How did the new evolutionary views of biological development influence social thought?How did the new evolutionary views of biological development influence social thought?

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litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Darwinism is the idea that the fittest will survive, and the weak will die. This is supposed to describe how species evolve. However, the idea was adulterated into Social Darwinism. It's the idea that fitter people are more successful in society, and the rich are rich because they deserve to be, while the poor are poor because they deserve to be so.
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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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During the mid to late 1800s, Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection had a major impact on social thought in the industrializing world -- the creation of the idea of Social Darwinism.  The major thinker associated with Social Darwinist ideas is Herbert Spencer.

Spencer and other Social Darwinists believed that societies operate like nature does.  In other words, societies are arenas for competition and "survival of the fittest" just as nature is.  Therefore, whoever wins out in society -- whoever becomes wealthiest and most powerful -- has gotten to be that way because they are the most fit.

To Spencer, society should let competition continue unabated -- the government should not try to protect the weak.  If government adopts this sort of a laissez faire attitude, the best people and companies will rise to the top and the society that results will be the best possible society.

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