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Is “Denying Evolution” a Form of White Supremacy?

Photo: Charles Darwin, enthroned, by Elliott Brown from Birmingham, United Kingdom [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Over at Scientific American, Allison Hopper has penned a scathing indictment of those who “deny” evolution. She states: “I want to unmask the lie that evolution denial is about religion and recognize that at its core, it is a form of white supremacy that perpetuates segregation and violence against Black bodies.” Apparently, it never even occurred to Hopper that some people might question evolution based on the many scientific problems with it, such as the Cambrian explosion, where myriads of new body plans emerged in a relatively brief geological time span (see Stephen Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt on this topic). No, according to Hopper, anyone questioning evolution is ipso facto a white supremacist.

But what if that someone who rejects evolution is a black African or an African-American or a Hispanic or a Muslim of whatever color or a Jew (and white supremacists are well-known for their anti-Semitism)? Hopper apparently has no clue that millions upon millions of people of color reject evolutionary theory, either because of scientific or religious reasons. Does that mean they are white supremacists?

A Tiny Fringe at Most

In order to build her case against those who reject evolution, Hopper points to a few of the misguided ideas of racist Christians in the past. However, she implies that these ideas are still embraced by most Evangelical Christians, which is absurd. The ideas she discusses, such as the mark of Cain being dark skin, were never mainstream ideas among Evangelicals, even in the racist past. I’m not sure if anyone today still believes that; if so, they are a tiny fringe element. Her claim that those who reject evolution believe that Adam and Eve were white is likewise ludicrous. I’ve been involved in Evangelical Christian circles for most of my 62 years, and I have never heard anyone — even the most uneducated, unsophisticated layperson — make any such claim.

It seems that Hopper has taken some past beliefs of some racist Christians and insinuated that today’s rejecters of evolution adhere to these outmoded dogmas.

Not a Secret About Darwin

Now let’s ask ourselves: What happens if we look at past beliefs of evolutionists about race? It’s not a secret that Charles Darwin himself was a racist. In The Descent of Man, he wrote an entire chapter “On the Races of Man,” in which he said: “The variability or diversity of the mental faculties in men of the same race, not to mention the greater differences between the men of distinct races, is so notorious that not a word need here be said.” Darwin considered racial differences in physical, mental, and even moral qualities, a proof of human variability. He argued that the “lower races” (this is his term) would be exterminated by the “civilised races.” 

Darwin was not idiosyncratic among evolutionists; most Darwinian biologists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were racist and used racism as evidence for their theory. Konrad Lorenz, for instance, the Nobel Prize-winning biologist, argued in an article in 1940 that Darwinism was the best foundation for racial inequality. It’s ironic in light of Hopper’s article that the primary thrust of Lorenz’s article was to combat creationism. American biology textbooks in the early 20th century taught scientific racism and used it as evidence for evolution. More recently the Nobel Prize-winning biologist James Watson has stirred considerable controversy with his racist views.

Now what happens if we examine the real white supremacists today? Are they creationists? I have done a good deal of research on this topic, and as it turns out, the vast majority of white supremacists today embrace Darwinian evolution and use it as evidence for their white supremacy. In a 2017 article in his Radix journal, Richard Spencer, a leading figure on the white supremacist Alt-Right argued that “Group differences exist as consequences of evolution by natural selection” and “racial differences are a natural and normal consequence of human evolution.” This is a commonplace view among white supremacists, as you can easily discover by looking at white supremacist websites and print publications.

In sum, most people today who reject evolution, which includes many people of color, are not racists. On the other hand, most of the leading white supremacists today embrace evolutionary theory with alacrity. Hopper’s attempt to tar those who do not believe in evolution with racism may play well with the pro-evolution lobby, but unfortunately it is based on distortions and misrepresentations of those who reject evolution, as well as ignorance of the history of scientific racism and the ideology of contemporary white supremacists.