ALLIANCE IN THE INTELLECTUAL STRUGGLE
Darwin's Racism And Colonialism
Darwin's close friend Professor Adam Sedgwick was one of the people who saw what
dangers the theory of evolution would give rise to in the future. He remarked, after reading
and digesting The Origin of Species, that "if this book were to find general public
acceptance, it would bring with it a brutalisation of the human race such as it had never
seen before." (A.E. Wilder-Smith, Man's Origin Man's Destiny, The Word for Today
Publishing, 1993, p.166)
And truly, time showed that Sedgwick was right to have doubts. The 20th century has
gone down in history as a dark age when people underwent massacres simply because of their
race or ethnic origins.
Of course, there were discrimination and eradication based on it in human history long
before Darwin. But Darwinism lent this discrimination a false scientific respectability
and a false rightfulness.
"The Preservation of Favoured Races..."
Most Darwinists in our day claim that Darwin was never a racist but that racists comment
on Darwin's ideas in a biased manner for the purpose of supporting their own views. They
claim that the expression "By the Preservation of Favoured Races" in the subtitle to The
Origin of Species is used only for animals. However, what those who make this claim ignore
is what Darwin says about human races in his book.
According to the views put forward by Darwin in this book, human races represent
different stages of evolution, and some races have evolved and progressed more than others.
Some of them, in fact, were pretty much at the same level as monkeys.
Darwin claimed that the "fight for survival" also applied between human races. "Favoured
races" emerged victorious from this struggle. According to Darwin the favoured race were the
European whites. As for Asian and African races, they had fallen behind in the fight for
survival. Darwin went even further: these races would soon completely lose the world-wide
fight for survival and disappear, he claimed.
At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of
man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace the savage races throughout the world. At
the same time the anthropomorphous apes ... will no doubt be exterminated. The break
between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a
more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a
baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla. (Charles
Darwin, The Descent of Man, 2nd edition, New York, A L. Burt Co., 1874, p. 178)
Again in another part of The Origin of Species, Darwin claimed that it was necessary for
the inferior races to disappear and that there was no need for developed peoples to try to
protect them and keep them alive. He compared this situation to people who raised breeding
With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive
commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our
utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed,
and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the
life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved
thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus
the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the
breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man.
(Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, 2nd edition, New York, A L. Burt Co., 1874, p.
As we have seen, in his book The Origin of Species Darwin saw the natives of Australia
and Negroes as being at the same level as gorillas and claimed that these races would
disappear. As for the other races which he saw as "inferior," he maintained that it was
essential to prevent them multiplying and so for these races to be brought to extinction. So the
traces of racism and discrimination which we still come across in our time were approved and
lent justification by Darwin in this way.
As for the task befalling the "civilised person," according to Darwin's racist idea, it was to
speed this evolutionary period up a little, as we shall see in the details which follow. In this
situation there was no objection, from the "scientific" point of view, to these races, which
were going to disappear anyway, being done away with now.
Darwin's racist side showed its effect in much of his writing and observations. For
example, he openly set out his racist prejudices while describing the natives of Tierra del
Fuego whom he saw on a long voyage he set out on in 1871. He described the natives as
living creatures "wholly nude, submerged in dyes, eating what they find just like wild
animals, uncontrolled, cruel to everybody out of their tribe, taking pleasure in torturing their
enemies, offering bloddy sacrifices, killing their children, ill-treating their wives, full of
awkward superstitions". Whereas the researcher W. P. Snow, who had travelled the same
region ten years before, presents a very different picture. According to Snow, the Tierra del
Fuegians were "fine powerful looking fellows; they were very fond of their children; some of
their artefacts were ingenious; they recognised some sort of rights over property; and they
accepted the authority of several of the oldest women." (Godfrey Lienhardt, Social
Anthropology, Oxford University Press, p. 11)
As has been seen from these examples Darwin was a complete racist. As a matter of fact,
in the words of the author of the book What Darwin Really Said, Benjamin Farrington,
Darwin made many comments regarding "the greater differences between men of distinct
races" in his book The Descent of Man. (Benjamin Farrington, What Darwin Really Said,
London: Sphere Books, 1971, pp. 54-56)
Furthermore, Darwin's theory's denying the existence of God had been the cause of
peoples' not seeing that man was something created by God and that all men were created
equal. And this was one of the factors behind the rise of racism and the acceleration of its
acceptance in the world. The American scientist James Ferguson announces the strict link
between the denial of creation and the rise of racism in this way:
The new anthropology soon became a theoretical background between two opposed
schools of thought on the origin of humans. The older and more established of these was
'monogenism,' the belief that all humankind, irrespective of colour and other characteristics,
was directly descended from Adam and from the single and original act of God's creation.
Monogenism was promulgated by the Church and universally accepted until the 18th century,
when opposition to theological authority began to fuel the rival theory of 'polygenism,'
(theory of evolution) which held that different racial communities had different origins.
(James Ferguson, "The Laboratory of Racism", New Scientist, vol. 103, September 1984, p.
The Indian anthropologist Lalita Vidyarthi explains how Darwin's theory of evolution led
racism to be accepted by social sciences:
His (Darwin's) theory of the survival of the fittest was warmly welcomed by the social
scientists of the day, and they believed mankind had achieved various levels of evolution
culminating in the white man's civilization. By the second half of the nineteenth century
racism was accepted as fact by the vast majority of Western scientists. (Lalita Prasad
Vidyarthi, Racism, Science and Pseudo-Science, Unesco, France, Vendôme, 1983. p. 54)
As for the Darwinists who came after Darwin, they put up a great struggle to prove his
racist views. In the name of doing so they had no scruples about making many scientific
inconsistencies and falsehoods. They thought that when they had proved these, they would
have scientifically proven their own superiority and "rights" to oppress, colonise, and if needs
be exterminate other races.
In the third chapter of his book The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould pointed out
that some anthropologists were not above falsifying their data to prove the "superiority" of the
white race. According to Gould, the method they used most was falsifying the brain size of
the fossilised skulls they found. Gould mentions in his book that, assuming brain size had
something to do with intelligence, many anthropologists intentionally exaggerated the size of
Caucasian skulls and underestimated the size of skulls from Blacks and Indians. (David N.
Menton, Ph.D., The Religion of Nature: Social Darwinism, St. Louis Metro Voice, September
1994, Vol. 4, No. 9)
In his book Ever Since Darwin, Gould explains the unbelievable claims the Darwinists
undertook to demonstrate that some races were inferior.
Haeckel and his colleagues also invoked recapitulation to affirm the racial superiority of
northern European whites. They scoured the evidence of human anatomy and behaviour,
using everything they could find from brains to belly buttons. Herbert Spencer wrote that "the
intellectual traits of the uncivilized are traits recurring in the children of the civilized." Carl
Vogt said it more strongly in 1864: "The grown up Negro partakes, as regards his intellectual
faculties, of the nature of the child... Some tribes have founded states, possessing a peculiar
organization, but, as to the rest, we may boldly assert that the whole race has, neither in the
past nor in the present, performed anything tending to the progress of humanity or worthy of
preservation." (Stephen Jay Gould, Ever Since Darwin, W. W. Norton & Company, New York
1992, p. 217)
And the French medical anatomist Etienne Serres really did argue that black males are
primitive because their belly buttons were in a lower level.
Darwin's contemporary, the evolutionist Havelock Ellis, supported the distinction
between superior and inferior races with an alleged "scientific" explanation, saying:
The child of many African races is scarcely if at all less intelligent than the European
child, but while the African as he grows up becomes stupid and obtuse, and his whole social
life falls into a state of hidebound routine, the European retains much of his childlike vivacity.
(Stephen Jay Gould, Ever Since Darwin, W. W. Norton & Company, New York 1992, p.
The French Darwinist anthropologist Vacher de Lapouge suggested that non-white classes
were the descendants of savages who had not learnt to be civilised, or else the degenerate
representatives of mixed-blood classes. He produced results by measuring the skulls from
Paris' upper and lower classes in graveyards. According to his results, depending on their
skulls some people were inclined to be rich, self-confident, and free, and others conservative,
content with little, and possessing all the qualities of a good servant, classes were the products
of social selection, society's upper classes went together with superior races, the degree of
wealth was in proportion to the skull index. Lapouge later made a prophesy, "It is my view
that in years to come people will kill each other because their heads are round or pointed," he
said, (Alaeddin ?enel, Irk ve Irkçylyk Dü?üncesi (The Idea of Race and Racism), Ankara:Bilim
ve Sanat Yayynlary, 1993, p. 67-68) and this prophesy came true, as we shall see in detail in
later pages of this book, and the 20th century saw massacres carried out for reasons of
And it was not only anthropologists: entomologists (those who study
insects) also jumped on the racist bandwagon that Darwinism had
set in motion with unbelievable claims. For example, in the year
1861, one English entomologist arrived at the conclusion, after
collecting lice that lived on peoples' bodies in different parts
of the world, that the lice of one race could not live on the bodies
of another, which when looked at from the scientific level of today,
is just plain ridiculous. (Thomas Gossett, Race: The History of
an Idea in America, Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press,
1963, p.81 cited in Alaeddin Senel, Irk ve Irkçilik Düsüncesi (The
Idea of Race and Racism), Ankara:Bilim ve Sanat Yayinlari, 1993,
When even people with the status of scientists made such announcements, it was not
surprising that some dogmatic racists should use such illogical, unintelligent, and completely
meaningless slogans as "even Negroes' lice are Negro."
In short, the racist side to Darwin's theory found very fertile ground in the second half of
the 19th century. Because at that time the European "white man" was still waiting for such a
theory to justify his own crimes.