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Charles Darwin and Anthropological Criminology
This paper highlights Charles Darwin’s life and the leading to his thought of the Evolutionary theory and how through his theory came multiple others that taught us about criminals and the particular archetype that is considered criminal by their looks as well as their personalities.
On February 12, 1809, Charles Darwin was born. He was born in the west of England in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. His mother Susannah died when he was eight. His father, Robert, was a wealthy doctor. He went to the University of Edinburg to study medicine and then went to Cambridge. He was taught how to stuff birds and studied theology. He even thought about becoming a clergyman. During his study of theology, he began to collect beetles and become interested in entomology.
Darwin joined the crew of the H.M.S. Beagle as an unpaid assistant to the captain. This gave him an opportunity to study many species in South America. This journey lasted a total of five years. He studied oysters at the Cape Verde Islands, the tropical rain forests in modern-day Salvador, saw slave maltreatment in Brazil, and climbed the mountains in Chile. They also visited Peru, the Galapagos Islands, New Zealand, and Cocos Islands.
John Gould gave a speech at a Zoological Society meeting. He said that all finches are categorized the same, but have adapted differently. This idea fueled Darwin’s theory of natural selection and evolution. He was also influenced by Thomas Malthus. This influenced the idea of survival of the fittest which he alluded too, but never actually wrote.
Eventually, he collected all his thoughts into his book on the On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. This book caused major protest. They were saying he was going against the Bible. The readers took one of his quotes and interpreted it differently. They blamed him for saying man evolved from apes. This statement directly goes against the Bible.
Darwin was an influential part of the Enlightenment time period. The Enlightenment was a time of drastic change of politics, philosophy, science, and communication in the West. The people began to question the traditional ideas of the church.
Richard Owen furthered the protest by condemning the book. Ernst Haeckel later brought the idea to Germany. Germany is where the idea of Social Darwinism began. Social Darwinism was an intellectual and social movement. It used Darwin’s ideas to explain the existing social order of society. This was a major influence in racial discrimination. This also changed the way of thinking. Before Darwin, the main belief was in God and the church.
Now, many people began to question the church and conduct experiments as did Darwin. They looked at his idea of evolution. They saw that some species continuously adapted to survive while the others who didn’t became extinct. This new idea was completely different then everything coming from God.
At first, many theologians accepted his idea. The theologian said God created the world in “six days” and for the world to continue it must continuously grow. One theologian disagreed and said that Darwinism went against God. He said natural selection proposed threat to true divine teachings. Darwin never mentioned God. Therefore, his theories go against the Bible. They believe Darwin was trying to drive a wedge between religion and science. The Church condemned this book. The Churches leaders said it will lead you to atheism and immorality.
Many creationists fought for equality between evolutionary science, Darwin’s theory, and creation science. Schools began to teach the evolutionary science. Creationists didn’t like this fact and to fight against it. They started to question many different parts of curriculum taught in biology. These antievolutionists would do anything to against Darwin.
They created an intelligent design. This was made up of two principles. “First, within the natural world, and particularly within human beings, there are complex operations that cannot be explained through random adaptation or mutation. Second is the claim that if human beings found such complexity in other areas of human life, they would attribute it to a designer.” (Evolution and Religion) This proposal of intelligent design failed in court just as did scientific creationism.
Darwinism didn’t just effect people and their faith. Degeneration was a major effect from his book. Survival of the fittest was interpreted completely differently than how he had written it. He had written it as more individualistic. He looked at human instincts, sympathies, and moral sentiments. He talked about social progress without the influence of the environment. People read this and took it to the next level. This idea caused people to believe their society was more evolved then the next. They began to cause competition between other nations.
Nations continued to modernize and grow. They started to colonize since they believed the weaker nations could benefit. The idea of survival of the fittest was a major factor in the race to overseas colonies. The more colonies they obtained the more powerful and strongest nation they were. They were also helping out the lower ethnicities in modernizing and becoming stronger.
Nations began to exclude and classify people. Many disabled people also effected greatly. They were now viewed a weak. They were now no longer as accepted as everyone else. A disabled person was no looked down upon and not treated as an equal.
Some scientists even began to discard Darwin’s theories due to the fact it caused racism and classism. They began to believe it wasn’t anything scientific at all. It was just another mere ideology that went against the Church’s teachings.
Darwin’s theory also caused many governments to begin to switch to a laissez-faire economy. The idea of the government allowing the economy to evolve, grow, and adapt on its own was influenced by Social Darwinism. The economy will adjust on its own. The government does not need to help the poor. They are weak and should not benefit from society. They should die out and the fittest part of the population will survive. Government cutting back control allowed more of a cutthroat economy. Many people were willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead. This caused some chaos and harmful situations in the economy.
Darwin’s ideas caused a lot of domino effects. He wrote his book about finches and ended up causing racism and classism. His idea of natural selection caused major issues with the Church. Evolution allowed many different scientists to try new experiments. Nations began to grow and stir up nationalism and colonization. Many colonies grew and were modernized. New classes in society were created. New government tactics were used. Darwin had just as many supports as he did rejecting him. Darwin’s book stirred up many different ideas and viewpoints that changed society as a whole forever.
Upon his death, a new theory came into play and many people began to follow it. These people called themselves Darwinists and they believed that human beings were occasionally reverted, both physically and mentally to a pre human stage of development. This person was referred to as an atavistic criminal type. The focus on this certain archetype was to identify the type of criminal who should be put into prison permanently in order to protect society, even if that particular crime committed was a minor offense.
On the other side, if someone who was not an atavistic type, it was considered to be a mistake, and therefore, imprisonment would serve no purpose to the non-atavistic person. Darwinian criminologists had the belief that the punishment must fit the criminal and not the crime. At the time, criminologists all agreed on this theory to explain criminals and crime and as a result, public opinion and official policy makers interest peaked. The criminal physical type is still a part of our world today even though the theory of atavists as a causative factor in criminals has ceased to exist.
Darwin had a huge impact on the theory of anthropological criminology also referred to as criminal anthropology, which is a combination of the study of humans and criminals. His evolutionary theory shapes the world we live in today and explains the evolution of criminals thought processes as well as all the theories covered in criminology. Social Darwinism explains how characteristics which are observable were inheritable and explains how a trait may appear in one generation and not the next.
The theory, brought out by Cesare Lombroso started with the experimentation of performing autopsies on criminals and declaring he had found similarities between physiologies of their bodies. He thought that criminals were born with inferior detectible physiological differences. They involved receding foreheads, similar height, and shape and size. He outlined fourteen characteristics that were similar amongst these people. Some of the features were that they were unusually tall or short, small head, large face, thin upper lips, bumps on the head, tattoos, bushy eyebrows, large eye sockets, among other characteristics. The term criminal anthropology was coined by Lombroso. His main purpose was to locate the crime within the person and remove it completely from their surroundings. He is known as the founder of the Positivist school of criminology, one of the many criminological theories. It is a field of offender profiling, which is still used today, based on the perceived links between a crime’s nature and the personality or appearance of the offender. The term criminal anthropology was coined by Lombroso in the late 19th Century.
All these advancements in criminology all stem from Charles Darwin, father of the evolutionary theory. He is the reason for all the criminological theories, as well as the notoriety of Cesare Lombroso. If it weren’t for his evolutionary theory, the advancements we have in criminal profiling, and theories like the Classical theory and Broken Windows theory would not be here today. Charles Darwin played a huge part in the creation of criminology and continues to do so. If it weren’t for Darwin, we would not be as advanced as we are today in the criminal justice system.
- Cornfield, Justin. “Darwin, Charles”. Encyclopedia of World History, Vol. 4. New York: Facts on File, 2013. History Research Center. Web. 19 Apr. 2015. http://online.infobase.com/Article/Details/245437?q=Charles Darwin
- Queen, Edward L., and Gardiner H. Shattuck. “Evolution and Religion.” Encyclopedia of American Religious History, Third Edition, 3-Volume Set. New York: Facts on File, 2009. History Research Center. Web. 19 Apr. 2015. http://online.infobase.com/Article/Details/194376?q=Darwinism impact
- Stoskopf, Alan. “Social Darwinism”. Encyclopedia of American Disability History, 3-Volume Set. New York: Facts on File, 2011. History Research Center. Web. 19 Apr. 2015. http://online.infobase.com/Article/Details/209404?q=Social Darwinism
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