The racism of creationism

A cartoon from Answers in Genesis

The intellectual arguments for young earth creationism are rather lacking, but YECs do have some emotional arguments that pack a bit of a punch. These revolve around moral evils that they claim result from evolution, notably racism and eugenics. In the resulting discussion any evolution proponent is typically put on the defensive and there tends to be a focus on the facts of the matter. Was Hitler’s genocide actually inspired by evolution?

As a result I think these conversations tend to miss the elephant in the room: the racism of creationism.

A key example of what I’m talking about is Dr Henry Morris’ (regarded by many as the father of modern creationism) book The Beginning of the World: A scientific study of Genesis 1-11. This is a pro-creationism work that describes the failings of evolution, as well as the Genesis narrative itself. That last bit is where things start to get nasty.

Chapter 11 is called “Origins of Races and Nations” and opens with a discussion of how “race” is an invented, evolutionary idea. Nonetheless, Morris continues, there are certain…distinctions between groups of people. He claims that these are the result of Noah’s flood. After all life had been destroyed the earth was repopulated by Noah’s 3 sons, Shem, Japeth and Ham. Each of the resulting 3 families has different characteristics they inherited from their respective son.

Shem…with his concern for the Lord and His honor, will through his descendants lead men to
know and follow God. Japheth also, with his more serious approach to life and its meaning, will see his descendants enlarged geographically and mentally, coming to dwell finally in the spiritual house built by
the children of Shem. The children of Ham, however…will have to be content with giving service to both Shem and Japheth providing the material basis of human society

So we have the religious Shemmits, the smart Japethites and the Hamites, whose role is to be “servants” of the other two races families. But just who are the Hamites? Morris explains that….

Thus, all of the earth’s “colored” races — yellow, red, brown, and black; essentially the Afro-Asian group
of peoples, including the American Indians — are possibly Hamitic in origin

Although this is a deplorable view, Morris is careful to point out that he doesn’t just mean the Hamites were meant to be the literal servants of everyone else. Rather, they serve mankind by coming up with all sorts of inventions. Nonetheless, the Hamites are simply not smart enough to fully exploit their work.

The Japhethites and Semites have, sooner or later, taken over their territories and their inventions, and then developed them and utilized them for their own enlargement. Often the Hamites, especially the Negroes, have become actual personal servants or even slaves to the others. Possessed of a genetic character concerned mainly with mundane matters, they were eventually displaced by the intellectual and philosophical acumen of the Japhethites and the religious zeal of the Semites.

So, Dr Morris, grand-daddy of creationism, believes that the “coloured races” lack the intelligence to rise to prominence and will simply form the foundation (sometimes literally) of more developed societies. And the worst bit of all is that Morris doesn’t think that this is necessarily a bad thing, but the

inevitable fulfilment of…the innate natures of the three genetic stocks.

Some creationists, in an effort to (understandably) distance themselves from this position, may complain that this book was originally published in 1977 and so does not reflect current creationist views about the various races families. However, I think this ignores two key facts.

First, the book is still being reprinted and sold by the publishers. In fact they’re currently giving away free copies of the book from Creation Conversations; a forum run by the publishers. Secondly, these views about Noah’s sons are still being espoused by modern creationists. 

Answers in Genesis wrote earlier this year in their News to Note that…

Noah never cursed his son Ham, but he did prophecy in Genesis 9:24–27 that the descendants of Ham’s son—Noah’s grandson, Canaan—would somehow serve those of his brothers.

Although they’re careful to point out that the prophesied failings of Hamites are not linked to the skin tone, they still maintain that the Hamites include a large part of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. In other words, the “coloured” Hamites are destined to be servants, but the fact they’re not white is purely a coincidence. This is hardly an improvement on Morris’ original position.

Meanwhile Ken Ham (CEO of Answers in Genesis), wrote in his personal blog this year (2013)

One only has to look at Canaan’s [a son of Ham] descendants to see some of the most-wicked rebellious people who ever lived and who were judged for their godlessness and immorality.

Again, Ham is careful to note that Canaan’s evil (and the resulting curse from Noah bequeathed on his descendants) was not connected to his skin colour but he does note that the Hamites include

Chinese, Egypt, Libya, West Africa (Phut), Middle East (Canaan), Sinai, Hindu Kush in Asia and Mizoram in Asia, many island nations of Asia, Ethiopia and lower Africa, Babylonia, some of the American tribes (e.g., Athabascans), Portugal, and Spain (due to the Moors mixing)

So Ham, perhaps one of the most influential modern creationists, still maintains that the Hamites have innate failings and it was their genetic destiny to be enslaved. But it’s their relationship to Ham, not their skin colour, that makes this true so it totally isn’t racist.

What an enlightened view.

14 thoughts on “The racism of creationism

  1. On the other hand, Darwin was kicked off the Beagle (at least once, maybe twice, I forget) for his opposition to slavery.

    • With this background of how they view “races” suddenly a lot of creationist literature becomes much more sinister. For example,

      “The current states of culture of the races, which varies from space age to stone age, from animal worship and spirit worship to Christianity, is not a result of innocent, ignorant people searching for improvement. It is a direct consequence of whether the ancestors of any race worshipped the living God or deliberately rejected Him.”

      In other words those “coloured” Hamites had it coming to them because Ham rejected God!

  2. You are really putting your foot in a thing here.
    You must be as emotionally blinded by your irritation with these creationists, as they are by their faith.
    And I am not saying faith is wrong. I have faith.
    If I understand correctly, you are saying there are no differences between the races?
    Have you ever looked at Darwins depiction of the finches. Different ecological conditions effects
    different physical attributes?
    Why not then in humans?
    Or do I have to inform you on differences?
    If there are physical observable differences, why would there not be other differences. Whether
    science has studies or proven them or not? Are there not numerous religious groups in your own culture.
    What is the basis of those different groups? Emotional ? What are emotions? Chemistry perhaps? Can emotions be treated or influenced by chemicals?
    I live between various different races. If there are not broad distinctly observable differences, I am a peanut.
    I am not saying one is necessarily inferior to the other.
    I am saying there are differences physiologically, sociologically, psychologically and spiritually.
    That that should be recognized, understood (if possible) and respected. Whether the differences are
    good or bad.
    I agree. Racism is a bad thing. But is is a natural phenomena. Even to a degree in the animal world. Practiced by simple minded people. But they generally have no knowledge and their “faith”can blind them to it.
    You, on the other hand, should be open minded as a scientist. Come to understand and help improve the situation.
    Otherwise stick strictly to scientific facts. They are generally very interesting.

    • I was not making any statements about race myself, simply noting that many young earth creationists hold that certain groups of humans are inferior than others. This is a racist view, which makes it ironic that they often criticise evolution for being racist.

  3. If you don’t think the early evolutionists were not racist you are living in a bubble. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised the creation of the British Empire was not founded in racism. The most racist was a British [Chamberlain I believe] who started the eugenics movement. Don’t put the burden on Creationists when early anthropologists were just as bad. If there is a residue of racism in Creationist writing it is a fringe element.

    • Anthropology certainly does have a dicey past, but that’s the things. It’s the past. This is a view advocated by modern creationists; and I don’t think they can be dismissed as fringe either. I was quoting from Dr Henry Morris, founder of the Institution for Creation Research and the key populariser of “creation science”, and Answers in Genesis, arguably the most prominent modern American creationists. They’re the folks behind the $24 million dollar creation museum, so can’t be easily ignored.

      • The point is that, at the same time as pointing to racism in the history of evolution, creationists are promoting racism RIGHT NOW. Moreover, if we’re digging into the past, the offending verses from Genesis have been used to justify enslaving or mistreating Africans from ancient times up to and including apartheid South Africa.

        • In fairness to them they claim that enslavement shouldn’t be justified through their views. Rather, non-whites will naturally become our servants as a result of their innate nature. We don’t have to force it.

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