RUNNING HEAD: Social Darwinism and Eugenics in American Society 2
Social Darwinism and Eugenics in American Society 2
September 23, 2018
Darwinism was a world changing theory that affected many peoples lives and spawned many more theories and ideas such as Social Darwinism and eugenics. Charles Darwin came up with the theory of evolution also known as Darwinism (Lennox, 2004). From here, Social Darwinism and eugenics was formed. Social Darwinism is the application of natural selection as well as survival of the fittest to politics and sociology (Bowler 1989). What this means exactly is that if a person’s genes are strong, then they will be higher up in society and see greater wealth and power. Social Darwinism isn’t too much about the traditional evolution idea but rather an explanation as to who sees the most success within a given society. This is seen to be most often applied to America and its society. Eugenics on the other hand is the idea that society itself influences human evolution by picking and choosing the genes that will passed on to future generations. The creator of eugenics was Francis Galton who wanted to apply Darwin’s theory on the evolution of humans which then created Social Darwinism (Lennox, 2004).
There are two different ways to perceive the idea of eugenics and that is the idea of a positive societal influence and a negative one. For starters, the positive idea is that society suggests that people themselves pick and choose who is best suited with their genes. If there must be Social Darwinism in the society then this is the preferred one. The negative view consists of actively restricting reproduction with certain individuals who don’t have what society would consider favorable genes. An example of this negative eugenics movement was that prior to 1964, California had sterilized 20,108 people most of whom where considered mentally ill and mentally disturbed (Stern 2005). This occurred to do a sterilization law targeted at those in mental institutions and hospitals. The wording within the law was also troubling due to its large scope of who can be sterilized. This meant that anyone who seemed abnormal in any sense could be subjected to sterilization. In the 1930’s there was a case where a woman was sterilized at the request of her mother by a private practice because of sexual misconduct. The court dismissed the case therefor expanding who could become sterilized (Currell 2006).
Eugenics and Social Darwinism wasn’t just used for the mentally disturbed and those who are considered unfit to reproduce by a third party, many immigrants and minorities were discriminated against and forced to undergo sterilization. In the 20,108 people sterilized in California, Mexican men and women made up between 7%-8% of all those sterilized while African Americans made up for 4% of the sterilizations even though they only made up 1% of California’s population (Stern 2005). One of the biggest...