Jeffrey Herbener and Ralph Raico on Darwinism

In a recent speech titled ‘Legacies of the Great War’, Jeffrey Herbener quoted part of a book review by Ralph Raico:

"Tooley deals deftly with the intellectual and cultural currents of pre-war Europe. Contributing to the proneness to violence were a bastardized Nietzschianism and the anarchosyndicalism of Georges Sorel, but most of all Social Darwinism — really, just Darwinism — which taught the eternal conflict among the races and tribes of the human as of other species."

On Wikipedia we find:

In Darwin’s day there was no rigid definition of the term “Darwinism,” and it was used by opponents and proponents of Darwin’s biological theory alike to mean whatever they wanted it to in a larger context.


Social Darwinism is an ideology of society that seeks to apply biological concepts of Darwinism or of evolutionary theory to sociology and politics, ..

If Raico was meaning to say that Darwin advocated Social Darwinism, then I offer the reader a written reply by Darwin to eugenicist Francis Galton:

"Though I see so much difficulty, the object seems a grand one; and you have pointed out the sole feasible, yet I fear utopian, plan of procedure in improving the human race. I should be inclined to trust more (and this is part of your plan) to disseminating and insisting on the importance of the all-important principle of inheritance."

If Raico was meaning to say that the theory of evolution teaches “the eternal conflict among the races and tribes of the human as of other species”, then I’d like to offer the following explanation:

The passing on of genetic information through variation and selection implies the spreading and non-spreading of certain genetic information. It does not however describe a necessary conflict between the people who carry that information. If one sibling has three offspring and another sibling has one offspring, all of them can still cooperate peacefully under the division of labor. Only if one includes the aim that certain information must proliferate at the expense of other information, does one arrive at Social Darwinism.

And as Youtuber Qualiasoup says in his friendly video on evolution:

"Some people feel that an acceptance of evolution implies, or leads inevitably towards, the desire for supremacist control over the breeding of human beings. But recognizing facts about nature doesn’t mean you have any wish to apply them to social policy.. Evolution isn’t an endorsement of eugenics any more than accepting the fact that the females of numerous species kill and eat the males after mating is an endorsement of cannibalism; it’s simply a recognition of reality."


Jeffrey has written to me:

"Dear Niels,

Of course, Darwinism doesn’t imply as a logical necessity conflict among the different species of the human race. What Raico and Tooley are pointing out is that influential intellectuals in the 19th century took it to mean just that and the results of their interpretation were harmful to the cause of liberty. Raico and Tooley are recounting what happened in history, not critiquing Darwinism as a system.

Best regards,


I am happy to hear Jeffrey’s clarification on this issue, but I remain unhappy with the way Raico has phrased this.

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