World History




























Social Darwinism

Social Darwinism was a scientific-sounding theory that was used as an excuse for racism.

In the early 1800s, nationalism was associated with positive ideas like freedom from foreign control. The last half of the century, however, saw the emergence of a darker side of nationalism that glorified war and military conquest. This extreme form of nationalism was supported by racism, a belief that one’s own race or culture is superior to others. Racism, in turn, was supported by social Darwinism.

racism = prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior.

Social Darwinism = refers to a set of now generally discredited theories that attempt to legitimize social inequality, and explain social classes and processes, by appealing to popular misunderstandings of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Charles Darwin was an English scientist who had a huge impact on Western thought when he developeda theory of evolution based on the idea of “ natural selection.” His theory proposed that an animal species may change over time as the best-adapted members survive and the less successful members die out. Social Darwinists took Darwin’s theory and used it to justify the racist belief that the world’s more technologically advanced white races were fittest and intended by nature to dominate “lesser” races.

Charles Darwin = English natural scientist who formulated a theory of evolution by natural selection (1809-1882).

natural selection = a natural process resulting in the evolution of organisms best adapted to the environment. “Survival of the fittest.”

The idea of “survival of the fittest” was also adopted by rich industrialists who believed their wealth proved they were superior examples of the human species. Therefore, it was perfectly acceptable for them to enjoy their vast riches while keeping their inferior workers living in poverty.