Dialectical Materialism again - reply to Mark Lause

Shane Hopkinson s.hopkinson at cqu.edu.au
Wed Jul 30 00:48:49 MDT 2003

Hi All

A couple of you pointed out that 'survival of the fittest' 
was Herbert Spencer's phrase. Spencer was a big name social
theorist last century but now largely forgotten. Both he and
Darwin were influenced by Malthus but what it shows is how much
these kinds of ideas were part of mid-Victorian culture, part
of the commonsense of bourgeois culture at the time.

XZY states:
>but his theory of natural selection itself i cannot see as "ideological", 
>other than to debunk other contemporary explanations for evolution 
>and to give definitive proof to evolution itself. 

It depends what you mean here - I can't imagine that evolution 
can be separated from a whole lot of views about humans place in
nature which are profoundly ideological in the general sense. His
ideas have been mobilised on both sides of the class stuggle -rightly
or wrongly - that makes them ideological. They were mobilised by 
scientists against religion in c19 but Darwin is buried in Westminster
Abbey so we have to be careful about how we construct the history of
Darwinism as well.

>i do view it as an honest attempt at science. 
>a good source to look for a treatment of 
>these issues is gould's mismeasure of man.  

Gould is excellent. The issue isn't honesty as
Gould shows ideological assumptions about race and gender
permeated the methods used and the way the findings were interpreted.


>Darwin, by contrast, saw evolutionary change as resulting 
>by fortuitous factors, quite independent of human will. 

But so would Spencer - the ideology works by naturalising 

More later


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