There can hardly be a doubt that we are descended from barbarians. The astonishment which I felt on first seeing a party of Fuegians on a wild and broken shore will never be forgotten by me for the reflection at once rushed into my mind—such were our ancestors. These men were absolutely naked and bedaubed with paint, their long hair was tangled, their mouths frothed with excitement, and their expression was wild, startled, and distrustful. They possessed hardly any arts, and like wild animals lived on what they could catch; they had no government, and were merciless to everyone not of their own tribe. He who has seen a savage in his native land will not feel much shame, if forced to acknowledge that the blood of some more humble creature flows in his veins. For my own part I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey, who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper, or from that old baboon, who descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs—as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions (p. 596-597).
“The pioneer of evolution was also the forerunner of multiculturalism,” said no one ever. Recall from last week that Darwin is quite comfortable in speaking of race in terms of “higher” and “lower.” To further elucidate this we read,
It is an interesting fact that ancient races, in this and several other cases, more frequently present structures which resemble those of the lower animals than do the modern. One chief cause seems to be that the ancient races stand somewhat nearer in the long line of descent to their remote animal-like progenitors . . . this perforation is present in thirty-one percent of some human remains from ancient mounds in the Western United States, and in Florida. It frequently occurs in the negro [sic] (p. 264).
The cause of ancient races approaching the lower animals in certain characters more frequently than do the modern races, appears to be, that the latter stand at a somewhat greater distance in the long line of descent from their early semi-human progenitors. . . . [T]races of the division may be detected in about two percent of adult skulls . . . it more frequently occurs in prognathous skulls, not of the Aryan race, than in others (p. 273).
It is quite incredible that a man should through mere accident abnormally resemble certain apes in no less than seven of his muscles . . . Professor Schaaffhausen first drew attention to the relation apparently existing between a muscular frame and the strongly-pronounced supra-orbital ridges, which are so characteristic of the lower races of man (p. 275).
Ideas have consequences. We now turn our attention to Darwin’s thoughts on race applied.
First, he observes,
All that we know about savages, or may infer from their traditions and from old monuments, the history of which is quite forgotten by the present inhabitants, shew [sic] that from the remotest times successful tribes have supplanted other tribes. Relics of extinct or forgotten tribes have been discovered throughout the civilized regions of the earth, on the wild plains of America, and on the isolated islands in the Pacific Ocean. At the present day civilized nations are everywhere supplanting barbarous nations, excepting where the climate opposes a deadly barrier; and they succeed mainly, though not exclusively, through their arts, which are the products of the intellect. It is, therefore, highly probable that with man-kind the intellectual faculties have been mainly and gradually perfected through natural selection; and this conclusion is sufficient for our purpose (p. 320).
Notice, there is no moral judgment concerning the “supplanting” of one people with another. Indeed, genocides do not properly belong in ethical categories at all. “Right” and “wrong” are non-factors, total non sequiturs.
Rather, the inevitable extermination of “lower races” is the amoral, necessary, and desirable consequence of the inexorable progress known as natural selection.
A tribe rich in the above qualities would spread and be victorious over other tribes: but in the course of time it would, judging from all past history, be in its turn overcome by some other tribe still more highly endowed. Thus the social and moral qualities would tend slowly to advance and be diffused throughout the world (p. 321).
When civilized nations come into contact with barbarians the struggle is short, except where a deadly climate gives its aid to the native race . . . those who are most susceptible to its destructive influence [a new disease] are gradually weeded out . . . savages did not formerly waste away before the classical nations, as they now do before modern civilized nations; had they done so, the old moralists would have mused over the event; but there is no lament in any writer of that period over the perishing barbarians (p. 351).
Second, Darwin predicts,
At some future period, not very distant measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between negro [sic] or Australian and the gorilla (p. 336).
Note that it is Darwin’s “hope” that the future, dominant and genocidal “more civilized state” will rival even the Caucasian of his day. This is his hope.
And now we play the overused—and oft misused—“Hitler card.” He too entertained visions of a superior, master race.
Hitler emphasized again and again his belief that Nazism was a secular ideology founded on modern science. . . . “The dogma of Christianity gets worn away before the advances of science.” [Hitler] was particularly critical of what he saw as its [Christianity’s] violation of the law of natural selection and the survival of the fittest. “Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of human failure.” (Richard J. Evans, “The Third Reich at War,” New York: The Penguin Press, 2009, p. 547).
I repeat: Ideas have consequences.