There is virtually no evidence to support any of these arguments and there is more than enough evidence to demonstrate the opposite of each of these contentions. Racism is certainly not an anachronism for the 19th century. There some anti-racists in Darwin's time, and if there were anti-racists, there must have been racism. They were not opposed to a chimera. Alfred R. Wallace would be one notable example of an anti-racist.
As for groups, the whole point of Darwin’s theory was to explain how species originated, not individuals. The title of his book tells us it was about The Origin of Species, not the unreality of species. And how do new species come into existence? The rest of the title tells us: By Means of Natural Selection. The sub-title adds that this is also about the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. The idea that natural selection was intended to explain only the development of individuals is nonsense. Throughout Origin, Darwin returns again and again to this main theme: Natural selection gives us both the birth and extinction of species. Those species or races that survive are superior.
As for paternalism, this is too weak a characterization of Darwin’s actual opinions. It was mainly Stephen Gould who argued that Darwin was a paternalist, not a racist. In my book, I will rely on Gould’s distinction between racism and paternalism to establish that racism is a more accurate designation for Darwin's views.
All these objections are easily dispatched. There is a fourth objection which is even easier to get rid of. Gould does a good job, so I don’t need to devote much attention to it. Gould writes, “The common (and false) impression of Darwin’s egalitarianism arises largely from selective quotation. Darwin was strongly attracted to certain peoples often despised by Europeans, and some later writers have falsely extrapolated to a presumed general attitude” (The Mismeasure of Man, 417). Gould goes on to quote Darwin’s favorable impressions of African slaves and his low opinion of Fuegians.
Selective quotation is a problem throughout Darwinian scholarship. Gould himself, unfortunately, is not averse to making some evidence about Darwin disappear—for himself and not just for his readers. We get half the picture from so many scholars. The full picture reveals that the above objections turn out to be quite specious.
The real objection to the allegation that there is any racism in Darwin’s work is two-fold: 1) an a priori conviction that Darwin is such a great scientist and a humanitarian representative of the best that materialism or secularism has to offer that it is (a priori) impossible that he was a racist; and 2) we will just erase any evidence to the contrary. It is essentially an emotional argument. The troubling part is that emotions are used to suppress evidence. There is a concomitant implication that mainstream science can commit any errors it wants to and never be called to account because it controls what evidence will be admitted into the discussion. When I speak of erasing evidence, I of course do not mean a literal erasure, but an erasing from our consciousness. It’s there, but no one wants to see it.
Copyright 2012 L. Zitzer