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Should we ‘cancel’ Darwin?

August 2021 | by Mark Looy

Statue of Charles Darwin
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In an effort to ‘cancel’ historical racists, our culture has missed one of the most influential racists of all time.

The issue of racism continues to be centre stage in the Western world. Since the horrific killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last May, racism pervades the news as much as it did during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s.

But amid the angry demonstrations and calls for change, one of racism’s most insidious influences has been largely overlooked.

Modern views about human origins are built on a toxic error. Unless these opinions change, racism will keep raising its ugly head. Any serious desire to solve racism must address the question, ‘What about the influence of Charles Darwin’s racist views? Should they be banned (or “cancelled”, in popular jargon) from the culture?’

Darwin’s racism

In a sequel to the better-known On the Origin of Species, Darwin’s The Descent of Man argued that humans, having descended from apelike creatures, were continuing to evolve and produce various races.

Darwin posited that some races were more developed than others. Throughout Descent, Darwin labelled different people groups (other than Europeans) as ‘low’ and ‘degraded’, including Africans.

Darwin argued that the ‘highest races and the lowest savages’ clearly differed in their ‘moral disposition’. These ‘savages’, he claimed, possessed ‘insufficient’ powers of reasoning.

At the end of Descent, Darwin declared that he would prefer to be descended from a ‘little monkey’ or an ‘old baboon’ as opposed to an Indian ‘savage’ from South America.

James Hopkinson’s Plantation, slaves planting sweet potatoes. SOURCE Wikipedia Commons
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Darwin’s racism and belief in white supremacy were an outgrowth of his ideas regarding natural selection (a view later popularised by others as ‘survival of the fittest’). Accordingly, he accounted for aggressive colonial imperialism with the comment, ‘The civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races throughout the world.’

Although he may not have explicitly endorsed such imperialism, Darwin saw the elimination of non-white races as the natural result of white Europeans, who ‘stand at the summit of civilisation’ as the superior race.

Such reasoning, even before Darwin laid it out, was essentially the same as was used by European, Muslim, and American slave traders, who viewed the Africans as less than human and deserving of enslavement.

Of course, racism has been prevalent for millennia, including within the church. Misinterpreting biblical texts led many Christians to deny the value of humankind as created in the image of God.

In the Western world, Darwin wasn’t even the first to put forth biological arguments for racist views. To his credit, Darwin detested slavery. (However, his apologists today weakly cite that fact to mitigate his appalling racism, declaring instead that Darwin was just a product of his time.)

Some evolutionists have acknowledged that even though Darwinism didn’t cause racism, it fuelled it. The late scientist Dr Stephen Jay Gould wrote, ‘Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1859 [publication date of Darwin’s Origin of Species], but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory.’

Yet some historical figures are so high on the pedestal of secular society that they appear beyond reproach, even in today’s ‘cancel culture’. The hypocrisy is glaring.

Don’t erase Darwin

So should today’s cancel culture seek to erase things that are reminders of the racist history of Western nations? Should we delete the sad chapter of Darwin from history books and museums?

I suggest not. There are important lessons to be learned. Just as historians should not erase Nazism and Communism from textbooks and museums, they should not ignore the consequences of harmful beliefs like Darwinism, but should learn from them.

In 2004, my family visited southern Germany and enjoyed seeing the Bavarian Alps and beautiful towns. We also toured the notorious Nazi concentration camp of Dachau as an unforgettable way for our three sons to learn more about the evils of anti-Semitism.

The victorious Allied forces could have razed Dachau to the ground, but some wise leaders realised that preserving the barracks and ovens would help later generations not to forget one of history’s most virulent acts of racism.

Similarly, removing Darwin and his errant beliefs from schools and museums is not realistic, for they are too entrenched in society. Yet at the very least, his racist views should be noted. Darwin’s beliefs, warts and all, should be presented to students. This includes the many that are unscientific and not in support of his ideas of amoeba-to-man evolution.

If they were consistent, cancel-culture advocates would ban Darwin from society. But most won’t touch him, for he is like a prophet for their worldview. Even if they condemn racism, they still blindly want to commemorate Darwin. From him they have a supposed scientific justification for rejecting the Creator and living as they please with regards to abortion, sex, and so on.

The solution

The answer to racism is found in God’s Word.

The Bible’s history is crucial to a true understanding of ‘race’. God’s Word reveals that all humans are descended from Adam and Eve.

At the tower of Babel, God separated the rebellious people by both geography and language. The population broke up into sub-groups, and as people married within their own group, certain genetic features (like skin shade and eye shape) became more prominent.

Some people groups ended up with light skin and others with dark skin. All people today are actually shades of brown, depending on the amount of melanin, the main pigment, in our skin (and some other minor factors). There are no truly ‘black’ or ‘white’ people.

It’s more important than ever that Christian leaders and parents proclaim the biblical worldview, starting with Genesis. Millions of children in Christian homes are being lost to the godless secular culture as they attend state schools and hear the pervasive antibiblical thinking in museums and media. At the same time, all students should learn about Darwin’s racism and not see his views erased.

First published at Adapted and reproduced with permission.

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