Is Darwinism Racist?

English biologist Charles Darwin was a European man of his time. Like many of his peers, he was under the impression that white men were inherently superior to women and people of color.Does the worldview of Darwin say anything about his theory and today's evolutionary biology?

Originally published in two volumes, The Descent of Man covered diverse aspects of animal and human-animal life, ranging from comparative anatomy to mental faculties, the ability to use reason, morality, memory, and imagination, or how animals choose to have sex and with whom or what.

Darwin proposed that sexual selection was instrumental in explaining the origin of what he called human races and cultural progress.

He argued that sexual selection explained why humans had broken off into different racial groups. Skin color and hair were important indicators. But according to Darwin sexual selection among humans would also affect mental traits such as intelligence and maternal love.

And that even within the racial groups. Darwin wrote: “Man is more courageous, pugnacious, and energetic than woman, and has more inventive genius.”

Charles Darwin

Charles R. Darwin was a nineteenth-century English naturalist, geologist, and biologist, best known for his discovery of evolution by natural selection.

On the Origin of Species, published by Charles Darwin in 1859, is arguably the most important book in the history of biology. It is in his book On the Origin of Species Charles Darwin formulates how the theory of evolution works, how organisms change over time, and how the individuals are selected to pass on their inheritable characteristics to new generations.

Darwin purposefully left out the evolution of humans in his first book, having hesitated the controversy it might have caused. However, Darwin eventually published the part of his evolutionary theory that covers humans in 1971 in a second book, “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex”, where he also speculated about the inferiority of women and people of color.

Darwinism

There is no such thing as Darwinism. Charles Darwin was not a thinker nor a prophet of biologists. Charles Darwin discovered evolution by natural selection, however, his work was long before the discovery of genes. Therefore his original theory is incomplete, with inaccuracies, personal speculations, and some misunderstandings.

It is a fact that Charles Darwin would be considered a misogynist and racist in today’s world. I am not offering an excuse for him, however, it would be misleading to ignore the fact that Darwin’s misogynistic and racist worldview was far from being controversial for his time. That women and people of color were less than white men were considered common knowledge in the 18th century, and accordingly, most people, including European scientists and even many women, shared Darwin’s worldview.

World Diversity
Correlation does not imply causation

It is also important to note that Darwin was perhaps right about what he said about women and people of color on the surface. An average white woman or an average person-of-color was indeed less intelligent, less able than an average white European man in Darwin’s time.

However, what Darwin did was failing to see that correlation does not mean causation. If you asked Darwin he would also most likely say that Dutch people were inherently short people *

I doubt Darwin’s worldview was ill-intended. Like many people of his time, he was simply ignorant as far as certain social matters are concerned. That said, it would still not matter if Darwin were a major Ku Klux Klan or a misogynist terrorist organization leader.

The music composer Wagner was reportedly not a pleasant person to be around, and his peer Carl Orff sucked up to the regime during Hitler’s years. Who cares?

Today, we celebrate the works of Darwin, Wagner, and Carl Orff, not their personalities.

In the early twentieth century, during the state visit of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands to Germany, the German King is known to have mocked the shortness of queen’s guards. Fast forward 100 years, well-nourished Dutch people are the tallest nation in the whole world.

False, yet most popular, depiction of human evolution.
False, yet most popular, depiction of human evolution.
Is the Evolutionary Theory Racist?

The theory of evolution is an established theory of natural sciences. Racism as in the form of prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against other people because they are of a different ethnicity is something social sciences would be more interested in.

In fact, it is racist to claim that an established natural science theory is racist because it implies at least some aspects of racism are backed by science.

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Tamer Aydogdu
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