FAITH FILE: Here’s Why We Can’t Just Ignore The Racism In The Dawn Of Evolutionary Theory
Let’s talk a bit about some of history’s most infamous racists. You know, the animals like Alabama’s Bull Connor in the 1960s, Virginia’s George Fitzhugh in the 1850s and England’s Charles Darwin, author of “Origin of the Species.”
What? Do I mean Charles Darwin, founder of what we know today as the theory of evolution? Yes, that’s the one, though, I hasten to add that there are two important qualifiers to be considered in the following discussion.
First, as an evangelical Christian, I absolutely believe the Bible’s creation account. I also know that time isn’t the same for God and man, so maybe He used something akin to evolution in the eons before Adam arrived, though that raises a host of spiritual issues to which we might return here in the future.
For now, no qualifiers are needed for Connor or Fitzhugh. The former was Birmingham’s Commissioner of Public Safety when the civil rights movement was focusing the nation’s attention on the injustices of Southern segregation. He cruelly unleashed police dogs and fire hoses on demonstrators.
Fitzhugh was among the most prominent Antebellum defenders of Southern slavery. He argued that “the free laborer must work or starve. He is more of a slave than the Negro because he works longer and harder for less allowance than the slave …” Sounds a bit like Karl Marx, no?
Here’s what Darwin, who was an English contemporary of Fitzhugh, said: “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world.”
The second qualifier thus enters the conversation. Darwin had in mind Black Africans and Aboriginal Australians in his references to the “savage races,” but he wasn’t simply offering a straightforward endorsement of racial genocide.
As John Wilkins, one of Darwin’s modern defenders, put it, “at this time, it was common for Europeans (based on an older notion of a ‘chain of being from lowest to highest’) to think that Africans (‘negroes’) were all of one subspecific form, and were less developed than ‘Caucasians’ or “Asians’ … In short, Darwin is falling prey to the same error almost everyone else was . . . ”
In other words, a “natural inferiority” of Blacks to Whites was a commonplace assumption. No surprise then that Darwin subtitled his most famous book as “The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life.”
Thus, the great Christian politician and reformer William Wilberforce had won victory in 1807 in his campaign to abolish the African slave trade, but racism had by no means disappeared from among Darwin’s enlightened contemporaries in mid-19th century Great Britain.
What did other evolutionary pioneers believe about the races? Consider the words of Thomas Huxley, the Imperial College of London botanist known to the Victorian Age as “Darwin’s Bulldog” for his earnest advocacy of evolution.
“No rational man cognizant of the facts, believes that the average Negro is the equal, still less the superior, of the white man,” said Huxley on the future prospects for America’s emancipated slaves. Huxley wasn’t endorsing racism but his 1871 observation may tell us something about why the survival-of-the-fittest universe of Social Darwinism was right around the corner.
And that’s the point here. Removing God’s purposeful creation of the Adam whose physical nature is constant throughout time leaves us with an uncreated, eternally changing – evolving – universe in which anything is possible and, more importantly, anything goes.
And what might be termed the Evolutionary Era of history that Darwin inaugurated – 1859 to the present – has seen mankind’s worst racial and ethnic genocides, successive world wars, totalitarianisms, the Holocaust, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and the possibility, however remote, of nuclear incineration of the entire human race.
No wonder Dostoevsky wasn’t kidding when he said “without God, everything is possible.”
Which is why I like something else Huxley said: “My business is to teach my aspirations to conform themselves to fact, not to try and make facts harmonize with my aspirations.” I wonder if today’s evolutionists are prepared to follow Huxley’s example?
Mark Tapscott is executive editor and chief of The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group. Follow Mark on Twitter.