Re: Social problems and evolution

Glenn Morton (
Sun, 01 Mar 1998 19:05:22 -0600

At 03:03 PM 3/1/98 -0600, Russell Maatman wrote:

>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.

I must agree with those who have stated that racism existed before Darwin.
I got interested in this area because ICR often makes the comment that if it
weren't for evolution we wouldn't have racism. Well, I know what racism I
saw in my southern Oklahoma church as a child and none of those folks
believed evolution. And when I looked a little bit further back in history,
I see the same thing among Christians and I know that today's Christians are
not cognizant of our own history.

Some of the saddest things occurred during the great missionary efforts of
the 18th and 19th century. Tucker notes a case where the Missionaries didn't
think a 'native' woman was a good enough wife for one of their fellow

"During the rebellion the missionaires all fled Tahiti, except for
Nott. He bravely held his post, refusing to leave the island, weakening
only once when he journeyed briefly to Australia to claim a special
delivery from the LMS. She was one of four 'godly young women' who had
been sent out as wives for the lay missionaries. (No doubt the LMS had come
to realize that the Pacific islands were not a conducive atmosphere for
single men.) Nott, as with a number of other single missionaries, had
taken a native wife, but bowing to the objections of his fellow
missionaries, the union was apparently 'annulled by common consent, and no
doubt conveniently forgotten when the four 'godly young women arrived by
special shipment.'
"Nott may have been far happier and more compatible with his native
wife than the 'godly woman' that was sent to him. Though described
physically as having a 'perfect curvature,' she received less favorable
reviews in regard to her temperament. A fellow missionary wrote: 'Her Tong
is daily employed in abusing her Husband in the most cruel manner and to
slander others with the lest[sic] just cause...Her Feet of late are never
directed to the place where paryer is wont to be made but daily she joines
with those who are studious in their design to perplex and thwwart us.'
She was generally regarded as a disgrace to the mission. Dr. Ross, an LMS
missionary lameted her drinking problem and claimed that 'wen intoxicated
she is absolutely mad and cares not what she does or says.' It was his
opinion when she died some months later that she 'drank herself to
death.'"~Ruth Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irion Jaya,(Grand Rapids:
Zondervan, 1983), p. 201-202

No doubt Nott's friends warned him of what Nott had seen with his own eyes,
that if he didn't dump his Tahitian wife he would be cut off. Latourette

"The enterprise proved much more difficult than had been anticipated. In
1798 eleven out of the eighteen on Tahiti, discouraged, took the opportunity
given by a passing ship and went to New South Wales. The acquisition of the
language was far from easy. Two of those who remained took non-Christian
wives and were cut off by the mission." ~Kenneth Latourette, A History of
the Expansion of Christianity, Vol. 5, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), p. 203

This same type of pressure was found elsewhere. Of John T. Vanderkemp in Africa,

"He was greatly distressed by the slave trade he daily witnessed and spent
thousands of dollars in freeing slaves, including a seventeen-year-old
Malagasy slave girl whom he married at the age of sixty--an act which
created an uproar among the colonists and missionaries as well." Ruth
Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irion Jaya, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), p.

Given the fact that in the early 1800's old men commonly married young
wives, the uproar was probably not because of the age discrepancy. The
uproar was also likely to be in part due to the fact that other young
missionary men also married black women because of Vanderkemp's example.
(Kenneth Latourette A History of the Expansion of Christianity, Vol. 5,
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), p. 343

>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.)

The problem was that even those in Christian leadership seemed to think that
other ethnic groups were not suitable mates for white European missionaries.
Since Christians weren't acting like other ethnic groups were made in the
image of God, why should Darwin?

And I will tell you my own mother, who didn't believe in evolution and was
revered in her church, was not happy that I chose a woman of Lebanese
descent for my wife. I don't think she really liked her half-Lebanese
grandson either. Racism has nothing to do with evolution. It has to do
with sin. And we Christians seem to have a lot of it.


Adam, Apes, and Anthropology: Finding the Soul of Fossil Man


Foundation, Fall and Flood