Back before I settled into this blog I would just write for half an hour on whatever I fancied then give up. Going through some of these old posts I (re)stumbled across one of the more horrific misguided (mis)uses of evolutionary anthropology. It’s from Across the Fruited Plain of “lets invent radiocarbon inconsistencies” fame and their post concerns the new Chinese hominins that were found a while back.
This horror doesn’t arrive until right at the end of the post. Before then there’s some old creationist canards like “evolution means life has no purpose” or “there are no transitional forms” or “nebraska man!!!!!1111!!!”. Although a handful of novel arguments do make it into the post – along with a few ideas I applaud the author for (they want to see the original bones which is a desire to investigate matters I can only encourage) – just when you think this is nothing more than an above average, albeit not revolutionary, post you run into this paragraph of terror.
4. How can evolution theorists not see how insulting and racist this is as a concept?
Many people do not realize that the full title of Darwin’s chief work is not called “Origin of Species” but rather On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life . That’s right, “Favoured Races”. To begin with, I am insulted by the notion that my ancestors were primates and that I share a common heritage with earthworms. However, were I of African descent, I would be mortified and indignant that people could believe the races evolved and were promoting the idea by depicting a black man with transitional ape-like features! If the races evolved, then some must have evolved further than others. Naturally Hitler and the Third Reich thought it was the blonde hair, blue eyed Germans (Aryan). Meanwhile they viewed Africans as “Predominantly Ape.” Columbine shooters and evolution enthusiasts Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold made a video tape prior to the Columbine shootings. On that tape they said, talking about one of the football players, “He doesn’t deserve the jaw evolution gave him. Look for his jaw, it won’t be on his body.” These two boys were very strong believers in evolution and one of them wore a shirt that said “Natural Selection” according to the autopsy. They did the shooting on Hitler’s birthday on purpose. They shot Isaiah Shoels simply because he was black.
What was going on in their thinking?
Evolution Theory led them to believe that blacks have evolved last and were thus expendable.
This paragraph is terrible because it’s exploiting real human tragedy merely for the emotional punch it lands. There’s no rational reason to drag such tragedies into the discussion since ultimately the only connection between them and evolution is fallacious. Even if Origin was Hitler’s manifesto that would say nothing to the validity of the theory, that’s just guild by association/appeal to the consequences, both of which are fallacies rendering the argument irrelevant. It’s only brought up to score emotional points in an argument and such an exploitation is simply despicable. You might be insulted by being related to earthworms but I am insulted by the way you play on human tragedy.
On top of that it’s simply factually wrong for the most part. The entire reason someone of “African descent” should take offence is based off a warped idea of evolution – that it is a “ladder” with some people further up it than others. In reality it’s a bush with branches growing in all different directions and no single group “more” evolved than another. Further, as far as we can tell the Chinese hominin is of African descent, being most similar to the archaic humans common on that continent, so characterising them as such is as accurate as we can be. And that’s forgetting that this group is not a direct relative to any human but a “cousin” branch like the neanderthals so should have no impact on how you perceive modern humans.
The “ladder” mistake is also prevalent throughout attempts to use evolution to justify eugenics and other such crimes. In other words, evolution is not so much responsible for these offences as a bastardisation of the idea is. Whenever Hitler, for example, made reference to evolution it is associated with trying to make humans climb to a “higher stage of being.” In other words, that there is a ladder and that by killing the Jews he can make humans climb it. But that ladder does not exist.
In short this paragraph is found both factually and morally wanting and is highly offensive because of it. Ironic given how the creationist is attempting to make the argument that he is offended by evolution and other should be too. However, if you really want something to boil your blood then this is the kind of thing that should be looking for. This is but one example of people exploiting human tragedy just for that extra few points in an argument. And it’s reprehensible.