Saw this on Facebook just now:
Whereas the British Empire of the early 19th century had been dominated by Christian reformers such as William Wilberforce, who sold slave badges that proclaimed, “Am I not a man and a brother?”, Darwin’s writings converted an empire with a conscience into an empire with a scientific philosophy. Four years after Darwin published The Origin of Species, James Hunt turned it into a justification for slavery. In his 1863 paper, “On the Negro’s Place in Nature,” he asserted: “Our Bristol and Liverpool merchants, perhaps, helped to benefit the race when they transported some of them to America.”
When The Melbourne Review used Darwin’s teachings to justify the genocide of indigenous Australians in 1876, he didn’t try and stop them. When the Australian newspaper argued that “the inexorable law of natural selection [justifies] exterminating the inferior Australian and Maori races”—that “the world is better for it” since failure to do so would be “promoting the non-survival of the fittest, protecting the propagation of the imprudent, the diseased, the defective, and the criminal”—it was Christian missionaries who raised an outcry on behalf of this forgotten genocide. Darwin simply commented, “I do not know of a more striking instance of the comparative rate of increase of a civilized over a savage race.”
There were many good thoughts in the comments on the Facebook post. There’s some good discussion happening on some of the threads. One example:
Darwin’s work has been cited by all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons, much as religious scriptures have been. Darwin himself was an adamant opponent of the slave trade and of genocidal campaigns against indigenous peoples. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t use terms like “savage.” Of course he did, as did almost all the Victorian era British thinkers. Including the religious thinkers. Perhaps it’s best to read Darwin and examine which of his ideas have held up, which have not, and which have been modified by subsequent scientists. Judging his work in the way suggested in this article is really not sensible.
Many (like this one) immediately noticed that this argument could be turned on its head against Christians, namely, that since many people have abused and misappropriated the Scriptures to justify genocide and the like, then we ought to reject them as well. The fallacy is clear.
Others also noted the conflation of Darwinian evolution and social Darwinism. One does not lead to the other, though it is often assumed that they are inseparable.
What are your thoughts? Was Darwin an evil man, or a product of his time? Does the misuse of his ideas give us reason to reject evolution? Can social Darwinism be rationally concluded on the basis of evolutionary theory?