Of Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men
Malthus, Weismann, and the Future of Socialism
This chapter focuses on the ways British socialists interpreted evolution. As Fabianism and Marxism became more prominent, the Lamarkian and anti-Malthusian politics of men like William Morris and Peter Kropotkin became increasingly marginalized. H.G. Wells, a one-time admirer of Morris and sometime Fabian, took particular exception to Morris's anti-Malthusian assumptions. This became all the more so in light of his conviction that the German cell biologist August Weismann had undermined Lamarckian inheritance. Without the inheritance of acquired characters any hope of a significant human evolution on a relevant time scale was lost. Further, Wells became convinced that Weismann's theory of panmixia further undermined Morris's vision of socialism. Any ‘epoch of rest’ that ameliorated selective pressure would cause biological degeneration. George Bernard Shaw, was as Malthusian as Wells, but intervened to oppose Wells'sWeismannism. An ardent Lamarckian Shaw ultimately reflected that Morris might have been right.
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