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Ms. Reiman Freshman English May 9, 2011 The Intentions and Implications of Darwins Theory of Evolution Charles Darwin once wrote, It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed (Darwin 501). Essentially, caring for disabled humans was detrimental towards the evolution of the human race because weak genes may be passed on. Darwin was a British naturalist who laid out the Theory of Evolution in the mid-1800s by natural selection as it is recognized today. According to Marc Aronson in his book Race: A History Beyond Black and White, Darwins theory explained how human beings came to bethey evolved from other animals (176). He theorized the processes that work for the evolution of life. Aronson argues that one of the pillars of race, the notion that each group has a distinct level of brain power and moral refinement, thus they are naturally and unchangeably ranked occurs by the solidification of the concept of race by scientific means (Aronson 3). Herbert Spencer and Francis Galton, two well-respected scientists of the time, applied Darwins theory to humans; this became known as social Darwinism: the social competition that led to the success and survival of the fittest people, and the defeat and extermination of unfit and lazy people (Sheldon). This was carried out by the process of natural selection, the process by which organisms that are suited to an environment survive at a greater rate than those that are not suited to an environment (Wyman and Stevenson). Social Darwinism was introduced by Spencer, but the concept is seen throughout Darwins writings. Aronson argues that Darwin did not intend for his theory to be applied to society, but only the natural

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world: Darwin was talking about the natural world, not human societies or races of men. He was interested in science, not theology or politics (Aronson 177). However, because of the implications and statements of Darwins theory, racism became justified by scientific means by using Darwins writings as the standard. His writings and theory reveal that he exhibited social Darwinism; while he opposed the enslaving of humans, he still was subject to the beliefs of racism of his time, and through his theory he explained the differences of humans through mental and moral traits acquired by natural selection. Darwin was known for his abolitionist backgroundprimarily that his grandfather, Josiah Wedgwood, was a prominent abolitionist in Great Britain. Darwin hated slavery and witnessed it on his foreign travels in which he observed the natural world, and gathered information towards his theory. According to Desmond, an expert on Darwin, he was a man immersed in the rhetoric and fervent belief of the anti-slavery movement (Desmond). Ironically, as Darwin developed his Theory of Evolution, he preserved the racist views of his time by believing that white people had progressed the furthest in human evolution, and thus believed that the evolutionary process had created superior and inferior races. He maintained in Descent of Man that human intellectual development was the product of natural selection and that natural selection had produced significant differences in the mental faculties of men of distinct races (West). Even though Darwin believed that slavery was wrong, he still opined that men of different ethnicities, especially uncivilized people, were mentally inferior because of natural selection. His theories were part of his times, and he was influenced by many of his predecessors.

Charles Darwin formulated many of his ideas from the common notions of his time. While the Theory of Evolution as it is known today did not exist, the idea of a form of evolution

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was not unfamiliar. One of Darwins main influences was Charles Lyell, a geologist who used the idea of uniformitarianism, the belief that geological processes have been constant throughout time. This influenced his ideas on the time expanse of his theory, and the idea of slow change (Miller and Levine 455). Darwin also studied Carolus Linnaeus, who is known as the Father of Taxonomy, which is the science of classifying organisms (Cullen). While Linnaeus did not believe in evolution, he did classify humans under Primates, the category of which chimpanzees and other monkeys are classified: Thus the kingdom Animalia contained the class Vertebrata, which contained the order Primates, which contained the genus Homo with the species sapiens -- humanity. Later biologists added additional ranks between these to express additional levels of similarity. (Waggoner) Darwins education influenced how he viewed humans, and the significance of the human race. To Darwin, it was natural for humans to be classified as animals and have a common descent from animals. It was natural for him to view all beings not as special creation, but as the lineal descendant of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Silurian system1 was deposited (Darwin, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection 383-384). Therefore, his theory was not partial to any species, but was intended to explain how species originated, and the process by which the diversity of life exists today. This applies to all animals, and Darwin classified humans as animals; therefore, his theory applies to humans. When Darwin formulated his theory, he purposely intended for his theories to be applied to humans. Even though Darwin thought Spencer a windbag, [he] would not have recognised a separate category of social Darwinismfor him, the social was integral to his system. He dealt with race, slavery, genocide and colonial conflict from the first: his theory of evolution was intended to explain society (Desmond). In his Theory of Evolution, Darwin argues that man

The Silurian system refers to the third period of time in the Paleozoic era. The system is named after a Celtic tribe called the Silures. Rocks of this system are found on many continents (Kusky).

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evolved from animals, thus man is part of nature. The barrier between men and animals does not exist except for intellectual power, but some humans had not evolved as much as white people (Barber). However, the same processes still affect the evolution of man. Natural selection is the survival of the strongest members of an environment. Some animals cannot survive in specific and unusual conditions because they are not suited for the environment. In accordance with his theory, Darwin did not believe that the weak contributed profitably to society, but conversely the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man (Darwin 501). He asserted that if weak members in a society produced offspring, their offspring would similarly be weak, and impair society by their existence. Darwin believed that natural selection was working on society, and maintained that it was beneficial to the advancement of the human race. He contended that natural selection the mechanism by which the environment selected some biological variations and rejected othershad done much for the progress of Civilization (Fredrickson 230). Darwin was exhibiting social Darwinism by applying his Theory of Evolution by natural selection to the human race, and by believing it had been a help to civilization. The influence of Darwin also has had a substantially potent effect. Herbert Spencer, a contemporary of Darwin, firmly believed in social Darwinism and the survival of the fittest (which is the equivalent to natural selection). Spencer believed that government assistance to the weak was a terrible mistake, and that those who prospered should prosper, and those who failed should fail (Aronson 177). Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin, was also influenced by the Theory of Evolution. He believed that natural selection should be helped out by humans, and since humans exist in the natural world, it was possible that natural selection

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may be guided naturally by humans. This dogma is otherwise known as eugenics; breeding humans as one would breed horses. Galton masked his idea in the deception that science demanded that family planning be removed from the fuzzy area of attraction and romance and be turned to the task of improving the species (Aronson 180). Galton believed that humans were being plagued by the weak members of society, and if they were allowed to pass on their weak traits, society would become infected. Herbert Spencer and Francis Galton were influenced by Charles Darwin, but they also made some of these connections on their own as these were popular ideas circulating at the time. While Herbert Spencer was influenced by Darwin, he did come up with some ideas of his own. Herbert Spencer merely used Darwin as assistance to advocate his agenda: although Spencer is referred to as a social Darwinian, his writings on evolution preceded Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859) by almost a decade, beginning in 1850. Spencer's more speculative ideas gained widespread acceptance following the publication of Darwin's more careful, and better documented, writings. (Barber) The ideas of evolution were common at the time, but Darwin was the man who formed an argument for evolution that people believed. However, since Darwins ideas were popular, Spencer used Darwins writings to verify his own and convince people of his agenda. Darwins writings influenced how many people in the world thought about humans, and unfortunately he contended that those who lost out in the struggle for existence were apt to be inferior specimens, poorly adapted to their environment, which made the survivors the basis for an improved stock, and thus, the application of the concept of a struggle for existence to human types was natural and inevitable; (Fredrickson 231). Darwin also left the racist door wide open to all who wanted to defend the scientific reasons for race. When Darwins,

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Spencers, and Galtons ideas had spread to the United States during Reconstruction, apologists for racism quickly caught on to this new enlightening theory:
Darwinism was not even logically incompatible with thenotion that

Negroes wereor were in the process of becominga separate species. By denying the permanence of species, Darwinism made it possible to argue that blacks and whites had diverged in their evolution to such an extent that their differences could now be considered specific. (Fredrickson 232)

The consequences of his theory were devastating, and solidified racism with the false notion that the evidence was scientific. However, Darwin was not the first scientist to say that other races were inferior. It was common for people at the time to think that others were inferior in mental and moral capacities because evolution was becoming a common idea; however, as Darwins Theory of Evolution became an accepted theory in the scientific world, it was his influences and writings that became the justification for racism. While Charles Darwin was an abolitionist, he still exhibited the racist views of his day. His writings disclose his opinions on the less civilized people of the world, and his assumptions that they have inferior moral and mental intelligence. The influences of Darwin have been seen and felt in the modern world in terms of thought and actions. Since Darwin, the scientific community has accepted his theory, and many times have used his writings as a standard and justification for eugenics and social Darwinism by implying that natural selection of humans should be guided by humans. Race as we now know of it today was formally adopted by Darwin by using the last pillar of race: people have defined moral and mental capacities of different ethnicities (Aronson 3). Even though Darwin accepted this, those who accepted Darwins theory did not necessarily think this way. Darwin was a man exhibiting the hegemonic norms of his times. Opposed to what Aronson states, through Darwins writings the views of

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lesser races resulting from evolution was socially implemented, and carried long lasting consequences.

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Works Cited
Aronson, Marc. Race: A History Beyond Black and White. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2007. Barber, Nigel. "Spencer, Herbert." 2011. Science Online. Facts on File, Inc. 27 April 2011 < =True>. Cullen, Katherine. "taxonomy." 2011. Science Online. Facts on File, Inc. 7 May 2011 <>. Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics, 2004. . The Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life; And, the Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. New York: The Modern Library, 1990. Desmond, Adrian. "Darwin the abolitionist." 28 February 2009. Prospect. 28 April 2011 <>. Fredrickson, George M. The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-American Character and Destiny, 1817-1914. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1987. Kusky, Timothy. "Silurian." 2011. Science Online. Facts on File, Inc. 7 May 2011 <>. Miller, Kenneth and Joseph Levine. Biology. Glenview: Pearson, 2010. Sheldon, Garrett Ward. "social Darwinism." 2001. Facts on File Modern World History Online. Facts on File, Inc. 7 May 2011 <>. Waggoner, Ben. "Carl Linnaeus." 7 July 2000. University of California Museum of Paleontology. 1 May 2011 <>. West, John. "Museum Exhibit Supresses Darwin's Real Views on Eugenics, Race, and Capitalism." 1 December 2005. Evolution News and Views. 1 May 2011 <>. Wyman, Bruce and Harold L. Stevenson. "natural selection." 2011. Science Online. Facts on File, Inc. 7 May 2011 <>.