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Belief in Human Evolution: Cause, Co-Conspirator, or Cure for Racism?

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on September 8, 2012

Belief in human evolution: cause, co-conspirator, or cure for racism?

Racism is a destructive, ugly attitude that has plagued the world for centuries. But where did it come from and what is its cure? Anthropologist Nina Jablonski’s essay in the 29 August 2012 issue of New Scientist traces the history of racism in the western world. She details the influence of pre-Darwinian taxonomists, philosophers, conquest-minded Europeans, economic opportunists, and even the subtle psychology of prejudice. She finally mentions the eventual rise of social Darwinism as the final scientific justification for racism. However, her essay implies that a better understanding of human evolution is part of the cure.

Racism, as Jablonski correctly states, is rooted in the erroneous notion that intellectual potential, moral character, and behavioral inclinations are linked to skin shade, with the superior qualities genetically linked to lighter skin. But then, by way of “unraveling the origins and persistence of this erroneous belief system,” Jablonski writes:

Let us consider first how the diversity of human skin colouration evolved. . . . All humans evolved in Africa under strong equatorial sun and had skin that was dark and rich in protective eumelanin [the pigment primarily responsible for differences in skin shade]. For more than half of the history of our species, from roughly 200,000 to 80,000 years ago, we were Africans and our pigmentation was fine-tuned as we moved and adapted to local conditions across Africa. . . . Migrations brought people into places that were less and less sunny, and genetic changes—mutations—occurred to produce lightly pigmented skin.”

She goes on to explain how “the evolution of depigmented skin” was favored by natural selection in places with less sunlight because lighter skinned people could produce vitamin D more easily than darker people. Jablonski fails to address the presence of darker-skinned Tasmanian natives far from the equator or lighter skinned natives of Java near the equator.

But her treatment of the skin shade issue is also simplistic in another way. In tracing how differences in skin shade became associated with inferiority and how those ideas acquired the support of science, Jablonski glosses over the dramatic effect of Charles Darwin’s popular writings. While evolutionists did not invent racism, evolution has been used to promote racism to horrifying degrees. History shows this to be the case in Nazi Germany. History also reveals this in the persecution of Australian Aborigines and of other less-publicized atrocities, such as the systematic destruction of Namibian natives in the 20th century.

Even the titles of Darwin’s famous volumes, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life and The Descent of Man, proclaimed Darwin’s own belief that some people groups are more highly evolved than others. In The Descent of Man, Darwin repeatedly called people with darker skin “degraded” and hundreds of times described them as “savages.” Darwin’s own words provided “scientific” justification for the next century of “racially” based atrocities. Evolutionist Stephen J. Gould observed, “Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1859, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory.”1

Jablonski admits, “The rise of social Darwinism in the late 19th century further reinforced the notion that the superiority of the white race was part of the natural order because certain ‘stocks’ were more highly evolved and culturally superior because of the ‘fitness’ and ‘adaptations,’ and she adds, “The notion of colour had taken on full scientific trappings.” This is at least a nod to the Darwinian force acknowledged by Gould to have wreaked havoc on countless lives. From Jablonski’s wording here, though, one might even think “social Darwinists” had misinterpreted their master.

Jablonski writes, “We are all one people,” as genetic evidence confirms.

Jablonski writes, “We are all one people,” as genetic evidence confirms. Yet the history contained in God’s Word attests to this truth and explains why it is so. From their beginning 6,000 years ago human beings have known they were all of one blood. Adam and Eve doubtless told their descendants, and Noah’s family surely told theirs. The Apostle Paul reiterated this truth in Acts 17:26, telling the Athenians that God “made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.” In sharp contrast to Darwin’s books, the Bible does not say or imply that racism is ever justified.2 The Bible also does not refer to “races.” The Bible refers to tribes, tongues, people, and nations, and Christ’s blood will redeem people “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

We are all of one blood, but not because we evolved. We are all of one blood because we all descended from Adam, just as God said. And the origin of traits like visible skin shade is no mystery for the student of biblical history. The genome of Adam and Eve contained the genetic building blocks for all the variations of skin shade we see today. Their skin likely expressed these traits as a middle brown tone. Their descendants would thus have been able to have a variety of skin shades by the simple variations of existing genes, without having to “evolve” anything. And as people later dispersed from the Tower of Babel, various genetic effects related to isolation of groups resulted in concentration of certain traits among some.

Evolutionary anthropologists cannot on the basis of evolution explain the genetic evidence that “we are all one people.” Furthermore, secularist evolutionary dogma cannot provide a consistent basis for even declaring that racism is morally reprehensible. Without an authoritative source for morality provided by God’s standards, morality is really a matter of man’s opinions, and everyone can justify doing what is right in his own eyes. Racism is evil, but evolutionary ideas cannot explain why it is evil or provide its solution.

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  1. Gould, Stephen Jay. 1977. Ontogeny and Phylogeny, p.127–128. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Press.
  2. Some people have misused the Bible to justify exploiting people of different skin shade, but we refuse to blame God when sinful and fallible human beings try to put words in His mouth.


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