|Feature Article - March 2009|
|by Do-While Jones|
Saint Darwin’s followers try to fix his image problem.
Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born on the same day. Since both celebrated their 200th birthday simultaneously last month, one could not avoid making a comparison. Who was greater? Which one made the most important contribution to society?
The problem for Darwin is that Lincoln was known as “The Great Emancipator.” This, in conjunction with the election of America’s first black president, naturally brings up the topic of racism. Since Darwin’s theory of evolution was used by Adolph Hitler to justify the extermination of “inferior races” of people, and was the basis for the “science” of eugenics, Darwin naturally comes out second best when the two men are judged on their racial attitudes.
Perhaps it is self-defeating for us to begin this essay by pointing out that it is absolutely irrelevant whether Darwin was a hero or a villain—all that matters is whether his theory is correct or not. But, in academia at least, personality and credentials are more important than logic and facts. Therefore, it is important in academic circles to make Darwin appear to be a good guy with excellent credentials. So, the TV programs and printed stories about Darwin last month emphasized his great humanity and remarkable opportunity for scientific observation aboard HMS Beagle. Since that was what was in the news last month, and since this is a newsletter, we are obligated to comment upon it.
Of course, slavery is the big issue. The icon most associated with Darwin is a series of pictures showing the transition from ape to hairy black man to clean-shaven white man. The conclusion is inescapable. The textbook at the center of the Scopes monkey trial was clearly racist. It said,
The Races of Man. - At the present time there exist upon the earth five races or varieties of man, each very different from the other in instincts, social customs, and, to an extent, structure. These are the Ethiopian or negro type, originating in Africa; the Malay or brown race, from the islands of the Pacific; the American Indian; the Mongolian or yellow race, including the natives of China, Japan, and the Eskimos; and finally, the highest type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America. [emphasis supplied] 1
That was the “scientific truth” which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) demanded to be taught in American public schools. It was the scientific consensus at the time. Since this view is politically unacceptable today, it is necessary for evolutionists to claim that Darwin never believed it. In their minds, if Darwin believed a discredited racial view, then everything he believed (including evolution) is discredited. That’s why it is important (to them) to prove that Darwin wasn’t a racist. So, here is what the spin doctors say:
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution may have been shaped by his abhorrence of slavery as much as by his keen observations of Galapagos finches, a new book argues. Darwin’s Sacred Cause, by Adrian Desmond and James Moore, notes that slavery propaganda of the time often claimed that different races belonged to different species, a notion that Darwin’s work obliterated. The book suggests that Darwin’s unique approach to evolution - relating all races and species by “common descent” - could have been fostered by his anti-slavery beliefs [BBC News]. Published to coincide with Darwin’s 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of his publication of On the Origin of Species this year, the book is likely to stir up a new debate over Darwin’s motives. 2
Darwin’s motives don’t matter to us. All that matters is if he was right or not. But since it matters to them, we need to discuss it.
We don’t know what Darwin thought. All we know is what Darwin wrote. He wrote a book called, Descent of Man, in which he discussed human evolution and racial differences. Evolutionists talk a lot about Origin of Species, but you don’t hear much about Descent of Man. There’s a good reason for that. Most people would find the things that Darwin wrote in his later book very offensive. We quoted some pertinent passages in previous newsletters. 3 If you care what Darwin thought, you should read Descent of Man for yourself, particularly chapters 6 and 7, and come to your own conclusion.
Some creationists unfairly blame racism on Darwin’s theory. It seems to us that it is the other way around. Darwin simply used the conventional wisdom of the day (that “savages” are inferior species distinct from “civilised man”) to prove that man evolved from ape-like creatures. Descent of Man did not obliterate the notion that different races belonged to different species—it depended on that notion!
We could not find any evidence that proves Darwin was any more, or any less, of a racist than any other typical British subject of the 19th century. Darwin simply accepted the prevailing scientific view that different races were actually different species, and that the white race is a more highly evolved species than the other races are.
Man has multiplied so rapidly, that he has necessarily been exposed to struggle for existence, and consequently to natural selection. He has given rise to many races, some of which differ so much from each other, that they have often been ranked by naturalists as distinct species. 4
Regardless of which idea was the cause, and which idea was the result, the notions of evolution and racism certainly do support each other, and it is difficult to separate the two.
Racism has been used to justify slavery. The argument is that the inferior races aren’t competent to direct their own lives, so they should be subservient to the most highly evolved race.
Adrian Desmond and James Moore claim that “Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution may have been shaped by his abhorrence of slavery.” But slavery isn’t mentioned in the book whose full title is, On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Furthermore, the “races” referred to are races (breeds) of animals, not races of man. (Darwin cannot be faulted for failing to anticipate that the word “race” would acquire a different definition many years after his death.) Since there is absolutely nothing about slavery in Origin of Species, it seems very doubtful that it was shaped by his “abhorrence of slavery.”
Darwin does talk just a little bit about slavery in Descent of Man. In chapter 6, the only time Darwin talks about slavery is his observation that ants take slaves from other ant colonies. Darwin expresses no condemnation or moral outrage that some ants enslave other ants. It is simply the natural order of things. If he wanted a soapbox upon which to express his abhorrence of slavery, he could have said that slavery is a terrible practice found in (literally) the “lowest” of animals.
In chapter 7 of Descent of Man, Darwin does specifically address human slavery.
Extinction follows chiefly from the competition of tribe with tribe, and race with race. Various checks are always in action, serving to keep down the numbers of each savage tribe,- such as periodical famines, nomadic habits and the consequent deaths of infants, prolonged suckling, wars, accidents, sickness, licentiousness, the stealing of women, infanticide, and especially lessened fertility. If any one of these checks increases in power, even slightly, the tribe thus affected tends to decrease; and when of two adjoining tribes one becomes less numerous and less powerful than the other, the contest is soon settled by war, slaughter, cannibalism, slavery, and absorption. Even when a weaker tribe is not thus abruptly swept away, if it once begins to decrease, it generally goes on decreasing until it becomes extinct.*
* Gerland, ibid., s. 12, gives facts in support of this statement. 5
Darwin expects the weaker races to naturally go extinct. He doesn’t advocate exterminating the weaker races; but he doesn’t say we have a moral obligation to keep them from going extinct, either.
We have seen in the second chapter that the conditions of life affect the development of the bodily frame in a direct manner, and that the effects are transmitted. … There is, also, a considerable body of evidence shewing that in the Southern States the house-slaves of the third generation present a markedly different appearance from the field-slaves.*
* Harlan, Medical Researches, p. 532. Quatrefages (Unite de l'Espece Humaine, 1861, p. 128) has collected much evidence on this head. 6
In this passage, Darwin is merely using the physical appearance of slaves to prove his belief that climate, diet, and exercise result in acquired characteristics which are inherited. (Mendel proved this belief is wrong, and modern scientists know that acquired characteristics are definitely not inherited.)
The last two paragraphs of the book say,
The main conclusion arrived at in this work, namely, that man is descended from some lowly organised form, will, I regret to think, be highly distasteful to many. But there can hardly be a doubt that we are descended from barbarians. The astonishment which I felt on first seeing a party of Fuegians on a wild and broken shore will never be forgotten by me, for the reflection at once rushed into my mind- such were our ancestors. These men were absolutely naked and bedaubed with paint, their long hair was tangled, their mouths frothed with excitement, and their expression was wild, startled, and distrustful. They possessed hardly any arts, and like wild animals lived on what they could catch; they had no government, and were merciless to every one not of their own small tribe. He who has seen a savage in his native land will not feel much shame, if forced to acknowledge that the blood of some more humble creature flows in his veins. For my own part I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey, who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper, or from that old baboon, who descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs- as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.
Man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen, though not through his own exertions, to the very summit of the organic scale; and the fact of his having thus risen, instead of having been aboriginally placed there, may give him hope for a still higher destiny in the distant future. But we are not here concerned with hopes or fears, only with the truth as far as our reason permits us to discover it; and I have given the evidence to the best of my ability. We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system- with all these exalted powers- Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin. 7
That’s all Darwin wrote about slavery in Descent of Man. So, we are inclined not to believe that, “Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution may have been shaped by his abhorrence of slavery.” If he had been passionate about it, he had plenty of opportunity to make his point. Instead, he seemed to go along with scientific consensus that “savages” (his term) and “civilised people” (also his term) are different species, and that people, just like ants, are perfectly justified in taking slaves from weaker, inferior tribes.
Based on the last two paragraphs of his book, one could more easily argue that Darwin’s main motivation was animal rights rather than abolition of slavery. (Now that we’ve mentioned it, an animal right’s advocate probably will. )
Perhaps the most significant thing about this whole discussion is this: Darwin is being given a totally fictitious reason for writing the Origin of Species to make him more politically correct, and to make his theory of evolution more acceptable. It is simply an attempt to make Darwin a sympathetic figure, and distance him from the fact that evolution was once used to justify racism, genocide, and slavery.
The theory of evolution should not be rejected because it encourages racism, genocide, and slavery – it should be rejected because it isn’t true.
This month there was also an emphasis on Darwin’s credentials. Much has been made of the fact that he trained for the ministry and turned his back on it. This is a double-edged sword for evolutionists. He didn’t have a degree in biology, which (in the minds of some evolutionists) automatically disqualifies one from knowing anything about evolution. (Think of the trouble evolutionists would have had if Darwin had been trained as an engineer instead of a priest! ) Since Darwin doesn’t have any academic credentials, his credibility has to come from his experience aboard HMS Beagle.
In February, the National Geographic Channel broadcast a program titled, “Darwin’s Secret Notebooks” several times. The script for this program was clearly taken from an article in the February National Geographic magazine which said, among other things,
The journey of Charles Darwin aboard His Majesty’s Ship Beagle, during the years 1831-36, is one of the best known and most neatly mythologized episodes in the history of science. … This cartoonish account of the Beagle voyage and its consequences contains a fair bit of truth, but it also confuses, distorts, and omits much. 8
Ironically, Quammen’s article and the corresponding TV show confuse things even more. On one hand, they try to portray Darwin as an intellectual giant, and on the other hand they show him to be a cabin boy who doesn’t know the difference between a rhea and an ostrich.
It is all an irrelevant distraction. It doesn’t matter how Darwin came up with his theory. It doesn’t matter how many of the ideas were actually his own observations or a combination of things other scientists had already discovered. It doesn’t matter whether or not he was motivated by his feelings about God. All that matters is if the theory is correct or not. All these discussions about Darwin’s life and his views on God and slavery are merely a way to avoid talking about the serious scientific problems with the theory.
Since evolution won’t stand up to scientific investigation, evolutionists have been trying to use the religion angle to keep criticism of evolution out of the public school system. PBS (the Pure BS network ) rebroadcast the Nova program titled Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial several times last month. It celebrated the Dover school board trial in which the judge decided that Intelligent Design is nothing more than a sneaky attempt to get religion into the public school system. The judge’s ruling was based on the religious motivation of people who support Intelligent Design, rather than the relative scientific merits of evolution and Intelligent Design. Some of the leaders of the Intelligent Design movement are known to be Jews! Hold that thought for a moment.
On February 7, the BYU network rebroadcast a lecture by BYU professor Michael Whiting in which he bragged about how Brigham Young University had “a leading role in assembling the Tree of Life,” particularly the branches that deal with insects (his specialty). He mentioned that Joseph Smith and Darwin were contemporaries, and quoted one of Smith’s writings that seemed to indicate that there was no conflict between evolution and the Mormon religion.
In 1996 Pope John Paul II reiterated the 1951 statement of Pope Pius XII endorsing Darwin’s theory of evolution. Just a few days ago, there was a five-day Catholic conference in Rome consisting of 35 lectures explaining why evolution is true, and how it is compatible with the Catholic religion. 9
So, the theory of evolution is accepted by Mormons and Catholics. [Click here to read a response from a Mormon.] But evolution is rejected by the Jewish and Islamic faiths. Therefore, we could argue that teaching evolution in public schools promotes the Mormon and Catholic faiths and discriminates against the Jewish and Islamic faiths. We could make that argument, but we won’t because it is totally bogus. It is just as bogus as the argument that teaching Intelligent Design advances some vague religious notions.
The scientific merits (or lack thereof) of both the theory of evolution and Intelligent Design should be studied in public schools regardless of religious implications. Science students should be told the various historical versions of the theory of evolution, what the current theory is, and all the evidence for and against all the various theories of evolution. The same should be done for Intelligent Design. Science students are not well served by telling them only a few facts that support one side of the argument, especially when those few facts cause them to believe something that isn’t true.
Several times the Nova program misquoted the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as saying, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Nova praised the court for using that as justification for preventing Intelligent Design from being discussed in public schools.
The First Amendment actually says,
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Therefore, any law that says that schools must teach that man evolved from ape-like creatures millions of years ago instead of being created six thousand years ago is a law that clearly prohibits the free exercise of religion. Furthermore, prohibiting any presentation of scientific data against the theory of evolution in public schools clearly abridges freedom of speech.
We are sorry we had to spend so many pages on this. It doesn’t matter if Darwin was a racist or not. It doesn’t matter if Darwin was trained as a priest or biologist. It doesn’t matter what religions are compatible with the theory of evolution. All that matters is if the theory is true or not.
Unfortunately, the public is being told that it does matter. Evolutionists would tell you that Darwin gave up his seat at the front of the bus to Rosa Parks if they thought it would help you believe in evolution. Don’t be distracted by bogus arguments.
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Hunter, Civic Biology, 1914
3 Disclosure, October 2003, “Evolution Tries To Catch Up”,
Disclosure, November 2004, “Was National Geographic WRONG?”
4 Darwin, Descent of Man, 1871, Chapter 6, http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/charles_darwin/descent_of_man/chapter_06.html
5 Darwin, Descent of Man, 1871, Chapter 7, http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/charles_darwin/descent_of_man/chapter_07.html
6 Darwin, Descent of Man, 1871, Chapter 21, http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/charles_darwin/descent_of_man/chapter_21.html
7 Quammen, National Geographic, February 2009, “Darwin’s First Clues”, pages 34 - 55
8 Disclosure, November 1996, “Pope John Paul II on Evolution”
9 III STOQ International Conference, Biological Evolution Facts and Theories: A Critical Appraisal 150 Years After "The Origin of Species", Rome, March 3-7, 2009, with the collaboration of University of Notre Dame (Indiana) Under the High Patronage of the Pontifical Council for Culture.