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Three faculty to speak on social Darwinism

Barry McNamara
01/14/2010
MONMOUTH, Ill. — Monmouth College faculty members Judi Kessler, Steve Buban and Ken Cramer will present the next Darwinpalooza lecture on Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. in the Whiteman-McMillan Highlander Room in the college’s Stockdale Center.

Titled “Darwin’s Ugly Cousin: Social Darwinism,” the free lecture is part of MC’s continuing celebration of the bicentennial of the naturalist’s birth.

From the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century, a number of social scientists and gentlemen-scholars adapted Darwin’s theory of evolution to the human social world. These evolutionist social thinkers believed that the strongest and “fittest” humans should and would prevail over the less “fit,” and they frequently pushed ideology, policy and legislation to make this happen. They were known as the social Darwinists.

Kessler will speak about the origins of social Darwinism and the implications of this controversial school of thought for social policy, including the eugenics movement, in the 19th and 20th centuries. Buban will comment on the links between 19th-century social Darwinism and the development and application of the discipline of sociology. Cramer will briefly talk about whether there’s evidence for a new social Darwinism and eugenics movement emerging from 21st-century genetic research.