more on social Darwinism

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Wed Feb 22 2006 - 14:27:03 EST

The evolution/social Darwinism is not a necessary one--on that we agree, and
that was the point of my stressing as response number (1) that we be careful
to separate evolution from metaphysical extrapolation.

However, historically, the link *was* perceived as necessary by many
scientists and others. Let me offer just one wonderfully clear example, a
highly relevant one in this context of talking about antievolutionism, since
this paticular book more than any other led Bryan to commit himself to the
antievolution crusade after WW1. It comes from a book written by Vernon
Kellogg, a leading American biologist from the early 20th century. Kellogg
was a member of the National Research Council, an elite body of scientists
advising the govt at that time. In the years before the US was involved as
a combatant in WW1, Kellogg was working in Belgium as part of relief
efforts. He was billetted at the HQ of the German command in that part of
the theater. Several nights each week he dined with the officers (he was
fluent in German, as many American scientists of that generation were).
Here is his description of one of the officers, a former university
professor. (quoting Headquarters Nights, pp. 28-29)

"Prof von Flussen is Neo-Darwinian, as are most German biologists and
natural philosophers. The creed of the *Allmacht* of a natural selection
based on violent and inevitable struggle [Ted: Please note the necessitarian
language here end elsewhere] is the gospel of the German intellectuals; all
else is illusion and anathema. ....

"This struggle not only must go on, for that is the natural law, but it
should go on, so that this natural law may work out in its cruel, inevitable
way the salvation of the human species. By its salvation is meant its
desirable natural evolution. That human group which is in the most advanced
evolutionary stage as regards internal organization and form of social
relationship is best, and should, for the sake of the species, be preserved
at the expense of the less advanced, the less effective. It should win in
the struggle for existence, and this struggle should occur precisely that
the various types may be tested, and the best not only preserved, but put in
position to impose its kind of social organization--its *Kultur*--on the
others, or alternatively, to destroy and replace them."

Thus, to conclude. Is evolution necessarily linked to racism and
militarism? Well, no, since we can also find Dawkins and others (Huxley an
even more prominent example) expressly denying a link between science and
morality. But, yes, it isn't hard to find important historical examples of
people who were convinced that such a link not only exists but is necessary.
 As I said before, they ain't makin' this up.

Received on Wed Feb 22 14:28:41 2006

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