RE: [asa] Re: Campolo gets it wrong

From: Austerberry, Charles <>
Date: Tue Mar 03 2009 - 14:08:56 EST

Campolo claims that Darwin proposed the extermination of certain races.
I think it likely that many people reading that CT essay will interpret
"extermination" to mean genocide. I stand by my criticism of Campolo's

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 <>



        From: Gregory Arago []
        Sent: Tuesday, March 03, 2009 12:13 PM
        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
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

--- 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
        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
        them as Darwin's prescriptions. What Darwin thought inevitable,
        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
        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
        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,
        suggest that he "proposed" their extermination, nothing to
        we should not care for the insane or those born with birth
        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
        scientifically based proposals was the elimination of "the negro
        Australian peoples," which he considered to be savage races
        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.
        further proposed the extermination of those races which he
        "scientifically" defined as inferior. To not do so, he claimed,
        result in those races, which have much higher birth rates than
        designated superior races, exhausting the resources needed for
        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
        defects. To him, these unfit members of our species ought not to
        If Darwin really wrote, spoke, or acted in such ways, will
        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
        mission groups trying to help "savages", that he actively
        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
        enough on what is probably the most important of all, namely
        infanticide, especially of female infants, and the habit of
        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
        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
        than are savages at the present time. Our early semihuman
        would not have practised infanticide, for the instincts of the
        animals are never so perverted as to lead them regularly to
        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
        numbers, even more severely than with existing savages. What the
        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
        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
        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,
        slavery, and absorption. Even when a weaker tribe is not thus
        swept away, if it once begins to decrease, it generally goes on
        decreasing until it is extinct. When civilised nations come into
        with barbarians the struggle is short, except where a deadly
        gives its aid to the native race. Of the causes which lead to
        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
        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
        unconquerably strong taste for them shewn by so many savages. It
        appears, mysterious as is the fact, that the first meeting of
        and separated people generates disease."
        Vol II, p. 403
        "The advancement of the welfare of mankind is a most intricate
        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
        members of society. Man, like every other animal, has no doubt
        to his present high condition through a struggle for existence
        consequent on his rapid multiplication; and if he is to advance
        higher he must remain subject to a severe struggle. Otherwise he
        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
        for all men; and the most able should not be prevented by laws
        customs from succeeding best and rearing the largest number of
        offspring. Important as the struggle for existence has been and
        still is, yet as far as the highest part of man's nature is
        there are other agencies more important. For the moral qualities
        advanced, either directly or indirectly, much more through the
        of habit, the reasoning powers, instruction, religion, &c., than
        natural selection; though to this latter agency the social
        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
        forgotten by me, for the reflection at once rushed into my
        were our ancestors. These men were absolutely naked and bedaubed
        paint, their long hair was tangled, their mouths frothed with
        excitement, and their expression was wild, startled, and
        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
        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
        enemy in order to save the life of his keeper; or from that old
        who, descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his
        comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs-as from a savage who
delights to
        torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practises
        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
        placed there, may give him hopes for a still higher destiny in
        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
        given the evidence to the best of my ability; and we must
        as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities, with
        which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends
        only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his
        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
        To unsubscribe, send a message to with
        "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.


        Be smarter than spam. See how smart SpamGuard is at giving junk
email the boot with the All-new Yahoo! Mail

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Tue Mar 3 14:09:32 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Mar 03 2009 - 14:09:32 EST