In 1859, a biologist named Charles Darwin postulated a scientific theory, which stated that all living organisms evolved through a process of natural selection. According to Stephen Hawking, Charles Darwin claimed that the offspring of a particular species gradually evolved themselves genetically to resist the changes in the environment (573). The theory contended that the organisms could adapt to the changes in the environment through the survival of the fittest. Though this theory is regarded as a breakthrough in the field of biological evolution, it is interesting to explore how this seemingly scientific theory has been suitably modified, and intellectually applied to both negative and positive aspects of life.
In the documentary, The Monkey Trial by Stanley Kramer, Hitler, for instance, during the Second World War, used this scientific explanation as his reason to wipe out almost six million Jews. The Nazis believed that, they had been naturally selected to be superior to other races, especially the Jews and therefore, in order to preserve their pure race, it was important to eliminate all the Jews in Germany. This inhuman atrocity known as “The Holocaust” was a negative use of Darwin’s theory.
It is also surprising to know that the main concept behind the practice of slavery was the Darwinian principle of natural selection. As Kramer puts it in his documentary, The Monkey Trial, The aristocrats thought that they had been naturally selected by God to rule the black race. Consequently, the low-ranked class was labeled by the society as ‘the unprivileged class.’ The ‘so-called’ masters believed that, in this race of the survival of the fittest, only they had the ability to survive and flourish, and thus, they had the power to mistreat their slaves.
Darwin’s principle was also used by the society to formulate the idea of class system and social ranking. The idea of applying Darwin’s principle to promote caste and color discrimination within societies eventually came to be known as ‘Social Darwinism’. The high-ranked members of the society believed that, to maintain the prosperity of the society, the weak social groups should be oppressed to ensure their elimination in the future generations. According to Kramer’s film, The Monkey Trail, The unprivileged class deemed this sociological theory to be an obstacle to their progress, and complained that: ”If nature decides the fittest amongst the human race, then, what right do the rich have to mistreat and oppress us?” In other words, the unprivileged class questioned the practice of ‘ethnic cleansing,’ if it is really a nature’s design.
In response to the criticism of the ‘inferior’ class, supporters of Social Darwinism argued that just like organisms, societies have also evolved by natural selection, through which the fittest and the most brilliant members were the ones who were most successful in their societies. Using this idea as their line of...