Darwin: The Father of Modern Racism?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/archive/darwin-the-father-of-modern-racism

It’s surprising to see this coming from an evolutionist.

I don’t think evolution is the cause of modern racism. Early scientific racism (such as that of Georges Cuvier) actually presupposed a biblical creationist view of origins.

However, I will say that unless there is a higher moral purpose (which I think religion gives), then it may actually be pragmatic to kill off the weak/undesirable members of society in accordance with Natural Selection. I believe in Natural Selection btw, I just think it’s helpful to believe in something else as well.

It is interesting how the general public sees “survival of the fittest” as being “bloody of tooth” and “might makes right” at times, when of course the fittest may mean better parenting skills, thicker (or thinner) fur, smaller stature to fit in with landscape, or maybe even timidness, as the less wary and aggressive wolves may have eventually evolved into that Lab sitting by your fireplace.

1 Like

Now actually the phrase “survival of the fittest” doesn’t come from Darwin himself, but it comes from Herbert Spencer, who was one of the great popularizers of Darwinism in the late nineteenth century and he introduced that idea. And it’s actually not a very good description of what happens in biology. But people have picked up on that idea. And of course it was picked up by the Kaiser during the First World War, and the idea that “might is right.” And so that was one of the ideologies that were used to justify German militaristic expansion during the first world war.

What is a better description for what happens in biology? You know that biology does use that phrase? If there is a better description, what is it?

You are right to say that survival of the fittest did not originate with Darwin, BUT he did incorporate it into the Origin in the second edition as a synonym for Natural Selection, so he did accept and approve this term, although I read that he had some second thoughts. He called Natural Selection a struggle or “the war of nature” at the end of the Origin.

If Darwin gave race scientific status, that was a mistake that he is responsible for, but others misused this for their own purposes. Other issues are “Social Darwinism” and Eugenics. Hitler got his cues from eugenics and it was popular in many countries. It still has a following.

Survival of the Fittest was encouraged by the British imperial ethos of the time of Darwin and the competitive ethos of Adam Smith. I still wonder why evolutionary science has not seen fit to make an explicit correction of Darwin, Spencer, and Dawkins on this aspect of the science.

Racism is such a loaded topic today that any rational discussion seems impossible. Some even suspect that talking about sickle cell anemia is racist as Africans are the most prone to the disease. Or that white people are highly likely to get skin cancer at high altitude in the tropics.

Where are you getting that? The linked article explicitly says the opposite.


I never said it was arguing that.

Then what were you arguing? I’m confused.

Why do you theistic evolutionists stick your heads in the sand? Evolution was not the cause of racism. Racism was the cause of evolution.

That is because, certain people in the world pay no attention to lip service, but the actions of man based on a horrific concept of evolution. Evolutionary influence was strong in Germany which led to Namibia, as German scientists were committing unspeakable acts to other human beings i.e. sending people back to Germany to be put in zoos or on display.

Uhh… What?

1 Like

citation needed.

Darwin’s views on racial equality were actually somewhat progressive by the standards of his day.

Only that I wasn’t arguing that evolution was the cause of racism

Yep, Darwin was really prejudiced against those strong-beaked, nut-eater finches.


What Reggie is saying is that Natural Selection taken as science alone is discriminatory and I agree.

1 Like

I think you are equivocating here. When we talk about discrimination in human society we are not talking about how healthy a person is. We are talking about judging a person’s worth as a fellow human being. If someone has a rare genetic malady that makes them less healthy we don’t view them as being a lesser human, and we shouldn’t. Also, human society has often judged people by traits that have nothing to do with survival, such as the language they speak or the country they were born in.

Are some people fitter than others? Of course. Is this the same as racism or discrimination? No.


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.