We cannot blame Charles Darwin for Social Darwinism! Darwin proposed the idea of evolution by way of Natural Selection—sorry Alfred Wallace. One of the most controversial concepts in history, this theory crossed over scientific and social disciplines. The latter of which causes some of the worst tragedies the world experiences. Natural Selection is the method in which populations become more suitable to survive in their habitat because of variations they possess. Basically, traits either become more common or less common in populations. Some of these traits are more useful for survival while others are not. The idea of fitness is crucial to the concept of Natural Selection. Fitness is the ability to survive and reproduce. Survival is solely based on what characteristics organisms have that keep them alive. If organisms live, they have a greater chance to reproduce. Offspring usually have the characteristics of their parents, but sometimes do not because of mutations, and other genetic reasons that I will not go in to detail about. The same characteristics that allow their parents to survive will generally allow the offspring to survive. Natural Selection is readily seen in the wild for different types of animals. Humans are more nurturing to their young. We have corrective measures like glasses, contacts, physicians and crutches for broken ankles. If a cheetah breaks its ankle, the game is over.
When the theory of natural selection crossed into sociology, it took a turn for the worst—thanks Herbert Spencer. Ideas like racial superiority, eugenics, and not caring for those who cannot care for themselves are a few things to consider in this ill-conceived interpretation of Darwin’s fitness. This model, used to explain speciation, should not have been used to explain the systems at work in society. While classified as animals, we are human beings. Human beings interact in intricate ways that allow more room for emotion, accountability, respect, and social justice. While many believe it is a dog-eat-dog world, just because you are bigger and stronger does not mean you are more “fit” in the sense that Darwin was referring to. Adolf Hitler supported the idea of Social Darwinism. His actions allowed for and caused havoc that swept through Europe in the middle of the 20th century. While free-market capitalism is absolutely delightful for those on the wealthy end of the spectrum and some individuals who are “rags to riches stories,” those who wait in bread lines and live on Skid Row might not feel the same way. I believe in the advancement of self as long as it benefits others as well. Lawyers, entrepreneurs, doctors, CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies all have a role in what goes on this world. Most of the time they have the most power, but are not always in the right mindset to help the world. In conclusion, whether you believe you are fit in the terms of Natural Selection or Social Darwinism, use it to make the world a better place.