The fact is, the fundamental error committed by Darwin was to take over the Malthusian doctrine which Malthus had specifically applied to men living in an industrial society-and apply it to the whole vegetable and animal kingdom. What little was bio logically sound in the idea as applied to man remains so, but what represented the accretions of the matrix of the competitive predatory society in which the idea was developed, adhered to it in the form of such conceptions as “war,” “the struggle for existence,” “competition,” “famine and death,” “the survival of the fittest,” and the like.
This is the view of life of men living and condi tioned in an industrial society, the way of life of nations of “shopkeepers,” but it is not life. It is not even the way of life lived by most human beings on the face of the earth today. It is not a way of life that is even remotely approached by any other animal. It is the way of life of men living in industrial civilizations. The rest of the animal world does not live according to the principles prevailing in nine teenth century competitive mercantile civilizations. It would constitute one of the wriest jokes of history (were it not for the fact that it has proven so tragic in its consequences ) that the “cosmic process,” as T. H. Huxley termed it, should have been envisaged as functioning after the pattern of perhaps the most predatory industrial civilization that the world has ever known. Man sees the world according to the kingdom that is within him; it should, therefore, not be surprising that nature should have been interpret ed in terms of nineteenth century human relations.
On the contrary, organisms in themselves and in relation to their fellows in their functions are more akin to societies in which everyone has a part in de termining the government as a whole. As Professor Holmes has recently stated, “The survival of the or ganism must depend primarily upon the aptitude of its members for getting on well together. The groups in which the constituents behave at cross-purposes quickly go into the discard. . . . The self-perpetuat ing assemblage of genetic factors is mostly a well ordered body whose members for the most part co operate most admirably to promote the common weal. Government, as in societies of insects, seems, on the whole, to be on a democratic basis, which, after all, is the organismic method of regulation.”
Ashley Montagu, 1952