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Social Darwinism

  • David SteinbergEmail author
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Abstract

Social Darwinism is a largely discredited philosophy that based moral judgments on Darwin’s theory of evolution. Because natural selection, the operative mode of evolution, selected favorable variations and rejected injurious variations Social Darwinism advocated behavior that mimicked evolution. Social Darwinism advocates survival of the fittest and places the welfare of society over that of the individual.

The British philosopher Herbert Spencer, whose name has been most prominently linked with Social Darwinism, believed evolutionary theory should be applied in various social fields including morality. Social Darwinists feared that well-intentioned interventional programs would lead to “the multiplication of the reckless and incompetent”.

Social Darwinism has been largely discredited because it was, to varying degrees, used to justify unethical practices such as involuntary sterilizations, eugenics, and Nazi racism. Although science can provide information that contributes to the resolution of ethical dilemmas it should not be the source of our moral values.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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