July 26, 2021 | Jerry Bergman

Scientific American Prints Big Lies

 

Does White Supremacy Motivate Rejection of Evolution?
Time to Set the Record Straight!

 

by Jerry Bergman, PhD

Allison Hopper claims that ‘White Supremacy’ beliefs motivate the rejection of evolution. In other words, she’s claiming that her goal is

to unmask the lie that evolution denial is about religion and recognize that at its core, it is a form of white supremacy that perpetuates segregation and violence against Black bodies. Under the guise of “religious freedom,” the legalistic wing of creationists loudly insists that their point of view deserves equal time in the classroom.

Hopper makes several incorrect claims here. First of all, many evolution critics do not seek equal time for creationism in public schools. Rather, they ask that all the scientific facts be taught, including the facts that refute notions that humans evolved from sponges. Good science shows that molecules-to-man evolution could not happen and did not happen, yet any evidence contrary to Darwinian evolution is routinely censored in public schools. Darwin skeptics also know the harm that it has caused to society, especially racism and eugenics. As one author, who is not a Christian but an Orthodox Jew, observed:

Today’s actual white supremacists, represented by the Alt-Right and various neo-Nazi groups, are warmly disposed to Darwinism, as a glance at their websites will show. Like Hitler before them, they see in evolutionary theory a justification for racial hatred. Allison Hopper leaves ALL OF THIS OUT, both from her Scientific American article and from a simplistic video on YouTube… Given evolution’s racist baggage, you might think the theory’s proponents would be somewhat abashed to accuse the critics of Darwin of ‘white supremacy.’ Apparently not…. And she has the nerve to smear skepticism about Darwinian theory as “white supremacist.”[1]

Dark-Skinned People Launched Human Civilization

Hopper states in her article that modern civilization was launched by dark-skinned people. She says that many bookstores, in support of Black Lives Matter, are now

organizing displays of children’s books that celebrate Black history. What you won’t find in even the biggest collections of books is the story of the dark-skinned early people who launched human civilization.[2]

The reason you will not find books that claim that it was “dark-skinned early people who launched human civilization” is because, although the “out-of-Africa theory” is still popular, the skin color of the first city builders is unknowable. I am not aware of any empirical evidence of the specific skin tone of our ancient ancestors, but I am aware of some evidence against the claim that it was black.[3]

All apes have white skin. At the time some ape ancestor evolved into humans, as postulated by paleoanthropologists, loss of their hair would reveal its lack of pigment. It would require, therefore, some time for a naked ape to evolve dark skin. Although the out-of-Africa theory advocates an African origin of humans, this does not necessarily mean that they had many, or even most, of the traits typical of Africans living there today. Hopper makes an even more egregious claim that the

global scientific community overwhelmingly accepts that all living humans are of African descent. Most scientific articles about our African origins focus on genetics. The part of the story that is not widely shared is about the creation of human culture. We are all descended genetically, and also culturally, from dark-skinned ancestors. Early humans from the African continent are the ones who first invented tools; the use of fire; language; and religion. These dark-skinned early people laid down the foundation for human culture.[4]

This claim ignores recent thinking among evolutionary anthropologists. Just a few years ago, some were known to “argue that a simple out-of-Africa model is …  outdated, and that the current state of the evidence favors a structured African metapopulation model of human origins.”[5] In 2019, paleoanthropologist Eleanor Scerri said that for

decades, polarized debates about human origins have swung between two major models. Classic multiregionalism viewed the majority of our ancestry as being spread across the Old World over the past one to two million years, and emphasized regional continuity. The recent and simple out-of-Africa (SOA) model proposed an expansion out of Africa in the past 100,000 yr from a single region in Africa. Testing these models has undoubtedly improved our understanding of recent human origins, but with ever-richer archaeological, anthropological, genetic and palaeoecologically data available, are they still useful? We argue that these formulations now constrain progress in human evolutionary studies and call for a shift to structured metapopulation models.[6]

Hopper cannot simply assume that the simple Out-of-Africa hypothesis is correct. New evidence contradicts it. A Harvard press release from 2018 said that the discovery that the “Oldest human fossil found outside of Africa throws popular [out-of-Africa ] theory into doubt.”[7] Specifically, the “recent discovery of a partially intact Homo sapiens jaw bone in Israel” has moved the origin of modern humans closer to the Middle East which, incidentally, is the Bible’s position.[8] Research now indicates that

modern-day humans were exploring regions outside of Africa more than 55,000 years earlier than previously thought. This finding adds further complications to the accepted understanding of Homo sapiens dispersal, which primarily consists of two waves of out-of-Africa migration at 100,000 and 70,000 years ago. Genetic testing indicates that modern-day humans are likely direct descendants of the second wave of Homo sapiens out-of-Africa migration.[9]

This review supports the conclusion that Middle Easterners were the first humans to have invented tools, discovered the use of fire, and invented language and religion.

Is Evolution Skepticism About Religion?

The claim “that evolution denial is about religion” is a lie. In case after case, the courts have consistently ruled that ‘teaching creation is unconstitutional because creationism is religion.’ Consequently, they have argued, it ‘violates the constitutional requirement of separation of church and state.’ (Whether the Constitution requires such a thing is a debate for another time.) Not one court case has ever concluded that anti-evolutionism “is a form of white supremacy” and, therefore, cannot be taught in government schools for that reason.

Hopper also claims that “the first wave of legal fights against evolution was supported by the Klan in the 1920s” and

since then, entrenched racism and the ban on teaching evolution in the schools have gone hand in hand. In his piece, What We Get Wrong About the Evolution Debate, Adam Shapiro argues that “the history of American controversies over evolution has long been entangled with the history of American educational racism.”[10]

Actually, Shapiro’s main claim is that many conventional assumptions about the 1925 Scopes Trial, including the notion that it was driven primarily by conflicts over science and religion, are wrong or miss the mark.[11] In his book, the only reference Shapiro makes to anti-evolutionism and race is a quote by DuBois stating his opinion that both racism and opposition to evolution are based on ignorance. This claim does not say that opposition to evolution specifically causes racism.[12] Likewise, Shapiro’s 2019 article in American Scientist only states that some of Darwin’s “readers in the United States were strident abolitionists (including financial backers of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry) who saw in Darwin’s work biological evidence that racial differences were not immutable. Shapiro never claimed that rejection of evolution causes racism, as did Hopper.[13]

Were Adam and Eve White or Semitic?

Furthermore, Hopper opines that “At the heart of white evangelical creationism is the mythology of an unbroken white lineage that stretches back to a light-skinned Adam and Eve.” I have never heard anyone claim that Adam and Eve were light-skinned whites even though the first couple are often pictured as white in Western paintings. In Africa, Adam and Eve are sometimes portrayed with dark skin.[14] Creationists teach that Adam and Eve were likely brown-skinned. This makes genetic sense. Heterozygous (AaBb, two dominant and two recessive genes) for skin color can give rise to all skin shades. As heterozygous, the first pair would have been brown-skinned, as many Middle Easterners are today.[15]

Hopper also misrepresents portrayals of Jesus. Robyn Whitaker said in The Conversation in 2018, “while there is no physical description of him in the Bible, there is also no doubt that the historical Jesus, the man who was executed by the Roman State in the first century CE, was a brown-skinned, Middle Eastern Jew.”[16] This is not controversial from a scholarly point of view. Yet Hopper inserts her biases into Genesis, claiming that, in “literal interpretations of the Christian Bible, white skin was created in God’s image. Dark skin has a different, more problematic origin.”[17] Such a view is not stated in the Bible, nor is it supportable. But here, she resurrects an old canard, namely, the curse of Cain – a mark God put on the murderous brother of Abel.

The Curse-of-Cain Canard

Hopper claims, without any Biblical support, that “the curse or mark of Cain for killing his brother was a darkening of his descendants’ skin. Historically, many congregations in the U.S. pointed to this story of Cain as evidence that Black skin was created as a punishment.”[18] Whether any congregations believed that is beside the point. The curse in Genesis 4:11–16 depends on the translation of the word for “mark” in Genesis 4:15. The Hebrew does not refer to skin color as an omen, warning, remembrance, motion, gesture or agreement, but most commonly refers to some letter of the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet (Gen. 4:15). I was unable to find any modern evidence that the Hebrew word meant turning a person’s skin black. So what was the mark?

Most Bible commentaries agree that the mark of Cain was God’s promise to give Cain divine protection from premature death with the stated goal of preventing someone from killing him, a fact made explicit in Genesis 4:15.[19] It is not known what the mark was, but presumably it was visible.[20] Another possibility is that the “mark” (the Hebrew word can also be translated “beacon”) was giantism (see Gen.6:1). This would mean that all post-Flood giants of the land of Canaan would have been descended from Ham’s wife since Noah and his immediate family were genetically pure (Gen. 6:19)! The Anglo-Saxon epic poem “Beowulf” supports this view.[21]

Believe it or not, an older interpretation is that the curse turned Cain’s skin white, thus some Blacks interpreted the mark of Cain as the origin of white skin! According to that interpretation, the ‘curse’ was the source of white violence.[22] This shows that either view pulls ideas out of the text that are not there. Although the black-skin interpretation may have been used historically, the most well-known case I was able to find after the 1850s implicates the second president of the Mormon Church, Brigham Young.[23] This position has long been refuted by the Mormon Church. The claim that it was commonly used in the last century appears to be used to demean Christians. Furthermore,  Allison Hopper claims the

fantasy of a continuous line of white descendants segregates white heritage from Black bodies. In the real world, this mythology translates into lethal effects on people who are Black. Fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible are part of the “fake news” epidemic that feeds the racial divide in our country.

No studies are cited by Hopper to support her claim that anti-evolutionism “feeds the racial divide in our country.” She went on to say, without evidence, that for “too long, a vocal minority of creationists has hijacked children’s education, media and book publishing…  Depending on the poll, up to 40 percent of percent of adults believe that humans have always existed in their present form (i.e., they believe in an unbroken human lineage stretching back to Adam and Eve).”[24]

The success of Darwinian Indoctrination

Hopper then brags about the success of the Darwinian indoctrination in the classroom. She notes that the number of teachers who present evolution without a creationist alternative grew dramatically from 2007 to 2019, specifically from 51 to 67 percent. To her, though, this indoctrination is not good enough. She adds, “My hope is that if we make the connection between creationism and racist ideology clearer, we will provide more ammunition to get science [i.e. Darwinism] into the classroom—and into our culture at large.”[25] Her goal, though, is to remove one creation story and replace it with another:

In the Adam-and-Eve scenario, the Creator bestows both physical and cultural humanity on the first people. … Science, of course, tells us otherwise. The process of natural selection shaped our bodies and capacities. Our humanity emerged over the millennia as creative ancient people figured out the crucial skills—from storytelling to cooking to rope making—that we now take for granted.[26]

She even claims “It’s common knowledge that some school boards, especially in the South, have fought long and hard to keep evolution out of school textbooks.” Actually, the main goal has been to teach the subject more accurately. Many intelligent-design supporters actually want more information about evolution in government-school science programs

Hopper avers that  “Scientific findings about human origins have been slow to trickle down into books written for young people…. If you go on Amazon and look up “children’s books on evolution” you will find about 10–15 relevant titles.” I did, and noted close to 50 relevant titles, plus hundreds more in children’s books on specific life-science topics. She was able to locate only one book on evolution for preschoolers, called Grandmother Fish. This book shows how fish turned into people by magic. At each stage of evolution the creatures have a happy smile on their face as they evolved toward humans.

As a final smear, Hopper stooped to name-calling. Against those of us who have done their homework in this area, she calls us “Science deniers.”

Summary

One expects before writing an article for Scientific American that careful research would be completed. This was obviously not the case for this article. The author’s bio on Scientific American says she has worked on PBS documentaries and recently has “been creating content for young people on the topic of evolution.” She also has given many presentations on evolution at the Big History Conference in Amsterdam and Chautauqua events. This may be one reason why so much misinformation exists on this topic.  Almost every claim she made in her article is demonstratively either wrong or irresponsible.

References

[1]  Klinghoffer, David. 2021. On evolution and racism: Scientific American goes to war against the truth. Evolution News, July 8.

[2] Hopper, Allison. 2021. Denial of evolution is a form of White supremacy. Scientific American, July 5.

[3] Jablonski, Nina G. 2004. The evolution of human skin and skin color. Annual Review of Anthropology 33:585–623.

[4] Hopper, 2021.

[5]  Scerri, Eleanor, et al. 2019. Beyond multiregional and simple out-of-Africa models of human evolution. Nature Ecology and Evolution 3:1370-1372, September 23.

[6] Scerri, et al., 1919.

[7] Harvard University (The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences). 2018. Oldest human fossil found outside of Africa throws popular theory into doubt. Science in the News, January 29.

[8] Hershkovitz, Israel, et al. 2018. The earliest modern humans outside Africa. Science 359(6347):456-459, January 26.

[9] Hershkovitz, et al. 2018

[10] Hopper, 2021.

[11] Shapiro, Adam R. 2013. Trying Biology: The Scopes Trial, Textbooks, and the Antievolution Movement in American Schools. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

[12] Shapiro, 2013, p. 10.

[13] Shapiro, Adam. 2019. “What We Get Wrong About the Evolution Debate.” The prevailing narrative juxtaposes science and religion—but this approach erases the root influences of social inequality and racism. American Scientist, February 12.

[14]  See “Art in South Africa.” The Wall Street Journal, October 22, 2010.

[15] Whitaker, Robyn. 2018. Jesus wasn’t white: he was a brown-skinned, Middle Eastern Jew. The Conversation, March 28.

[16] Whitaker, Robyn. 2018.

[17] Hopper, 2021.

[18] Hopper, 2021.

[19] Byron, John. 2011. Cain and Abel in text and tradition: Jewish and Christian interpretations of the first sibling rivalry. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill Publishers, p. 93.

[20] Goldenberg, David M. 2003. “The Curse of Cain,” Chapter 13 in The Curse of Ham: Race and slavery in early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 178-193.

[21] see https://www.jstor.org/stable/44510719.

[22] Junior, Nyasha. 2020. The mark of Cain and White violence. Journal of Biblical Literature 139(4):661-673.

[23] Goldenberg, 2003, p. 218.

[24] Hopper, 2021.

[25] Hopper, 2021.

[26] Hopper, 2021.


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.

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