Discussion of the distribution and abundance of living organisms and how these properties are affected by interactions between the organisms and their environment
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There are two very different ways of applying evolution to societies. Before Darwin's work was published, Herbert Spencer wrote in Progress: Its Law and Cause (1857) that the individual (rather than the collectivity) is the unit of analysis that evolves, that evolution takes place through natural selection, and that it affects social as well as biological phenomena (see Wikopedia). In other words, natural selection between human individuals shapes societies, not the other way around. Darwin developed the concept of genetic or biological evolution but in Descent of Man, he wrote "..at some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world.” In other words, he equated “society” with race.
Is it any wonder their words were taken up as the standard bearers of the European world Empire, that the rule of the West was considered “the White Mans Burden” instead of simply a more efficient means of gaining economic growth from using other people and their lands? As Wikipedia describes it, the key argement of the Social Darwinists was “that nature works by survival of the fittest and so does human society. Those who have survived or flourished did so by natural processes; those who died, are dying, or have failed economically likewise did so by natural processes; it is therefore unnatural and inefficient to try and change that through philanthropy or other non-market mechanisms (charity, government, etc.). Success or failure is usually dependent on natural traits, such as physical strength or guile.” This was developed into a whole belief system by Adolph Hitler.The subsequent defeat of Nazism ended Social Darwinist eugenic theory of social evolution as a viable theory.
But later, it resurfaced as “Sociobiology.” It was developed in such a convoluted way that it was hard for anyone to the Social Darwinism in it. Its author, E. O. Wilson brought in a whole new glossary of terms which were mostly only definable with each other. That made the work was so difficult to understand that the connection to Darwinism could almost be overlooked. Also, all reference to “race” is eliminated and most examples of genetic change are promoted as altruism. In this way, the theory became so benign as to be accepted as another viable viewpoint. There being no real explanation of what social evolution is and how it functions, anything at all was acceptable was being better then nothing.
Indeed, in desperation, scholars have even been emphasizing subtle genetic changes occurring in the human race---as if they somehow helped to explain the growth of human numbers and that of the total human cultural heritage. They imply that genetic changes explain scientific/cultural “progress” even while denying the existence of “progress.'' Finally, in order to avoid the label of Social Darwinists, the term social evolution gave way to cultural evolution.
All their convoluted reasoning has effectively prevented social evolution from being regarded as being the natural selection that occurs between religion bonded societies. The thought of religions serving an evolutionary function is too offensive to the faithful for social theorists to even propose. They have turned social science from a science into just another one of our society's many secular doctrines.
civilization-overview (dot) com
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