Darwin Inspired by Anti-Slavery

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Darwin inspired by anti-slavery, according to a book entitled Darwin’s Sacred Cause by Adrian Desmond and James Moore, published in New York Times, First Chapters, 1 Feb 2009, and reviewed in New Scientist, 7 Feb 2009, p48. According to Desmond and Moore, “Human evolution wasn't his last piece in the evolution jigsaw; it was the first. From the very outset Darwin concerned himself with the unity of humankind. This notion of 'brotherhood' grounded his evolutionary enterprise. It was there in his first musings on evolution in 1837.” They go on to say: “Always retiring, often unwell, Darwin never threw himself into abolitionist rallies and petitions (as his relatives did). While activists proclaimed a 'crusade' (his word) against slavery, he subverted it with his science. Where slave-masters bestialized blacks, Darwin's starting point was the abolitionist belief in blood kinship, a 'common descent'. Adamic unity and the brotherhood of man were axiomatic in the anti-slavery tracts that he and his family devoured and distributed. It implied a single origin for black and white, a shared ancestry. And this was the unique feature of Darwin's peculiar brand of evolution. Life itself was made up of countless trillions of sibling 'common descents', not only black and white, but among all races, all species, through all time, all joined up in bloodlines back to a common ancestor.”

According the New Scientist review: “Darwin's family was passionately abolitionist and he continually mixed with people devoted to the cause. On his travels aboard the Beagle he was outraged by the slavery he encountered. The suffering he saw during those five years left a bigger impression than, say, the Galapagos finches

Editorial Comment: The Darwin family may have been passionate abolitionists, but Charles Darwin arrived on the scene a little late for the anti-slavery campaign in Britain. Nearly two years before Darwin was born, the Slave Trade Act, which banned slave trading on British ships, was passed in March 1807 following a long campaign led by William Wilberforce (1759-1833) and other Bible believing Christians. In August 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act freed slaves throughout the British Empire. At that time Darwin had been away from Britain on the Beagle for 20 months, and would not return for another three years.

Desmond and Moore’s logic is rather muddled when they write about “Adamic unity and the brotherhood of man” and common descent of all species. The belief that all mankind is united in Adam comes from Biblical Creation and not evolution. Genesis states clearly that man is a unique creation made in the image of God, completely separate from animals. Darwin ultimately believed humans are just animals, and different races of human beings could be different species engaged in a perpetual struggle against one another with the strongest surviving at the expense of the weak. The following excerpt is from The Descent of Man (1871) by Charles Darwin, Chapter 1, p9-10:

“It might also naturally be enquired whether man, like so many other animals, has given rise to varieties and sub-races, differing but slightly from each other, or to races differing so much that they must be classed as doubtful species? How are such races distributed over the world; and how, when crossed, do they react on each other, both in the first and succeeding generations? And so with many other points: The enquirer would next come to the important point, whether man tends to increase at so rapid a rate, as to lead to occasional severe struggles for existence, and consequently to beneficial variations, whether in body or mind, being preserved, and injurious ones eliminated. Do the races or species of men, whichever term may be applied, encroach on and replace each other, so that some finally become extinct?”

That doesn’t sound like brotherly love. We wonder if Desmond and Moore are trying to improve Darwin’s image in the USA by aligning him with another man who was born on the same day (12 Feb 1809) - Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), a Bible believer who abolished slavery in America. (Ref. anthropology, politics, history)

Evidence News, 11 Mar 2009

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