After reading this article you will learn about the scientific discoveries that influenced Marx and Engel.
The Marxists have discovered a close relationship between the emergences of Marxism the several important scientific discoveries that took place in the first half of the nineteenth century.
These scientific discoveries in a large way stimulated the growth of capitalism variously and again all these inspired Marx and Engels to think about social, economic and political conditions in the light of the new situation.
There were three scientific discoveries that inspired Marx and Engels to think everything in a different and new way. One was the discovery of the law of conversion of energy. The second was the discovery of cellular structure of living organisms and, finally, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
In the forties of the nineteenth century the German physician Julius Robert Mayer explained the law of conversion and conservation of energy. According to Mayer certain quantity of motion in one of its forms is converted into an equal quantity of motion in any other forms.
It was proved that heat, light and other states of matter are qualitatively definite forms of its motion and this motion cannot be created or destroyed but is constantly converted from one state to another.
This scientific discovery is at the root of dialectical understanding of the change of social process. In the physical world there is motion and in society there is a change and from this Marx and Engels established the theory of dialectical materialism.
Again, the discovery of cellular structure of living matter is at the root of materialistic understanding of the unity of life in all its diversity.
A critic observes:
The cellular theory proved the internal unity of all living beings and indirectly pointed to the unity of their origin. Dialectical materialist conclusions from the cellular theory were drawn by Engels in his Anti-Duhring and the Dialectics of Nature. Both Marx and Engels observed that nature is subject to incessant changes.
The change is also taking place in human society. Both in nature and society constant changes are taking place and behind this change there is motion. But this motion is within nature and in society.
There is a clear relation between motion and matter and this makes nature quite dynamic. Similarly, the society moves or changes from one stage to another. This helped Marx to explain how the human society changes.
This is called historical materialism. The animal and vegetable cells have their birth, growth and death. Similarly, in human society, different sections or parts are closely connected with each other. But some parts or sections become inactive with the passing away of time. But at the same time new forces surface. Conclusion is with the help of scientific discoveries Marx and Engels had explained the human society.
Darwin in his Origin of Species for the first time established the idea that God did not create man and other animals. Both are the products of nature and after passing through the evolutionary process of millions of years their present stage has arrived. That is animal world is not the “divine creation”.
He proved the mutability of the species of animals and plants and the unity of their origin. Darwin proved that behind the present stage of animal world (including man) there is evolution.
It is to be noted that Darwin’s theory was not based on imagination or guesswork. Behind this conclusion there is a painstaking research. Through the evolutionary process the world of the animals has reached the present stage.
Marx has said that the human society also evolves and the evolution is from bad to better. That is, one stage is better than the previous stage.
After a good deal of research work Darwin arrived at the conclusion that in the natural world there is a continuous process of change and evolution and both these are making some kind of change. That is, one stage or form of change is different from the previous stage and the latter stage or form is invariably better than the earlier stage.
Darwin also observed that natural selection promotes a high degree of specialisation. Marx borrowed this conception from Darwin. The tools and machinery used by man are passing through improvement or development.
Marx in his Capital said:
The manufacturing period simplifies, improves and multiplies the implements of labour by adopting them to the exclusive and special functions of each kind of worker. In 1873 Marx sent to Darwin an inscribed copy of Capital. All these indicate that Marx was influenced by Darwin.
After Marx’s death Engels delivered a speech at the graveside of Marx. He said, “Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history.”
Some critics do not find justification in the observation of Engels. But we are of opinion that there is a close similarity between Marx and Darwin. Darwin explained the evolutionary progress of natural world and Marx with the help of dialectical materialism explained the progress of human society. Both drew conclusions empirically. The minds of both were scientific.