Abstract and Keywords
This article explores the debate over evolutionary morality. While much evidence supports the scientific validity of evolution, it could not resolve was the origin of ethical behavior, thus hindering its popular acceptance as a theory of human and social development; this is one reason for the religious objection to evolution. The moral quandary galvanized many American novelists who were especially fascinated and disturbed by the implications of human evolution. Henry James, Theodore Dreiser, Edith Wharton, Frank Norris, and Jack London wrote pessimistic stories of the consequences of human and social development. James and Wharton appropriated evolutionary ideas in order to reveal the way group dynamics force certain individuals to conform or perish, while Dreiser, Norris, and London examined directly the ethical limitations of human evolution. These narratives inevitably criticized the evolutionary worldview as too deterministic, reductive, and aggressive.
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