Scientific racism is a direct result of embracing Darwinism and evolution. Looking at the history of the Aborigines, this article shows how scientific racism happened.

Source: Australian Presbyterian, 2011. 3 pages.

Scientific Racism Darwinian theories have had a terrible impact on Aborigines

Since Darwinism is the most sophisticated and potent expression of the rejection of the facts of Genesis, it is no sur­prise to hear that Darwin's Origin of Species led to a huge increase in racist thinking and behavior. That is undeniably true. Renowned Harvard paleontol­ogist Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002), a thoroughly committed evolutionist and staunch antiracist wrote: "Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1850, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory."

Following Darwin, it became increasingly "obvious" that various easily iden­tifiable groups of people, i.e. "races", were either less evolved than other groups or (particularly if it was your own group) more evolved.

This was a worldwide phenomenon, but was particularly starkly illustrated in Australia's colonial history. The country's Aboriginal people had already suf­fered considerably, but their treatment took a massive nosedive post-Darwin.

An unusual book was published in 1974, called Aborigines in White Australia: A Documentary History of the Attitudes Affecting Official Policy and the Australian Aborigine 1697-1973. Apart from a few introductory/editorial com­ments, it consists almost entirely of sub­stantial excerpts from documents. These are parliamentary transcripts, court records, letters to editors, anthro­pological reports, and so forth.

Far from showing a progressive enlightenment in the attitudes of the colonists as time goes on, one can see a distinct change for the worse after 1859, with a marked increase in callousness, ill-treatment and brutality towards Aboriginal people being evident in official attitudes. This is not lost on the editor of the above book, who writes:

In 1859 Charles Darwin's book On the Origin of Species popularised the notion of biological (and therefore social) evolution. Scholars began to discuss civilisation as a unilinear process with races able to ascend or descend a graduated scale. The European was ... the 'fittest to survive' ... (The Aboriginal) was doomed to die out according to a 'natural law', like the dodo and the dinosaur. This the­ory, supported by the facts at hand (i.e. that Aboriginal folk were dying out from ill-treatment and disease — CW) contin­ued to be quoted until well into the 20th century when it was noticed that the dark-skinned race was multiplying. Until that time it could be used to justify neglect and murder.

From the book's transcript of an interrogation of a policeman during a Royal Commission of Inquiry in 1861, we read concerning the use of force against tribal Aboriginals:

"And if we did not punish the blacks they would look upon it as a confession of weakness?"

"Yes, that is exactly my opinion."

"It is a question as to which is the strongest race if we submit to them they would despise us for it?"


The influence of evolutionary think­ing can also be seen in another excerpt from Aborigines in White Australia, when the writer of an 1888 book is justifying the killing of the native population in the State of Victoria. He writes: "As to the ethics of the question, there can be drawn no final conclusion." This is because of "a question of temperament; to the sentimental it is undoubtedly an iniquity; to the practical it represents a distinct step in human progress, involving the sacrifice of a few thousands of an inferior race ... But the fact is that mankind, as a race, cannot choose to act solely as moral beings. They are governed by animal laws which urge them blindly forward upon tracks they scarce can choose for themselves."

In other words, he is justifying "iniq­uity" by appealing to the "animal laws" of the evolutionary struggle for survival. Opposition can be dismissed as "senti­mental" — lacking understanding of such "natural laws".

Australian secular historian Joanna Cruickshank acknowledges, if somewhat reluctantly, not only the baneful effects of the Darwin-inspired "scientific racism" on Australian Aboriginals, but the way in which belief in our common descent from Adam and Eve operated to temper such thinking. In a recent article on the topic, she writes:

Supporters of Darwin have understand­ably often been reluctant to acknowl­edge how closely entangled Darwinism and social Darwinism were, preferring to distance Darwin from his theory's evil twin. Yet those who debated the theory of evolution in the late 19th century were keenly aware of this connection ... Nowhere was this more obvious than in Australia.

The pattern, widespread today, of church leaders anxious to compromise with this new "scientific" ideology, was already evident. She writes how in 1869, a Reverend Bromby gave a public lecture defending Darwin's book, in which he "followed Darwin's logic in using the apparent dying out of Aboriginal people as evidence for evolution.

In response, the Anglican Bishop of Melbourne, Charles Perry, attacked both Bromby's evidence and his conclusions. Perry critiqued what he saw as the scien­tific inadequacies of Darwin's book. In particular, however, Perry attacked the view that human beings could be divided by race — or any other category — into 'savage' and 'civilised'…

Cruickshank goes on to say that when legislation was passed "enshrining the 'White Australia' policy and effectively denying Aboriginal people the vote, few voices were raised in protest. Progressives and conservatives alike saw the preservation of the more evolved white race as central to national identity. Those few protests against the policy came from unlikely quarters. The fledgling New South Wales Aborigines Mission, a small evangelical organisation, pointed out that while most politicians claimed 'to be ultra-democratic, they are sadly conservative in democra­tic practice, and unChristian both in the­ory and in practice when they say that a native born Australian is not a man and a brother because his skin happens to be a few shades darker than their own.' ... In earlier periods, one of the few persistent barriers to social Darwinist theory in Australia was the Christian doctrine that all human beings were of 'one blood'."

The body parts of Australian Aboriginal folk were keenly sought after. Following Darwin and his contempo­raries, they were regarded by scientists and other evolutionary enthusiasts as "living missing links". The remains of some 10,000 dead Aboriginal people in all were shipped to British museums over the course of this frenzy to provide specimens.

Australian journalist David Monaghan extensively docu­mented these — and far worse — effects of evolutionary belief. Along with museum curators from around the world, Monaghan says, some of the top names in British science were involved in this large-scale grave-robbing trade. Museums were also interested in fresh skins, which would provide interesting evolutionary displays when stuffed. Pickled Aboriginal brains were also in demand, to try to demonstrate that they were inferior to those of whites.

Good prices were being offered for such specimens. Monaghan shows, on the basis of written evidence from the time, that there is little doubt that many of the "fresh" specimens were obtained by simply going out and killing the Aboriginal people. The way in which the requests for specimens were announced was often a poorly disguised invitation to do just that.

Monaghan also recounts how a New South Wales missionary was a horrified witness to the slaughter by mounted police of a group of dozens of Aboriginal men, women and children. Forty-five heads were then boiled down and the ten best skulls were packed off for overseas.

As much as one would like to think that such attitudes are long gone, rem­nants still linger, including in the scien­tific community itself. This is shown by a telling extract from a secular writer in 2004:

It has been estimated that the remains of some 50,000 Aborigines are housed in medical and scientific institutions abroad. The Tasmanian Aboriginal remains in partic­ular are there for two reasons. First, at the time of collection they were consid­ered to be the most primitive link in the evolutionary chain, and therefore wor­thy of scientific consideration. Second, each skull fetched between five and 10 shillings... In anthropological terms, while the remains maintain currency as a museum item, the notion that they are a scientific curiosity remains. Put sim­ply, if it is now accepted that Tasmanian Aborigines are not the weakest evolu­tionary link, that they are simply another group of people with attendant rights to dignity and respect, there is no longer any reason to keep their remains for study. Institutions should acknowledge that by returning the remains. There are two reasons why this is not as straightforward as it appears. First, the British Museum Act of 1962 did not allow British government institutions to deaccess stored material. Second, a num­ber of scientists haven't accepted that Tasmanian Aborigines are not on the bot­tom of Social Darwinist scales, and until they do, feet are being dragged(emphasis added).

Darwinist views about the racial infe­riority of Aboriginal Australians drasti­cally influenced their treatment in other ways too. These views were backed up by alleged biological evidences, which were only much later seen for what they were — distortions based on bias. In 1908 an inspector from the Department of Aborigines in the West Kimberley region wrote that he was glad to have received an order to transport all half-castes away from their tribe to the mission.

He said it was "the duty of the State" to give these children (who, by their evo­lutionary reasoning, were going to be intellectually superior to full-blooded Aboriginal ones) a "chance to lead a bet­ter life than their mothers". He wrote: "I would not hesitate for one moment to separate a half-caste from an Aboriginal mother, no matter how frantic her momentary grief". Notice the use of the word momentary to qualify grief; such lesser-evolved beings, sub-human as they were, were to him clearly not capa­ble of feeling real grief.

Many genuine Australian Christians and church institu­tions, though patronising on occasion, seem to have tried to protect Aboriginal people from the full brunt of the many inhumanities sanctioned by evolution­ary thinking. However, like today, most church leaders and institutions compro­mised in some form or another with this new Darwinian "science."

Virtually no Christian voice in Australia did what was required — to affirm boldly the real history of man as given in the Bible. For the church to have stressed regarding Aboriginal people that we all go back only a few thousand years, to Noah's family, would have helped strongly refute both pre-Darwinian racism and the maxi-spurt it received from Darwin. It would also have anticipated the findings of modern genetics that biologically we are all extremely closely related.

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