Weird History: “Anti-evolution” Linked to Apartheid

Strange train of historical connections illogically links “anti- evolution” to apartheid.

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Teachers at some South African schools are reportedly resistant to teaching evolution. Responding to the report, Dr. Jurie van den Heever, an evolutionary paleontologist and outspoken anti-creationist, told Cape Town’s News24, “If you are against evolution, you are pro-apartheid. If you still think the South African population is divided up into races, not ecotypes, . . . and they are different from one another based on racial characteristics . . . you are ignoring evolution totally.” Through a string of historically related connections, he concludes teachers who refuse to teach evolution may be “actually contravening the grondwet [constitution].”

Van den Heever reasons that teaching evolution was once outlawed due to church influence in the national education system. “Today,” he says, “we still have lots of people and specifically teachers with baggage - that kind of baggage - throwing a shadow on evolution. . . . In the various churches, people still view evolution with some suspicion. The South African constitution guarantees freedom of religion and permits observance of religious services at state institutions, on condition that attendance is ‘free and voluntary.’”

South African Department of Education policy currently prescribes teaching molecules-to-man evolution in high school and recommends two weeks be devoted to “alternatives to evolution, including creationism and intelligent design.”

South African Department of Education policy currently prescribes teaching molecules-to-man evolution in high school and recommends two weeks be devoted to “alternatives to evolution, including creationism and intelligent design.” Religious activities are not prohibited in schools so long as they are voluntary. But because he associates the historical refusal of teaching evolution to a time when the official church and state were entangled and their apartheid policies caused so much suffering, van den Heever views disbelief in evolution as a throwback to the days of apartheid.

The amazing thing about these conclusions is how completely backward they are. While racism did not originate with evolution, evolution has been used to support and justify racism to horrifying degrees. History shows this to be the case in Nazi Germany. History also shows this to be the case in the persecution of Australian Aborigines. Even the title and substance 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, memorialized Darwin’s belief that some people groups are more highly evolved than others. In the latter, Darwin called people with dark skin “degraded,” made 245 references to “savages,” and indicated his preference to be descended from a monkey than from such a “savage.”1 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.” 2 It is evolutionary principles that align with apartheid, not the reverse.

Furthermore, while some churches over the years—unfortunately including the denomination closely associated with the South African government during the time of apartheid—have been guilty of accepting the racist views of the cultures in which they reside and even of trying to twist Scripture to support such views, the Bible does not support or condone racism. In fact, the Bible does not even consider people to belong to different races but rather shows all people of all varieties are descended from Adam and Eve. All people groups and variations developed over the past 6,000 years are equal in the sight of God and have redemption through Jesus Christ’s shed blood equally available to them.

Thus, to recall the past association of confused church doctrine with apartheid is to recall a historical tragedy. Thankfully, South African Christian churches, some of which never bought into the biblically unsound racist position, were ultimately instrumental in abolishing such racial discrimination. But to equate “anti-evolution” with apartheid is an illogical travesty.

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  1. Darwin and Lincoln
  2. Gould, Stephen Jay. 1977. Ontogeny and Phylogeny, p. 127–128. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap-Harvard Press.


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