I understand that this question really doesn’t concern most people as they go about their everyday routine of work, school, family, friends etc. Most people simply do not stop and think about how a long deceased biologist affects their lives other than the fact that you have to learn about macro-evolution in freshman year biology class. What people need to realize is that just because a theory is categorized into some discipline (like Darwinian evolution would be under biology) doesn’t mean that leading thinkers in other fields do not consider these ideas and their implications concerning the discipline they are in. Darwinism is a great example of this borrowing and sharing of ideas across the intellectual spectrum. Darwinism is an attempt to propose a mechanism explaining the causality of change in the organic sphere, namely, that organisms transform and change structures over long periods of time. The deciding factor in this supposed change is the environment the organism finds itself in and its ability to adapt to it for self-preservation purposes. This is called “natural selection”, that nature selects the fittest organisms in each specific environment to survive and sometimes even thrive.
What some people don’t know is that Darwin picked up the idea of natural selection from a priest who proposed that humans have an innate predisposition to over breed while simultaneously not increasing the food supply to match the rate of breeding. This was thought to lead to mass starvation and famine, wiping out those who don’t have the access or the technological means to grow the required amount of food to sustain their population and leaving only those who do with food to survive. So as one can easily see Darwin just extrapolated this theory of “survival of those with the means to” to the biological world where only those organisms with the means or ability to, survive, while those not as efficient at either perish. This is what is meant by the term, “survival of the fittest”; that only those with the superior means or abilities survive while those won’t lack them are quickly weeded out of the struggle for existence. Just to cover all the bases we will mention, like so many fanatical apologists of Darwin constantly do, that Darwin himself did not coin the term “survival of the fittest” but a mid-nineteenth century thinker named Herbert Spencer did, even before Darwin ever published his Origins of Species, but that doesn’t mean Darwin rejected the term. He added it in to the later editions of his book, presumably because he thought it explained some aspect of this theory more efficiently. What I’m getting at is this; Darwin himself got his idea for attempting to explain the causality in a systematic manner of the organic realm from an idea explaining causality concerning human population movements, or in the social realm. Unfortunately, this process wasn’t to end there.
Philosophers and political theorists began studying Darwinian evolution, its natural selection mechanism, and the “survival of the fittest” picture it painted. They took the idea that organisms are locked in a deadly struggle over the limited resources that sustain life literally and applied it to the social realm, the place where Darwin originally got his idea of natural selection. They read Darwinism into society like this; in society there are people who are naturally suited to survive and secure life’s essentials for themselves by either superior abilities or means (technology), and then there are those who can’t. The people who are capable are the ones who naturally flourish and those who aren’t naturally perish or at least dwell in habitual poverty. These academics and social theorists concluded that a faithful application of Darwinism to the social sphere told them that those who are the most “fit” to survive are the wealthy and powerful and those who aren’t are the poor and weak. Since Darwinism basically posits that the world is a war of all against all for nature’s natural resources (survival of the fittest), this is necessarily true concerning humans, because, after all, we are biological entities with mammalian needs to satisfy just like other organisms. They deduced that in this war of all against all the rich are winning because of their superior standard of living while the poor were losing because of their inability to “adapt”. This spawned the monstrosity that is constantly leveled at the political Right as an indicator of their lack of empathy towards the poor and un-privileged, Social Darwinism.
Progressives, Fascists, statists, and totalitarians of all stripes interrupted this social theory of the survival of the fittest and concluded that the only way to “save” mankind is to be the one in control of the “natural selection” process (the irony that an omnipotent artificial institution should take on the role of the “natural selector” seemed lost on them). If humans are going to habitually over breed we might as well try to get the ones we really want and “weed out” the undesirables. This was important for these statists for two reasons; one was since they were all necessarily socialists, they wanted all the prospective offspring being born to be “socially productive” and to not be a “drain” on society so they could “do their part” for the collective, governed by these enlightened totalitarians of course. To them this was a license to engage in eugenics, otherwise known as using the power of the state to “improve” the racial, genetic, or biological health of the community. Now who would decide what “improving” meant and what constituted a “healthy” community? Only the sociopaths in the government bureaucracy writing and implementing these social programs according to their Utopian ideological agenda. If this all sounds vaguely familiar that’s because it is, you’ve heard of it happening in Germany during the 1930’s and 40’s when the German state decided the “cancer” of the Jews was actively undermining the German community’s “health”.
As for a closer to home example, the Progressives, then and now (more commonly called liberals today) engaged in this behavior, even before the Nazis had their infamous concentration camps. The mentally retarded, chronically ill, and blacks were targeted by these arrogantly confident reformers in an effort to minimize the amount of offspring they had in order to build their precious socialist Utopia. Blacks in particular were seen as “unfit” and not “selected” (by nature) to efficiently contribute to society. Margret Sanger, a liberal icon for advocating women’s frequent use of birth control, hatched a plan called the Negro Project in which she enlisted black ministers and leaders to encourage lower reproduction rates in black communities, ultimately leading to their extinction in America (as she hoped). Her project eventually lowered its ambitious aims but its impulse (population control of the undesirable blacks) went into an organization called Planned Parenthood, who receives federal funding and in which 85% of its locations are in or within close proximity to minority neighborhoods.
Social Darwinism nowadays is a superfluous way for the Left to accuse the proponents of economic liberty of irrational animus towards the poor. Their rationale goes something like this; since you don’t believe that people who make X amount of money should have their property confiscated against their will and “given” to those who do not have as much property in order to “give” them a higher standard of living, you must hate the poor and don’t care if they die from lack of assistance. This worldview stems from one, a complete ignorance of economics, and two, an application of Darwinian Theory to society, which can cause the former. What is interesting is to see the change in the definition of Social Darwinism to the Left; it used to mean selection of the most “fit” by the all-powerful state through semi-violent means, now it means running roughshod over private property rights in order to transfer money from those who have more of it on average to those who do not. It is a backdoor attack to implement Social Justice, a talking point to justify the welfare state, usually for political gain. There are two major fallacies in Social Darwinism and the Left placing it on the side of the Right. The Conservative and Libertarian answer to this uninformed accusation would track closely along this line of reasoning.
People who believe in economic liberty and its modern manifestation, Capitalism, believe that the only means of achieving widespread prosperity for all who choose to engage in this economic system is the further pursuit of economic liberty in a peaceful, moral manner. They disagree that forcefully taking property from someone or a group of people and transferring it to another group of people will benefit society in the long run. Here is why. In order to increase one’s standard of living people apply labor to their surroundings to produce consumer goods, goods they can use in their lives like food, clothing, energy, housing etc. It is a fact of nature that the more consumer goods one has at their disposal, the higher the standard of living they will enjoy, and the less hours of labor they will have to expend in the production process (at your job). What defines the free market is that the only things that people spend time producing are the very same things demanded by other people on the market, the consumer is sovereign in the market. People will engage in some productive activity (like selling your labor for a certain wage) and using the money they gained in purchasing consumer goods. The money they then spent at a store goes back to the capitalists and the land owners of production, since the capitalist has already taken the personal risk of advancing everyone their paychecks with previously saved money. If the capitalist didn’t do this, the workers, managers, and landowners would have to wait until the product was sold to collect their earnings, essentially working for “free” or no wage.
What raises everyone’s standard of living is expanding this exchange and production process as far as it can go with the limited resources and labor available. When more things are produced, the price of the good goes down because it is less scarce, making it available for a wider range of people to purchase. If the division of labor is constantly expanded, we have access to more of people’s labor and goods they produce, adding more to the social product and lowering the price of goods. This is in direct conflict with Social Darwinism because it implies that the smaller amount of people the better because they will be able to enjoy a higher living standard due to limited natural resources. We say that the more productive people the merrier because we will be able to produce more goods and services that were previously unattainable for us to produce. The thing that interrupts the division of labor and loosens what it is dependents upon, social cooperation, is violent activity. Violent activity is the application of force or coercion against another individual against their will, usually for some material gain, this can range from inter-family feuds to national war. When a war breaks out people have to forego their normal productive activities and focus on self-preservation and the destruction of the opponent through violent means. Some examples would be the “scorched earth” policy opposing armies practiced against each other or rationing at the home front during a total war such as WWII. This obviously lowers everyone’s standard of living and hurts the poor worse than anyone else. Social cooperation though peaceful, free exchanges by an increasing amount of productive people is what raises society’s standard of living, not by euthanasia or discouraging the least among us to stop breeding. Society is conscious peaceful cooperation, not a war of all against all.
The second main error of Social Darwinism is its materialism. It explicitly ignores that fact that humans have wills of their own and that man cannot, with any sort of conclusive certainty, “plan”, through the coercive actions of the all-powerful state, a perfectly ordered society. Just because a human is presented with a certain situation in a given environment, does not necessarily mean he is predestined to act a certain way. Humans alone have the ability to reason, and allow thoughts to influence their actions instead of helplessly giving themselves over to fluctuating primitive impulses like the animals do. Humans and animals are indeed organic creatures and have similar physiological needs because they exist in the same realm of reality, but that doesn’t mean they are identical. It is fallacious to believe so like the animal fanatics would have us do. Humans have minds that think thoughts and house ideas, these ideas then dictate what the human will do in reality. But the important thing to remember is that the mind is immaterial while Darwinism is strictly a theory that tries to explain the material, one cannot cross-pollinate the two methodologies.
Social Darwinism is, and always has been, predominately a phenomena of the Left used to justify deep state interfere into private social life for the purposes of engineering a new man that fits their definition of perfect to construct a society that will bring them meaning in their droll lives. When we start realizing this and start accepting that we are all actually made in the image of God (we have a spirit/immaterial side) we can finally place these theories where they correctly belong, reject all the Utopian schemes that are rationalized by them, and begin living as a free people.