Busting the myth of Darwin's "racism" (Evolution)

by David Turell @, Thursday, December 05, 2019, 15:47 (408 days ago) @ dhw

DAVID: From my memory I remember my comment about being educated but cannot remember the context. Obviously evolution does not promote racism, but Darwin's views were used to promote racism, but then Darwin is misused by his ardent followers.

dhw: Here, for your renewed education, is my post from November 10 2012 (slightly edited to fit into this post):

DAVID: Are you going to ignore Darwin's further works as in 'Descent of Man' where he is patently racist in the extreme?

dhw: Of course, it's all a matter of interpretation, but this in my view is one of the most vicious and unfounded misinterpretations of Darwin, spread by those who really are desperate to discredit him. It's based mainly on quotations taken out of context, and on his use of words like "savages" and "barbarians", as compared to "civilized", which were then commonly used cultural not racial terms. Here is an excellent article on the subject:


A few quotes:
"In contrast to the existing views on race, Darwin showed that:
1 People cannot be classified as different species
2 All races are related and have a common ancestry
3 All people come from "savage" origins
4 The different races have much more in common than was widely believed
5 The mental capabilities of all races are virtually the same and there is greater variation within races than between races
6 Different races of people can interbreed and there is no concern for ill effects
7 Culture, not biology, accounted for the greatest differences between the races
8 Races are not distinct, but rather they blend together"
The author documents all these points.

"It is often pointed out that Darwin frequently used the term "savages" when discussing the tribal people whom he wrote about. In his use of the term savages, however, Darwin was simply using the standard lexicon of his time; it was a term that everyone, from Popes to Presidents, used. It must also be remembered, of course, that the differences between different groups of people were really very extraordinary until basically the past 75 to 50 years. Many of the groups that Europeans came into contact with practiced cannibalism, self-mutilation, human sacrifice, infanticide, had no writing, and/or were very hostile towards people outside of their own family or tribe. Most also had no technology beyond stone tools. These are real substantial differences that were being encountered by many Europeans for the first time. They were seeking explanations for why this was the case."

Darwin, like any good anthropologist, recorded and interpreted what he found. His disapproval of cannibalism and human sacrifice did not make him a racist!

"Darwin traveled around the world on the HMS Beagle to some of the most remote and uncivilized places on the planet. Unlike his other European contemporaries, however, he lived among the tribal people that he came into contact with as an equal and observed their customs, instead of seeking to be treated like a superior."

"He puts forward the evidence and claims of those who argued in favor of the position that humans are in fact separate species, and then he puts forward his own position, which is that humans are all one species. It is quite easy, however, to take quotes from The Descent of Man out of context and make it appear that Darwin held positions which were in fact the exact opposite of his beliefs, and this is what many opponents of Darwin have done."

David, I would hate to think you are one of them! This passage from The Descent of Man should once and for all nail the racist lie (bold lettering is mine):

"As man advances in civilisation, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shews us how long it is, before we look at them as our fellow-creatures. Sympathy beyond the confines of man, that is, humanity to the lower animals, seems to be one of the latest moral acquisitions. It is apparently unfelt by savages, except towards their pets. How little the old Romans knew of it is shewn by their abhorrent gladiatorial exhibitions. The very idea of humanity, as far as I could observe, was new to most of the Gauchos of the Pampas. This virtue, one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they are extended to all sentient beings. As soon as this virtue is honoured and practised by some few men, it spreads through instruction and example to the young, and eventually becomes incorporated in public opinion."

This humanist plea for sympathies to extend to the men of all nations and races, and indeed to all sentient beings, could scarcely be clearer.

That is certainly convincing material of Darwin's true thoughts. It seems the Nazis misused his book, which I have not read. But the each of us has not the time to read everything. Thank you.

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