Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Herbert Spencer

Social Darwinists grafted Darwin's basic ideas about biological evolution to human society and economy. To them, progress could only be made by eliminating imperfections from humanity, and this was best done by competition. That competition, neatly summarized by Herbert Spencer's term "survival of the fittest," was taken to mean the competition between individuals. --Charles Sullivan and Cameron Mcpherson Smith, Getting the Monkey off Darwin's Back: Four Common Myths About Evolution, Skeptical Inquirer magazine, May 2005

Recommended reading:
by Herbert Spencer at Reading Rat

Criticism (articles, essays, reviews):

...Hofstadter [Richard Hofstadter in Social Darwinism in American Thought (1944)], repeatedly points to Spencer's famous phrase, "survival of the fittest," a line that Charles Darwin added to the fifth edition of Origin of Species. But by fit, Spencer meant something very different from brute force. --Damon W. Root, The Unfortunate Case of Herbert Spencer: How a libertarian individualist was recast as a social Darwinist, Reason, July 29, 2008

Man with a Plan: Herbert Spencer’s theory of everything, by Steven Shapin, The New Yorker, August 13, 2007

The Gospel of Relaxation, by Carl Rollyson, New York Sun, July 25, 2007, review of Herbert Spencer and the Invention of Modern Life, by Mark Francis

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