Heredity, Natural Selection, and Evolution

Natural Selection

What is social Darwinism?

Social Darwinism is a social movement—one of a number of perversions of the Darwin-Wallace theory. These movements attempt to use evolutionary mechanisms as excuses for social change. Followers of social Darwinism believe that the “survival of the fittest” applies to socioeconomic environments as well as evolutionary ones. By this reasoning, the weak and the poor are “unfit” and should be allowed to die without societal intervention. This idea has nothing to do with Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace but was promoted by British philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) and is related to the works of Thomas Malthus, whose work did indeed inspire Darwin. Although social Darwinism has faded as a movement, it did help to spur the eugenics movement of Nazi Germany as well as a number of laws and policies in the United States in the twentieth century.


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