When Charles Darwin published his Origin of Species in 1859, he introduced ‘evolution’ into the European thought process. With biological evolution came evolutionary philosophies, metaphysics, and some theories of human society. Hegel introduced evolution into metaphysics and he and Marx to human society. The ideal of progress, taken from the Age of Enlightenment, was a kind of evolutionary philosophy. Geology opened ways for evolutionary thinking to develop. And in 1871 Darwin applied evolution to the human race’s own development in the Descent of Man.
Evolution, according to Darwin, was an unending genetic ‘perfecting’ of a species; that each and every species from microorganisms to elephants to humans themselves never stop changing. These changes were very gradual, and only occurred through the inheritance of certain genes that helped the species in some way.
In basic summary of Darwin’s theory, there was a “struggle for existence,” which resulted in the “survival of the fittest” by means of “natural selection” of the “most favored races.”
Naturally, Darwin’s theory created a great outcry amongst scientists and theologians alike. Debates started, and are still ongoing. But Darwin never mentioned anything involving religion in any of his theories. The fact that evolution didn’t agree with the Old Testament was disturbing, but not enough to shake the foundations of Catholicism as some feared. The Old Testament, outside some fundamentalist circles, was widely held as symbolic anyway. The “fact” that humans and animals were once one was not surprising to many. Human nature has many animalistic characteristics within it. This wasn’t the biggest problem; the problem was that nature was no longer held to be harmonious, it was held to be a source of eternal struggle, where the “fit” survive. This ideology spread into Realpolitik.
With the “survival of the fittest” in nature ideology, came the same ideology in politics and human society. Social Darwinism was coined, representing the ideal that some races and peoples were naturally superior to others. As in white to black, Nordics to Latins, Germans to Slavs, North Italians to South Italians, and non-Jews to Jews. The upper and middle classes looked down at the lower classes, as they now had a new reason to justify being “fitter” than the poor.

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