Racial inequality, and ethnic discrimination, unfair competition, the oppression of the poor, the exploitation of the weak by the strong, and the idea that might is right, are evils that societies have experienced throughout history. Thousands of years ago, for example, at the time of Prophet Moses (pbuh), Pharaoh regarded himself as superior to everyone else on account of his wealth and powerful army. He rejected Prophets Moses and Aaron (peace be upon them) and even sought to kill them, though they were clearly speaking the truth. Pharaoh also implemented discriminatory policies, divided his people into classes, describing some as “inferior,” inflicted numerous tortures on the Israelites under his rule, killed their men aiming to bring their race to extinction. The Qur’an describes Pharaoh’s perversions:
Pharaoh exalted himself arrogantly in the land and divided its people into camps, oppressing one group of them by slaughtering their sons and letting their women live. He was one of the corrupters. (Surat al-Qasas, 4)
“Am not I better than this man who is contemptible and can scarcely make anything clear?” (Surat az-Zukhruf, 52)
In that way he [Pharaoh] swayed his people and they succumbed to him… (Surat az-Zukhruf, 54)
And We bequeathed to the people who had been oppressed the easternmost part of the land We had blessed, and its westernmost part as well… (Surat al-A’raf, 137)
Ancient Egypt was by no means the only extremist society where only might was regarded as right, humans were divided into classes, those regarded as “inferior” were oppressed and subjected to inhuman treatment. There are numerous examples of other such regimes, right up to the present day.
In the 19th century, however, these evil practices acquired a whole new dimension. Up until then, measures and policies that had been regarded as cruel, suddenly began to be defended with the falsehood that they were “scientific practices based on facts of nature.” What was it that suddenly justified all these forms of ruthlessness?
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was put forward in his book The Origin of Species. Published in 1859, it contained a number of conjectures about the origin of life that led to a most deceptive world view, devoid of any scientific evidence, and a perverted philosophy that denies the existence of God and regards “chance” as a creative force (surely God is beyond that). Views that man was a kind of animal, and life was a sphere of struggle and fierce competition were accepted as scientific truth.
Darwin did not develop this theory, which was advanced as a result of the 19th century’s primitive understanding of science, on his own. Some 50 years earlier, in 1798, Thomas Malthus proposed a number of ideas that had nothing to do with reality, in his book Essay on the Principle of Population. This study—which has now been proven to have no scientific value at all—claimed that population increased far more quickly than food resources, and that therefore, population increase needed to be controlled. Malthus suggested that wars and epidemics acted as “natural” checks on population, and were thus beneficial. He was the first to refer to the “struggle for survival.” According to his thesis, far removed from humane values, the poor must not be protected but allowed to live under the worst possible conditions and prevented from multiplying, and sufficient food resources must be reserved for the upper classes. (For details, see Chapter 2, “The History of Ruthlessness, from Malthus to Darwin.”) This cruel savagery would certainly be opposed by anyone with a conscience and common sense. Although religious moral values require extending a helping hand to the poor and needy, Malthus—and his follower Darwin—said that these people should be ruthlessly left to die.
The British sociologist and philosopher Herbert Spencer headed the list of those who immediately adopted and developed these inhumane ideas. The term “the survival of the fittest,” which sums up Darwinism’s basic claim, actually belongs to Spencer. He also claimed that the “unfit” should be eliminated, writing that: “If they are sufficiently complete to live, they do live, and it is well they should live. If they are not sufficiently complete to live, they die, and it is best they should die.”1 In Spencer’s view, the poor, uneducated, sick, crippled and unsuccessful should all die, and he sought to prevent the state from passing laws to protect the poor.
Spencer possessed a great lack of compassion for people who should awaken feelings of compassion and protection and, just like Malthus, he sought for ways to get rid of them. In Darwinism in American Thought, the American historian Richard Hofstadter makes the following comment:
Spencer deplored not only poor laws, but also state-supported education, sanitary supervision other than the suppression of nuisances, regulation of housing conditions, and even state protection of the ignorant from medical quacks.2
Darwin, powerfully influenced by Malthus and Spencer’s ruthless world views, proposed in The Origin of Species the myth that species had evolved by means of natural selection. Darwin was no scientist, and took only an amateur’s interest in biology. Under the very primitive microscopes of Darwin’s time, cells appeared to be nothing more than blurry blots, and the biological laws of inheritance had not yet been discovered. Darwin’s theory, developed with very limited scientific knowledge and under inadequate scientific conditions, claimed that nature always “selected” the fittest with the most advantages, and that life developed accordingly. According to this theory, built on totally erroneous foundations right from the outset, life was the work of chance; Darwin thus rejected the fact that life was created by God (Surely God is beyond that!). After The Origin of Species, Darwin set about adapting his unscientific theory to human beings in The Descent of Man. In that book, he referred to how the so-called backward races would be eliminated in the near future, and that the more advanced ones would develop and succeed. Darwin’s adapting his theory of evolution to human beings, in this book and certain other of his writings, shaped Social Darwinism.