[Originally published as Defining Racism]
Some people, like Billy Graham, Florence Nightingale, and Martin Luther King, Jr. seem to be shielded from criticism and are almost never targets of protests.
I used to think Charles Darwin was in this category because his proposals and writings are almost universally accepted by science and educational leaders as enlightening and correct. Although evidence for many of his ideas is scanty, it was somewhat of a shock when I read what Phillip Johnson, a distinguished retired Berkley law professor, said about Darwinian evolution. Johnson’s specialty was logic and analyzing arguments. When he began to analyze the arguments for and against Darwinian evolution, he characterized evolution as “atheistic” and “falsified by all of the evidence” and whose “logic is terrible,” saying intelligent design is a much better way to study origins. A little additional research has easily led me to agree with Mr. Johnson.
As a world-class naturalist, Charles Darwin collected and documented plants and animals from around the world. Nevertheless, his proposals about human origins for which he is famous have become seeds that promoted real racist ideas such as white supremacy and how to eliminate “inferior races.”
Darwin’s famous books, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life and The Descent of Man proposed that all living things evolved from simpler organisms, gradually becoming more and more complex over millions of years. According to his theory of evolution, there was no plan or design as this occurred. It was merely the result of natural processes such as natural selection. Eventually, ape-like animals evolved with their bigger brains, and the first humans emerged as cavemen. Many of Darwin’s followers believed that during the evolutionary process, different races or species of humans developed, but all races did not inherit equal abilities.
Although Darwin believed slavery was wrong, he still approved of teachings and writings by Ernest Haeckel, Thomas Huxley other prestigious scientists who indicated Negroes were inferior to European white races. Written in the language of science, they attempted to provide a scientific basis for the lie. Darwin’s own publications quietly indicated the idea of racial inequalities, but scientists and supporters of Darwinian evolution, like Haeckel and Huxley, loudly proclaimed that different races had evolved from different animal lineages.
This was not a benign hypothesis. Only sixty years later, Adolph Hitler carried his belief that humans evolved from apes and each race had evolved into different species into mainstream German government policy, known as Social Darwinism. There is also little doubt his beliefs contributed to World War II. He concluded that certain races, made up of people who were less than fully human, should be prevented from having more children.
He made the idea of “superior” and “inferior” races a major part of his Nazi philosophy and a justification for outright murder of members of the “inferior” races. The first focus of Hitler was eliminating the Jews and preventing the “inferior races” from intermarriage with the “superior races.” But that was not the end of his deranged goals.
He believed the so-called sub-human “dark races,” including Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, Asiatic peoples, Mongolians, and Negroes must be eliminated, sterilized, or forced into servitude to make room for a new human race to evolve, which he referred to as a Master Race. He envisioned multitudes of super-intelligent, physically fit people who would emerge from this race and rule the world.
Hitler led millions of people to accept his disastrous beliefs about human origins. His deep ugly racist beliefs were revealed in his book, Mein Kampf. Even when Hitler was shown that some Negroes had become lawyers, teachers, and pastors, he sarcastically wrote “it is criminal lunacy to keep on drilling a half-ape until people think they have made a lawyer out of him…” ( Mein Kampf. p. 34).
Racist beliefs were not limited to Hitler. A cousin of Darwin, Frances Galton, became a big proponent of eugenics, a now-discredited belief that the human race could be improved through selective breeding
- encouraging ”superior” races to have large families,
- finding ways to reduce the births of “inferior” races,
- forced sterilization of certain “unfit” people,
- and segregating “unfit” people to live in camps unless they voluntarily chose to be sterilized.
At one time a large number of American citizens approved these practices. Such ideas are no longer practiced here, but the belief that some races are inferior may not have been completely stamped out.
As much as the words racist and racism are freely thrown around today, they are used without well-defined meanings. They are used as an insult to anyone who isn’t in tune with the new progressive culture protesters. President Trump was repeatedly accused of being a racist after he made border security a major emphasis of his administration.
Dr. Alveda King, an influential American Christian leader, author, and the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, believes that the basis for racism is a lie about what it means to be human. She framed the best definition for racism I have found, saying,
Racism springs from the lie that certain human beings are less than fully human.
By this, she believes that all human lives, from conception to death, are of great value. She believes there is only one race—just humans, all made in the image of God—planned, designed, and created with purpose by God. Thankfully, most people I know agree with Dr. King,
Darwinian evolution is still part of the required curriculum in all public schools. Students are not likely to find blatant racists ideas in any textbook, but if protesters are looking at historical injustices, Darwinian evolution bears guilt.
Why are there people today who continue to believe the lie that races are different species who evolved unequally? Why do many people reject the idea that God planned, designed, and created all humans in His image? Was the Declaration of Independence justified in maintaining, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”?