Essay on Darwinism and the American Society

Published: 2021-08-11
625 words
3 pages
6 min to read
Sewanee University of the South
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Darwinism is a theory embraced to explain the evolution of species through natural selection as articulated by Charles Darwin. The argument exemplifies how natural selection plays a role in the evolution of both man and other organisms. The idea commonly associated with Darwinism is the survival of the fittest' which means that only those who possess the capability of embracing change and adapt to these changes by any means necessary can survive in the society. Social Darwinism is the concept closely associated with the American culture. It is the application of the principles in Darwinism theory to explain the struggle for dominance in the society, and it is from this that eugenics emerged.

The theory of Darwinism put people into different categories as a way of controlling them. The lowest ranks of people were the inferior, and several actions were taken against them as the superiors regarded them ineffectual since they did not have money or resources to compete equally in the society. The influential individuals often justified their actions of mistreating the lower class people by referring to this approach. The Americans believed that people who do not have access to necessary resources like wealth could not survive in the society and thus in many cases they would be denied chances as means of considering their inferiority in line with survival (Wilson, 2001). The idea was applied in both racism and authoritarianism as African Americans were mostly perceived as being lesser than White Americans hence proving that the latter possessed the ability of dominance (Wilson, 2001). Darwinism aimed to promote capitalist inequality where the poor stayed poor while rich got richer. Therefore, they regarded the efforts of helping the poor as futile resulting in a segregated society.

Social Darwinism and eugenics played a critical role in influencing the experiences of the immigrants in America. This is mainly because people believed in fighting for dominance and survival. It hence meant that making a living resembled survival and this was the only way to take care of self and family. To limit the dominance of the immigrants, the White Americans tried to control marriages of the inferior communities since they believed that they do not possess desirable traits that would improve the society (Mooser, 1994). This is an idea known as negative eugenics. The idea, together with social Darwinism, promoted the aspect of developing superiority through natural selection. At the same time, it meant that the immigrants were only suitable for working in the slave farms or minor roles and not in the power positions like politics (Mooser, 1994). In doing so, they denied immigrants a chance to come into the country.

Many fundamentalist Christians opposed Darwinism because they believed that it would result in decay in morals (Goodheart, 2008). The main reason for this is that Darwinism believed that the facts in the Bible were inconsistent and that there are numerous mistakes in the book of Genesis (Goodheart, 2008). Darwin never believed in the creation of man but instead considered that we are all part of a constant evolutionary process. To fundamentalist Christians, this was like disputing the existence of God. Most of the Whites who first settled in America were Puritans who made the majority of fundamentalist Christians. Therefore, they believed in the Bible as the book of morals and guidance, and when there was a widespread acceptance of Darwinism, it meant that people would undermine the Christian moral basis of the community.


Goodheart, E. (2008). Neo-Darwinism and Religion. Society, 45(2), 125-129.

Mooser, E. (1994). In search of human nature, the decline and revival of Darwinism in American social thought. New Ideas In Psychology, 12(2), 221-223.

Wilson, R. (2001). Darwinism and the American intellectual (4th ed.). Chicago, Ill.: Dorsey Press.

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