Most present-day Darwinists claim that Charles Darwin was not actually a racist, but that racists have interpreted his ideas in a biased manner in order to support their own views. They maintain that the expression “by means of The Preservation of Favored Races” in the subtitle of his book The Origin of Species is meant solely for animals. However, those who make such claims ignore what Darwin actually said about human races in his book The Descent of Man.
According to the views that by Darwin set out in that book, the different human races represented different stages of evolution, and some races were more highly “evolved” and thus advanced than others. Some, in fact, were pretty much at the same level as apes.
Darwin suggested that the struggle for survival also applied to human races, (See Struggle for Survival, the.) In the course of that struggle, favored races would be victorious. According to Darwin, these favored were European whites. Asians and Africans, on the other hand, had lagged behind in the fight for survival going on in the world. Darwin went even further and suggested that these races would soon lose the struggle entirely and be eliminated altogether:
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. . . 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. 109
In another chapter of The Descent of Man, Darwin claimed that inferior races should disappear, and that there was no need for advanced human beings to protect them and seek to keep them alive. He compared this situation to livestock breeders:
With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. . . .Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man.110
In line with these statements, Darwin regarded native Australians and blacks as being at the same level as gorillas and maintained that these races would eventually become extinct. He also advocated the need to prevent other races whom he regarded as inferior from multiplying. and that these races should therefore be eradicated. Darwin thus approved of and justified racist and discriminatory practices, the remains of which can still be seen today.
According to Darwin’s racist ideas, the duty of any civilized human being was to speed up this evolutionary process. That meant that there was no scientific reason why these backward races should not be eliminated right away!
Darwin’s racist side revealed itself in several of his writings and analyses. For example, in 1871, in describing the native people of Tierra del Fuego that he had seen during the course of his long voyage on the Beagle, he made his racist preconceptions perfectly clear. He depicted them as “wholly nude, submerged in dyes, eating what they find just like wild animals, uncontrolled, cruel to everybody out of their tribe, taking pleasure in torturing their enemies, offering bloody sacrifices, killing their children, ill-treating their wives, full of awkward superstitions.111
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Moreover, Darwin’s theory denied the existence of God, leading to his ignoring fact that man is an entity created by God and that all human beings are created equal.
This was another factor that accelerated the rise of racism and its worldwide acceptance. The American scientist James Ferguson states that there is a direct relation between the rejection of creation and the rise of racism:
The new anthropology soon became a theoretical background between two opposed schools of thought on the origin of humans. The older and more established of these was ‘monogenism,’ the belief that all humankind, irrespective of colour and other characteristics, was directly descended from Adam and from the single and original act of God’s creation. . . . [In the 18th century] opposition to theological authority began to fuel the rival theory of ‘polygenism,’ (theory of evolution) which held that different racial communities had different origins.114
His (Darwin’s) theory of the survival of the fittest was warmly welcomed by the social scientists of the day, and they believed humanity had achieved various levels of evolution culminating in the white man’s civilization. By the second half of the nineteenth century, racism was accepted as fact by the vast majority of Western scientists. 115
Many Darwinists after Darwin set about trying to prove his racist opinions. For that purpose, they had no qualms about perpetrating scientific distortions and fraud. They imagined that if they managed to prove their own superiority, they would also have scientifically demonstrated their own superiority and their right to oppress, exploit, and if necessary, even eradicate other races.
Stephen Jay Gould also stated that some anthropologists twisted the facts in order to demonstrate the superiority of the white race. According to Gould they most frequently resorted to engaging in distortions regarding the brain sizes of skulls they discovered. In one book Gould describes how many anthropologists suggested there was a direct relation between brain volume and intelligence and how, despite having no true criteria, they exaggerated the brain volumes of Caucasians in particular and portrayed these as greater than those of blacks and Native Americans.116
Haeckel and his colleagues also invoked recapitulation [the theory of the repetition of the so-called evolutionary process during individual growth] to affirm the racial superiority of northern European whites. They scoured the evidence of human anatomy and behaviour, using everything they could find from brains to belly buttons. Herbert Spencer wrote that “the intellectual traits of the uncivilized are traits recurring in the children of the civilized.” Carl Vogt said it more strongly in 1864: “The grown up Negro partakes, as regards his intellectual faculties, of the nature of the child” . . . Some tribes have founded states, possessing a peculiar organization, but, as to the rest, we may boldly assert that the whole race has, neither in the past nor in the present, performed anything tending to the progress of humanity or worthy of preservation. 117
In his work Race et Milieu Social Essais d’Anthroposociologie, the French Darwinist anthropologist Vacher de Lapouge advanced the view that non-white races were the representatives of wild children who had been unable to adapt to civilization, or classes whose blood had been corrupted. He drew his conclusions from measuring the skulls from the upper and lower classes in Parisian graveyards. According to these results, people’s skulls determined whether they would be wealthy, self-confident and in favor of freedom, while others would be conservative, content with very little and make excellent servants. Classes were the product of social divisions. Higher classes equated with higher races, and degree of wealth was directly proportionate to skull volume.
In summary, the racist aspect of Darwin’s theory found very fertile ground in the second half of the 19th century, when European whites were hoping for just such a theory to legitimize their own crimes.
109 Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, 2nd Edition, New York: A L. Burt Co., 1874, p. 178.
110 Ibid., p. 171.
112 W. Parker Snow, “A Few Remarks on the Wild Tribes of Tierra del Fuego from Personal Observation,” Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London, Vol. 1, 1861 (1861), pp. 261-267.
113 Benjamin Farrington, What Darwin Really Said, London: Sphere Books, 1971, pp. 54-56.
114 James Ferguson, “The Laboratory of Racism,” New Scientist, Vol. 103, September 27, 1984, p. 18.
115 Lalita Prasad Vidyarthi, Racism, Science and Pseudo-Science, Unesco, France, Vend99me, 198, p. 54.
116 Rebekah E. Sutherland, “Social Darwinism,” http://www.rebsutherland.com/SocialDarwinism.htm.
117 Stephen Jay Gould, Ever Since Darwin, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1992, pp. 217-218.