for the Beginning: The Bible on Creation and the Fall of Adam. W Publishing Group, 2001.
McAllister, Stuart. “Monkey See, Monkey Do.” A Slice of Infinity 10 Dec. 2001. 10 Dec. 2001
Morris, John D. “Will Infanticide Follow Abortion as ‘Acceptable Behavior’? Back to Genesis Nov. 1996: d.
Newkirk, Ingrid. Quoted in Brown, Chip. “She’s a Portrait of Zealotry in Plastic Shoes.” Washington Post 13 Nov. 1983: B-10.
Newkirk, Ingrid. Quoted in McCabe, Katie. “Who Will Live and Who Will Die?” The Washingtonian Aug. 1986: 114.
“Skinner, B(urrhus) F(rederic).” Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Microsoft Corporation, 1997.
“Social Darwinism.” Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Microsoft Corporation, 1997.
Zacharias, Ravi. “Being Human.” A Slice of Infinity 28 Aug. 2000. 10 Dec. 2001
Zacharias, Ravi. “Where Is Meaning?” A Slice of Infinity 25 April 2000. 10 Dec. 2001
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