Charles Darwin, Racist

Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted with permission from Doug Kutilek’s free newsletter “As I See It,” a monthly electronic magazine, and appears here with some editing. AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com.

Lastly, I could show fight [vigorously advocate] on natural selection having done and doing more for the progress of civilisation than you seem inclined to admit. Remember what risk the nations of Europe ran, not so many centuries ago, of being overwhelmed by the Turks, and how ridiculous such an idea now is! The more civilized so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilised races throughout the world.
—Charles Darwin (Darwin, Francis. The Life of Charles Darwin. 1902. Ed. John Murray. London: Senate, 1995., p. 64).

The volume from which this quotation is taken is essentially an abridgment by the author (one of Darwin’s sons) of his own longer 2-volume work (which contained considerable autobiographical material by Charles Darwin). It is not a hostile, fault-finding attack on Darwin, or a “Mommy Dearest” exposé by an alienated child, but a strongly pro-Darwin account. Its casual revealing of Darwin’s inner thoughts and attitudes regarding the races of mankind is therefore most telling.

“Natural selection”—the death and genetic elimination and extermination of “inferior” individuals and races in the mad scramble for survival—is viewed by Darwin, the founder and proponent of this view, as a great good, not merely among fishes and ferns and ferrets, but among people. Naturally, and arrogantly, assuming the superiority of his own “Caucasian” race (and of course himself, especially), he views with mirth the absurdity of the fear the white Europeans had in the 15th century of being overwhelmed by the Muslim Turks, which he viewed as a decidedly inferior race of people. And notice, it was not merely white hegemony that Darwin gloried in, but victory in “the struggle for existence” (emphasis added).

(A similar Muslim scare occurred in the 8th century, when the Saracens from North Africa invaded Europe via Spain, but were stopped in their bloody campaign of “peaceful” subjugation via the sword by Charles Martel at the battle of Tours, France in 732. Today, European civilization, and that “superior” white European race, faces once again the very real possibility of being overwhelmed by “inferior” non-white races, especially the Muslim immigrants from northern Africa [true for France, Holland, and most of Western Europe], but also once again the Turks [in Germany] and sub-Saharan blacks as well as South Asians [Britain]. In reality, it wasn’t race, but civilization—one founded in broad terms on Biblical Christianity—that gave European civilization its “edge.” Virtually the whole of Europe has now and long since cast away any pretense of Christianity in contempt of the God of Scripture, embracing instead atheistic materialism—a.k.a. Darwinism. And once again European civilization faces the real possibility of extermination, this time from without—following two unprecedentedly massive wars in the 20th century that nearly destroyed Europe from within. “The wicked will return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God,” Psalm 9:17. But I digress.)

Darwin looked forward with eager anticipation “at no very distant date” when an “endless number of lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world” (emphasis added). It was not enough in his mind that the European powers through their colonial empires ruled over and dominated these inferior races, but it was his hope and anticipation that they would be actually eliminated—exterminated (can you say “genocide” or “holocaust”?) by the superior whites, and sooner rather than later. Darwinism is not merely in harmony with Arian supremacy, Nietzscheism, Nazism, eugenics, and genocide; it is their foundation and justification. Indeed, there are demonstrable philosophical and intellectual links between Darwin’s hypothesis of “natural selection” and “the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life” (to quote the subtitle of The Origin of Species) with all of these evils, and more.

In another revealing moment, Darwin wrote about one species of ant enslaving another species: “I have seen a migration from one nest to another of the slave-makers, carrying their slaves (who are house, and not field n_____s) in their mouths!” (Darwin, p. 191; emphasis in original). Such was his condescending contempt for non-whites.

Darwin was a malignant racist and Darwinism is inherently racist. I wonder if all those non-Caucasian individuals now residing in England consider these things—or are even aware of them—when they spend their ten-pound notes, which sport a portrait of Darwin. And what do the tourists who view his grave in an honored place in Westminster Abbey think about these things? Likely nothing at all.

Of course, when his theory became applicable to his own life or his own family, Darwin was decidedly “inconsistent.” There is the issue of his own incredibly poor health, which plagued him for the last forty years of his life. Its exact origin is unclear; psycho-somatic causes were probably a substantial factor. His various and severe gastro-intestinal problems began when he began his preliminary speculations on evolution, and continued until he had largely ceased his evolutionary writings:

Darwin’s illness has been the subject of extensive speculation. Some of the symptoms—painful flatulence, vomiting, insomnia, palpitations—appeared in force as soon as he began his first transmutation notebook in 1837…. [A] careful analysis of the attacks in the context of his activities points to psychogenic origins. Throughout the next decades Darwin’s maladies waxed and waned. But during the last decade of his life, when he concentrated on botanical research and no long speculated about evolution, he experienced the best health since his years at Cambridge. (Bettyann Kevles. “Darwin.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 15th ed. 1994.)

It may be that Darwin had stress-inducing inner turmoil generated by battling mentally against what his own mind told him was the truth, and that he was fighting against the knowledge of God. It is notable that Darwin admitted that there was overwhelming evidence of design (today we would say “intelligent design”) in the so-called “natural world.” Once the Duke of Argyll confronted Darwin about this matter. Noting features of orchids and earthworms (which Darwin had made special study of), the Duke of Argyll went on,

I said that it was impossible to look at these without seeing that they were the effect of the expression of mind. I shall never forget Mr. Darwin’s answer. He looked at me very hard and said, “Well, that often comes over me with overwhelming force; but at other times,” and he shook his head vaguely, adding, “it seems to go away” (Darwin, p. 64, note).

So Darwin, refusing to believe or acknowledge what his own observations often and overwhelmingly convinced him was true—that there was Divine design in nature—took refuge in his anti-supernatural speculations and presuppositions (having previously, by age thirty, rejected the possibility of Divine revelation or miracles, or the historical accuracy of Scripture; see Darwin, pp. 57, 58).

But one must further observe: so chronically ill a being (whether dog or cat or man) as Darwin was, must obviously be, from a Darwinian perspective, an “inferior” being. He must be unfit and unworthy of survival or procreation. In a letter written in 1852, Darwin expressed his fear that his own ill-health was hereditary: “How paramount the future is to the present when one is surrounded by children. My dread is hereditary ill-health. Even death is better for them” (Darwin, p. 161). So, had he the power to chose between his children alive but in a state of chronic illness, or dead, he would for them choose death. We here witness Darwinism giving birth to “euthanasia,” also bizarrely misnamed “mercy killing.”

But when one of his daughters, Anne, died at age 10, he was deeply grieved. Should he not rather have rejoiced that the omnipotent if cold hand of “natural selection” had eliminated one of the inferior members of the human species, even one of the superior Caucasian race, thereby improving the species and the race, helping drive mankind to higher and better and superior status in the present and future? By his own theory, the death of his daughter at 10, before she could reproduce, was first of all proof of her “unfitness” to live, and secondly a genuine benefit and blessing to the rest of mankind and all future generations. But of course the human heart is not designed to react with the sterile rationalism that consistent Darwinism demands.

Darwin also believed that men were more evolutionary advanced than women (making him a sexist as well as a racist; see the Encyclopedia Britannica article, p. 980).

The whole cult of Darwin, which praises him to the skies as the greatest scientific benefactor of mankind, is remarkably silent on his blatant Hitleresque racism and his chauvinistic sexism, to say nothing of his bad science and demonstrably false hypothesis. The motive for embracing Darwin and Darwinism is not one compelled by genuine science or a single-minded quest for truth. Upon reading Origin, Charles’ brother Erasmus wrote to him, “In fact, the a priori reasoning is so entirely satisfactory to me that if the facts won’t fit in, why so much the worse for the facts is my feeling” (Darwin, p. 215). In short, “the hypothesis is so good, I accept it regardless of whether it conforms to the facts!”

Rather, for many, likely most, Darwinian “natural selection” (versus Divine creation or intelligent design) is favored consciously or unconsciously because it provides a convenient means for eliminating God from the human equation: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie” and “did not think it worthwhile to have God in their knowledge,” as the Apostle Paul describes it (Romans 1:25, 28). In rebellion against the God of the Bible and Jesus Christ as Lord of life and death, they say, “Let us tear off their chains, and free ourselves from their restraints,” (Psalm 2:3). Darwin and Darwinism are embraced, not because they are true, but because they are convenient means to an end. Twenty-first century man wishes to become the autonomous God that Satan promised in Eden. Darwinism is the easiest means to that self-destructive end.


Doug Kutilek is the editor of www.kjvonly.org, a website dedicated to exposing and refuting the many errors of KJVOism and has been researching and writing in the area of Bible texts and versions for more than 35 years. He has a B.A. in Bible from Baptist Bible College (Springfield, Mo.), an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati; and completed all requirements for a Ph.D. except the dissertation); and a Th.M. in Bible exposition from Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, Minn.). His writings have appeared in numerous publications including The Biblical Evangelist, The Baptist Bible Tribune, The Baptist Preacher’s Journal, Frontline, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society and The Wichita Eagle. The father of four grown children and four granddaughters, he resides with his wife Naomi near Wichita, Kansas.

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There are 26 Comments

ssutter's picture

How does this help us? - I think it' s cool historical detail.... but i've never met anyone who believed in unmodified Darwinism... and people I know who are evolutionists wouldn't care about this. Ben Franklin may have been a pervert, but how does that inform my belief in electricity? Plus, in that era almost everyone is racist in one way or another.

_______________
www.SutterSaga.com

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Among other things it provides more context for understanding the evil that evolutionary theory is and the weakness of its origins... especially since Darwinism doesn't end with biology. In the analogy with electricity, Franklin's moral habits had no relationship to how electricity works. In the case of Darwinism, racism was--as Kutilek argues here--inherently woven into it.
You can see this pretty clearly in the history of Social Darwinism and Eugenics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics).
It is a kind of argument by association, but in view of how strongly racism is condemned today, and how much is rejected "by association" with it... Darwin's racism is not unimportant.

Also, by 1859, when Darwin wrote On the Origin of the Species, it's not at all the case that everyone was racist. Great Britain had already experienced it's Christianity-driven revolution in thinking (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Wilberforce). Parliament had abolished slavery decades before. So Darwin was really regressive in his racism.

allenjs's picture

Aaron, it is really not honest to claim that racism was gone from Britain in 1859, or that Darwin's attitude was regressive. Kipling published "White Man's Burden" in 1899, without anyone batting an eyelash, for example. In fact, political correctness still hasn't had much impact on Britain. British people find our preoccupation with political correctness and relativism to be silly and stupid, and very frequently make broad generalizations that put down other races and cultures. This is a particular habit among those of higher class, like many I've worked with over the past few decades.

In fact, the example Darwin gave was specifically of the Turkish Muslims, who are not really a race, but instead a religious culture. To assert that Muslim culture is equal to Christians on any chosen scale of value judgment is patently absurd. I think that in your eagerness to besmirch Darwin's character, you are falling in the postmodernists' trap. This post comes very close to channeling Obama's recent talk about Islam and Christianity, where he asserted that "We can no longer live in a world where any one culture is considered superior or inferior to another." Excuse me?!? Must we say that a culture that oppresses their women and practices polygamy is equal to ours? No thank you!

The error that Darwin makes is not in asserting that western Christian culture is superior to Turkish Muslims (it is superior). The error is in claiming that our superiority is proven simply by the fact of survival. This is a very grave epistemological error known as "survivorship bias", and pretty much defines Darwinism. Following the lines of history, and reading the book of Revelation, it will not be surprising to find that the dominant population who "survive" on earth near the very end will be the worst of all. They will be the ones who cannot be turned from their disbelief, no matter how painful the torment, and who cry out to the hills to fall on them but do not confess Christ. In a world filled with such people, Darwinism would assert that those people are, ipso facto, "superior"

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I don't think I said racism was "gone." I was pointing out the inaccuracy of claiming everybody was racist in those days. Far, far from the case in Britain in 1859. And far from the case today. The end of slavery not only there but everywhere else they had the power to stop it, is strong evidence of that.

It's not clear to me what you mean in the rest of your post , so I don't think I can comment.

allenjs's picture

You stated clearly that Darwin was "regressive", and out of step with the norms of his society. This is completely wrong. Darwin was completely in-line with the norms of the elites in his society. It is absurd to point out his use of the word "n_____" and pretend to be shocked, as if he was a cantankerous retrograde who refused to align with the forces of "progress". You know full well that everyone in those days used the word. Such dishonest arguments open you up to rebuttals about the "racism" of ancient Israel, for example. I don't have time to go into all of the reasons that such line of argument is profoundly damaging to the Christian cause, but the fact that it's a lie should be enough.

As for the rest, you quoted Darwin claiming that western Christian culture is superior to Islam, and you called that racist. Darwin's claim is not racist; it is factual.

Darwin's error is not that he claimed western Christian culture is superior. His error is that he claimed that we are superior to Muslims because we defeated them at war. Anyone with any familiarity with the Bible knows that God sometimes lets the evil cultures win, and therefore "winning" is not proof of cultural superiority. Nobody would claim that the Babylonian culture was superior to the culture of Israel, simply because Babylon enslaved Israel for so long.

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Joshua,
First, I didn't write the piece. So I didn't call anybody anything.
Second, "dishonest" and "lie" are normally words one does not use until one has pretty strong reasons to do so, because they indicate that someone is intentionally communicating what they know to be untrue. And folks generally take offense at being accused prematurely of that sort of thing.
It's not the way to win friends and influence people... or win them over to your way of thinking.

Third, Darwin himself in the quoted portions in the text uses the word race and clearly indicates that he believes inferior races have been and will be eliminated by superior ones. That he is technically incorrect about what constitutes a race is trivial (there is really only one race anyway, the human race, so what we call racism is pretty much always, in reality, ethnism... either way its wrong).
He is not talking about cultures.

Fourth, I've already explained why it's factually correct that England had left slavery behind by well before 1859 and that this is evidence of the fact that as a society, they had stopped viewing racism as acceptable. I'm not talking about elites... though many of these were the very parliamentarians who voted the ban on slavery.

You are welcome to disagree, of course, but you are not welcome to accuse those you disagree with of dishonesty simply because they see the situation differently. Any more of that and you'll may well find yourself on the other side of the SI back door.

But I recommend cookies and milk. It's very relaxing, it looks to me like you need to settle down a bit.

[br ] Edit: one more thing. I didn't express any "shock" about Darwin's use of the n word, nor did the article's author (BTW, we've edited it out because it can get a site blocked from some of the filters... that and the fact that some find it deeply offensive even when quoting someone else). That it was in common use in that era is not in dispute.

ssutter's picture

I do appreciate the link between Darwin and racism...

to be fair to me though, I never claimed that everyone was a racist... said that "in that era almost everyone is racist in one way or another. " Abolishing the slave trade doesn't abolish racism... I think most would find racism in our own country as normal in parts of the country well after Lincoln. I think Rosa Parks was also born at least decades after slavery was abolished.

What scared me though is the amount of shameful racist quotes that can be produced from those whom I want to admire. I want to be able to separate say, Bob Jones Jr's seemingly overtly racist statements from his other statements about the Gospel. I'd be offended if someone said that say, that Bob Jones University is wrong because they can produce statements by its past leaders who were racist. I get the association in the article, but it's hard to avoid seeming like an ad homnan argument. I think the article is about motive, and the quote really doesn't confirm motive.

But I get it, it made me think - thank you for that.

_______________
www.SutterSaga.com

allenjs's picture

@Aaron - I can't drink cookies or milk right now, since I'm fasting. But thanks for the offer. The thought of it does calm me down a bit Smile

It's just that I grew up with the sort of childhood preacher who would "discredit" Darwinism by triumphantly making absurd statements such as, "If evolution were true, how come women don't have monkeys for babies?", and then turn around and refuse to marry me in my church because my fiance (now wife) wasn't white. In my personal experience, racist preachers go hand-in-hand with intellectually dishonest rebuttals of Darwinism, so it's doubly rich to see someone like Kutelik using the intellectually dishonest argument that Darwin was a "racist" is the modern sense, to discredit Darwinism.

Of course, Darwinism is a completely bankrupt philosophy, and if anything, proves Christianity. Apparently, people like Kutelik have no idea why, however, and don't seem interested in understanding. Why take the time to find the real flaws in our opponent's systems when it's so much easier to bandy about words like "racist"?

Rob Fall's picture

Considering the brevity of this article, I think the author did a good job . Regretfully, he couldn't expand his work to include the all the questions raised up this thread.

However, he does have a point. If a "scientist" with his views (e.g. Shockley) on race sought to publish he'd be tarred and feathered.

Personally, my take is Black/White relations in America has been shaped by bad theology and thanks to Darwin bad science.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

PastorSamRichards's picture

I read the comments with interest. I have no convenient boxes to put either the writer or the commentators in so the issue I wish to raise is the matter of plausibility of Darwin's "naturalist" observations. Darwinian evolution seems to me to be a vastly over-rated, and abused paradigm. Most people are not attuned to its variations--although many are now aware of its flaws, inconsistencies and fundamental errors. However, that awareness has not translated into philosophical caution: why should anyone take a theory related to biology and apply it uncritically to sociology, politics or governance? Social Darwinism, as social theory, is inapt. That does not hinder it from fomenting social disasters (Marxism, Socialism, Eugenics--the fountain from which Planned Parenthood and Justice Ginsberg apparently still imbibe).
Paradigm shifts have to be carefully sign-posted--otherwise adaptation within a species can be (has been) misidentified as macro-evolution (even where, as with the finches, the variations were not permanent, invariable and directional). Darwin jumped to conclusions in the micro-evolutionary and others have spun that out as the "unified field theory of everything." It does not necessarily follow that Darwinian thinking leads to racism--but it has been taken in that direction as the "final solution" in Nazi Germany (a socialist state) and that crime against humanity has been imitated elsewhere (the former USSR, Communist China and Imperial Japan as well as in Africa). The claim to quasi-scientific authority is worse than unfortunate--it is deadly. Racist is how Social Darwinism has worked out--something other than biological studies is at work here.
In explicating the context, or setting for Darwin's contributions, it is imperative to note the ideological currents of the nineteenth century which were anti-clerical-- as scientists and philosophers sought an anything-but-God answer to ultimate questions. In other words, the atheistic bias of the polemics of "free-thinking" intellectuals of that time period is a proper starting point--the elephant in the living room! Take that away, and some of Darwin's work is merely intriguing.
Just for the record, I don't ascribe to the view that any race is inferior--now, culture or religion, that's a different matter. And a superior culture is one that values all persons and provides for and protects the weaker, vulnerable or voiceless members of that society--there are many other indexes (justice, religious and political freedom, inquiry, right to dissent and truth) but Darwinian cultures have uniformly shown themselves to be coarse, callous and unsurvivable. The bond between Darwinism and real science needs to be broken. (I think it has little heuristic, or explanatory value--it is more assertion than conclusion.)

Sam Richards

ScottB's picture

Since when is ad hominem argumentation acceptable as long as it's against people with whom we strongly disagree? This piece is shameful and is a blight on SharperIron to have it published here.

Darwin was a racist, but so was the vast majority of the western world at the time. That doesn't excuse it, but it means we cannot claim that it was an ideology somehow sourced in Darwinism*. Yes, Darwinism was used to support racism, but so was Christianity throughout much of American history (and sadly, fundamentalist history). It is as much a falsehood to say that "Darwinism is inherently racist" as it is would be to say that "Christianity is inherently racist" simply on the basis of historical precedent.

There is no reason to say that Darwinism necessarily leads to racism. For a counterproof one needs look no further than the neo-Darwinism of modern secular biology. It is not racist in nature, and the difference between it and classical Darwinism is simply an added understanding of Mendelian genetics, not a fundamental change that would affect social ramifications. The basis of social Darwinism was due to a socially-construed concept of species in which different races were in fact different species. This is not a part of Darwinism, but merely a now antiquated adjunct to it.

Even if Darwinism did demand racism, the very most that we could logically conclude is that Darwinism is also immoral, not that it is false. Just as an atheist cannot rightfully say that Christianity is false because he believes hell is immoral, we cannot say Darwinism is false because we believe it is immoral. Reality is what it is: we cannot define it to our liking, so whether Darwinism is moral or not is not a reason to accept or reject it. We must make our decision on other grounds. Morality does not play into existential arguments.

Kutilek delves further into ad hominem attacks by claiming that Darwin's fear of hereditary illness was the basis of euthanasia. If you read the context of the quote given, it is a personal letter to a friend in which he describes the pain of his illness. In the sentence right before the quote he describes how the earlier days were better than the current, for then he didn't have to be concerned with "[choosing ] professions for sons, no ill-health to fear for them, no Californian gold [to tempt them ], no French invasions." He is not seriously suggesting that his children should be killed out of mercy; he is merely rhetorically lamenting what they will have to face.

The treatment given by this essay to Darwin's works is of a kind with the recent SOTL review of Jaeggli's book. I'm disappointed to see that the SI community seems to favor objectivity only when it benefits their heroes, at least judging by the comments on the two issues.

* I am using "Darwinism" to refer to Darwin's theory of evolution, which I believe is in keeping with the intent of the article. One could say that Darwinism refers to all of Darwin's personal beliefs, but that would turn the original essay's argument into a tautology: "Racism (a component of Darwinism) is racist."

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

If Darwin isn't fair game, I really can't imagine who is. Could we maybe post a piece slamming Mein Kampf on the grounds that Hitler was a murderous tyrant... or would people cry foul then, too?
I suppose next we're going to hear that it's unfair to point to the Devil's character as a reason to disbelieve his deceptions.

To understate the truth just a little, sometimes the overall mindset of a thinker is relevant in weighing his thoughts. When it's relevant, it's not ad hominem. That's just common sense.

Bob T.'s picture

AD Hominem arguments have always been acceptable. To label something as AH only points out the fact that it may not be relevant to the facts. However, it may be relevant to whether the facts can be believed without further support from other sources since the credibility of the source makes it prejudicial or unreliable. Credibility of a witness is often important in court testimony and evidence.

Credibility and objectivity is important In receiving and evaluating the theory and facts of Darwinian evolution. Darwin has never passed the test of being a qualified, objective, or credible witness regarding life science. His theory of life evolving from the simple to complex goes back to Greek philosophy. His observations were without the credible objective process of the scientific method. The reception of his conclusions was based on a desire for life origins apart from a creation. No one was confronted with overwhelming evidence. It was old philosophical theory combined with some scant and varied observations. However, it gave the conscience of man an out from accountability to a creator. The rest is history.

ScottB's picture

Bob T. wrote:
AD Hominem arguments have always been acceptable. To label something as AH only points out the fact that it may not be relevant to the facts. However, it may be relevant to whether the facts can be believed without further support from other sources since the credibility of the source makes it prejudicial or unreliable.

Granted, ad hominem arguments are occasionally acceptable, but as you say, they have to be relevant to the point being argued. As I laid out in my first comment, this essay fails to explicate the relationship between Darwin's racism and his theory now known as Darwinism.

The same holds true for Aaron's example of Hitler and Mein Kampf. If SharperIron were to post an article arguing that Mein Kampf is poorly written because its author was a sociopath, that would be invalid. Mein Kampf may or may not be poor quality literature, but the author's character is irrelevant to that point. There would be other points where Hitler's actions are relevant, but his character would not be sufficient evidence to "slam" his book without distinction.

The line of reasoning in the essay is an exact match to the second example of ad hominem fallacy given in this diagram:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Eugenics_ad_hominem.svg

1. Darwin promoted Darwinism.
2. Darwin was a racist (which is bad).
3. Darwinism is bad.

Similar (equally fallacious) reasoning:

1. ___ promoted fundamentalism.
2. ___ was a racist (which is bad).
3. Fundamentalism is bad.

Quote:
Credibility and objectivity is important In receiving and evaluating the theory and facts of Darwinian evolution. Darwin has never passed the test of being a qualified, objective, or credible witness regarding life science.

Seriously? I agree his theories were wrong, and his conclusions were not verifiable using the scientific method, but it's overstatement to say he was never a "qualified, objective, or credible witness regarding life science." His observations recorded in The Voyage of the Beagle were excellent for his time, when naturalistic observation was the norm in biology.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

ScottB wrote:
1. Darwin promoted Darwinism.
2. Darwin was a racist (which is bad).
3. Darwinism is bad.

The syllogism of the article... if there is one, would be more like this:
1. Darwin inventedDarwinism
2. Darwin was a racist in direct relationship to his Darwinism
3. Champions of Darwinism should think twice about looking at this guy as their hero... and should view his ideas with more skepticism as well

The article primarily targets the adoration of Darwin, though I'd maintain that his racism speaks in important ways to view of life he fathered.

(The comparison to Fundamentalism would be valid only if we were talking about a man who (1) invented Fundamentalism and (2) who's racism was a product of, or possible contributor to, his Fundamentalism)

Edit: IOW, the article is only so easily dismissed/castigated if it's strawmanned

ScottB's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

The syllogism of the article... if there is one, would be more like this:
1. Darwin inventedDarwinism
2. Darwin was a racist in direct relationship to his Darwinism
3. Champions of Darwinism should think twice about looking at this guy as their hero... and should view his ideas with more skepticism as well

Though I read it differently, I can see where you're coming from if you read the article in that sense. Still, it's the second premise that is not defended and that is so crucial in preventing the whole article from being a fallaciously ad hominem polemic. The article does not show that Darwin's racism came out of his Darwinism.

The euthanasia argument is another example of ad hominem attack that is groundless because it is false. A false ad hominem attack is called slander. Slander is still slander even if the object is otherwise unsavory.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

ScottB wrote:

Though I read it differently, I can see where you're coming from if you read the article in that sense. Still, it's the second premise that is not defended and that is so crucial in preventing the whole article from being a fallaciously ad hominem polemic. The article does not show that Darwin's racism came out of his Darwinism.

Although I might be mistaken, I think you are reading that backwards. I read the article as saying Darwinism came out of racism, not the other way around. Aaron's logic didn't actually say it was one way or the other -- it just said "in direct relationship to."

Dave Barnhart

ScottB's picture

dcbii wrote:
Although I might be mistaken, I think you are reading that backwards. I read the article as saying Darwinism came out of racism, not the other way around.

Either way the article doesn't support its premise, so either way the article is fallaciously ad hominem in nature. If the article truly is arguing that Darwinism came out of racism, then there is a whole raft of further factual issues, as it is well-documented that Darwin's idea for natural selection came from his natural observation, the social application of which he made later. However, I believe from this quote that the author is, in fact, arguing that racism comes out of Darwinism, not vice versa:

Douglas K. Kutilek wrote:
"Darwinism is not merely in harmony with Arian supremacy, Nietzscheism, Nazism, eugenics, and genocide; it is their foundation and justification."

Jay's picture

I was interested in the note on Nazism, so I looked it up [all sources are Wikipedia ].

A quick look shows that Darwin [1809-1882 ] would have been [roughly ] a contemporary of Nietzche [1844-1900 ], who is credited [and I use the term loosely ] as one of the influences of Nazi thought and philosophy; Darwin probably wouldn't have been able to read Nietzche, but I do think that his theory may have reinforced Nietzsche's musings. I would be interested to see if there is any evidence that Nietzche read Darwin's works. If so, it's worth noting that Darwinian thought could actually be an influence in the National Socialist philosophy. From what Wikipedia says, I don't know how anyone could argue that Darwinian theory could NOT have influenced Nazism. It is worth noting that one of Hitler's goals was the elimination of Christianity in Germany. Wikipedia notes:

Quote:
In public, Hitler often praised Christian heritage, German Christian culture, and professed a belief in an Aryan Jesus Christ, a Jesus who fought against the Jews. In his speeches and publications Hitler spoke of his interpretation of Christianity as a central motivation for his antisemitism, stating that "As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice"...His private statements, as reported by his intimates, are more mixed...In the political relations with the churches in Germany however, Hitler readily adopted a strategy "that suited his immediate political purposes". Hitler had a general plan, even before the rise of the Nazis to power, to destroy Christianity within the Reich. The leader of the Hitler Youth stated "the destruction of Christianity was explicitly recognized as a purpose of the National Socialist movement" from the start, but "considerations of expedience made it impossible" publicly to express this extreme position.

More to the point, Wikipedia notes the historical roots of Nazism thusly:

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Ideological roots and variants

The ideological roots that became German National Socialism were based on numerous sources in European history, drawing especially from Romantic nineteenth century idealism, and from a biological reading of Friedrich Nietzsche’s thoughts on “breeding upwards” toward the goal of an Übermensch (“superhuman”). Hitler was an avid reader and received ideas that later influenced Nazism from traceable publications, such as those of the Germanenorden or the Thule society. He also adopted many populist ideas such as limiting profits, abolishing rents and generously increasing social benefits—but only for Germans.
The Nordic myth has been attributed to an inferiority complex. Phillip Wayne Powell claimed that the Nordic myth began to arise “in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, a powerful surge of German patriotism was stimulated by the disdain of Italians for German cultural inferiority and barbarism, which lead to a counterattempt by German humanists to laud German qualities.” M. W. Fodor claimed in The Nation in 1936, “No race has suffered so much from an inferiority complex as has the German. National Socialism was a kind of Coué method of converting the inferiority complex, at least temporarily, into a feeling of superiority”. Nazism as a doctrine is far from homogeneous, and can be divided into at least two sub-ideologies. During the 1920s and 1930s, there were two dominant Nazi factions; the followers of Otto Strasser and the followers of Adolf Hitler. The Strasserite faction eventually fell afoul of Hitler, when Otto Strasser was expelled from the party in 1930, and his attempt to create an oppositional left-block in the form of the Black Front failed. The remainder of the faction, which was to be found mainly in the ranks of the SA, was purged in the Night of the Long Knives, which included the murder of Gregor Strasser, Otto’s brother. Afterwards, the Hitlerite faction became dominant. In the post-World War II era, Strasserism has enjoyed something of a revival among many neo-Nazi groups.

That being said, having read this article several days ago and thinking about the philosophical ramifications of Darwinism, I don't see how anyone could be a fully-committed evolutionist and not wind up as a bigoted, prejudiced person.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

ScottB's picture

Jay C wrote:
From what Wikipedia says, I don't know how anyone could argue that Darwinian theory could NOT have influenced Nazism.

Just to clarify (in case I muddied the waters with my last comment): I am not arguing that Darwinism didn't play a role in Nazi ideology -- it most certainly did. I am arguing that neither Nazism or racism are necessary consequences of Darwinism. Evolutionary theory was merely appropriated to defend those moral evils. As Aaron pointed out, it all rests on the implied premise, "Darwin was a racist in direct relationship to his Darwinism." That is what the author left unproven, and that is what I have argued is false.

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That being said, having read this article several days ago and thinking about the philosophical ramifications of Darwinism, I don't see how anyone could be a fully-committed evolutionist and not wind up as a bigoted, prejudiced person.

How so? If, as modern biologists do, you see humanity as one cohesive species, then why would you necessarily be bigoted? You may justifiable argue that Darwinism leads to a harsh individualism that cares little for anybody but oneself and possibly one's own offspring, but that's not prejudice or bigotry as typically understood.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

ScottB wrote:
However, I believe from this quote that the author is, in fact, arguing that racism comes out of Darwinism, not vice versa:

Douglas K. Kutilek wrote:
"Darwinism is not merely in harmony with Arian supremacy, Nietzscheism, Nazism, eugenics, and genocide; it is their foundation and justification."

I think it's obvious that racism existed before those movements, so maybe it's just a vicious circle. However, your point is taken -- certainly genocide was practiced long before Darwinism.

Still, even though the article may not *prove* the connection between Darwinism and racism, if Darwin's views and what he wrote are accurately reported, I believe it would be hard to argue that there was absolutely no connection between them.

I would actually agree with you that a modern-day Darwinist would not necessarily have to be a *racist* per se, but if the traits of particular people groups are examined and evaluated by Darwinism, the inevitable conclusion would be that one group is more evolved, or more suited to survival than the other because of the combination of traits it possesses. While that idea may not be racism in and of itself, it would certainly be seen that way by some, and there are those who would use such conclusions to justify their racism.

Dave Barnhart

Jay's picture

dcbii wrote:
I would actually agree with you that a modern-day Darwinist would not necessarily have to be a *racist* per se, but if the traits of particular people groups are examined and evaluated by Darwinism, the inevitable conclusion would be that one group is more evolved, or more suited to survival than the other because of the combination of traits it possesses. While that idea may not be racism in and of itself, it would certainly be seen that way by some, and there are those who would use such conclusions to justify their racism.

That's what I meant and was referring to about being racist, Scott, so I think you understand where I'm coming from now. Racist, now that you've pointed it out, was probably the wrong word to use.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

ScottB's picture

Quote:
I would actually agree with you that a modern-day Darwinist would not necessarily have to be a *racist* per se, but if the traits of particular people groups are examined and evaluated by Darwinism, the inevitable conclusion would be that one group is more evolved, or more suited to survival than the other because of the combination of traits it possesses.

You make a valid point; however, that conclusion is not limited to Darwinism.* Isn't it common sense that some people groups are more likely than others to survive? The Shakers died out as a social group because they believed in absolute celibacy. That's an extreme case, but it proves the point -- their beliefs were less suited to survival than the rest of mankind. The problem is taking this observation (whether part of the larger Darwinian view or not) and expanding it into an evaluative principle: that certain people groups actually have greater worth than others. Or even worse, into an ethical principle: that we ought to treat certain groups worse than others.

I'll grant that racism may result from exporting Darwinism to moral philosophy in a certain way**, but it is not a necessary result of Darwinism as a scientific theory. It's the same as some fringe groups who claim that Einstein's theory of relativity leads to moral relativity. It doesn't, as long as you keep it in its proper realm.

* I'm understanding your phrase "suited to survival" in the context of Darwinism, or as a biologist may say, "adapted for survival."
** I clarify "in a certain way," because you could also export Darwinism to moral philosophy to say that we need to stand up for the rest of our species to ensure its continued propagation. It all depends on what level you apply the natural selection filter, as I discussed at the end of my last post.

Joseph's picture

The wikipedia article is wrong about Darwinism's roots in nineteenth Century idealism; that's crock, although it went around for a long time among historians.

The historical links between Darwin, Nietzsche, and National Socialism, however, have been very well attested. For Nietzsche, see The Nietzsche Legacy in Germany 1890-1990 (Weimar and Now : German Cultural Criticism, No 2) , by Steven Aschheim. I note in passing I don't think tnis means the National Socialists got Nietzsche right, or that it means we can dismiss Nietzsche, as I don't believe either of those things.

For social Darwinism, see among others, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany by Richard Weikart.

That said, historians of science have now long discredited the idea that Darwin was viewed universally as incompatible with Christainity; in fact, many conservatives did not think so, but the finding of historians in this area have been ignored by both liberals and conservatives, partly because they don't fit ideological agendas well. See, especially: The Post-Darwinian Controversies: A Study of the Protestant Struggle to Come to Terms with Darwin in Great Britain and America, 1870-1900, by James Moore, and Darwin's Forgotten Defenders: The Encounter Between Evangelical Theology and Evolutionary Thought by David Livingstone, a fine historian of science.

Jay's picture

Joseph wrote:
The wikipedia article is wrong about Darwinism's roots in nineteenth Century idealism; that's crock, although it went around for a long time among historians.

Joseph, the part that was quoted was from an article on Nazism, not Darwinism.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Joseph's picture

Jay C,

Good catch; nazism is what I meant. The claim that Nazism sems from idealism is crock - that's what I meant to say, thanks.