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The Social Darwinist
"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

For those who live by "Survival of the Fittest", you are either a predator or the main course.

The Social Darwinist is someone who believes that the Darwinist theory of evolution — i.e. "survival of the fittest" to oversimplify it — applies literally 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 (often, they may not consider that their chances for survival may have started higher than others due to reasons such as inherited wealth or social prestige). They typically state that We Have Become Complacent and stupid, and want to remove weakness and stupidity from society. It may seem to some that because humans aren't currently having wars/disaster and humans aren't endangered as a species that evolution in humans has ceased altogether.

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 five 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. Frequently this will be held even in settings where the people in charge are clearly getting there through Nepotism, or otherwise as a result of luck and privilege. Despite it being nothing more than a Theme Park Version, this philosophy is still frequently held by both fictional characters and some Real Life corporate executives..
  2. The second 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 reproduce 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.
  3. The third 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. Many such characters hope to create the Transhuman Ultimate Life Form — to which, of course, the character him- or herself will belong. This type is also what Those Wacky Nazis had on mind with Aktion T-4.
  4. The fourth type is simply selfish and uses Social Darwinism as just a justification for sociopathic behavior. This character may not actually believe it and may not even care, but finds Social Darwinism to be a convenient justification or excuse for the way they were going to behave anyway. Often overlaps with Straw Hypocrite.
  5. The fifth type believe that competition, suffering and struggle makes the individual, and possibly a society (as a whole), superior. They tend to believe in Evil Virtues like cunning, ruthlessness, opportunism and the ability to endure and survive by any means necessary, and tend to have a cynical view of the world as a hard, harsh place and that Hobbes Was Right; they may also / instead suffer from Evil Cannot Comprehend Good and thus undervalue non-Social Darwinist virtues like kindness or pacifism. A Real Man Is a Killer logic often falls into this category as does War Is Glorious. Those Wacky Nazis held to this view as well. Differ from the first in that they don't necessarily believe that those at the top always deserve it; they tend to take a Might Makes Right view of things, and the most sincere of this kind do not believe the struggle ever ends.

If the Social Darwinist doesn't suffer a Karmic Death, the heroes "disprove" his might-makes-right philosophy by demonstrating the The Power of Friendshipnote : either by ganging up and beating the crap out of him and his cronies, or by the leader of the group (often the All-Loving Hero) doing it himself while repeatedly driving home that he's fighting for his friends. A particularly profound way this to happen is to have the character beaten by a character who is either a visible minority the Social Darwinist considers inferior or has a glaring physical or mental handicaps.

More sympathetic Social Darwinists (i.e. if they aren't hypocrites) will often begin to respect the heroes after their defeat; they may turn into a Worthy Opponent or even become a NobleBigot as they struggle with their beliefs and begrudgingly admit that a group they had considered inferior does in fact have worthy people among them. Their beliefs might be a Tragic Flaw if they were drilled into them from a young age or they actually had to live in such a place were their views are justified.

Compare Evilutionary Biologist, Evil Evolves, and Kill the Poor and Slobs Versus Snobs. Sometimes overlaps with Objectivism and the "▄bermensch" concept. There's a bit of this trope in the Satisfied Street Rat. Likewise, characters with a Darwinist Desire are usually only interested in applying social Darwinism on themselves and their offspring rather than imposing it on society, though both tropes can overlap in the same character. Compare and contrast Living Is More Than Surviving - Social Darwinist will variably put either survival or quality of life on top of others.

Note that Charles Darwin himself would not be amused by all these people 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 Darwinism is a description of the way species work, not a prescription for what species should live and die. See Appeal to Nature for the fallacy of using "nature" to prescribe any behaviour (moral, immoral or not), and also see the Analysis 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

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    Anime and Manga 
  • After taking a level in jerkass and pursuing apostles on his quest for revenge, Guts in Berserk adopts this as his philosophy, saying that people who are too weak to survive in the Crapsack World that they live in deserve to die.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 is General Badass and leads the Briggs fortress border troops, who are the most Bad Ass 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.
  • Lord Fezearl Ezelcant from Gundam AGE believes that the only way to create a perfect world is to wipe out the weak. It doesn't matter to Ezelcant if you're caught in the middle of an attack on a Federation colony, suffering from the overwhelming poverty within Vagan or dying from diseases due to Mars Ray exposure. If you do not have the will to survive and the willpower to do ANYTHING to have the means to do so, you don't belong in his utopia and you deserve to die. What makes this hilarious is that he states that he thinks peaceful and kindhearted people will come out of this, rather than hardened survivors. Thus proving that Social Darwinists don't always understand the very science they're putting their faith in.
  • The Leader of the PLANTS from Gundam SEED, Chairman Patrick Zala, actively believes that Coordinators, genetically modified humans, are a different species from Natural-born humans. This leads him to actively pursue the death of every single Natural on the planet Earth. (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.)
  • 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".
  • Mazinger Z: The Dragon Baron Ashura is a type four who uses the "survival of the fitest" like an excuse/justification to make whatever he wants. In a story arc of the Gosaku Ota manga alternate continuity Baron Ashura manages kidnapping Kouji and tries to talking Kouji in joining him (or her. It. Whatever). When Kouji retorts he has no interest in becoming a criminal, Ashura goes in a What Is Evil? Might Makes Right angry rant, uttering that in the nature the weak succumbs to the will of the strong and the strong survives. That is how the world always did, does and will work, and "good", "bad", "peace", "justice"... are meaningless, empty words human beings came up with because they are too coward to accept reality and too weak to protect themselves.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • To be fair to Morgan, he never figured out that he was a patsy and presumably having his arm and jaw cut off made him quite a grumpy person. And while it doesn't justify his actions, Arlong was of victim a racism since he was a child. These guys don't hold a light to the Celestial Dragons, who basically run around, getting away with whatever they please because they can. Whatever they please includes murder, slavery, and setting the poor district of towns on fire before they arrive anywhere. This trope is best shown with how rich families reacted to the destruction of the poor district: "It's their own fault, they shouldn't have been born poor."
  • 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 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...
  • In Saint Beast, Zeus believes that angels who are not "beautiful and strong" are not fit to serve him.
  • 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.
  • Esdese in Akame ga Kiru!. It's only natural for the weak to perish, after all. To her, the feelings of the "weak" are utterly incomprehensible and absurd.
  • Black Butler: Sebastian frequently sneers at humanity's weakness, vulgarity and paradoxically self-destructive behavior. Seeing being born a demon automatically makes him to be The Ace and The Sociopath, it makes some sense.
  • PokÚmon: The First Movie is a somewhat strange example of the trope, due to the shifting of roles between the Japanese and English versions of the film. Both Mew and Mewtwo have shades of this in the Japanese version, though it is Mew, the hero, that is more of a Darwinist; in fact, it's Mew that offers the suggestion that the two sides fight without their abilities. In the English version, Mew shows none of these traits, leaving Mewtwo as the sole Darwinist.
  • Several superpowered characters living in Academy City in A Certain Magical Index believe the powerful rule and the weak are just fodder and playthings for them. Shizuri Mugino used to be like this, but after her Heel-Face Turn, she's done a full 180 turn in attitude. Having grown to love and respect Shiage Hamazura, the Badass Normal who managed to defeat her, she learns about how Academy City allocates funds to people with promising powers while denying them to people with weak powers or none (like Shiage), assuming they are worthless. Mugino gets angry and declares that Shiage may not have any powers but he is definitely not worthless.
  • In Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, Corset says something along these lines when he's attempting to unleash Hell on Earth.
  • In Madan no Ou to Vanadis, Duke Thenardier, one of the main antagonists of the first five volumes, is this due to his upbringing by his father. He killed all of his siblings to rise to power, and holds no sympathy for anyone he considers weak besides his son, which is why he decides to raze Alsace to the ground in Volume 1 and levies ridiculously high taxes on anyone he considers useless or weak.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: This is Kyoko's philosphy and she sees magical girls as the apex predator. Within magical girls, a weaker one must yield their territory to a stronger one or die.
  • In Animal Land, Jyu completely believes in the "survival of the fittest" notion wherein strong animals prey on and can do anything towards weaker animals. He is totally against anything that goes against this notion, such as animals working together, as he sees it as a lie to the natural order of things.
  • Kill la Kill's Satsuki Kiryuuin holds to the mantra of survival of the fittest so strongly that she literally decides her Absurdly Powerful Student Council by a "Naturals Election", which is held exactly as you'd think it would be.
    Satsuki: All students have the right to attack all other students! Secret meetings, scheming, backstabbing, anything goes! Seven days from now, reach the schoolyard alive, and then use your strength to lay claim on your social standing once again!
  • Koichi Shidou from Highschool of the Dead, when he kicks a student off a bus after he sprains his ankle, saying that the weak don't deserve to live in this world.
  • Satyajit Shyamalan from Birdy the Mighty: Decode is one, and believes that the next step on humanity's evolutionary path is to use a super weapon to wipe out all of humanity but those he considers most worthy. His main criteria for determining those superior is whether they, like himself, had survived a major war or disaster that would lead to mass casualties.

    Comic Books 
  • Jack Chick assumes that this is what the Theory of Evolution 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). What makes his views especially ironic is the fact that it was born out of the persecution he suffered at the hands of the Nazis.
    • 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, 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'.
  • In the New 52, the villain Harvest collects superpowered teens and forces them to fight each other to the death in an event he calls "The Culling", so that he can determine the strongest and rule over the survivors, who become his Ravagers. While Harvest is impressed by Superboy's power, he declares him a failure because of he will not kill his defeated foes. Later it's revealed that his real motivation is Fantastic Racism. He hates metahumans in general because his son was killed by a metahuman.
  • Superman villain Manchester Black overlaps this with Might Makes Right. He and his group are the world's most powerful super-humans, so they should naturally have authority over the rest of mankind and are able to force them to obey their own morals and laws. Superman twists this trope around by not only being stronger than Black, but by demonstrating why putting this theory into practice is a VERY bad idea.

    Fan Fiction 

    Films — Animated 
  • Commander Rourke of Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire fits this to such an extent that he invokes Darwin by name:
    Rourke: Get off your soap box, Thatch. You've read Darwin. It's called Natural Selection. We're just helping it along.
  • 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!
  • King, the leader of the Rogues and the Big Bad of Alpha and Omega 2: A Howl-iday Adventure, is a wolf who espouses such views. He is obsessed with the purity and strength of himself and his Rogues and is quick to mock any perceived weakness.
  • Upon becoming a Corrupt Corporate Executive, the Once-ler in The Lorax adaptation adopts this mindset to rationalize his actions. In a cut song titled "Biggering" he goes farther and compares his company to an animal that must ruthlessly fight for survival, regardless of what it destroys.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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 Social Darwinism of the economic kind. Several of his quotes are "It's a Zero Sum game´┐Żsomebody 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. However, he only applies this trope to companies: weak people don't die, they just don't succeed in business, which is a fairly basic tenet of capitalism. Of course, he's more than willing to cheat to win if he can't succeed on pure talent.
  • In First Knight, the villain Malagant is a firm believer in this, and cannot understand his rival King Arthur's philosophy that it is the duty of the strong to help and protect the weak. He hypocritically calls Arthur a tyrant for trying to stop him from terrorizing the weak peasants.
  • Alien:
    Ash: You still don't know what you're dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. It's structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.
    Lambert: You admire it.
    Ash: I admire its purity. A survivor... unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.
  • In Piranha 3DD, David Hasselhoff, playing himself, refuses to help rescue people from the piranha-infested waters, saying he's letting natural selection chose the survivors.
  • Hugo Drax in Moonraker, who planned to use a lethal nerve gas to wipe out all humans on earth and repopulate it with the ones he chose as superior beings.
  • In An American Werewolf in Paris, Claude gives a speech saying he hates institutions like hospitals and charities because their only purpose is to extend the lives of the weak, in turn weakening the human race as a whole. Combined with Fantastic Racism, he also considers werewolves like himself to be superior to ordinary humans.
  • A running theme throughout multiple stories in Cloud Atlas. Hugo Weaving's character(s) echo the phrase "There's a natural order to things" in various contexts.
  • Mentioned in the Holocaust docudrama Conspiracy. When Heydrich finishes the conference, he echoes the Nazi views on evolution as he gloats that the genocide of the Jews will "advance the human race to greater purity in a space of time so short Charles Darwin will be astonished". Or he would be. Evolution doesn't work that way.
  • Jordan Belfort and all of his underlings at Stratton Oakmont in The Wolf of Wall Street.
  • It's developed more in the Expanded Universe, but this is the ideology taken by the Sith of Star Wars fame. They believe that the strong have the right to control the weak (usually non-Force users,) and in their own order establish a desire to replace one's master so that both sides will remain as strong as possible against one another. The latter is the main reasoning behind the Rule of Two: the apprentice will become stronger to usurp the master, and the master will become stronger to prevent himself being usurped.
    • Also, the Neimoidians (the species in charge of the Trade Federation in the prequel movies) had a similar system, not where the strong survive, but the smart. Neimoidians were insect-like humanoids who begin life as grubs, who the adults raise in communal hives, and only give a limited amount of food. Grubs who show ingenuity and cleverness learn how to collect and hoard food for themselves, while those who don't starve before they can mature. This system has made the race masters of strategy and politics, but it has also made them incredibly greedy by nature, and terrified of death.
  • In In Time, rich businessman Phillipe Weis says the system where the rich live forever and people die if they go broke fits the policies of "Survival of the Fittest" and "Natural Selection". He's so obsessed with Darwinism that the password to his vault is "12021809", Charles Darwin's birthday.

    Jokes 
  • An old joke: two friends are trekking through the jungle and set up camp for the night. At one point, one of them sits bolt upright and says "Listen! I heard a sound. I think it's a lion." The other simply gets out of bed and starts putting on a pair of shoes. The first friend looks at at the second friend incredulously and says "What on Earth are you doing? You can't possibly outrun a lion." The second friend looks the first right in the eye and says: "I don't have to outrun the lion."
    • Deconstructed in the Doctor Who story discussed below; while explaining the joke to a listener who didn't get itnote , the Doctor points out that while it's effective in a ruthless sort of way, it's effective one time only — who's the surviving friend going to outrun when the next lion shows up?

    Literature 
  • Who is John Galt? Well, whatever else he is, as the poster boy for Objectivism he is certainly this.
  • 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 because his chief servants, the Forsaken, fight with each other as much as with Rand al'Thor- except that he actually seems to like that, too. He is the personification of not only evil, but also chaos and paradox, after all.
  • 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 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.
  • General Zaroff's excuse for hunting others for his amusement in The Most Dangerous Game stem from the fact that he believes that the people that he hunts are weak and that he is strong. The other excuse is that hunting animals was starting to bore him.
  • 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 alien wolves, his response is to bolt for the nearest building and lock the door, leaving the rest of the team out.
    • In the same series, the villains of Anne McCaffrey and S.M. Stirling's The City That Fought are a 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 every other species on the Discworld, view humans only as prey for vampires, and 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 sent to the land of The Plains, 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 unless magical healing is available. The heroine gets a broken leg, but survives by persuading them to wait until she completes a sacred duty first. Her leg is eventually magically healed.
  • 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." And you'd better believe this comes back to bite him later on.
  • The Artilleryman in H. G. Wells's The 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."
  • Visser One of Animorphs subscribes to this philosophy, believing that morality is merely a 'shield for the weak' and that it is all about 'the hunger for power'. She kills several people just out of assuming they're as ruthless as she is. It turns out she doesn't totally believe this since she had a soft spot for the children she raised while on Earth. One of the reasons she took a less forceful approach to conquering Earth was to avoid endangering them.
  • Tigerstar and other villains in Warrior Cats say that weak cats should either look after themselves or die.
    • In Crookedstar's Promise, Crookedstar and Oakheart's mother Rainflower arranges for the latter to be mentored by their father Shellheart...though it's uncommon for parents to mentor their children in the series. When questioned about it, she declares that only the strongest mentors could train the best apprentices. Right in front of Crookedstar.
  • Shoteka from Seeker Bears, Toklo's rival, tells him that weak bears should be killed or else the healthier bears would die as well.
  • John Taylor Gatto (a former schoolteacher) has published works on the history of schooling and argued that social Darwinism was the point. School is based on a "mudsill theory" of man in which everyone but a small section of humanity is considered to be worthless. Darwinian competitions in school are supposed to flush out the trash, i.e. anyone who cannot fit into the enivronment and thrive.
  • Crom, god of the Cimmerians in Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories. He breathes life and strength into his followers at birth and after that they're on their own. Any plea for help is more likely to be punished than rewarded.
  • The future dystopia in Red Rising runs according to this philosophy. Democracy is scorned because of how it allows the "weak" a say and instead, society is rigidly stratified with castes genetically engineered to look differently, with the highest caste, the Goldes, being tall and muscular "gods" with Supernatural Gold Eyes. Within the Gold caste itself, leaders are selected according to Social Darwinism by use of The Spartan Way- the first night in, pairs of student trainees are put in a room together and only one is allowed to leave alive. After that, students take part in a deadly version of Capture the Flag in which proctors do nothing to prevent cheating let alone abusing or killing opponents. The goal is so that whoever comes out alive or (better yet) wins the game will be the best leader on account of being the most clever and ruthless.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • On The Knick, Herman Barrow, the hospital administrator, is a committed social Darwinist. He's an equally committed racist. Still, the show is set in 1900 New York, making it more Fair for Its Day than not.
  • Almost every bad guy in Babylon 5:
    Barrow: The poor are just weaker than us.
    • 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. Her species, the Dilgar, invaded multiple other races in a war a few decades ago, during which she was apparently the alien equivalent of Dr. Mengele. However the Dilgar were wiped out by the Earth Alliance and allied races in retaliation. She claims that the other races earned the Longevity Treatment she developed by driving her race to extinction, but is actually attempting to get revenge by giving them a serum that requires Human Resources to make, thus driving them into chaos if her ship hadn't been vaporized by the Vorlons.
    • 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.
    • One alien species constructed an indestructible killer robot to wipe out all "impure" members. It found out, unsurprisingly, that there is no such thing as "pure" and ended up killing all of them for "impurity".
  • The Doctor Who serial Survival 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). The omnipresent reasoning for keeping most of humanity at medieval level or below.
  • Plenty of 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.
    • Though justified in-universe, the Prime Directive seems to apply this to non-warp-capable civilizations in dictating (in effect) that they should be allowed to go extinct rather than having their "natural evolution" interrupted.
  • Creator King Ryuuwon from GoGo 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.
  • Universe at War the Hierarchy have decimated millions of worlds before coming to Earth, they believe that they are killing off the weak and they are superior to all.
  • Kamen Rider Gaim: The Rival Kaito Kumon, AKA Armored Rider Baron, presents an unusual Jerk with a Heart of Gold spin on this trope. On the one hand, he sided with a group that's willing to let the Alien Kudzu take over Earth because he feels it'll cull the weak. On the other hand, rather than advocating Might Makes Right, he believes that the weak have a duty to become strong enough to stand up on their own two feet so nobody can push them around anymore. He doesn't boast about his own strength, but believes that only those who seek out strength are worthy of respect; the strong who oppress the weak are the enemy, while the weak who do nothing about it are beneath notice. The Fansubbers at Ăsir have noted that this makes Kaito's dialog very difficult to translate accurately.

    Music 
  • In addition to being quite the misanthrope and troll, Boyd Rice includes many of his social darwinist views in his lyrics. It's more apparent in his essays, though, in which he makes a very good case for Social Darwinism.
  • 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.
  • "Weed Out the Weak" by Hypocrisy.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Skaven and the Greenskins (Goblinoids) in Warhammer. Also the Dark Elves, to certain extent.
    • The Word of God is notoriously ambiguous whether all greenskins represent the same species or if Snotlings, Goblins and Orcs are actually three separate species. The authors of the game just mention that the greenskins never stop growing before they die...
    • Life is cheap if you have fur or green skin. This trope makes sense in this concept.
  • The drow in Dungeons & Dragons are a Planet of Hats of Always Chaotic 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.
    • A Dungeons & Dragons by way of Eberron example are the Children of Winter, a Druidic sect who believe that the world passes through distinct season-like stages and the recent occurrence of the Mourning is a sign of the dawning of Winter. Thus, if the sapient races are to survive until the Spring, the weak must be culled from the herd. To this end, they propagate natural disasters (famine, plague, etc) and interfere with efforts to alleviate such. In theory, they are Well Intentioned Extremists. In practice, most D Ms tend to use them as handy "guys you can punch in the face without feeling guilty", similar to the Ashbound (who are an Anti-Magical Faction in a world that runs on Magitek of the "industrialised spellcasting" variety).
  • 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 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 green-blue Simic Combine from Ravnica had shades of this. They engineered plagues to kill off the weak and sold cures to the highest bidder.
  • 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.
    • Dark Eldar are almost exactly the same as the Orks, except replace size and toughness with skill and cunning. Dark Eldar society requires all of it's members to be Crazy-Prepared Magnificent Bastards, or they'll be backstabbed and betrayed by even more ambitious and cunning rivals and underlings. As such, Dark Eldar kabal society is constantly shifting around as warriors, dracons and archons climb up the ladder... or get kicked off it.
    • Chaos worshipers. One of their mottos is "purge the weak".
    • There exists a school of thought within the Imperial Inquisition called the Istvaanians. They believe that the Imperium grows stronger through conflict. If a certain Imperial sector is currently enjoying peace, they might stir up a conflict, just to make sure the populace are on their toes. They may also set up a "crucible of fire" to ensure that only the strong survive. They will monitor any conflicts they start for particularly strong, cunning and/or ruthless candidates to strengthen the Imperium. Behold, the only people in the setting who would argue that the Imperium's problem is that it's not fighting enough wars.
  • 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.
    • The Ratkin (wererats) and Ajaba (werehyenas) are extreme social darwinists. The former were tasked with killing humans when the human population grew too larger, and the latter kill humans who are old, sick, or weak.

    Video Games 
  • Andrew Ryan from BioShock has shades of 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. 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, Ryan had a fairly broad definition 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. note  This does explain why the majority of your enemies in City of Villains are not, in fact, heroes. 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 — 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." However, he's a Honest Corporate Executive and the closest thing to a Big Good the game has, and he's referring to the few people who are completely incompatible with augmentations, which he honestly wants to make available for everyone.
  • 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.
    • Molag Bal is the Daedric Prince of Corruption and Domination. He's pretty keen on the idea of the strong dominating the weak. In Skyrim he goads you into killing the Vigilant of Stendarr who accompanied you into his House of Horrors because "Weak. He's weak. You're strong. Kill!"
  • 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.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • Chiaki, a rich-brat-turned-demon-queen of Shin Megami Tensei III: 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.

      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, 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.
    • In Devil Survivor 2 this is the philosophy subscribed to by Keita and Yamato Hotsuin and the latter provides the opportunity for the Player Character to institute a world based on meritocracy and social darwinism where the 'great' are given infinite opportunity for advancement. While said philosophy mostly reads like a 17-year old's understanding of Ayn Rand filtered through his extremely privileged upbringing, Yamato is unusual in that he uses the series' traditional Law imagery even though he subscribes to a Chaos philosophy (similarly, his opponent Ronaldo follows the philosophy of Law, but uses the methods of Chaos).
    • Asura in Shin Megami Tensei: 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 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 villains 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. Although she also criticizes you for being too harsh...
  • 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. He even uses you as proof, stating that being shot and left for dead forced you to become strong.
    • Caesar's Legion in general operate on a belief in survival through personal strength. In Lonesome Road, if you tell Ulysses that you killed Caesar, he'll respond that by the logic of the Legion, he wasn't strong enough to be a leader if he couldn't even defend himself.
  • Bass from Mega Man believes he alone is the most powerful robot in the world.
  • 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. 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.
  • This is the Riddler's MO in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Who cares if people die in his traps? If they're not smart enough to figure them out, they don't deserve to live. Really, he's doing a public service.
  • Halo: The Precursors are sort of like this, they created the Flood to test out humanity (who were an advanced interstellar empire a long time ago), and the Forerunners. The ones who could defeat the Flood are the ones who are worthy to inherit The Mantle of the Precursors.
    • Well, that might have been their orignal plan anyway. Now it's been revealed they are the Flood, and their goal is simply revenge.
  • In Sid Meierĺs Alpha Centauri this is the Spartan Federation's hat, along with Crazy Survivalist. Expanded Universe materials show that weak children are killed (though Colonel Santiago makes an exception for her son).
  • Prototype 2: Alex Mercer has decided that humanity is corrupt beyond saving and thinning out the weak while turning the rest into Hive Mind "Evolved" is the way to go. Interestingly, they're completely not a hypocrite about this: when Heller has him thoroughly defeated and seconds away from being consumed, Mercer's only comment is a calm "Huh. Welcome to the top of the food chain."
  • The Mantid in World of Warcraft are born from massive clutches laid by the Empress. The resulting Swarm then attacks the lands to the east, and are inevitably driven back by the Pandarens. Those who return alive are fully accepted into the Mantid Empire as adults. To the Mantid, the Pandarens' main reason for existing is to kill the weak swarm-born.
    • The Mogu. They believe that they are superior to other races in Pandaria. Leading to abuses such as sending slaves to be fodder, destroying their cultural heritage, to even putting their dead slaves' souls into statues brainwashed to serve them. All of this was justified by the not-altogether-inaccurate belief that it is the Titans' will.
    • Garrosh Hellscream has displayed tendencies toward this, praising strength and one's ability to contribute to the Horde. When he attempted to empower his soldiers with Sha, he continually told them that only the strongest would be able to conquer the darker emotions and gain control of its strength.
  • The Zerg are revealed to be this in StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, however they're a bit more complex version. Rather than the weak should be crushed, it's "we should be strong so we won't be crushed".
  • Neverwinter Nights 2's Bishop openly believes that the concept of civilization is a sham and that Might Makes Right. In most of the endings this leads him to ruin and death when the Player Character's might proves stronger than the Big Bad's.
  • The DonPachi series has Colonel Longhena.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.
  • In the visual novel Monster Girl Quest, there's a monster by the name of Cassandra who operates like this. She repeatedly kills people, then justifies doing so by saying only the strong deserve to survive anyway. Then, Luka's companion Alice turns one of Cassandra's own attacks back on her...and Cassandra then starts begging for help as she is about to be devoured alive by her own attack. Alice refuses; after all, by Cassandra's own logic, if Cassandra is killed now, then it's because she was too weak.
  • Karales and Rei Hinomiya from Yumina The Ethereal.

    Webcomics 
  • The Ninja Professor from Irritability not only teaches a course on Survival of the Fittest but strives to make it as dangerous and difficult as possible to weed out the weak students.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, self-described ▄bermensch Galatea offers her take on this philosophy here, and then gets taught its shortcomings almost instantly.
  • One of the justifications the protagonists of Suicide for Hire use for their business is that their clients are Too Dumb to Live.
    "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.
  • The protagonists of Suicide for Hire switch between types 1 and 4, they justify their chosen profession to themselves as ridding the world of idiots.

    Web Originals 
  • The RP Survival of the Fittest derives its name from this. In the games, only one student is allowed to survive, making the use of the term 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 a given.
  • The three chairmen in Strange Little Band fit this trope. This influences the way they run Triptych.
  • Metapedia, a pro-Aryan Wiki which denies the Holocaust ever happened and consistently uses derogatory terms to refer to black people (going so far as to depicting an orangutan's brain as that of a black man). Cracked provides us a summary.
  • Shadow Stalker of Worm is the selfish type, embracing a twisted Might Makes Right philosophy more to justify her own general sociopathy than out of any genuine ideology.
  • Whateley Universe has Crucible, a Well-Intentioned Extremist of type five, who goes around making people 'live up to their potential' by using hypertech to deliberately cause disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and meteor strikes. To him, what is a few thousand deaths and tens of thousands of lives ruined if it manages to make a hundred or so people 'rise to the occasion' and become more heroic, more aware, and more thankful for their lives?

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time, Goliad picks up this philosophy after spending one day at a daycare and seeing force work where diplomacy fails to keep the children from running amok. Princess Bubblegum realizes how dangerous this train of thought is and tries to impress upon Goliad how a leader should care for its subjects by comparing leadership to the relationship between a bee and a flower. Goliad rejects this lesson and offers her own interpretation of the bee-flower relationship:
    "You're wrong, Princess. Bee cares not for flower. If getting pollen hurts or kills flower, Bee would not care. ::crushes bee:: Bee is stronger than flower. ::reanimates bee:: Goliad is stronger than Bee. Goliad is stronger than all...
  • 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.
  • Daffy Duck of Looney Tunes fame became this under Chuck Jones' pen, a self proclaimed self preservationist will do anything to save or simply indulge his own hide, especially if means taking down a certain rabbit.
    Daffy: Survival of the fittest, like they say... and besides, it's fun.
  • 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."
    • For some of the Megatrons throughout the years, this is why they kept Starscream (or one of his expies) around. Megatron knew Starscream was plotting to take over, and staying one step ahead of him was proof that he was a Magnificent Bastard worthy of ruling the Deceptions, but if Starscream manages to usurp him, then he deserves to lead.
  • In Young Justice, Vandal Savage claims that he formed the Light to advance humanity's evolution both on Earth and throughout the cosmos.
    "Fifty thousand years of life, and nothing ever troubled me as much as the founding of the Justice League. Dedicating to maintaining society's calcified status quo, the League would protect mankind from disaster, crime, tragedy of any kind. Had you never heard of the survival of the fittest? In essence, you heroes sought to protect humanity from its own glorious evolution."
  • Superjail!: The Warden, in a flash back as a little boy, is forced by his Jerk Ass father to decapitate a puppy because it is "weak".
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars has the villain Pre Vizsla, who has incredible murderous disdain for any being he perceives as weak. When Darth Maul kills him, he accepts his death, as Maul proved himself the stronger warrior.

    Real Life 
  • Averted with the Trope Namer: Darwin himself, later in his life, went at length explaining why this trope was wrong. First was that we do not know what traits that humanity needs to survive in the future, so purging any "undesirables" could and would weaken us as a species. Second was that Humans Are Special and even if you come from a long line of "undesirables" you can rise above it. Like if a person comes from a long line of uneducated people and then go on to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
  • 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." He carried this to its logical conclusion when he lost. Because Germany's enemies won he thought that they were obviously superior racially, so he tried to destroy Germany itself in the last months of the war. Thankfully, saner heads prevailed and his orders weren't carried out.
  • 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 because 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.
    • Social Darwinism was of no avail against corruption. The image which we have today of Sparta is the idealized version of Plato, not the realistic version of Thucydides, who described Sparta to be a thoroughly corrupt military dictatorship. The Persians described the Spartans as the most easily corruptible of all Greeks and their loyalty was easy to buy. Athenians were the most difficult to buy.
      • The other issue that was the undoing of Sparta is that their state would not exist without being held up by slave-labor. Without their slaves, Sparta collapsed rather quickly.
  • The communities of any form of professional games (as well as anything online.) are 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. Sometimes the noobs do win, but end up becoming the same elite.
    • This happens very frequently with games that have a free weekend event or a sale. The skilled players will usually be the first ones to complain about the incoming swarm of noobs that will ruin their games and sometimes said players will also try to completely troll the new players.
    • Even online co-op games aren't safe from people who want to display how their skills are best and anyone that is inferior doesn't deserve to play with them. Snobby players will also use selectable difficulty levels as an excuse to belittle people that complain how something is too hard.
    • Suffers Newbies Poorly is this in community trope.
  • Sadly, this trope is well alive in the business world.
  • The Vitality Curve strategy in corporation HR, or "rank and yank", where 10% of the work force is sacked every year to get rid of the worst performing employees. In reality, after a couple of years when the worst employees have been terminated, continuing this policy leads into unnecessary corporation politicking instead of improving workplace morale and performance.
  • There are a few hundred editions of old medical, anthropological, and sociological treatises and textbooks (debunked, naturally, since the 1930s or so) that held that Europeans constituted some sort of 'Master Race' and that this was 'proved' by their economic development (Industrial Revolution and all that) and success in declaring protectorates over areas like Sub-Saharan Africa where there were few-to-no ethnic Europeans. Which European 'race' was the Master Race, on the other hand, was up for spirited debate. Somewhat amusingly, in Britain The Irish were postulated as belonging to an Ibero-Celtic (Spanish-Celtic) race that was theorised as being more or less equidistant from the Anglo-Germanic 'Master Race' and the Central-African Ape-Slave Racenote .
    • Which actually is only because 'whites' were inadvertently the Plague Master. From the time of the Han and Roman Empires (c. 0 AD) 'til 1520 Eurasia always had at least 300 million people swanning around and being all disease-y with each other. The Americas, on the other hand, would have been luck to find 50 million to rub together (and many of those people were nomadic and so were always at arm's-length from each other). In other words, there was absolutely no way that the Americans were going to get the better end of the deal in the event of any kind of disease exchange between Eurasia and The Americas. The Americas may have given Eurasia Syphilis; Eurasia gave The Americas Measles, Smallpox, Typhus, Malaria, and about a bajillion different variants of the common cold. While each of these was pretty bad separately, with an average death-rate of 10-30% apiece for each new variant of these disease to hit Eurasia, all of these diseases arrived in The Americas at the same time.
  • As the above shows that this trope in Real Life doesn't really work. Pretty much it doesn't matter how much better, stronger, faster, or smarter you are than everyone else if you piss off everyone else to the point where they gang up on you. In fact most evolutionary biologists are certain that the two traits that enabled humanity to conquer the planet are tool use, and a greater ability to cooperate and coordinate than practically every other species.


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alternative title(s): Social Darwinist; The Eugenicist; The Strong Should Dominate The Weak; Social Darwinism
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