Ken Ham, founder of the mega-creationist museum in Kentucky, has a new book out on Darwinism. Authored by Ham and Charles Ware, a bible college president, the book makes the specious argument that evolution is racism incarnate. The book is provocatively titled, Darwin’s Plantation: Evolution’s Racist Roots, and its premise is based on nothing more than revisionist history. Only someone who hasn’t bothered to study Darwinian history would make the claim that it has racist roots. And to state that modern evolutionary science (Neo-Darwinism) is to blame for racism is equally absurd.
First, Ken Ham, like most creationists, has trouble separating science from politics. Whether or not evolution is strongly supported by the physical evidence is purely a scientific question. Racism, on the other hand, is an emotional and political question, which is usually rationalized regardless of any contradictory evidence. Was evolutionary theory used historically to rationalize racism? Yes, some people used it to that end. But the use or misuse of a science in no way invalidates its reality. Mathematics has many evil applications, but those applications don’t weaken its power.
Historically speaking, Charles Darwin came from a family of abolitionists. His grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, strongly disapproved of slavery. And Charles Darwin wrote negatively about the slavery he witnessed on his travels in his book, The Voyage Of The Beagle. Darwin’s The Descent Of Man is also an argument against racism, since one of the points in it is the common ancestry of all the humans races. And simply using the word “savage”, as Darwin did, in its 19th century context doesn’t make a man a racist. Political correctness and cultural sensitivity were more than a century away.
Amusingly, several 19th century scientists, who were also strong creationists, directly and indirectly supported slavery through their work. For example, zoologist and geologist, Louis Agassiz, hated the idea of evolution, and rationalized the long age of the earth with the idea of multiple creations. In the multiple creation model, black people were characterized as being “lower” than whites. Thus, advocates of slavery preferred Agassiz to Darwin.
Ken Ham believes in a literal reading of the Bible, which has only one creation event, with an Adam and an Eve. (Were Adam and Eve black or white?) Given that fact that the bible endorses slavery and that slavery was in action until the 19th century, it’s apparent that the belief in creationism has much more in common with racism than the science of evolution does.