The term social darwinism is an execration. Its connotions are so bad you may as well call a Social Darwinist an ass hole. (Besides, an ass hole is a very important part of a body. Closing it is irreconcilable with life going on.) The same holds true for natural social selection (that’s what most people understand by Darwinism), if absent the society is doomed.
Still it makes sense to develop an aversion to feces as the often carry disease causing germs. Disgust was the first principle of hygiene before soap and water came into action. One may find the same is true with Social Darwinism. I don’t dare to judge. I’d rather point to an other analogy.
Our disgust for excrement is well indoctrinated by our parent’s upbringing. While weaning off diapers parents repeatedly remind their children how disgusting it is to wear wet pants. The same is true with Social Darwinism. We would probably soon forget about its danger if there were not so many scholars that do not tire to maintain that it is terribly noxious. All this resembles an argumentum ad nauseam, as all authors seem to copy each other. I found one blog entry that immediately pops up when searching ‘Social Darwinism’ archetypal of that kind of literature as it contains most of the fallacies usually involved.
its central ideas owe more to the thought of a luminary of that time, Herbert Spencer, whose writings are (to understate) no longer widely read.
Besides the work by Spencer is downloadable from the Online Library of Liberty for free, and I strongly recommend reading it, …
… and go on with my next quote.
ruthless process, “red in tooth and claw” — he viewed human culture and human societies as progressing through fierce competition. Provided that policymakers do not take foolish steps to protect the weak,
I read a lot of his work and did not find the phrase “red in tooth and claw”, even my search engine does not bring it up. Treating the weak badly eliminating them is not the subject of his writings. On the contrary he describes evolution as a process by which prosperity rises and heterogeneity and division of labor increases offering even the weak and disabled oportunities to contribute and participate.
Although social Darwinism has often been closely connected with ideas in eugenics …
…some racial groups are intrinsically better than others…
these are not central to the position.
This special kind of straw man may be called hypocritical straw-man or partially knocked down straw-man. Although the author knows it is not true, he still mentions it and only partially refutes it leaving everybody with the impression that some truth is in it.
Late 19th-century dynastic capitalists, especially the American “robber barons,” found this vision profoundly congenial.
It is combined with some attempt to taste of an Argumentum ad populum.
Finally, by using rationality we probably get a better hygiene of really bad ideas associated with social evolution. To develop rationally requires studying, and studying the original sources and sorting out irrational ideological treatise is what is most recommended.
This work by Paul Netman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Fauceir theory is developed and © by Mato Nagel and available at www.fauceir.org.