One of Charles Darwin’s books is titled, “The Descent of Man.” A close cousin to that book is his 1859 book, "The Origin of the Species, was The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life." The 1859 book dealt with the evolution of animals in general. "The Descent of Man," applied his theory to humans, meaning that some humans, those with darker skin, are more closely related to apes and gorillas. In other words, we all descended from primates, but humans with darker skin are more closely related.
Instead of man starting out as man, as is claimed in the Bible, man and all those who might resemble men, descended from apes or gorillas or chimpanzees. According to Darwin, we did not start out as humans. So where did we start? According to Darwin, it was a gradual process that may have started with something as simple as quite small molecules, over millions and millions of years.
As Darwin sees our progeny or molecule heritage, there is evidence that one of the intermediate stages was the primate, meaning a lower form of the primate. But the implication is that some races have not progressed as far as others, and are closer to apes and gorillas. Guess which races of humans those are? It’s the obvious appearance of humans, whether they look light or dark, or somewhere in between that determines where they fall on the development hierarchy or value.
This is what we have seen even though there has long been evidence to the contrary: people who look like they might be more closely related to apes and gorilllas, have been treated like they are less valuable and less human. We see this in how blacks have been treated for more than 100 years, even 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by Abraham Lincoln. It did not matter that it was signed. It did not change how blacks were treated in the South; the people still held to Darwin's theory in regard to how they were valued, despite evidence to the contrary.
Many slaves who came to the U.S. from Africa adapted to Western Civilization and culture, and were able to thrive to the point that they were in some ways smarter than their white slave masters. This is a common story. There is evidence that this man or woman can perform and understand above their slave station, but because of the color of their skin, they are not valued according to their contribution.
This kind of thinking was pervasive in the South. Darwinism was used to subjugate humans who they thought were inferior and not worthy of better treatment, because of the color of their skin. Thus Darwinism and the theory of evolution kept them thinking that their slaves were inferior and not really human, closer to an ape or a gorilla; this thinking also made it easier for them to treat their slaves poorly and abuse them, to the point of torturing and killing them.
It made it easier for whites in the South to commit all kinds of crimes against former slaves as well. What did it matter? Weren’t these slaves only a lower form of humans? What would it matter if one more were tortured, dismembered, hanged, for no other crime than to be a species that is darker in color?
As Darwin categorized the species that he discovered during his travels, it was clear that he did not hold species with darker skin in high regard. He often used words like “savage,” “low,” and “degraded” to describe American Indians, pygmies and nearly every other ethic group with darker skin. Pygmies were considered “lower organisms” and were labeled “the low integrated inhabitants of the Andaman Islands.
Darwin’s ideas also made their way to Australia, ‘which was involved in a kind of trade in ‘missing link’ specimens fueled by early evolutionary and racist ideas.’ Many institutions, including the Smithsonian Institution, participated in the collecting of Aborigines. Thousands were shipped to British Museums because they were thought to be the missing link that Darwin suggested.
“Evolutionists in the United States were also strongly involved in this flourishing industry of gathering species of "sub-humans." (The Smithsonian Institution in Washington holds the remains of over 15,000 individuals!) Along with museum curators from around the world, some of the top names in British science were involved in this large-scale grave robbing trade.”
“These included anatomist Sir Richard Cohen, anthropologist Sir Arthur Keith, and Charles Darwin himself. Darwin wrote asking for Tasmanian skulls when only four of the island's Aborigines were left alive, provided that the request not "upset" their feelings.”
“Some museums were not only interested in bones but also in fresh skins. These were sometimes used to provide interesting evolutionary displays when they were stuffed. Good prices were being offered for such "specimens."
“Written evidence shows that many of the "fresh" specimens were obtained by simply going out and murdering the aboriginal people in my country. An 1866 deathbed memoir from Korah Wills, mayor of Bowen, in Queensland, Australia, graphically describes how he killed and dismembered local tribesmen in 1865 to provide a scientific specimen.”
“Edward Ramsay, curator of the Australian Museum in Sydney for 20 years starting in 1874, was particularly heavily involved. He published a booklet for the museum that gave instructions not only on how to rob graves, but also on how to plug bullet wounds from freshly killed "specimens."
“Many freelance collectors worked under his guidance. For example, four weeks after Ramsay had requested skulls of Bungee Blacks, a keen young scientist sent him two of them, announcing, "The last of their tribe, had just been shot.”"
If it sounds gruesome, it is. If it sounds like something taken from a horror movie, a group of serial killings, intent on killing of a particular race of people at any cost, you are close to grasping some of the impact that Darwin’s ideas had on our society and the world.
The part of this entry in quotes is taken from chapter one of the book, “One Race One Blood,” by Charles Ware and Ken Ham. The first chapter, Darwin’s Garden, and tells the tale of Ota. A more detailed account of Ota’s like is in the book, “Ota Benga: The Pygmy in the Zoo,” by P.V. Bradford and H. Blume.
Another book that chronicle this tragedy wrought by evolutionary thinking, including Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga. by Pamela Newkirk. The book won the NAACP Image Award.
© 2019 Larry Ingram
Based in St Louis,
Larry Ingram writes about the news media, movies and culture, as well as on topics like race, privilege, Christianity, religious expression and tolerance.
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