Re: Evolution and Racism

Steven Schimmrich (s-schim@students.uiuc.edu)
Fri, 16 Aug 1996 11:24:22 -0500 (CDT)

William Frix (wfrix@engr.jbu.edu) wrote:

> First, let me say that I do not think I am a racist. I am of the
> opinion that sinners come in all colors as do persons seeking to live
> righteously. Since God judges us by our hearts and not by our skin
> color, there is no place for racism in the Church nor should there be
> in the hearts of Christians.

I've always been puzzled as to why there is racism among some Christians.
It seems like it should be so obvious that God loves all His children and
offers salvation to all (indeed, the early church offered salvation to all,
including the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:27, whom one may assume was black).
And who are your fellow Christians? Your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Why would one enslave your brother or sister or treat them poorly?

> Having said that, I have a problem I would like the evolutionary
> specialists to discuss. It has been bothering me for some time. The
> problem is this: without a doubt, human beings are of different
> races. Since our physical characteristics are dependent (as I
> understand it) on our genetic structure, it appears that there are
> differing genetic species of human beings. In my simple
> understanding, that leads to two possibilities (from an atheistic
> evolutionary perspective): either multiple species evolved
> independent of each other or one species adapted (evolved) to
> differing conditions.

We're not different species. There can be no cross-breeding between
different species and, obviously, blacks, whites, Asians, Native Americans,
etc. can and do have interracial children.

A "race" is essentially a group of _Homo_sapiens_ possessing genetically
transmitted traits that are sufficient to characterize the group as a distinct
human type. It's kind of a fuzzy term and most biologists would only
subdivide humans into different races on the basis of measureable biological
traits (i.e. blood types, enzyme deficiencies, etc.). One also can't apply
the term race to language or social groups and talking about, for example,
the Aryan race, the Jewish race, etc. is biologically meaningless.

In other words, one species _Homo_sapiens_ adapted to differing conditions
but not to the extent that we became different species because there has
always been too much cross-contact between groups of people.

So, in essence, I think your original premise is flawed.

> The former option gives me problems of interracial relationships,
> thereby justifying those organizations/sects who prohibit
> interracial relationships on the basis of cross-species separation
> (Leviticus 19:19).

The former option isn't true so you shouldn't have these problems!

> The latter option makes me uncomfortable because, since the supposed
> first appearance of humanity occurred in Africa or Asia (I don't which
> came first), people like the Ku Klux Klan could claim that "white folks"
> were evolutionary descendents of another race, hence evolutionary superior.
> This would be akin to the evolution and breeding of dogs. As I understand
> it, dogs that have a random breeding tend to look alike - looking like the
> dingos of Australia - while selective breeding gives the unique
> characteristics of the differing species. From my understanding of
> evolutionary processes, the differing environments between the northern
> continents and the tropical regions provided the "selective breeding"
> impetus.

You call this the latter option but it sure sounds more like the first one
to me. The KKK can't say anything about their ancestry from an evolutionary
perspective since modern biology says they can trace their lineage back to a
black woman in Africa (the Mitochondrial Eve). Kind of hard to justify racism
if your great grandma was black!

As a matter of fact, I believe the KKK uses a Biblical rational for its
racism -- that blacks are all descendents of Ham and thus "servants" of
mankind (Genesis 9). Read Henry Morris's take on this a couple of paragraphs
down...

> This is not a Christian perspective, that one race is superior to
> another. Of course, the creationist approach would be that God chose to
> create persons of differing characteristics, whether that occurred in
> the genetic structure of Adam or at the Tower of Babel or Noah's
> curse.

Young-earth creationist Ken Ham, in a recent talk I attended, claimed that
all races developed by microevolution from Adam and Eve. This isn't too
different from what evolutionists say (except they wouldn't talk about an
Adam and Eve).

Some creationists of the past who believed that God created separate races
for separate geographic areas, used this belief to justify virulent racism
(see the reference to Livingstone's book a couple of paragraphs down...).

> In summary, I have problems with the atheistic evolutionary approach
> because, no matter how you try to explain it, the approach leads to a
> racist position. What is the evolutionary explanation of my
> dilemma?

An naturalist evolutionary explanation might simply be (and I'm not a
biologist) that humans developed different characteristics (like the amount of
melanin in their skin) because they moved into environments (i.e. into the
colder northern climes, at a time when the great ice sheets were waxing and
waning, from the equatorial regions). In other words, the human species has
genetic variability on the part of skin color, etc. In certain geographic
areas, certain skin colors are more advantageous than others (e.g. darker
colors to protect the skin in the equatorial regions) so these traits become
dominant through the mechanism of natural selection. This is, essentially,
also the position of many young-earth creationists who accept microevolution.

What about Christians and racism?

I just finished reading an interesting book -- "Darwin's Forgotten
Defenders: The Encounter Between Evangelical Theology and Evolutionary
Theory" by David N. Livingstone (1987, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI).

Louis Agassiz, a well-known paleontologist and the first to recognize
evidence for past ice ages, was a contemporary of Darwin and an
anti-evolutionist. Modern day creationists often cite him as an example
of a "scientist who believed in God and opposed evolution" even though
they don't, I assume, appreciate his old earth views. He believed that
every race of mankind was created for a specific geographical zone and
this idea could be used as a "scientific" defense of slavery and he
strongly opposed interracial marriages (p. 59-60).

Henry Morris, the well-known young earth creationist, has also written, in
"The Beginning of the World" (1991, Master Books, p. 147-148) that:

"The descendants of Ham were marked especially for secular
service to mankind. Indeed they were to be 'servants of servants,'
that is 'servants extraordinary!' Although only Canaan is mentioned
specifically (possibly because the branch of Ham's family through
Canaan would later come into most direct contact with Israel), the
whole family of Ham is in view. The prophecy is worldwide in scope
and, since Shem and Japheth are covered, all Ham's descendants must be
also. These include all nations which are neither Semitic nor
Japhetic. Thus, all of the earth's 'colored' races,--yellow, red,
brown, and black--essentially the Afro-Asian group of peoples,
including the American Indians--are possibly Hamitic in origin and
included within the scope of the Canaanitic prophecy, as well as the
Egyptians, Sumerians, Hittites, and Phoenicians of antiquity."

and...

"Yet the prophecy again has its obverse side. Somehow they have
only gone so far and no farther. The Japhethites and Semites have,
sooner or later, taken over their territories, and their inventions,
and then developed them and utilized them for their own
enlargement. Often the Hamites, especially the Negroes, have become
actual personal servants or even slaves to the others. Possessed of a
genetic character concerned mainly with mundane matters, they have
eventually been displaced by the intellectual and philosophical acumen
of the Japhethites and the religious zeal of the Semites."

This is a statement that many, including myself, would consider racist
(he's essentially saying that blacks aren't as smart as whites). Christians,
as well as evolutionists, have a long and shameful history of racism.

- Steve.

--
      Steven H. Schimmrich           KB9LCG            s-schim@uiuc.edu
      Department of Geology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
         245 Natural History Building, Urbana, IL 61801  (217) 244-1246
      http://www.uiuc.edu/ph/www/s-schim     Fides quaerens intellectum