Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection and Social Darwinism Essay

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Darwin and Evolution are inextricably linked in the minds of most people who have had the opportunity to study them in basic biology. However, Darwin's theories of selection and survival of the fittest have been applied to moral, economic, political, and other cultural aspects of society. Dennett briefly touched on some of the political and social ramifications of Darwin's theories in the final chapter of Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Other philosophers and thinkers have also adapted Darwin's evolutionary ideas, in order to apply them in a societal or cultural context. One great example of this adaptation of the biological concept of evolution, is the appearance of Social Darwinism during the 19th century.

Social Darwinism, by definition,
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Spencer's theory was applied in order to oppose social reform and government intervention in the private business sector. (2)

From Capitalism, came an opposing theory known as Communism. Communism is "the doctrine of the conditions of the liberation of the proletariat." (3) The proletariat is best described as the working class. Their formation was precipitated by the Industrial Revolution, which took place in England during the 18th century. Communism promoted the empowerment of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, in order to gain class equality.

Throughout Dennett's work he applies the metaphor of "cranes versus skyhooks" to explain Darwin's theory versus other competing theories. A "crane" according to Dennett acts as a device or "good trick" which builds on an existing foundation in order to speed up design. A "skyhook" is something which is pre-existing. It is mysterious and unfounded; not necessarily a part of the design. (4) With respect to the use of Social Darwinism promoting Laissez Faire Capitalism versus Communism, Capitalism acts as a crane and Communism as a skyhook.

More specifically, the main principle of Capitalism is a crane, and the main principle of Communism is a skyhook. Capitalism promotes the concept of equal opportunity, and feeds off of the notion that some people will, by design, be better than others. Communism, however, promotes a society in which all people are socio-economically equal no matter how hard they
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