England went through dramatic changes in the 19th century. Englishculture, socio-economic structure and politics where largely influenced by theprinciples of science. Many social expressions occurred due to these changes.
Transformations which categorized this time period could be observed in socialinstitutions; for instance: the switch from popular Evangelicalism to atheism,emergence of feminism and the creation of new political ideologies (Liberalism,Conservatism and Radicalism). These are just a few of the changes that tookplace. All of this social alteration can be attributed to the importance ofscience. The English people began to trust more in empiricism and logicalthought than in faith and glory of the empire . One who contributed greatly tothis transformation was Charles Darwin. In his two most famous works, TheOrigin of Species and The Decent of Man, Darwin introduces the concept of “thesurvival of the fittest” and “natural selection”.
The Darwinian ideas introduced into English society justified a greatnumber of political policies and social movements. England at the turn of thecentury was still a largest power in the international system. The Englishperceived, through the justification of Darwinism, they were fit to be theimperial hegemon in the world. The issue this essay will deal with isImperialism and how Darwinism justified its practice. Darwin argued in his work,The Decent of Man, “When civilised nations come into contact with barbariansthe struggle is short except where a deadly climate gives its aid to the nativerace. . . the grade of civilisation seems to be a most important element insuccess in competing nations.”(Darwin, Decent of Man, p. 297).
In this observation, Darwin connotated superiority to civilized nations.
In this same work, he referred to the indigenous people as “savages,barbarians and tribal men”. This immediately transfers a condescendingattitude toward the “uncivilised people”. Darwin classified them as tribeswhile the English and other Aryan cultures were a race.
These claims of basic inequality gave the English the “jurisdiction”philosophically, to exploit the colonies to a greater level than previouslyattained. The drive to “Christianize” the colonies was abandoned, politically.
The view shifted from “owing the primitive world” education and Christianity,to a more self-interested “we English are naturally better”. Therefore, the weshould be exploiting you, because, that is why you are here.
Charles Darwin had a tremendous amount of influence on the scientificcommunity and the English population. It can be seen that Darwinism played alarge part in justifying the imperial behavior of England. Darwin’s studieson nature and the behavior of animals had unlocked “Pandora’s Box” in a mannerof speaking. He studies reveal how close to nature humanity really is. TheEnglish empire quickly saw themselves as a dominant predatorial species of theworld.
In conclusion, the English empire used Darwinian concept to justify theon-going process of imperialism. Charles Darwin’s ideas elevated the ego’s ofthe English people to over-estimate themselves socially and globally. Theaffects of Darwinism can be seen throughout the spectrum of social interactionboth in the animal kingdom and human society. Category: Philosophy