Re: Weikart's book

From: Michael Roberts <>
Date: Tue Sep 28 2004 - 16:52:30 EDT

Ted gave us Weikart's answer to Gliboff. I intersperse my comments on
> Dr. Weikart has replied to Prof Gliboff as follows:
> Many thanks to the editors of H-German for inviting me to respond to
> Sander
> Gliboff's review of my book.
> In _The Descent of Man_, Charles Darwin stated, "At some future period,
> not
> very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will
> almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage
> races."[1] Based on this--and, of course, much, much more--evidence, I
> conclude that Darwin contributed to the development of theories of racial
> extermination that were prominent among leading German biologists and
> eugenicists in the early twentieth century.
Weibart assets all this without providing the "much much more evidence". The
section on "Tme extinction of races " in descent chap 7 does not support his
contention as Darwin argues that "savages" will go extinct because of
disease and unsettlement brought by "civilised races" rather than a policy
of extermination. Read that chapter with care.

  Despite Gliboff's dismissive
> comments about my book, most scholars agree with me that racial struggle
> is
> an integral part of Darwin's account of human evolution, and some even
> explicitly discuss the role of racial extermination in his theory.[2]
> >
> [1] Charles Darwin, _Descent of Man_, 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton
> University Press, 1981), 1: p. 201.(p156, 2ed 1874)
> [2] See Adrian Desmond and James Moore, _Darwin_ (New York: Michael
> Joseph,
> 1991), pp. xxi, 191, 266-68, 521, 653;
A poor discussion by Moore and Desmond
 Robert M. Young, "Darwinism Is
> Social," in _The Darwinian Heritage_, ed. David Kohn (Princeton: Princeton
> University Press, 1985), pp. 609-638; John C. Greene, "Darwin as Social
> Evolutionist," in _Science, Ideology, and World View: Essays in the
> History
> of Evolutionary Ideas_ (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981);
> Peter Bowler, _Evolution: The History of an Idea_, revised ed. (Berkeley:
> University of California Press, 1989), p. 301; Gregory Claeys, "The
> 'Survival of the Fittest' and the Origins of Social Darwinism," _Journal
> of
> the History of Ideas_ 61 (2000): pp. 223-40; I admit that some scholars,
> however, emphasize Darwin's abolitionist sentiments and sympathy for other
> races, e.g., Greta Jones, _Social Darwinism and English Thought: The
> Interaction between Biological and Social Theory_ (Sussex: Harvester,
> 1980), p. 140; Paul Crook, _Darwinism, War and History: The Debate over
> the
> Biology of War from the 'Origin of Species' to the First World War_
> (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 25-28.
Oh dear. Weitart plays down Darwin's abolitionism most unjustly and forgets
that he was very strong on this both on the Beagle and during later life as
his correspondence with Asa Gray shows.

Weitart's shoddy and slipshod treatment on Darwin on race and slavery gives
me no confidence for the rest of his book, especially as he seems to flip
from Darwinism to social Darwinism when it is convenient. Isn't "Darwinsim"
a convenient noose to hang people on?

I have no doubts that the Nazis used Social Darwinism in particular and also
appealed to darwin , but then the Dutch Reformed in South Africa appealed to
Genesis, Calvin , Calvinism generally and Kuyper to justify Apartheid.
Received on Tue Sep 28 19:13:30 2004

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