Darwin’s LegacyJune 28, 2021
The 19th century is a time of rapid change in human history.
From railroads to newspapers; from the beginning of production in factories to the emergence of socialist ideas; From the discovery of non-Euclidean geometries to the foundation of modern logic; from the expression of the laws of conservation of energy to the development of the theory of electromagnetism; Countless events have taken place in this century, from the spread of colonialism to the invasion of the entire American continent by the “white man”. The progress of science has become palpable, and the fact that these advances have opened new horizons for humanity has also deeply affected philosophers.
Among the scientific developments in the 19th century, one of the most important theories that deeply affected Western philosophy was undoubtedly Darwin’s theory of evolution. Some compare this theory of Darwin’s with Newton’s theory of mechanics and claim that Darwin explained the variation and diversification of living things, similar to the ideas developed by Newton about matter and forces.
According to the theory developed by Darwin, random changes in genes provide individuals with different advantages in the process of adaptation to the environment, and as a result, the one who adapts best to the environment survives in a natural selection process. In this way, individuals pass on their genetic characteristics to the next generations. This transfer process ensures the change and diversification of species over a long period of time.
This theory has had different and radical implications for both philosophical and scientific debates. For example, the English thinker Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) applied this way of thinking to history and societies and developed a view called social Darwinism. In the field of psychology, the American psychologist and philosopher William James (1842-1910) developed a new theory called functionalism.
Functionalism is a psychology theory developed under the influence of Darwin’s theory of evolution. It emphasizes the consideration of mental processes and behaviors in harmony with the environment of the organism. Although it could not be a permanent psychology approach in the long run, it had a decisive influence on the development of behaviorism.
– Who is Charles Darwin?
– What is Darwinism?
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook