Just to add a couple more Darwin quotes to the ones flying around, here's an excerpt from
Just to add a couple more Darwin quotes to the ones flying around,
here's an excerpt from Stephen Jay Gould's "The Mismeasure of Man" (W.
W. Norton and Company, 1981, page 36):
Charles Darwin, the kindly liberal and passionate abolitionist
[*], wrote about a future time when the gap between human and ape
will increase by the anticipated extinction of such intermediates
as chimpanzees and Hottentots.
The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene
between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, than
the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as
at present between the negro or Australian and the gorilla
(Descent of Man, 1871, p. 201).
[*] Darwin wrote, for example, in the Voyage of the Beagle: "Near
Rio de Janeiro I lived opposite to an old lady, who kept screws to
crush the fingers of her females slaves. I have stayed in a house
where a young household mulatto, daily and hourly, was reviled,
beaten, and persecuted enough to break the spirit of the lowest
animal. I have seen a little boy, six or seven years old, struck
thrice with a horse-whip (before I could interfere) on his naked
head, for having handed me a glass of water not quite clean ...
And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love
their neighbors as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that
his Will be done on earth! It makes one's blood boil, yet heart
tremble, to think that we Englishman and our American descendents,
with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty."
I think the question of whether Darwin (or anyone else) was a racist
is difficult to answer honestly and fairly. Certainly anyone today
who expressed the sentiments of the the first quote would be justly
condemned as a racist. But I tend to think that Darwin deserves to be
judged by the standards of his contemporaries, and he looks very good
indeed compared to some of them.
I'd recommend The Mismeasure of Man to anyone who's interested in the
issue of scientific racism and changing attitudes toward race. The
excerpt above comes from a section called "A shared context of
culture" in chapter 2, which is particularly eye-opening. As Gould
says, "All American culture heroes embraced racial attitudes that
would embarass public-school mythmakers," a thesis he supports with
quotes from Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.
I can't resist quoting one of the latter, taken from the
Lincoln-Douglas debates, since it provides an interesting comparison
with the quotes from Darwin above:
There is a physical difference between the white and black races
which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together
on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they
cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the
position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man
am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank