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Origin of scientific racism?

Origin of scientific racism?

Modern scientific racism became wide spread during the age of enlightenment. Is there a single person that could be labeled as the 'father' of modern scientific racism?


There's no universally recognised "father of scientific racism", though a number of names could be suggested.

One example is the French noble Arthur de Gobineau, best remembered today for pioneering the concept of an Aryan master race. His infamous An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races, published in 1853, inspired a host of other racial theories including those of the Nazis. This has led some to label Gobineau as "the earliest significant intellectual racist"[1] or the "father of racist ideologies"[2].

While credited to Gobineau today, precursors to the master race concept can be traced much further back to Henri de Boulainvilliers in the early 18th century. Also a French aristocrat, Boulainvilliers argued that the Germanic nobility of France are racially superior to the Gaulish underclass. He originated the concept of measuring skulls to determine race, claiming that Germanic aristocratic skulls were larger[3] - a practice later made infamous by the Nazis.

The Swedish biologist Carolus Linnæus, better known as the "father of modern taxonomy" today, provides another early example. His Systema Naturæ is reckoned today as one of the "foundational texts" of scientific racism[4], and defined the human race into five "varieties". Though not nearly as virulent as some of the others, and rather more scientific in his approach Linnæus nevertheless linked physical features to emotional, intellectual, and other psychological traits. This has led him to be regarded by some as "the original founding father of scientific racism"[5].

The Reverend Robert Malthus, more famous today for being the namesake of Malthusianism, refrained from more explicit forms of racism. Instead he railed against welfare, on the grounds that interfering with divinely ordained poverty perpetuates the "unfit" - a rhetoric we'll recognise today as social Darwinism. These concepts are credited with inspiring the classical definition of scientific racism[6] as formulated by Allan Chase, who in his 1980 work Legacy of Malthus calls him the founding father of scientific racism[7] - despite Malthus himself not emphasising race as a factor.

Lastly, there is the Jamaican planter Edward Long who in 1774 published a vicious tirade describing Africans to be innately inferior to whites. He argued enslavement of Africans to be a necessity since they were too mentally, physically, and morally deficient to govern themselves - all very convenient for a planter relying on slave labour. Titled History of Jamaica, Long's work was devoid in scientific merits but widely read and and accepted, and now considered a pivotal development in scientific racism.

Sources:

[1] Nucci, Larry, ed. Conflict, Contradiction, and Contrarian Elements in Moral Development and Education. Psychology Press, 2005.
[2] Barkan, Elazar. The Retreat of Scientific Racism Changing Concepts of Race in Britain and the United States between the World Wars. Cambridge University Press, 1992.
[3] van Galen Last, Rick, and Ralf Futselaar. Black Shame: African Soldiers in Europe, 1914-1922. Bloomsbury, 2015.
[4] Burton, Jonathan, and Ania Loomba. Race in Early Modern England: A Documentary Companion. Springer, 2007.
[5] http://www.saobserver.com/single-post/2017/04/18/Scientific-Racism
[6] "The perversion of scientific and historical facts to create the myth of two distinct races of humankind." - Allan Chase
[7] Brantlinger, Patrick. Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Extinction of Primitive Races, 1800-1930. Cornell University Press, 2003.


Social Darwinism and the origins of scientific racism

The “Origin of species by natural selection”, Charles Darwin’s (1809-1882) masterpiece, was published in Nov 1859- all twelve hundred and fifty copies were sold out on the first day. Since then Darwin’s ideas have revolutionised the entire premise of evolutionary biology and superseded the concept of naturalism as an explanation of human evolution.

In this article, however, we will discuss the social, economic and cultural impact of Darwin’s theory. Social Darwinism, as it is called, has an impact in shaping the current geopolitical environment of the world. The current riots in the Unites States and the United Kingdom motivated by racial inequality have deep seated roots. There is no denying the fact that racism has existed since time immemorial, but in this article, we will review the history and impact of social Darwinism on modern day racism.

Thomas H Huxley (1825-1895) – also known as Darwin’s bulldog, coined the phrase Social Darwinism in 1861. However, the first use of the term “Social Darwinism” in Europe is attributed to a French journalist called Emile Gautier (1853-1937). The concept of social Darwinism borrowed the idea of “survival of the fittest” and “natural selection” from Darwin’s biological theory of evolution and applied this to economics, sociology and politics. It is a mishmash of ideologies that was and still is used to justify colonisation, imperialism, racism, social inequality and eugenics.

Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) was an English economist and an influential scholar. Malthusianism is a theory of exponential population growth in comparison to the linear growth of food supply and other resources. In his book “An essay on the Principle of population” Malthus describes this apparent disparity between population growth and food supply. Malthus believed that through preventative and positive checks, the population could be controlled to balance the food supply with the population level. The Malthusian catastrophe is described as “a population, when unchecked, goes on doubling itself every twenty-five years, or increases in a geometrical ratio”, so that population soon exceeds its food supply.

Darwin was familiar with Malthus’s concepts and was influenced by his ideas. He made the Malthusian struggle for existence the basis of his natural selection. He saw a similarity between farmers picking the best stock in selective breeding, and a Malthusian philosophy. The very extended wording on the title page of his book, by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, are suggestive of his views on race superiority. In The Descent of Man, he wrote “We civilised men…. do our utmost to check the process of elimination, we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick. Thus, the weak members of society propagate their kind.”

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) an English polymath and a sociologist was the first one to describe the term “survival of the fittest”. A very big proponent of utilitarian philosophy, Spenser believed that a social system that provides for the poor and needy is eventually detrimental to the overall growth of the society as it promotes the survival of the weak and the infirm leading to an overall retardation of growth. His concept of survival of the fittest implied that nature eliminates inefficiency- any efforts to slow this process will impair the overall benefits to the strong races. In his work, Social Statics (1850), he argued that imperialism had served civilization by clearing the inferior races off the earth.

Francis Galton (1822-1911) was an English polymath and Darwin’s half cousin, fascinated by Darwin’s work, he made it his life’s mission to study variations in human population and its implication. Galton published his book the Hereditary Genius in 1869- he extensively studied the physical traits of eminent men and the inheritance of physical as well as intellectual attributes. Galton wrote in this book: “Let us do what we can to encourage the multiplication of the races best fitted to invent, and conform to, a high and generous civilisation, and not, out of mistaken instinct of giving support to the weak, prevent the incoming of strong and hearty individuals.”

Eugenics promotes the exclusion or elimination of human races deemed to be inferior with the preservation of superior races eventually leading to the overall improvement in genetic quality

It was Galton who championed the concept of eugenics (meaning well born). Eugenics promotes the exclusion or elimination of human races deemed to be inferior with the preservation of superior races eventually leading to the overall improvement in genetic quality. Eugenics gained momentum in the early 1900’s with the formation of British and American Eugenics societies. Winston Churchill supported the British Eugenics Society and was an honorary vice president for the organization. Churchill believed that eugenics could solve “race deterioration” and reduce crime and poverty. Eugenics promoted practices such as genetic screening, birth control, marriage restrictions, both racial segregation and sequestering the mentally ill, compulsory sterilization, forced abortions and pregnancies. Theodore Roosevelt, Alexander Graham Bell, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and many other prominent citizens were outspoken supporters. George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) wrote: “The only fundamental and possible socialism is the socialisation of the selective breeding of man.” He proposed that the state should issue colour-coded “procreation tickets” to prevent the gene pool of the elite being diluted by inferior human beings. Those who decided to have children with holders of a different-coloured ticket would be punished with a heavy fine. In the United States, scientific racism was used to justify African slavery. Samuel Cartwright (1793-1863) coined the term “drapetomania” which was descried as a mental disorder of slaves who had tried to run away from their captives- the condition was deemed treatable. “Negroes, with their smaller brains and blood vessels, and their tendency toward indolence and barbarism, had only to be kept benevolently in the state of submission, awe and reverence that God had ordained. The Negro is [then] spellbound, and cannot run away,” he said.

The ethos of eugenics was incorporated into Nazi Germany’s racial policies. Hitler justified the policies of sterilization of defectives, involuntary euthanasia and the holocaust based on “racial hygiene”, a term that gained tremendous popularity in the Nazi Germany. After the second world war, due to Hitler’s adaptation of eugenics, there has been a sharp decline in the popularity of this policy, at least at a state level.

The roots of the idea that the white races are superior, more intelligent, stronger and higher on the evolutionary ladder, are varied and multifactorial.

The age of European enlightenment, followed by imperialism compounded by social Darwinism, has reinforced the concept over centuries. In Sweden, the practice of forced sterilisation was continued till 1970. In the US, involuntary sterilisation of female prisoners occurred as late as 2010.

Modern day evolutionary scientists and molecular biologists dismiss the idea of race superiority based on hereditary genetics. The superiority of a human over another, based on race, colour, creed and sex are morally and ethically wrong. A better world would be world without prejudice and racism.

The writer is a surgeon with an interest in theology and history


Scientific Racism - Origins of Scientific Racism - Georges Cuvier

Georges Cuvier (1769–1832) the French naturalist and zoologist racial studies influenced scientific polygenism and scientific racialism. Cuvier believed there were three distinct races the Caucasian (white), Mongolian (yellow) and the Ethiopian (black). He thought Adam and Eve were Caucasian and that was the original race of mankind, and the other two races arose by survivors' escaping in different directions after a major catastrophe hit the earth 5,000 years ago. He theorized that the survivors lived in complete isolation from each other and developed separately.

Cuvier thought the Caucasian skull was the most beautifully shaped. He divided humanity into three races: white, yellow and black, and rated each for the beauty or ugliness of the skull and quality of their civilizations. According to Cuvier, a European, the White race was at the top, and the black race was at the bottom.

Cuvier wrote about Caucasians (Europeans):

The white race, with oval face, straight hair and nose, to which the civilised people of Europe belong and which appear to us the most beautiful of all, is also superior to others by its genius, courage and activity.

Regarding Negros, Cuvier wrote:

The Negro race. is marked by black complexion, crisped of woolly hair, compressed cranium and a flat nose, The projection of the lower parts of the face, and the thick lips, evidently approximate it to the monkey tribe: the hordes of which it consists have always remained in the most complete state of barbarism.

One of Cuvier's pupils, Friedrich Tiedemann, was one the first persons to make a scientific contestation of racism. He argued based on craniometric and brain measures taken by him from Europeans and black people from different parts of the world that the then common European belief that negroes have smaller brains and are thus intellectually inferior is scientifically unfounded and based merely on the prejudice of travellers and explorers.

Famous quotes containing the words georges and/or cuvier :

&ldquo America is the only nation in history which, miraculously, has gone directly from barbarism to degeneration without the usual interval of civilization. &rdquo
&mdashAttributed to Georges Clemenceau (1841�)

&ldquo Evolution is the law of policies: Darwin said it, Socrates endorsed it, Cuvier proved it and established it for all time in his paper on “The Survival of the Fittest.” These are illustrious names, this is a mighty doctrine: nothing can ever remove it from its firm base, nothing dissolve it, but evolution. &rdquo
&mdashMark Twain [Samuel Langhorne Clemens] (1835�)


Was Jefferson a “Scientific Racist”?

“In one of my seminar discussions,” writes UVA professor Peter Onuf (now emeritus) in The Mind of Thomas Jefferson, “one young woman described suddenly feeling the she ‘did not belong here,’ that Jefferson was telling her that there was no place for her in his ‘academical village.’ ” He continues, “She had read that black was anything but beautiful.” The young woman, having been schooled by Onuf about Jefferson’s contempt for Blacks, realized presumably that Jefferson would never have allowed a black person at the institution, were he still living. Onuf roundly castigates Jefferson: “Jefferson lived long enough for his racial thinking to evolve. It didn’t.” i

The notion that Jefferson was racist is widely held and unquestionably the received view among historians. That view, I have argued, is wrong for a number of reasons. ii Here I focus on just one—the scientific basis for Jefferson’s racism, or Jefferson’s avowed “scientific racism.”

A huge problem in the critical literature is that Jefferson is dubbed racist as if all persons are clear on just what “racism” means and entails. So, I begin by offering a definition of “racism.”

Racism=df The prejudged notion that humanity is divided into distinct biological groups (i.e., races), that certain races are superior to others, and that any superior race is entitled to treat an inferior race as lesser or with contempt.

There is also a considerable body of literature that argues Jefferson’s racism was axially or in part scientific. Annette Gordon Reed writes of “the pseudo-scientific racism in Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia.” She then adds, “There can be no question that Thomas Jefferson was deeply and profoundly racist.” iii Andrew Burstein acknowledges that “racist” is anachronistic, as “the ideology we know as racial tolerance … did not exist until the twentieth century,” and concludes that there are other, more germane words. In spite of the caveat, he freely employs “racism” throughout the book. Immediately after his caveat, for illustration, he writes, “Class background or regional identity was not the only determinant of Jefferson’s racism his attachment to the books in his library mattered, too.” iv Reference to the books in Jefferson’s library can only mean his scientific books—e.g., those of Buffon, Cuvier, and Hogarth—hence, his racism is doubtless of the scientific sort. Paul Finkelman says: “Jefferson was always deeply committed to slavery, and even more deeply hostile to the welfare of blacks, slave or free. His proslavery views were shaped not only by money and status but also by his deeply racist views, which he tried to justify through pseudoscience.” v Such accounts, in keeping with my definition of “racism,” are “scientific” in that Jefferson used the slanted science of his day as warrant for his slanted views.

Yet what precisely does it mean for racism to be scientific?

On the one hand, there is the casuistry thesis (TC): Jefferson’s racism was scientific in that it shaped the sort of scientific literature he read and assimilated. His deep and profound hatred of Blacks led to a selective, rationalized approach to the science he read, and he read only those scientists whose views aligned conveniently with his.

On the other hand, there is the pseudoscience thesis (TP): Jefferson’s racism was scientific because the leading scientists of his day had mistaken views of race. So, they were practicing pseudoscience, not science. Here Jefferson is culpable of scientific racism as he willingly assimilated their mistaken views.

Before evaluating those, let us look at a brief but representative look at the “science,” understood broadly, of Jefferson’s day.

“Race” is a vestige of the notion that the perceived physical differences (e.g. skin color or hair texture) between people geographically isolated from each other over time can be explicated biologically. The term originated when eighteenth- and nineteenth-century naturalists, attempting to examine the differences between species of living things, turned to explanation of the observed differences among humans. The different races—and naturalists wavered on the exact number of kinds—formed, for most naturalists, a hierarchy. Europeans tended to be at the top Africans tended to be at or near the bottom.

In the tenth edition of Systema Naturae(1758), Carl Linnaeus listed four species of primates: Homo, Simia, Lemur, and Vespertilio. Simia included many species of primates (e.g., apes and orangutans) Homo included only humans. vi By the tenth edition, Linnaeus, using geographic location and color of skin, grouped humans into four subspecies. Under Homo diurnus, he subsumed:

1. Homo rusus, cholericus, rectus (red man bilious [angry], upright or honest Americanus)

2. Homo albus, sanguineus, torosus (white man blooded [hopeful], muscular or fleshy Europeus)

3. Homo luridus, melancholicus, rigidus (yellow man black-biled [depressed] man, inflexible or harsh Asiaticus)

4. Homo niger, phlegmaticus, laxus (black man phlegmatic [stolid], lazy or relaxed Afer)

Under Homo nocturnus, he lists Ourang Outang, suggesting that the key difference between humans and orangutans is one of habit—humans being diurnal orangutans, noctural.

Comte de Buffon, in “On the Degeneration of Animals” (1766) and “On the Epochs of Nature” (1778), said that exposure to certain types of food and land over time led to “the general and constant characters in which we recognize the different races and even nations which compose the human genus.” vii Climates and foods, poorly suited for human thriving, would promote human degeneration. Civilized living would prevent human degeneration and promote improvement of internal form through better nutrition and some degree of taming climate.

Oliver Goldsmith, in An History of the Earth, and Animated Nature (1774), maintained that there were six “varieties” of humans: those persons “found round the polar regions,” the “Tartar race,” “southern Asiatics,” “negroes of Africa,” “inhabitants of America,” and “Europeans.” Negros (“this gloomy race of mankind”), Asiatics (cowardly and effeminate), and Americans (thoughtless and serious) were degenerative varieties. viii

“Georges” Cuvier in Le règne animal (1817) attempted to arrange all created beings into a “system of nature” according to “natural methods” and according to “true fundamental relations.” ix There are three “races” of humans, the “first order” of mammals, for Cuvier: “the Caucasian or white, the Mongolian or yellow, and the Ethiopian or negro.” Caucasians have beautiful oval heads, varied complexions, and varied color of hair, and comprise the most highly civilized nations. Mongolians have high cheek bones, flat visage, narrow and oblique eyes, straight black hair, scanty beard, and an olive complexion. They have had great empires, but are “stationary.” Negroes, “confined to the south of Mount Atlas,” are of black complexion, with crisped and wooly hair, compressed cranium, and a flat nose. Their hordes “have always remained in the most complete state of utter barbarism.” x

The philosophers and aestheticians did little to enhance the status of Blacks.

David Hume, an abolitionist, wrote unabashedly in a footnote to “Of National Characters” (1748) about black inferiority. “I am apt to suspect the negroes to be naturally inferior to the whites. There scarcely ever was a civilized nation of that complexion, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures amongst them, no arts, no sciences.” He argued for an “original distinction between these breeds of man.” xi

William Hogarth in The Analysis of Beauty (1753) states that white, “nearest to light,” is most beautiful, whereas all colors “absolutely lose their beauty by degrees as they approach nearer to black,” which represents darkness. xii

Edmund Burke, in a work on the beautiful and the sublime (1757), posits that darkness is more sublime and has a greater effect on the passions than light. xiii Being sublime, it is productive of terror. “Black will always have something melancholy in it, because the sensory will always find the change to it from other colours too violent or if it occupy the whole compass of the sight, it will then be darkness and what was said of darkness, will be applicable here.”

Immanuel Kant was convinced that Blacks were a naturally defective race. Attending on the sentiments of Hume, he writes in Observations on the Beautiful and the Sublime (1764) that not one Black has contributed anything “great in art or science or any other praiseworthy quality.” He sums, “So fundamental is the difference between these two races of man, and it appears to be as great in regard to mental capacities as in color.” xiv

This smattering of the “science” of Jefferson’s time shows it was widely held that Blacks, as a race or subspecies of humans, were regarded as inferior or defective by many of the most esteemed scientists of his time. Jefferson—who argued that Blacks were inferior to Whites apropos of beauty, intelligence, and imagination in Notes on Virginia xv —appropriated that literature. Ought he to be dubbed “racist” for echoing the received view? xvi

It is difficult to discuss the issue with objectivity in the United States given its history of racial bias and the large number of unspeakable acts of cruelty that have been performed by Whites on behalf of their perceived racial superiority. Mere utterance of “racism” often is sufficient to boil one’s blood. Yet the question redounds: Would it have been rational for a man, steeped in the science of Jefferson’s time, to reject outright the scientific utterances on biotic classification, racial classification included?

To answer that question, I turn to an evaluation of the casuistry and pseudoscience theses—TC and TP.

There are two weighty problems with TC. First, Jefferson nowhere expresses “deep and profound” enmity toward Blacks. He behaved kindly toward his slaves—he was much loved by most of them—he consistently wrote of slavery as a blight, and he acted both as attorney and legislator to eradicate the institution. Moreover, inferiority notwithstanding, he recognized they had the same rights as all other men. He writes to Bishop Grégoire (25 Feb. 1809): “Whatever be [Blacks’] degree of talent it is no measure of their rights. Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior to others in understanding, he was not therefore lord of the person or property of others.” Second, Jefferson did not have a selective view of the scientists he read on race. The leading scientists and thinkers of his day—e.g., Linnaeus, Buffon, and Cuvier—tended to view Blacks as an inferior race. Yet they also tended to view Native Americans and Asians, often all non-Europeans, as inferior. That should come as no surprise. The triumphs of the scientists of their time—e.g., Bacon, Priestley, Buffon, Harvey, Locke, Boyle, Cuvier, Kepler, Galileo, Linnaeus, and especially Newton—were prodigious science was greatly prized in the day and all such men were European. Thus, it is clear why naturalists judged Europeans the highest of the races. Still, the works of such naturalists betray no indication of hatred and the claims of the naturalists are framed such that they are not immune to revision given weighty evidence to the contrary. Again, the research of such naturalists on the differences between species and between races of men—research that hitherto had never been done—set the table for scientific exploration of the similarities between species and between the races of men—viz., for the evolutionary biology of our time. TC is untenable.

There is also a problem with TP—the weighty problem of defining “pseudoscience” as “false science,” which Finkelman seems to do, and classifying Jefferson as racist because he has taken up false science. If “pseudoscience” is merely false science, then almost everything that goes by the name of science today will be shown to be pseudoscience in time, and almost all of the science of the past—e.g., Aristotle’s views on the generation and passing of animals, Ptolemy’s geocentric view of the universe, Descartes’s theory of vortices, Priestley’s phlogiston theory, Werner’s Neptunism, and even Newton’s theory of gravity—must be categorized as pseudoscience, as it has not passed the test of time. That seems gratuitous. Ptolemy’s geocentric model of the universe, employing Aristotle’s false physics, turned out to be wrong, but still it was scientific. Copernicus’s heliocetric model also labored under Aristotle’s false physics, so it was no better an explanation of the observed phenomena than was Ptolemy’s. Pseudoscience cannot mean false science.

Yet pseudoscience, though not false science, is bad science of some sort, so we need not hastily bury TP. One way to get at what makes pseudoscience bad science is to try to delineate just what makes good science good.

Following neo-Positive approaches, for a hypothesis to be properly scientific, it must meet certain criteria of adequacy. It must be, at least in principle, unambiguously verifiable, and it must be articulated with regard to certain other criteria of adequacy—i.e., simplicity, fruitfulness, scope, and conservatism (the last condition being admittedly vague). It is pseudo-scientific if it fails to be at least in principle unambiguously verifiable or if it is not articulated with regard for the other criteria of adequacy. xvii Thus, to accuse Jefferson of scientific racism is to accuse him either of framing in-principle untestable hypotheses concerning Blacks of his day or of callous disregard of the other criteria of adequacy for scientific hypotheses.

Keeping aesthetic claims aside, it is clear that many of the claims Jefferson put forth concerning Blacks in his Notes on Virginia were straightforwardly or at least in-principle testable: e.g., being inferior to Whites in intelligence, having greater ardency than Whites with females, being less transient than Whites in their grieving, being equal to Whites in memory, being inferior to Whites in imagination, and being equal to Whites in morality. xviii Thus it is difficult to accuse him of dodging testability.

Moreover, though the other criteria—simplicity, fruitfulness, scope, and conservatism—are modern, it does not seem untoward to hold scientists of Jefferson’s day to at least implicit recognition of their merit. It is in keeping with the science of Jefferson’s time that the inferiority of Blacks was consistent with the evidence at the disposal of naturalists like Buffon and Cuvier. It is true that such naturalists were working within the framework of a model with many false or dubious hypotheses—e.g., Scala naturae, teleology,and the relative inflexibility of species—but that happens in all cases of scientific practice. Still disclosure of the defects of that model through persistent, dispassionate study of natural phenomena led to the implosion of the model and to adoption, decades later, of the notions of a non-teleological frame and of a more fluctuant understanding of “species”—Darwin’s The Origin of Species (1859). In short, the scientists of Jefferson’s day were guided by considerations of simplicity, fruitfulness, scope, and conservatism, but the scant data at their disposal disallowed them the opportunity to see the defects of their model. The notions of distinct races and of there being a hierarchy among those races was an unfortunate result of scarcity of relevant data, and those notions certainly shaped Jefferson’s thinking on Blacks. With the advent of gene theory, scientists have been able to discover that “race” is a scientifically vacuous category, though still of some heuristic value. xix

It follows that one can no more fault Jefferson for assimilating the leading science of his time than one can fault an eight-century philosopher for believing that the sun orbits the earth. If he can be shown to have been racist, it will not be because of his assimilation of the science of his day.

I end where I began—with Onuf. Just what experiences should Jefferson have had, what books should he have read, to prompt the evolution in his racial thinking Onuf says he ought to have had? They are the experiences and books to which Onuf, qua contemporary critic, has access, not the experiences and books to which Jefferson had access.

i Peter Onuf, The Mind of Thomas Jefferson (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007), 206–8.

ii M. Andrew Holowchak, “Jefferson on African Americans,” Dutiful Correspondent: Philosophical Essays on Thomas Jefferson (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012), 203–28 and “‘A Convenient Defect of Vision’: Jefferson’s View of Blacks,” Framing a Legend: Exposing the Distorted History Of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2013), 211–44.

iii Annette Gordon Reed, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1997), 134. I ask, Can a deep and profound racist practice “pseudo-scientific racism”?

iv Andrew Burstein, Jefferson’s Secrets: Death and Desire at Monticello (New York: Basic Books, 2005), 120.

v Paul Finkelman, “The Monster of Monticello,” The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/opinion/the-real-thomas-jefferson.html?_r=0, accessed 12 Nov. 2014.

vi Linnaeus was uncomfortable with excluding humans from Simia.He writes in a letter to Johann Georg Gmelin (25 Feb 1747): “I seek from you and from the whole world a generic difference between man and simian that follows from the principles of Natural History. I absolutely know of none. If only someone might tell me a single one! If I would have called man a simian or vice versa, I would have brought together all the theologians against me.” From Justin E.H. Smith, “Natural History and the Speculative Sciences of Origins, The Routledge Companion to Eighteenth Century Philosophy, ed. Aaron Garnett (New York: Routledge, 2014), 723.

vii Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon, “De la dégénération des animaux,” Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière, vol. 14 (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1766) , 313–16, and “Des époques de la nature,” Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière: supplément, vol. 5 (Paris: Imprimerie royale, 1778), 1–254.

viii Goldsmith also rejected the notion, held by some (e.g., Benjamin Rush), that Negroes’ skin was a “leprous crust”—the result of disease. Oliver Goldsmith, An History of the Earth, and Animated Nature, 8 vols. (Philadelphia: Edward Poole, [1774] 1823), 239–250.

ix Baron Cuvier, The Animal Kingdom, Arranged in Conformity with Its Organization, trans. H. M’Murtrie, vol. 1 (New York: G & C & H Carvill, 1831), 4–6.

x Baron Cuvier, The Animal Kingdom, 52.

xi David Hume, “Of National Characters,” Essays: Moral, Political, and Literary, ed. Eugene F. Miller (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1987), 208n10.

xii William Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty, Written with a View of Fixing the Fluctuating Ideas of Taste (Pittsfield, MA: [1753] 1909), 190–1.

xiii Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (London, R. and J. Dodsley, 1757), 62–63 and 148.

xiv Immanuel Kant, Observations of the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime, trans. John T. Goldthwait (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960), 110–11.

xv Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, ed. William Peden (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1954), 138–39.

xvi There were of course notable exceptions like Condorcet (Réflexions sur L’esclavage des Nègres) and Bernardin de Saint Pierre (Voeux d’un solitaire).

xvii M. Andrew Holowchak, Critical Reasoning and Science: Looking at Science with an Investigative Eye (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2009), 245–47.

xviii Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 138–39. Verification or falsification of such claims, of course, nowise tells us if the causes are biological or environmental.


Facing America's History of Racism Requires Facing the Origins of 'Race' as a Concept

W hen we look back on 2020, the emblematic photos of the year will undoubtedly include images of crowds gathered around toppled, spray-painted statues. The indictment of these monuments has focused the country&rsquos attention on how the history of slavery in the United States casts a long shadow that stretches all the way from the Middle Passage and Jim Crow to the protracted record of police violence against African Americans that led to the Black Lives Matter movement in the first place.

The histories of slavery and racism in the United States have never been more pertinent. This is also the case for the comparatively understudied history of race as a concept, without which it is impossible to understand how Europeans and their colonial &ldquodescendants&rdquo in the United States engineered the most complete and enduring dehumanization of a people in history.

The logic behind the history of race initially seems deceivingly clear: to justify the forced deportation of 400,000 Black Africans to North America (and another eleven million to other parts of the Americas between 1525 and 1866), Europeans and their American heirs found it necessary to debase and revile their captives. Yet today&rsquos racism is more than a malignant byproduct of the 19th-century American plantation system it also grew out of an elaborate and supposedly &ldquoscientific&rdquo European conception of the human species that began during the Enlightenment.

By the early decades of the 18th century, the Continent&rsquos savants and natural philosophers no longer automatically looked to the Bible to explain the story of the human species. Intent on finding physical explanations for natural phenomena, naturalists employed more &ldquoempirical&rdquo methods to solve one of the biggest &ldquoanthropological&rdquo questions of the day: why did people from Africa, millions of whom were already toiling in European plantations, look different from white Europeans?

By the 1740s, one could find a dozen or more purportedly scientific explanations. Some claimed that blackness came from vapors emanating from the skin others claimed that black skin was passed on from generation to generation via the power of the maternal imagination or from darkened sperm still others asserted that the heat or the air of the Torrid Zone darkened the humors and stained the skin.

The dominant &ldquoanthropological&rdquo concept that emerged around 1750 was called degeneration, which can be understood as the precise opposite of what we now know to be true about humankind&rsquos origins. In contrast to the model that shows how evolution and successive human migrations from the African continent account for humanity&rsquos many colors, degeneration theory maintained that there was an original and superior white race, and that this group of humans moved about the globe and mutated in different climates. These morphological and pigmentation changes were not seen as adaptations or the results of natural selection they were explained as a perversion or deterioration of a higher archetype.

Medical practitioners stepped in to flesh out that vague narrative, creating the basis for the idea of what we now call race. Anatomists, in particular, dissected the bodies of supposedly degenerated Africans, and published numerous now-shocking articles on the supposed damage of living in a tropical climate: black brains, black bile, black sperm and even race-specific black lice.

The most bigoted of European physicians attributed specific organ-based liabilities to Black Africans, including indolence and diminished cognition. Not surprisingly, these falsehoods and the methods that produced them flourished in the United States: in 1851, Samuel A. Cartwright identified two &ldquodiseases&rdquo associated with Africans. The first was a mental illness he dubbed drapetomania, which caused slaves to run away. The second was dysaesthesia aethiopica, a type of lethargy that struck Africans who were not enslaved or overseen by whites. His cure: anointing them with oil, and applying a leather strap.

Europe also bequeathed Americans with the very category of &ldquorace.&rdquo By the 1770s, German figureheads including Emmanuel Kant and J.F. Blumenbach&mdashthe latter of whom coined the term Caucasian because he believed that the original prototype race originated in the Caucus Region&mdashaffirmed that new biometric and anatomical discoveries justified the use of the modernistic word race to distinguish among human subspecies.

Racial classification schemes provided the most powerful framework for understanding the divide between white and Black. Some naturalists took this one step further, proposing that Africans actually formed a different species entirely. Predictably, this latter idea was adopted by some members of the proslavery lobby in the United States.

Progressive thinkers, abolitionists and, eventually, formerly enslaved people including the writer Olaudah Equiano began critiquing the roots and effects of racial prejudice as early as the 1770s. And yet, even as scientific research has confirmed just how wrong Enlightenment theories of race were, many of the most rearguard and unscientific European notions regarding race have remained deeply embedded in the American psyche, not to mention in the arsenal of the Alt Right. Indeed, the immigration policies of the Trump Administration, in insisting that immigrants from certain countries are less desirable than others, are effectively resurrecting centuries-old notions about the supposedly deterministic nature of race.

Racialized thinking, especially when weaponized by our politicians, must be repudiated at every turn. Part of an effective rebuttal to such malicious positions may come from extending our understanding of racism to include the anecdotal, spurious and pseudoscientific birth of these ideas centuries ago. This may ultimately be something that every American can agree on: wherever we come from, we are all the unfortunate heirs of a deadly and illegitimate science.


Social Darwinism and the origins of scientific racism

The “Origin of species by natural selection”, Charles Darwin’s (1809-1882) masterpiece, was published in Nov 1859- all twelve hundred and fifty copies were sold out on the first day. Since then Darwin’s ideas have revolutionised the entire premise of evolutionary biology and superseded the concept of naturalism as an explanation of human evolution.

In this article, however, we will discuss the social, economic and cultural impact of Darwin’s theory. Social Darwinism, as it is called, has an impact in shaping the current geopolitical environment of the world. The current riots in the Unites States and the United Kingdom motivated by racial inequality have deep seated roots. There is no denying the fact that racism has existed since time immemorial, but in this article, we will review the history and impact of social Darwinism on modern day racism.

Thomas H Huxley (1825-1895) – also known as Darwin’s bulldog, coined the phrase Social Darwinism in 1861. However, the first use of the term “Social Darwinism” in Europe is attributed to a French journalist called Emile Gautier (1853-1937). The concept of social Darwinism borrowed the idea of “survival of the fittest” and “natural selection” from Darwin’s biological theory of evolution and applied this to economics, sociology and politics. It is a mishmash of ideologies that was and still is used to justify colonisation, imperialism, racism, social inequality and eugenics.

Darwin and the “survival of the fittest”:

Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) was an English economist and an influential scholar. Malthusianism is a theory of exponential population growth in comparison to the linear growth of food supply and other resources. In his book “An essay on the Principle of population” Malthus describes this apparent disparity between population growth and food supply. Malthus believed that through preventative and positive checks, the population could be controlled to balance the food supply with the population level. The Malthusian catastrophe is described as “a population, when unchecked, goes on doubling itself every twenty-five years, or increases in a geometrical ratio”, so that population soon exceeds its food supply.

Hitler justified the policies of sterilization of defectives, involuntary euthanasia and the holocaust based on “racial hygiene”, a term that gained tremendous popularity in the Nazi Germany

Darwin was familiar with Malthus’s concepts and was influenced by his ideas. He made the Malthusian struggle for existence the basis of his natural selection. He saw a similarity between farmers picking the best stock in selective breeding, and a Malthusian philosophy. The very extended wording on the title page of his book, by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, are suggestive of his views on race superiority. In The Descent of Man, he wrote “We civilised men…. do our utmost to check the process of elimination, we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick. Thus, the weak members of society propagate their kind.”

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) an English polymath and a sociologist was the first one to describe the term “survival of the fittest”. A very big proponent of utilitarian philosophy, Spenser believed that a social system that provides for the poor and needy is eventually detrimental to the overall growth of the society as it promotes the survival of the weak and the infirm leading to an overall retardation of growth. His concept of survival of the fittest implied that nature eliminates inefficiency- any efforts to slow this process will impair the overall benefits to the strong races. In his work, Social Statics (1850), he argued that imperialism had served civilization by clearing the inferior races off the earth.

The Rise of Social Darwinism and the Eugenics movement:

Francis Galton (1822-1911) was an English polymath and Darwin’s half cousin, fascinated by Darwin’s work, he made it his life’s mission to study variations in human population and its implication. Galton published his book the Hereditary Genius in 1869- he extensively studied the physical traits of eminent men and the inheritance of physical as well as intellectual attributes. Galton wrote in this book: “Let us do what we can to encourage the multiplication of the races best fitted to invent, and conform to, a high and generous civilisation, and not, out of mistaken instinct of giving support to the weak, prevent the incoming of strong and hearty individuals.”

It was Galton who championed the concept of eugenics (meaning well born). Eugenics promotes the exclusion or elimination of human races deemed to be inferior with the preservation of superior races eventually leading to the overall improvement in genetic quality. Eugenics gained momentum in the early 1900’s with the formation of British and American Eugenics societies. Winston Churchill supported the British Eugenics Society and was an honorary vice president for the organization. Churchill believed that eugenics could solve “race deterioration” and reduce crime and poverty. Eugenics promoted practices such as genetic screening, birth control, marriage restrictions, both racial segregation and sequestering the mentally ill, compulsory sterilization, forced abortions and pregnancies. Theodore Roosevelt, Alexander Graham Bell, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and many other prominent citizens were outspoken supporters. George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) wrote: “The only fundamental and possible socialism is the socialisation of the selective breeding of man.” He proposed that the state should issue colour-coded “procreation tickets” to prevent the gene pool of the elite being diluted by inferior human beings. Those who decided to have children with holders of a different-coloured ticket would be punished with a heavy fine. In the United States, scientific racism was used to justify African slavery. Samuel Cartwright (1793-1863) coined the term “drapetomania” which was descried as a mental disorder of slaves who had tried to run away from their captives- the condition was deemed treatable. “Negroes, with their smaller brains and blood vessels, and their tendency toward indolence and barbarism, had only to be kept benevolently in the state of submission, awe and reverence that God had ordained. The Negro is [then] spellbound, and cannot run away,” he said.

The ethos of eugenics was incorporated into Nazi Germany’s racial policies. Hitler justified the policies of sterilization of defectives, involuntary euthanasia and the holocaust based on “racial hygiene”, a term that gained tremendous popularity in the Nazi Germany. After the second world war, due to Hitler’s adaptation of eugenics, there has been a sharp decline in the popularity of this policy, at least at a state level.

The roots of the idea that the white races are superior, more intelligent, stronger and higher on the evolutionary ladder, are varied and multifactorial. The age of European enlightenment, followed by imperialism compounded by social Darwinism, has reinforced the concept over centuries. In Sweden, the practice of forced sterilisation was continued till 1970. In the US, involuntary sterilisation of female prisoners occurred as late as 2010.

Modern day evolutionary scientists and molecular biologists dismiss the idea of race superiority based on hereditary genetics. The superiority of a human over another, based on race, colour, creed and sex are morally and ethically wrong. A better world would be world without prejudice and racism.

Suhail Anwar is a surgeon with an interest in theology and history


Unravelling racism

Far from justifying racism or driving a new eugenics movement, the emerging understanding of race is likely to lead to a more equitable society.

Certainly, an understanding of the factors that shape people’s unconscious prejudices can be used either cynically or in positive ways. And an understanding of the factors that make people more sensitive to race and outgroup fear can help to disarm potential demagogues.

Writing about the “Roots of Racism” article at Crikey.com earlier this week, Noel Turnbull asked how we might use an improved understanding of the origins of racism to elevate societies like Australia where outgroup fear is shaping the political landscape. His suggestion bears repeating in full:

One way to encourage the slower, more rational thoughts, which also encourage our better angels is very much in the hands of politicians. For instance, if it was left to a vote capital punishment would never have been abolished in many Western countries but politicians took the leap on moral grounds helped by extensive public campaigns. When politicians reverted to pro-capital punishment atavism, such as former Victorian Liberal opposition leader Alan Brown, their leadership came under threat. In contrast one of his successors, Jeff Kennett, was extraordinarily principled on questions such as race and just refused opportunities to add to the fires and the atavistic comments while publicly demonstrating a strong commitment to multiculturalism.


The Lingering, Powerful Legacy Of “Scientific Racism” In America

Writing about the class of 2017’s performance on the newly redesigned SAT, Catherine Gewertz notes, “The number of students taking the SAT has hit an all-time high,” and adds cautiously:

More test takers and higher scores, albeit misleading ones, are the opening discussion about one of the most enduring fixtures of U.S. education ― standardized testing as gatekeeping for college entrance, scholarships, and scholastic eligibility.

However, buried about in the middle of Gewertz’s article, we discover another enduring reality:

Throughout its long history, the SAT, like all standardized testing, has reflected tremendous gaps along race, social class, and gender lines notable, for example, is the powerful correlation between SAT scores and takers’ parental income and level of education as well as the fact that males have had higher average scores than females for the math and verbal sections every year of SAT testing (the only glitch in that being the years the SAT included a writing section).

The SAT is but one example of the lingering and powerful legacy of “scientific racism” in the U.S. Tom Buchanan, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, punctuates his racist outbursts with “It’s all scientific stuff it’s been proved.”

Buchanan represents the ugly and rarely confronted relationship between “scientific” and “objective” with race, social class, and gender bigotry. In short, science has often been and continues to be tainted by bias that serves the dominant white and wealthy patriarchy.

Experimental and quasi-experimental research along with so-called standardized testing tends to avoid being implicated in not only identifying racism, classism, and sexism, but also perpetuating social inequity.

As I noted recently, since Carol Dweck and Angela Duckworth have produced mainstream scientific studies and published in reputable peer-reviewed journals, their inherently biased work has been nearly universally embraced ― among the exact elites who tend to ignore or outright reject the realities of inequity and injustice.

As just one example, Duckworth grounded her work in and continues to cite a Eugenicist, Francis Galton, with little or no consequences.

Racism, classism, and sexism are themselves built on identifying deficits within identifiable populations. Science allows these corrupt ideologies to appear factual, instead of simple bigotry.

“Scientific” and “objective” are convenient Teflon for bias and bigotry they provide cover for elites who want evidence they have earned their success, despite incredible evidence that success and failure are more strongly correlated with the coincidences of birth ― race, social class, gender.

It takes little effort to imagine a contemporary Tom pointing to the 2017 SAT data and arguing, “It’s all scientific stuff it’s been proved.”

Such ham-fisted scientism, however, mutes the deeper message that SAT data is a marker for all sorts of inequity in the U.S. And then when that data have the power to determine college entrance and scholarships, the SAT also perpetuates the exact inequities it measures.

The SAT sits in a long tradition including IQ testing that speaks to a jumbled faith in the U.S. for certain kinds of numbers and so-called science when the data and the science reinforce our basest beliefs, we embrace, but when data and science go against out sacred gods, we refute (think climate change and evolution).

Science that is skeptical and critical, questioning and interrogating, has much to offer humanity. But science continues to be plagued by human frailties such as bias.

Science, like history, is too often written by the winners, the oppressors. As a result, Foucault details, “[I]t is the individual as he[/she] may be described, judged, measured, compared with others, in his[/her] very individuality and it is also the individual who has to be trained or corrected, classified, normalized, excluded, etc.” [1]

“Scientific racism,” as a subset of science that normalizes bigotry, allows the accusatory white gaze to remain on groups that are proclaimed inherently flawed, deficient, in need of correction. “Scientific racism” distracts us from realizing that the tests and science themselves are the problem.

And thus, we must abandon seeking ever-new tests, such as revising the SAT, and begin the hard work of addressing why the gaps reflected in the tests exist—a “why” that is not nested in any group but our society and its powerful elite.

[1] Foucault, M. (1984). The Foucault reader. Ed. P. Rabinow. New York: Pantheon Books, p. 203.


Earliest examples of scientific racism

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This article has been tagged since October 2007.

According to Benjamin Isaac's The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity (Princeton University Press, 2006), roots of scientific racism may be found in Greco-Roman Antiquity. Other authors (such as the French author Raphaël Lagier, Les races humaines selon Kant - Human Races According to Kant, 2004 [5] ), however, reject this claim, highlighting the very different scientific frame created in the 19th century with the birth of modern biology, making any interpretation of continuity between Ancient racist theories with modern scientific racism hazardous at best. B. Isaac discussed in his book the alleged role of Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle, Galen and many other notable figures in the gradual formation of the modern scientific racist worldview. He presents for instance the 5th-century BC treatise Airs, Waters, Places by Hippocrates as a prime instance of early (proto)scientific racism, and links Pseudo-Aristotle's suggestions to Hippocrates: "The idea that dark people are cowards and light people courageous fighters is found already in Airs, Waters, Places. " [6] He also quotes Vitruvius (70-25 B.C.) who, relying on the racial theories of Posidonius, wrote "those races nearest to the southern half of the axis are of lower stature, with swarthy complexions, curly hair, black eyes and little blood on account of the sun. This poverty of blood makes them over-timid to stand up against the sword. On the other hand, men born in cold countries are indeed ready to meet the shock of arms with great courage and without timidity." [7]

Regular publications on race and other claimed differences between people of different geographical locations began at least as early as the eighteenth century. The 17th and 18th century were marked by natural history, in which the concept of evolution had no sense. Early attempts at distinguishing various races had been made by Henri de Boulainvilliers (1658-1722), who divided the nation of France between two races, the aristocratic, "French" race, descendants of the Germanic Franks, and the Gallo-Roman, indigenous race, which comprised the population of the Third Estate. According to Boulainvilliers, the descendants of the Franks dominated the Third Estate by a right of conquest. In the exact opposite of modern nationalism, the foreigners had a legitimate right of domination on indigenous peoples. But contrary to later, scientifically-justified theories of race, Boulainvilliers did not understand the concept of race as designing an eternal and immutable essence. His account was not, however, only a mythical tale: contrary to hagiographies and epics such as The Song of Roland, Boulainvilliers sought some kind of scientific legitimacy by basing his distinction between a Germanic race and a Latin race on historical events. But his theory of races was completely distinct from the biological concept of race later used by nineteenth century's theories of scientific racism.

Carolus Linnaeus (1707-78), a Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist, who laid the bases of binomial nomenclature (the method of naming species) and is known as the "father of modern taxonomy" (the science of describing, categorizing and naming organisms) was also a pioneer in defining the concept of "race" as applied to humans. Within Homo sapiens he proposed four taxa of a lower (unnamed) rank. These categories are, Americanus, Asiaticus, Africanus, and Europeanus. They were based on place of origin at first, and later skin color. Each race had certain characteristics that were endemic to individuals belonging to it. Native Americans were reddish, stubborn, and angered easily. Africans were black, relaxed and negligent. Asians were yellow, avaricious, and easily distracted. Europeans were white, gentle, and inventive. [8]

In addition, in Amoenitates academicae (1763), Carolus Linnaeus defined Homo anthropomorpha as a catch-all race for a variety of human-like mythological creatures, including the troglodyte, satyr, hydra, and phoenix. He claimed that these creatures actually existed, but were in reality inaccurate descriptions of real-world ape-like creatures.

He also defined in Systema Naturæ Homo ferus as "four-footed, mute, hairy." It included the subraces Juvenis lupinus hessensis (wolf boys), who he thought were raised by animals, and Juvenis hannoveranus (Peter of Hanover) and Puella campanica (Wild-girl of Champagne). He likewise defined Homo monstrosous as agile and fainthearted, and included in this race the Patagonian giant, the dwarf of the Alps, and the monorchid Hottentot.

Edward Long, a British colonial administrator, created a more simple classification of race in History of Jamaica (1774). The next year, Johann Blumenbach published his thesis, On the Natural Varieties of Mankind, one of the foundational work of scientific racism. Blumenbach, however, supported monogenism, according to which all mankind had a common origin, against Samuel von Sömmering and Christoph Meiners, who supported polygenism, the view that separate races originated independently.


The Institute for Creation Research

Some people today, especially those of anti-Christian opinions, have the mistaken notion that the Bible prescribes permanent racial divisions among men and is, therefore, the cause of modern racial hatreds. As a matter of fact, the Bible says nothing whatever about race. Neither the word nor the concept of different "races" is found in the Bible at all. As far as one can learn from a study of Scripture, the writers of the Bible did not even know there were distinct races of men, in the sense of black and yellow and white races, or Caucasian and Mongol and Negroid races, or any other such divisions.

The Biblical divisions among men are those of "tongues, families, nations, and lands" (Genesis 10:5,20,31) rather than races. The vision of the redeemed saints in heaven (Revelation 7:9) is one of "all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues", but no mention is made of "races". The formation of the original divisions, after the Flood, was based on different languages (Genesis 11:6-9), supernaturally imposed by God, but nothing is said about any other physical differences.

Some have interpreted the Noahic prophecy concerning his three sons (Genesis 9:25-27) to refer to three races, Hamitic, Semitic and Japhetic, but such a meaning is in no way evident from the words of this passage. The prophecy applies to the descendants of Noah's sons, and the various nations to be formed from them, but nothing is said about three races. Modern anthropologists and historians employ a much-different terminology than this simple trifurcation for what they consider to be the various races among men.

Therefore, the origin of the concept of "race" must be sought elsewhere than in the Bible. If certain Christian writers have interpreted the Bible in a racist framework, the error is in the interpretation, not in the Bible itself. In the Bible, there is only one race&mdashthe human race! "(God) hath made of one, all nations of men" (Acts 17:26).

What Is a Race?

In modern terminology, a race of men may involve quite a large number of individual national and language groups. It is, therefore, a much broader generic concept than any of the Biblical divisions. In the terminology of biological taxonomy, it is roughly the same as a "variety", or a "sub-species". Biologists, of course, use the term to apply to sub-species of animals, as well as men.

For example, Charles Darwin selected as the subtitle for his book Origin of Species the phrase "The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life". It is clear from the context that he had races of animals primarily in mind, but at the same time it is also clear, as we shall see, that he thought of races of men in the same way.

That this concept is still held today is evident from the following words of leading modern evolutionist George Gaylord Simpson:

It is clear, therefore, that a race is not a Biblical category, but rather is a category of evolutionary biology. Each race is a sub-species, with a long evolutionary history of its own, in the process of evolving gradually into a distinct species.

As applied to man, this concept, of course, suggests that each of the various races of men is very different, though still inter-fertile, from all of the others. If they continue to be segregated, each will continue to compete as best it can with the other races in the struggle for existence and finally the fittest will survive. Or else, perhaps, they will gradually become so different from each other as to assume the character of separate species altogether (just as apes and men supposedly diverged from a common ancestor early in the so-called Tertiary Period).

Most modern biologists today would express these concepts somewhat differently than as above, and they undoubtedly would disavow the racist connotations. Nevertheless, this was certainly the point-of-view of the 19th century evolutionists, and it is difficult to interpret modern evolutionary theory, the so-called neo-Darwinian synthesis, much differently.

Nineteenth-Century Evolutionary Racism

The rise of modern evolutionary theory took place mostly in Europe, especially in England and Germany. Europeans, along with their American cousins, were then leading the world in industrial and military expansion, and were, therefore, inclined to think of themselves as somehow superior to the other nations of the world. This opinion was tremendously encouraged by the concurrent rise of Darwinian evolutionism and its simplistic approach to the idea of struggle between natural races, with the strongest surviving and thus contributing to the advance of evolution.

As the 19th century scientists were converted to evolution, they were thus also convinced of racism. They were certain that the white race was superior to other races, and the reason for this superiority was to be found in Darwinian theory. The white race had advanced farther up the evolutionary ladder and, therefore, was destined either to eliminate the other races in the struggle for existence or else to have to assume the "white man's burden" and to care for those inferior races that were incompetent to survive otherwise.

Charles Darwin himself, though strongly opposed to slavery on moral grounds, was convinced of white racial superiority. He wrote on one occasion as follows:

The man more responsible than any other for the widespread acceptance of evolution in the 19th century was Thomas Huxley. Soon after the American Civil War, in which the negro slaves were freed, he wrote as follows:

Racist sentiments such as these were held by all the 19th century evolutionists. A recent book 4 has documented this fact beyond any question. In a review of this book, a recent writer says:

A reviewer in another scientific journal says:

The Modern Harvest

In a day and age which practically worshipped at the shrine of scientific progress, as was true especially during the century from 1860 to 1960, such universal scientific racism was bound to have repercussions in the political and social realms. The seeds of evolutionary racism came to fullest fruition in the form of National Socialism in Germany. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, a contemporary of Charles Darwin and an ardent evolutionist, popularized in Germany his concept of the superman, and then the master race. The ultimate outcome was Hitler, who elevated this philosophy to the status of a national policy.

However one may react morally against Hitler, he was certainly a consistent evolutionist. Sir Arthur Keith, one of the leading evolutionary anthropologists of our century, said:

With respect to the question of race struggle, as exemplified especially in Germany, Sir Arthur also observed:

In recent decades, the cause of racial liberation has made racism unpopular with intellectuals and only a few evolutionary scientists still openly espouse the idea of a long-term polyphyletic origin of the different races. 10 On the other hand, in very recent years, the pendulum has swung, and now we have highly vocal advocates of "black power" and "red power" and "yellow power", and these advocates are all doctrinaire evolutionists, who believe their own respective "races" are the fittest to survive in man&rsquos continuing struggle for existence.

The Creationist Position

According to the Biblical record of history, the Creator&rsquos divisions among men are linguistic and national divisions, not racial. Each nation has a distinct purpose and function in the corporate life of mankind, in the divine Plan (as, for that matter, does each individual).

No one nation is "better" than another, except in the sense of the blessings it has received from the Creator, perhaps in measure of its obedience to His Word and fulfillment of its calling. Such blessings are not an occasion for pride, but for gratitude.

References

* Dr. Henry M. Morris (1918-2006) was Founder and President Emeritus of ICR.

Cite this article: Morris, H. 1973. Evolution and Modern Racism. Acts & Facts. 2 (7).