Page One

by Joe Keenan

"At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised 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 civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla." (Darwin, Descent of Man)

I am very happy to have published Mr Clough's robust critique of Professor Miller's sad recourse to indeterminacy (sad for both the professor and the former Lord of Hosts). And it is sad—Professor Miller gallantly toiling away in an attempt to build perhaps the possibility of a hidden bunker in which to house his impossibly hidden god: that god himself having fallen, farther even than his old counsellor, Lucifer, into the slough of the subatomic; the determinedly hardened heart that would not break to weep for the pity of it has not yet been determined. Not this heart anyway!

Though I do not share his optimistic view of scientific reason I do at least agree that a scientific outlook should at least be reasonable. Mr Clough elucidates that point very well.

(Even at its best scientific reason is not inevitably deployed reasonably—Einstein's jiggery pokery with his relativity equations—first introducing the cosmological constant to have them balance in a static universe, and then, when Hubble's observations of galactic recession were confirmed, removing it to allow his equations to balance in an expanding universe, for which he apologised, is a well-known example of the misplaced vigour of scientific rigour which leads me to wonder about and expect lesser known and as yet unknown examples of physicists playing dice with the data.)

I am, however, happiest to have published his article because it raises a related matter about which I have been meaning for some time to put the relevant material into the record. This is a fundamental disagreement with the general scientific, freethinking and humanist worldview that sees Darwin through a rose-tinted glass, and that darkly; which denies the clear evidence of his role in providing 'scientific' justification for racism and genocide and the daily murder of those considered unfit to survive. It is raised in only one short sentence of his article, but such a sentence!

There is no lack of defenders of his work, and plenty of attempts to translate Darwin's insights, illigitimately, to social and political spheres (which has given rise to such pseudo-sciences as Social Darwinism).

Two or three years ago, if I had felt it necessary to say anything at all about Darwin and subsequent theories of Social Darwinism, I am sure I would have said something very similar, something equally dismissive of psuedo-scientific racist and eugenicist theories illigitimately clutching at an authority to which they have no title. That is the general line which science takes about the matter (or the line which it takes in paperbacks written for a general audience, which comes to the same thing). A few years ago I would happily have followed that line. But since then I have read Darwin.

In 340 closely typed pages of his The Blind Watchmaker (Penguin Science paperback, 1991), Richard Dawkins has only this to say about Social Darwinism:—

…others confuse Darwinism with Social Darwinism, which has racist and other disagreeable overtones. (p.250)

Stephen Jay Gould (in Ever Since Darwin, Reflections In Natural History, Penguin, 1980) is just a little more discursive:—

This fallacious equation of organic evolution with progress continues to have unfortunate consequences. Historically, it engendered the abuses of Social Darwinism (which Darwin himself held in such suspicion). This discredited theory ranked human groups and cultures according to their assumed level of evolutionary attainment, with (not surprisingly) white Europeans at the top and people dwelling in their conquered colonies at the bottom. Today, it remains a primary component of our global arrogance, our belief in dominion over, rather than fellowship with, more than a million other species that inhabit our planet. The moving finger has written, of course, and nothing can be done; yet I am rather sorry that scientists contributed to a fundamental misunderstanding by selecting a vernacular word meaning progress (ie. evolution, JK) as a name for Darwin's less euphonious but more accurate "descent with modification." (pp. 38-39)

Which is not really very much more discursive and, without any reference at all to provide a clue as to the nature of Darwin's 'such suspicion' of Social Darwinism, no more informative than Dawkins.

The individuals who originally applied Darwin's ideas 'illegitimately' as Social Darwinism were his half-cousin Francis Galton (their common grandfather was Erasmus Darwin) and Herbert Spencer. Darwin may have been suspicious of their project. He may even have expressed that suspicion somewhere. I don't know. Publicly however he endorsed the project and spoke very highly of its pioneers. In his Descent Of Man he referred to Spencer as "our great philosopher", citing his works constantly without a hint of criticism. In the 6th edition of Origin of Species in 1872, Darwin changed an earlier formulation of his hopes for the future development of his contribution to science to read:—

"In the future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be securely based on the foundation already well laid by Mr. Herbert Spencer, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Much light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history. [Chapter XV, Recapitulation And Conclusion]

The works in which Galton first set out the eugenicist project, articles in Macmillan's Magazine and the book Hereditary Genius are cited throughout the Descent Of Man uncritically, indeed with much obvious approval. Hereditary Genius is described there by Darwin as Galton's "great work" and Galton's racist and eugenicist articles are described as his "admirable labours".

If the racist and eugenicist project of Spencer and Galton was originally in some way illegitimate, by the 1870s Darwin had legitimised it.

This is what he was legitimising, what he was uncritically citing and quoting, what he himself clearly believed to follow logically and legitimately from his own work:—

Galton's Hereditary Talent

There are certain marked types of character, justly associated with marked types of feature and of temperament. We hold, axiomatically, that the latter are inherited (the case being too notorious, and too consistent with the analog afforded by brute animals, to render argument necessary), and we therefore infer the same of the former. For instance, the face of the combatant is square, coarse, and heavily jawed. It differs from that of the ascetic, the voluptuary, the dreamer, and the charlatan.

Still more strongly marked than these, are the typical features and characters of different races of men. The Mongolians, Jews, Negroes, Gipsies, and American Indians; severally propagate their kinds; and each kind differs in character and intellect, as well as in colour and shape, from the other four. They, and a vast number of other races, form a class of instances worthy of close investigation, in which peculiarities of character are invariably transmitted from the parents to the offspring.

In founding argument on the innate character of different races, it is necessary to bear in mind the exceeding docility of man. His mental habits in mature life are the creatures of social discipline, as well as of inborn aptitudes, and it is impossible to ascertain what is due to the latter alone, except by observing several individuals of the same race, reared under various influences, and noting the peculiarities of character that invariably assert themselves. But, even when we have imposed these restrictions to check a hasty and imaginative conclusion, we find there remain abundant data to prove an astonishing diversity in the natural characteristics of different races. It will be sufficient for our purpose if we fix our attention upon the peculiarities of one or two of them.

The race of the American Indians is spread over an enormous area, and through every climate; for it reaches from the frozen regions of the North, through the equator, down to the inclement regions of the South. It exists in thousands of disconnected communities, speaking nearly as many different languages. It has been subjected to a strange variety of political influences, such as its own despotisms in Peru, Mexico, Natchez, and Bogota, and its numerous republics, large and small. Members of the race have been conquered and ruled by military adventurers from Spain and Portugal; others have been subjugated to Jesuitical rule; numerous settlements have been made by strangers on its soil; and, finally, the north of the continent has been colonized by European races. Excellent observers have watched the American Indians under all these influences, and their almost unanimous conclusion is as follows:—

The race is divided into many varieties, but it has fundamentally the same character throughout the whole of America. The men, and in a less degree the women, are naturally cold, melancholic, patient, and taciturn. A father, mother, and their children, are said to live together in a hut, like persons assembled by accident, not tied by affection. The youths treat their parents with neglect, and often with such harshness and insolence as to horrify Europeans who have witnessed their conduct. The mothers have been seen to commit infanticide without the slightest discomposure, and numerous savage tribes have died out in consequence of this practice. The American Indians are eminently non-gregarious. They nourish a sullen reserve, and show little sympathy with each other, even when in great distress. The Spaniards had to enforce the common duties of humanity by positive laws. They are strangely taciturn. When not engaged in action they will sit whole days in one posture without opening their lips, and wrapped up in their narrow thoughts. They usually march in Indian file, that is to say, in a long line, at some distance from each other, without exchanging a word. They keep the same profound silence in rowing a canoe, unless they happen to be excited by some extraneous cause. On the other hand, their patriotism and local attachments are strong, and they have an astonishing sense of personal dignity. The nature of the American Indians appears to contain the minimum of affectionate and social qualities compatible with the continuance of their race.

Here, then, is a well-marked type of character, that formerly prevailed over a large part of the globe, with which other equally marked types of character in other regions are strongly contrasted. Take, for instance, the typical West African Negro. He is more unlike the Red man in his mind than in his body. Their characters are almost opposite, one to the other. The Red man has great patience great reticence, great dignity, and no passion; the Negro has strong impulsive passions, and neither patience, reticence, nor dignity, He is warm-hearted, loving towards his master's children, and idolised by the children in return. He is eminently gregarious for he is always jabbering, quarrelling, tom-tom-ing, or dancing. He is remarkably domestic, and he is endowed with such constitutional vigour, and is so prolific, that his race is irrepressible.

The Hindu, the Arab, the Mongol, the Teuton, and very many more, have each of them their peculiar characters. We have not space to analyse them on this occasion; but, whatever they are, they are transmitted, generation after generation, as truly as their physical forms.

What is true for the entire race is equally true for its varieties. If we were to select persons mho mere born with a type of character that we desired to intensify—suppose it was one that approached to some ideal standard of perfection—and if we compelled marriage within the limits of the society so selected, generation after generation; there can be no doubt that the offspring would ultimately be born with the qualities we sought, as surely as if we had been breeding for physical features, and not for intellect or disposition.

Our natural constitution seems to bear as direct and stringent a relation to that of our forefathers as any other physical effect does to its cause. Our bodies, minds, and capabilities of development have been derived from them. Everything we possess at our birth is a heritage from our ancestors…

…But though, when we look back to our ancestors, the embryos of our progenitors may be conceived to have been developed, in each generation, immediately from the one that preceded it, yet we cannot take so restricted a view when we look forward. The interval that separates the full-grown animal from its embryo is too important to be disregarded. It is in this interval that Darwin's law of natural selection comes into play; and those conditions are entered into, which affect, we know not how, the "individual variation" of the offspring. I mean those that cause dissimilarity among brothers and sisters who are born successively, while twins, produced simultaneously, are often almost identical. If it were possible that embryos should descend directly from embryos, there might be developments in every direction, and the world would be filled with monstrosities. But this is not the order of nature. It is her fiat that the natural tendencies of animals should never disaccord long and widely with the conditions under which they are placed. Every animal before it is of an age to bear offspring, has to undergo frequent stern examinations before the board of nature, under the law of natural selection; where to be "plucked" is not necessarily disgrace, but is certainly death. Never let it be forgotten that man, as a reasonable being, has the privilege of not being helpless under the tyranny of uncongenial requirements, but that he can, and that he does, modify the subjects in which nature examines him, and that he has considerable power in settling beforehand the relative importance in the examination that shall be assigned to each separate subject.

It becomes a question of great interest how far moral monstrosities admit of being bred. Is there any obvious law that assigns a limit to the propagation of supremely vicious or supremely virtuous natures? In strength, agility, and other physical qualities Darwin's law of natural selection acts with unimpassioned, merciless severity. The weakly die in the battle for life; the stronger and more capable individuals are alone permitted to survive, and to bequeath their constitutional vigour to future generations. Is there any corresponding rule in respect to moral character? I believe there is, and I have already hinted at it when speaking of the American Indians. I am prepared to maintain that its action, by insuring a certain fundamental unity m the quality of the affections, enables men and the higher order of animals to sympathise in some degree with each other, and also, that this law forms the broad basis of our religious sentiments.

Animal life, in all but the very lowest classes, depends on at least one, and, more commonly, on all of the four following principles:—There must be affection, and it must be of four kinds : sexual, parental, filial and social. The absolute deficiency of any one of these would be a serious hindrance, if not a bar to the continuance of any race. Those who possessed all of them, in the strongest measure, would, speaking generally, have an advantage in the struggle for existence. Without sexual affection, there would be no marriages, and no children; without parental affection, the children would be abandoned; without filial affection, they would stray and perish; and, without the social, each individual would be single-handed against rivals who were capable of banding themselves into tribes. Affection for others as well as for self, is therefore a necessary part of animal character. Disinterestedness is as essential to a brute's well-being as selfishness. No animal lives for itself alone, but also, at least occasionally, for its parent, its mate, its offspring, or its fellow. Companionship is frequently more grateful to an animal than abundant food. The safety of her young is considered by many a mother as a paramount object to her own. The passion for a mate is equally strong. The gregarious bird posts itself during its turn of duty as watchman on a tree, by the side of the feeding flock. Its zeal to serve the common cause exceeds its care to attend to its own interests. Extreme selfishness is not a common vice. Narrow thoughts of self by no means absorb the minds of ordinary men; they occupy a secondary position in the thoughts of the more noble and generous of our race. A large part of an Englishman's life is devoted to others or to the furtherance of general ideas, and not to directly personal ends. The Jesuit toils for his order, not for himself. Many plan for that which they can never live to see. At the hour of death they are still planning. An incompleted will, which might work unfairness among those who would succeed to the property of a dying man, harasses his mind. Personal obligations of all sorts press as heavily as in the fulness of health, although the touch of death is known to be on the point of cancelling them. It is so with animals. A dog's thoughts are towards his master, even when he suffers the extremest pain. His mind is largely filled at all times with sentiments of affection. But disinterested feelings are more necessary to man than to any other animal, because of the long period of his dependent childhood, and also because of his great social needs, due to his physical helplessness. Darwin's law of natural selection would therefore be expected to develop these sentiments among men, even among the lowest barbarians, to a greater degree than among animals.

I believe that our religious sentiments spring primarily from these four sources. The institution of celibacy is an open acknowledgment that the theistic and human affections are more or less convertible; I mean that by starving the one class the other becomes more intense and absorbing. In savages, the theistic sentiment is chiefly, if not wholly, absent. I would refer my readers, who may hesitate in accepting this assertion, to the recently published work of my friend Sir John Lubbock, "Prehistoric Times," p. 467-472, where the reports of travellers on the religion of savages are very ably and fairly collated. The theistic sentiment is secondary, not primary. It becomes developed within us under the influence of reflection and reason. All evidence tends to show that man is directed to the contemplation and love of God by instincts that he shares with the whole animal world, and that primarily appeal to the love of his neighbour.

Moral monsters are born among Englishmen, even at the present day; and, when they are betrayed by their acts, the law puts them out of the way, by the prison or the gallows, and so prevents them from continuing their breed. Townley, the murderer, is an instance in point. He behaved with decorum and propriety; he was perfectly well-conducted to the gaol officials, and he corresponded with his mother in a style that was certainly flippant, but was not generally considered to be insane. However, with all this reasonableness of disposition, he could not be brought to see that he had done anything particularly wrong in murdering the girl that was disinclined to marry him. He was thoroughly consistent in his disregard for life, because, when his own existence became wearisome, he ended it with perfect coolness, by jumping from an upper staircase. It is a notable fact that a man without a conscience, like Townley, should be able to mix in English society for years, just like other people.

How enormous is the compass of the scale of human character, which reaches from dispositions like those we have just described, to that of a Socrates! How various are the intermediate types of character that commonly fall under everybody's notice, and how differently are the principles of virtue measured out to different natures! We can clearly observe the extreme diversity of character in children. Some are naturally generous and open, others mean and tricky; some are warm and loving, others cold and heartless; some are meek and patient, others obstinate and self-asserting; some few have the tempers of angels, and at least as many have the tempers of devils. In the same way, as I showed in my previous paper, that by selecting men and women of rare and similar talent, and mating them together, generation after generation, an extraordinarily gifted race might be developed, so a yet more rigid selection, having regard to their moral nature, would, I believe, result in a no less marked improvement of their natural disposition.

Let us consider an instance in which different social influences have modified the inborn dispositions of a nation. The North American people has been bred from the most restless and combative class of Europe. Whenever, during the last ten or twelve generations, a political or religious party has suffered defeat, its prominent members, whether they were the best, or only the noisiest, have been apt to emigrate to America, as a refuge from persecution. Men fled to America for conscience's sake, and for that of unappreciated patriotism. Every scheming knave, and every brutal ruffian, who feared the arm of the law, also turned his eyes in the same direction. Peasants and artisans, whose spirit rebelled against the tyranny of society and the monotony of their daily life, and men of a higher position, who chafed under conventional restraints, all yearned towards America. Thus the dispositions of the parents of the American people have been exceedingly varied, and usually extreme, either for good or for evil. But in one respect they almost universally agreed. Every head of an emigrant family brought with him a restless character, and a spirit apt to rebel. If we estimate the moral nature of Americans from their present social state, we shall find it to be just what me might have expected from such a parentage. They are enterprising, defiant, and touchy; impatient of authority; furious politicians; very tolerant of fraud and violence; possessing much high and generous spirit, and some true religious feeling, but strongly addicted to cant.

We have seen that the law of natural selection develops disinterested affection of a varied character even in animals and barbarian man. Is the same law different in its requirements when acting on civilized man? It is no doubt more favourable on the whole to civilized progress, but we must not expect to find as yet many marked signs of its action. As a matter of history, our Anglo-Saxon civilization is only skin-deep. It is but eight hundred years, or twenty-six generations, since the Conquest, and the ancestors of the large majority of Englishmen were the merest boors at a much later date than that. It is said that among the heads of the noble houses of England there can barely be found one that has a right to claim the sixteen quarterings—that is to say, whose great-great-grandparents were, all of them (sixteen in number), entitled to carry arms. Generally the nobility of a family is represented by only a few slender rills among a multiplicity of non-noble sources…

…Another difference, which may either be due to natural selection or to original difference of race, is the fact that savages seem incapable of progress after the first few years of their life. The average children of all races are much on a par. Occasionally, those of the lower races are more precocious than the Anglo-Saxons; as a brute beast of a few weeks old is certainly more apt and forward than a child of the same age. But, as the years go by, the higher races continue to progress, while the lower ones gradually stop. They remain children in mind, with the passions of grown men. Eminent genius commonly asserts itself in tender years, but it continues long to develop. The highest minds in the highest race seem to have been those who had the longest boyhood. It is not those who were little men in early youth who have succeeded. Here I may remark that, in the great mortality that besets the children of our poor, those who are members of precocious families, and who are therefore able to help in earning wages at a very early age, have a marked advantage over their competitors. They, on the whole, live, and breed their like, while the others die. But, if this sort of precocity be unfavourable to a race—if it be generally followed by an early arrest of development, and by a premature old age—then modern industrial civilization, in encouraging precocious varieties of men, deteriorates the breed.

Besides these three points of difference—endurance of steady labour, tameness of disposition, and prolonged development—I know of none that very markedly distinguishes the nature of the lower classes of civilized man from that of barbarians. In the excitement of a pillaged town the English soldier is just as brutal as the savage. Gentle manners seem, under those circumstances, to have been a mere gloss thrown by education over a barbarous nature. One of the effects of civilization is to diminish the rigour of the application of the law of natural selection, It preserves weakly lives, that would have perished in barbarous lands. The sickly children of a wealthy family have a better chance of living and rearing offspring than the stalwart children of a poor one. As with the body, so with the mind. Poverty is more adverse to early marriages than is natural bad temper, or inferiority of intellect. In civilized society, money interposes her ægis between the law of natural selection and very many of its rightful victims. Scrofula and madness are naturalised among us by wealth; short-sightedness is becoming so. There seems no limit to the morbific tendencies of body or mind that might accumulate in a land where the law of primogeniture was general, and where riches were more esteemed than personal qualities. Neither is there any known limit to the intellectual and moral grandeur of nature that might be introduced into aristocratical families, if their representatives, who have such rare privilege in winning wives that please them best, should invariably, generation after generation, marry with a view of transmitting those noble qualities to their descendants. Inferior blood in the representative of a family might be eliminated from it in a few generations. The share that a man retains in the constitution of his remote descendants is inconceivably small. The father transmits, on an average, one-half of his nature, the grandfather one-fourth, the great-grandfather one-eighth; the share decreasing step by step, in a geometrical ration with great rapidity. Thus the man who claims descent from a Norman baron, who accompanied William the Conqueror twenty-six generations ago, has so minute a share of that baron's influence in his constitution, that, if he weighs fourteen stone, the part of him which may be ascribed to the baron (supposing, of course, there have been no additional lines of relationship) is only one-fiftieth of a grain in weight—an amount ludicrously disproportioned to the value popularly ascribed to ancient descent. As a stroke of policy, I question if the head of a great family, or a prince, would not give more strength to his position, by marrying a wife who would bear him talented sons, than one who would merely bring him the support of high family connexions.

With the few but not insignificant exceptions we have specified above, we are still barbarians in our nature, and we show it in a thousand ways. The children who dabble and dig in the dirt have inherited the instincts of untold generations of barbarian forefathers, who dug with their nails for a large fraction of their lives. Our ancestors were grubbing by the hour, each day, to get at the roots they chiefly lived upon. They had to grub out pitfalls for their game, holes for their palisades and hut-poles, hiding-places, and ovens. Man became a digging animal by nature; and so we see the delicately-reared children of our era very ready to revert to primeval habits. Instinct breaks out in them, just as it does in the silk-haired, boudoir-nurtured spaniel, with a ribbon round its neck, that runs away from the endearments of its mistress, to sniff and revel in some road-side mess of carrion.

It is a common theme of moralists of many creeds, that man is born with an imperfect nature. He has lofty aspirations, but there is a weakness in his disposition that incapacitates him from carrying his nobler purposes into effect. He sees that some particular course of action is his duty, and should be his delight; but his inclinations are fickle and base, and do not conform to his better judgment. The whole moral nature of man is tainted with sin, which prevents him from doing the things he knows to be right.
I venture to offer an explanation of this apparent anomaly, which seems perfectly satisfactory from a scientific point of view. It is neither more nor less than that the development of our nature, under Darwin's law of natural selection, has not yet overtaken the development of our religious civilization. Man was barbarous but yesterday, and therefore it is not to be expected that the natural aptitudes of his race should already have become moulded into accordance with his very recent advance. We men of the present centuries are like animals suddenly transplanted among new conditions of climate and of food: our instincts fail us under the altered circumstances.

My theory is confirmed by the fact that the members of old civilizations are far less sensible than those newly converted from barbarism of their nature being inadequate to their moral needs. The conscience of a negro is aghast at his own wild, impulsive nature, and is easily stirred by a preacher, but it is scarcely possible to ruffle the self-complacency of a steady-going Chinaman.

The sense of original sin would show, according to my theory, not that man was fallen from a high estate, but that he was rapidly rising from a low one. It would therefore confirm the conclusion that has been arrived at by every independent line of ethnological research—that our forefathers were utter savages from the beginning; and, that, after myriads of years of barbarism, our race has but very recently grown to be civilized and religious. (Hereditary Talent And Character, Macmillan's Magazine, 12, 1865)

I have quoted at such length from Galton's article in order that readers can see for themselves the intimately close connection between the 'illegitimate' Social Darwinism of which Darwin had 'such suspicion' and the legitimate strain which Darwin himself developed six years later and published as the Descent of Man.

And so, as ever when necessity drives, as chimney sweepers must, we come to dusty old Darwin; the Darwin of the Descent Of Man, which was published in 1871, twelve years after The Origin Of Species, and eleven years before his death. I have tried to organize these extracts thematically under the headings—Race, Inferiority of women, Inferiority of the lower orders and Irishmen, Superiority of the wealty, Eugenics and Genocide. But Darwin did not write that way, his much of a muchness is much of a hodgepodge and so there is considerable overlap in what follows. And, if you thought Galton stank of "racist and other disagreeable overtones", well, gird your loins, hold your nose and prepare to handle with care.

Darwin On Race

Some naturalists have lately employed the term "sub-species" to designate forms which possess many of the characteristics of true species, but which hardly deserve so high a rank. Now if we reflect on the weighty arguments above given, for raising the races of man to the dignity of species, and the insuperable difficulties on the other side in defining them, it seems that the term "sub-species" might here be used with propriety. But from long habit the term "race" will perhaps always be employed. The choice of terms is only so far important in that it is desirable to use, as far as possible, the same terms for the same degrees of difference. Unfortunately this can rarely be done: for the larger genera generally include closely-allied forms, which can be distinguished only with much difficulty, whilst the smaller genera within the same family include forms that are perfectly distinct; yet all must be ranked equally as species. So again, species within the same large genus by no means resemble each other to the same degree: on the contrary, some of them can generally be arranged in little groups round other species, like satellites round planets…

…Although the existing races of man differ in many respects, as in colour, hair, shape of skull, proportions of the body, &c., yet if their whole structure be taken into consideration they are found to resemble each other closely in a multitude of points. Many of these are of so unimportant or of so singular a nature, that it is extremely improbable that they should have been independently acquired by aboriginally distinct species or races. The same remark holds good with equal or greater force with respect to the numerous points of mental similarity between the most distinct races of man. The American aborigines, Negroes and Europeans are as different from each other in mind as any three races that can be named; yet I was incessantly struck, whilst living with the Feugians on board the Beagle, with the many little traits of character, shewing how similar their minds were to ours; and so it was with a full-blooded negro with whom I happened once to be intimate.

He who will read Mr. Tylor's and Sir J. Lubbock's interesting works can hardly fail to be deeply impressed with the close similarity between the men of all races in tastes, dispositions and habits.

This is shown by the pleasure which they all take in dancing, rude music, acting, painting, tattooing, and otherwise decorating themselves; in their mutual comprehension of gesture-language, by the same expression in their features, and by the same inarticulate cries, when excited by the same emotions. This similarity, or rather identity, is striking, when contrasted with the different expressions and cries made by distinct species of monkeys. There is good evidence that the art of shooting with bows and arrows has not been handed down from any common progenitor of mankind, yet as Westropp and Nilsson have remarked, the stone arrow-heads, brought from the most distant parts of the world, and manufactured at the most remote periods, are almost identical; and this fact can only be accounted for by the various races having similar inventive or mental powers. The same observation has been made by archaeologists with respect to certain widely-prevalent ornaments, such as zig-zags, &c.; and with respect to various simple beliefs and customs, such as the burying of the dead under megalithic structures. I remember observing in South America, that there, as in so many other parts of the world, men have generally chosen the summits of lofty hills, to throw up piles of stones, either as a record of some remarkable event, or for burying their dead.…

…at this early period, the intellectual and social faculties of man could hardly have been inferior in any extreme degree to those possessed at present by the lowest savages; otherwise primeval man could not have been so eminently successful in the struggle for life, as proved by his early and wide diffusion…

…Whether primeval man, when he possessed but few arts, and those of the rudest kind, and when his power of language was extremely imperfect, would have deserved to be called man, must depend on the definition which we employ. In a series of forms graduating insensibly from some ape-like creature to man as he now exists, it would be impossible to fix on any definite point where the term "man" ought to be used. But this is a matter of very little importance. So again, it is almost a matter of indifference whether the so-called races of man are thus designated, or are ranked as species or sub-species; but the latter term appears the more appropriate.... (from Chapter VII, On the Races of Man)

The belief that there exists in man some close relation between the size of the brain and the development of the intellectual faculties is supported by the comparison of the skulls of savage and civilised races, of ancient and modern people, and by the analogy of the whole vertebrate series. Dr. J. Barnard Davis has proved by many careful measurements, that the mean internal capacity of the skull in Europeans is 92.3 cubic inches; in Americans (American Indians, JK) 87.5; in Asiatics 87.1; and in Australians (Australian Aborigines, JK) only 81.9 cubic inches. Professor Broca found that the nineteenth century skulls from graves in Paris were larger than those from vaults of the twelfth century, in the proportion of 1484 to 1426; and that the increased size, as ascertained by measurements, was exclusively in the frontal part of the skull—the seat of the intellectual faculties. Prichard is persuarded that the present inhabitants of Britain have "much more capacious braincases" than the ancient inhabitants. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that some skulls of very high antiquity, such as the famous one of Neanderthal, are well developed and capacious… (from Chapter II, On the Manner of Development of Man from some Lower Form).

We have seen in the last two chapters that man bears in his bodily structure clear traces of his descent from some lower form; but it may be urged that, as man differs so greatly in his mental power from all other animals, there must be some error in this conclusion. No doubt the difference in this respect is enormous, even if we compare the mind of one of the lowest savages, who has no words to express any number higher than four, and who uses hardly any abstract terms for common objects or for the affections, with that of the most highly organised ape. The difference would, no doubt, still remain immense, even if one of the higher apes had been improved or civilised as much as a dog has been in comparison with its parent-form, the wolf or jackal. The Fuegians rank amongst the lowest barbarians; but I was continually struck with surprise how closely the three natives on board H. M. S. Beagle, who had lived some years in England, and could talk a little English, resembled us in disposition and in most of our mental faculties. If no organic being excepting man had possessed any mental power, or if his powers had been of a wholly different nature from those of the lower animals, then we should never have been able to convince ourselves that our high faculties had been gradually developed. But it can be shewn that there is no fundamental difference of this kind. We must also admit that there is a much wider interval in mental power between one of the lowest fishes, as a lamprey or lancelet, and one of the higher apes, than between an ape and man; yet this interval is filled up by numberless gradations.

Nor is the difference slight in moral disposition between a barbarian, such as the man described by the old navigator Byron, who dashed his child on the rocks for dropping a basket of sea-urchins, and a Howard or Clarkson; and in intellect, between a savage who uses hardly any abstract terms, and a Newton or Shakespeare. Differences of this kind between the highest men of the highest races and the lowest savages, are connected by the finest gradations. Therefore it is possible that they might pass and be developed into each other…

…I have seen, as I daresay have others, that when a small object is thrown on the ground beyond the reach of one of the elephants in the Zoological Gardens, he blows through his trunk on the ground beyond the object, so that the current reflected on all sides may drive the object within his reach. Again a well-known ethnologist, Mr. Westropp, informs me that he observed in Vienna a bear deliberately making with his paw a current in some water, which was close to the bars of his cage, so as to draw a piece of floating bread within his reach. These actions of the elephant and bear can hardly be attributed to instinct or inherited habit, as they would be of little use to an animal in a state of nature. Now, what is the difference between such actions, when performed by an uncultivated man, and by one of the higher animals?

The savage and the dog have often found water at a low level, and the coincidence under such circumstances has become associated in their minds. A cultivated man would perhaps make some general proposition on the subject; but from all that we know of savages it is extremely doubtful whether they would do so, and a dog certainly would not. But a savage, as well as a dog, would search in the same way, though frequently disappointed; and in both it seems to be equally an act of reason, whether or not any general proposition on the subject is consciously placed before the mind. The same would apply to the elephant and the bear making currents in the air or water.

The savage would certainly neither know nor care by what law the desired movements were effected; yet his act would be guided by a rude process of reasoning, as surely as would a philosopher in his longest chain of deductions. There would no doubt be this difference between him and one of the higher animals, that he would take notice of much slighter circumstances and conditions, and would observe any connection between them after much less experience, and this would be of paramount importance. I kept a daily record of the actions of one of my infants, and when he was about eleven months old, and before he could speak a single word, I was continually struck with the greater quickness, with which all sorts of objects and sounds were associated together in his mind, compared with that of the most intelligent dogs I ever knew. But the higher animals differ in exactly the same way in this power of association from those low in the scale, such as the pike, as well as in that of drawing inferences and of observation…

The taste for the beautiful, at least as far as female beauty is concerned, is not of a special nature in the human mind; for it differs widely in the different races of man, and is not quite the same even in the different nations of the same race. Judging from the hideous ornaments, and the equally hideous music admired by most savages, it might be urged that their Aesthetic faculty was not so highly developed as in certain animals, for instance, as in birds. Obviously no animal would be capable of admiring such scenes as the heavens at night, a beautiful landscape, or refined music; but such high tastes are acquired through culture, and depend on complex associations; they are not enjoyed by barbarians or by uneducated persons…

…The tendency in savages to imagine that natural objects and agencies are animated by spiritual or living essences, is perhaps illustrated by a little fact which I once noticed: my dog, a full-grown and very sensible animal, was lying on the lawn during a hot and still day; but at a little distance a slight breeze occasionally moved an open parasol, which would have been wholly disregarded by the dog, had any one stood near it. As it was, every time that the parasol slightly moved, the dog growled fiercely and barked. He must, I think, have reasoned to himself in a rapid and unconscious manner, that movement without any apparent cause indicated the presence of some strange living agent, and that no stranger had a right to be on his territory. (from Chapter III, Comparison of the Mental Powers of Man and the Lower Animals)

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 that from the remotest times successful tribes have supplanted other tribes. Relics of extinct or forgotten tribes have been discovered throughout the civilised regions of the earth, on the wild plains of America, and on the isolated islands in the Pacific Ocean. At the present day civilised 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 mankind the intellectual faculties have been mainly and gradually perfected through natural selection; and this conclusion is sufficient for our purpose…

Apes are much given to imitation, as are the lowest savages; and the simple fact previously referred to, that after a time no animal can be caught in the same place by the same sort of trap, shews that animals learn by experience, and imitate the caution of others. Now, if some one man in a tribe, more sagacious than the others, invented a new snare or weapon, or other means of attack or defence, the plainest self-interest, without the assistance of much reasoning power, would prompt the other members to imitate him; and all would thus profit. The habitual practice of each new art must likewise in some slight degree strengthen the intellect. If the new invention were an important one, the tribe would increase in number, spread, and supplant other tribes. In a tribe thus rendered more numerous there would always be a rather greater chance of the birth of other superior and inventive members. If such men left children to inherit their mental superiority, the chance of the birth of still more ingenious members would be somewhat better, and in a very small tribe decidedly better. Even if they left no children, the tribe would still include their blood-relations; and it has been ascertained by agriculturists that by preserving and breeding from the family of an animal, which when slaughtered was found to be valuable, the desired character has been obtained…

…Let it be borne in mind how all-important in the never-ceasing wars of savages, fidelity and courage must be. The advantage which disciplined soldiers have over undisciplined hordes follows chiefly from the confidence which each man feels in his comrades. Obedience, as Mr. Bagehot has well shewn, is of the highest value, for any form of government is better than none. Selfish and contentious people will not cohere, and without coherence nothing can be effected. 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…

…It must not be forgotten that although a high standard of morality gives but a slight or no advantage to each individual man and his children over the other men of the same tribe, yet that an increase in the number of well-endowed men and an advancement in the standard of morality will certainly give an immense advantage to one tribe over another. A tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection. At all times throughout the world tribes have supplanted other tribes; and as morality is one important element in their success, the standard of morality and the number of well-endowed men will thus everywhere tend to rise and increase.

It is, however, very difficult to form any judgment why one particular tribe and not another has been successful and has risen in the scale of civilisation. Many savages are in the same condition as when first discovered several centuries ago. As Mr. Bagehot has remarked, we are apt to look at the progress as normal in human society; but history refutes this. The ancients did not even entertain the idea, nor do the Oriental nations at the present day. According to another high authority, Sir Henry Maine, "The greatest part of mankind has never shewn a particle of desire that its civil institutions should be improved." Progress seems to depend on many concurrent favourable conditions, far too complex to be followed out. But it has often been remarked, that a cool climate, from leading to industry and to the various arts, has been highly favourable thereto. The Esquimaux, pressed by hard necessity, have succeeded in many ingenious inventions, but their climate has been too severe for continued progress. Nomadic habits, whether over wide plains, or through the dense forests of the tropics, or along the shores of the sea, have in every case been highly detrimental. Whilst observing the barbarous inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, it struck me that the possession of some property, a fixed abode, and the union of many families under a chief, were the indispensable requisites for civilisation. Such habits almost necessitate the cultivation of the ground and the first steps in cultivation would probably result, as I have elsewhere shewn, from some such accident as the seeds of a fruit-tree falling on a heap of refuse, and producing an unusually fine variety. The problem, however, of the first advance of savages towards civilisation is at present much too difficult to be solved. (from Chapter V, On the Development of the Intellectual and Moral Faculties)

On the Formation of the Races of Man.—In some cases the crossing of distinct races has led to the formation of a new race. The singular fact that the Europeans and Hindoos, who belong to the same Aryan stock, and speak a language fundamentally the same, differ widely in appearance, whilst Europeans differ but little from Jews, who belong to the Semitic stock, and speak quite another language, has been accounted for by Broca, through certain Aryan branches having been largely crossed by indigenous tribes during their wide diffusion. When two races in close contact cross, the first result is a heterogeneous mixture: thus Mr. Hunter, in describing the Santali or hill-tribes of India, says that hundreds of imperceptible gradations may be traced "from the black, squat tribes of the mountains to the tall olive-coloured Brahman, with his intellectual brow, calm eyes, and high but narrow head"; so that it is necessary in courts of justice to ask the witnesses whether they are Santalis or Hindoos. Whether a heterogeneous people, such as the inhabitants of some of the Polynesian islands, formed by the crossing of two distinct races, with few or no pure members left, would ever become homogeneous, is not known from direct evidence. But as with our domesticated animals, a cross-breed can certainly be fixed and made uniform by careful selection in the course of a few generations, we may infer that the free inter-crossing of a heterogeneous mixture during a long descent would supply the place of selection, and overcome any tendency to reversion; so that the crossed race would ultimately become homogeneous, though it might not partake in an equal degree of the characters of the two parent-races…

…With civilized nations, the reduced size of the jaws from lessened use—the habitual play of different muscles serving to express different emotions—and the increased size of the brain from greater intellectual activity, have together produced a considerable effect on their general appearance when compared with savages. Increased bodily stature, without any corresponding increase in the size of the brain, may (judging from the previously adduced case of rabbits), have given to some races an elongated skull of the dolichocephalic type… (from Chapter VII, On the Races of Man)

In an earlier chapter we have seen that the mental powers of the higher animals do not differ in kind, though greatly in degree, from the corresponding powers of man, especially of the lower and barbarous races; and it would appear that even their taste for the beautiful is not widely different from that of the Quadrumana. As the negro of Africa raises the flesh on his face into parallel ridges "or cicatrices, high above the natural surface, which unsightly deformities are considered great personal attractions"—as negroes and savages in many parts of the world paint their faces with red, blue, white, or black bars—so the male mandrill of Africa appears to have acquired his deeply-furrowed and gaudily-coloured face from having been thus rendered attractive to the female. No doubt it is to us a most grotesque notion that the posterior end of the body should be coloured for the sake of ornament even more brilliantly than the face; but this is not more strange than that the tails of many birds should be especially decorated. (from Chapter XVIII, Secondary Sexual Characters of Mammals—Continued)

Continue To Page Two

Darwin Controversy Index


Home Page

Reason And Authority

Peter Abelard And Bernard Of Clairvaux

Deliver Us From Evil

What's God Got To Do With It?

The Lord Thy God Is A Jealous God

In A Concluding Homage To Sextus Empiricus…

Of Prods, And Gods, And Dancing Girls; And Censorship, And Things

Coleridge And The End Of Christian Economics

Innocent's Ward—The Wonder Of The World

A Sufficiency Of Grace

Beware The Ides Of March!?

Suspensions Of Disbelief

Hugh Shapland Swinny—Nationalism And Anti-Theology In Ireland At The Start Of The Twentieth Century

The Wage The Faithful Earn

An Overview Of Slavery In The Southern United States

The Darwin Controversy

America The Beautiful?

Puritanism And The Theatre

Meet the editorial staff of the Heresiarch

Index To Past Issues

Athol Books Web

Athol Books HomePage

Aubane Historical Society

Athol Books Secure Sales

Labour & Trade Union Review