July 9, 2009


The Darwin Myth: Charles Darwin was a kind and polite man, but his take on evolution led to social Darwinism and the Nazis. (Bill Muehlenberg, 9 July 2009, MercatorNet)

Wiker also highlights the major disconnect between Darwin and Darwinism. Darwin the man was kind, polite, humane, a great husband and father, and a gentleman. He was a philanthropist, and keenly supportive of the abolition of slavery movement. But his take on evolution ran directly counter to all of this, for it led of necessity to social Darwinism and the logic of the Nazis.

According to Wiker, social Darwinism is not the misapplication of Darwinism, “it is Darwinism”. While the first 85 pages of The Darwin Myth provide the biographical details, the last 85 pages make the case for this intrinsic connection between Darwinism and social Darwinism. To make this case, Wiker reminds us that Darwin’s two most famous works are really one book in two volumes. His famous 1859 volume, The Origin of Species, which dealt with evolution as applied to plants and animals, was followed up by its 1871 sequel, The Descent of Man, which took evolutionary theory and applied it to humans. The two go together and should be read as such.

The end result is a worldview that totally contradicts Darwin as a person, including his passionate abolitionism. In his earlier book he had written about the “slave-making instinct” found in nature. He used the example of how little black ants were enslaved by big red ants. This was how nature – and evolution – worked. It was neither right nor wrong – it just was, as is everything in a purely naturalistic evolutionary account of things.

So, when he penned his next volume, he sought to show that mankind operates in the very same manner as the rest of the biological world. Man is merely an animal, and he too proceeds by principles of natural selection just as other animals do.

Morality itself is simply a product of evolution. Morality thus becomes whatever helps one tribe or race to survive over against another tribe or race. Therefore that which is “good” is whatever helps a particular race or people to survive. If survival is the ultimate “goal” of evolutionary processes, then the stronger species will win out and rule over the weaker, and that is just the way it goes.

But how could an abolitionist like Darwin promote a view which seems to provide a fixed biological rationale for slavery?

It meant that he had to step back from the obvious implications of his own theory.

...that even he found his ideology appalling.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 9, 2009 6:21 AM
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