Social Implications on Darwin’s Dangerous Idea

Darwin’s discoveries were debated because he was not able to offer substantial evidence – one of the reasons he waited twenty years to publish Origin of Species. The social aspects of the response to Darwin’s theory showed society taking natural selection’s abilities into the communal sphere of reality, encouraging capitalism. Bowler and Morus said, “Others stress the parallel between natural selection and the competitive ideology of Victorian capitalism and see Darwin as someone who projected the social values of his own class onto nature itself.”[1] So much for objectivity in masculine science, <smh> smells like corruption through propaganda – after all, Darwin did say that the female skull and brain were smaller than males, and therefore less intelligent and less capable of developing intelligence; he devoted a section to The Descent of Man (1871) entitled “Difference in the Mental Powers of the Two Sexes,” and he summarized in one line: “Thus man has ultimately become superior to woman.”[2] Women were noted as less selfish than men as means to take care of their offspring and subject themselves to male domination – backing up the “cult of domesticity” and place of woman – while man delighted and benefited from competition, thriving on selfish ambition and intellectual powers above lower, and sexually centered, woman.[3] Intellectual powers for males included: observation, reason, invention, or imagination,[4] because they benefited the hunt and were attached to the outside world was woman was chained to the household, her life revolving around producing and rearing children. Evelleen Richards highlighted the negative social issues at play via education limitations that showed few women were allowed or accepted into university – and if they were, it was even less seldom in masculine fields such as science or mathematics.[5] Richards quoted J.N. Burstyn from “Education and Sex: The Medical Case against Higher Education for Women in England, 1870-1900,” and said, “It seemed only a matter of time before middle-class women not only gained the franchise, but would be able to take out degrees and compete professionally with men …”[6] Men did not want to compete with woman possibly for fear of being less intelligent than her, nor did he want to allow room for his servant-wife to grow consciousness and a spine.

Some men, however, took advantage of wealthy women who pined for purpose and a voice: Francesco Algarotti, a Venetian merchant, took to travel and writing to grant him a luxurious salon-life he was accustomed to as protégé of Marchioness Elisabetta Ratta for his poetry and support.[7] He received much contempt from literature and science because, as an author and artist, he was not qualified or respected as a scientist. Algarotti, funded by his ladies, wrote appropriately to address female issues and aptitude. He addressed the ladies because their emotional nature responded to the attention – other male scientists shrugged women off as incapable of being scientists, taking support through Darwin who saw the place of woman as purely sexual and not able to reason like men.[8] Women were attributed as more emotional than men and therefore unable to achieve pure objectivity. As we have discussed in previous weeks, the human ability to remain objective is an impossible feat as each individual is reflective of their own values of societal or religious connotation – elements to cloud reason or form it, dependent on how one thinks. So why then is this imaginary “objectivity” not extended to female scientists if it is extended to males? Well, another aspect of rejected feminist thought might be of use; Bowler and Morus noted the contradictory starting point between gender: “Men typically regard themselves as apart from nature and therefore as needing to be able to control it, while women typically regard themselves as part of nature and therefore as being in harmony with it.”[9] Male scientists want to control nature and women – unfortunately, this whole scam is still going down. Male science may be keeping female scientific-thought out of science for the specific purpose of maintaining control of society and re-instilling the world-view of the earth as a machine because it is more profitable to humankind in terms of progress. If the major consent in society recognized the earth as a living entity then the average “good-natured” person would not want to harm, rape, or destroy anything alive. Women by nature are more empathetic than men, on average, and more emotional – but they are also subject to suppression, and the feminine cause can be attached to many of humanity’s list of victims such as the abolition movement in America that displayed women championing the cause of the oppressed African-American before she had the right to vote herself. It only seems natural then, to saddle the feminine with Mother-Earth to relate to victimization at the hands of the masculine force.



Bowler, Peter J. and Iwan Rhys Morus. Making Modern Science: A Historical Survey. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Darwin, Charles. “The Descent of Man (1871).” Darwin: A Norton Critical Edition, Texts, Commentary. 3rd ed. Ed. Phillip Appleman. New York:  W.W. Norton & Company, 2001. pp. 175-254.

Mazzotti, Massimo. “Newton for Ladies: Gentility, Gender and Radical Culture.” British Journal for the History of Science, 37.133: p. 119-46 ProQuest. Web. 31 Dec 2015.

Richards, Evelleen. “Darwin and the Descent of Woman (1983).” Darwin:  A Norton Critical Edition, Texts, Commentary. 3rd ed. Ed. Phillip Appleman. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001. pp. 435-444.

Picture c/o:

[1] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 143.

[2] Darwin, “The Descent of Man (1871),” p. 234-235.

[3] Darwin, “The Descent of Man (1871),” p. 234-235.

[4] Darwin, “The Descent of Man (1871),” p. 235.

[5] Richards, “Darwin and the Descent of Woman (1983),” p. 441.

[6] Richards, “Darwin and the Descent of Woman (1983),” p. 441.

[7] Mazzotti, “Newton for Ladies: Gentility, Gender and Radical Culture,” p. 124.

[8] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 503.

[9] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 505.