Darwin’s Source of Inspiration
Malthus’ Theory of Ruthlessness
Darwin’s source of inspiration on this subject was the British economist Thomas Malthus’s book An Essay on the Principle of Population. Left to their own devices, Malthus calculated that the human population increased rapidly. In his view, the main influences that kept populations under control were disasters such as war, famine and disease. In short, according to this brutal claim, some people had to die for others to live. Existence came to mean “permanent war.”
In the 19th century, Malthus’s ideas were widely accepted. European upper class intellectuals in particular supported his cruel ideas. In the article “The Scientific Background of the Nazi ‘Race Purification’ Programme”, the importance 19th century Europe attached to Malthus’s views on population is described in this way:
In the opening half of the nineteenth century, throughout Europe, members of the ruling classes gathered to discuss the newly discovered “Population problem” and to devise ways of implementing the Malthusian mandate, to increase the mortality rate of the poor:
“Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague. In the country we should build our villages near stagnant pools, and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy and unwholesome situations,” and so forth and so on.(Source:- Michael J. Behe, Darwin’s Black Box, NewYork: Free Press, 1996, pp. 232-233)
As a result of this cruel policy, the weak, and those who lost the struggle for survival would be eliminated, and as a result the rapid rise in population would be balanced out. This so-called “oppression of the poor” policy was actually carried out in 19th century Britain. An industrial order was set up in which children of eight and nine were made to work sixteen hours a day in the coal mines and thousands died from the terrible conditions. The “struggle for survival” demanded by Malthus’s theory led to millions of Britons leading lives full of suffering. Influenced by these deviant ideas, Darwin applied this concept of conflict to all of nature, and proposed that the strong and the fittest emerged victorious from this war of imaginary existence. Moreover, he claimed that the so-called struggle for survival was a justified and unchangeable law of nature. On the other hand, he invited people to abandon their religious beliefs by denying the Creation, and thus undermined at all ethical values that might prove to be obstacles to the ruthlessness of the “struggle for survival.”
Humanity has paid a heavy price in the 20th century for the dissemination of these callous views which lead people to acts of ruthlessness and cruelty.