Re: [asa] Re: Campolo gets it wrong

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Tue Mar 03 2009 - 13:12:46 EST

Hello Charles,
I really have no time for this, but your post provokes a couple of responses. First, let's get the obvious out of the way - hermeneutics - you read The Descent of Man and so it seems also did Campolo. You accuse him of 'not understanding...or worse' and he is not here to defend himself. As a fellow sociologist, I will gladly take his side, noting that you are a biologist and that biologists have a 'certain way of thinking' which is part of their academic training, as do sociologists (one of which is the belief that 'humans are unique').
To defend Darwin's biology is one thing; to defend his forays into social thought is quite different. I wouldn't give much credence to Einstein's political views, yet you seem willing to trust Darwin's anthropology, though he spoke about people more like a zoologist. I suggest you are wrong in your interpretation of what is most important in the book for anthropology, psychology, and sociology, i.e. Darwin's The Descent of Man and also that this is obvious with the proper interpretive tools even in the quotations that you cite.
There is one basic question for you to answer: does biological science (or do biological scientists) still speak of 'higher' and 'lower' races of human beings, or, to say it another way, would naturalists today talk of 'savage' and 'barbarian' people in contrast with 'civilised' people?
Jack Haas wrote: "This is not to say that he [Darwin] did not share the English view that that they were on the top of the heap."
This is a big winner for Campolo's argument!
You also write:
"Obviously, Darwin accepted the racism of his time.  But to charge him with advocating for the genocide of any race, or of the disabled, is...false witness."
Yes, we are agreed. And I don't think Campolo says that Darwin himself advocated genocide. I agree with you that Campolo's choice of the word 'proposed' is controversial. An interpreter could play the 'prescriptive' rather than 'descriptive' card, which is exactly what you've done. In other words, to say that "Darwin further proposed the extermination of those races which he 'scientifically' defined as inferior," is misleading; he simply wrote that the extermination was inevitable in the 'struggle for life', didn't he? Nevertheless, there is no denying that Darwin felt it was 'wrong' for the 'lower races' to outbreed the 'higher races' or for 'savages' to outbreed 'civilised' peoples (i.e. Euro-centrism). I don't know about you, but there is something about this particular form of 'racism' (or call it 'cultural or ethnic discrimination') that doesn't sit will in my stomach, Charles. How about you?
The perspective: "all people are part of the human family, but with a higher and lower degree (of being human) present within that family" is often (if not almost always nowadays) seen as a 'racist'. Would anyone here wish to disagree with this? It is precisely why those who cannot or are unwilling to distinguish 'degree' from 'kind' when it comes to human beings (and this is likely simply due to their antagonistic reaction to 'special creation' or 'scientific creationism') are caught in a conundrum of conventionality.
If we establish a clear and momentous 'break' between humans and other animals, something that makes human beings 'unique' - call it 'spiritual' if you will - while nevertheless accepting that human beings are of the earth just as much as are the (other) animals, then there is no danger of allowing the natural-physical scientist to dictate to the human-social scientist what the meaning of 'race' or 'human nature/character' is or isn't. This intentional (by this I mean each person must choose or choose not to acknowledge) hermeneutic 'move' helps to level the playing field so that other humanistic (in constrast with say 'naturalistic') thinkers, including theologians, clergy and lay persons who accept their divine-human origins can enter the arena with due respect and dignity to contribute.
Campolo writes: "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."
Campolo points this out, using the strong word 'infinite,' and Austerberry applies merely 'temporal' biological ideology (i.e. the logic of biological ideas) to supposedly 'prove' otherwise. However, if a person is a holistic thinker, rather than a narrow specialist, there is no need to deny the 'uniqueness' of humanity as 'created in the image of God,' i.e. not just as a biological reality, but also as a cultural, ethnic, psycho-somatic, social reality. This is where I think Charles is missing the meaning of Campolo's message and where he could take a step forward to better understanding the social anthropology involved in Campolo's timely challenge to Darwinism (Or maybe I'm reading too much into Campolo, coming from way outside his national context or not giving Charles the benefit of the doubt as to his ever-present philosophical anthropology!). 

--- On Mon, 3/2/09, Austerberry, Charles <> wrote:

From: Austerberry, Charles <>
Subject: [asa] Re: Campolo gets it wrong
Received: Monday, March 2, 2009, 3:27 AM

Dear Colleagues:

First, let me say that I appreciate Campolo's admission that common
descent (including humans) is compatible with Christianity. Maybe it
took courage for him to voice such a view in CT.

Second, let me say that Campolo clearly hates racism, and correctly sees
it as completely contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But third, I need to get something off my chest.

I am disgusted by how Campolo represents Darwin's views. Either he did
not read The Descent of Man, or he did not understand what he read, or
worse. Essentially, Campolo takes Darwin's predictions and portrays
them as Darwin's prescriptions. What Darwin thought inevitable, Campolo
portrays him as desiring, advocating, or hastening. Don't get me wrong
- Darwin was no saint. But the Darwin-bashing that gets published in CT
and other "respectable" publications is disgraceful, because it's
grossly inaccurate.

Below is the worst of Campolo's charges. Then, below them I have pasted
everything that I could find from Darwin's book that is even remotely
similar to Campolo's caricature of Darwin's views. I've checked
the 2nd
edition as well, but again found nothing to suggest that Darwin
"proposed" the elimination of what he called the lower races, nothing
suggest that he "proposed" their extermination, nothing to suggest
we should not care for the insane or those born with birth defects.
Campolo writes:

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

If Darwin really wrote, spoke, or acted in such ways, will someone
please cite chapter and verse? Maybe I just missed it. Below is what I
found in The Descent of Man. You tell me if you find that he
the elimination any peoples, etc. That he in fact donated money to
mission groups trying to help "savages", that he actively opposed
slavery, that he befriended an ex-slave, etc. - well, Campolo
conveniently ignored such things.

Frankly, I'm tired of false witness and deception. Francis Collins was
tricked by the late D. James Kennedy's ministry; a portion of an
interview was used in a film out of context, making it seem as though he
completely rejected evolution! Campolo's charges above are not quite as
bad, but not my better.

First edition of Charles Darwin's "Descent of Man", 1865, Vol I,
starting on page 134:

"Malthus has discussed these several checks, but he does not lay stress
enough on what is probably the most important of all, namely
infanticide, especially of female infants, and the habit of procuring
abortion. These practices now prevail in many quarters of the world, and
infanticide seems formerly to have prevailed, as Mr. M'Lennan has shewn,
on a still more extensive scale. These practices appear to have
originated in savages recognising the difficulty, or rather the
impossibility of supporting all the infants that are born.
Licentiousness may also be added to the foregoing checks; but this does
not follow from failing means of subsistence; though there is reason to
believe that in some cases (as in Japan) it has been intentionally
encouraged as a means of keeping down the population. If we look back
to an extremely remote epoch, before man had arrived at the dignity of
manhood, he would have been guided more by instinct and less by reason
than are savages at the present time. Our early semihuman progenitors
would not have practised infanticide, for the instincts of the lower
animals are never so perverted as to lead them regularly to destroy
their own offspring. There would have been no prudential restraint from
marriage, and the sexes would have freely united at an early age. Hence
the progenitors of man would have tended to increase rapidly, but checks
of some kind, either periodical or constant, must have kept down their
numbers, even more severely than with existing savages. What the precise
nature of these checks may have been, we cannot say, any more than with
most other animals."

Vol I, page 238

"Extinction follows chiefly from the competition of tribe with tribe,
and race with race. Various checks are always in action, as specified in
a former chapter, which serve to keep down the numbers of each savage
tribe,-such as periodical famines, the wandering of the parents and the
consequent deaths of infants, prolonged suckling, the stealing of women,
wars, accidents, sickness, licentiousness, especially infanticide, and,
perhaps, lessened fertility from less nutritious food, and many
hardships. If from any cause any one of these checks is lessened, even
in a slight degree, the tribe thus favoured will tend to increase; and
when one of two adjoining tribes becomes more numerous and powerful than
the other, the contest is soon settled by war, slaughter, cannibalism,
slavery, and absorption. Even when a weaker tribe is not thus abruptly
swept away, if it once begins to decrease, it generally goes on
decreasing until it is extinct. When civilised nations come into contact
with barbarians the struggle is short, except where a deadly climate
gives its aid to the native race. Of the causes which lead to the
victory of civilised nations, some are plain and some very obscure. We
can see that the cultivation of the land will be fatal in many ways to
savages, for they cannot, or will not, change their habits. New diseases
and vices are highly destructive; and it appears that in every nation a
new disease causes much death, until those who are most susceptible to
its destructive influence are gradually weeded out; and so it may be
with the evil effects from spirituous liquors, as well as with the
unconquerably strong taste for them shewn by so many savages. It further
appears, mysterious as is the fact, that the first meeting of distinct
and separated people generates disease."

Vol II, p. 403

"The advancement of the welfare of mankind is a most intricate problem:
all ought to refrain from marriage who cannot avoid abject poverty for
their children; for poverty is not only a great evil, but tends to its
own increase by leading to recklessness in marriage. On the other hand,
as Mr. Galton has remarked, if the prudent avoid marriage, whilst the
reckless marry, the inferior members will tend to supplant the better
members of society. Man, like every other animal, has no doubt advanced
to his present high condition through a struggle for existence
consequent on his rapid multiplication; and if he is to advance still
higher he must remain subject to a severe struggle. Otherwise he would
soon sink into indolence, and the more highly-gifted men would not be
more successful in the battle of life than the less gifted. Hence our
natural rate of increase, though leading to many and obvious evils, must
not be greatly diminished by any means. There should be open competition
for all men; and the most able should not be prevented by laws or
customs from succeeding best and rearing the largest number of
offspring. Important as the struggle for existence has been and even
still is, yet as far as the highest part of man's nature is concerned
there are other agencies more important. For the moral qualities are
advanced, either directly or indirectly, much more through the effects
of habit, the reasoning powers, instruction, religion, &c., than through
natural selection; though to this latter agency the social instincts,
which afforded the basis for the development of the moral sense, may be
safely attributed.

The main conclusion arrived at in this work, namely that man is
descended from some lowly-organised form, will, I regret to think, be
highly distasteful to many persons. But there can hardly be a doubt that
we are descended from barbarians. The astonishment which I felt on first
seeing a party of Fuegians on a wild and broken shore will never be
forgotten by me, for the reflection at once rushed into my mind-such
were our ancestors. These men were absolutely naked and bedaubed with
paint, their long hair was tangled, their mouths frothed with
excitement, and their expression was wild, startled, and distrustful.
They possessed hardly any arts, and like wild animals lived on what they
could catch; they had no government, and were merciless to every one not
of their own small tribe. He who has seen a savage in his native land
will not feel much shame, if forced to acknowledge that the blood of
some more humble creature flows in his veins. For my own part I would as
soon be descended from that heroic little monkey, who braved his dreaded
enemy in order to save the life of his keeper; or from that old baboon,
who, descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young
comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs-as from a savage who delights to
torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practises infanticide
without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is
haunted by the grossest superstitions.

Man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen, though not
through his own exertions, to the very summit of the organic scale; and
the fact of his having thus risen, instead of having been aboriginally
placed there, may give him hopes for a still higher destiny in the
distant future. But we are not here concerned with hopes or fears, only
with the truth as far as our reason allows us to discover it. I have
given the evidence to the best of my ability; and we must acknowledge,
as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy
which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not
only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like
intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of
the solar system-with all these exalted powers-Man still bears in his
bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin."

Obviously, Darwin accepted the racism of his time. But to charge him
with advocating for the genocide of any race, or of the disabled, is
like claiming that those eager for Christ's return want to start wars to
hasten His coming. Such false witness is inexcusable.

Charles (Chuck) F. Austerberry, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
Hixson-Lied Room 438
Creighton University
2500 California Plaza
Omaha, NE 68178
Phone: 402-280-2154
Fax: 402-280-5595
Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education

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Received on Tue Mar 3 13:12:59 2009

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