Saturday, February 13, 2010

Darwin A RACIST? Okay, then LINCOLN was TOO!

Once again, in a determined effort to smear evolution by vitriol against one of its main contributors- Pastor Mike treats us to actual quotes from Darwin’s ‘Descent of Man’ to show he harbored notions of the ‘inferiority of savages” – especially blacks.

Again, my argument is that any such citations must be seen in the context of the time, and to single out Darwin (or Huxley) exclusively for opprobrium- especially in order to smear his theory of evolution, is to be totally, intellectually bankrupt, biased and dishonest.

Again, my contention is that Darwin’s opinions and speculations (which is what they were) appearing in Descent were not markedly different from those of most of his peers of that day – including Americans. If one is therefore going to go so far as to single out Darwin (or other evolutionists of the time, like Huxley) , then OTHERS from all other spheres of life (including political, religious etc.) must be singled out too! (I will tend to the religious advocates for inequality in a later blog). It is intellectual bias and mischief of the worst form to zero in on Darwin and evolutionists while ignoring the context of his age.

Let’s then turn to Abraham Lincoln, who most anodyne history texts proclaim as having “freed the slaves” and issued the “Emancipation Proclamation” – so therefore, by dint of those acts, he couldn’t have a racist or biased bone in his body.

Going to Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History of the United States’ (which, unlike many American history texts, doesn’t skirt the downsides of America’s great “hero” tradition) he observes that (p. 183):

“Lincoln read the Constitution strictly, to mean that Congress, because of the 10th Amendment, could not constitutionally bar slavery in the United States”.

As to his “Emancipation Proclamation” very few American history texts (especially in high schools where students are more often than not brainwashed – see Loewen’s ‘Lies my Teacher Told Me’) note that the subtext wasn’t so clear cut as portrayed. As a London Spectator report of the time (Zinn, op. cit., p. 187) puts it:

“The principle is not that a human being cannot justly own another, but that he cannot own him unless he is loyal to the United States”

In other words, Southern secession trumped the issue of slave holding. Lincoln was perfectly fine with Southern slave holding so long as they (Southerners) didn’t secede from the Union!

Let’s continue and hope some of this sinks into Mikey’s thick head, in terms of my argument that one cannot pick and choose individuals for selective outrage when the entire zeitgeist of the time was oriented toward inequality – and any practitioner- even of science, would logically be expected to reflect that. (Just as Newton and Kepler, though putative scientists, reflected the mystical and superstitious outlook peculiar to their era)

In respect of the Fugitive Slave Law, Zinn points out (op. cit., p. 183) that Lincoln refused to denounce it publicly. He even wrote to a friend (ibid.):

“I confess I hate to see the poor creatures hunted down…but I bite my lips and keep quiet”.

“Creatures”? This is normally not a term one applies to human beings, but to rabbits, skylarks, lizards, cats and roaches. While I have my issues with the Pastor, I’d never refer to him as a “creature”. My point is that the reference is no more churlish or misbegotten than the language Darwin used in Descent- or Huxley used in “dusky cousins”. The language simply reflected certain beliefs of the time which had seeped in widely and were seldom challenged except by rare fire breathing moralists such as John Quincy Adams.

Zinn goes on to point out (ibid.) that when Lincoln did propose (in 1849) a resolution to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, he :

“accompanied this with a section requiring local authorities to arrest and return fugitive slaves coming into Washington”

And this was the Great “Emancipator”? You never know what you don’t know. Zinn confirms then what many of us suspected from these actions:

“He opposed slavery, but could not see blacks as equals, so a constant theme in his approach was to free the slaves and send them back to Africa”

Back to Africa!!! At least Darwin didn’t propose any such strategy for those under British rule (such as living in the West Indies, or as house slaves in England)

Before we go on, let me emphasize- lest Mike treat these examples in his typically cavalier manner, that unlike Darwin waxing on about “savages” in his own books- Lincoln’s beliefs had actual REAL WORLD consequences for blacks, especially slaves who wanted their freedom. Thus, under his Fugitive Slave law provisions any slaves trying to escape the South to DC had to be arrested and sent back. In general, also, he wanted to send all blacks back to AFRICA!

Lincoln again, quoted by Zinn (op. cit., p. 184) from a campaign speech for the Illinois Senate, given in Charleston, Illinois in 1858 (one year before ‘Origin of Species’ appeared):

“I will say, then, I am not now nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races. That I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office. …nor to intermarry with white people

And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be a position of superior and inferior, and I – as much as any other man – am in favor of having the superior position assigned to white people”

WHOA! Mikey! You see that? Can you read it again? The SUPERIOR position is “assigned to white people”! Now, look AGAIN - where Lincoln states clearly (in terms of acknowledging the then pervasive belief in the superiority of whites):

"I – as much as any other man "

Again, "as much as any other man" - in other words, that AT THE TIME (also Darwin's time) THIS WAS THE COMMON, ACCEPTED BELIEF!!!

I rest my case here and will not quibble over this any more with the pastor- irrespective of how many further Darwin quotes he dredges up to try and make his specious case for unique and singular racism peculiar to "evolutionists".

If he then wishes to call Charles Darwin, or T.H. Huxley “racists” – because of the language they used from time to time in their books, fine.

Just be sure you call Abraham Lincoln a racist too!

Oh, and his “disciples” – the present day Republicans-like Mike- are also “racists”, since you love to employ such extrapolation for “disciples” of Darwin .

No comments: