COLONIALISM AND NATURAL SELECTION

 

Darwin's close friend Professor Adam Sedgwick was one of the people who saw what dangers the theory of evolution would give rise to in the future. He remarked, after reading and digesting The Origin of Species, that "if this book were to find general public acceptance, it would bring with it a brutalisation of the human race such as it had never seen before."1 And truly, time showed that Sedgwick was right to have doubts. The 20th century has gone down in history as a dark age when people underwent massacres simply because of their race or ethnic origins.

Of course, there were discrimination and genocide based on it in human history long before Darwin. But Darwinism lent this discrimination a false scientific respectability and a false rightfulness.

"The Preservation of Favoured Races..."

Most Darwinists in our day claim that Darwin was never a racist but that racists comment on Darwin's ideas in a biased manner for the purpose of supporting their own views. They claim that the expression "By the Preservation of Favoured Races" in the subtitle to The Origin of Species is used only for animals. However, what those who make this claim ignore is what Darwin says about human races in his book.

According to the views put forward by Darwin in this book, human races represent different stages of evolution, and some races have evolved and progressed more than others. Some of them, in fact, were pretty much at the same level as monkeys.

Darwin claimed that the "fight for survival" also applied between human races. "Favoured races" emerged victorious from this struggle. According to Darwin the favoured race were the European whites. As for Asian and African races, they had fallen behind in the fight for survival. Darwin went even further: these races would soon completely lose the world-wide fight for survival and disappear, he claimed.

At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes ... will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla. 2

Again in another part of The Origin of Species, Darwin claimed that it was necessary for the inferior races to disappear and that there was no need for developed peoples to try to protect them and keep them alive. He compared this situation to people who raised breeding animals:

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. 3

As we have seen, in his book The Origin of Species Darwin saw the natives of Australia and Negroes as being at the same level as gorillas and claimed that these races would disappear. As for the other races which he saw as "inferior," he maintained that it was essential to prevent them multiplying and so for these races to be brought to extinction. So the traces of racism and discrimination which we still come across in our time were approved and lent justification by Darwin in this way.

As for the task befalling the "civilised person," according to Darwin's racist idea, it was to speed this evolutionary period up a little, as we shall see in the details which follow. In this situation there was no objection, from the "scientific" point of view, to these races, which were going to disappear anyway, being done away with now.

The journeys Darwin embarked on revealed his racist side. For example, Darwin considered the term "wild animals" suitable for tribes whose culture and abilities other researchers had discussed. 

Darwin's racist side showed its effect in much of his writing and observations. For example, he openly set out his racist prejudices while describing the natives of Tierra del Fuego whom he saw on a long voyage he set out on in 1871. He described the natives as living creatures "wholly nude, submerged in dyes, eating what they find just like wild animals, uncontrolled, cruel to everybody out of their tribe, taking pleasure in torturing their enemies, offering bloddy sacrifices, killing their children, ill-treating their wives, full of awkward superstitions". Whereas the researcher W. P. Snow, who had travelled the same region ten years before, presents a very different picture. According to Snow, the Tierra del Fuegians were "fine powerful looking fellows; they were very fond of their children; some of their artefacts were ingenious; they recognised some sort of rights over property; and they accepted the authority of several of the oldest women." 4

As has been seen from these examples Darwin was a complete racist. As a matter of fact, in the words of the author of the book What Darwin Really Said, Benjamin Farrington, Darwin made many comments regarding "the greater differences between men of distinct races" in his book The Descent of Man. 5

Furthermore, Darwin's theory's denying the existence of Allah had been the cause of peoples' not seeing that man was something created by Allah and that all men were created equal. And this was one of the factors behind the rise of racism and the acceleration of its acceptance in the world. The American scientist James Ferguson announces the strict link between the denial of creation and the rise of racism in this way:

The new anthropology soon became a theoretical background between two opposed schools of thought on the origin of humans. The older and more established of these was 'monogenism,' the belief that all humankind, irrespective of colour and other characteristics, was directly descended from Adam and from the single and original act of Allah's creation. Monogenism was promulgated by the Church and universally accepted until the 18th century, when opposition to theological authority began to fuel the rival theory of 'polygenism,' (theory of evolution) which held that different racial communities had different origins. 6

The Indian anthropologist Lalita Vidyarthi explains how Darwin's theory of evolution led racism to be accepted by social sciences:

His (Darwin's) theory of the survival of the fittest was warmly welcomed by the social scientists of the day, and they believed mankind had achieved various levels of evolution culminating in the white man's civilization. By the second half of the nineteenth century racism was accepted as fact by the vast majority of Western scientists. 7

As for the Darwinists who came after Darwin, they put up a great struggle to prove his racist views. In the name of doing so they had no scruples about making many scientific inconsistencies and falsehoods. They thought that when they had proved these, they would have scientifically proven their own superiority and "rights" to oppress, colonise, and if needs be exterminate other races.

In the third chapter of his book The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould pointed out that some anthropologists were not above falsifying their data to prove the "superiority" of the white race. According to Gould, the method they used most was falsifying the brain size of the fossilised skulls they found. Gould mentions in his book that, assuming brain size had something to do with intelligence, many anthropologists intentionally exaggerated the size of Caucasian skulls and underestimated the size of skulls from Blacks and Indians. 8


Stephen Jay Gould and his book which revealed Darwin's racist side.

In his book Ever Since Darwin, Gould explains the perverted claims the Darwinists undertook to demonstrate that some races were inferior.

Haeckel and his colleagues also invoked recapitulation to affirm the racial superiority of northern European whites. They scoured the evidence of human anatomy and behaviour, using everything they could find from brains to belly buttons. Herbert Spencer wrote that "the intellectual traits of the uncivilized.. are traits recurring in the children of the civilized." Carl Vogt said it more strongly in 1864: "The grown up Negro partakes, as regards his intellectual faculties, of the nature of the child... Some tribes have founded states, possessing a peculiar organization, but, as to the rest, we may boldly assert that the whole race has, neither in the past nor in the present, performed anything tending to the progress of humanity or worthy of preservation." 9

And the French medical anatomist Etienne Serres really did argue that black males are primitive because their belly buttons were in a lower level. 

Darwin's contemporary, the evolutionist Havelock Ellis, supported the distinction between superior and inferior races with an alleged "scientific" explanation, saying: 

The child of many African races is scarcely if at all less intelligent than the European child, but while the African as he grows up becomes stupid and obtuse, and his whole social life falls into a state of hidebound routine, the European retains much of his childlike vivacity. 10

The French Darwinist anthropologist Vacher de Lapouge suggested, in his work titled Race et Milin Social Essais d'Anthroposociologie (Paris 1909) that non-white classes were the descendants of savages who had not learnt to be civilised, or else the degenerate representatives of mixed-blood classes. He produced results by measuring the skulls from Paris' upper and lower classes in graveyards. According to his results, depending on their skulls some people were inclined to be rich, self-confident, and free, and others conservative, content with little, and possessing all the qualities of a good servant, classes were the products of social selection, society's upper classes went together with superior races, the degree of wealth was in proportion to the skull index. Lapouge later made a prophesy, "It is my view that in years to come people will kill each other because their heads are round or pointed," he said, and this prophesy came true, as we shall see in detail in later pages of this book, and the 20th century saw massacres carried out for reasons of racism...! 11

And it was not only anthropologists: entomologists (those who study insects) also jumped on the racist bandwagon that Darwinism had set in motion with perverted claims. For example, in the year 1861, one English entomologist arrived at the conclusion, after collecting lice that lived on peoples' bodies in different parts of the world, that the lice of one race could not live on the bodies of another, which when looked at from the scientific level of today, is just plain ridiculous. 12 When even people with the status of scientists made such announcements, it was not surprising that some dogmatic racists should use such illogical, unintelligent, and completely meaningless slogans as "even Negroes' lice are Negro."

In short, the racist side to Darwin's theory found very fertile ground in the second half of the 19th century. Because at that time the European "white man" was still waiting for such a theory to justify his own crimes.
 
British Colonialism and Darwinism

The country which profited most from Darwin's racist views was Darwin's own land, Britain. In the years when Darwin put forward his theory, Great Britain was in the position of having founded the world's number one colonialist empire. All the natural resources of an area stretching from India to Latin America were exploited by the British Empire. The "white man" was plundering the world for his own interests.


But, of course, starting with Great Britain, no colonialist country wanted to be seen as a "plunderer" and to go down in history as such. For this reason, they were looking for an explanation to show that they were right in what they were doing. Such an explanation might be to portray the colonised peoples as "primitive people" or "animal-like living creatures." In this way, for those who were massacred and subjected to inhuman treatment to be able to be seen not as human beings, but as half-human half-animal creatures, and their mistreatment would not be regarded as a crime.

Actually, this search was not new: the first spread of colonialism in the world went back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Claims to the effect that some races had semi-animal characteristics were first put forward by Christopher Columbus on his American journey. According to these claims, Native Americans were not human beings, but a species of developed animal. For this reason they could be put to the service of the Spanish colonialists.

No matter how much Columbus is portrayed in films about the discovery of America as having a warm and humane attitude to the natives, the fact is that Columbus did not regard the native people as human. 13

Christopher Columbus was the person who first set in motion a great massacre. Columbus established Spanish colonies in the places he discovered, made slaves of the natives and was responsible for the starting of the slave trade. The Spanish "conquistadors" saw the policy of oppression and exploitation that Columbus implemented, and continued it: the massacres carried out reached enormous dimensions. For example, the population of one island, 200,000 when Columbus first came to it, was only 50,000 20 years later, and by 1540 only a thousand people remained. When the most famous of the Spanish conquistadors, Cortes, first set foot in Mexico in February 1519, the total native population was 25 million, but in 1605 this had fallen to 1 million. On the island of Hispaniola, the population, which was 7-8 million in 1492, fell to 4 million in 1496, and to just 125 people in 1570. According to historians' figures, in less than a century after Columbus first set foot on the continent 95 million were massacred by the colonialists. When Columbus discovered America 30 million natives were living on the continent. As a result of the massacres between then and now they have come to the position of being a lost race of less than 2 million.

The reason for these massacres reaching such pitiless proportions was the indigenous peoples' not being seen as human beings, as being looked on as animals.

But these claims of the colonialists did not win many supporters. In Europe at that time, the truth that all people were created equal by Allah and that they all descended from one ancestor-Adam-was so widely accepted that the Catholic Church in particular took a clear position against such plundering invasions. One of the best known examples of this is the reply by the bishop of Chiapas, Bartolome de las Casas, who set foot in the New World together with Columbus, who said that the natives were "each a real human being," in reply to the colonists' claim that the natives were "a species of animal." Pope Paul III cursed the savage treatment of the natives in a papal bull in 1537, and declared that the natives were real human beings with the capacity for faith. 14

But in the 19th century the situation changed. Together with the spread of materialist philosophy and societies' growing distant from religion, the truth that human beings were created by Allah began to be denied. This, as was touched on in the preceding pages, was at the same time the rise of racism.

With the rise of Darwinist-materialist philosophy in the 19th century, racism grew stronger, and this created a great support for Europe's imperialist system.
James Joll, who spent long years as professor of history at such universities as Oxford, Stanford and Harvard, in his source book Europe Since 1870, which is still used as a text book in universities, describes the ideological relationship between Darwinism, imperialism, and racism.

The most profound groups of ideas inspiring the concept of imperialism were those which can be roughly classified as 'social Darwinism', and which saw the relations between states as a perpetual struggle for survival in which some races were regarded as 'superior' to others in an evolutionary process in which the strongest had constantly to assert themselves. 

Charles Darwin, the English naturalist whose books On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, and The Descent of Man, which followed in 1871, launched controversies which affected many branches of European thought... The ideas of Darwin, and of some of his contemporaries such as the English philosopher Herbert Spencer, ...were rapidly applied to questions far removed from the immediate scientific ones... The element of Darwinism which appeared most applicable to the development of society was the belief that the excess of population over the means of support necessitated a constant struggle for survival in which it was the strongest or the 'fittest' who won. From this it was easy for some social thinkers to give a moral content to the notion of the fittest, so that the species or races which did survive were those morally entitled to do so.

The doctrine of natural selection could, therefore, very easily become associated with another train of thought developed by the French writer, Count Joseph-Arthur Gobineau, who published an Essay on the Inequality of Human Races in 1853. Gobineau insisted that the most important factor in development was race; and that those races which remained superior were those which kept their racial purity intact. Of these, according to Gobineau, it was the Aryan race which had survived best... It was... Houston Stewart Chamberlain who contributed to carrying some of these ideas a stage further... Hitler himself admired the author (Chamberlain) sufficiently to visit him on his deathbed in 1927. 15

As has been shown, there is an ideological chain linking Darwin to racist thinkers and imperialists, and stretching from there as far as Hitler. Darwinism is the ideological basis of both imperialism, which drowned the world in blood in the 19th century, and Nazism, which did the same thing in the 20th.

Victorian Great Britain also found its so-called "scientific basis" in Darwinism. Great Britain made great profits out of colonialism, and saw no reason not to visit disasters upon the heads of those living under that colonialism for its own advantage. One example of British imperialism's dirty politics was the "Opium Wars" against China. Great Britain began to smuggle the opium it grew in India into China from the first quarter of the 19th century. This opium smuggling was speeded up as time passed to make good the deficit in its foreign trade. The flow of the drug into the country also had the effect of weakening the Chinese state's authority over its own territory. The collapse in society soon reached serious dimensions. The prohibition of opium, which the Chinese government had to implement after a long period of doubt, led to the first Opium War (1838-1842). There is no doubt that this war dragged the country to bankruptcy. China was forced to bow its head because of the inadequacy of its army in every confrontation with the foreign forces and to accept their ever-growing demands. The Westerners slowly formed settlement centres inside Chinese territory from the year 1842. They took large port quarters (concessions) from out of the hands of the Chinese, rented their fields, and obliged the country to open up to the outside world in a way that would bring the most benefit to themselves. As a result of all of this, the poverty in the country, the weakness of the government, and the slow loss of Chinese territory led to many rebellions.

The experiences in China were only one of the results of British policy. Throughout the 19th century the oppression and painful dimensions of British imperialism were experienced in such regions as South Africa, India, and Australia.

The job of justifying this oppressive system of Britain's and attempting to show it was in the right, fell to various British sociologists and scientists. And Charles Darwin was the most important and effective of these. It was Darwin who claimed that throughout evolution there had been "superior races," that these were the "white race," and showed that the whites' oppression of the others was a "natural law."

Because of the justification which Darwin provided for colonialist racism, the famous scientist, Kenneth J. Hsü, the head of the Geography department of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and himself of Chinese descent, describes Darwin as "a gentleman scientist of the Victorian Era, and an establishment member of a society that sent gunboats to forcibly import opium into China, all in the name of competition (in free trade) and survival of the fittest." 16

Piltdown Man Forgery

One of the most interesting indications of the inspiration the theory of evolution offered to Britishimperialism, was the Piltdown man scandal. 

In 1912, a strange skull was found in Piltdown, England. Charles Dawson, the scientist who found the skull together with his team, declared that it belonged to a creature which was half ape-half human. Arthur Keith, the renowned evolutionist anatomist examined the fossil and confirmed the results. 

However, Dawson and Keith emphasised an important point. The brain of the fossil was as big as that of modern man. The jawbone, however, had ape-like features. 

Suddenly the brain of Piltdown man became a matter of pride for the British. Since this skull was found in England, it had to be the ancestor of the British. According to the British people, the greater volume of the brain indicated that British had evolved before other races, and were thus superior to other races. 

That is why the discovery of Piltdown man aroused great excitement in England. Newspapers ran headlines and crowds joyously celebrated the discovery. The British government, on the other hand, granted a knighthood to Arthur Keith for his famous discovery. 

The famous evolutionist palaeontologist, Don Johanson, describes the relationship between the Piltdown fossil and English imperialism:

The Piltdown discovery was very eurocentric. Not only did the brain have pre-eminence, but the English had pre-eminence, too. 17

The inspiration the English derived from Piltdown man lasted only until 1953, when Kenneth Oakley, a scientist who re-examined the fossil in detail, revealed it to be the greatest forgery of the 20th century. The fossil had been produced by affixing an orang-utan jaw to a human skull.

1- A.E. Wilder-Smith, Man's Origin Man's Destiny, The Word for Today Publishing, 1993, p.166

2- Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, 2nd edition, New York, A L. Burt Co., 1874, p. 178

3- Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, 2nd edition, New York, A L. Burt Co., 1874, p. 171

4- Godfrey Lienhardt, Social Anthropology, Oxford University Press, p. 11

5- Benjamin Farrington, What Darwin Really Said, London: Sphere Books, 1971, pp. 54-56

6- James Ferguson, "The Laboratory of Racism", New Scientist, vol. 103, (September 1984, p. 18) 

7- Lalita Prasad Vidyarthi, Racism, Science and Pseudo-Science, Unesco, France, Vendôme, 1983. p. 54

8- David N. Menton, Ph.D., The Religion of Nature: Social Darwinism, St. Louis MetroVoice, September 1994, Vol. 4, No. 9

9- Stephen Jay Gould, Ever Since Darwin, W. W. Norton & Company, New York 1992, p. 217

10- Stephen Jay Gould, Ever Since Darwin, W. W. Norton & Company, New York 1992, p. 220

11- Alaeddin Senel, Irk ve Irkçilik Düsüncesi (The Idea of Race and Racism), Ankara:Bilim ve Sanat Yayinlari, 1993, p. 67-68

12- Thomas Gossett, Race: The History of an Idea in America, Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1963, p.81 cited in Alaeddin Senel, Irk ve Irkçilik Düsüncesi (The Idea of Race and Racism), Ankara:Bilim ve Sanat Yayinlari, 1993, p. 68

13- Jacques Attali, 1492, Librairie Arthème Fayard, 1991, p.197

14- François de Fontette, Le Racisme (Racism), 6th ed. Presses Universitaires de France, 1988, p. 40-41

15- James Joll, Europe Since 1870: An International History, Penguin Books, Middlesex, 1990, p. 102-103

16- Kenneth J. Hsü., reply to comment on "Darwin's Three Mistakes", Geology, vol. 15, April 1987, p. 377

17- Don Johanson, In Search of Human Origins, 1994 WGBH Educational Foundation