The Bible Does Not Condone Slavery; Darwinism Does
Darwinism, The Curse of Ham, and Slavery:
The Bible’s Influence in Contrast to Darwin’s
by Jerry Bergman, PhD
In response to my June article on Darwin’s racism, several evolutionists agreed that Darwin was a racist. They added that his human-inferiority claims have been long rejected and does not change the fact that his theory of evolution has held up for the past 160 years. Furthermore, the evidence for evolution, my critics claimed, is now stronger than ever:
there’s an increasing resistance to Darwin’s theory [today]. But that exists simultaneously with, almost every month, new data showing the validity and overall soundness of Darwin’s theory. The question is, how long can one deny a growing empirical body of facts?
My critics claim that the Bible taught racism and slavery, referring to passages such as the curse on Ham in Genesis 6. The Bible, they say, is regarded by evangelical Christians as the inspired word of God, revealing truth from Genesis to Revelation. In contrast, Darwin was not viewed as inspired and it is recognized that he was wrong on many points. Furthermore, they claim, the Bible supported slavery but Darwin was openly opposed to slavery. In an article published in “the best American writing,” Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg listed his reasons for rejecting belief in creationism as well as in God. Among them he included the notion that “Christianity, like other world religions, lived comfortably with slavery for centuries, and slavery was endorsed in the New Testament.”
In my article, I focused on the fact that Darwin’s racism was finally openly admitted in an article by a Princeton University professor and published in the most esteemed science journal in the world, aptly titled Science. The author, Professor Agustín Fuentes, wrote that some of Darwin’s racist “assertions were dismally, and dangerously, wrong. ‘Descent’ …. [of Man, Darwin’s 1871 treatise, is a book] not to venerate” as is common among most evolutionists today. Fuentes writes that, despite
some innovative inferences, “Descent” is often problematic, prejudiced, and injurious. Darwin thought he was relying on data, objectivity, and scientific thinking in describing human evolutionary outcomes. But for much of the book, he was not. “Descent,” like so many of the scientific tomes of Darwin’s day, offers a racist and sexist view of humanity.
Furthermore, Fuentes said: “Darwin portrayed Indigenous peoples of the Americas and Australia as cognitively depauperate, and of a lower rank than other races.” Fuentes concluded that Darwin
Baselessly, asserted evolutionary differences between races. He went beyond simple racial rankings, offering justification of empire and colonialism, and genocide, through “survival of the fittest.” … In “Descent,” Darwin identified women as less capable than (White) men, often akin to the “lower races.”
About that Curse of Ham
I would say to my critics that the common claims that the Bible condoned slavery as it existed in the American South is demonstrably incorrect. The so-called “curse of Ham” in Genesis 9:20-26 is actually a curse on Canaan (who in the narrative is Ham’s son), not Ham. Ham himself was not cursed, and race or even skin color was never mentioned. Let’s look at the passage:
20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: 21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness. 24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. 25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. 26 And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
“Canaan” is obviously the eponymous ancestor of the Canaanites that lived in the land of Canaan. They were neither dark-skinned or African. As far as is known, the first appearance of the “curse of Ham” claim was in the Middle Ages, and the source is unknown. It is known that there is no basis for the claim in the Genesis text that Ham was cursed. Furthermore, the figure Canaan in Genesis 9:18b is the father of the Canaanites and, in Genesis 10:6, he is also the father of those from Egypt, and possibly the people in Libya and Ethiopia. Ham’s descendants had a variety of skin colors and were not slaves.
Slavery and Christianity
Slavery existed in many forms throughout history; it was mentioned in the Scriptures as a reality and only condoned temporarily and with restrictions, such as a way out of debt. Scripture emphasizes that the Bible requirement is to live justly, love mercy, and humbly walk with God (Micah 6:7). In contrast, classic Darwinism emphasizes survival of the fittest, a recipe for exploitation. The writings of Darwin teach
that the state of nature is one of constant struggle, combat, war, and violence. That’s one of the reasons the book [by Darwin] was almost immediately embraced by a number of intellectuals, who thought Darwin was describing the world they lived in….. A number of prominent American scientists at the time argued that God had created black people, brown skinned and white people separately, and each of them were different, had different capacities, and there was a hierarchy. Some went so far as to suggest that black people were a different species, and that they were not only different, but inferior. These scientists were praised in the South and provided the perfect rationalization for slavery.
Furthermore, as is well documented,
Social Darwinism is an argument that focuses primarily upon a term that Darwin himself didn’t coin but eventually used, “the survival of the fittest.” It argues that those who are on the top, the wealthiest and best positioned socially, are there because they are the fittest, the best adapted to succeed. This idea … was very quickly adopted by racist ideologues who wanted to imagine African Americans as inferior or substandard compared to whites. So, there’s this horrible, ironic reversal where Darwin is at first embraced by abolitionists but, within 10 years or so, has been appropriated to argue that blacks are inferior.
Before any meaningful discussion of slavery can occur, it is critical to recognize that slavery existed since nearly the dawn of time and it still exists in some forms today. Slavery was historically a means to pay off a debt, usually a less onerous choice than a debtor’s prison. Slavery has also been used as a type of apprenticeship, as a way of dealing with prisoners of war, and as a source of labor. At certain times it resulted in a lifetime of servitude and imposed poverty.
The Hebrew term slave eved (avadim, plural) comes from the root avad, which means “to work.” This term refers to a large assortment of people involved in a wide variety of social systems. The Hebrew language does not clearly differentiate between slave, servant, or worker. The King James Bible was the most widely used version in the 1700s and 1800s in America when slavery existed there. In this version the word slave was used only once (Jer. 2:14), as was also the word slaves (Rev. 18:13). The use of the words slave and slaves in these two passages is distinctly demeaning to slavery instead of condoning it.
Conversely, servant, servants, bondsmen, and similar words are used almost a thousand times instead of slave. Consequently, the claim that slavery in America was justified by the frequent use of the word in the Bible (specifically the King James Bible, once ubiquitous in the English-speaking world), is unsupportable. Today few English translations use the word slave in these two locations. Most use another word, such as servant, instead of the word slave.
In Bible times, therefore, the term slave in the Roman world often had a meaning that was very different from what we understand today. Becoming a slave to a prominent person or tradesman back then often was equivalent to what we today call an apprenticeship. In Rome, the status of slave could in some cases actually be an honor—a position of trust and authority that in some cases led to becoming emperor or another high-level official.
Slaves as Teachers
Although many slaves were laborers (as were most all people then) some slaves were the “equivalent of PhD’s” who worked as teachers. Occasionally, a slave was adopted into the owner’s family. Sometimes they were given a “cap of freedom” which was either earned or was a gift. The pre-Civil War slavery system in the southern United States was, in numerous ways, very different than many historical slave social systems. Therefore, to conclude that the Bible condones the type of slavery that existed in America’s South is unjustified. In fact, I Corinthians 7:21 (NIV) says about slaves, “if you can gain your freedom, do so.”
Under the (Hebrew) Law, slavery provided a way for a man to get out of debt and avoid becoming a beggar. This solution may not appear just to us today, but it was at one time an act of mercy. In most pre-industrial societies few options existed for persons in debt. No welfare system existed, and usually only the family could help one to pay debts. Thus one option was selling oneself as a slave to pay off debts. Ancient societies had little money or resources existing in the extensive social programs common today in the Western world. Historically, all able-bodied workers had to work, or starve. No matter how far in debt a man became, under this system he could pay his debt and purchase his, or his family’s freedom, back.
The book of Leviticus requires by Jewish law every seventh year all slaves had to be freed. Agate notes that among the Hebrews, slavery “was inspired by a more humane spirit than in either Greece, or Rome.” What was condemned in the Old and New Testaments was the mistreatment of slaves. Discussing a case of slavery, or the situation of slavery, never implied approval.
The vibrantly evangelical Christian abolitionist William Wilberforce wrote in his diary when he was 28 that “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and Reformation of [Morals].” Wilberforce fought many battles in the British Parliament to end slavery, most of which he lost. He was indefatigable and, after 20 years, he finally prevailed. As a result of his stand against slavery, Wilberforce was “vilified in the press, physically assaulted, received death threats” and even had to travel with an armed bodyguard.
As a result of his decades of tireless efforts, the entire slave trade finally became illegal in Britain in 1807. “Before this great cause,” Wilberforce said, “all others dwindle.” Hutchinson concluded that, although slavery was practiced everywhere, not one culture anywhere “questioned the morality of slavery until the Christians did the questioning.” Furthermore, it was “first officially banned, by force of law, only in Christian Europe.”
Christianity was historically one of the most important forces opposing slavery, and it eventually ended slavery. Critics who claim that the Bible condoned slavery, such as Steven Weinberg quoted above, are misinformed. Furthermore, the curse of Ham is without foundation, made by twisting Scripture. A study of history reveals the institution of slavery is far more complex and nuanced than the common perception. Finally, Darwinism as is recognized even today had a clear influence on not only racism, but also slavery. This is true even though Darwin was personally opposed to slavery.
 Bergman, Jerry, Darwin’s Racism Under Fire: The Truth Finally Comes Out in the Leading Science Magazine: Darwin was a First-Class Racist! The Evidence is in Darwin’s Second Major Book The Descent of Man. Creation-Evolution Headlines, 3 June 2021.
 DeSilva, Jeremy, A Most interesting Problem: What Darwin’s Descent of Man Got Right and Wrong About Human Evolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2021.
 Desmond, Adrian, and James Moore, Darwin’s Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery, and the Quest for Human Origins. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2009.
 Weinberg, Steven, “A Designer Universe?” (pp. 241-248) in The Best of the Best of American Science Writing edited by James Gleick and Jesse Cohen. New York, NY: The Ecco Press (an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers), 2000, p. 247.
 Fuentes, 2021, p 769.
 Fuentes, 2021, p 769
 Fuentes, 2021, p 769.
 Whitford, David M., The Curse of Ham in the Early Modern Era: The Bible and the Justifications for Slavery. London, UK: Routledge, 2016.
 Genesis 9:20-26, King James Version.
 Worrall, 2017.
 Worrall, 2017.
 Strobel, Lee, The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998, p. 167.
 Agate, Leonard D., “Slavery” in Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Volume 11, pp. 602-612. Edited by James Hastings. New York, NY: Scribner’s, 1961, p. 602.
 Quoted in Piper, John. 2002. “Coronary Christians.” World, 17(7):37.
 Belmonte, Kevin, “A Faithful Steward,” Focus on the Family, January 2003, pp. 10-11, p. 11.
 Quoted in Piper, 2002, p. 37.
 Hutchinson, Robert, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible. Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2007, p. 158.
 Hutchinson, 2007, p. 158; emphasis added.
 Bergman, Jerry. “Darwinism’s influence on modern racists and white supremacist groups: the case of David Duke” Journal of Creation 19(3):103–107 December 2005.
Ed. Notes: Roman slavery was not based on race. In that highly stratified society, positions were hierarchical and often heritable. Slaves could purchase freedom or be granted it by their owners. Many slaves were brought into the empire as prisoners of war. Without doubt, many Roman slaves had miserable lives of servitude with no way out, but others, like Dr Bergman notes, served prestigious masters under good conditions. Slavery in America was race-based. Black people were solved into slavery by other black people in Africa, suffering unimaginable cruelty on slave ships. Some whites came to America as indentured servants, living a slave lifestyle for years. Muslims were cruel slavemasters. Many people don’t realize, as Thomas Sowell has stated, that more white people were slaves to the Barbary Pirates than blacks were in the American south.
Christianity is pro-freedom. It breaks down the barriers between race and gender, presenting each person as equal before God. Slave owners who twisted Scripture in support of slavery were overcome by abolitionists who used Scripture to oppose it. The Liberty Bell quotes Leviticus 25:10, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof,” which was the announcement in each Year of Jubilee to restore freedoms and lands to slaves and debt holders who had sold themselves into slavery. In Christ, everyone is on a level playing field before God. “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” says Paul in II Corinthians 3:17. In Galatians 3:28, he said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Those who use American slavery as a political weapon to divide the races today forget that over 620,000 Americans died in a bitter civil war to end the cruel scourge of slavery, and an even greater number were wounded and maimed.
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.