Political Dilemmas of Social Biology


The announcement of Darwin’s theory of Evolution in 1859that the origin of all life forms could be explained by meansof a simply defined mechanical principle—natural selection operatingover geologic time spans—provoked responses rangingfrom frantic denial to curiosity to glorification of evolution as aphilosophy of life. Many thinkers and writers including politicalcommentators, social theorists and philosophers began to reconceptualizetheir respective areas of expertise in evolutionaryterms. The advantage of an evolutionary take on these subjectswere twofold, first a hoped-for but not always fulfilled increase inunderstanding brought about by the evolutionary perspective,and second the prestige of the newest theory of modern science—one which plainly had revolutionary implications and would addplausibility to whatever point of view such thinkers were advocating.The first applications of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution topolitics and society produced a lush variety of ideas, most of themassumed by their creators to be directly implied by evolution, butwhich in their variety showed how indefinite the political implicationsof evolutionary theory were at that time.
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