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Darwinism: A Face of Racism

By V.A. Mohamad Ashrof

Although racism has plagued humanity for thousands of years, and it has especially shown its ugly head during the last few centuries. Modern racist concepts, with the aid of supposed scientific data, suggest that each race is different, though potentially still inter-fertile, from others.

If they continue to be segregated, each race will continue to compete with the other races in the struggle for existence, and finally, the fittest will survive. The rise of modern evolutionary theory took place mostly in Europe, especially England and Germany.

Europeans and Americans were then leading the world in industrial and military expansion, giving them an edge on the other nations of the world.

This concept was tremendously encouraged by the concurrent rise of Darwinian evolutionism and its simplistic approach to the idea of struggle between natural races, with the strongest surviving and thus contributing to the advance of evolution.

Nineteenth-century scientists, most of who were subscribed to the evolution of man, were thus also convinced of racism.

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Charles Darwin himself was convinced of white racial superiority. He wrote on one occasion as follows:

The more civilized so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of lower races has been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world. (Himmelfarb 343)

Further, Darwin spoke of the ‘gorilla’ and the ‘negro’ as occupying evolutionary positions between the ‘baboon’ and the civilized races of man:

At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. (Darwin 241)

Thomas Henry Huxley, renowned as Darwin’s “Bulldog”, soon after the American Civil war, in which the Negro slaves were freed, penned these words: “No rational man, cognizant of the facts, believes that the average Negro is the equal, still less the superior, of the white man.” (Huxley 20)

Referring to “The Origin of Species”, by Darwin, Harvard University’s Stephen Jay Gould wrote: “Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1859, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory.” (Gould 127)

The Nazi treatment of Jews and other “inferior races” was largely a result of their belief that the source of biological evolution was a set of proven techniques available to scientists to significantly improve mankind.

As Tennebaum noted that the political philosophy of the German State was built on the ideas of struggle, selection, and survival of the fittest, all notions and observations arrived at by Darwin were already existing in the German social philosophy of the nineteenth century.

Thus developed the doctrine of Germany’s inherent right to rule the world on the basis of superior strength of a “hammer and anvil” relationship between the Reich and the weaker nations. (Tennebaum 211)

Darwinian evolution was not only championed in Germany more than most other countries, but it was more influential on German state policy. Gasman concluded that, “in no other country did the ideas of Darwinism develop the total explanation of the world as it did in Germany.” (Gasman 8)

Just as Social Darwinism rationalized capitalism, this cultural arrogance rationalized imperialism. The expanding industrial order needed its lifetime to cheap resources, and it created a moral justification for taking them at depressed prices, even at the cost of obliterating agricultural and so-called primitive societies.

The idea of social evolution provided intellectual and moral support for the treatment of non-industrial peoples as inferior and hence unfit for survival. (Toffler 101)

The historian Ulrich B. Phillips, writing about slavery in 1918, reassured his readers by explaining that blacks were “by racial quality” submissive, light hearted, amiable, ingratiating and imitative. (Phillips 291-292)

Even as late as in 1969, pro-racist evidence was put forth! In a 123- page paper, Dr. Arthur R Jensen claimed that Negroes in general had significantly lower IQ than whites on nearly every type of intelligence test. He concluded that intelligence is determined largely by heredity and cannot be altered significantly by environment. (Jenson 123)

The argument based on IQ tests, usually goes like this: Blacks do less well than whites on IQ tests, so that they are less intelligent. The IQ scores of parents and children are similar, so that genes control intelligence. The difference between blacks and whites must, therefore, be genetic.

This argument is deceptively simple. It was once used in America as an excuse not to spend money on black education, and those who resent spending money on state education often employ a variant of the theory in Britain, which sees working class rather than black children as victims of their genes. Simple logic though it may be, it is utterly false.

At first sight it looks like powerful evidence for the view that any racial difference in IQ must be biologically programmed. Over the past several years the overage IQ score of Japanese children has risen by ten points higher than that of Americans.

Characters are shaped by both gene and environment so that it is meaningless to ask about genetic differences except in population living in the same conditions.

The race and the IQ story is largely one of a dismal misrepresentation of basic biology.


Works Cited

Himmelfarb, Gertrude Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution, Chatto and Windus: London, 1959.

Darwin, Charles The Decent of Man, John Murray: London (1871).

Huxley, T.H. Lay Sermons, Addresses and Reviews, Appleton: N.Y., 1871.

Gould, Stephen Jay Ontogeny and Phylogeny, Harvard Uni. Press: Massachusetts, 1977.

Tennebaum, Joseph Race and Reich, Twayne Publishing: N.Y 1956.

Gasman, Daniel The Scientific Origin of National Socialism, American Elsevier: N.Y, 1971.

Toffler, Alvin The Third Wave, Bantam: N.Y, 1982,

Phillips, Ulrich B American Negro Slavery, Louisiana State Uni. Press: Bata Rouge, (1918), 1966.

Jenson, Arthur R. How Much Can We Boost IQ. and Intellectual Achievement? Havard Educational Review Vol.39 Winter 1969.