RE: [asa] Re: Campolo gets it wrong

From: Dehler, Bernie <>
Date: Tue Mar 03 2009 - 13:43:01 EST

Gregory said:
"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.""

As if humans came biologically from apes. They didn't. There's a long line of intermediates.

Gregory said:
"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?"

Gregory is implying that humans are superior to animals. Is that racist? Where does he draw the line between hominid (non-human animal) and human? Are the Neanderthals human? If he says 'no,' is he being racist? He implies that humans are all the same, so racism is bad; yet humans are above animals, as if there is some sort of dividing line he could draw. To answer his own question, he has to first understand what a human is, biologically, and how it differs from other non-human creatures. If he doesn't know the answer to that, I don't see how he can lecture others about racism. So does he understand where humans diverge from their non-human ancestors? I've never heard anyone else on this list claim to have that knowledge.


From: [] On Behalf Of Gregory Arago
Sent: Tuesday, March 03, 2009 10:13 AM
To:; Austerberry, Charles
Subject: Re: [asa] Re: Campolo gets it wrong

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 13:43:31 2009

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