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On The Origin Of Species Essay

2060 words - 9 pages

In his On the Origin of Species, written in 1859, Charles Darwin clearly explained the gradual progression toward the speciation of organisms with his five main principles: variation, inheritance, competition, selection, and propagation. Darwin hesitated to publish his findings because he understood that his findings were based on the animal kingdom and on an evolutionary process that had to have spanned millennia. He specifically did not think that his discoveries were applicable to the evolution of human society. Contrary to Darwin’s preference, Herbert Spencer did exactly what Darwin hoped to avoid by publishing numerous works supporting his own, new thesis of “Social Darwinism,” which ...view middle of the document...

The chieftainship is then associated with a favorable trait, which is later present in his children; this is the step of inheritance. Then, the authority of the strongest or most cunning is felt throughout the tribe and the leader is given right to rule; this is the step of competition. As time then passes, the contrast between the leading and the led becomes much more stark and the advantages of genetic superiority are passed down from successful parent to child, and the children reap the benefits of leadership; this is the step of selection. And finally, the privileged pass down their benefits to their children in the step of propagation. Through all of these applied Darwinian phases, Spencer explained how societies slowly become heterogeneous through the same procedure as organisms.
Social Darwinism, as defined by Herbert Spencer, is an ideology which holds that social evolution depends on natural selection. It rests upon Darwin’s evolutionary ideals but Spencer expanded Darwin’s “simple to complex” mindset to include that of “monad to man” . Spencer theorized that society should reflect biological evolution in all of its aspects. Social Darwinism was so revolutionary because it explained not only why the leaders of societies are in their proper place, but why the poor too are rightfully at the bottom. Since the rich were, by default, given their wealth hereditarily, the poor were justifiably poor, not because of the situation they were born into, but because of their genetic shortcomings.
Herbert Spencer’s upbringing played a huge role in his development of Social Darwinism. Spencer was born April 27, 1820 into a family of anti-religious feeling, which inspired his nonconformist attitude. He was anti-clerical from adolescence and, after being offered a place at Oxford by his uncle, he refused and elected to learn on his own, reading Darwin, Lamarck, Weismann and other evolutionary philosophers. He was raised wealthy and spent of most of his later life as a revered intellectual, celebrating at parties, and advocating for his hypotheses. He lived off of his family’s wealth and instead of working, he devoted himself wholly to his studies. In 1896, he published his most comprehensive work, The Synthetic Philosophy, a work encompassing many of his theories on society, evolution, morality, and psychology. Spencer died December 8, 1903 while working on his autobiography, which was then published in 1904.
Through his anti-clerical and rejectionist upbringing, Spencer was raised to attach to a theory like Darwinian evolution. In his first published article on the development of Social Darwinism, entitled The Development Hypothesis, 1852, Spencer established his lack of faith and claimed that creationism was a “theory” which is “supported by no facts at all.” He further elaborated on the issue and asserted that there must be another mode by which the world was created. He even went as far as to write that, if he were to interrogate any leading...

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