Home » Culture, Darwinism, News » No wonder many black people don’t like Darwin’s theory

No wonder many black people don’t like Darwin’s theory

American Genesis: The Evolution Controversies from Scopes to Creation Science

And it turns out, a lot of women in Scopes’ day felt the same way.

From “New Light on a Continuing Clash” (Science, 335, 23 March 2012: 1443-1444) a review by Biologos’ Thomas Burnett of Jeffrey P. Moran’s American Genesis The Antievolution Controversies from Scopes to Creation Science (Oxford University Press, 2012):

One might expect that the earliest evolution debates were primarily found in southern states and rural areas. But in fact, as Moran points out, until the 1920s southern Americans paid scant attention to Darwinism. When potential jurors were questioned for the Scopes trial, most confessed that they had not heard of any controversy over evolution and the Bible until after Scopes had been arrested. Before that time, the conflict was largely confined to the Northeast, where modernist views were rapidly advancing and sectarian groups were emerging to combat them.

In other words, it was mostly the better informed people who realized what Darwinism is and where it was headed.

Exploring the racial dimensions of the Scopes trial, Moran notes that teaching evolution in public schools was not a major issue for the African American community at the time. In the South, relatively few black students attended high school; for those who did, the segregated schools emphasized agriculture and practical trades. A general acceptance of evolution represented a no-win situation for African Americans. Although some black intellectuals hoped that scientific advancement would undermine the South’s oppressive social structure, it was evident evolution could be marshaled to further justify black inferiority. In fact, George Hunter’s Civic Biology-Tennessee’s official biology text, used by Scopes-explicitly described a hierarchy of races. The lowest was the “Ethiopian or negro type,” and it culminated with “the highest type of all, the Caucasians, [are] represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America” (2).

Good for Moran for just admitting that.

The part that many people miss is that racism is not incidental or accidental to Darwinism. If Darwin was right, the human race, while having a common origin, might well be slowly drifting apart. In which case, racism, however reprehensible, would have a basis in fact.

Traditionally, most Westerners had not thought that way; they assumed common ancestry of humans and expected an apocalyptic end of the world in which all humanity gets judged by the same standards. Darwin was not himself a virulent racist – he was only a racist in the way most well-meaning Victorian gentlemen of his day would be – but his theory provided a new justification for racism.

Beyond race and regional identity, the most surprising insights in American Genesis concern the role of gender. Moran persuasively argues that in the 1920s antievolutionism was primarily a female-led reform movement that sought political support against threats to children’s moral and religious development. Women had recently secured the right to vote, and given their high visibility in the prohibition movement, politicians felt obliged to heed their concerns. During debate over the Butler bill, the speaker of the Tennessee Senate “proclaimed he had been petitioned to support the bill by ‘the women of the state and the teachers association.’” At the time of the Scopes trial, nearly all letters to newspapers in support of the Butler bill were written by women, whereas dissenting letters more often came from men.

In other words, they anticipated by many decades the debacle of evolutionary psychology: Apes do it, so it must be okay for us. And so forth.

The women were certainly demonstrating they were smart enough to have the vote, contrary to some widely heard claims.

See also: Breaking, breaking: Student in Florida evolution class threatens to kill prof, classmates

Overheard in a coffee shop: Reasons why an African American might go nuts in evolution class

Follow UD News at Twitter!

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

5 Responses to No wonder many black people don’t like Darwin’s theory

  1. An interesting topic. But to me, the most important things to note about it are:

    1. Even if strongly tied to evolution, the offensiveness of a theory of racial superiority has little or nothing to do with arguing that mutation-selection evolution is or is not the correct explanation for the existence of complex life. It might be a great tactic for getting people to dislike/reject evolution — but isn’t that an anti-scientific mode of persuasion? Isn’t ID supposed to be about scientific objections to Darwin’s theory?

    2. I’m not sure that theories of racial superiority are any less compatible with ID than they are with evolution. Evolution (if true) might have evolved intellectually superior race(s), or it might have evolved different, but intellectually similar, races. Designers (if they exist and did make humanity) might have engineered superior race(s), or they might have engineered racial flexibility into a single species, with no tie to intellectual capability.

    It appears that, like the evolution-vs-ID question, the question of racial capabilities is answerable only via scientific study of evidence. The two questions are essentially separate, and separate sets of evidence will (eventually) provide the answer to each.

  2. It appears that, like the evolution-vs-ID question,

    Materialism vs ID question

    the question of racial capabilities is answerable only via scientific study of evidence.

    “Trading Places”… :)

  3. 3

    Darwin’s myth and racism go hand-in-hand.

    “It may be quite true that some negroes are better than some white men; but no rational man, cognisant of the facts, believes that the average negro is the equal, still less the superior, of the average white man. And, if this be true, it is simply incredible that, when all his disabilities are removed, and our prognathous relative has a fair field and no favour, as well as no oppressor, he will be able to compete successfully with his bigger-brained and smallerjawed rival, in a contest which is to be carried on by thoughts and not by bites. The highest places in the hierarchy of civilisation will assuredly not be within the reach of our dusky cousins, though it is by no means necessary that they should be restricted to the lowest.”

    Thomas Huxley (Darwin’s Bulldog), “Emancipation-Black and White,” in Rhys E., ed., “Lectures and Lay Sermons,” [1871], Everyman’s Library, J.M. Dent & Co: London, 1926, reprint, p.115)

  4. “… he (Darwin) was only a racist in the way most well-meaning Victorian gentlemen of his day would be.”

    This reads, as I am sure it was intended, as a sort of factual blandishment, an emollient, yet, even so the facts do not even bear this out. Rather, it seems that, far from being even marginally racist, culturally, vestigially disposed towards racism in his opinion of ‘the negroes’, Darwin actually had a very positive opinion, even admiration, of them, as indicated in the passage, cited below, in a letter to a friend of his, a Thomas Wentworth Higginson:

    “My Dear Sir

    My wife has just finished reading aloud your ‘Life with a Black Regiment’, and you must allow me to thank you heartily for the very great pleasure which it has in many ways given us.”

    “I always thought well of the negroes, from the little which I have seen of them; and I have been delighted to have my vague impressions confirmed, and their character and mental powers so ably discussed.” I think it is important to be clear about this.

  5. Incidentally, don’t delude yourselves like atheists. Intelligence is only correctly definable, if at all, in terms of a far wider conspectus than the superficial, worly intelligence.

    The assumptions underpinning our world-view (in the non-technical/on-scientific sense, and in that, too, evidently, or this blog would be redundant!), are too abstruse to be measured and tested under laboratory conditions or formulated in terms of mathematics, with the result that we actually choose them via our heart (well, ‘soul’, actually, since it is the seat of the memory, will and understanding).

    Christianity is, in a very real sense, ‘wishful thinking’. But why would God want to judge us by any other criterion than the disposition of our heart?

    Moreover, faith being a completely gratuitous gift of God, it is He who forms it and disposes it, so its scant matter for wonderment that He has made the truth about our nature and everything else to accord with that ‘wishful thinking’.

    Why, indeed, should the truth be something not to be wished for, something not to be hoped for, something undesirable?
    In fact, our intelligence is not neutral and inanimate, but dynamic and personal.

    So the cold, clear light of reason is not all it’s cracked up to be. Often quite the contrary. Is there anything more infuriating than to hear a high-court judge admonishing a jury that they must not allow their emotions to become in any degree involved, when they are considering a particularly hideous case that they must give their verdict on. Judges of course do it all the time; indeed, to the degree that they are not psychopaths.

Leave a Reply