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Ota Benga: The missed link?

The book sponsored by Turkish creationist Adnan Oktar, Evolution Deceit, directs my attention to the unfortunate Ota Benga : The African in the Cage, who attracted attention because he was supposed to be a missing link.

The link that was missed seems to me to have been ours, not Mr. Benga’s.

I had not known his story. Having trouble keeping up, I have decided to just report in snatches for now, so will now report this:

After Darwin advanced the claim with his book The Descent of Man that man evolved from ape-like living beings, he started to seek fossils to support this contention. However, some evolutionists believed that “half-man half-ape” creatures were to be found not only in the fossil record, but also alive in various parts of the world. In the early 20th century, these pursuits for living transitional links” led to unfortunate incidents, one of the cruellest of which is the story of a Pygmy by the name of Ota Benga.

Ota Benga was captured in 1904 by an evolutionist researcher in the Congo. In his own tongue, his name meant “friend”. He had a wife and two children. Chained and caged like an animal, he was taken to the USA where evolutionist scientists displayed him to the public in the St Louis World Fair along with other ape species and introduced him at “the closest transitional link to man”. Two years later, they took him to the Bronx Zoo in New York and there they exhibited him under the denomination of “ancient ancestors of man” along with a few chimpanzees, a gorilla named Dinah, and an orang-utan called Dohung. Dr. William T. Hornaday, the zoo’s evolutionist director, gave long speeches on how proud he was to have this exceptional “transitional form” in his zoo and treated caged Ota Benga as if he were an ordinary animal. Unable to bear the treatment he was subjected to, Ota Benga eventually committed suicide.
Evolution Deceit pp. 87-88 .

It greatly troubles me that Mr. Benga was probably only a few kilometres from Canada at some points. He could possibly have been rescued from these vile people and their zoos.

Darwinists needed to see this guy as less than human. Because that would support their theory.

Here are some links:

- Ota Benga: The Pygmy in the Zoo

“An African’s odyssey in savage turn-of-the-century America”

- Book: Ota Benga – The Pygmy in the Zoo, by Phillips Verner Bradford and Harvey Blume (St. Martin’s Press 1992).

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12 Responses to Ota Benga: The missed link?

  1. Ernst Haeckel deserves a little credit.

  2. bevets, Haeckel deserves plenty of credit for this kind of thing.

    BUT, in my experience, in order to avoid acknowledging Darwinism’s contributions to racism, typical Darwinists perform a little two-step: Darwin = good; Haeckel = bad.

    So we blame the “bad” German [WWII losers] for what every “good” British/North American Darwinist [WWII winners] really thought.

    And for all I know, what every actual ;iving Darwinist really thinks today.

    Otherwise, why can’t they just acknowledge the racism, repent and apologize for it, and get past it?

    Darwinists are accomplished at avoiding accountability. I experienced their two-step recently when a Darwinist actually smarmed that he disagreed with his “friend” Richard Dawkins about the wisdom of attacking traditional Christians directly.

    Like, I was supposed to be thrilled with the prospect of being attacked indirectly.

    The very fact that he was that guy’s “friend” warned me off (if it’s true – he might be imagining things).

    For the record, I would rather people attack directly. It makes the job of seeing them off the premises more straightforward.

  3. While sad and tragic, yes, what is the point of this? The fact that someone else didn’t comprehend the actual implications of this theory is irrelevant. Darwin is no more responsible for this than car makers are responsible for someone ploughing through a group of people with his car.

    Otherwise, why can’t they just acknowledge the racism, repent and apologize for it, and get past it?

    I fully acknowledge that people were racist in Darwin’s time, and that Darwin himself was probably racist by our own, modern standards. This still does not change the validity of his theory, and the fact that evolution accurately describes the process of diversity in life.

    Now, having done what you’ve asked, could you go back to debunking and disproving the actual work of the man, instead of discussing the man himself? It’s rather juvenile and a poor argument in any case.

    If ad hominem attacks are all you’ve got, it’s no surprise no one takes you seriously.

  4. Nathaniel:

    Lamentably, you illustrate the precise problem Ms O’Leary highlights.

    FYI, Mr Darwin, in Ch 6 of Descent of Man, went on record as follows:

    Man is liable to numerous, slight, and diversified variations, which are induced by the same general causes, are governed and transmitted in accordance with the same general laws, as in the lower animals. Man has multiplied so rapidly, that he has necessarily been exposed to struggle for existence, and consequently to natural selection. He has given rise to many races, some of which differ so much from each other, that they have often been ranked by naturalists as distinct species . . . .

    At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla. [NB: Even though Darwin acknowledged the implications of the evidence provided by an American Unitarian minister on his observation of negro regiments of the Union army in the US Civil War, Darwin retained the above wording unchanged in later editions of Descent.]

    And, on uncovering such a significant moral hazard of his theory, CRD then simply went on to his next point.

    In short, CRD was plainly the first social darwinist.

    I can understand that any significant social movement will have points of its history where adherents do inexcusable things. What has me concerned is that he persistent failure to address the matter squarely tells me the problem is not a matter of a dead past, but also the living present.

    GEM of TKI

  5. In short, CRD was plainly the first social darwinist.

    Yes, ok, but so what? What does it matter? We know more now, than he did then. We know there’s no correlation between skin color and degree of “civilization”, so what does this prove? What does it matter if Darwin was a bigoted, racist man? His scientific theory is still largely correct, regardless of what conclusions he drew from that regarding the social implications.

    Again, attacking Darwin in order to prove the point that he was a racist is in itself pointless, because it has absolutely no bearing on the validity of his research.

    I can understand that any significant social movement will have points of its history where adherents do inexcusable things. What has me concerned is that he persistent failure to address the matter squarely tells me the problem is not a matter of a dead past, but also the living present.

    If we have failed to address the “inexcusable things” Darwin did, it’s because they don’t matter in the context of the scientific theory of evolution. By all means, disprove his theory, or find faults in his work, but don’t attack a long-since dead person for being racist in the 19th century. Really. If you so desperately must judge him, do so by the standards of the time in which he lived.

  6. #5 Nathaniel

    We know more now, than he did then. We know there’s no correlation between skin color and degree of “civilization”, so what does this prove?

    We know no such thing. There is no peer-reviewed science disproving such a correlation.

    One might as well believe ID is science as believe that races are equal.

  7. 7
    SaintMartinoftheFields

    I think it is crazy that bigots and racists of all kinds have tried to turn groups of human beings into something less than human.

    Hopefully we will move past this someday.

  8. From the links you provided as well as other sources, it seems that Adnan Oktar in Evolution Deceit is full of lies.
    First if you call Ota Benga’s ‘capturer’ an evolutionary researcher, why not call him a Christian missionary, because that was his primary training.

    Secondly, Ota was not ‘captured’ by Verner, he was captured by the Force Publique, an armed force in the Congo. The book you quote states that he had a wife and kids. No. They were killed by the Force Publique. Verner paid for Ota’s release. With no family left Ota, came twice willingly to the US. He even convinced others to come.

    Yes he was not treated with dignity in the US, but I just wanted to state all the glaring lies in the article.

    Also,
    You state ‘Darwinists needed to see this guy as less than human. Because that would support their theory.’

    This is clearly incorrect, Darwin considered all people of one species. He did not need to consider them less than human. Darwin was very progressive for his time.

    In fact Darwin considered all ‘races’ of humans to be very similar

    “Although the existing races of man differ in many respects, as in colour, hair, shape of skull, proportions of the body, &c., yet if their whole structure be taken into consideration they are found to resemble each other closely in a multitude of points. Many of these are of so unimportant or of so singular a nature, that it is extremely improbable that they should have been independently acquired by aboriginally distinct species or races. The same remark holds good with equal or greater force with respect to the numerous points of mental similarity between the most distinct races of man. The American aborigines, Negroes and Europeans are as different from each other in mind as any three races that can be named; yet I was incessantly struck, whilst living with the Feugians on board the Beagle, with the many little traits of character, shewing how similar their minds were to ours; and so it was with a full-blooded negro with whom I happened once to be intimate.’

  9. hdx, it is clear Adnan Oktar is not a reliable source for information. One wonders why his tripe is reproduced here without fact-checking first.

  10. Nathaniel said: “While sad and tragic, yes, what is the point of this? ”

    I think the point is that this is a “poison the well” strategy. If Darwin’s credibility, history, and personal views can be undermined, then that also undermines evolution, which is after all the main goal of this web site.

    I personally think this approach is about as effective as blaming Rutherford for the atrocities at Hiroshima.

  11. Onlookers:

    The above — sadly, all too predictable — responses from the current wave of Darwinist advocates here at UD tells us that Darwinists, even in this year in which they are hagiographically celebrating the 200th anniversary of their hero, are unable to face and frankly address the other side of his legacy.

    Now, I am perfectly willing to accept that every movement of consequence in history will have its fair share of problems and sins and even crimes.

    (That is why, on balance I think that Western Civilisation is still worth defending, despite the fact that I am a descendant of the victims of the first great wave of global imperialist aggression by Western powers. [These days, there are a LOT of people out there -- many of whom share the outlook of the advocates above -- who can harp all day on the real and imagined sins of the West and some are gleefully anticipating its demise. Knowing a bit about the history of dark ages, I beg to differ. And, the contrast, of insisting on whitewashing the legacy of Darwin (even while trying to harp on the sins of Christendom, of Western civilisation and of course of "right-wing fundamentalists"), is telling us something; something we had better notice and heed, if we are to so learn the lessons of recent and bloody history, rather than repeat its worst chapters.])

    So, when there is not an honest and frank facing of issues that have in the past century cost upwards of 100 millions their lives, and where in the past 30 or so years in the US alone 48 million unborns — today’s inferiors — have been slaughtered under false colour of law, the above dismissals sound distinctly hollow.

    Especially, when there is the cascade pointed out by Schaeffer and Koop so many years ago now: abortion, infanticide, euthanasia — and, beyond that, genocide.

    For, once the ethics of the sanctity of life have been replaced by the anti-ethics of so-called quality of life, “the survival of the fittest” ever soon becomes the demise of those the power-wielders deem “unfit.”

    And, that triumph of amorality that would provide a critical mass of support enabling the unspeakable, is precisely the point that is at stake in this thread.

    Consequently, we the denizens of the Clapham Bus Stop had better reckon with the refusal to be responsible for and correct the moral hazards of Darwin-inspired Evolutionism.

    GEM of TKI

  12. 12
    George L Farquhar

    and where in the past 30 or so years in the US alone 48 million unborns — today’s inferiors — have been slaughtered under false colour of law, the above dismissals sound distinctly hollow.

    Are you saying that Darwin causes abortion?

    There was abortion before there was Darwin.

    In what way can you link Darwinism and abortion?

    For, once the ethics of the sanctity of life have been replaced by the anti-ethics of so-called quality of life, “the survival of the fittest” ever soon becomes the demise of those the power-wielders deem “unfit.”

    Do you have a list of those who have been deemed “unfit” then? Who are you talking about here? Are you saying here that you would prefer a person suffering with a terminal condition to not have the right to not suffer massive amounts of pain? If they choose to die you would prevent them? What part of your religion is it that means that suffering has to be maximised? You would prefer people to suffer in pointless pain for months just to satisfy some self indulgent idea you have about life and death? Who are you to call those who choose to escape unimaginable suffering cowards? I submit to you that your ideas about “so called quality of life” would soon change if every day brought only pain with only pain to follow, getting worse every day.

    You have no idea of what you are talking about. You would rather keep people alive and suffering then allow them to make a choice regarding their own fate. Who do you think you are to make decisions about other peoples lives?

    Consequently, we the denizens of the Clapham Bus Stop had better reckon with the refusal to be responsible for and correct the moral hazards of Darwin-inspired Evolutionism.

    And how, exactly, are you going about that? Or is this it?

    You are not a woman are you KF? Yet you think you have the right to make decisions for them regarding their reproductive decisions. You are not dying and in constant unimaginable pain yet you can sneer and say “so-called quality of life”. You’ve no idea at all have you?

    Who, exactly, do you think you are to make these decisions for other people?

    In history we have a name for people who want to make decisions for other people and forbid actions based on religious dogma.

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