Discovery Institute: Darwin = Racism

Buffoon Award

We recently posted the news that the Discovery Institute Targets African Americans. That was about a creationist marketing effort that was scheduled to be held at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.

We were wondering how that event played out. As most of you know, the usual creationist talking point about Darwin and racism is complete mythology. See: Racism, Eugenics, and Darwin. There’s as much evidence of Darwin’s racism as there is for Mother Teresa‘s terrorism.

Now we have a report on that event from John West (whom we affectionately call “Westie”). It’s in Westie’s honor that we have adorned this post with our jolly Buffoon logo, because he’s a winner of the Curmudgeon’s Buffoon Award.

Westie is a Senior Fellow among the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists). Westie’s creationist “think tank,” of which he is Associate Director, consumes almost half of the Discoveroids’ $4 million budget (see Their 2007 Tax Return). That makes him one of the chief Keepers of their wedge strategy.

Westie’s report is posted at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog. It’s titled Darwin, Racism, and Eugenics in Detroit. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

Last week I participated in a stimulating panel discussion on Darwin, scientific racism, and eugenics at the Charles Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. Other participants included distinguished evolutionary biologist Morris Goodman of Wayne State University, historian Damon Salesa of the University of Michigan, and biology professor Jerry Bergman of Northwest State College in Ohio.

Okay, what happened? Let’s read on:

The evening’s event was serious, thoughtful — and civil.

Drs. Salesa and Goodman were a credit to the Darwin side of the debate, and they both made thoughtful points throughout. Their main arguments seemed to be (1) there were a lot of other racists before and after Darwin, (2) Darwin himself was an opponent of slavery (and less racist than many of his era), (3) every idea can be misused, and (4) science has moved beyond scientific racism and eugenics.

Solid points. That doesn’t leave much room for the Discoveroids’ propaganda. What could Westie do? He did what they always do — spin. We continue:

I actually agree with these points, as I made clear at the event. The point I tried to make was not that Darwin was the world’s first or worst racist (he wasn’t), but that he gave racism a powerful boost in the scientific community by appearing to give it a convincing scientific rationale.

Really? What was that all about? Tell us more, Westie:

Despite his personal opposition to slavery, Darwin clearly believed that natural selection working on different populations produced “higher” and “lower” races with different mental capacities.

Westie doesn’t give any quotes from Darwin to support that. We doubt that there are any — unless plucked out of context. But your Curmudgeon has a Darwin quote to the contrary — from Chapter 2 of Descent of Man. He says that there’s virtually no difference between the minds of savages and civilized people. Judge for yourself, from Darwin’s own words:

The Fuegians rank amongst the lowest barbarians; but I was continually struck with surprise how closely the three natives on board H.M.S. “Beagle,” who had lived some years in England and could talk a little English, resembled us in disposition and in most of our mental faculties.

Somehow, creationists never mention that. Okay, let’s move along in Westie’s report of the big event:

Hence, according to Darwinian theory, one should expect to find races with unequal capacities. This expectation of Darwinian theory helped fuel scientific racism for decades and provided a research agenda for a number of leading evolutionary biologists, most notably National Academy of Sciences’ member Charles Davenport, one of the founding fathers of modern genetics.

People like to claim all kinds of authoritative justifications for their own peculiar ideas, but blaming such nonsense on Darwin’s work is pathetic. All such efforts evaporate upon close examination.

Westie then wraps it up with an avalanche of creationist slime:

The Darwinian connection to the eugenics movement was even more direct. …


I emphasized that that Darwinian justifications for racism and eugenics were not merely fringe ideas adopted by a few quack scientists. They were ideas embraced and advocated by America’s leading evolutionary biologists during the first several decades of the twentieth century … The scientific community’s wrong-headed embrace of Darwinian racism and eugenics supplies a cautionary lesson for why it is a good thing in a free society for people to be able to debate the evidence for scientific ideas as well as the implications of those ideas.

So there you are. Were the good folks at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History bamboozled by Westie’s disinformation? We hope not, but who knows?

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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4 responses to “Discovery Institute: Darwin = Racism

  1. And when is he going to present any evidence to support the notion that whether or not he likes evolution has anything to do with whether it’s true?

  2. Found an article about it in the student newspaper from Wayne State University: Scholars debate effects of Darwinist theories.

  3. Scientists collect data, do experiments, generate hypotheses, make predictions, gather more data, do more experiments, modify hypotheses, make new predictions, write papers, answer peer review challenges, gather more data, etc. etc. etc.

    Non-scientists debate.

  4. Yeah, I’m getting sick of that schtick myself. I ran into a creationist who used that BS in his presentation. I confronted him about it, but it didn’t go very well. :(