Missing the link between Darwin and racism
Published: 12 October 2014 (GMT+10)
In an article titled Sorry, atheists, but you’re wrong: The death of Love your neighbour, CMI highlighted how much Australian society had changed for the worse and linked that to the increasing acceptance of evolutionary ideas.
Anthony B., from France, in a comment on the article, said evolution should not be blamed and suggested the ‘religious’ had a part to play in the poor treatment of Aboriginal Australians in the 19th century. He wrote:
The rise in gratuitous violence is a disgrace, but as to whether the theory of evolution is to blame is somewhat controversial. In the 19C in your country the violence meted out to aborigenes [sic] was carried out when people were far more religious than today.
Violence is indeed ‘a disgrace’; but it’s a pity that the perpetrators of the gratuitous violence don’t seem to see it as such. And how is teaching them an evolutionary view of their origins going to change their minds?
But in any case, Anthony B. clearly did not think through his comment and/or chose to ignore the historical record which shows that it was evolutionary thinking that convinced society that indigenous Australians were ‘living missing links’. From that flowed countless heinous acts of murder, etc, many of which were done for the ‘benefit’ of allegedly ‘scientific’ knowledge.
In his book One Human Family, CMI’s Managing Director Dr Carl Wieland reveals the depth of the problem. The following extract shows clearly, with documentation, that it was the rush to adopt Charles Darwin’s ideas that fuelled a dramatic upsurge in shameful actions:
Aboriginals bearing the brunt
An unusual book was published in 1974, called Aborigines in White Australia: A Documentary History of the Attitudes Affecting Official Policy and the Australian Aborigine 1697–1973.1 Apart from a few introductory/editorial comments, it consists almost entirely of substantial excerpts from documents. These are parliamentary transcripts, court records, letters to editors, anthropological reports, and so forth. Far from showing a progressive enlightenment in the attitudes of the colonists as time goes on, one can see a distinct change for the worse after 1859, with a marked increase in callousness, ill-treatment and brutality towards Aboriginal people being evident in official attitudes. This is not lost on the editor of the above book, who writes:
“In 1859 Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species popularized the notion of biological (and therefore social) evolution. Scholars began to discuss civilization as a unilinear process with races able to ascend or descend a graduated scale. The European was … the ‘fittest to survive’ … [The Aboriginal] was doomed to die out according to a ‘natural law’, like the dodo and the dinosaur. This theory, supported by the facts at hand [i.e. that Aboriginal folk were dying out from ill-treatment and disease—CW] continued to be quoted until well into the twentieth century when it was noticed that the dark-skinned race was multiplying. Until that time it could be used to justify neglect and murder.”
From the book’s transcript of an interrogation of a policeman during a Royal Commission of Inquiry in 1861 (p. 83), we read concerning the use of force against tribal Aboriginals:
“‘And if we did not punish the blacks they would look upon it as a confession of weakness?’
‘Yes, that is exactly my opinion.’
‘It is a question as to which is the strongest race—if we submit to them they would despise us for it?’
The influence of evolutionary thinking can also be seen in another excerpt from Aborigines in White Australia, on p. 100. The writer quoted, also author of an 1888 book, is justifying the killing of the native population in the State of Victoria. He writes:
“As to the ethics of the question, there can be drawn no final conclusion.”
He says that this is because it is
“a question of temperament; to the sentimental it is undoubtedly an iniquity; to the practical it represents a distinct step in human progress, involving the sacrifice of a few thousands of an inferior race. … But the fact is that mankind, as a race, cannot choose to act solely as moral beings. They are governed by animal laws which urge them blindly forward upon tracks they scarce can choose for themselves.”
In other words, he is justifying ‘iniquity’ (another word for sin) by appealing to the ‘animal laws’ of the evolutionary struggle for survival. Opposition can be dismissed as ‘sentimental’—lacking understanding of such ‘natural laws’.
There were isolated voices of protest. On p. 93, we read of a letter writer to an Australian newspaper in 1880, who, incensed by the treatment of his fellow man, stated:
“This, in plain language, is how we deal with the aborigines: On occupying new territory the aboriginal inhabitants are treated exactly in the same way as the wild beasts or birds the settlers may find there. Their lives and their property, the nets, canoes, and weapons which represent as much labor to them as the stock and buildings of the white settler, are held by the Europeans as being at their absolute disposal. Their goods are taken, their children forcibly stolen, their women carried away, entirely at the caprice of white men. The least show of resistance is answered by a rifle bullet … [those] who fancied the amusement have murdered, ravished, and robbed the blacks without let or hindrance. Not only have they been unchecked, but the Government of the colony has been always at hand to save them from the consequences of their crime.”2
But such voices were readily drowned out by the fashionable science of the day. Three pages further on, we read of someone else, also writing in an 1880 newspaper, who said:
“Nothing that we can do will alter the inscrutable and withal immutable laws which direct our progress on this globe. By these laws the native races of Australia were doomed on the advent of the white man, and the only thing left for us to do is to assist in carrying them out [i.e. helping the ‘laws’ of evolution by hastening the Aborigines’ doom—CW] with as little cruelty as possible … We must rule the blacks by fear … .”3
Australian secular historian Joanna Cruickshank acknowledges, if somewhat reluctantly, not only the baneful effects of the Darwin-inspired ‘scientific racism’ on Australian Aboriginals, but the way in which belief in our common descent from Adam and Eve operated to temper such thinking. In a recent article4 on the topic, she writes:
“Supporters of Darwin have understandably often been reluctant to acknowledge how closely entangled Darwinism and social Darwinism were, preferring to distance Darwin from his theory’s evil twin.
“Yet those who debated the theory of evolution in the late nineteenth century were keenly aware of this connection … . Nowhere was this more obvious than in Australia.”
She writes how by 1876, the library of a typical squatter (pastoralist) consisted of books by Shakespeare, John Stuart Mill, and Darwin. The pattern, widespread today, of church leaders anxious to compromise with this new ‘scientific’ ideology, was already evident. She writes how in 1869, a Reverend Bromby gave a public lecture defending Darwin’s book, in which he
“followed Darwin’s logic in using the apparent dying out of Aboriginal people as evidence for evolution.
“In response, the Anglican Bishop of Melbourne, Charles Perry, attacked both Bromby’s evidence and his conclusions. Perry critiqued what he saw as the scientific inadequacies of Darwin’s book.
“In particular, however, Perry attacked the view that human beings could be divided by race—or any other category—into ‘savage’ and ‘civilised’ … .”
Cruickshank explains that Bromby represented the ‘progressive’ wing of the Church of England. Betraying her pro-evolution bias, she calls him “open to scientific evidence” and “dismissive of biblical literalism.”
“Perry, by contrast, was a staunch evangelical, uncomfortable with the theological implications of Darwin’s theory and horrified at what he saw as a threat to the biblical claim that all humanity was formed of ‘one blood.’”
Cruickshank goes on to say that when legislation was passed
“enshrining the ‘White Australia’ policy and effectively denying Aboriginal people the vote, few voices were raised in protest. Progressives and conservatives alike saw the preservation of the more evolved white race as central to national identity.
“Those few protests against the policy came from unlikely quarters. The fledgling New South Wales Aborigines Mission, a small evangelical organization, pointed out that while most politicians claimed ‘to be ultrademocratic, they are sadly conservative in democratic practice, and unChristian both in theory and in practice when they say that a native born Australian is not a man and a brother because his skin happens to be a few shades darker than their own.’
Finally, and very significantly for our purposes here, this secular historian states:
“In earlier periods, one of the few persistent barriers to social Darwinist theory in Australia was the Christian doctrine that all human beings were of ‘one blood.’”
A gruesome trade
The body parts of Australian Aboriginal folk were keenly sought after. Following Darwin and his contemporaries, they were regarded by scientists and other evolutionary enthusiasts as ‘living missing links’. The remains of some 10,000 dead Aboriginal people in all were shipped to British museums over the course of this frenzy to provide specimens for this ‘new science’.5
David Monaghan, an Australian journalist, extensively documented these—and far worse—effects of evolutionary belief. He spent 18 months researching his subject in London, culminating in an article in Australia’s Bulletin magazine6 and a TV documentary called Darwin’s Body-Snatchers. This aired in Britain on October 8, 1990.
Along with museum curators from around the world, Monaghan says, some of the top names in British science were involved in this large-scale grave-robbing trade. These included anatomist Sir Richard Owen, anthropologist Sir Arthur Keith, and Charles Darwin himself. Darwin wrote asking for Tasmanian skulls when only four full-blooded native Tasmanians were left alive. (Ever the Victorian gentleman, his request came with a caveat; provided, that is, that it would not upset their feelings.)
American evolutionists, too, were strongly involved in this flourishing ‘industry’ of gathering specimens of ‘sub-humans’, according to Monaghan. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington holds the remains of 15,000 individuals of various groups of people.
Museums were not only interested in bones, but in fresh skins as well. These would provide interesting evolutionary displays when stuffed. Pickled Aboriginal brains were also in demand, to try to demonstrate that they were inferior to those of whites.
Good prices were being offered for such specimens. Monaghan shows, on the basis of written evidence from the time, that there is little doubt that many of the ‘fresh’ specimens were obtained by simply going out and killing the Aboriginal people. The way in which the requests for specimens were announced was often a poorly disguised invitation to do just that. A death-bed memoir from Korah Wills, who became mayor of Bowen, Queensland, in 1866, graphically described how he killed and dismembered a local tribesman in 1865 to provide a scientific specimen.
Monaghan’s research indicated that Edward Ramsay, curator of the Australian Museum in Sydney for 20 years from 1874, was particularly heavily involved. He published a museum booklet which appeared to include his, my and your Aboriginal relatives under the designation of ‘Australian animals’. It also gave instructions not only on how to rob graves, but also on how to plug up bullet wounds in freshly killed ‘specimens’.
Many freelance collectors worked under Ramsay’s guidance. Four weeks after he had requested skulls of Bungee (Russell River) blacks, a keen young science student sent him two, announcing that they, the last of their tribe, had just been shot. In the 1880s, Monaghan writes, Ramsay complained that laws recently passed in Queensland to stop the slaughter of Aboriginals were affecting his supply.
The Angel of Black Death
According to Monaghan’s Bulletin article, that was the nickname given to a German evolutionist, Amalie Dietrich. She came to Australia asking station7 owners for their Aboriginal workers to be shot for specimens. She was particularly interested in skin for stuffing and mounting for her museum employers. Although evicted from at least one property, she shortly returned home with her specimens.
Monaghan also recounts how a New South Wales missionary was a horrified witness to the slaughter by mounted police of a group of dozens of Aboriginal men, women and children. Forty-five heads were then boiled down and the ten best skulls were packed off for overseas.
Still in recent times
As much as one would like to think that such attitudes are long gone, remnants still linger, including in the scientific community itself. This is shown by a telling extract from a secular writer in 2004 (emphasis added):
“It has been estimated that the remains of some 50,000 Aborigines are housed in medical and scientific institutions abroad. The Tasmanian Aboriginal remains in particular are there for two reasons. First, at the time of collection they were considered to be the most primitive link in the evolutionary chain, and therefore worthy of scientific consideration. Second, each skull fetched between five and ten shillings. … in anthropological terms, while the remains maintain currency as a museum item, the notion that they are a scientific curiosity remains. Put simply, if it is now accepted that Tasmanian Aborigines are not the weakest evolutionary link, that they are simply another group of people with attendant rights to dignity and respect, there is no longer any reason to keep their remains for study. Institutions should acknowledge that by returning the remains. There are two reasons why this is not as straightforward as it appears. First, the British Museum Act of 1962 did not allow British government institutions to deaccess stored material. Second, a number of scientists haven’t accepted that Tasmanian Aborigines are not on the bottom of Social Darwinist scales, and until they do, feet are being dragged.”8
Darwinist views about the racial inferiority of Aboriginal Australians drastically influenced their treatment in other ways too. These views were backed up by alleged biological evidences, which were only much later seen for what they were—distortions based on bias. In 1908 an inspector from the Department of Aborigines in the West Kimberley region wrote that he was glad to have received an order to transport all half-castes away from their tribe to the mission. He said it was “the duty of the State” to give these children (who, by their evolutionary reasoning, were going to be intellectually superior to full-blooded Aboriginal ones) a “chance to lead a better life than their mothers”. He wrote: “I would not hesitate for one moment to separate a half-caste from an Aboriginal mother, no matter how frantic her momentary grief”.9 Notice the use of the word ‘momentary’ to qualify ‘grief’; such lesser-evolved beings, sub-human as they were, were to him clearly not capable of feeling real grief.
Many genuine Australian Christians and church institutions, though patronizing on occasion, seem to have tried to protect Aboriginal people from the full brunt of the many inhumanities sanctioned by evolutionary thinking. However, like today, most church leaders and institutions compromised in some form or another with this new Darwinian ‘science’. Virtually no Christian voice in Australia did what was required—to affirm boldly the real history of mankind as given in the Bible. For the church to have stressed regarding Aboriginal people that we all go back only a few thousand years, to Noah’s family, would have helped strongly refute both pre-Darwinian racism and the maxi-spurt it received from Darwin. It would also have anticipated the findings of modern genetics, that biologically we are all extremely closely related.
References and notes
- Edited by Sharman Stone, Heinemann Educational Books, Melbourne, 1974. Return to text.
- The full text (which makes interesting reading) can be found at trove.nla.gov.au. Return to text.
- Full text at trove.nla.gov.au. Return to text.
- Cruickshank, J., Darwin, race and religion in Australia, ABC Religion and Ethics, abc.net.au, 11 Apr 2011, accessed 13 April 2011. Return to text.
- Darwin’s bodysnatchers, Sydney Morning Herald, March 3, 1990, cited in Creation 12(3):21, 1990. The original apparently stated that only 3,000 sets of remains were left after the bombing raids of World War II. Return to text.
- Monaghan, D., The body-snatchers, The Bulletin, 12 November 1991, pp. 30–38. Return to text.
- ‘Station’ (e.g. cattle station, sheep station) is the Australian designation for what would be termed ‘ranch’ in the US. Many Aboriginal people worked on stations, often as stockmen (the equivalent of ‘cowboys’ or ‘cowhands’). Return to text.
- Onsman, A., Truganini’s funeral, Island, No. 96, 2004. Truganini was the last surviving female full-blood Tasmanian. Return to text.
- Ref. 6. p.38. Return to text.
Thank you for your continued support and defense for the cause of Christ. I have been a follower for years and always enjoyed how your responses are based on facts and wisdom, predicated upon the Bible. Thank you for standing true.
Good article. I've always found myself irritated by the excuses that this Christian group or this Christian person acted in this manner, usually referring to some violent act, as if to justify their belief just like Anthony B. is trying to suggest. Since Christ, people who murder or conquer in the name of Christ are not doing the work of Christ. I should not be able to commit genocide in the name on Anthony B and people be angry with him because of what I did in his name. Just like when someone commits some heinous act in the name of Christ. I've heard some atheists claim that Hitler was a devout Christian and believed he was doing the work of God. Don't presume that everyone that comes/does in the name of Christ is actually in Christ's will. Pick up a bible and find out for yourself if that is what the Gospel of Christ really teaches. God Bless.
When we view people as animals, it's horrifying at the amount of abuse that can happen!
THIS stuff ought to be taught in the schools!
Thanks for the great article. This indeed shows the dire consequences of evolution and is on a par with the actions of the IS terrorists in Iraq and Syria. There were a few Christians who indeed acted biblically- the Ngarrindjeri at Raukkan in SA were taught by a pastor ( I forget his name) in the 19th century and almost achieved independence as a separate country- unfortunately this man died relatively early and his son did not share the views of his father,and the settlement declined. Lutherans in South Australia and Herrmannsburg were also able to help Aboriginals and recorded their languages. Huge numbers of indigenous Australians were butchered in the name of "science"- the myth of evolution, and their descendants are entitled to massive compensation from museums and other holders of remains. God does not approve of such things and it is not surprising how this country is degenerating- by ditching its Christian heritage it invites God's judgement which is a warning to all of us to stand firm in the Lord. We are all related, all one family.
The greatest sin is man's inhumanity to man created in the image of God! Matthew 25: makes it clear that Jesus takes it personal!
It is certainly a great sin, but the Bible portrays man's disobedience of God as the greatest sin. The ultimate offense of man's inhumanity to man is that it disregards God's image and thus insults God. The two are intimately linked (Mark 12:29–31) such that we cannot love God with all we've got without loving our neighbour as ourselves, but the command to love God remains primary.
Of course we all in the young earth creationist community agree we are all one human family. And that truth is also spread out to probably the majority of the people out there (at least subconsciously). So bringing up that truth and mentioning that those in the evolution camp have no reason think that there wouldn't be some people group somewhere more evolved. So how do they explain it's not so? How do they explain there isn't a people group not so evolved? This is the biological proof right under everyone's noses that evolution is wrong. It it were right, then the burden is on them to show prove to those less evolved or more evolved. They can't do it. There is no evidence for it. It is so clear that no one with an education can understand that. Throw that at any evolutionist in the biological community and watch them squirm. Hopefully they will come to the truth that we were created.
It is not true to say “Virtually no Christian voice in Australia did what was required—to affirm boldly the real history of mankind as given in the Bible.” There were many voices raised but they were not heeded. Not least was the strong voice of Gretta Dixon who was distressed by the influence of early white settlement on the aborigines. She believed that conversion to Christianity would be their strongest defence against the evils of white society and the influence of evolutionary teaching. She was proved right wherever that conversion was real and the aborigines were allowed to live peacefully, free from the white man’s aggression.
Retta Dixon was the founder of the Aboriginal Inland Mission.
Thank you for an otherwise very useful and timely article, well written except for a few strange words (eg deaccess) and the tendency to confuse “aborigine” and “aboriginal”. “Aborigine” is the noun while “aboriginal” is the adjective.
Thanks, Cecily, though the article did acknowledge that there were 'isolated voices', and that they were 'readily drowned out'. Were those voices 'many'? I'm not sure how one would work out a rating scale. The reality is that, just as you say, they were 'not heeded', and it's probably safe to say that the church in general did not take up the cudgel in defence of Genesis history. Remember that the church had much more potential social clout back then than now. Re the correct terminology to describe Australia's indigenous people, what you say is what we all learnt at school, but I wish it were that simple in this age of political sensitivities and shifting rules. Using the term 'aborigine' as a noun is less acceptable today than Aboriginal as a noun (capital deliberate). Also, I agree with you that deaccess (especially without a hyphen) is a strange word, but it was in the original quote like that. Finally, thank you for the reminder of Retta Dixon, one of those who did try to speak up strongly, and the mission she founded. I commend One Human Family for more documentation of this sad period in Australia's history.
I was profoundly shocked by this article reading it through (first time I had heard of the body trade). However, I was left very uncomfortable about your closing remarks.
"Many genuine Australian Christians and church institutions, though patronizing on occasion, seem to have tried to protect Aboriginal people from the full brunt of the many inhumanities sanctioned by evolutionary thinking."
Ok so many Christians did the right thing.
"However, like today, most church leaders and institutions compromised in some form or another with this new Darwinian ‘science’."
Er, ok many Christians did not do the right thing. The two statements seem to contradict each other in scale. It also seems to assert that "today most church leaders compromise with this new Darwinian `science`". If you are asserting that is true, have you surveyed all denominations and all leaders in all those denominations?
"Virtually no Christian voice in Australia did what was required—to affirm boldly the real history of mankind as given in the Bible."
Do you have statistics to back up what virtually *every* church in Australia was not saying and not doing for the Aboriginal and Islander communities? As a denomination whose current national leader is Aboriginal/Negro, I know we've had a long heritage of working with Aboriginal and Islander people. So I'm a little taken back that by this comment if I am to take it literally. On first reading it appears that CMI wants to shame the church for its alleged inaction. I think it would be better to end the article with a positive call-to-action "Here are things churches can do today to make sure Darwinian evolution is eliminated as an excuse for ethnic discrimination" (knowing full well they'll just find another excuse, but hey).
Many Christians did the right thing to an extent; they shielded many Aboriginal people from the full brunt of the evil sanctioned by evolutionary thinking, which is good, but they didn't believe the scriptural teaching on human origins wholeheartedly because they compromised in some form with evolution. Put the two together, and you can see why despite the 'behind the scenes' good works of many Christians, there was a distinct lack of clear Christian voice in the public square as to why the atrocities committed against the Aboriginal people in the name of evolution were so wrong. In other words, the words are an indictment of the church's lack of public voice, not the church's lack of day-to-day practical care for many individual Aboriginal people. Both were needed; the church in general (i.e. not everyone without exception) only managed to do one of the two.
Anthony B from France makes a fundamental error.
The error is, scripture did not justify the religious (Christian) people in earlier times to be inhuman towards the aborigines. One blood and Love thy neighbor are immutable Christian laws.
But, evolutionary writings not only justified violence but also cruelty and evil towards aborigines because the aborigines were/are deemed to be animals and under deterministic laws of natural.
In the Christian religion human compassion, loving your enemies, your conscious, morality, biblical principles and the spirit of Christ has defining roles in how to treat our fellow human beings and animals. Whereas evolution relies on an unguided merciless change (where cruelty and evil is taken as partners) dictated by natural laws which produce survivors for the next generation.
Only when some objectors of Christianity live under a totally evolutionary system stripped of religious ethos as inferiors will they realize the errors of their ways.
First, your article is an argument from consequences; it does not strictly address the question of whether we share ancestors with other species or whether natural selection is the major mechanism shaping complex adaptions.
Second, one of your box quotes undercuts your point: if "pre-Darwin" whites thought aborigines were wild beasts to be exterminated, how much worse could evolutionary theory make things? If biological (note: on your own principles, not all biological arguments are evolutionary arguments) increased after Darwin, was that because they were displacing biblical arguments like "the curse of Ham"?
Third, you imply that evolutionary theory enhanced a willingness to hurt other ethnic groups in order to benefit one's own. Yet one of the changes that has accompanied the increase in evolutionary teaching and belief in the U.S. (and I think Canada and Australia) is an increased enthusiasm for third-world, non-white immigration. And not all the opponents of this trend, who often point to high crime rates among Muslim and other third-world immigrants, are convinced Darwinists. So how does your thesis deal with, e.g. support for affirmative action and non-white immigration by many of the same people who attack creationism?
First, the article doesn't argue from the consequences of evolution to its falsehood. Nonetheless, these are the social consequences of evolutionary ethics, and if there are objective moral values and duties, then the inability of evolutionary ethics to reflect them accurately is evidence that evolution can't provide a rational foundation for ethics or a reasonable explanation for how our moral faculties came about.
Second, we didn't say there were no problems before Darwin, but that Darwin's ideas exacerbated them. That "whites thought aborigines were wild beasts to be exterminated" may have been an attitude that existed before Darwin, but people acted less on it because they were restrained by the common belief that all people were of 'one blood' and specially made in God's image. But once those beliefs were undermined by Darwin, there was no longer any restraint on how the bad attitudes could descend into evil action, and what nonsense people would use to justify such evils.
Third, as strange as it may sound, affirmative action and preferential non-white immigration policies are just as racist as eugenics. Giving preference to racial minorities does not redress historical injustices committed against them; it only fosters more racial animosity and it only serves to harm the economy in the long run (for more details, please see One Human Family pp. 251–261). Besides, God does not show partiality (Acts 10:34–35, Romans 2:11), so neither should we—whether we are tempted to show partiality to rich, poor, black, white, men, women, or any other group.
For an Australian (myself) and proud of my identity as such, this is truly devastating and appalling revelation. Growing up in Australia in the 40s-60s, I had no real idea of what was happening, and had happened to, the Aboriginals. I am deeply ashamed that, even inadvertently, I was part of this terrible history.
Even more horrific is to encounter to-day the same attitudes of arrogance, self-righteousness and the plain bloody-minded determination on the part of the evolutionist lobby to force their own 'faith' paradigm upon everyone and to brook no opposition. In the UK they have now been given the force of law to have evolution taught as science in our schools with no dissenting voices permitted.
CMI, you are on of the brightest lights shining on this terrible darkness. I pray that Lord will continue to bless and equip you to reach out to more and more churches with your vital message. As Christians we should know that our Lord Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that we should follow no other teaching. Thank you for helping us to understand the perils of a compromising church. God bless.