Aggregated News


The 2011 X-Men franchise prequel, X-Men: First Class, briefly featured a mutant named Darwin who could adapt to any circumstances. For example, when he stuck his head in a fish tank he grew gills. Now if you’re a history of science nerd like me, you both appreciate the Darwinian reference and wish that the movie had instead named the character Lamarck, who theorized that individual animals could adapt to environments and experience physical changes during their lives—but that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Darwin, on the other hand, believed that species changed through heredity and over many generations.

While in this case the slippage between evolutionary theorists and their ideas is harmless, there is a long tradition of misusing Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection to explain and justify concepts that are not scientific but are actually actively harmful. The creation and deployment of the term “social Darwinism” is one, and the development of the pseudoscience of eugenics in the late nineteenth century is another. Eugenics took concepts rooted in Darwin’s evolutionary theory and used...