Biotic competition and progress in the works of Charles Darwin

Southern Journal of Philosophy 48 (s1):36-42 (2010)

Abstract

Deutscher's reading of Darwin states that future generations are conditioned by the work of natural selection over long periods of time, whereby the random variations that are most favorable to the local conditions prevail over those organisms that are less well adapted. The work of this selection of the favorable varieties is not a human responsibility; rather, it lies in the hands of “chance.” However, I believe that, by prioritizing competition between organisms in the process of natural selection, Darwin in fact ends up subscribing to a kind of evolutionary progress. Because Darwin subscribes to a kind of evolutionary progress whereby the “better” varieties push the lower forms into extinction, one cannot say that natural selection is random but, rather, that it follows a general trajectory of improvement. The fact that nature proceeds slowly in this fashion must be read alongside Darwin's comments on race as well as the numerous times he explicitly advocates Galton's eugenic program in The Descent of Man

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John Harfouch
University of Alabama, Huntsville

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