The Social Darwinist

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"It's really simple. You bring two sides together. They fight. A lot of them die. But those who survive are stronger, faster and better."
Justin, Babylon 5

The Social Darwinist is someone who believes that the Darwinist theory of evolution—i.e. "survival of the fittest" to grossly oversimplify it—applies to people, and sometimes entire societies or nations. To the Social Darwinist, all life is a struggle for survival in which the strongest naturally prosper at the expense of the weak—and it is right, and natural that they should do so, because that's just the way things are, and/or natural law is Above Good and Evil.

If they do talk about evolution, they are very likely to talk about Evolutionary Levels and Goal-Oriented Evolution rather than Darwin's actual theory.

Fictional Social Darwinists generally come in four major flavors:

  1. The first type believes in Social Darwinism, which misinterprets the idea of evolution and natural selection and holds that people who rise to the top in society are automatically "superior," even going so far as to praise the evils of over-ambitiousness and condemn kind behavior. Despite it being nothing more than a Theme Park Version, this philosophy is still frequently held by fictional characters.
  2. The second type is the Evilutionary Biologist or anyone who has mistaken ideas about how evolution works "for the good of the species," and in order to help it out or not "get in its way," anyone with a birth defect or who is in any other way "weak" in this villain's eyes deserves to die to keep the gene pool strong. The hope to create the Transhuman Ultimate Lifeform—to which, of course, the character him- or herself will belong—is likely.
  3. The third type is a racist or speciesist who believes that their race is a Master Race, and by extension, the only one fit to live and thrive in this world, and uses this belief as a justification for subjugating, enslaving or just plain getting rid of those that they consider "inferior" (as the Real Life Nazis did). Scary Dogmatic Aliens are very likely to have this mindset, as is any society modeled upon the Nazis. Occasionally also held by superheroes.
  4. The fourth type is simply selfish and uses Social Darwinism as just a justification for unfettered/sociopathic behavior. This character may not actually believe in the theory or may not care, but finds it a convenient excuse for the way he or she was going to behave anyway.

If The Social Darwinist doesn't suffer a Karmic Death, the heroes "disprove" his might-makes-right philosophy by demonstrating the The Power of Friendship:[1] either by ganging up and beating the crap out of him and his cronies, or by the leader of the group (often The Messiah) doing it himself while repeatedly driving home that he's fighting for his friends. A particularly profound way to 'disprove' Social Darwinism is to have the Big Bad beaten by a character who has glaring physical or mental handicaps.

Compare Evilutionary Biologist, Evil Evolves, and Kill the Poor. Fictional works sometimes portray this attitude as overlapping with Objectivism and the "Übermensch" concept, although whether this is a correct portrayal is debated.

Note that Charles Darwin himself would not be amused by all of these guys and the way they interpreted his works; he proposed nothing of the sort. You never see a social Darwinist treating societies in the same way a real Darwinist treats species: Darwinists are interested in maintaining biodiversity and never want to wipe out an endangered (and therefore unfit) species out of spite - after all, nature already does that. Darwinism is a description of the way species work, not a prescription for what species should live and die. See the trivia page for this trope for more information on that. This did not stop Social Darwinism from becoming a fairly mainstream philosophy from the Victorian era to WWII, when it became associated with the Nazis; this association contributed greatly to its loss of popularity. However, the emergence of culture war politics in the late 20th century appears to have revived it to a certain extent.

Examples of The Social Darwinist include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Code Breaker: Though not yet outright stated, Ogami's brother implies this is his group's ideal when he wonders why Ogami is protecting an ordinary (?) human.
  • Emperor Charles zi Britannia in Code Geass has this philosophy—though it applies at its most ruthless to his children, as if any are weak, they deserve to die. The protagonist, a deposed prince of the empire, directly opposes this attitude as it's what cost him his mother and crippled his little sister—while Charles did nothing. Subverted, as this was all a facade by the emperor himself.
  • Vicious of Cowboy Bebop shows shades of this, particularly in his attitude towards those who lose their ruthless side. Notably, he assassinates his former Mentor Mao Yenrai for attempting to make peace with another Syndicate, (then dismissively describes him as "a beast who lost his fangs") denounces the Elders of the Red Dragon as "corpses that can't fight," and demands to know why Spike Spiegel, his personal and romantic rival, survived his exile if he's no longer as cold-blooded and ruthless as Vicious.
  • In Darker than Black, Amber's organization "Evening Primrose" is sort of the Contractor Resistance movement, and while it's not clear to what extent Amber herself has this viewpoint, her obsessive follower Maki definitely does, and in one scene, he actually refers to Contractors as something like a "master race". The Interquel villain Harvest is also an insane social darwinist, and has several lines about "the next stage in evolution".
  • Light Yagami in Death Note develops from a Well-Intentioned Extremist into this trope, and he happens to be the protagonist. He believes that by using the Death Note to pick off criminals and the unpleasant, he can make the world consist of good people only. As he puts it, if Kira (his mass-murdering alter ego) is caught, then he's evil; if he wins and rules the world, he's righteous.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, there are Father and his Homunculi, and Kimblee, who is an ideological and philosophical Social Darwinist. He doesn't believe that weak people should be automatically killed (though he does enjoy blowing up people regardless of how helpless they are), but he believes violence is the only way to solve philosophical disputes; whoever is alive at the end of the day was right. There are also non-villain examples. Olivier Mira Armstrong, for instance, is pretty much General Badass and leads the Briggs fortress border troops, who are the most Badass soldiers in all Amestris. Her credo is "survival of the fittest", which she applied to everyone, including herself.

"Don't you get it? My men aren't going to come and rescue me. Because if I die here, I'm not worthy to lead them anyway."

  • The Jester a.k.a. Kaizan Doushi in the anime series Grenadier.
  • The Leader of the PLANTS from Gundam Seed, Chairman Patrick Zala, actively believes that Coordinators, genetically modified humans, are an entirely different species from Natural-born humans. This leads him to actively pursue the death of every single Natural on the planet Earth. (It should be noted that his aggression towards Naturals likely stemmed from his wife being killed in an event before the series by the Earth Alliance, who was not pleased that Coordinators had been able to grow their own food.)
  • Tomonori Komori from Narutaru is a sociopathic teenager who finds the modern world overly complicated, and so he intends to use his Mon to kill the educated and the sickly, effectively turning things back to the Stone Age, to create what he claims would be a healthy, pure society. Ironically, it's revealed some time after his death that he had a sickly mother he was taking care of, and that he wasn't the healthiest of boys himself. He must've been bitter.
  • One Piece has Captain Morgan, who seems to think that the fact he struggled to earn his rank (never mind that part of his promotion came as a patsy in someone else's scheme) gives him the right to kill anyone who questions his orders or opposes his methods; and Arlong the fishman, who thinks the physically superior fishmen should rule over the weak and puny humans.
  • The philosophy of Rurouni Kenshin's Big Bad Makoto Shishio is that "the flesh of the weak is the food of the strong"—and he drives his point home by literally taking a bite out of the hero. He is inevitably defeated, but afterwards, Kenshin observes that his victory has not truly proven anything—and that, if the one in the right is merely the strongest warrior, then Shishio was correct all along...
  • Basically every bad guy in Fist of the North Star is either this or just a raving psycho. It's a Mad Max style world after all.
  • Inverted in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, where both Lordgenome and the Anti-Spirals purposefully try to force the human race not to evolve too much, and it is the heroes who ascribe to a more idealistic combination of Darwinism (with Spiral Energy being the power behind evolution) and The Power of Friendship.
  • Kiria from Rosario + Vampire. He's shocked when Kurumu decides to save Moka's life instead of leaving her to die, as they are both rivals for Tsukune's heart.
  • Vegeta from Dragon Ball believes the Saiyan race is the most powerful in the universe and that Earthlings are weak and inferior to them. His transition to Majin Vegeta is largely because this belief, saying (in the English dub) "It's survival of the fittest. The strong will survive, and the weak shall perish!" Even Goku pointing out that during their battle they may have inadvertently revived Majin Buu is dismissed by Vegeta, saying (though he hardly believes it himself) that the two of them have evolved far beyond even Kaioshin's expectations to the point that Majin Buu is not a concern anymore.
  • After taking a level in jerkass and pursuing apostles on his quest for revenge, Guts in Berserk pretty much adopts this as his philosophy, saying that people who are to weak to survive in the Crapsack World that they live in deserve to die.
  • Rudolf von Goldenbaum from Legend of Galactic Heroes firmly believes in this trope. One of the most infamous laws he passed after he established the Galactic Empire was the so-called "Inferior Genes Exclusion Law", which essentially involved the killing of people deemed to possess "inferior genes".
  • Gihren Zabi of Mobile Suit Gundam. He believes that the strong should rule and the weak should simply get out of the way. This idea governs most of his actions throughout the show, and lead to his ultimately assassinating his father and seizing control of Zeon for himself.
  • In Saint Beast, Zeus believes that angels who are not "beautiful and strong" are not fit to serve him.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Jack Chick assumes that this is what the Theory of Evolution actually teaches.
  • There are several such characters in the X-Men works:
    • Magneto has some moments of social darwinism, calling mutants Homo sapiens superior (or the even less accurate Homo superior, implying mutants are a separate species entirely).
    • Apocalypse goes farther; besides vaunting the superiority of mutants, he believes in encouraging conflict to weed out the weak. Meanwhile, he isn't concerned for his own safety, assuming that he is the pinnacle of evolution. There are times, both in the main Marvel Universe and alternate timelines, when Apocalypse gets defeated and he's asked what makes him fit to survive. Sometimes, he seems entirely willing to die due to having been proved "unfit" under his own philosophy. It never lasts, of course, because he's one of the X-Men's iconic villains so he has to come back to face them again.
    • Mr. Sinister originated as a 19th-century eugenicist.
    • Professor Xavier in X-Men Noir is an actual psychiatrist, and as such his spin on this is unique: he believes sociopaths are the next stage in human behavioral evolution. Chief of Detectives Eric Magnus, meanwhile, believes the criminal element is hereditary and genetic—and has to be contained or eliminated for the good of society. Emma Frost, an old student of Xavier's, combines the two ideas as warden at Genosha Bay, but also feels sociopathy is communicable.
  • The Red Skull abandoned Nazism, but he still believes in this.
  • Venus Bluegenes in Rogue Trooper fits this trope in her initial appearance. She believes that GIs are inherently superior to humans, and killed the rest of her crew as she thought them inferior.
  • Niles Caulder turns out to be this at the end of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol run. In fact, it's revealed at the end that he's planning a giant worldwide cataclysm that will enable the human race to emerge stronger as a result.
  • The Norwegian cult comic The Great Four: When the Dead Awaken features a social darwinist Big Bad who is planning to start a new world war using Steampunk gasoline technology. When the heroes arrive to stop him, he offers them an ultimatum: If he defeats them, they will join him in his conquest. If they defeat him, he has a self-destruct ready to destroy his Supervillain Lair and will let them pull the switch, because if he was weak enough to be defeated his works weren't worth anything anyway. He actually seems content with losing until the heroes decide to leave the lair intact so his gasoline-driven undead minions can continue to 'live'.


Fanfiction[edit | hide]

  • In a contrasting portrayal when compared to the usual, in the Avatar fanfic, Children of Gaia, Earth is portrayed as one, plus Well-Intentioned Extremist, always working the evolution to benefit the strongest and don't even mind people mining her (a rather interesting subversion of Gaia's Lament). So, she gets really offended when she learns about how Eywa rules the Na'vi and actually agrees with humans on their policy over them.
  • Ponies Make War has both Titan and his Dragon, General Esteem, who both believe that power is the only thing that matters, and that only those with power have the right to rule.


Film[edit | hide]

Rourke: Come on, you've read Charles Darwin. It's called Survival of the Fittest. We're just helping to speed it to its logical conclusion.

  • In Ice Age Sid, a (mostly) incompetent sloth outwits an (albeit also fairly incompetent) saber tooth cat. While repeatedly jumping on his victim Sid shouts: "Survival! Of The! Fittest!" and finishes with: "I don't think so..."
  • Kron from the Disney movie Dinosaur is implied to be something like this. He even lampshades this when the herd is fleeing from the carnotaurs.

Aladar: (Concerning the elders in the back) But the others in the back! They'll never make it!
Kron: Then they'll slow down the predators!
Aladar: (Outraged) You can't sacrifice them like this!

  • The villain of the 1945 film The Spiral Staircase cites this as his reason for killing women with any sort of physical defect, such as the mute heroine:

"There is no room in this whole world for imperfection. What a pity my father didn't live to see me become strong, to see me dispose of the weak and imperfect of the world, whom he detested. He would have admired me for what I am going to do."

  • In Wall Street, Gordon Gekko's philosophy is pretty much Social Darwinism of the economic kind. Several of his quotes are "It's a Zero Sum game[2]—somebody wins, somebody loses" or "In my book you either do it right or you get eliminated". His entire "Greed is good" speech is of Social Darwinist nature. In the first movie, he lost the game, but in the second movie, he won the game and now is a top dog within the British economy.
  • This is the Sith in a nutshell.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover Landfall, humans arrive on Darkover as the survivors of a crashed starship—fortunately a colony ship, unfortunately meant for another world altogether with existing infrastructure. Fewer than 70 women survived who might be capable of childbearing. The medical practitioners deliberately decided not to make any special effort to save any woman who looked like dying in childbirth, on the grounds that their gene pool wasn't large enough to include the weak. Definitely an example of the Type 2 fictional Social Darwinist—and this was presented as an I Did What I Had to Do situation. An especially bad example because 70 females is nowhere near enough genetic diversity to sustain a population.
  • In the David Brin book The Postman the Holnists believed in right of the strong to rule over, enslave, and rape the weak (The Movie turns them into simple racists misguidedly following a self-help book, one of many reasons that Brin has disowned the film).
  • In Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, Philip Lombard fits this category quite nicely. He freely admits to having left twenty-one African men to starve to death, and is well-known for participating in quasi-legal activities. His justification is, "self-preservation is a man's first duty." However, this ultimately becomes his own undoing during the showdown between himself and Vera Claythorne at the end.
  • The Dark One from the Wheel of Time. This clearly backfires due to the fact that his chief servants, the Forsaken, fight with each other as much as with Rand al'Thor.
  • In Donald Kingsbury's Courtship Rite, the entire population of the world of Geta are Type 2 fictional Social Darwinists; the native life of the planet is mostly not edible, and famines are historically common. Cannibalism is part of their way of life, in which people with less kalothi (worthiness to survive) go to feed those of higher kalothi in times of need. The end of the book reveals that in the far future they have become a different species.
  • The Ship Who... Searched has a minor character (Haakon-Fritz) who fits this. He actually belongs to an organization called the Neo-Darwinists. When the archaeological team he's on is attacked by a pack of what are basically alien wolves, his response is to bolt for the nearest building and lock the door, leaving the rest of the team out.
  • The Fremen and Sardaukar of Dune: by living on a Death World where merely surviving is a struggle, they have become the toughest and most effective soldiers in the known universe. Dune Messiah adds a dose of realism when Stilgar informs Muad'Dib of the various difficulties that the Fremen, himself included, have had on other planets, especially water-rich planets. Since the Fremen have adapted to an extremely arid and dessicated environment, it makes sense that they would suffer illness and weakness in water-rich environments.
  • The villains of The City That Fought by Anne McCaffrey and S.M. Stirling are an entire race of social darwinists who, like the Fremen, have grown up in an extremely harsh environment.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels contain quite a few of these characters.
    • In Wyrd Sisters, Lady Felmett repeatedly describes those not as ruthless and tyrannical as her as "weak".
    • In Interesting Times, the Agatean Empire's entire ruling class is more or less like this.
    • Carpe Jugulum has Count Magpyr and his family, who through most of the book speak condescendingly of just about every other species on the Discworld, view humans only as prey for vampires, and even look down on other vampires who haven't overcome traditional vampire weaknesses like they have. Appropriately, it's revealed that the "weaknesses" of traditional vampires are actually survival mechanisms that keep the vampires safe from their main predator: hordes of angry peasants.
    • The Fifth Elephant introduces Sergeant Angua's werewolf-supremacist brother Wolfgang, who leads a Nazi-esque gang of like-minded young werewolves.
  • In The Dark Side of the Sun by Terry Pratchett, after the new security guy reaps the rewards of Fantastic Racism and being Too Dumb to Live, an alien witness comments:

Hrsh-Hgn: Intelligence is humanity's prime survival trait, therefore it is as well that those who don't show it be weeded out.

  • Captain Wolf Larson of The Sea Wolf.
  • Mortal Engines has Municipal Darwinism, a system by which the inhabitants of mobile cities justify eating smaller mobile cities, stripping them down for spares, and selling their inhabitants into slavery. Large cities eat small cities, cities eat towns, towns eat suburbs (all of the above are gigantic and mechanized). Everyone picks on "static" settlements, which form the Anti-Traction League and fight back with hordes of airships and suicide bombers. This is not a sustainable "ecology" since there isn't much in the way of outside resources coming into the system. The real ecosystem takes energy from the sun via plants, the cities don't do much of that.
  • Back in the days when there were more than two of them, the Sith were pretty Social Darwinist. Actually, the Rule of Two was the same logic, as the Master could expect innumerable assassination attempts by the apprentice, for only by taking power could a Sith Lord prove himself a Master.
  • The Mesan Alignment in the Honor Harrington stories believe that their superior genetics mean that they should be running the galaxy.
  • In Destiny's Star by Elizabeth Vaughan, the protagonists are Trapped in Another World, where the inhabitants are a Proud Warrior Race. They do not have doctors or healers, as anyone who gets sick or injured are immediately killed. The heroine gets a broken leg, but survives by persuading them to wait until she completes a sacred duty first.
  • Though one can't expect bunnies to have heard of Charles Darwin, officers of Efrafa's Owsla in Watership Down are given full mating privileges, suggesting that Woundwort wants only his strongest bucks to father the kittens in his warren. Subverted by Nature itself, as many of the badly-overcrowded does fail to sustain the pregnancies that result.
  • Ebenezer Scrooge: "If they would rather die, they had better do it, and thereby decrease the surplus population."
  • The Artilleryman in H. G. Wells's "War of the Worlds": ""I mean that men like me are going on living--for the sake of the breed. I tell you, I'm grim set on living. And if I'm not mistaken, you'll show what insides you've got, too, before long. ... All these--the sort of people that lived in these houses, and all those damn little clerks that used to live down that way--they'd be no good."


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Almost all Nietzscheans in Andromeda—even the non-villainous ones, who are generally "good guys" only in that they exist in a state of permanent Enemy Mine.
  • Almost every bad guy in Babylon 5:
    • The Shadows, known as the Lords of Chaos, espouse a Social Darwinist attitude and manipulate the younger races into interstellar wars to promote chaos and disorder where the strongest rise to the top (it's their way of "helping"). Their Armour Piercing Question, "What do you want?" embodies this by defining the answerer entirely by their own drives and ambitions.
    • The faction of PsiCorps led by Bester also believes this. One has to wonder how they would react if they learned that the development of telepathy was not the result of evolution, but genetic tampering by the Vorlons...
    • The title character in the episode "Deathwalker" was yet another case of this.
    • Another episode had Ivanova trying to negotiate with the Lumati, an alien Planet of Hats species who strongly believe in Social Darwinism; when they discover Downbelow, the "slum" of the station, they approve the "segregation" of "unwanted" elements and agree to grant the desired treaty as well as implement the same system on the Lumati homeworld. When Ivanova tries to correct their misinterpretation, they gently chastise her for her unnecessary modesty.
  • The Doctor Who serial Survival brutally deconstructs this trope / worldview in several ways, most notably by turning the Master into an essentially Social Darwinist villain—all the other characters are exploited for his own survival. He manipulates The Dragon, Midge, by playing on Social Darwinist beliefs—a specific comment on Thatcherism in Eighties Britain. There's also a bullet-headed Territorial Army type who's a determined believer in this type of philosophy, only to completely fall apart when he finds himself actually thrown into an environment where he has to actually practice it. It doesn't end well for him. Ultimately, the 'weaker' characters who work together and are able to overcome their purely individualistic / survivalist instincts do okay, the 'stronger' ones who can't and fall into this trope die.
  • Torchwood: Children of Earth.

Denise: And now the time has come to choose [the children which are to be given over to the 456] and if we can't identify the lowest-achieving 10 per cent of this country's children, then what are the league tables for?

  • Sylar of Heroes. Even he himself defines his actions in terms of evolution. Interestingly enough, he'll generally leave normal people alone as long as they don't stand in his way.
  • Any number of psychos on Millennium fill the bill. The imprisoned Serial Killer in "The Thin White Line" is a prime example.
  • Pick an advanced race in Stargate SG-1. Any advanced race (except the Asgard). Pretty much the omnipresent reasoning for keeping most of humanity at medieval level or below.
  • Examples from Star Trek:
    • Khan is the epitome of a Social Darwinist. He is himself is the product of genetic engineering designed to create stronger, faster, more perfect humans, and feels it's his right to dominate the whole galaxy due to his genetically engineered awesomeness. He fails due to his genetically engineered ego.
    • The Q being from Star Trek: The Next Generation accuses humanity of being a "grievously savage" 'child' race, and says they must be removed to make room for more "worthy" species.
    • In the Backstory of the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Conscience of the King", a dictator of a space colony, when faced with starvation, ordered half the population executed so the rest of the population wouldn't starve to death before the relief ships arrive. This could have been a Shoot the Dog scenario in an I Did What I Had to Do situation, but he chose people based on some sort of genetic superiority basis determined by him instead of more random means. What's particularly sad was that the relief ships arrived months ahead of schedule.
  • Creator King Ryuuwon from Go Go Sentai Boukenger is certainly one of these; his method of creating a Monster of the Week is to have his soldiers fight and kill each other, then promote the one who survives.
  • Ryubee Sonozaki from Kamen Rider Double, as seen with the Gaia Impact in the end of the series. His plan is to unleash a wave of energy that will kill everyone on Earth that isn't compatible with the Gaia Memories, leaving only the "chosen" to rule whatever remains, with himself as leader thanks to his daughter Wakana being the "Earth's Priestess", that is, the one who initiated the impact in the first place. Then Jun Kazu steps in after Ryubee's death and tries to launch the Gaia Impact himself.
  • Lionel Luthor expressed sentiments of this sort in Smallville, but it's his Alternate Universe counterpart, Earth-2 Lionel who truly embodies this. Having risen to become the most powerful man in the world, Earth-2 Lionel maintains that "it's got to be survival of the fittest," a principle he ruthlessly applies to himself and his children, encouraging them to plot against one another and himself to see who deserves to be the true heir to the Luthor name. In a Bad Future in the regular timeline, President Evil Lex Luthor is one as well, plotting to nuke the world so that he can rule over the strongest of humanity's survivors.
  • The Bad Future Overlord version of Wyatt Halliwell in Charmed often invokes this trope. His morality was twisted by having to constantly fend off Elder Gideon's attempts to kill him whilst holding him in captivity, presumably until he finally killed Gideon himself. He rules both the mortal plane and the Underworld with an iron fist. His brother Chris has never been able to sway him to good or escape his target list, because of his philosophy that power rests Above Good and Evil.


Music[edit | hide]

  • When you take the lyrics and music video of Pearl Jam's "Do the Evolution" together, it seems to be a satire of this attitude.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • The drow in Dungeons & Dragons are a Planet of Hats of Exclusively Evil Social Darwinists, due to a spectacularly poor choice in patron deity (a demonic spider-goddess) and living in underworld caves whose native fauna make them nearly a Death World. This does ensure that drow who survive are more dangerous, particularly to each other. Realistic natural selection might well have either wiped them out altogether or forced them to cooperate in a more rational manner. Lolth, their patron deity, tells them to knock it off whenever they fall below a certain point in population. And yes, this makes the drow a race that officially survives on Deus Ex Machina.
  • Also in Dungeons & Dragons, the now-dead god Iyachtu Xvim used to be a Social Darwinist, and didn't like helping the weak like some of the more goody-two-shoes gods, believing that they were directly responsible for their situations and didn't deserve help.
  • The Clans of BattleTech have been bred for war for centuries using intensely competitive rituals to determine whose genes get passed on and whose don't, and believe this makes them worthy of ruling the Inner Sphere. Naturally, they get whipped by the "inferiors", who recognize that you can still be of use in combat over the age of 30. The story of the Clan invasion could be a deconstruction of the whole thing. While their rituals and codes of honor helped perfect the Clans' fighting technique, they forgot many of the pragmatic realities of war. Meanwhile, the Inner Sphere realms were all too familiar with them, thanks to their constantly bickering, possessive, petty leaders.
  • Yawgmoth, from Magic: The Gathering. An unusual example is his nemesis Urza, a protagonist eugenicist; calling him "heroic" would admittedly be a stretch. Urza is such a darwinist that he actually sides with Phyrexia after spending millenia trying to defeat it when he actually visits the place, since Phyrexia is basically everything he ever wanted as an artificer and as a Social Darwinist. Vorinclex from New Phyrexia is a social darwinist as well, to the point of objecting to society at all. The only thing that matters is that ability to kill those weaker. Green and Black, despite being enemy colours, love social darwinism.
  • The RPG Sufficiently Advanced features a Social Darwinist faction that isn't averse to giving natural selection a helping hand.
  • Two examples from Exalted:
    • Lunars have been known to apply this to the societies, both human and beastman, that they set up. Generally, if a nation they've been shepherding is going well, they'll stop giving it covert (or, in some cases, overt) assistance and watch to see what happens. Oh, and for the setting in question, they're good guys, who made colossal sacrifices to stop The Fair Folk from wiping out reality 800 years ago.
    • Cecelyne, one of the Yozis, was responsible for the principle of law in Creation, but it's suggested her ideas, even as a Primordial, were a bit... off. Now that she's been made into a Yozi, her idea of "law" has twisted to "whatever benefits the strong so that they rule over or drive out the weak." Oh, and her chosen are the Dark Messiah caste. Be quite afraid.
  • Both the Imperium and the Eldar in Warhammer 40,000 view all other races and each other as less evolved and inferior. The Orks also do this with their culture based on warfare and toughness.
  • Eclipse Phase has two factions who act like this. The Ultimates are a group of militant ascetics who strive for perfection. While the Exhumans are Singularity-chasing psychopaths who often assume truly horrific morphs and some of which try to be the top of the food chain.
  • The eponymous creatures from Werewolf: The Apocalypse have definite shades of this, in that their leadership is decided by challenges. These can be non-violent challenges but rarely are. The cake is taken by the Get of Fenris tribe, who think being tougher than everyone else is the only worthwhile goal in life.


Videogames[edit | hide]

  • Andrew Ryan from BioShock (series) has been (inaccurately) accused of being this, what with his version of Ayn Rand's Objectivism. He even builds an underwater utopia so that the weak do not keep the strong down. Of course, someone still has to scrub the toilets in Rapture; even if Ryan brought down only the best and the brightest people that fit in with his ideology, people who were once captains of industry back on land were no better than average there, and were disgruntled when they had to work menial jobs that someone's gotta do. On the other hand, Andrew Ryan had a pretty broad view of "strong." For example, he met one of his best friends, Bill McDonough, when the man was installing the plumbing in Ryan's apartment. Ryan had only paid for tin pipes, but McDonough was using copper ones (paying the difference out of his own pocket), because "no one bails water out of privies made by Bill McDonough." The next day, Ryan hired him as his general contractor, and made sure to bring him down to Rapture when the city was built.
  • In Final Fantasy VII Dirge of Cerberus, Weiss the Immaculate announces that he will be slaughtering about half the population to "cleanse the world."
  • The City of Heroes' main bad guy, Lord Recluse, has founded his entire evil organization on Social Darwinism... to the point where he actively encourages every faction to fight against every other faction and backstab each other freely. It's a wonder his plans for world conquest go anywhere when all the bad guys are busy killing each other off instead of fighting the heroes.[3] This does explain why the majority of your enemies in City of Villains are not, in fact, heroes. It should be noted that that while Recluse adheres to Survival of the Fittest, he doesn't let it consume his organization. Anarchy and insubordination are stamped out pretty quickly if they interfere with his plans—hell, one of the few things Villains in his city can't do without restraint is attack civilians. Who else is going to pay Recluse his taxes?
  • Kane from Command & Conquer infuses humans with Tiberium to make them evolve. This is actually more evolutionarily-literate than most examples, as he's trying to make it so they can adapt to Tiberium to allow them to survive on Tiberium-covered worlds instead of just making them tougher or smarter. The tougher part happens but it's more a side effect.
  • Mortimer McMire, The Hero's rival in Commander Keen games, believes that he is the most intelligent being in the universe and that gives him the right to wipe out all the lesser beings. His IQ is 315; Keen has an IQ of 314. Mr. McMire believes Keen can die with the rest, simply because his IQ is one point too short.
  • The Omar from Deus Ex Invisible War. They're a Hive Mind of transhuman cyborgs that consider themselves the future of the human race and plan to replace humanity the old-fashioned way: Wait and let their evolutionary superiority speak for itself. In three of the endings, the Omar see themselves either replaced by the Helios system or exterminated by the Templars or Illuminati -- they're vindicated in the fourth ending if all three conspiracies are defeated, as humanity drives itself to extinction and leaves them to inherit the Earth.
    • At the end of Deus Ex Human Revolution, Sarif talks about "survival of the fittest" and how "some people will be left behind". This characterization, however, is complicated by the fact his company manages to invent a method that makes augmentation substantially cheaper and thus much more accessible than it currently is, which is the opposite course of action to that which one would expect of a social Darwinist.
  • The Altmer/High elves of The Elder Scrolls believe that they descend from the gods, and that the diversity of all other Elven races are the result of "degeneration". They actively try to breed themselves back into their ideal, including killing undesired progeny.
  • Gilgamesh in Fate/stay night's "Unlimited Blade Works" scenario. The modern world is way more populated than the one he used to rule and thus the worth of the individual human has fallen drastically. Thus he plans to spill the contents of the incomplete Grail onto the world; by his logic, those who survive the ensuing apocalypse will be strong and "worthy" enough of his rulership. This may be justified in the terms of the Nasuverse's backstory: the human race has gone waaaaay downhill since the days of Uruk. It's an established fact in Fate/Zero that ancient Babylonians were something of a precursor race with nuclear missiles and spaceships and all kinds of crazy stuff. Gil's reasoning is that mankind's decline is due to the population explosion decreasing the "worth" of a single human life, and given all the crazy supernatural laws that the Nasuverse runs on, he might actually be right about this.
  • Ashnard from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance combines this with being a Blood Knight. Ashera tops him in believing all sentient life is too flawed and must be destroyed to start again. This is the same person that split herself into the goddesses of Order and Chaos because Chaos was her weaker half.

Ashnard: You? Cut me down? Heee... Good. If you possess the strength to do so, then so be it.

  • Wesker is nudged to one of these in Resident Evil 5. He'll give long speeches about his beliefs during boss fights, but—hilariously—your character will start getting annoyed with how he drones on.
  • Both Serpent and Master Albert from Mega Man ZX display traits of this, especially Serpent. Other examples include Aeolus, who believes only the intelligent deserve to live, and Atlas, who believes mankind can only grow and evolve through suffering.
  • Examples from the Shin Megami Tensei series:
    • Chiaki, a rich-brat-turned-demon-queen of Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne leads a faction of Darwinists under the reason of Yosuga. The main character even has the option of joining them and creating a true Social Darwinist world (as soon as you help her kill all the human-like slave race for being too weak). Unique among all the faction leaders, she is the only one to fight you even if you choose her Reason, as there can be only one ruler in the new world.

It should be noted that the world Chiaki is trying to create is logically impossible. Even if she succeeds and the world of Yosuga is created, there would still be some individuals who aren't as strong as others. By Chiaki's logic, these individuals would be unnecessary. Thus, her vision of a world without unnecessary things cannot be made into a reality.

    • This is also the Chaos philosophy in Shin Megami Tensei I and II, where in supporting Lucifer, you fight to eliminate God and create a world where the strong can freely prey upon the weak, and where demonkind are no longer bound by the restraints of God's creation. In Devil Survivor, this is not a belief system you can actively subscribe to. Setting demonkind loose on the world is the result of failure, not success.
    • Asura in Strange Journey believes that civilization itself is a failed concept that takes man away from his "natural" state, and that only in barbarism can humans live properly. His method for creating the "proper" world is the Delphinus Parasite, which erases civilized impulses and reduces victims to snarling violence.
  • Luca Blight from Suikoden II is a particularly extreme and sadistic example.
  • Knights of the Old Republic demonstrates how Sith work like this when you enter the academy on Korriban. One does wonder how the hell their system of backstabbery and "every man for himself" philosophy manages to outnumber and overwhelm the Jedi, who co-operate towards a common cause and don't kill half of their own people. It is mentioned that the Sith will always fail sooner or later because of this, but it's never actually shown in the game. The sequel revisits the academy and shows what happens when you have a bunch of Drunk on the Dark Side Complete Monsters without any strong leadership to guide them: a very empty academy.
  • Also in Knights of the Old Republic, your Sink or Swim Mentor Kreia spends a fair bit of time unleashing a variety of threats on you so that you have to either strengthen to deal with them or die.
    • If you go out of your way to help people you meet in sidequests, she criticizes you, saying that you're robbing them of the chance to overcome obstacles by themselves.
  • BioWare seems like this trope. This is also the nominal philosophy of the Closed Fist in Jade Empire.
  • General Gismor of Drakengard 2, who hides it behind a facade of Knight Templarism.
  • Morrigan of Dragon Age Origins, who takes it to Stupid Evil levels at times.
  • Khamal Rex from Universe At War feels that if any species couldn't keep themselves from getting wiped out by the Hierarchy, then they didn't deserve to live in the first place.
  • The Lugovalian Empire from Infinite Space more or less works in this way, as seen with the throne succession. Apparently, this mindset even works on its citizens, given how strong they are.
  • Charadon, leader of the Doviello, leads a pack of wolves to ravage his own family's village in order to find the strongest and fiercest members of his tribe (the survivors who fight off the wolves). He and the Doviello as a whole are Social Darwinists, though Mahala downplays this.
  • Depending on the route and your affiliation in Armored Core, Jack-O may be the Protagonist or Antagonist. Regardless of which one, you will learn that Ravens who fail to live up to his expectations die a lot sooner than Alliance Ravens.
  • Vulpes Inculta of Fallout: New Vegas claims that the reason main reason he butchered or enslaved nearly the entire town of Nipton is because they were too weak to prevent it, and therefore deserved it. If you decide to kill him, and establish that he was weak as well, his allies will send assassins after you. Guess that "Survival of the Fittest" argument only is applicable when it's convenient to them.

Legate Lanius, The Dragon of Caesar, is this to a much more brutal extent. If he rules the Legion and wins the Battle of Hoover Dam, he makes Vegas into a twisted Warrior Heaven where he puts the world to the sword. In his mind, violence will set the world free, breaking the weak and letting the strong truly thrive.

  • Bass from Mega Man believes he alone is the most powerful robot in the world.
  • The Player Character from EVO the Search For Eden, as well as the Aesop.
  • This is the prevailing philosophy of the city of Magnagora in Lusternia. As the bastion of The Taint (essentially a combo platter of nuclear power and creepily visceral body horror), they believe themselves to be genetically superior to all other civilizations. Their most prosperous race (the Viscanti) inbreeds extensively to maintain its "purity", and they have no moral qualms about attacking, enslaving and eating so-called lesser beings. They also encourage backstabbing, assassination and double-dealing in their aristocracy, reasoning that the survivors of any civil war will be stronger and cleverer than those that failed to defend against them.
  • The Tevinter Imperium runs on this principle according to Fenris from Dragon Age II. Only mages can become nobility there, and only the strongest mages become the movers and shakers in the Imperium. In practice this means that every magister is a Blood Mage since blood magic is too powerful an advantage to pass up. Any mage that didn't use blood magic would quickly be enslaved by another mage with fewer qualms.
  • Apparently, BioWare is fond of this trope. According to Javik from Mass Effect 3, the Prothean civilization worked on this principle, calling it "The Cosmic Imperative", and it combines the natural and social forms. That is, they believed weaker species' societies would only get in the way of the strong and should be crushed. They were willing to uplift lesser races, but only as long as they had something to offer as slaves to the Prothean Empire; the "worthless" races were destroyed. And even for the Prothean client races, it's suggested that much of their cultural identity was wiped out as far as the official record since said person notes that Prothean wasn't just the name of his species or empire but applied to any citizen, Prothean or non, within that empire. Thus if your species joined the Empire, you would stop being say... an earthling and instead be a Prothean.
    • It's even claimed that if another civilization was powerful enough to have defeated the Prothean Empire, they would have willingly subjugated themselves, because obviously that civilization would have been superior. How true this is is very much open for debate, as it never happened until the Reapers came and wiped them out.
    • The Reapers are also this to an extent in that they like strong races because strong races make strong Reapers. Lesser races are still useful... until they're not.
    • Warlord Okeer from Mass Effect 2 also has elements of this. He's a krogan scientist, a member of a species that's been subjected to a genetic weapon that makes only one in every thousand births viable. He thinks this is still too many, as every krogan baby is then "coddled" and viewed as precious when they should be testing their mettle as warriors.


Webcomics[edit | hide]

"If you swim with sharks, you may not get bitten, but don't act like it was an unforeseen tragedy when you do."

  • Troll society in Homestuck is a Proud Warrior Race which encourages all younger members of the species to play deadly games and take justice into their own hands. The theory behind all this is that any troll who gets culled by this wouldn't be fit to be a soldier anyways, and those who do survive will be all the tougher for it.


Web Originals[edit | hide]

  • The RP Survival of the Fittest derives its name from this. Of course, in the games, only one student is allowed to survive, making the use of the term pretty much literal. Characters such as Danya, Steve Wilson, and V3 participant Adam Reeves exhibit Social Darwinist tendencies. Considering that the first two organised and put into execution the program, that's pretty much a given.
  • The three chairmen in Strange Little Band fit this trope. This influences the way they run Triptych.
  • Theatrica


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Fire Lord Ozai in Avatar: The Last Airbender shows signs of this. He even says to Aang in the finale that the Air Nomads deserved to die because they were weak. Likewise, apparently the reason he hated his son so much was because he was weaker than his sister. In a deliciously ironic twist, Ozai is rendered utterly powerless in the finale, with Aang stripping him of his ability to Firebend. To Ozai, this must be a Fate Worse Than Death.
  • The Decepticons from Transformers all appear to be Social Darwinists. Megatron in particular is a stout Social Darwinist both in his views on "flesh creatures" and with other transformers -- "Lesser creatures are the playthings of my will."
  • In Young Justice, Vandal Savage claims that he formed the Light because he believes the Justice League is holding back humanity from its "glorious evolution" as the center of the cosmos.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Nazi Germany famously used social Darwinism to justify various atrocities and as part of their propaganda. A quote attributed to Hitler was: "Success is the sole earthly judge of right and wrong."
  • Sparta. Eugenics was already practiced (before the advent of biological science) by leaving defective and sick babies to die. Think of your childhood consisting of pain (no changing clothes, fighting against your best friends, usually to death, you are encouraged to steal, but if you get caught you were punished... not for stealing, but for getting caught, and finally being dumped in the wilderness, etc). Adulthood was extremely military, and the extreme views of Spartan society have given them an almost mythical reputation in history.
    • Ultimately it undid them, they were limited in number to at most a few thousand of them and the loss of even a few hundred warriors was a major blow to them. They quickly reached their maximum extent.
  • The communities of any form of professional games (as well as anything online.) are pretty much this. They all try to form an elite social class and try to separate themselves from the common rabble. When they can't and are forced to interact with the common rabble, they either delight in beating them, or try to outright kick them to keep an "inferior being" called a "noob" from tainting their games. If they can't, they try to encourage that newbie to Rage Quit by constantly belittling and insulting them. This is worse in some genres (*cough*MOBA*cough*).

Notes

  1. In fact, actual evolutionary scientists posit The Power of Friendship and general co-operation as the best survival strategy for most people most of the time, and human civilization in general.
  2. using this term shows that he fails economics forever
  3. This may have been inspired by the Nazis, who recommended Klingon Promotions and frequently assigned the same task to two or more officials to see who got it done first, promoting infighting. This did not help in making The Trains Run On Time.