September 22, 2010

A law of nature

Charles Darwin's ideas of evolution by means of natural selection were first taken up (with many misunderstandings) by those on the political right. Part of the reason for this was that early expositions of Darwinism emphasized competition. It would take a while for evolutionary biologists to look at the other side of the equation by investigating cooperation and altruism.

More to the point, in the Gilded Age, robber barons and financial aristocrats found in them a great rationalization for their own wealth and power.

Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie wrote that while capitalist competition may harm some individuals, "it is best for the race, because it insures the survival of the fittest in every department."

(That phrase "survival of the fittest," by the way, has its origin in the writings of British philosopher Herbert Spencer rather than Darwin himself.)

In a similar vein, John D. Rockefeller Jr. wrote that

The growth of large business is merely a survival of the fittest...This is not an evil tendency in business. It is merely the working our of a law of nature and a law of God.

As the Church Lady would say on the old Saturday Night Live, "Isn't that convenient?"

SPEAKING OF EVOLUTION, this article suggests that our relationships with animals helped make us human.

FORECLOSURES. Here's Dean Baker and what the government could do about the foreclosure crisis but isn't (so far).

FUN LIST. From The Nation, here's a list of the 50 most influential progressive leaders of the 20th century.

CHARLOTTE'S WEB ON STEROIDS. A spider in Madagascar weaves the world's biggest webs with the toughest natural material yet discovered.


No comments: