Racism, Religion, and Rejection of Evolution

Racism, Religion, and Rejection of Evolution July 8, 2018

In a recent blog post Steve Wiggins wrote, “The white man doesn’t believe in evolution because that makes race random rather than a deliberate act of God at the appropriately named tower of Babel.” While I found much of his advocacy for a “color blind” approach problematic, his passing suggestion that there might be a connection between racism and evolution denial seemed worth exploring further. I know that nowadays Ken Ham claims that his brand of anti-evolutionism is anti-racist whereas evolution is associated with racism. But Ham and his ilk also claim that they represent “true science” while evolutionary biology (and geology, and astronomy, and linguistics) do not. And so the distancing of young-earth creationism from racism may in fact be just another attempt to obscure the truth of the sort that characterizes YEC from start to finish. Young-earth creationism finds its main stronghold in precisely those parts of the southern United States in which slavery, segregation, racism, and discrimination are woven into the fabric of its history. Perhaps this is not a coincidence. Of course, I blogged previously about how the same approach to information (whether about biological evolution or about black people) is at work in both phenomena. And of course, many of those who embraced evolution early on interpreted it through a racist lens. Nevertheless, the fact that evolution offers an alternative to the racist quasi-biblical claim that Africans bear the mark of Cain and/or are descendants of the cursed Ham may have been a significant motivation for white southern fundamentalist Christians to reject it.

Turning to look into this, I found that Henry Morris, the grandfather of modern young-earth creationism, most certainly did hold views of this sort. And young-earth creationist literature always (and perhaps without exception, unless this has changed somewhat recently?) seems to depict Adam and Eve as white rather than as African or anything else. I’ve even come across racist nonsense online that claims the serpent in the Garden of Eden was a black man tempting the white humans God created! And so, even if they are trying to distance themselves from it now to some extent, there does seem to be a close connection between racism and young-earth creationism.

Of related interest:

Whitewashing the Past

 

 

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  • Gregory Peterson

    I’ve long thought that the main reason that white evangelicals in general have embraced their dubiously scientistic creationism is to justify as literally true the “proof texts” that they think privilege themselves as part of God’s design for mankind even the expense of “the other.”

  • Mabus101

    It was possible in the early nineties to find an argument from genetics, to the effect that humanity could diverge into multiple skin tones at once if Adam and Eve were both heterozygous for all genes controlling skin color. I don’t recall the title, though, and in any case I’m not sure the authors thought through the implications.

  • Michael Wilson

    I didn’t see a link to Wiggins original post, so I don’t know if he is joking, but
    “The white man doesn’t believe in evolution because that makes race random rather than a deliberate act of God at the appropriately named tower of Babel.”
    sounds like a parody of a Afro-centric black militant. It’s a pretty ridiculous statement since evolution was an idea thought if by white people like Darwin and is still mostly believed by white people. The idea that the rejection of evolution by Christians in Darwin’s time, Scopes, or currently is based on racism is nonsense.

    Racist did use evolution to support evolution to support racism and they used what ever scripture they thought might fit. Their racist, they use what ever club is laying around. Theoretically evolution could support racism, I suppose, but so far as we know there aren’t a lot of differences between the various populations of humans. The most separated human populations have the same potentials for genius and idiocy, art and creativity and so forth.

    Humans have developed their ideologies within a bubble that by trick of history never forced us to deal with Homo erectus or any of our other immediate ancestors. If they did then we might have to confront sapient humans races that are indeed cognitively inferior to us in a fundamental way. So far I don’t see evidence this is the case

    • Thanks for drawing to my attention that I had left the link out. I don’t follow your logic as to what makes it seem nonsensical to you that antievolutionism could be motivated by racism among other things. Could you clarify?

      Here’s the link that was missing, which I’ll also add to the post: https://steveawiggins.com/2018/06/29/homo-labelmaker/

      • Michael Wilson

        First, while the south east is the hot bed of creationism and most white evangelicals believe it, creationism is also nearly as popular in black protestant churches. further, Hispanic Catholics are a bit more likely to embrace creationism than white Catholics.

        http://www.pewforum.org/2013/12/30/publics-views-on-human-evolution/

        It doesn’t make sense to me that white Christians would support creationism for reasons contrary and unrelated to non white Christians. Education tends to be a more accurate clue in guessing whether someone believes in evolution.

        Second, racisms most egregious prejudices and effects on society were in retreat long before anyone was accepting Darwin work. The main objection that Christians had to evolution was not that it eliminated barriers between races but it eliminated boundaries between humans and animals. That distinction is very important to not only Christian, but just about every religion and philosophy before Darwin. A lot of Christians did interpret Genesis to support their racist prejudices, but by and large they accepted the common humanity of other humans vs the world of animals. Evolution opened the door for the possibility of a sub-human, something not really anticipated by Christianity.

        Evolution by natural selection does make race a random part of the world, but that world view makes all of the natural world random. I really doubt that white Christians are really ready to accept that their human existence, ideas of morality, the distribution of good and so forth are random acts of nature but cannot let go of the notion that God made them white and endowed them with superior traits yet non white believers in creationism, Christian and other, aren’t worried about God ordaining their race but can’t accept that we are just the spawn of apes.

        also interesting,
        https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2009/jul/01/evolution
        a grab bag of nations from Asia, Europe, the Americas, and Africa views on evolution. again, not much of a racial divide.

  • The Mouse Avenger

    A very interesting & fascinating article, I have to say… ^_^

    But there’s just one little thing that bugs me on a technical level:

    “The white man doesn’t believe in evolution because that makes race random rather than a deliberate act of God at the appropriately named tower of Babel.”

    The Tower Of Babel incident did not result in the formation of our different races & ethnicities, but the splintering & ultimate progression of languages from the Afro-Asiatic (or Hamito-Semitic) family, which I surmise to be the Adamic language. The year that the Afro-Asiatic family began to split apart, may very well be the proper candidate for the year that the Tower Of Babel incident occurred; this year, according to research, was no later than the 6th millennium B.C. (Goodness, I just love digging into the history behind the Bible! ^_^ )

    As for the race issue, I found a very intriguing essay about the Table Of Nations, & how it fits into what we know about anthropology & related things (or vice versa):
    http://www.soundchristian.com/man/