For evolutionary scientists there is no such thing as "Darwinism". Instead we have a scientific theory that, in combination with Mendel's work, provides the modern or neo-Darwinian synthesis, which explains the development of life on Earth. Although this is a rather succinct definition it effectively sets the limits of the usefulness of Darwin's theory. However, in the last 150 years, there have been many attempts to take Darwin's idea and apply it outside of the context for which it was developed, hence the influence of social "Darwinism" on concepts such as eugenics and a more recent Darwinian nihilism that absolves the individual of any moral or social responsibility.As I wrote in post a bit back, these have ranged from the tragic starvation of the Sans Cullots in Soviet Russia in the 1930s under Stalin to the Holocaust under Hitler. That there is not a shred of evidence to support either position is immaterial. Darwin was evil and Hitler was evil, therefore the two must be related in some way. Underdown also castigates Sewell for his acceptance of these extrapolations:
This inherent danger of using Darwin's theory outside of its biological context has lead to attempts to portray Darwin as the de facto cause of 20th century genocide: see, for example, Andre Pichot's book The Pure Society. There is a fallacy at the core of this line of thinking – can scientists really be held responsible for what is done with their ideas when they are misunderstood and corrupted by groups such as the Nazis? I would argue that they cannot: the actions of criminals do not need such highbrow justification and trying to do so merely lends a pseudo-scientific veneer the actions of the Third Reich.This analysis, which is correct, also doesn't mention the fact that long before Darwin came on the scene, genocide and slavery were alive and well. If you need a primer of men behaving badly, try reading the later chapters of Genesis.
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