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Social Un-Darwinism: How Does Society Relate to Nature in an Evolutionary Perspective?(Sacred BOVINES)

The American Biology Teacher 2007, Feb, 69, 2

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It is time to rescue Darwinism from the dismal shadow of Social Darwinism. According to this now widely-discredited doctrine, human society is governed by "the survival of the fittest." Competition reigns unchecked. Individualism erodes any effort to cooperate. Ethics and morality become irrelevant. Some contend that social competition is the very engine of human "progress," and hence any effort to regulate it cannot be justified. Others accept competition as inevitable, even though they don't like it or do not endorse it ideologically. They seem persuaded that we cannot escape its "reality." Natural selection, many reason, is ... well, "natural." "Natural," hence inviolable: What recourse could humans possibly have against the laws of nature? Thus even people from divergent backgrounds seem to agree that this view of society unavoidably follows from evolution. Creationists, not surprisingly, parade it as reason to reject Darwinism outright (Bergman 2006). By contrast, as resolute an evolutionist as Thomas Henry Huxley, "Darwin's bulldog," invoked similar implications even while he urged his audience to transcend them morally (1894/1989). Yet the core assumptions of so called "Social Darwinism" are unwarranted. Why does it continue to haunt us? The time has come to dislodge this entrenched belief, this sacred bovine: that nature somehow dictates a fundamentally individualistic and competitive society. Unraveling the flawed argument behind Social Darwinism also yields a more general-and much more important-lesson about the nature of science. Here, the historical argument seemed to enlist science to portray certain cultural perspectives as "facts" of nature. Naturalizing cultural ideas in this way is all too easy. Cultural contexts seem to remain invisible to those within the culture itself, sometimes scientists, too. The case of Social Darwinism--not Darwinism at all--illustrates vividly how appeals to science can go awry. We might thus learn how to notice, and to remedy or guard against such errors in other cases.

Social Un-Darwinism: How Does Society Relate to Nature in an Evolutionary Perspective?(Sacred BOVINES)
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  • 2,99 €
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Life Sciences
  • Published: 01 February 2007
  • Publisher: National Association of Biology Teachers
  • Print Length: 11 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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