Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What Would Darwin Say?

I often hear people quote Social Darwinism as a justification for ruthless capitalist exploitation. First of all, this is a misappropriation of Darwin. "Survival of the fittest" was not even a phrase coined by Darwin, but by an economist. In the scientific community, the term is hardly utilized. Social Darwinism led to dangerous ideas like eugenics. Darwin, on reading these theories, cautioned "if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil."
Secondly, his theory of competition applies to species rather than individuals of the same species. Communities of the same species of animals develop traits like cooperation and mutual aid in order to thrive and outsurvive other similar species. I would argue that these traits have evolved in humans in order to allow us to form cohesive communities on a massive scale that are not primarily based on kinship ties. Cooperation and mutual aid is what has moved human societies forward, not competition. While the military-industrial complex does create a lot of money, in general war serves to destroy infrastructure, halt productive industries, and set back a society's development.

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