Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


A fast-paced novel of conjecture and surprises



core definition

Darwinism is a term used to refer to theories that are attributed to or derived from Darwin’s theories of evolution.

explanatory context

Such theories can be found in the biological and social sciences and the latter are usually referred to as Social Darwinism.


The elements of Darwin’s thought that are central to most references to Darwinism are the ideas of natural selection and survival of the fittest. These ideas are often corruptions of the notions that Darwin expressed (see the entry on evolution). Notably, natural selection is taken to imply some kind of natural order and survival of the fittest is taken as a ‘natural law’ and sometimes used to legitimate oppressive social practices and systems, especially those underpinned by a laissez faire philosophy.


Central to Darwin’s theory is the idea that evolutionary change is the result of a vast number of minute random mutations that have allowed organisms to adapt ‘successfully’ to a given ecological system.


analytical review

According to Lennox (2010) in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Darwinism designates a distinctive form of evolutionary explanation for the history and diversity of life on earth. Its original formulation is provided in the first edition of On the Origin of Species in 1859. This entry first formulates ‘Darwin's Darwinism’ in terms of five philosophically distinctive themes: (i) probability and chance, (ii) the nature, power and scope of selection, (iii) adaptation and teleology, (iv) nominalism vs. essentialism about species and (v) the tempo and mode of evolutionary change. Both Darwin and his critics recognized that his approach to evolution was distinctive on each of these topics, and it remains true that, though Darwinism has developed in many ways unforeseen by Darwin, its proponents and critics continue to differentiate it from other approaches in evolutionary biology by focusing on these themes.

Biology online (2007) defins Darwinism as :

a theory of organic evolution claiming that new species arise and are perpetuated by natural selection.The theory that was created by the english biologist Charles darwin, where the 'survival of the fittest' in species would guarantee long term survival.

associated issues


related areas

See also

Social darwinism


Biology online, 2007, 'Darwinism', last modified 16 April 2007, available at, accessed 21 January 2013, still available 3 June 2019.

Lennox, J, 2010, 'Darwinism' in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, first published 13 August 2004; substantive revision 19 January 2010, available at, accessed 21 January 2013, page still available 3 June 2019 but substantive revision 26 May 2015.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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