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Today the theory of evolution is a
well-supported, unifying principle in biology, which explains how life on earth
began and developed. The scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the idea
that all living things share a common ancestry.
Charles Darwin, a British
naturalist, is the person most remembered for his contribution to how the
process of evolution works. He wrote a book, published over 150 years ago,
called On the Origin of Species, which was very controversial at
His scientific explanation of how
evolution occurs was essentially correct but incomplete. On the basis of newer
knowledge, and particularly advances in genetics and molecular biology, many of
Darwin’s concepts have developed into the more complete modern theory of
Science and religion
In the 19th century, Darwin’s
discoveries made an enormous impact in England, Western Europe, their colonies,
and the USA, where Christianity was the dominant religion. Darwin’s theory was
seen to be in conflict with the literal interpretation of special creation to
be found in the Bible in the Book of Genesis, and even today Darwin’s work
raises emotional responses among fundamentalists.
It can be argued that religion
does not explain how the world works. Religion is about faith and hope and
answers questions about ‘why’. Science on the other hand, is rational and
evidence-based and answers questions about ‘how’. Religion and science should
not be seen as two different worldviews as they do not provide solutions to the
What is Social Darwinism?
Darwinism and Social Darwinism
have very little in common, apart from the name and a few basic concepts, which
Social Darwinists misapplied. The theory that there is a hierarchy of human
species into ‘races’ has affected international politics, economics, and social
development across the globe.
Social Darwinism is a false
application of Darwin’s ideas such as adaptation and natural selection and does
not really follow from Darwinian thinking in any way. Social Darwinism is a
belief, which became popular in England, Europe and America, in the late 19th
and early 20th centuries. Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher in the 19th
century was one of the most important Social Darwinists.
Social Darwinism does not believe
in the principle of equality of all human beings. It states that:
human beings are biologically superior to others
strongest or fittest should survive and flourish in society
weak and unfit should be allowed to die
There was a constant struggle
between humans and the strongest always would win. The strongest nation was the
fittest, therefore the best, and consequently had an inherent right to rule.
Social Darwinism applied the
incorrect interpretation of ‘survival of the fittest’ to human ‘races’ and said
that ‘might makes right’. Not only was survival of the fittest seen as
something natural, but it was also morally correct. It was therefore natural,
normal, and proper for the strong to thrive at the expense of the weak. White
Protestant Europeans had evolved much further and faster than other
So-called ‘white civilized’
industrial nations that had technologically advanced weapons had the moral
right to conquer and ‘civilize’ the ‘savage blacks’ of the world. Social
Darwinism was used to rationalize imperialism, colonialism, racism, and
The beliefs associated with Social
Darwinism were discredited during the 20th century, as the increasing knowledge
of biological, social, and cultural phenomena does not support its basic
The concept of ‘human races’ is
scientifically invalid. Physical characteristics do not relate in any way to
mental or behavioral attributes. Many people argue that the word ‘race’ should
no longer be used for the following reasons:
scientists today would say that there is no such thing as race.
misinterpretation of the term ‘race’ to classify people has gone hand in
hand with contempt for human rights.
Social Darwinism is by no means
dead, as traces of it can be found in the present.
In what ways does social Darwinism still
exist? List an example
Should we still be using the word race when
it has been scientifically proven to not exist? Why or why not?
How have you seen ‘race’ be used to justify
behavior? List an example.
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