Evolutionary Textbooks Promoted Racism
The Role of Biology Textbooks in Causing Racism
Why this Embarrassing History is Often Ignored
by Jerry Bergman, PhD
The most prestigious science journal in the world, appropriately titled Nature, said it all: “Weapons for when bigotry claims science as its ally.” The article is significant because racists from the KKK to the White Power groups have long claimed science as its ally, especially since Darwin (see figure 1). The proper term for racism based on science is Scientific Racism. Science has only recently begun owning up to its racist past.
The Nature article cited above is a review of a book by geneticist Adam Rutherford titled How to Argue with A Racist. The review author, Alondra Nelson, notes that Rutherford’s book is relevant to the present turmoil over racism in the Western world. Rutherford, a science broadcaster and former head of multimedia at Nature, was trained in genetics. He questions claims about the purported relationship between DNA and race. Rutherford’s stated aim was to use the “weapon” of scientific fact to vanquish the long-existing belief that racism is “grounded in science.”
Ironically, Rutherford ignores the important influence of Darwin and his disciples in his book. Although he does cover in some detail Darwin’s disciple, Francis Galton (Darwin’s cousin and the founder of one of the most influential racist theories ever proposed in the field of scientific racism), Rutherford ignores the most important scientific proponent of all time, Charles Darwin himself. He does admit that
Racist pseudoscience has become so commonplace that it can be hard to spot. But its toxic effects on society are plain to see—feeding nationalism, fueling hatred, endangering lives, and corroding our discourse on everything from sports to intelligence. Even well-intentioned people repeat [racist] stereotypes based on “science”….”
Unfortunately, Rutherford does add some, at best, very naïve comments that affect his credibility. One example is,
if I could demonstrate that Darwin was wrong… I would be the most famous biologist in history, and the riches that would follow would surely be magnificent.
That is hardly the case. One can easily find a long list of scientists and others who have scientifically demonstrated that Darwin’s main argument—the universal common ancestry of all life caused by natural selection—was wrong. He claims that Darwin skeptics would become the “most famous biologists in history, and the riches that would follow would surely be magnificent.” My research and experience shows the opposite to be true. Many who document the flaws in Darwinism have lost their careers or, at the least, were ignored or shunned.
Racism in Science is Well-Documented
Another article in Nature reviewed a book titled Superior, by MIT fellow and Oxford University graduate, Angela Saini. The reviewer, Robin G. Nelson, correctly described racism in science as “the taint that lingers.” Saini’s book is about the long history, from Darwin to Galton to Shockley, during which science has been persistently tainted by “the search by some scientists for measurable biological differences between ‘races’, despite decades of studies yielding no supporting evidence.” Nelson, the reviewer, presents evidence that accords with the Genesis record, which declares that all humans were descended from Adam and Eve around 6,000 years ago:
Research has repeatedly shown that race is not a scientifically valid concept. Across the world, humans share 99.9% of their DNA. The characteristics that have come to define our popular understanding of race — hair texture, skin colour, facial features — represent only a few of the thousands of traits that define us as a species… we cannot consistently divide humans into discrete groups.
Angela Saini persuasively argues that for centuries racists have claimed “science” as a means to justify their racism, inequality, and even sadistic cruelty, such as the Tasmanian genocide and the many Nazi-era eugenics programs illustrate. She writes,
[I]n 1871, the naturalist and biologist Charles Darwin published The Descent of Man, sweeping away … religious creation myths and framing the human species as having one common ancestor many millennia ago and as having evolved slowly like all other life on earth.
Darwin made overtly racist statements on many occasions. He believed that children of savages have a stronger tendency than European children to protrude their lips similar to chimps when they sulk. He claimed it showed they are less evolved, closer to the “primordial condition” of man’s early evolution. Saini also documents the fact that Darwin believed “in an evolutionary hierarchy. Men were above women, and white races were above [all] others”.
Nazis Relied on Darwin
Saini also covers in detail the support of racism by leading Nazi scientists, showing how Darwinism entered into Germany through “Ernst Haeckel who taught zoology at the University of Jena… He liked to draw connections between black Africans and primates, seeing them as a kind of ‘missing link’ in the evolution chain that connected apes to Europeans.” About half of the German nation’s “medical doctors were Nazi party members,” and for over a decade German universities taught racial theory (racism) based on evolution as fact. As I have documented, these racists ideas also permeated the school textbooks for almost a century.
Some Confused Christians Swallow Darwin Racist Poison
These ideas have not only permeated the secular educational system but also some Christian schools. Two of my grandchildren attend Catholic schools and, according to their textbooks, human evolution is a fact. This is illustrated by review of one of the most widely-used biology textbooks for Catholic schools. This book is by Dale Braungart, PhD, Professor of Biology at Catholic University of America and Sister Rita Buddeke, MS, of Trinity Preparatory School, Ilchester, Maryland. The text teaches human evolution is a fact, but is more honest than most. For example, they admit
the evidence for the evolution of man is somewhat sketchy…It appears from the evidence that man and the apes had more in common physically at one time than we do today. That is, there is evidence either that the apes were more man-like in appearance or that man was more ape-like in appearance than he is today. Such indications do help the evolutionists to bridge the gap between man and the lower forms [of life].
This equivocation was largely negated by the introduction to Chapter 34 titled Evolution of Man which stated,
Scientists accept the theory that man’s body has undergone change through mutation or some other evolutionary process. The evidence is as strong for the evolution of man’s body as it is for that of plants and animals already discussed.
The Catholic textbook teaches that the human soul was the direct creation of God which, after the body had evolved from some ape by natural selection to a certain point, the human soul was infused into it. The evidence for the evolution of the body, the text cites, includes the ape-men commonly found in biology books of this period. They include Java Man (part of the top of a skull, a few teeth, a human leg bone and decades of controversy about what it is), Peking Man (found in the same cave complex as a fully modern human), Heidelberg Man (based on part of a lower jawbone fragment containing several teeth), Piltdown Man (which the text admits is a fraud), and Cro-Magnon man (a modern human). These ape-men are drawn to look like human-monkey hybrids, often with clear Negro features.
I did not note anything in the Catholic text that would oppose the racist interpretation of human evolution. This is another example of how our textbooks, when attempting to prove human evolution, inadvertently teach racism. And the problem is, these textbooks have had a major impact on racism: “Flagship textbooks are among the most-consumed science texts in the world,” said Michael Schulson in 2018. “Some sell millions of copies. They help determine coursework in tens of thousands of classrooms.”
Teaching Racism in Science Textbooks
Historian Donald Yacovone is an associate at the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research (affiliated with Harvard University). When reviewing some old history textbooks, he was shocked at the open racism he found. He then decided to write a book about how textbooks taught white supremacy, to be titled, Teaching White Supremacy: The Textbook Battle Over Race. While Yacovone focuses on history textbooks, a need exists to examine in more detail the racism taught in biology textbooks, a project which I am now focusing on. In his interview on Phys.org, Yacovone completely ignores the role of Darwinism. I could not find a single book that focused on the racism in science textbooks, but I have found clear evidence of the fact that racism dominated the teaching of evolution for over a century. Schulson says,
Race in particular, has a troubling history in the American science curriculum. Early- and mid-20th century American biology textbooks drew freely on racial pseudoscience, parceling up the world into discrete racial categories with very little regard for rigorous evidence — but plenty of recourse to tired stereotypes. “The existing human species has five varieties or races,” explains a 1913 high school biology textbook published by Macmillan.”
The textbook noted above was from 1913 by Maurice Alpheus Bigelow and Ann N. Bigelow, Introduction to Biology: An Elementary Textbook and Laboratory Guide. New York. Macmillan. p 148.
In short, “Early 20th-century biology classrooms trafficked in racial ignorance.” The problem is they were very effective in teaching racism: “Textbooks tend to be this kind of collection of official discourse in science… [They] have this truth value in terms of scientific consensus, but they also have this truth value in terms of they’re usually legitimated by a state power.”
What changed this was the defeat of Nazism and the discovery of the concentration camp horrors: “For American science textbooks, the tone toward eugenics did change after World War II. Shaken by Nazi atrocities, educators began to speak frankly about scientific racism and the risks of [teaching] certain kinds of pseudoscience.”
The teaching of evolution has, in the past, played a significant role in teaching racism, yet this history is often avoided. For example, a new report in Science magazine on September 4, 2020, ignored the important role that both scientific racism and Darwin played in nurturing the growth of racism. Although research has documented evolutionists’ important influence in teaching racism, in discussions of racism today, the critical role of evolution is rarely mentioned. And the role of Darwin himself is almost never mentioned, even though he was a central figure in bringing about the so-called Darwinian revolution that pushed Genesis out of the door in both science and the secular educational world. When the scientific establishment rejected the truth that all men are created equal, having been descended from one original couple, racism fell into the void.
 Nelson, Alondra. 2020. “Weapons for when bigotry claims science as its ally.” Nature 585:182-183, Book Review, September 7. On line at https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02546-4
 Rutherford, Adam. 2020. How to Argue with A Racist: What Our Genes Do (and Don’t) Say About Human Difference. New York: The Experiment.
 Rutherford, 2020, pp. 12-13, 24.
 Rutherford, 2020, back cover of the book.
 Rutherford, 2020, p. 116.
 See Darwin Skeptics: A Select List of Science Academics, Scientists, and Scholars Who are Skeptical of Darwinism compiled by Jerry Bergman, PhD, 23 July 2016. https://www.rae.org/essay-links/darwinskeptics/
 Nelson, Robin G. 2019. “Racism in science: the taint that lingers.” Nature 570:440-441, Book Review, June 27.
 Nelson, 2019, p. 440.
 Nelson, 2019, p. 440.
 Saini, Angela. 2019. Superior: The Return of Race Science. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, p. 33.
 Saini, 2019, p. 34.
 Saini, 2019, p. 34.
 Saini, 2019, p. 35.
 Saini, 2019, pp. 38-39.
 Braungart, Dale and Rita Buddeke. 1957. Biology: The Study of Living Things. Garden City, NY: Catholic Textbook Division Doubleday, p. 524.
 Braungart and Buddeke, 1957, p. 521.
 Braungart and Buddeke, 1957, pp. 522-523.
 Schulson, Michael. 2018. “Should ‘Race’ Be Taught in High School Biology?” https://undark.org/2018/09/12/biology-textbooks-race-high-school/.
 Mineo, Liz. 2020. “Harvard historian examines how textbooks taught white supremacy” The Harvard Gazette, September 4. https://phys.org/news/2020-09-harvard-historian-textbooks-taught-white.html
 Schulson, 2018.
 Schulson, 2018.
 Schulson, 2018.
 Weaver, Vesla and Gwin Prowse. 2020. Racial authoritarianism in U.S. democracy. Science. 36(6509:1176-1178. September 4. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/369/6508/1176.
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.