December 18, 2023 | Jerry Bergman

The Darwinist Genocide in Tasmania

Extinction of the Tasmanians:
another example of the
fruits of Darwinism

 

 by Jerry Bergman, PhD

The story of the complete extermination of the native peoples of Tasmania in the late 1800s is a well-documented example of one of the many negative results of pre-and post-Darwin racist evolutionary theories.[1]

Tasmania was first discovered by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1642. The island came to the attention of the British when they set up their penal colony in New South Wales in 1788. Tasmania, a 67,000 square-kilometer (26,000 square mile) island about the size of Ireland, lies close to two hundred miles south of the Australian mainland, almost directly south of Melbourne.  The island is now part of Australia.

Until the British arrived, the native Tasmanians had virtually no contact with other humans for thousands of years.[2] When the British arrived an estimated 4,000 indigenous were a highly isolated population of about seventy tribes and five language groups.

Proving Inferior Races

Darwin did not publish his Origin of Species until 1859, but evolution in various forms was widely believed by many biologists in the early 1800s.[3] Evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould wrote, “Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1859, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory”[4] Darwin’s own grandfather, Erasmus, was one of the first researchers to dig up an aborigine from the grave to stuff and exhibit at the Royal College of Surgeons—the first of up to 10,000 bodies desecrated to attempt “to prove their racial inferiority” and document the “missing” link between Stone-Age men and fully evolved Whites.[5]

Considered Less than Human

Statements by Tasmanian contemporaries document the belief that the Tasmanians were regarded as biologically inferior humans. One local Tasmanian land commissioner “referred to local blacks as ‘Ourang Outang’s,’ adding that it would be a disgrace “to the human race to call them Men.”[6] The human evolutionary chain began with the highest level of humans, white European males…..  and at the bottom were the Tasmanian natives, “who were scarcely distinguishable from apes.”[7]

Whites spoke of the Tasmanians as Aborigines that were “horribly disgusting,” lacking “any traces of civilization… constituting in a measure the link between man and the monkey tribe,” and “undoubtedly in the lowest possible scale of human nature, both in form and intellect.”[8] Some Tasmanian children were stolen by settlers “for labor or to serve as pets.”[9] The Europeans flooding into Australia and Africa “were inclined, with their inborn feeling of belonging to a superior race, to appear as members of a conquering army.”[10] Science writer Ben Turner explains:

When British colonists established the first European settlements in Tasmania (now a state in Australia) in 1803, the island’s Indigenous Aboriginal population numbered between 5,000 and 10,000. Yet by 1876, after multiple successive campaigns of violence, murder and forced displacement (condoned and later outright sponsored through a bounty system by the British-controlled state), only the women kidnapped by the colonizers had survived, and many of them were tortured, pressed into forced labor and raped.[11]

Morton Allport (December 4, 1830-September 10, 1878), English-born Australian colonial naturalist and solicitor. He was the central figure in exporting the remains of indigenous Tasmanians in exchange for scientific honors. Public domain.

Predictions of Extinction

In 1836 the Commandant of Launceston visited Flinders Island where the Tasmanians that were not already murdered had been sent in an effort to prevent their extinction. The main reason they were sent to Flinders island was due to a Methodist minister who appealed to the Bible and the humanity of the British. He wanted to stop the genocide slaughter occurring in Tasmania, but it was already too late. The Commandant of Launceston warned that if conditions were not improved, “the race of Tasmania … will … be extinct in a quarter of a century”  In 1838 George Augustus Robinson, one man who worked to help the Tasmanians, reported that if the deaths “continue much longer no vestige of their race will be left behind.” Still, the government, no doubt influenced by the Darwinian belief that they were an inferior race, refused to address the issues contributing to the Tasmanian mortalities.

In fact, the British operated Flinders Island where the Tasmanians then were sent to live with virtually no policy amendments for over a decade.[12] The colonial government may not have planned to kill the large numbers of Aborigines that fled to Flinders Island, but at this time they did little to stop mass death when they were clearly responsible for it.[13] Yet many survived in spite of the poor conditions, and the Tasmanians became extinct only in 1876.

About this time museums in the West were attempting to collect Tasmanian skeletons to prove their inferior race beliefs. In the end. One involved in this unethical transport was Morton Allport.

Allport had shipped a total of five Tasmanian Aboriginal skeletons … to Europe. Once there, the samples were studied by naturalists who were eager to make pseudoscientific observations of … the Aboriginal peoples’ evolutionary “inferiority.” In return for his efforts, Allport was garlanded with scientific accolades and fellowships from universities across Europe.[14]

The Christian Teaching: All Humans are Brothers, Descended from Adam and Eve

Conversely, “evangelical Protestantism of the late eighteenth century… advocated monogenism, the idea that all humans descended from Adam and Eve. Their preachers insisted that, given the right conditions, people of any race might be ‘improved.’ In harmony with this belief, missionaries flocked to the British colonies in the Americas, India, South Africa and the Pacific,” and later added Australia and Tasmania to their mission work.[15]

While visiting Tasmania in 1836, theistic evolutionist Reverend Thomas Atkins attributed the “almost extinct” condition of the Aborigines to the “universal law in the Divine government” that “savage tribes [will] disappear before the progress of the civilized races.” [16]

The drive to study their evolutionary status continued after the Tasmanians became extinct. One way was to collect their remains and sell them to museums. One man was driven to do this by money and fame from selling the remains of Tasmanians to museums all over the world:

A Hobart-based (Hobert was Tasmania’s capital) solicitor built his reputation as “the foremost scientist in the colony” in the mid-1800s, despite limited contributions to scientific knowledge. Morton Allport achieved his status by obtaining the bodily remains of Tasmanian Aboriginal people and … sending them to collectors in Europe—specifically asking for scientific accolades in return. This took place in the context of a genocide against the Tasmanian Aboriginal peoples.[17]

Furthermore:

The systematic murder of Tasmania’s Indigenous people, described by contemporary scholars as genocide, coincided with the hunting to extinction of the island’s thylacines. The distinctively striped marsupial, once found across Australia but later endemic only to Tasmania, was hunted to extinction by British settlers who viewed the carnivore as a threat to their sheep farms.,,,

Thylacines were seen as pests in their own environment, and also described in similar ways to Aboriginal people as being ‘primitive’, ‘stupid’ and evolutionarily ill-adapted,” Ashby said. “Both were effectively being blamed for what was happening to them — for the genocide and for their extinction — which exonerated the colonists from the fact that they were shooting them or rounding them up and taking them off island.

Allport’s activities, which include the mutilation of an Aboriginal man’s corpse to gather evidence for pseudoscientific theories of white superiority, coincided with genocide against the island’s Aboriginal peoples.[18]

Allport, the principal exporter of the bodily remains of Tasmanian Aboriginal people to Europe, during his career

shipped a total of five Tasmanian Aboriginal skeletons to Europe, proudly identifying himself as the most prolific trader in Tasmanian bodily remains. He made clear in his letters that he had directed the grave-robbing himself. …. as populations of ….  Tasmanian Aboriginal people were diminished, demand for their remains in museums and private collections increased. Morton Allport worked to meet this demand. Allport’s exploits included acquiring the remains of an Aboriginal man, William Lanne, considered a “prize specimen” as he was believed by the colonists to be the last Tasmanian man when he died in 1869. …  Allport likely instructed that Lanne’s body be mutilated both before and—following his exhumation—after his burial so that Allport could add him to a museum collection in Hobart….  despite state-sponsored violence committed against ….  Tasmanian Aboriginal peoples, they were both described by the colonists as being at fault for what happened to them—that they couldn’t cope in the ‘modern’ world.”[19]

The concern over Allport’s activities is based on the fact that, instead of treating the remains of these people with the respect due to human beings, they were treated as animals, both when they were alive and when they had died. When they were alive, normal human compassion would have done what was necessary to ensure they did not become extinct. But due to racist beliefs existing then, they were treated as if they were an inferior race and, as Darwin correctly predicted, would become extinct, rendering the gap between apes and modern man wider. In Darwin’s words,

At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes…will no doubt be exterminated. The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the negro or Australian [aborigines] and the gorilla.[20]

Summary

The Tasmanian extermination is another example of the harm caused by racist ideas, both Darwinian and pre-Darwinian. The long record of causing harm to humanity is still being rectified. Fortunately, the scientific community is finally, albeit slowly, attempting to come to terms with this horrid past.

References

How Darwinism led to racism, eugenics, Nazism, communism, and genocide.

[1] Bergman, Jerry. Nineteenth Century Darwinism and the Tasmanian Genocide.  CRSQ 32(4):190-196, March 1995..

[2] Reynolds, Henry. A History of Tasmania. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, 2012.

[3] Osborn, Henry Fairfield. From the Greeks to Darwin: The Development of the Evolution Idea Through Twenty-Four Centuries.  Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, NY, 1929.

[4] Gould, Stephen Jay. Ontogeny and Phylogeny. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, p 126, 1977.

[5] Bergman, Jerry. The Darwin Effect: Its Influence on Nazism, Eugenics, Racism, Communism. Master Books, Green Forest, AR, p. 92, 2014..

[6] Clements, Nicholas. The Black War: Fear, Sex and Resistance in Tasmania. St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia: University of Queensland, p. 12, 2014.

[7] Clements, 2014, p. 12.

[8] Madley, Benjamin. Patterns of frontier genocide, 1803–1910: The Aboriginal Tasmanians. Journal of Genocide Research 6(2):167-192, June 2004.

[9] Madley, 2004, p. 169.

[10] Bley, H. Social discord in South West Africa, 1894–1904, in P. Gifford and W. Lewis, eds., Britain and Germany in Africa. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1971a.

[11] Turner, Ben. Stolen remains of Aboriginal people and Tasmanian tigers traced to grave-robbing Victorian naturalist. Live Science; https://www.livescience.com/archaeology/stolen-remains-of-aboriginal-people-and-tasmanian-tigers-traced-to-grave-robbing-victorian-naturalist, 28 November 2023.

[12] Prickett, Katy. Cambridge University study reveals man’s trade in Aboriginal remains;  https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-67566236, 30 November 2023.

A must-read by Jerry Bergman about the harm done by Darwinian thinking.

[13] Ryan, L. The Aboriginal Tasmanians. Allen & Unwin, St. Leonards, New South Wales, Australia, p.186, 1996; Reynolds, H. Fate of a Free People: A Radical Re-examination of the Tasmanian Wars. Penguin Books, Ringwood, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, pp. 184–185, 1995.

[14] Turner, 2023.

[15] Clements, 2014, pp. 12-13.

[16] Atkins, Thomas. Reminiscences of Twelve Years’ Residence in Tasmania and New South Wales: Norfolk Island and Moreton Bay; Calcutta, Madras and Cape Town: The United States of America; and the Canadas Malvern [Australia?]: The “Advertiser” Office, p. 10, 1869.

[17] The University of Cambridge. Solicitor in 19th-century Tasmania traded human Aboriginal remains for scientific accolades, study reveals, PhysOrg. https://phys.org/news/2023-11-solicitor-19th-century-tasmania-human-aboriginal.html, 28 November 2023.

[18] Turner, 2023.

[19] Pickett, Kathy. Cambridge University study reveals man’s trade in Aboriginal remains. https://nz.finance.yahoo.com/news/cambridge-university-study-reveals-mans-063020431.html#:~:text=In%20all%2C%20Allport%20shipped%20five,when%20he%20died%20in%201869; Ashby, Jack. How colonial violence in Tasmania helped build scientists’ reputations and prestigious museum collections ack. 2023. https://uk.news.yahoo.com/colonial-violence-tasmania-helped-build-155949690.html#:~:text=Colonists%20described%20the%20people%20and,forced%20them%20to%20live%20in.

[20] Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. London, England: Murray, . p. 201, 1871.


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 1,800 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 60 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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Comments

  • Enea says:

    Monogenism (which Darwin believed in) doesn’t imply one race, but one human kind, and not the equality of the races in every facet and area of life either.

    Racism as the pejorative is currently employed amounts to little more than a term of abuse to morally browbeat white people into submission.

    It turns out that Christianity and the bible do indeed teach monogenism, but that has nothing to do with racial egalitarianism, defined as th complete

    • Enea says:

      (accidentally hit enter on my unfinished previous comment, so here’s the rest)

      …has nothing to do with racial egalitarianism, defined as the complete equality of the races and therefore the shunning of racial considerations in favor of an atomistic individual existence. The latter represents an error that has infiltrated the Church and creationist communities that is a central tenet of the secularist anti-Christian establishment.

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