In “X-Men Ethics Class: Why Help the Weak If It Thwarts Evolution?” (Salvo 18 (Autumn 2011), Cameron Wybrow teases out the struggle over Darwinian morality that provides an underlying theme for the series, including this summer’s “cream of the crop” instalment, X-Men First Class:
For our purposes here, it is more important to focus on what the X-Men stories get right about Darwinian evolution. While they grossly exaggerate its power and its speed, they portray its general character bang-on. And this is where they lead us to clarity in discussions of “evolutionary ethics.”
According to Darwinian theory, new species emerge when mutations produce individuals who can outperform the stock they came from, with the result that, eventually, the mutant stock replaces the original. Thus, the intermediate creatures between the bat and the primitive insectivores are all extinct, because the modern bat is more fit for its flying environment than were any of them.
The bat has no pity for the failed creatures from the earlier stages of its evolution that were not good enough to survive. Nor, on Darwinian premises, should it. Nature decides, in its cold and pitiless way, who will live and who will die, and which species will thrive and which become extinct. It is pointless and ethically irrelevant to question nature’s decisions.
Ironically, when we come to analyze the positions of Professor X, the hero, and of Magneto, the villain, we are led to the curious conclusion that Magneto is philosophically the more coherent of the two, because he is actually more in tune with the pure logic of Darwinism. This becomes clear if we consider the positions of two real-life writers on evolution and ethics, Richard Dawkins and Larry Arnhart. …