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Social Darwinism – the winner’s creed

Updated on April 28, 2015
TessSchlesinger profile image

Growing up in a political family, Tessa joined her first political party at 14. Her interest in progressive politics & economics continues.

Social Darwinism – the winner’s creed

I have a friend on Google Plus somewhere. His name is Franklin Stone. About a year back he asked me to join a group which could form rebuttals against Social Darwinism. It takes me time to answer these sort of questions, to think things through, to read up about it, to analyse the fine detail, and to come up with sufficient information about it to be able to answer with ease. That time has arrived. So read on…

The origins of Social Darwinism

Social Darwinism reared its head towards the end of the 19th century when the working classes were spreading their wings and rearing their heads and saying, quite loudly and quite clearly, “We want equal opportunity, and we want to be paid a fair share of the rewards of industry.

This challenged kings, aristocracy, leaders of industry, and, in general, those of a superior kind. As these things go, they looked around for a rebuttal and found it in Herbert Spencer's interpretation theory of evolution – survival of the fittest. In other words, those best adapted to the environment (or situation) won through. So it was reasoned that if one had a leadership position then Mother Nature endowed one with it, and so it was rightly deserved. Those who didn’t have leading positions or who weren’t flourishing were, quite clearly, not selected by Mother Nature to be there, and therefore their lowly position was justified.

The one in twenty rule among mammals

Mother Nature does, indeed, chose her leaders where leadership is necessary. Amongst mammals, she has ensured that one in twenty people have a brain structured for leadership. People who have this type of brain structure do not get so easily addicted to addictive substances, do not succumb so easily to the influence of others, and have a tendency to think more analytically than followers. They have to; they are leading the pack, after all.

If you study herds of animals, however, you will note that while the leader might be first to feed (lions), he does not get a larger share of the spoils automatically. He takes only what he needs, and then lets the rest ‘feeds.’ His job is to protect the herd, and so his leadership is not designed for satisfaction and enrichment of self, but to ensure the survival of the herd (the species).

Social Darwinism and Religion

All the major religions comprise different sects, be it Islam, Judaism, Christianity, or Hinduism. And all of them have a sect or two that insist on their own superiority as well as their ‘moral right’ to leadership and the subsequent rewards that leadership brings to them. However, there are some religions, like Dominionism, which insist that if one has a leadership position, or has been born into wealth, or has been voted into a political position of power, then that position is a confirmation that Go has seen fit to nominate the incumbent with superiority of some sort. That superiority, it is believed, gives the person the right to murder, to steal, to do whatever it takes, to retain their position in the world. I kid you not.

Libertarianism and Conservatism

Particularly dominant of a Social Darwinist view are those who tend to Libertarian and Conservative views. This view holds that the people who have secure jobs, earn a good salary, have social status, and who are blessed by lucky events, are the result of being the top of the survival tree. They explain their position as ‘survival of the fittest (or best adapted)’, and therefore justify the poverty and misery of those beneath them.

Human beings live in a vastly more sophisticated environment than animals do, and their ‘packs’ (read cities and towns) consist of a far greater number of people. Survival in this instance is far more complex, and it is a fact of life that’s it’s far easier to earn money by cheating, manipulation, and stealing, than it is to earn it the honest way. So are these people saying that the method of acquiring wealth, position, and power is not of importance?

Herbert Spencer, founder of Social Darwinism
Herbert Spencer, founder of Social Darwinism | Source

Social species

A social species is a species which puts the survival of the group above the survival of the individual. They tend to cooperate in looking after the young in groups, interact with each other for emotional needs, have allocated labour tasks for different members of the herd/group, and practice reciprocal altruism. This last means that if one member is struggling, another will assist him.

This method of survival is, in itself, an evolutionary product of Mother Nature. In some species, the individuals are not strong enough to survive on their own. Thus they survive in groups. Human beings are a social species. Without them helping each other, they will not survive as a species.

Humanism and the Human species

Humanism is a secular set of beliefs that state that there is no God to help people through their difficulties, and so it is the responsibility of humanity, itself, to help the species. This means that all human beings have a vested responsibility in helping to provide for others, ensure safety for all, take action against events that would diminish humanity, and make use of the best possible methods to prolong the survival of the species in a way that brings well-being to all.

Einstein, the humanist
Einstein, the humanist | Source

Social Darwinism vs Humanism

Social Darwinism is the antithesis of Humanism. Social Darwinism is concerned with the preservation of those who have found their way into position of power and money while Humanism is concerned with the well being and survival of all humanity. Social Darwinism justifies its position in the belief that a) Mother Nature created the leadership system, b) without leaders, followers could not survive and c) that followers are in their lowly position as a result of their own ineptitude and laziness. Humanists hold their position on the basis that social studies have shown that whether people succeed or not has more to do with the environment they are born into and the facilities and resources available during their younger days. These include a modernized country, a relevant education, medical services when necessary, and sufficient time away from basic survival in order to practice what needs to be known and give it one’s full attention.

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Humanism - the winning creed.

So while Social Darwinism may well be the winner’s creed, Humanism is the winning creed. With 7.5 billion people on the planet, to accord only five percent a rich and rewarding life is hardly fair, and it is definitely not good. Humanism has the capability of making this a better world for all. Social Darwinism does not.

© 2015 Tessa Schlesinger


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    • Akriti Mattu profile image

      Akriti Mattu 2 years ago from Shimla, India

      Informative piece :)