Charles Darwin in his youth
This is a question believers in his theory of evolution, both scientists and laypeople alike, like to dismiss as an irrelevant or misleading point. It gets very little if any media attention, far less than the overall theory at hand, ie. that all biological life forms gradually and incrementally changed over the millions of years from a primordial soup (inanimate) to all the different forms that exist now, and more that existed before. Despite how widely referenced and believed his theory is, and the number of times it’s called scientific fact, there is no real evidence to support it. It’s just a theory, but I will restrict myself specifically to the racism therein. When the topic of Darwin’s racism does come up, however, some common defences are regurgitated:
- Some claim however racist he MIGHT have been, his contemporaries were worse – true but irrelevant because the discussion isn’t about his peers. The way that point is used is to excuse or hide it, as if others’ crimes make one’s own OK.
- Some claim that 1- he wasn’t racist at all and 2- the parts of his theory that have been used to support racism were used by other people with their own agendas and interpretations. In other words, taken out of context. This point is false, both 1 & 2, as will be shown below.
- Some claim that racism has existed long before Darwin – true but also irrelevant. Darwin didn’t start racism, not even scientific racism, but he did maintain and support it. Whether that was deliberate or not is debatable.
- It’s also claimed that he wasn’t racist because he was against slavery. While it is TRUE he was against slavery in theory, he did nothing to oppose it. Back then, as is still the case now, if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem. Furthermore, this doesn’t negate his racism, as will be explained below.
OK that’s enough. You can stop now.
There is a multitude of evidence to show that he was racist. Not just in his private life, but that racism is also part & parcel of his theory.
- In Chapter 7 of his book The Descent of Man he describes the “Negro” (ie. ‘black’ African) & the “Australian” (‘black’ Aborigine, not ‘white’) as occupying an intermediary position between gorillas & the “Caucasian” (ie. ‘white’ European).
(On a point of fact, this is what led to the extermination of the Aboriginal Tasmanians & subsequent digging up of their skulls to be displayed in British museums as proofs of their supposed intermediary position. It was also the inspiration for human zoos, the most famous victim being Ota Benga but that deserves its own post.)
- In that same chapter he hopes that “Caucasians” will soon evolve into something even higher and break his link to the great apes (& “Negroes” & “Australians”).
This is the hierarchy Darwin believed in (he didn’t draw this, it was made by Josiah Clark Nott & George Robins Gliddon, 1857). Note how the “Negro’s” jaw is ridiculously elongated, to make us look more ape-like than apes!
- In that same book he ponders over the concept of a race war, whether it’d be beneficial or not. He then answers yes, because by his theory evolution of the more evolved can only happen if they eliminate their less evolved predecessors. In other words, ethnic cleansing.
- In no uncertain terms he referred to Turks & Irish as “lower races”, and he found it hard to believe Fuegians (people of Tierra del Fuego, island just below Chile) were humans at all.
- As mentioned above, it is true that he was against slavery. However, that’s because he believed it would hinder our evolution because evolution only works under natural conditions. He basically believed that ‘black’ and other non-‘white’ people should be left to evolve into ‘white’ people in their own good time, thus he still saw us as inferior. Even in this very day the theory of evolution says this, though tries to soften the blow by combining it with the Out of Africa theory, thus mixing truth with falsehood.
(Another point of fact: in Mein Kampf, Hitler mentioned that Darwin was his inspiration. And with what he espoused, it’s easy to see why.)
Charles Darwin was definitely not the founder of scientific racism but he became one of its greatest proponents. He was also a main reason for the spread of Nazism, fascism, globalised racism & arguably even plain old capitalism.
Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man.