Andrew Carnegie seems to have been influenced by Social Darwinism, as witnessed by this quote:
While the law [of competition] may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it insures the survival of the fittest in every department. We accept and welcome, therefore, as conditions to which we must accommodate ourselves, great inequality of environment, the concentration of business, industrial and commercial, in the hands of a few, and the law of competition between these, as being not only beneficial, but essential for the future progress of the race.
– Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), “Wealth,” in the North American Review, June 1889.
Carnegie was not alone. Ever since Darwin (or at least ever since Herbert Spencer) great numbers of people have misinterpreted evolution in much the way Carnegie did. I wonder why that’s so? What is it about evolution that is so difficult for people to understand?
For instance: Why is it so seemingly difficult for Carnegie and others to grasp there is no such thing as “progress” in evolution?
Or, again: What is it with this peculiar notion that the “fittest” members of society are always the one’s on top?
One could go on. It is easy to mine Carnegie’s quote for misunderstandings of evolution. But the larger question still looms: Why are so many people befuddled by evolution? Is the theory really that difficult to understand?
Note: For more on Social Darwinism, see “The Social Brain“.