Evolution and Herbert Spencer

Posted by Ali Reda | Posted in | Posted on 10/04/2013

Lamarck proposed that individuals lose characteristics that they do not use, and develop further on characteristics that they use a lot. And that these changed would be inherited. ex. if you pumped a lot of weights, your kids would come out stronger. Or that giraffes stretching for branches generation after generation would lead to them having longer necks.

Darwin proposed, characteristics  which increase an organisms chances of surviving, do survive more, and spread through the population. ex. some giraffes were born with longer necks because of random genetic mixing, giraffes with slightly longer necks were more likely to survive, and so they have more descendants (who have the same genes) and the genes for longer and longer necks spread and the genes for shorter necks became less and less and we reached the state of today.

Herbert Spencer's attempt to explain the evolution of complexity was radically different from that to be found in Darwin's Origin of Species which was published two years later. After reading Darwin's work he coined the phrase 'survival of the fittest' as his own term for Darwin's concept, and is often misrepresented as a thinker who merely applied the Darwinian theory to society, he only grudgingly incorporated natural selection into his preexisting overall system. Spencer sought the unification of scientific knowledge in the form of the reduction of all natural laws to one fundamental law, the law of evolution. He tried to apply the theory of biological evolution to sociology. He proposed that society was the product of change from lower to higher forms, just as in the theory of biological evolution, the lowest forms of life are said to be evolving into higher forms. Spencer posited that all structures in the universe develop from a simple, undifferentiated, homogeneity to a complex, differentiated, heterogeneity.It was a universal law, that was applying to the stars and the galaxies as much as to biological organisms, and to human social organization as much as to the human mind. Spencer claimed that man's mind had evolved in the same way from the simple automatic responses of lower animals to the process of reasoning in the thinking man. Spencer believed in two kinds of knowledge: knowledge gained by the individual and knowledge gained by the race. Intuition, or knowledge learned unconsciously, was the inherited experience of the race. His law differed from other scientific laws only by its greater generality, and the laws of the special sciences could be shown to be illustrations of this principle. Life itself has been defined (by Herbert Spencer) as an increasingly effective internal adaptation to external circumstances.

However, as Bertrand Russell stated in a letter to Beatrice Webb in 1923, this formulation has problems:
'I don't know whether [Spencer] was ever made to realize the implications of the second law of thermodynamics; if so, he may well be upset. The law says that everything tends to uniformity and a dead level, diminishing (not increasing) heterogeneity'.
As an objection to evolution, this case is still regularly made by anti-evolutionists.

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