A commenter on Citizen Tom’s blog makes a point against “liberals.” In so doing, he enlisted Darwin as supporting their idea. His quote is below, followed by my response:
If liberals all all about science and logic, then they should have no problem with slavery because it is a form of Darwinism: The strong overpower the weak, and the weak become the domain of the strong. Once could plausibly argue that, according to Darwin, the slaves are simply assuming their natural place in this world.
Darwinian selection is overridden by social action among humans; once culture gets involved, all bets are off. Darwin himself made this point.
In one of his few mentions of human “races,” Darwin warned that “the savage races” were under threat of extinction by “the civilized races,” not from any notion of natural selection. He also sneered at the idea of classifying these groups of humans as separate subspecies:
It may be doubted whether any character can be named, which is distinctive of a race and is constant … they graduate into each other, and … it is hardly possible to discover clear, distinctive characters between them.
He was not immune to the prejudices common to the day, but never attempted to use his notions to justify the oppression or slavery of blacks. He also pointed out that differences within groups that are called “races” are as much as differences between them.
Human societies keep their infirm and less-than-able people alive and in many cases able to reproduce, as a general thing. In a pure natural-selection world, these would not survive.
But as you suggest, progressives have indeed made this sort of argument about their racial superiority. At the time of the Scopes trial in which Darwin’s ideas were contrasted with Biblical Genesis literalism, standard issue textbooks at the time classified the human species into five races, discussing them from the most superior European Caucasian race to the most lowly, savage, and poorly developed Negroid race which was painted as incapable of assuming a proper place in society, and was destined for a permanent subservient role.
I just looked around the Internet for some passages from these old books. I see now that the searches that pulled them up a few years ago are now flooded with much more recent, much less obvious references to recent textbooks being accused of “racism”; these references are overblown and the real progressive racist textbooks are erased. Interesting.
The Scopes trial is commonly understood as being about teaching evolution in schools. That wasn’t against the law; evolution was part of the textbook. The only distinction made was in explicitly applying this to Man himself. The statute prohibited State-supported schoolteachers who would “teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” No problem with teaching every other aspect of evolution. And the fine for doing this was $100 (up to a legal maximum of $500).
The communists wanting to undermine Christianity had recently formed the ACLU, and they set up this trial, even advertising for someone to be the test plaintiff. Substitute teacher John Scopes answered the ad. They arranged for his staged citation, got a nationally famous defense attorney involved, and the trial was on.[Edited to add: This was done in conjunction with the town leaders of Dayton, Tennessee, who thought that such a publicized trial would put the town the map.]
At the time of the Scopes trial in 1925, Eugenics was rising as the new “in” thing, Margaret Sanger Slee’s organization to eliminate inferior populations (that would eventually become Planned Parenthood) was well under way, and progressives were stealing the word “liberal” that used to mean what conservatives stand for. We’re now relegated to using “classical liberalism.”
The upshot: It’s not Darwin to blame for slavery or to accuse of excusing slavery. American enlightenment began the drive to push slavery into extinction (it isn’t, yet), and progressivism arose in part as a counterpoint to this. And progressivism is capable of using anything as an excuse for anything.
===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle