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Facts concerning Darwin and Racism

Charles Darwin is most famous for his book which is often referred to as "The Origin of Species". The full title of the book however is: "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life". In this book Darwin lays out the argument that different races of a species will compete for the same resources. Those races that are "better fitted" will survive and reproduce. Darwin did not include humans in this argument. Darwin stated in the first edition that "light would be thrown on the origin of man and his history". Darwin's' ideas were very controversial at the time and he was hesitant to include human beings. Darwin eventually wrote another book titled: "The Decent of Man" where he did speak of the evolutionary development of the human race. It is important to note that when Darwin spoke of "races" he used the term with various meanings. In some cases he used the term to mean species and at other times sub-species, breeds or varieties. In any event, Darwin did speak of the development of the human race from some original ancestor. What follows are some quotes from Darwin's book "The Descent of Man":

"The great break in the organic chain between man and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any extinct or living species, has often been advanced as a grave objection to the belief that man is descended from some lower form; but this objection will not appear of much weight to those who, from general reasons, believe in the general principle of evolution. Breaks often occur in all parts of the series, some being wide, sharp and defined, others less so in various degrees; as between the orang and its nearest allies between the Tarsius and the other Lemuridae- between the elephant, and in a more striking manner between the Ornithorhynchus or Echidna, and all other mammals. But these breaks depend merely on the number of related forms which have become extinct. 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."

"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."

But the inheritance of property by itself is very far from an evil; for without the accumulation of capital the arts could not progress; and it is chiefly through their power that the civilised races have extended, and are now everywhere extending their range, so as to take the place of the lower races.

A most important obstacle in civilised countries to an increase in the number of men of a superior class has been strongly insisted on by Mr. Greg and Mr. Galton,* namely, the fact that the very poor and reckless, who are often degraded by vice, almost invariably marry early, whilst the careful and frugal, who are generally otherwise virtuous, marry late in life, so that they may be able to support themselves and their children in comfort. Those who marry early produce within a given period not only a greater number of generations, but, as shewn by Dr. Duncan,*(2) they produce many more children. The children, moreover, that are borne by mothers during the prime of life are heavier and larger, and therefore probably more vigorous, than those born at other periods. Thus the reckless, degraded, and often vicious members of society, tend to increase at a quicker rate than the provident and generally virtuous members. Or as Mr. Greg puts the case: "The careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman multiplies like rabbits: the frugal, foreseeing, self-respecting, ambitious Scot, stern in his morality, spiritual in his faith, sagacious and disciplined in his intelligence, passes his best years in struggle and in celibacy, marries late, and leaves few behind him. Given a land originally peopled by a thousand Saxons and a thousand Celts- and in a dozen generations five-sixths of the population would be Celts, but five-sixths of the property, of the power, of the intellect, would belong to the one-sixth of Saxons that remained. In the eternal 'struggle for existence,' it would be the inferior and less favoured race that had prevailed- and prevailed by virtue not of its good qualities but of its faults." 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.

It should be observed that the amount of difference between the mammals of the several zoological provinces does not correspond with the degree of separation between the latter; so that it can hardly be considered as an anomaly that the Negro differs more, and the American much less from the other races of man, than do the mammals of the African and American continents from the mammals of the other provinces.

Even if it should hereafter be proved that all the races of men were perfectly fertile together, he who was inclined from other reasons to rank them as distinct species, might with justice argue that fertility and sterility are not safe criterions of specific distinctness. We know that these qualities are easily affected by changed conditions of life, or by close interbreeding, and that they are governed by highly complex laws, for instance, that of the unequal fertility of converse crosses between the same two species. With forms which must be ranked as undoubted species, a perfect series exists from those which are absolutely sterile when crossed, to those which are almost or completely fertile. The degrees of sterility do not coincide strictly with the degrees of difference between the parents in external structures or habits of life. Man in many respects may be compared with those animals which have long been domesticated, and a large body of evidence can be advanced in favour of the Pallasian doctrine,* that domestication tends to eliminate the sterility which is so general a result of the crossing of species in a state of nature. From these several considerations, it may be justly urged that the perfect fertility of the intercrossed races of man, if established, would not absolutely preclude us from ranking them as distinct species.

Observations on Darwin and Racism

Anyone who accepts evolution should read The Descent of Man from cover to cover. In this book Darwin applied his theory of descent with modification to all living things. He stated that certain populations of organisms will develop traits that "better fit" them for their environment. The success of this particular population of organisms may then result in the extinction of the original population. For example, there are bacteria alive today that are thought to have evolved millions of years ago. And there are also bacteria that have long ago gone extinct. Some bacteria are thought to have evolved into more complex life forms. This is the basis of descent with modification. Different populations, or groups of organisms, develop different traits that eventually lead to new species. Darwin applied this same process to all living things - including humans.

The words "All men are created equal" were not uttered by Charles Darwin. Evolution results in some very serious consequences and racism is just one of them. Adolf Hitler embraced evolution and took it to its logical end. There have been many others who, using the doctrine of Charles Darwin, have advocated the idea of a superior race. And why shouldn't they? Darwin himself advocated the superiority of certain organisms over their inferior relatives. Those who accept the idea of evolution need to be accept the outcome as well.


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