Re: Washington Post Magazine article on ID

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Thu Feb 23 2006 - 10:56:28 EST

Allan makes a great point:

Ted Davis wrote:
The fact that creationists today blame evolution for everything evil and
rotten has more to do with their definition of evolution as sin itself
(Morris believes that evolution was the lie delivered by Satan to Nimrod at
the tower of Babel, for example), than with historical reality.
Nevertheless, there is historical reality to their claim that belief in
evolution promoted racism and Nazism.
Would that last sentence be better stated as "belief in evolution was used

to promote racism and Nazism."?
Was it really cause-and-effect as Ted's wording would suggest?
Or was it more a case of people with already racist tendencies grabbing
whatever science was around in order to arrive at the conclusions they
Or perhaps it was some of both.
This distinction seems important to me. To choose a somewhat parallel
example, there is a significant difference between saying "belief in
promoted the Crusades" and "belief in Christianity was used to promote the



Ted replies:
You know, Allan, I really wasn't thinking about that important distinction
when I wrote that post. I should have been.

I meant both, however. The second way of wording it, what we might call
the "weak" form, is trivial to show historically, for either example above.
The "strong form" is a lot harder to show, but I did intend to claim that to
some extent in my statement about evolution and racism.

Let me bring in Duke anthropologist Matt Cartmill here to illustrate the
logic. I cite his fascinating book (a great read, I recommend it highly),
"A View to a Death in the Morning," p. 222. "A sharp animal-human boundary
is the cornerstone of democracy. Unfortunately, this way of seeing things
is hard to reconcile with Darwin. As Bertrand Russell put it, 'If men
developed by such slow stages that there were creatures which we should not
know whether to classify as human or not, the question arises: at what stage
in evolution did men, or their semi-human ancestors, being to be all equal.
.... An Adherent of evolution may maintain that not only the doctrine of the
equality of all men, but also that of the rights of man, must be condemned
as unbiological, since it makes too emphatic a distinction between men and
other animals.' " (quoting Russell's "A History of Western Philosophy,"

Cartmill is sympathetic to animal rights, as you might guess from this.

Elsewhere in the book, he claims that most anthropologists prior to WW2
were "shocking racists" by our standards now--to which I would add that most
*Western people* (and probably the rest of the world as weel) prior to WW2
were shocking racists by our standards now. But the anthropologists did
seem to be encouraged to make racism "scientific" by their commitment to
evolution. Who are the most "primitive" people, the ones most removed from
homo Britannicus or homo Americanus on the scale of beings? Their verdict,
no surprise, was the darkest people in the world, the aborigones of

I grant that it can be hard to "prove" the strong form, but I have a hard
time thinking that their belief in human evolution didn't in and of itself
promote racism among those anthropologists and many other people as well.
Without evolution the racism would still be there, but with evolution the
form it took took on the status of "science," so I think it's fair to say
that science promoted racism in such cases.

A reasonable person might reasonably disagree, it goes without saying.


Received on Thu Feb 23 10:58:43 2006

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