Re: [asa] Campolo gets it wrong

From: Merv Bitikofer <>
Date: Sun Mar 01 2009 - 08:40:09 EST

Perhaps the same thing has happened to Darwin that we've done to
Lincoln. Lincoln certainly said some things that were very racist and
would be offensive to our ears today. (Our pastor once had the
congregation guess whom he was quoting that spoke of racial inferiority,
etc. --and while we were guessing names like Hitler, the answer turned
out to be Abe.) The point was, though, that nobody makes a clean break
from the culture they've been immersed in. We are all a product of our
culture. Yet, for good reasons, we don't celebrate Lincoln's
understandable foibles, we celebrate the extent to which he was
eventually able to rise above them to push this culture and nation on a
different trajectory. But also the point was well taken that we
conveniently forget that our heroes had any imperfections and make no
mention of them (or even worse --deny them.) Thus we do a disservice to
ourselves and others by removing our heroes from their human context.

I think I'll need to go check out "Descent of Man" as well. I'm
certainly intrigued by Darwin's attitudes, and like Greg suggests, what
better way to see them than by reading him. Perhaps I will find it less
tedious than I did "Origins..." which I confess I did not make it very
far into.

Jon Tandy wrote:
> What I think I hear you saying, Jack, is that Campolo has it partly
> right. He obviously has missed or overlooked the fact that Darwin was
> against the oppression of men through slavery, yet there does seem to
> be a bias in Darwin's mind against the "lower orders" or races of
> mankind? (I think Gregory's question about whether any of us have
> actually read Descent of Man is valid – I certainly haven't, so until
> I do, I hesitate taking too strong an opinion based on one side of
> apparently conflicting viewpoints on his writings.)
> If Darwin did have racist tendencies, has anyone considered the irony
> that many Christians in the U.S., particularly in the South, did
> (before Darwin, and in some places still do) consider the Negro to be
> an inferior race; yet, many will join Campolo in condemning Darwin for
> his presumed prejudice against certain races? Is it just possible that
> racism and oppression of "other" humanity is a fundamentally human
> problem, not something that came about as a result of Darwin's
> theories? This was part of my thoughts in response to a recent tirade
> I heard, blaming evolution for every modern evil, such as genocide,
> drugs, sexual immorality, etc. (quoting Answers in Genesis).
> Jon Tandy
> *From:* []
> *On Behalf Of *Jack Haas
> *Sent:* Saturday, February 28, 2009 9:49 AM
> *To:* Michael Roberts; ASA list
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] Campolo gets it wrong
> Michael,
> Thank you for bringing this article to our attention.
> There has been much discussion on the list on "darwinism," but little
> on the thinking of Darwin. The recent /Darwin's
> Sacred Cause (DSC) /(Desmond and Moore 2009) sheds much new light on
> the man, his anti-slavery roots, his experiences
> with slavery, and motives (indeed passion) for developing his theory
> of common descent. /DSC/ has the extensive references
> that one would expect from these authors.
> Their 1991 book /Darwin/ contains the same broad picture, but in far
> less detail.
> Darwin had to contend with the slavery culture of the UK and US and
> "sciences" that argued separate creation
> of each race. Read the book to get a more human picture of the man and
> his "sacred cause."
> This is not to say that he did not share the English view that that
> they were on the top of the heap. His point was that the pigmy
> and the englishman were /all /part of the human family. Sadly, he
> could not cut himself off from an elitist mentality that disparaged
> the "lower orders" and "cultures of color." Have we today, even in a
> PC climate?
> Jack Haas
> Michael Roberts wrote:
> Something from Christian Today. .
> It seems Campolo does not understand Darwin at all .
> What’s wrong with Darwinism?
> by Tony Campolo
> Posted: Friday, February 27, 2009, 12:45 (GMT)
> Font Scale:A <javascript:fontSz(9);> A <javascript:fontSz(12);> A
> <javascript:fontSz(18);>
> What’s wrong with Darwinism? <javascript:viewpic(22647,10177)>
> Enlarge this picture <javascript:viewpic(22647,10177)>Enlarge this
> picture <javascript:viewpic(22647,10177)>
> Tony Campolo
> Many supporters of the principle of separation of church and state say
> that the Intelligent Design Theory of creation ought not to be taught
> in public schools because that it contains a religious bias.
> They say that Intelligent Design proponents suggest that the
> evolutionary development of life was not the result of natural
> selection, as Charles Darwin suggested, but was somehow given
> purposeful direction and, by implication, was guided by God.
> Arguing in favour of what they believe is a non-prejudicial science,
> they contend that children in public schools ought to be taught
> Darwin’s explanation of how the human race evolved, which they claim
> is value-free and dependent solely on scientific evidence. /Nothing
> could be further from the truth!/
> In reality, Darwin’s writings, when actually read, express the
> prevalent racism of the nineteenth century, and endorse an extreme
> laissez faire political ideology that legitimates the neglect of the
> suffering poor by the ruling elite.
> Those who argue at school board meetings that Darwin should be taught
> in public schools seldom have taken the time to read what he had to
> say. If they even knew the full title of his book, which is /On the
> Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation
> of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life/, they might have gained
> some inkling of the racism propagated by this controversial theorist.
> Then, if they had gone on to read his second book, /The Descent of
> Man/, it is likely that they would be shocked to learn that among
> Darwin’s scientifically based proposals was the elimination of “the
> negro and Australian peoples,” which he considered to be savage races
> whose continued survival was hindering the progress of civilisation.
> In /The Descent of Man /(1871), Darwin went so far as to rank races in
> terms of what he believed was their nearness and likeness to gorillas.
> He further proposed the extermination of those races which he
> “scientifically” defined as inferior. To not do so, he claimed, would
> result in those races, which have much higher birth rates than his
> designated superior races, exhausting the resources needed for the
> survival of better people, and eventually dragging down all of
> civilization.
> Darwin even argued against advanced societies wasting time and money
> on caring for those who are insane, or suffer from birth defects. To
> him, these unfit members of our species ought not to survive.
> In case you think that Darwin sounds like a Nazi, you are not far from
> the truth. Konrad Lorenz, a biologist who provided much of the
> propaganda for the Nazi party, made Darwin’s theories the basis for
> his polemics. The Pulitzer Prize winner, Marilynne Robinson, in her
> insightful essay on Darwin, points out that the German nationalist
> writer, Heinrich von Treitschke, and the biologist, Ernst Haeckel,
> also drew on Darwin’s writings as they helped Hitler develop those
> racist ideas that led to the Holocaust.
> Those creationists who fear Darwin because his theories contradict
> their literal Biblical belief that creation occurred in six 24-hour
> days, do not get at the real dangers of Darwinism. They do not realise
> that an explanation of the development of biological organisms over
> eons of time really does not pose the great threat to the dignity of
> our humanity that they suppose. Instead, they, along with the rest of
> us, should really fear the ethical implications of Darwinism.
> I hope that in school our children will be taught that it is up to
> science to study the processes that gave birth to the human race. But,
> as postmodern as it may be, I also want them to learn that whatever
> science discovers about our biological origins, there is,
> nevertheless, a mystical quality in human beings that makes each of us
> sacred and of infinite worth.
> Personally, I hold to the belief that, regardless of how we got here,
> we should recognise that there is an infinite qualitative difference
> between the most highly developed ape and each and every human being.
> Darwin never recognised this disjuncture. And that is why his theories
> are dangerous.
> /Tony Campolo is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Eastern University
> and served as pastoral counsellor to former President Bill Clinton./

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Received on Sun Mar 1 08:34:55 2009

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