Could Evolutionary Racism Re-Emerge?
It is a tragic matter of record that some of recent history’s most brutal racial genocides were justified on Darwinian principles (see CMI articles about the Herero genocide, the Nazi genocide, and the Aborigine genocide). The perpetrators acted on what they believed were inexorable laws of nature, that evolution had equipped some races as superior and others as inferior, little more than animals.
Prior to the atrocities were many writings expressing IQ as a function of skull size, human evolution as a continuum of progress from animal evolution, and survival of the fittest as the highest good (see CMI article on Haeckel). Add to that the Malthusian idea that the earth’s resources cannot support all who are born, apply it as Darwin did to survival of the fittest, and the intellectual framework for “might makes right” was laid.
Now, of course, evolutionists typically decry the racist ideas of their predecessors. Some now portray evolution as a world of cooperation and harmony. Diversity and inclusion are key words in evolutionary biology and in many a university and corporate office policy statement. But has anything changed in the underlying doctrines that led to earlier abuses? Consider these recent examples:
- Skull size: A short piece in the “Random Samples” column of Science,1 “What the Skull Tells,” reported dispassionately on work by an evolutionary psychologist at Edinburgh, Ian Deary, to measure the skulls of historic figures considered to have high IQs. “Studies have shown that brain, and therefore skull, sizes have modest but significant correlations with IQ,” the article mentioned nonchalantly.
- Rapid human evolution: A claim this week by Henry Harpending, evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Utah, that human evolution is accelerating, reverberated throughout the echo chamber of the popular science press (see PhysOrg, National Geographic News, BBC News complete with the iconic human evolution line of progress diagram, Science Daily accompanied by image of a conquering Viking). One aspect of his claim was that “Human races are evolving away from each other.” The National Geographic article quotes him as saying, “We’re evolving away from each other. We’re getting more and more different.”
Most of the articles mentioned that Harpending and a co-author got into trouble after a previous study claimed that intelligence evolved more in one group than another. This time, he stressed, the genetic differences between people groups “cannot be used to justify discrimination. Rights in the Constitution aren’t predicated on utter equality. People have rights and should have opportunities whatever their group.”
This may be a hard sell, however, since the Constitution assumed that natural rights come from God. In the Declaration of Independence (signed by the same group of authors) they had said it was self-evident that all men are equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights. The signers understood that the equality spoken of was not genetic or physical. Equality was based on the spiritual and moral values of equality before God, leading to equal opportunity and equality before the law. Can these rights come from an evolutionary process that is driving human races apart?
It was not just creationists finding cause for worry in Harpending’s claims. The article states that the study “generated fears such research will undermine the principle of human equality and justify racism and discrimination. Other critics question the quality of the science and argue culture plays a bigger role than genetics.” These fears came from the scientific community.
- Moral equivalence: It is common in evolutionary literature to ascribe all moral qualities to blind evolutionary processes. As one example, an article in Science October 26 considered war as the flipside of altruism.2 Holly Arrow wrote that “altruism flourishes only in the company of outgroup hostility (parochialism), with war as both the engine of this coevolutionary process and its legacy.” Though Ms. Arrow clearly favored keeping the “sharp end of altruism” (war) in its sheath, would-be tyrants may not apply the law of Darwinism so peacefully. Within this view, it would seem trivial for a dictator to justify war – as some indeed did – as an altruistic act for the good of the fatherland, consistent with the principles of Darwinism.
How long can the memory of Judeo-Christian morality hold out against a steady onslaught of evolutionary claims that people are mere animals, some more evolved than others? If our ancestors were just like gorillas, as a recent article on PhysOrg announced, what is to stop a racist or tyrant from taking on the role of alpha silverback?
Breaking News 12/11/2007: The truth comes out about Matthew Murray, the gunman who shot up a mission and church in Colorado last weekend. Apparently he fell under the spell of the same anti-Christian, anarchist rock group KMFDM as did the Finnish murderer last month (11/08/2007). He also copycatted the Columbine killers who had killed in the name of “natural selection” – see story on World Net Daily.
1. Random Samples, Science, Volume 318, Number 5855, Issue of 30 November 2007.
2. Holly Arrow, “The Sharp End of Altruism,” Science, 26 October 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5850, pp. 581-582, DOI: 10.1126/science.1150316.
We repeat: don’t think for a minute that the evils of Darwinian philosophy were exhausted in the extermination camps, gulags and killing fields of the 20th century. Evolutionary ethics are like demons that must be locked in the abyss lest they once again unleash death upon the world. Their ambassadors know the language of diplomacy and talk peace – until they gain enough power to overcome the guardians of the keys.