A Critical Analysis of Social Darwinism in The Light of Shari’ati’s Philosophy

Nurul Izzati Jamil

Background

Darwinian evolutionary thinking permeates a majority of the branches in modern knowledge, ranging from astronomy, history to physics. Charles Darwin is regarded as the father and founder of the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution is distinctive from other scientific theories, in the sense that the entirety of modern science relies on it as a pillar. In the words of well-established scholar, Shaikh Abdul Mabud (2017, p. 67) “There is a huge difference between the theory of evolution and other theories of science. The whole edifice of modern science revolves around it. If it falls, the edifice of modern science will collapse.”

Charles Darwin, as a cultural architect, wrote the book “The Origin of Species” which was considered a highly scientific book yet influenced numerous philosophical angles in modern knowledge. Furthermore, the Darwinian premise that life originated from ultimate, absolutist particles of non-living, non-aware matter arguably has an intrinsic link with the idea of “survival of the fittest.” The “survival of the fittest” ideology, within Social Darwinism, pertains to an identification of only certain types of life are seen as “the fittest.” For example, with relation to the contemporary pandemic of COVID-19, the evolutionary question of what makes the “survival of the fittest” remains a pivotal point.

Darwinian evolutionary theory to Social Darwinism, disregards and neglects the religious belief that we are reliant on pre-purposed origins set by the Creator. This thesis undertakes an in-depth critical analysis, in the light of Ali Shari’ati’s philosophy. Ali Shari’ati was an Iranian academic and philosopher whose classical scholarship pertained to how man overall contains a divine essence and transcendent qualities, as contrast to Social Darwinism.  He has also made reference to how Western modern thought can be called the “philosophy of producers” as a means to critique the materialist base of Western modern knowledge. Shari’ati (2015)’s framework elaborated on how the primacy of man grew into the primacy of matter, under the modern scientific worldview. This contrasts the modern scientific viewpoint, mirrored in Darwinian evolutionary thinking, that the reality of matter trumps the primacy of consciousness.

Research Questions / Problems

  1. Is the world of consciousness the key in deconstructing Darwinian evolutionary theory to Social Darwinism?
  2. To what extent can Darwinian evolutionary theory and Social Darwinism be considered harmful knowledge?

Aims and objectives

  1. Critical analysis of Social Darwinism in the philosophical context (metaphysical & mathematical critiques of Darwinian evolution theory)
  2. Highlight the problem of exaggeration of matter over consciousness in modern knowledge
  3. By discussing quantum mechanics & COVID-19, attempt to bridge classical scholarship with the present for contemporary relevance

Issues

The focus on philosophical context in this critical analysis poses a limitation in scope, in terms of incorporating more scientific arguments. However, there are aspects of logic and physics incorporated in this research. This pertains to discussions on second law of thermodynamics – As a general case example, “according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the order in the universe is disintegrating every moment. All natural systems have a tendency to go into a disordered state. No natural system can organize itself without the help of an external agency” (Mabud 1991, p. 29). There are also logical arguments to evolution theory, made by prominent Muslim scholars Osman Bakar (2020) and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. The question of “how could something greater come out of something lesser?” (Nasr 2006, p. 186) holds relevance to the discourse.

Research Progress or novel ideas/discoveries

Some novel ideas or discoveries:

  1. Metaphysical inferences in theory of evolution, as a contradiction. E.g. adaptation. “Evolution cannot, for example, explain our quest for knowledge, moral sense, and appreciation of beauty; many of our goals and ideals are not governed by survival urge or biological advantage” (Mabud 2007, p. 14). Evolution cannot explain the humanity’s urge for the truth that resides in the consciousness, as opposed to today’s “survival of the fittest” ideals.
  2. Moral absolutes would perish, if not directed towards the Creator (The framework by Shari’ati [2015] regards that everything is in the process of perishing except the ones oriented towards the Creator). Shari’ati (2015) justifies man as a “divine essence.”
  3. Both case studies of quantum mechanics and the new coronavirus equivalently signify how the universe is an informationally absorptive place. This represents the information-bearing properties of today’s new molecules. This contradicts both the ideas about primacy of matter and “survival of the fittest.”
  4. The outspread of coronavirus symbolizes, for evolutionists, an undirected adaptation. However, this contradicts metaphysical and mathematical fundaments.

Example:

For instance, from a metaphysical point of view which takes into account the form and essence, the sphere is first an unobservable entity before an observable entity in mathematics. The sphere is considered a complete generator of all other constant geometric forms. This knowledge is not generated first from general conceptions of line and the sphere, but is rather generated from an intuitive knowing in the consciousness. The form and essence of the sphere points to a holistic constancy in logic. This holistic constancy contrasts with the hypothesis that legitimizes evolution as “an ascending process with no goal, no end” (Mabud 1991, p. 50). In relation to this, the “ascending process” reflects the Social Darwinist view that there is an ascending note when it comes to survival of the fittest.

References

Bakar, O.B. Covid-19 and Darwin: A Response to Pervez Hoodbhoy. 2020. URL: https://flagship.iium.edu.my/eps/covid-19-and-darwin-a-response-to-pervez-hoodbhoy/

Mabud, Shaikh. “INTEGRATING ISLAMIC AND MODERN KNOWLEDGE—PHILOSOPHICAL CONCEPTS AND THEIR PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS.” PROCEEDING IAIN Batusangkar 1, no. 1: 55-82. 2017.

Mabud, Shaikh. “Theory of Evolution: An assessment from the Islamic point of view.” (1991). Cambridge; The Islamic Academy.

Mabud, Shaikh Abdul. “Chapter 7: The Theory of Evolution: Teaching the Whole Truth.” Counterpoints 277 (2007): 89-104.

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. “On the question of biological origins.” Islam & Science 4, no. 2 (2006): 232-245.

Shari’ati, Ali. Marxism and other Western fallacies: An Islamic critique. Mizan Press Berkeley, 2015.