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Darwin the first Social Darwinist

July 30th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Spencer was no Social Darwinian, picks up on the Reason mag article cited here a few days ago.
I am all for taking a second look at Spencer, but he is not completely innocent. A third look would be appropriate. The point is not that he was a social darwinist, but that, along with Darwin, he stumbled into the confusion (really perpetrated by others) of biological and cultural evolution, a confusion still latent in the Darwinist paradigm.
Nor is Darwin exhonerated. In fact, he is the first Social Darwinist. It is no use denying this fact. Behind his classical liberalism lies an essentially conservative viewpoint with Malthusian overtones in the generation of his youth onward, with its debates over, say, the Reform Bill, etc… The bio by Desmond and Moore will set the matter straight.

It is impossible to exhonerate Darwin if we recall the truly horrific subtitle of his book. No use saying he was a sweet man. The damage proceeded apace from the word go.

Beyond that, Social Darwinism emerges from the theory of natural selection. You cannot escape Social Darwinism if you believe such a theory in the way that Darwin and then later Darwinists did.

Tags: Critique of Evolutionary Economy · Evolution

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Matt Silb // Jul 30, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    I think that “is not” is the appropriate response. Seriously, you presented no argument at all, just a repeated assertion that you are right. You seem unaware what “races” meant at the time nor do you seem to understand that Origins was not about people but about all life on Earth. Social Darwinism does not arise from Natural Selection because, as Hume pointed out, you don’t get the “ought” from the “is”. Natural Selection does not tell you what you should do, it just says that actions that don’t support reproductive success are less likely to continue. That does not say anything about right or wrong.

  • 2 Stephen P. Smith // Jul 31, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    In other words: natural selection says nothing about right or wrong, and hence said theory is provisional as there is a deeper truth that is beyond.

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