Racism has been a hot-button issue in the United States for the last year or so with violent riots rocking many major cities across the country. In response, a wave of censorship and appeasement occurred on a nationwide scale, resulting in deplatforming of people whose ideas were not in step with the mainstream narrative. However, the issue has been around for a long time: it is hardly unique to 2020. In fact, if we are going to deplatform people who are deemed racist, it seems very hypocritical not to start with one of the most well-known racists of all time: Charles Darwin.
In 1871, one hundred and fifty years ago, Darwin published a book commonly known as The Descent of Man. The lengthy book outlined Darwin’s views regarding the origins of mankind, just as he promised to do at the end of his most well-known book, Origin of Species. The comments Darwin made in The Descent of Man regarding people who did not share his low amount of melanin in their skin were horrific. Darwin believed that eventually the higher races would replace lower races.
To Darwin, this was self-evident. If races exist, some must be better than others.
“At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.”1 To Darwin, this was self-evident. If races exist, some must be better than others. If evolution occurred, then the most fit races would eventually take over, just as they did in the animal and plant realms. Darwin did not limit this sentiment to The Descent of Man. He expressed it clearly in at least two letters published by his son Francis after his death. “I look at this process as now going on with the races of man; the less intellectual races being exterminated,”2 Darwin wrote in a letter to Charles Lyell.
Darwin went on to define exactly what he meant by “lower races.” In describing the split between man and the apes, he wrote, “The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state as we may hope, than the Caucasian and some ape as low as the baboon, instead of as at present between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.”3 Darwin makes it very clear that he viewed the Africans and Australians as most closely related to the apes. He was expecting that eventually these “lower” races, would be eliminated and be replaced with superior, more civilized races, widening the gap between apes and man. Were he to make any of these comments today, people would be screaming that he needed to be deplatformed. But Darwin actually went further.
In what can only be described as a precursor to eugenics, Darwin seemed to chide humanity for caring about the weaker races. In a lengthy quote, Darwin wrote:
We civilized 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. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized 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. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.4
Darwin’s view was that the “lower races” were the Africans and Australian aborigines.
Darwin is correct in pointing out that humans are unique in helping the sick and injured get better. However, Darwin regards this as a bad thing for the human race, as it enables the lower races to continue to propagate themselves, rather than being selected out. Remember, Darwin’s view was that the “lower races” were the Africans and Australian aborigines. And lest anyone think Darwin disliked these groups for something other than their skin tone, Darwin explicitly pointed to skin tone as the biggest, most obvious determiner of race.5
These blatantly racist views expressed by Darwin would be more than enough to get him removed from any television appearances, radio shows, and book deals such a well-known individual could obtain in the modern world. As an example, a teenage girl recently had her acceptance to a public university rescinded for using the “N” word once in a video several years prior, despite no other evidence of racism.6 Obviously, she should not have used the word. Yet Darwin openly called Africans lower races, hinted that they should not be allowed to have kids, and hoped for their eventual extermination and he is celebrated. The double standard is baffling.
As Christians, we have the answer to the racist views of Darwin. There is just one race, the human race. We all are descendants of Adam and Eve, and later Noah and his wife. This was a view Darwin explicitly rejected. “It must not be supposed that the divergence of each race from other races, and of all races from a common stock, can be traced back to any one pair of progenitors.”7 Because Darwin rejected that all mankind is descended from Adam, he had an ideological justification for viewing some “races” as better than others and acting accordingly. Even evolutionists have recognized the inherent racism of their ideology. The late Stephen J. Gould wrote, “Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1859, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory.”8
While evolution is inherently racist, that does not mean all evolutionists are racists, nor does it mean all creationists are not racist. However, to be a consistent evolutionist, you must believe some races are better than others. To be a consistent creationist, you must believe that we are all one race. Those beliefs will manifest in actions. In Darwin’s case, it led to eugenics. For creationists it should lead to treating everyone with respect and kindness, regardless of their skin tone, you know, like the Bible says (Matthew 7:12, 22:39; Galatians 5:14).