Social Darwinism is an application theory of natural selection to political, economic and social issues. The ideas were first promoted by Herbert Spencer, a 19th century philosopher. It is a term that is given to various society theories that emerged in the United States and England in the 1870s which sought to apply biological concepts of survival of the fittest and natural selection to politics and sociology.
Social Darwinists argue that the wealth and power of the strong should continue to increase while the power and the wealth of the weak should continue to decrease. There are different kinds of social Darwinists and they hold different views regarding which groups are weak and which ones are strong.
In addition to this, they also hold different opinions regarding the precise mechanism that should be put to use in order to punish weakness and promote strength. Many of these views stress competition between individuals in laissez-faire capitalism while others motivate ideas of racism, imperialism, Nazism, eugenics and struggle between racial and national groups.
Social Darwinism gained popularity when it was used after 1944 by opponents of the earlier concepts. Today, as a result of the negative connotations associated with the theory especially the Second World War atrocities, few people describe themselves using the term and it is seen as a pejorative.
At the time when Spencer started promoting Social Darwinism, the economy, government of ‘White European’ and technology was advanced compared to that of other cultures. Analyzing this apparent advantage and the military and economic structures, some argues natural selection was playing out and that the race was suited to survival rather than winning.
There are some who extended the philosophy into macroeconomic issue and claimed social welfare programs designed to help the disadvantaged and poor were in contrary to nature itself. Those individuals who reject all and any form of governmental welfare or charity use arguments that are rooted in social Darwinism.
At its worst, Social Darwinism implications were used in the scientific justification of the Holocaust. The Nazism claimed murder of Jews during World War II was a good example of cleaning our genetics that were inferior. Philosophers also noted evolutionary echoes in the match of Hitler to exterminate a complete race of people. There are various other criminals and dictators who use the theory to justify their actions.
Even without having to rely on such actions, Social Darwinism has proven to be a philosophy that is not only dangerous but false. Evolutionists and scientists maintain the interpretation of Social Darwinism is based loosely though on Darwin’s theory of natural selection.
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