Monday, July 1, 2013

Haeckel's Racism That Darwin Endorsed

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.    

Charles Darwin:  The Descent of Man

There has been an objection to my characterization of Haeckel's book, The History of Creation, which Darwin said was a confirmation of his ideas, as containing some extremely racist content presented as science.  Here, from volume 2

Now, if instituting comparisons in both directions, we place the lowest and most ape-like men (the Austral Negroes, Bushmen, and Andamans, etc.), on the one hand, together with the most highly developed animals, for instance, with apes, dogs, and elephants, and on the other hand, with the most highly developed men—Aristotle, Newton, Spinoza, Kant, Lamarck, or Goethe—we can then no longer consider the assertion, that the mental life of the higher mammals has gradually developed up to that of man, as in any way exaggerated. If one must draw a sharp boundary between them, it has to be drawn between the most highly developed and civilized man on the one hand, and the rudest savages on the other, and the latter have to be classed with the animals. This is, in fact, the opinion of many travellers, who have long watched the lowest human races in their native countries. Thus, for example, a great English traveller, who lived for a considerable time on the west coast of Africa, says: “I consider the negro to be a lower species of man, and cannot make up my mind to look upon him as ‘a man and a brother,’ for the gorilla would then also have to be admitted into the family.” Even many Christian missionaries, who, after 366 long years of fruitless endeavours to civilize these lowest races, have abandoned the attempt, express the same harsh judgment, and maintain that it would be easier to train the most intelligent domestic animals to a moral and civilized life, than these unreasoning brute-like men. For instance, the able Austrian missionary Morlang, who tried for many years without the slightest success to civilize the ape-like negro tribes on the Upper Nile, expressly says: “that any mission to such savages is absolutely useless. They stand far below unreasoning animals; the latter at least show signs of affection towards those who are kind towards them, whereas these brutal natives are utterly incapable of any feeling of gratitude.”

Now, it clearly follows from these and other testimonies, that the mental differences between the lowest men and the animals are less than those between the lowest and the highest men; and if, together with this, we take into consideration the fact that in every single human child mental life develops slowly, gradually, and step by step, from the lowest condition of animal unconsciousness, need we still feel offended when told that the mind of the whole human race has in like manner gone through a process of slow, gradual, and historical development? Can we find it “degrading” to the human soul that, by a long and slow process of differentiation and perfecting, it has very gradually developed out of the soul of vertebrate animals? I freely acknowledge that this objection, which is at present raised by many against the pithecoid theory, is quite incomprehensible to me. On this point Bernhard Cotta, in his excellent “Geologie der Gegenwart,” very justly remarks: “Our ancestors may be a great honour to us; but it is much better if we are an honour to them!”(31)

Another passage

Comparative philology seems especially to be becoming an authority in this matter. In the latest great work on the races of men, which Friederich Müller has published in his excellent “Ethnography,”(42) he justly places language in the fore-ground. Next to it the nature of the hair of the head is of great importance; for although it is in itself of course only a subordinate morphological character, yet it seems to be strictly transmitted within the race. Of the twelve species of men distinguished on the following table (p. 308), the four lower species are characterised by the woolly nature of the hair of their heads; every hair is flattened like a tape, and thus its section is oval. These four species of woolly-haired men (Ulotrichi) we may reduce into two groups—tuft-haired and fleecy-haired. The hair on the head of tuft-haired men (Lophocomi), Papuans and Hottentots, grows in unequally divided small tufts. The woolly hair of fleecy-haired men (Eriocomi), on the other hand, in Caffres and Negroes, grows equally all over the skin of the head. All Ulotrichi, or woolly-haired men, have slanting teeth and long heads, and the colour of their skin, hair, and eyes is always very dark. All are inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere; it is only in Africa that they come north of the equator. They are on the whole at a much lower stage of development, and more like apes, than most of the Lissotrichi, or straight-haired men. The Ulotrichi are incapable of a true inner culture and of a higher mental development, even under the favourable conditions of adaptation now offered to them in the United States of308 North America. No woolly-haired nation has ever had an important “history.”

And in contrast:

The Caucasian, or Mediterranean man (Homo Mediterraneus), has from time immemorial been placed at the head of all races of men, as the most highly developed and perfect. It is generally called the Caucasian race, but as among all the varieties of the species, the Caucasian branch is the least important, we prefer the much more suitable appellation proposed by Friedrich Müller, namely, that of Mediterranean, or Midland men. For the most important varieties of this species, which are moreover the most eminent actors in what is called “Universal History,” first rose to a flourishing condition on the shores of the Mediterranean. The former area of the distribution of this species is expressed by the name of “Indo-Atlantic” species, whereas at present it is spread over the whole earth, and is overcoming most of the other species in the struggle for existence. In bodily as well as in mental qualities, no other human species can equal the Mediterranean. This species alone (with the exception of the Mongolian) has had an actual history; it alone has attained to that degree of civilization which seems to raise man above the rest of nature.

Those are just a sample of the racism in the book, of which Darwin said,

If this work had appeared before my essay [The Descent of Man] had been written, I should probably never have completed it. Almost all the conclusions at which I have arrived I find confirmed by this naturalist, whose knowledge on many points is much fuller than mine. 

By force of his endorsement of the book and its contents, whatever Darwin says that is in line with passages such as those, unless he explicitly specified otherwise, and I can't recall anyplace he did, those groups discussed in such terms must be taken to comprise those Darwin abbreviates into the term "savages".  It is almost as clear that when he said "civilised men", he was referring to "caucasians".   I have read all of Haeckel's book, as I have Darwin's Descent of Man, the correspondences between the two books are concealed only by Darwin's somewhat more genteel expression of them.  These are hardly the only examples that could be cited to support what I said.

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