This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← The real danger in Darwin is not evolution, but racism

The real danger in Darwin is not evolution, but racism - Comments

Dax's Avatar Comment 1 by Dax

Funny, especially considering that Darwin was dismayed by the treatment of slaves in South America. Was Darwin making things up or is Campolo making things up?

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 16:49:00 UTC | #109694

Arcturus's Avatar Comment 2 by Arcturus

Well, the Catholic Church drew from the Bible and burned and destroyed so many lives through the Inquisition. Why the hell do we still have Catholics around reading from the Bible, surely this book is very dangerous !!!

Weren't those people sacred and of infinite worth???

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 16:58:00 UTC | #109697

MPhil's Avatar Comment 3 by MPhil

Even if all that is said of Darwin's opinions in this article were true - I don't know, but I guess Prof. Dawkins will be eager to respond - that does not change the fact that he discovered a scientific principle that is, like all empirical science, completely unconnected with prescriptive ethics.

Maybe Darwin was a racist, maybe he wasn't. It doesn't matter. Why does this person who is supposedly intelligent commit this obvious fallacy of equating the scientific theory of evolution (and the corresponding facts of evolution) with Darwin's personal opinion.
Yes, the idea of animal ancestry of humans (and yes, I am aware that humans are animals, too... I think you know what I'm getting at) can strengthen the belief of some people in "higher" or "nobler" and more "primitive" races among humankind... but this has nothing to do with the theory of evolution.

Even if it were true that black people were genetically slightly closer to the other great apes than Europeans - can you imaging some racist saying "Yes! They share 0.001 % more genetic material with those lowly primates than us - this completely justifies our regarding them as beings so low that they should be eradicated!"

Aside from the fact that Darwin couldn't have known of genetics, but only of physiognomy to determine the relationship....What utter, utter nonsense!

Oh, and of course "God's chosen country" and "God's chosen people" isn't nationalist and racist at all *cough*.

Tony Camplono wants children to learn that there is "a mystical quality in human beings that makes each of us sacred and of infinite worth."

...can't you hear them? "I have more mystical quality than you! "Christians are more in touch with their mystical quality than you heathens!"

So, Camplono wants them to learn wild, absolutely baseless metaphysical speculation that would offend every philosopher and sceptic in its arbitrariness alongside scientific fact.

Give me a break! Seriously, the nerve some people have!

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:02:00 UTC | #109698

82abhilash's Avatar Comment 4 by 82abhilash

Darwin was not advocating genocide. Merely predicting ways in which "more fit" varieties within a species would displace other varieties.

But yes Darwinism has within it the potential to create toxic racist cults based on pseudoscience, when devoid of objectivity and intellectual honesty.

However keep in mind that teaching nuclear physics has within it the potential to create mad scientists who will develop a bomb to destroy the world as we know it. Yet no one is using that excuse to prevent the teaching of good physics.

I would like to hear Richard Dawkins comment on this article.

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:03:00 UTC | #109701

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 5 by Steve Zara

Konrad Lorenz, a biologist who belonged to the Nazi Office for Race Policy and whose work supported Nazi theories of "racial hygiene," made Darwin's theories the basis for his reasoning.

From Wikipedia, about Lorenz:
When accepting the Nobel Prize, he apologized for a 1940 publication that included Nazi views of science, saying that "many highly decent scientists hoped, like I did, for a short time for good from National Socialism, and many quickly turned away from it with the same horror as I."

Regardless of how we got here, we should recognize that there is an infinite qualitative difference between the most highly developed ape and each and every human being. Darwin never recognized this disjuncture. And that is why his theories are dangerous.

So humans are infinitely better than apes. What arrogant nonsense. I would far rather call a chimpanzee or orang-utan cousin than this fellow.

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:08:00 UTC | #109702

mandrellian's Avatar Comment 6 by mandrellian

I almost gave up after reading the title of the article. After reading the whole thing I realised my first instinct was right.

Deluded, dangerous idiots have for centuries used other peoples' thoughts, usually completely out of context, to justify every kind of injustice and horror imaginable (generally they've used religious myth to do it). This does not mean the original author had the same evil intent as his later parrots and this article is merely yet another transparent, straw-clutching attempt to cloud the real issues and slight Darwin's work by casting aspersions on his character and motivations. It's the classic desperation attack: when in doubt, call anyone who disagrees with you a frickin Nazi.

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:10:00 UTC | #109703

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 7 by Diacanu

I got to the sixth paragraph and stopped.

Is it worth trudging forward, or is it the same old bullshit?

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:11:00 UTC | #109705

Wosret's Avatar Comment 8 by Wosret

Just one big long ad hominem attack. I would not be surpized if it were all true of Darwin. Racism was by no means unique at that time, even the most liberal and progressives of the day were incredibily racist by today's standards. That in no way invalidates any ideas forwarded by the man.

It is logically fallacious to say that someone's argument is worthless because they were a racist.

Also, I think it is quite the opposite. For a good needed humbling we need to recognize that we are just another animal. Also to elevate other living things up in the eyes of these egoists. So they don't just kill and kill and kill without a flinch. It is a lot harder to do knowing that you are killing cousins.

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:13:00 UTC | #109707

Corylus's Avatar Comment 9 by Corylus

Professor Campolo supplies remarkably few quotes to back up his assessment of Darwin's views.

In fact, none.

I always feel ashamed of myself when I haven't read the books quoted in articles, but I only have so much time. (E.g. I always meant to read Origin of Species, but I had it down as superseeded by more recent research).

Can anyone shed any light on these peculiar assertions?

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:14:00 UTC | #109708

Opisthokont's Avatar Comment 11 by Opisthokont

Right, and Hitler's religiously-inspired views of the Jews had nothing at all to do with anything.

On the other hand, Hitler's whole political platform was based on the superiority of everything German -- culture as well as race. Based on that, we should also ban the music of Richard Wagner and the writings of Goethe. The Brothers Grimm were highly concerned about preserving the German culture (that was their primary motivation for compiling their collections of fairy tales) -- should their other main pursuit, linguistics, be denied us as well? I suppose if we just pretend that Germany did not exist at all, we would be that much better off.

Meanwhile, this fellow criticises people for not referring to Darwin's most famous book by its full title, while apparently either ignorant or suppressive of the contemporary meaning of the term "race". I suspect that he has not actually read Darwin himself, either -- or if he has, he has done so only with the intent to twist the meaning of every sentence that he can into condemnation, regardless of context or intent.

The misrepresentation (not to mention the fallacious appeal to consequenses) is painful. But, I must add, snark is a lot of fun, and I suppose that I should be happy for people like this that I can have a chance to practice the latter.

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:20:00 UTC | #109711

MPhil's Avatar Comment 10 by MPhil

Regardless of how we got here, we should recognize that there is an infinite qualitative difference between the most highly developed ape and each and every human being. Darwin never recognized this disjuncture. And that is why his theories are dangerous.

Wow, didn't even read that one, I was so enraged.

Well, you know me - I'd say complex grammatical language and multi-meta-level thought as well as the things we have because of that - like highly complex artifacts for "outsourcing" the contents of our mind do show that there is a qualitative difference of some sort... but it is certainly not infinite, and it is certainly not supernatural, mystical or whatever in nature. Apes are just bodies with highly developed nervous systems - we are just bodies with highly developed nervous systems. Ours is just capable of meta-level conscious activity and more systematic, linguaformal activity... S O W H A T

Yes, I think the increased cognitive capacity, resulting in more articulate emotions (think of psychological torture) entitles us to consider the well-being of a human more important than the well-being of an insect... but this has nothing to do with "being better", least of all infinitely better.
We're all made of the same stuff, there is no magical ingredient in humans that isn't there in apes.

Steve, you're absolutely right: What astoundingly arrogant nonsense!

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:20:00 UTC | #109710

QuickEye's Avatar Comment 12 by QuickEye

This would be the case if Darwin's books (or any scientific work, for that matter) would be unchangeable, "carved in stone" as the Bible. In that case the author might have a point.
But that is not how science works, and that is the beauty of it. Scientific theories develop or get discarded as time goes by. The advances made in other fields of science influence even the theory of evolution, and claims made in the name of Darwinism necessarily have to comply with the science of TODAY, not of Darwin's own time. So if Darwin made statements that were disproved later, those statements can not be part of today's Darwinism. Scientific thinking not just allows this development, but it is the essence of it, as far as I can judge.
This might be a tough concept to "swallow" for people who are used to the idea of the unquestionable authority of a book...

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:22:00 UTC | #109712

ianmkz's Avatar Comment 13 by ianmkz

we should recognize that there is an infinite qualitative difference between the most highly developed ape and each and every human being.
Ah... you lost me there. In fact, given the relative sizes of the populations, I suspect the great apes may have a higher individual value.

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:26:00 UTC | #109715

82abhilash's Avatar Comment 14 by 82abhilash

Now in case some of you may be wondering whether it was a coincidence that Western societies where and have remained technologically and scientifically the most progressive society in the world. And in case some of you maybe thinking whether there is something special in the genes that can explain that. Well there is not. Dr. James D. Watson, who should have known better, made a remark to that extent and was rightly reprimanded.

But by far the most rational explanation so far has been proposed by Jared Diamond in his book Guns, Germs and Steel along with a PBS documentary by the same name. I found it very enlightening:

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:27:00 UTC | #109716

Corylus's Avatar Comment 15 by Corylus

Ok, I was cross when I first read this and didn't pick up this one.

Some creationists fear Darwin because his theories contradict their literal biblical belief that creation occurred in six 24-hour days. But they do not get at the real dangers of Darwinism. They do not realize that an explanation of the development of biological organisms over eons of time really does not pose the great threat to the dignity of our humanity that they suppose. Instead, they, along with the rest of us, should really fear the ethical implications of Darwin's original writings.
The man is trying to portray himself as both smarter than the creationists and morally superior to both them and evolutionists.

I smell an agenda. Is he after a new political job?

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:31:00 UTC | #109717

MPhil's Avatar Comment 16 by MPhil

Hitler platform wasn't based on the superiority of everything German, but everything "Arian". So add all culture of the "nordic peoples" as well.

Yes, German culture is wonderful (or so I happen to think, but I love all great cultural artifacts I have the linguistic ability to aprpeciate, regardless of something as arbitrary as nationality)- Goethe, Schiller, Novalis, Lessing, Eichendorff, Brecht, Hesse, Mann, Borchert, Benn, Nietzsche, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, Haydn, Händel to name only very few.. and to preserve it is an admirable, worthy cause. But to denigrate and dismiss everything else on the basis that it is not "Arian"? How silly is that? Not very much more silly than thinking that "recognising" the "mystical quality" in humans is essential to being moral.

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:31:00 UTC | #109718

82abhilash's Avatar Comment 17 by 82abhilash

MPhil Hitler was Austrian by the way, not German. Just FYI.

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:33:00 UTC | #109720

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 18 by Diacanu

These shitty little articles, and shitty little books from the apologist crowd are just going to get weaselier, and nastier aren't they?

They'll shoot themselves in the foot.
Let 'em.

Let them blow a big stink cloud in the air that everyone can smell, especially their flock.

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:34:00 UTC | #109722

IaninPA's Avatar Comment 19 by IaninPA

I'm sorry but you have all thus far missed the most amazing revelation in this article.

Clinton had a pastoral counselor!


Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:38:00 UTC | #109723

Gymnopedie's Avatar Comment 20 by Gymnopedie

Wow. All that because the author doesn't understand what the word "race" meant in Darwin's writings.

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:39:00 UTC | #109724

MPhil's Avatar Comment 21 by MPhil

Being German, and having had the good fortune to receive a rather good and thorough education, I was actually aware of the fact that Hitler was born in Braunau, Austria. But of course, with the Nazi craze (and Austria joining up willingly - far more willingly than they care to admit) Austria was considered to be part of Germany, and later "annexed" (willingly) into the Reich.

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:39:00 UTC | #109725

devolve's Avatar Comment 22 by devolve

Even if Darwin had been a frothing, racist, eugenics advocate (he wasn't), it has no bearing on evolution theory. IF that had been the case, it wouldn't make "Darwin's theories" dangerous any more than gravitation theory would be made "dangerous" if Newton, Einstein, Hawking, and my dog all advocated skydiving without a parachute.

I wonder if Campolo would similarly claim that Christianity is also a "dangerous idea" because the Church was a profoundly bloodthirsty institution (certainly moreso than Darwin ever aspired to be, racist or not) in centuries past?

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:50:00 UTC | #109726

BAEOZ's Avatar Comment 23 by BAEOZ

When Darwin referred to race, he didn't mean it in the sense we now use it. It was synonymous with species back then.

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:53:00 UTC | #109727

theantitheist's Avatar Comment 24 by theantitheist

Those of you asking for Richard to comment on the article, i would ask why?

It's a waste of anyone's time to try to refute any of the 'arguements'. It's complete bollocks from start to finish, rather then give it to Richard give it to a class of primary school kids and ask them to run through it and make arguements for or against it. Unless it was a faith school, i'm sure even they could rip it apart (given a good teacher).

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:58:00 UTC | #109729

Glen Davidson's Avatar Comment 25 by Glen Davidson

The man is such a bozo. Take this part:

Those who argue at school board meetings that Darwin should be taught in public schools seldom have taken the time to read him.

Who has ever said that Darwin should be taught in public schools? It's like this idiot simply read the dishonest propaganda of the Discovery Institute, and decided that we who accept science indeed have a holy writ called "Origin," and we wish it to be taught.

Have a clue, ridiculous man, we don't want to "teach Darwin," we want to teach science, which has moved far past Darwin.

If they knew the full title of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life, they might have gained some inkling of the racism propagated by this controversial theorist.

And this is a particularly vapid and ignorant twisting of what the title actually related (btw, it is said to have not been Darwin's original title, rather one suggested by the publisher). It is well-known by those who are qualified to opine in this matter, that "races" there referred to "varieties," and the "Origin" did not discuss human "races". Campolo is taking an especially bad interpretation by the creationists (by the way, the Expelled trailer highlights the subtitle as well, undoubtedly trying to dishonestly make use of the changing meaning of "race" from that time to this time), and trying to make a case against Darwin based on that tendentious and incorrect interpretation.

I am not unaware that Darwin had racist notions, which showed up in some of his work. I do doubt most of Campolo's specific charges, however, primarily because of how dishonestly (I don't care that he probably ignorantly believes what he writes, he is obliged to know better when he writes in a major publication) he deals with the title as well as his wholly incorrect sense of what this controversy is about. We're not in the least trying to teach the writings of Darwin, or even "Darwinism" (in America we typically don't call MET "Darwinism", though it is more common in the UK to do so), we're wishing to teach an evolved theory which has left behind most of Darwin's Victorian prejudices, along with the fairly embryonic state of evolutionary theory in Darwin's time.

Glen Davidson

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 18:02:00 UTC | #109730

LorienRyan's Avatar Comment 26 by LorienRyan

Isn't this just the 'you can't have morals without God' arguement re-packaged?

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 18:13:00 UTC | #109732

Goldy's Avatar Comment 27 by Goldy

MPhil Hitler was Austrian by the way, not German. Just FYI
An arbitary line in the same (or mountains, in this case) doesn't mean much...

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 18:14:00 UTC | #109733

al-rawandi's Avatar Comment 28 by al-rawandi


Hitler considered himself from the Ost Mark, or Sud Mark. He thought it was all German.

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 18:16:00 UTC | #109735

Goldy's Avatar Comment 29 by Goldy

That us Dutch people are obviosly supirior to the rest of you cretins because of our world reknown tolerence- not to mention great speling abilities

Aaah, but the English ability to be able to talk and present complex ideas while keeping his hands in his pockets obviously makes us top of the pile! ;-) And our conquering a fiendish spelling system AND not having the need to learn other languages...I could go on :-D

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 18:18:00 UTC | #109736

MPhil's Avatar Comment 30 by MPhil

Am I getting something wrong, or are saying that I was being intolerant and acting superior?
What's intolerant or arrogant about saying that I love the works of these composers, writers and philosophers and that I'm also very fond of the works of other artists from other cultures?

I really hope I misunderstood you there, because if I didn't, then your comment was frankly insulting.

Wed, 23 Jan 2008 18:19:00 UTC | #109737