Darwin Still Escaping Apologies for Scientific Racism
Apologizing for Past Racism is Now Everywhere but Rarely Mentions Darwin and Evolution’s Central Role in Racism. History, Though, Documents Darwinism’s Role in Abundance.
by Jerry Bergman, PhD
The recent trend to apologize for past racism (27 Aug 2020) usually mentions the importance of eugenics, but rarely evolution or Darwinism. One of the latest examples was an apology for an exhibit at the Bronx Zoo. The BBC News reported that a “century after it drew international headlines for exhibiting a young African man in the monkey house, the Bronx Zoo in New York has finally expressed regret” over its openly racist exhibit (17 Aug 2020). The article omits the importance of evolution, but contemporary documents acknowledged that the display was an attempt to prove evolution. Instead of acknowledging the evolutionary connection to the exhibit, the Wildlife Conservation Society was intimately involved
in a century-long cover-up during which it actively perpetuated or failed to correct misleading stories about what had actually occurred. As early as 1906 a letter in the zoo archives reveals that officials, in the wake of growing criticism, discussed concocting a story that Ota Benga had actually been a zoo employee. Remarkably, for decades, the ruse worked.
Even the current BBC article presented misleading information about Ota Benga, the central character in the exhibit. He was not a teenager, but a 25-year-old married man with several children.
The omission of the central role of evolution is evident in all of the other reported cases I located. One concerned the removing of the name of a eugenics supporter from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson Public-Policy Program. The University of Southern California also removed Rufus Von KleinSmid’s name from a campus building, and University College, London, dropped the names of eugenics supporters Francis Galton and Karl Pearson – both leading statisticians.
But the evidence is clear that Darwinism played a determinative role in these historical racist movements. I have been collecting books related to human evolution for over a half century and find that the racism in these books was common. One example is cited here because I just purchased the book this week and, as is common, soon noted blatant racism in the book. Under the subtitle “degeneracy of the Negro” the author, Professor Talbot, claims in this 1904 book, titled Degeneracy: Its Causes, Signs, and Results, that the Negro is less evolved than Caucasians. The more-evolved White race has a larger brain which modifies the facial angle, he says. This volume is part of a set titled The Contemporary Science Series, published by what was one of the most respectable publishing houses when the book was published in 1904 – Charles Scribner in New York. It is still today one of America’s leading publishers.
Use of the Facial Angle to Prove Racial Inferiority
The author, Eugene Talbot, MD, DDS, was professor of Dentistry at Northwestern University. He writes that one source of human degeneracy is interracial intermarriage, specifically “admixture with the negro.” Professor Talbot used a trait called facial angle as evidence of Negro inferiority.
Facial angle was first used in the 18th century for the purpose of comparing human races by Petrus Camper (1722–1789). Camper’s original diagrams are shown in Figure 1 and how the angle is measured in Figure 2. Since Camper, the facial-angle theory had become widely popular evidence of evolution until it was debunked by research in the latter part of the 20th century.
The theory proposed that evolutionary history involved the progression from a nearly horizontal facial angle in fish to a vertical angle in humans, a transition that also was used to support the evolution of ape-like creatures to humans (see Figure 3).
Proponents of the facial-angle theory hypothesized that facial angle not only showed scientific evidence for a progression from fish to humans, but also could be used to rank human racial groups from inferior to superior (for examples, see Figures 4, 5 and 6). It soon became a “primary instrument of scientific racism.”
After showing a picture of a female chimp head (Figure 20 in Talbot, p. 182), which by Camper’s method, produces a facial angle from between 40 and 50 degrees, Talbot then compares the angle with a “negro Criminal” (Figure 21 in Talbot, p. 182) which is about 70 degrees. He then added, using the same method, the “Caucasic race” has a facial angle of 75 to 80 degrees. The angle from 80 to 90 degrees represents the most-evolved race, the Aryan Race. It is evident how this “fake science” fed directly into Nazi views on racial superiority.
The Interracial Marriage Issue
Talbot sought evidence for the inferior race theory in ideas that are scientifically rejected today. He believed that admixture of white and black individuals leads to degeneration of the human race. He claimed this was scientifically well-documented. He wrote that the “influence of race intermixture in the production of degeneracy is easily settled,” finding support for that with examples such as the “notorious sterility of the hybrid offspring of the horse and ass.” This, of course, has nothing to do with human racial intermarriage, since all humans are the same species.
After further rationalization for his view, he stated,
On the whole, race admixture will not tend to elevate the race where there is a decided difference in the state of evolution of the two races, and moreover especially where, as is usually the case, the mother is of the inferior race.
Pre-Darwin Views on Race
Until Darwinism spread throughout the Western world, it was widely believed that all men were descendants of Adam and Eve: thus all were literally brothers and sisters. Nicholas Guyatt put it squarely in 2016:
a separate creation for black people could not be squared with the descent of humanity from Adam and Eve; racism, put simply, was a rejection of the Bible’s authority.
Guyatt added that the teaching of “Genesis acted as a brake on racist theory throughout the antebellum years.” Those opposing racism have often looked to the words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Those words inspired civil rights leaders from Frederick Douglass before the Civil War to Martin Luther King, Jr in the Jim Crow era.
Jefferson also believed there was clear evidence for design in nature. Contrary to what some believe, he was not an atheist or even a deist. In a letter to John Adams, Jefferson wrote
I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in its parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition.”
The general conclusion of Jefferson scholars is that he “was a devout theist, believing in a benevolent creator God to whom humans owed praise.”
Darwinism Changes Everything
In the pre-Darwin century when Jefferson lived, one approach toward racial reconciliation was “amalgamation,” meaning marriage between Whites and Blacks and other races, which many correctly reasoned would happen sooner or later. Some leaders proposed incentives to encourage this amalgamation, such as vouchers to purchase farm tools, tax-exempt provisions, or educational benefits. The Biblical Christian teaching that all men were descended from Adam and Eve—thus were all brothers—entailed the belief that racism was actually a rejection of basic Christian doctrines. Guyatt concluded that racism resulted from the widespread acceptance of Darwinian evolution and the rejection of Genesis among many intellectuals and academicians in our day. “Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation,” he said.
Although other factors were involved, the rejection of the Biblical account of creation played no small role in both the development of racism, and the rise of hate groups such as the KKK. My latest book, Darwinian Eugenics and the Holocaust (2020) explores some of these consequences in 20th century America.
Darwin-inspired “scientific” racism resulted in black-white intermarriage becoming illegal in all seven states of the lower South only after Darwin replaced Genesis. These laws against interracial marriage were not overturned until the 1967 Supreme Court Case Loving v. Virginia, 388. The above ideas in the book by Professor Talbot illustrate how racism was birthed by the negation of Genesis and its replacement by evolution.
A Few Samples of Racism in Darwin’s Writings
The words from Darwin’s pen, such as the following, are only a few examples of his ideas that influenced the rejection of Genesis and the acceptance of Racism:
- “At some future period, not very distant … the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace … the savage races” as part of the process of evolution by natural selection.”
- Furthermore, in the future, “an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world.” The gap between humans and apes “will then be rendered wide, …between … the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the Negro or Australian and the gorilla.”
- Darwin concluded from his interactions with non-Caucasian races that it was hard to believe “how wide was the difference, between savage and civilized man.” He concluded they were “the most abject and miserable creatures” he had ever seen.
These words of Darwin also inspired Talbot to arrive at the conclusions summarized above in his popular 1904 “science” book.
 Caged Congolese teen.
 Talbot, Eugene. 1904. Degeneracy: Its Causes, Signs, and Results. New York: Charles Scribner, pp. 185-186.
 Talbot, 1904, p. 98.
 Talbot, 1904, p. 181.
 Haller, John. 1971. Outcasts from Evolution. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, p. 9.
 Jeffries, John P. 1869. The Natural History of the Human Races. New York: Edward O. Jenkins, p. 347.
 Gould, Stephen Jay. 1987. “Petrus Camper’s Angle.” Natural History 96(7):12-18, p. 14.
 Talbot, 1904, p. 182.
 Talbot, 1904, p. 183.
 Talbot, 1904, pp. 98-99.
 Talbot, 1904, pp. 101-102.
 Guyatt, Nicholas. 2016. Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation. New York: Basic Books, p. 27.
 Guyatt, 2016, p. 27.
 To John Adams written at Monticello, dated April 11, 1823. http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/presidents/thomas-jefferson/letters-of-thomas-jefferson/jefl271.php.
 Olasky, Marvin. 2017. “And one we missed. . .” World Magazine. December 9, p. 42.
 Guyatt, 2016, p. 27.
 Guyatt, 2016.
 Darwin, Charles. 1871. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. London: John Murray, p. 201.
 Darwin, Charles, and Sir Francis Darwin. 1893. Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of his Published Letters New York: D. Appleton and Co., p. 69.
 Darwin, Charles, 1871, p. 288.
Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.
Additional reading: Will Darwin survive cancel culture? David Klinghoffer shows how intelligent design supporters were the first to feel the heat of censorship (Evolution News). Excerpt:
As Rob observes, the phrase we used for anti-ID censorship, before “cancel culture” offered itself, was “expelled.” There was a documentary by that name, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, wryly narrated by Ben Stein, that told some of the stories of ID scientists who got canceled for speaking up, or merely for publishing scientific evidence favorable to intelligent design. That was in 2008, and further outrageous stories have been added since then — Eric Hedin, David Coppedge, Günter Bechly, and more.