The law of the jungle
(Published in Gralswelt special issue 21/2008)
It could not be long before the “struggle for existence” was transferred to social and social politics and thus drawn into ideological disputes. This is how the Social darwinism. Its opponents see it as the transfer of the "law of the jungle" into human society.
Unfortunately, Darwin was not interested enough in the application of his theory to political and social aspects. So he failed to defend himself against the generalization of his thoughts on non-scientific areas in good time and decisively enough. Since 1880, however, he expressly rejected the transfer of evolutionism to human society. (12).
The survival of the fittest
The much discussed and often misunderstood “struggle for existence” is about the “survival of the most suitable” in nature, which means: those who are best adapted to their current environment. Darwin, however, only used the phrase "survival of the fittest" since 1866, probably under the influence of Spencer (see below).
Accordingly, the individuals who get along best with their environment (which does not necessarily mean passive adaptation) have the greatest chance of raising offspring, who then pass on their traits (through inheritance).
From a strictly Darwinian perspective, the species that produces the most offspring will survive best.
In terms of human society, the future would not be determined by the groups or the elites who have careers and great wealth to bequeath. Not even those who created ingenious inventions or admired works of art, but the parts of the population or the ethnic groups with the most descendants.
That was apparently shown with the fall of Rome. The Romans had few children, the Teutons had many children. Since the politics of the Romans failed to integrate the Teutons into the Roman Empire and to make them Romans, the Roman Empire was exhausted in armed conflicts until it broke up.
Then who were the “most capable” in the Darwinian sense who survived: The Romans were the builders of a world empire and carriers of a high culture, the basis of later European cultures. But they just had too few offspring.
Were the Teutons the evolutionistically successful ones who, due to their population dynamics, were able to spread and destroy a civilization that had become tired?
Seen in this way, racial theories such as B. from Count Joseph-Arthur Gobineau (1816-1882) or Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1885-1927), misunderstood Darwinism. (6, p. 105). But they did not remain without effect and contributed to making the 20th century a "dark century".
The struggle for existence
Darwin is not necessarily considered a racist today, but the "struggle for existence" he describes was transferred to social and ethnic disputes:
“A struggle for existence inevitably follows from the strong conditions in which all organisms try to multiply. Every being that produces several eggs or seeds during its natural lifetime must experience destruction during a period of its life at a certain time of year or a random year, otherwise its number would grow rapidly in geometric progression to such an extraordinary size that no region would Produced would be able to feed.
Therefore, if more individuals are created than can possibly survive, a struggle for existence must in any case arise ...
It is the teaching of MALTHUS, applied more intensely to the entire animal and plant kingdom; for in this case no artificial increase in food and no careful abstinence from marriage is possible. Therefore, although some species may now be growing more or less rapidly: they cannot all do it at the same time, the world would not grasp them.
There is no exception to the rule that every organic being naturally reproduces to the extent that, if there were not destruction, the earth would soon be covered with the progeny of a single pair. Even man, who reproduces slowly, doubles his number in twenty-five years, and with such progressive multiplication the world would literally have no more room for his offspring after a few thousand years. "
From “Origin of Species” (2, p. 85 f.).
Darwin as a racist?
Racist prejudices can be deduced from Darwin's writings; entirely in the style of his time, in which one spoke of "higher" and "lower" human races and based on them Malthus (see. "How many people can the earth take?", and "Why we stumble into the population trap", both under “Ecology”) asked how far poor relief and other social services are appropriate.
Darwin, too, initiated thoughts that later emerged in very drastic form in the inhuman eugenics:
“On the other hand, we civilized people are doing everything possible to stop the process of this elimination. We build refuge for the feeble-minded, for the crippled and the sick; we pass laws for the poor and our doctors use the greatest skill to preserve everyone's life until the last moment. There is reason to believe that the vaccination received thousands who, due to their weak constitution, would have succumbed to smallpox earlier. This is how the weaker members of society reproduce their species. No one who has paid attention to the breeding of domesticated animals will doubt that this must be extremely harmful to the human race. " (3, p. 251).
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
The English philosopher Spencer generalized Darwin's ideas about evolution in nature. His evolutionary development philosophy assumes a universal law of development that prevails in nature, history, society. Darwin's "survival of the fittest" is also said to have been formulated under the influence of Spencer.
Spencer's philosophy matched the lifestyle in Victorian England. After two decades of war, Napoleon was defeated, and a huge colonial empire was conquered and secured. Great Britain was the richest state in the world. From their point of view, this world power offered the best example of the assertiveness of the most capable, namely the Anglo-Saxons, in the struggle for existence, in the conquest of the world!
In North America people thought similarly. Some people there dreamed of conquering South America and even Africa. No less than Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), the 26th President of the USA, provided social Darwinist approaches in his 4-volume work "The Winning of The West" (1889-96), the justification for the displacement of the Indians (10).
These biological ideologies spilled over to the old continent. They found their supporters in almost all European countries as well as overseas.
The right of the fittest
Darwin spoke of the struggle for survival in the animal and plant kingdoms. If one also followed Herbert Spencer's philosophy, then another, only small step led to a crude political ideology: a “struggle for existence” between and within human societies.
For example, would be after Graham Sumner (1840-1910) "The millionaires the product of natural selection".
In this "struggle for live" it is above all those able who survive who then - openly or hidden - appeal to the supposedly dominant law of the stronger in nature.
In a heyday of capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism, this supposed natural law found approval among the broad middle class as well as with rich elites and political propagandists.
Now it is no longer necessary to find the right quotes from the Bible, to bend Christian values, or to twist the liberal philosophy of the Enlightenment with its demand for human rights:
One can invoke nature and its laws to justify exploitation, class society, war, greed for profit, racism, oppression, genocide.
Spokesmen for the oppressed lower classes also find their class struggle confirmed by Darwin. Karl Marx (1818-1883), who wrote his main work "Das Kapital" after reading Darwin, said:
"Darwin's book is very important and serves me as a basis in the natural selection for the class struggle in history." (5, p. 131).
Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895)
This eloquent Darwinist propagandist can by virtue of his writing "The struggle for existence and its meaning for people" are considered to be one of the founders of social Darwinism:
“From the moralist point of view, the animal world is roughly on par with the gladiatorial fight. The fighters are well fed and let loose to fight, with the strongest, most agile, and most shabby remaining alive to fight the next day. The viewer does not need to lower his thumb, because no pardon is given ... "
“... as among animals, so among primitive people the weakest and dumbest take the shortfall, while the toughest and most devious, who were best equipped, gain the upper hand in the struggle with external circumstances, even if they were otherwise not the best , survived. Life was a constant wild struggle and apart from the limited and temporary relationships of the family, the hobbsche *) war of all against all was the normal state of existence. " (7, p. 4).
Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919)
Unfortunately, this distinguished apologist of Darwinism in Germany did not distance himself from the racist and political explosiveness of social Darwinism. For example, with a statement against the appropriation of Darwinist ideas by communists and socialists, he contributed to the spread of social Darwinist ideas on the continent:
“Darwinism is anything but socialist! If one wants to attribute a certain political tendency to this English theory - which is certainly possible - then this tendency can only be an aristocratic one, by no means a democratic one, and least of all a socialist one! ...
The cruel and relentless 'struggle for existence' that rages everywhere in living nature and naturally has to rage, this incessant and relentless competition of all living things, is an undeniable fact. Only the select minority of the preferentially capable are able to pass this competition happily, while the great majority of competitors must necessarily ruin miserably! One can deeply lament this tragic fact, but it cannot be denied or changed. " (6, p. 49).
Prince Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921)
The "anarchist prince" Kropotkin provides an often cited counter-model to the struggle in nature. This Russian officer, natural scientist, anarchist and noble communist does not refute Darwinism (as is sometimes claimed), but shows that a rigorous Darwinism with its alleged struggle of all against all cannot be justified naturally.
In the first chapter of his work on “mutual help” (7), Kropotkin describes the multiple cooperation in nature. Schools of fish, insect states, flocks of birds, symbioses, and countless other animal or plant communities, however, certainly fit Darwin's postulate of the survival of the best adapted.
“On the journeys I made in my youth through eastern Siberia and northern Manchuria, I received two strong impressions from the realm of animal life. One was the extraordinary hardness of the struggle for existence that most animal species have to wage against a harsh nature; the enormous destruction of living beings, which occurs periodically from natural causes, and the resulting sparse distribution of living beings over the vast area that became the subject of my observations. The other impression resulted from the following remark: even in the few places where animal life flourished, I could not, although I diligently paid attention to it, discover that bitter struggle for the means of subsistence between animals belonging to the same species. And it was this struggle that most Darwinists - but by no means always Darwin himself - considered the typical characteristic of the struggle for existence and the main factor in development.
Prince Peter Kropotkin (7, p. IIV).
Kropotkin's experiences in Siberia show that in the extremely harsh nature there, survival is primarily endangered by the weather conditions and less by food competitors or predators. Those who can best cope with the hardships of the environment have the best chances of survival. That also fits in well with Darwin's theses.
In the larger part of his book, Kropotkin describes cooperation in human communities as essential for survival.
We have to agree to this refutation of social Darwinism. Because it is obvious that a single person, on their own, or even a group that is too small, cannot survive in the long term; not even in an untouched nature with forests full of game and with clear, fish-rich rivers.
The population explosion
The world population is growing, the space to live and survive is becoming scarce on all continents, and a global struggle for survival threatens.
The ongoing crisis in the Middle East seems politically insoluble because the resources in the tiny country are insufficient for Israelis and Palestinians.
In large parts of Africa there are wars or civil wars.
The US is having problems slowing down the waves of immigration from the south.
Refugees from the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa and Asia are pouring into the EU.
Racist or extremist slogans find approval in many countries. Xenophobia is increasing in many places for fear of losing jobs to immigrants who work for dumping wages.
The call "The lifeboat is full" (see. "Why we stumble into the population trap", under "Ecology") can be heard. A new edition of social Darwinist and racist theses that were believed to have been overcome is on the rise; up to genocide like a few years ago in Rwanda or in Yugoslavia and today in Sudan or when the Rohingya were expelled from Myanmar.
In the face of global warming, we are horrified to discover that we are so far removed from the weaving of nature that the laws of nature are now working against us.
If even altruism and science - applied undifferentiated - lead into the abyss, there is a danger that the noble human will be suppressed in the struggle for survival.
In addition, the Nobel Prize winner and convinced Darwinist Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989):
“All the gifts that arise from a person's deep insights into the surrounding nature, the advances in technology, chemical and medical sciences, everything that seems to be made to alleviate human suffering, works in a horrific and paradoxical way to ruin the Humanity out. It threatens to do exactly what other living systems almost never do, namely to suffocate itself. The most horrific thing, however, is that in this apocalyptic process the highest and noblest human qualities and abilities, especially those that we rightly perceive and value as specifically human, appear to be the first to perish. " (8, p, 19).
Competition in business
If someone believes that the social Darwinist mistakes of the 19th and 20th centuries have been overcome, it is advisable to take a look at the economy, which has partly forgotten that the economy has to serve people.
Friedrich von Hayek (1899-1992), offspring of a family of biologists and leading exponent of neoliberalism, speaks - in the Darwinian sense - of "Sieving through the market". Hayek also considers a high unemployment rate - similar to a population surplus in the animal world - to be economically desirable. (13).
Globalization with its cruel dominance of profit thinking is accepted all over the world almost like a force of nature. Through them, the toughest competition ever known spills over poor and rich countries without exception. The brutal reality of “shareholder value above everything” turns out to be rigorous economic-social Darwinism. At most, some politicians still speak of a “social market economy” in Sunday speeches.
Many years before the destructive effects of the highly praised globalization on humans and nature were clearly foreseeable, warned Konrad Lorenz before the consequences of total competitive thinking:
“Unfortunately, humans, as the only selection factor that determines the further development of their species, are by no means as harmless as predators, even if it is the most dangerous. The competition between man and man works, like no biological factor has ever done before him, directly against 'the eternal rain, the healing force' and destroys almost all values that it created, with his devil's fist, their actions exclusively is determined by value-blind, commercial considerations.
What is good and useful for mankind as a whole, even for individuals, has already been completely forgotten under the pressure of interpersonal competition. The overwhelming majority of people living today only perceive that value that is successful in the merciless competition and that is capable of outperforming one's fellow human beings. Every means that serves this end deceptively appears as a value in itself. " (8, p. 33 f.).
Proponents of neoliberalism reject parallels between the modern world economy and social Darwinism as polemical misleading. They point out that the interpersonal and interstate competitive situation is a prerequisite for economic growth, which would therefore be to the advantage of all parties involved.
But the hard facts show more and more clearly that this type of exploitative economy does little good for the majority of people or for the environment. In the GrailWorld we have repeatedly drawn attention to various aspects of this inhumane, anti-nature economy (cf. "Globalization of Immorality", "The end of the articles of association", both under "Economic and Social") and denounced the rigorous behavior of some corporations.
Social Darwinism today
Hardly any biologist or social scientist will defend social Darwinism today.
In the biology the insight has gained acceptance that evolutionary processes above all promote the adaptation of living beings to their environment and do not necessarily have to be connected with higher development.
Even an objective division of life forms into higher and lower groups is questionable. Genetic diversity - the meaning of which social Darwinists do not understand - is viewed as valuable, even essential for survival; for all living beings, including humans. Altruistic and symbiotic behaviors promote survival and can be found everywhere - in nature as well as in human society.
The analysis of human genes has shown that human races cannot be adequately justified biologically. The race theories that were widespread in the 19th and 20th centuries are therefore invalid.
After all, the often misunderstood catchphrase of survival of the fittest does not mean that the most ruthless lone wolf survive, but rather the genetic lines that bring most offspring successfully to reproductive age.
In the philosophy there is fundamental resistance to equating a biological current state with a moral target state.
Attempts by biologism to find guidelines for human society in nature are considered naturalistic fallacies.
Theologians partly reject Darwinism as materialistic or as atheistic even today. From the perspective of the Orthodox, materialism and its children are Darwinism, capitalism, communism and social Darwinism anti-religious ideas.
But many today Economists do not seem to realize that they are under the guise of the promises of globalization, one "Toxic mixture of inequality and stagnating wages" (4, p. 25), social Darwinist approaches speak the word.
*) Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679).
(1) Altner Günter, Der Darwinismus, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft Darmstadt, 1981.
(2) Clake, Ronald W. Charles Darwin, Fischer, Frankfurt, 1985.
(3) Darwin Charles, Origin of Species, Swiss Beard, Stuttgart, 1867.
(4) Der Spiegel, 14/2007, quotation from Economist.
(5) Grün Johannes, The creation a divine plan, Verax, Müstair, 2000.
(6) Hagl Siegfried, The Occult Chancellor, Graefelfing, 2000.
(7) Kropotkin, Prince Peter, Mutual Aid, Theod. Thomas, Leipzig, 1910.
(8) Lorenz Konrad, The eight deadly sins of civilized humanity, Piper, Munich, 1973.
(9) Schmitz Siegfried, Charles Darwin, Hermes Handlexikon, ECON, Düsseldorf, 1983.