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elbanditoroso's avatar

What are the ethics of Darwinism?

Asked by elbanditoroso (25532points) August 4th, 2015

Should the fittest survive?

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13 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

No the fittest will reproduce.

ragingloli's avatar

“Darwinism” is not a system of ethics or morals.
It merely describes what is, not what should be.
And “fittest” does not mean strongest, or fastest, or most intelligent, or biggest.
It means “best adapted to a specific environment to facilitate survival and procreation”.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Agreed, nature has no conception of ethics unless you believe it is a sentient being.

cazzie's avatar

Darwinism has nothing to do with morals or ethics. It’s about biological evolution. (or Evolutionary Biology) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_biology

I think what you might be referring to is something called Eugenics. It is very different. You should read about it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics

LostInParadise's avatar

The philosopher David Hume said, “You can’t derive ought from is.”, meaning that you can’t derive any moral conclusions from the way that the world works. Doing so is referred to as the naturalistic fallacy

stanleybmanly's avatar

And social Darwinism?

LostInParadise's avatar

Social Darwinism is a twisted and invalid belief supposedly derived from evolution. Even if we ignore the naturalistic fallacy implicit in it, it still draws the wrong conclusions, because evolution is as much about cooperation as it is about competition. Just consider what goes on in a beehive or ant colony.

jerv's avatar

It all boils down to how you define “fit” and “best adapted to a specific environment”.

Some would argue that being poor means you are unfit and unable to adapt to life in a capitalist environment and therefore should not survive or reproduce. Of course, those would be the ones who believe that Darwinism applies to social aspects rather than purely to biology.

Others will debate ad nauseum on points such as whether being able to make shelter and fire is a valid adaptation or whether we should just say, “Man was not meant to live in cold climates because we have no fur or blubber.” and leave it at that. And that is why we really need to figure out where to draw the line as to how far Darwinism truly applies. How can we discuss the ethics of something if we can’t even agree on what it is?

We also need to settle on what “Darwinism” is. To my mind, “Pure” Darwinism lacks (or rather, transcends) ethics because facts are simply truths without regard to social constraints. It’s akin to pondering the moral implications of π = 3.14159…. While others may sling Darwin’s name around to try and legitimize themselves, those are actually just philosophies with some foundation (however tenuous) in Darwin’s theories on genetics. The ethics of the followers of such philosophies are diverse, but also beyond the scope of the question as-asked since, in my opinion, they aren’t “pure” Darwinists.

cazzie's avatar

@jerv not to mention the fact that you only seem to be talking about Social Darwinism which is specifically applied to only one species on the planet, Homo Sapiens. Darwinism covers it all. Social Darwinism has nothing to do with evolutionary biology and everything to do with eugenics, racism, imperialism, fascism, and Nazism.

dylanagaundo's avatar

For Darwin, morality was a problem of natural history. He believed that a moral sense (altruism) would have little selective advantage for the individual, but it would be adaptive for the group. He did not construct a new system of Evolutionary Ethics.

rojo's avatar

I don’t think it is a question of whether the fittest SHOULD survive, more that the fittest WILL survive in a given situation. This is not a moral judgement, just a statement of fact.

flutherother's avatar

The ethics are that behaving in a moral way tends to make survival more likely and that lone wolves die alone.

SavoirFaire's avatar

“Let us understand Darwinism so we can walk in the opposite direction when it comes to setting up society.”
—Richard Dawkins

As has been said, Darwinism has no ethics. It is a purely descriptive account of a certain aspect of the world, whereas an ethics must necessarily go beyond description and into prescription. It is no secret, of course, that there are those who have tried to derive a system of ethics from Darwin’s discoveries. These so-called “social Darwinists,” however, are largely inspired by the likes of Herbert Spencer—who was himself largely inspired by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Thomas Malthus (and whose major work on what we now call social Darwinism was published prior to Darwin’s work on natural selection). It is also worth noting that Darwinism and social Darwinism are actually incompatible because the latter necessarily involves normative ideas concerning natural hierarchies and evolutionary progress (rather than just change) that the former not only fails to support, but roundly rejects.

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