Feature Article - September 2017
by Do-While Jones

Racist Statues

If racist statues have to be removed, Darwin’s should be the first to go.

For the past several weeks there have been stories in the news about riots in which statues of Confederate leaders have been vandalized or removed because they inspire uncomfortable memories of racism. Some people even want to remove statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson because they owned slaves.

If racist statues should be removed, then statues of Charles Darwin should be the first to go.


Darwin Statue on Suzzallo Library at University of Washington, Seattle, https://thedispersalofdarwin.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/img_3274.jpg

Darwin’s most famous book is generally called The Origin of Species. The full title, however, is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. The premise of that book is that climate, diet, and exercise cause inheritable changes which lead to new races which, as they continue to evolve, become new species through natural selection. Furthermore, the more highly-evolved species are superior to the less-highly evolved species, and drive them to extinction. It was published in 1859, just two years before the American Civil War.

Darwin’s less famous book is The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. The first edition was published in 1871, six years after the end of the Civil War. The final edition was published in 1874,1 which is the one from which we will quote.

In The Descent of Man, Darwin addresses general issues, such as how to determine if similar living things are different species or not. With that background, he addresses the issue of whether or not Negro Savages are Homo sapiens. He seems to argue both sides of the question by comparing the similarities and differences between various human races and apes, but eventually he takes his stand (sort of).

How to Determine Species

As we have no record of the lines of descent, the pedigree can be discovered only by observing the degrees of resemblance between the beings which are to be classed. For this object numerous points of resemblance are of much more importance than the amount of similarity or dissimilarity in a few points. 2

It was Darwin’s opinion that many small differences are much more important than a few big differences when seeking to determine if two beings are of the same species. If Darwin explained why he thinks numerous points of resemblance are of much more importance than the amount of similarity or dissimilarity in a few points, I missed it. Perhaps he thinks that each difference is the result of an evolutionary step, and the more evolutionary steps, the better the justification for classifying two beings as different species. That is a subjective opinion.

One could try to make it more objective by making a rule that three small differences equal one big difference—but that is still subjective. Who is to say that three, not four, small differences equal one big difference? And who defines if a difference is big or small? The important point is, if you think the amount of similarity or difference in a few points is of much more importance than numerous points of resemblance, you are wrong because he is Darwin and you aren’t.

“Naturalists Say”

Man has multiplied so rapidly, that he has necessarily been exposed to struggle for existence, and consequently to natural selection. He has given rise to many races, some of which differ so much from each other, that they have often been ranked by naturalists as distinct species. 3

Darwin is very careful. He is using the third-person trick TV journalists like to use. (“Mr. President, some people have criticized you for …”) He says “naturalists” classify the different races as distinct species. This allows him to make the point without saying it is his own view. He is just reporting what other people think. Furthermore, it is the “scientists say” trick. If one claims that scientists say it, it must be true.

Racial Differences

Chapter VII is titled, On the Races of Man. It begins with these words:

There is, however, no doubt that the various races, when carefully compared and measured, differ much from each other—as in the texture of the hair, the relative proportions of all parts of the body, the capacity of the lungs, the form and capacity of the skull, and even in the convolutions of the brain. But it would be an endless task to specify the numerous points of difference. The races differ also in constitution, in acclimatization and in liability to certain diseases. Their mental characteristics are likewise very distinct; chiefly as it would appear in their emotional, but partly in their intellectual faculties. Every one who has had the opportunity of comparison, must have been struck with the contrast between the taciturn, even morose, aborigines of S. America and the light-hearted, talkative negroes. There is a nearly similar contrast between the Malays and the Papuans, who live under the same physical conditions, and are separated from each other only by a narrow space of sea. 4

From his previous statement about lots of small differences being more important than a few big differences, the implication is that all these small differences in races definitely indicate separate species—but he slyly doesn’t say so explicitly himself. He has previously stated (without justification) that lots of small differences indicate different species, even if there aren’t any big differences. Then he says there are lots of small differences between races. You are supposed to come to the conclusion on your own that Negroes are a different species than Europeans without him specifically saying so.

The Fertility Test

Fertility is often used as a test to determine if two individuals are the same species or not. We are surrounded today with mixed-race children, so that should prove beyond any doubt that all people are the same species, Homo sapiens. In the 19th century, when Darwin wrote this, the cross fertilization of the various races was not yet settled science. It should have been well known because there were many instances of mixed-race children in Darwin’s day; but Darwin didn’t accept it. Perhaps he was afraid it would prove that Negroes really are humans. Here’s how he danced around his problem.

Even if it should hereafter be proved that all the races of men were perfectly fertile together, he who was inclined from other reasons to rank them as distinct species, might with justice argue that fertility and sterility are not safe criterions of specific distinctness. We know that these qualities are easily affected by changed conditions of life, or by close inter-breeding, and that they are governed by highly complex laws, for instance, that of the unequal fertility of converse crosses between the same two species. 5

From these several considerations, it may be justly urged that the perfect fertility of the intercrossed races of man, if established, would not absolutely preclude us from ranking them as distinct species.

Independent of fertility, the characters presented by the offspring from a cross have been thought to indicate whether or not the parent-forms ought to be ranked as species or varieties; but after carefully studying the evidence, I have come to the conclusion that no general rules of this kind can be trusted. 6

In other words, even if it is true that interracial marriages produce healthy, fertile children (which, of course, they do) it would not prove to Darwin’s satisfaction that savages (as he calls them) are the same species as civilized men.

Scientists Say They Are Different Species

We have now seen that a naturalist might feel himself fully justified in ranking the races of man as distinct species; for he has found that they are distinguished by many differences in structure and constitution, some being of importance. These differences have, also, remained nearly constant for very long periods of time. Our naturalist will have been in some degree influenced by the enormous range of man, which is a great anomaly in the class of mammals, if mankind be viewed as a single species. He will have been struck with the distribution of the several so-called races, which accords with that of other undoubtedly distinct species of mammals. Finally, he might urge that the mutual fertility of all the races has not as yet been fully proved, and even if proved would not be an absolute proof of their specific identity. 7

Darwin says that “a naturalist” (not necessarily himself) can’t help seeing the overwhelming evidence that the races are different species. If the amount of variation visible among men of different races existed in any other kind of animal, there would be no question that they were separate species. Presumably, the only reason people do question it is political correctness.

Darwin repeats again that even if the mutual fertility of all races turns out to be true, it doesn’t really prove anything. He has to do this because, deep down inside, he knows that mixed-race children are fertile.

But the most weighty of all the arguments against treating the races of man as distinct species, is that they graduate into each other, independently in many cases, as far as we can judge, of their having intercrossed. Man has been studied more carefully than any other animal, and yet there is the greatest possible diversity amongst capable judges whether he should be classed as a single species or race, or as two (Virey), as three (Jacquinot), as four (Kant), five (Blumenbach), six (Buffon), seven (Hunter), eight (Agassiz), eleven (Pickering), fifteen (Bory St. Vincent), sixteen (Desmoulins), twenty-two (Morton), sixty (Crawford), or as sixty-three, according to Burke. This diversity of judgment does not prove that the races ought not to be ranked as species, but it shews that they graduate into each other, and that it is hardly possible to discover clear distinctive characters between them. 8

Darwin still won’t say that the different races of men are different species; but he quotes 13 “capable judges” who say they are. And, as evolutionists often like to say, although none of them agree on the specific details (in this case, they don’t agree upon the exact number of different species) the general theory must be true.

Darwin Dodges the Question

What does Darwin really believe? Or perhaps, how politically incorrect is he willing to appear?

Some naturalists have lately employed the term “sub-species” to designate forms which posses many of the characteristics of true species, but which hardly deserve so high a rank. Now if we reflect on the weighty arguments above given, for raising the races of man to the dignity of species, and the insuperable difficulties on the other side in defining them, it seems that the term “sub-species” might here be used with propriety. But from long habit the term “race” will perhaps always be employed. 9

“Some naturalists” (not necessarily Darwin) think that colored people don’t really deserve the dignity of having their own species designation. They are just sub-species which haven’t evolved as much as white people.

What did Darwin believe? The following two quotes are as close as I could find of Darwin explicitly stating his belief.

The American aborigines, Negroes and Europeans are as different from each other in mind as any three races that can be named; yet I was incessantly struck, whilst living with the Fuegians on board the “Beagle,” with the many little traits of character, shewing how similar their minds were to ours; and so it was with a full-blooded negro with whom I happened once to be intimate. 10

Darwin became acquainted with Native Americans and Negroes on the “Beagle,” and was struck with how surprisingly human they seemed to be. Could they possibly be human?

… the term “man” ought to be used. But this is a matter of very little importance. So again, it is almost a matter of indifference whether the so-called races of man are thus designated, or are ranked as species or sub-species; but the latter term appears the more appropriate. 11

So Darwin believed that the colored races actually were sub-species of human beings. Well, isn’t that damn white of him!

Classifying the savage races as sub-species allows Darwin to make this claim:

But since he attained to the rank of manhood, he has diverged into distinct races, or as they may be more fitly called, sub-species. Some of these, such as the Negro and European, are so distinct that, if specimens had been brought to a naturalist without any further information, they would undoubtedly have been considered by him as good and true species. Nevertheless all the races agree in so many important details of structure and in so many mental peculiarities, that these can be accounted for only by inheritance from a common progenitor; and a progenitor thus characterised would probably deserve to rank as man. 12

Although Darwin seems to make the stronger case that Negroes are a different species distinct from Europeans, he eventually comes to the conclusion that Negroes are probably just a less highly evolved subspecies of humans which no doubt evolved from a common ancestor.

Our Statue Position

So, if statues of Washington and Jefferson have to come down because they owned slaves (which is no longer legal) shouldn’t statues of Darwin come down because of his racist theory of evolution (which is still, by law, being taught in American public schools)?

We don’t want anybody’s statue to be vandalized or removed. We are just making the point that if one wants to attack racists, Darwin would be a more appropriate target than George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.

P.S. Darwin was a sexist, too.

Summary:—We may conclude that the greater size, strength, courage, pugnacity, and energy of man, in comparison with woman, were acquired during primeval times, and have subsequently been augmented, chiefly through the contests of rival males for the possession of the females. The greater intellectual vigour and power of invention in man is probably due to natural selection, combined with the inherited effects of habit, for the most able men will have succeeded best in defending and providing for themselves and for their wives and offspring. 13

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Footnotes:

1 http://darwin-online.org.uk/converted/pdf/1882_Descent_F955.pdf
2 ibid. page 148
3 ibid.. page 146
4 ibid.. pages 167-168
5 ibid.. page 171
6 ibid.. page 172
7 ibid.. page 173
8 ibid.. pages 174-175
9 ibid.. page 175
10 ibid.. page 178
11 ibid.. page 180
12 ibid.. page 608
13 ibid.. page 605