Social darwinism

February 23, 2007 at 2:17 pm (politics/law/economy)

I  just had a conversation with some Nietzche fans, and discovered that they and he were social darwinists. Is anyone here a social darwinist? Why?

Personally, I think that darwinism is true; that species adapt to their environment over time. However, I believe that as humanity we have created our own environment. In todays environment, which was created by today’s elite and powerful, how can you see what is going on as beneficial on an evolutionary scale?

Fact: the more educated people are, the less children they have. At least in areas where everyone has equal oportunity to education, the smartest people are being weeded out of the genepool relatively speaking.

Our new capitalist system also shows that the rich and wealthy don’t necessarily have more children. Assuming equal oportunity, we’re weeding out the successful and productive.

Going more into Nietzche, violence, to be successful, takes the forms of organised combat in wars. Social darwinism sees this as a test of one group against the other, and the superior group wins. But between nations and races, there is less genetic difference than between the members of those nations or races. All violent forms of social darwinism are relatively unproductive if you want a stronger species.

I don’t need to remind people of the racism of the founder of social darwinsim, Herbert Spencer.

Even if you believe that although the rich and educated are not reproducing enough, or that everyone else is reproducing too much, that the important thing is that the rich and educated are getting ever greater amounts of power so that if there ever is a crisis, their genes will be those that represent humanity and everyone else until then is an expendable workforce, there are still problems. Our neo-capitalist system rewards not the intelligent and creative, but the persistent, conformist, and I daresay ideologically idiotic and uncritical people the most.

My conclusion is a few points:

1. In short we’re breeding sheep to a few idiotic shepherds.
2. Our genetic differences are so varied and so widespread that there is still the capacity for serious examination of how society should be structured to reflect what is best for the species in any group and place so that warfare is absolutely insane.
3. That we create our own environment to adapt to.
4. There is no reason to assume that a more democratic and socialist system would be any worse for the evolution of humanity. Indeed, I personally believe that as a group we could make more rational decissions about the kind of people the species should become than we do as separate individuals… creating the kind of environment that people would adapt to that would actually be better for the species.

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9 Comments

  1. poitier said,

    Not sure I understand your position. Social darwinism does apply the idea of the survival of the fittest to individuals, nations, races or other groups of human beings.

    There may be something to it. However another way of understanding the dynamics of social groups is via dialectical materialism – ie if 2 groups come into conflict, the result will be a synthesis of the two. For instance, immigrant groups adopt some of the mores of the host society, but the host society is also changed in the process.

    Democracy actually encourages people to form into competing groups due to the existence of the party system. However the result is often a centerising tendency with extreme left and right (or for instance religious groups) marginalised – which they often do not accept, and try to exercise influence through protest or even violence.

  2. soniarott said,

    You don’t undersatand my point? Well that’s ok because I don’t understand yours either. Darwinism is about genetics, and genetics only. The more common a gene is in a species, the more successful it is. Genes can also be less successsful and be completely eliminated by natural selection.

    Survival of the fitist is a term that only applies to genes adaptating to the environment.

    Social Darwinism however, is more specific than you think. It usually does not apply to individuals. The points of Spencer and Nietzche is that as groups one is superior to the other. The fact is however, that there are individuals in every group that are “superior” to some (or most as I believe) individuals of every other group on the planet. The idea of one group dominating the other for greater fitness (genetic purity) is nonsensical.

    As far as I knew, Dialectical Materialism applied to ideology, or at the very least social groups, not genetic or geographic differences. But that’s not the point. I don’t want to discuss Dialectical Materialism.

    What is it about my post that is unclear?

  3. ibrahim said,

    soniarott wrote:
    I just had a conversation with some Nietzche fans, and discovered that they and he were social Darwinists. Is anyone here a social Darwinist? Why?

    You need to talk to these so called Nietzsche fans and tell them to read the guy science and to read Kauffman’s book on Nietzsche. Social Darwinism first of all entails progress as time progresses; Nietzsche viewed the Renaissance man and the Greeks as far superior to his contemporary Germans. He believed that the overman must be “willed”; Darwinism entails a natural involuntary progression. It is true that he encouraged what may be called “the politics of difference”, but he thought the idea of superiority as connected to race or nationality as purely absurd. Some of his quotes may easily be construed or dismissed as racism or social Darwinism, but in context of his whole philosophy, it is nearly impossible to make the case for that.

  4. ace of god said,

    See what I disagree with is the idea that Darwinism should be the survival of the individual. The way that I understood it was that humans advantage over other species was our social behaviour. If one man fought a bear in the forest, it would be most likely that he would die. But in use of our strengths for survival as Darwin said happens in nature, it would be more likely that twenty men would fight a bear and obviously win.

    Where the flaw in the ideas of social Darwinism are created is when we assume that it should apply to the individual. Where twenty men are fighting each other and a bear, most likely they would all die.
    exile wrote:
    For instance, immigrant groups adopt some of the mores of the host society, but the host society is also changed in the process.
    see this is easy to agree with in the idea that survival of the fittest is translated into the survival of the fittest society. As history has shown a culture unwilling to adapt will die. The evolution of a society is vital to its survival, but a successful society must have a united people. Thus again proving humanities need to not have competition with the individual but the groups.
    exile wrote:
    Democracy actually encourages people to form into competing groups due to the existence of the party system. However the result is often a centerising tendency with extreme left and right (or for instance religious groups) marginalised – which they often do not accept, and try to exercise influence through protest or even violence.

    This is also true, but my beef with democracy is that it is far to short term. 4-5 years is not long enough for some of the most fundamental changes to take place. In our society today we are forced to consider environment vs. economy. The democratic parties refuse to touch this issue because it is too long term to have taken effect while they are still in the power. But it’s effects on the environment are immediate. In this way allowing social Darwinism to have a more commanding role in our society my be our death.

  5. soniarott said,

    Nietzsche…The Gay Science, book one, 4. What preserves the species. The
    strongest and most evil spirits have so far done the most to advance humanity:
    time and again they rekindled the dozing passions- every ordered society puts
    the passions to sleep-, time and again they reawakened the sense of
    comparison, of contradiction, of delight in what is new, daring, unattempted; they
    forced men to pit opinion against opinion, ideal model against ideal model.
    Mostly by force of arms, by toppling boundary stones, by violating pieties- but
    also by means of new religions and moralities! In every teacher and preacher
    of what is new we find the same ‘mischief’ that makes conquerors infamous,
    even if its expression is subtler and does not instantly set the muscles in
    motion and for just that reason does not make one as infamous! What is new,
    however, is under all circumstances evil, being that which wants to conquer, to
    overthrow the old boundary stones and pieties; and only what is old is good! In
    every age the good men are those who bury the old thoughts deeply and make
    them bear fruit- the farmers of the spirit. But that land is eventually
    exhausted, and the ploushshare of the evil must come time and again. Nowadays there
    is a thoroughly erroneous moral theory which is celebrated especially in
    England: it claims that judgements of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ sum up experiences of
    what is ‘expedient’ and ‘inexpedient’; that what is called good preserves the
    species while what is called evil harms it. In truth, however, the evil drives
    are just as expedient, species-preserving, and indespensable as the good
    ones- they just have a different function.

    no reference to Ceaser, that was just their example

  6. ibrahim said,

    Ideas thought morals are mentioned over and over again here, can you tell me were this agrees with social darwinism in the sense that it is physical dominance? he mentions force of arms, but in no way condones it, just says that it is commonly used to advance morals, ideals, etc; in other words a means to an end, not a end in itself. This passage differs greatly from social darwinism, which is biological ( not ideological) in nature, and sees collective entities comprised of race and ethnicity ( being biological) as grounds for dominance.

  7. nosos said,

    Surely social darwinism is just one big inference from is to ought?

  8. nosos said,

    lets get away from the strict definition of social darwinsim. Nietzsche (spelling?) said that the great conquerors of the ages were ideal supermen and that these men like Ceasar, who killed about 1 million Celtes in Gaul, etc. are an example of what humanity should evolve to. Well, warfare takes one group to fight the other, and each group has a variety of genes that I don’t think we can say are superior to the other group’s. Neitzche also believed that morality was the problem. Already, you showed that he believe Greeks and Renaissance cultures to be superior to the modern ones. Now, I accept your point that his concern was that society creats the environment for greatness or not. This is what Ive been saying and my friends didn’t understand. We live in an artificial human-created world. Evolution, be it sociietal or individual, is going in the wrond direction. Nietzsche would agree with that but for different reasons. I believe that far more insiduous than religious morality is the corporate power culture that promotes sychophantic parasitic and organisational man over creative, spontanious, individual and cultured man. That is true whether you believe paychecks or genetic reproduction are more important.

  9. zolk seth said,

    The politics of difference is basically the belief that the existence of opposing and conflicting ideas is healthy for mankind. I agree with what you said about time not necessarily constituting progression, my point was that classifying Nietzsche as a social Darwinist is brazen. Also, could you please tell me which of Nietzasche’s books you read that aid that “the great conquerors of the ages were ideal supermen and that these men like Ceasar, who killed about 1 million Celtes in Gaul, etc. are an example of what humanity should evolve to.” This entirely contradicts my understanding of Nietzsche. In thus spoke Zarathustra he says ” never has their been an Overman” and he despised Alexander the great because he considered him an enemy of higher culture by conquering the Greeks. Nietzsche held individualism and creativity in high esteem, if conquering was conducive to that such as in the case of Julius Caesar, then it was good, if it hindered it such as in the case of Alexander ( or at least Nietzsche believed so), it was bad. The act of conquering and killing itself was not his point at all. Human all too human Volume 1 is full of these allusions.

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