Evolutionary biology and beliefs: How ideology can draw different social stances from science


Agreeing that there are often strong connections between fields of science and the ideological convictions of those producing the science, this essay shows that the connections are often complex and rarely straightforward. Taking the example of evolutionary biology, by looking at three key figures – Herbert Spencer, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace – it is shown how very different social beliefs can lead to very different social conclusions being drawn from one’s science. It is argued that this message should be kept firmly in mind by those who today would draw social conclusions from science, for instance suggesting that Darwinian evolutionary biology leads straight to the social philosophy of the Third Reich. The truth is always far more complex.


social Darwinism; Herbert Spencer; Charles Darwin; Alfred Russel Wallace; Adolf Hitler

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