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  Topic: Was Darwin a racist?, claimed on TV< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  
jeannot



Posts: 1200
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: June 19 2006,09:26   

Hello Folks.
I'm watching a documentary on what I may call our cultural channel ("Arte" for those who know it). It is about the ethnic groups that were considered as inferior in our western civilisation.
In this film, they claim that this racism culminated in "On the Origin of Species...", where Darwin described these people as primitive and missing links (between ape and civilised men, I assume). They even used the term 'evolutionist'.
I haven't finished to read the Origin Of Species, but I don't think Darwin said anything of the sort.
Can you confirm this?
See, I'm not used to hearing such things on TV, but you might be (Foxnews et al.). I'm wondering about writing and email to that TV channel. Do you think I should?

EDIT: In fact this is ambiguous. I recall Darwin using the word "primitive" in his book. But I don't think it had the meaning it has today.

  
Chris Hyland



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Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: June 19 2006,09:38   

As far as I can remember Darwin thought that white Europeans would 'outcompete' other races and that they would eventually dissapear. He didn't advocate genocide or anything like that, and 'social darwinism' didn't appear until after his death. The main thing to remember is that even if if his book was called 'On the Origin of Species: why white people are superior and everyone else should be killed', this has nothing to do with whether or not the theory is true. Bizarrely Darwins views, or the consequences of 'believing in evolution' are common arguments against the theory itself. I really can't work out why.

  
JMX



Posts: 27
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: June 19 2006,09:46   

Darwin wasn't any more racist than any other Englishman of his time, IIRC his trip with the Beagle changed his views, a bit away from "racism".

  
Flint



Posts: 478
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: June 19 2006,10:01   

Pretty natural for all of us to assume the inherent superiority of whatever in-group we identify with. Northern Europeans of Darwin's time never thought to ask *whether* those who looked different were inferior, they only sought to explain why.

Meanwhile, engineers (such as, ahem, myself) are superior to everyone else for good solid reasons. Objective critical analysis tells us so.

  
ericmurphy



Posts: 2460
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: June 19 2006,10:50   

Also, Darwin was a man of his time. In 19th century Europe, the prevailing opinion was that people of white European descent were more "advanced" than people of other races. There's no evidence that Darwin's beliefs with respect to race were unusual for his time. And, as Chris pointed out, Darwin's own personal foibles have absolutely no bearing on the correctness of his theories.

Einstein was reputedly a terrible husband and father (and no clotheshorse, either). Does that make his contributions to physics suspect?

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2006 MVD award for most dogged defense of scientific sanity

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normdoering



Posts: 287
Joined: July 2005

(Permalink) Posted: June 19 2006,10:54   

Quote (Flint @ June 19 2006,15:01)
Pretty natural for all of us to assume the inherent superiority of whatever in-group we identify with. Northern Europeans of Darwin's time never thought to ask *whether* those who looked different were inferior, they only sought to explain why.

Meanwhile, engineers (such as, ahem, myself) are superior to everyone else for good solid reasons. Objective critical analysis tells us so.

I know you're joking, but there really are people with such one dimensional thinking, perhaps afdave, who think they can graph "superiority" on a single line. We can't think in enough dimensions to create a graph of fitness for this world.

We're all probably going to be surprised (except me) when it turns out that the evolution that matters is happening in the poorest parts of Africa where there will rise people resistant to things like ebola and AIDS and when the really nasty virus comes out and kills us all -- they'll take over.

  
stephenWells



Posts: 127
Joined: April 2006

(Permalink) Posted: June 19 2006,11:02   

Quote (jeannot @ June 19 2006,14:26)
Hello Folks.
I'm watching a documentary on what I may call our cultural channel ("Arte" for those who know it). It is about the ethnic groups that were considered as inferior in our western civilisation.
In this film, they claim that this racism culminated in "On the Origin of Species...", where Darwin described these people as primitive and missing links (between ape and civilised men, I assume). They even used the term 'evolutionist'.
I haven't finished to read the Origin Of Species, but I don't think Darwin said anything of the sort.
Can you confirm this?
See, I'm not used to hearing such things on TV, but you might be (Foxnews et al.). I'm wondering about writing and email to that TV channel. Do you think I should?

EDIT: In fact this is ambiguous. I recall Darwin using the word "primitive" in his book. But I don't think it had the meaning it has today.

Darwin did share some of the usual assumptions of his day about the "superiority" of white Europeans. However if you look at his comments on slavery from the voyage of the Beagle, you'll find that he was apalled at the inhuman treatment of slaves in South America.

Anyway, claiming that racism "culminates in the origin of species" is like claiming that geocentrism culminated in the Reformation, e.g. a category error. Origin isn't about race. Unless there's something viciously racist about pigeon breeding, or coral atolls, which I missed.

  
jeannot



Posts: 1200
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: June 19 2006,11:13   

But did Darwin specifically claim that african people were "missing links" (which was said in that documentary)?

  
Ichthyic



Posts: 3325
Joined: May 2006

(Permalink) Posted: June 19 2006,11:13   

Here, Jean, I think Darwin's own words will do the most to convince you he was no racist, at least from the perspective of the times he lived in:

http://home.att.net/~troybritain/articles/darwin_on_race.htm

a comment from the person who assembled the quotes from Darwin:

Quote
What we do know from the above quotes is that for a mid-19th century upper class, white, English male, Darwin was very enlightened and "liberal" minded.  He was a staunch abolitionist, he considered blacks and Indians to be people, he felt disgust and horror at their mistreatment, and he had much sympathy for their plight.  Therefore singling Darwin out among 19th century scientists for the label of racist is hardly fair.


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Henry J



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Joined: Mar. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: June 19 2006,11:35   

How could Africans be missing links if we knew where they are?

  
jeannot



Posts: 1200
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: June 19 2006,12:21   

It's nonsense, of course. That's why I doubt that Darwin said this.

Thanks Thomas.

  
dhogaza



Posts: 525
Joined: Feb. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: June 19 2006,14:49   

Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner and held views about blacks that were typical of slave owners.

Conservative Americans should be burning the Declaration of Independence along with Origin of the Species, for consistency's sake.

  
Wesley R. Elsberry



Posts: 4807
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: June 19 2006,16:30   

Claim CA005.1: Charles Darwin was himself a racist, referring to native Africans and Australians, for example, as savages.

Edited by Wesley R. Elsberry on June 19 2006,21:38

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"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

    
Russell



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Joined: April 2005

(Permalink) Posted: June 22 2006,04:40   

In "Descent of Man" Darwin also made some amusingly wrong (in light of today's data) observations on the neurological/behavioral differences between men and women in areas such as political.

And I believe Lincoln* - yes, the Great Emancipator - is on record asserting or assuming the superiority of white over black people.

Even the most visionary among us can't entirely escape the prejudices of his (or her!;)) times.

*Mandatory trivia recitation: Lincoln and Darwin were born on the same day.

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Must... not... scratch... mosquito bite.

  
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