Re: Social problems and evolution

Russell Maatman (
Sun, 1 Mar 1998 15:03:29 -0600

To those who have been responding in a couple of threads, including George,
Steve, John, and Dave, as well as to the rest of the ASA list:

Concerning racism and evolution: I mentioned that it would have been
helpful in combating racism if Christians, certainly including Christian
scientists, would have united in teaching--everywhere they could find a
place to teach--that all human beings have dignity because they have been
created in God's image; they have not earned dignity because they have
achieved ceretain skill levels, etc. Several have responded stating that
racism preceded in time belief in human evolution. Fair enough. But most of
us have studied the situation enough to know that Darwin held to "levels"
of humankind, and that his modern defenders excuse him for that awful
sentiment because he was a child of his times.

Exactly. Darwin was influenced in his ideas re the descent of man by the
racist ideas of his times, especially in England and Scotland. I realize
it's speculative, but I cannot help thinking that he would have had a
tougher time working out his "descent of man" ideas had Christians with one
voice insisted that there are no levels in humankind (and, incidentally,
that women are not inferior to men.) I'm sure that racists are almost
always ignorant of the history of ideas, especially their pet idea. But
don't you just wonder a little bit what things would have been like had
Victorian England not had their class and caste ideas?

What I'm going to say now is a little off to the side. But I want to say a
bit more about my University of Mississippi experience in that late fifties
and early sixties. I think we saw the kind of racism that people usually
identify with American racism--southeastern U.S., post-Civil War racism. I
know, of course, that racism has existed and still exists in many other
parts of the U.S. But there cannot be much doubt that southeastern U.S. has
been--and perhaps still is--the heart of U.S. racism. Well, where did those
southeastern U.S. racists come from? If you would have seen my class lists,
you'd have known. I think that over the years my classes were at least 98%
Anglo-Saxon. Their ancestors had crossed the Appalachians; earlier
ancestors had earlier come from England and Scotland, the very countries
that produced the class-caste climate that Darwin later bought and no doubt
influenced huim in his thinking.

Enough for now!

Russell Maatman
Home: 401 5th Avenue
Sioux Center, IA 51250