It is the common contention among biblical creationists1 of the alienist persuasion that the modern concept of human races is derived from the evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin. Darwin is not the originator of evolutionary biology. Different naturalistic evolutionary theories were in circulation before Darwin was even born, and the notion of life derived from gradual natural processes can even be found among the ancient Greek Epicurean philosophers. Darwin is credited by most contemporary biologists for having successfully proposed a model of evolution that could occur entirely by observable laws of nature. This naturalistic explanation for the existence of life is considered by many modern biologists to make the the existence of any god superfluous at best and harmfully superstitious at worst.
Darwin is famous for his observations regarding the interactions of biological life with the environment and how these interactions impact the characteristics of different species of living organisms. Darwin suggested that the diversity of Earth’s living creatures is derived from a gradual process of evolutionary change guided by natural selection. On this theory, the natural environment impacts the characteristics of creatures, selecting in favor of certain advantageous traits while selecting against disadvantageous traits. Darwin explained that creatures with different traits will have different rates of survival and reproduction depending upon how well-adapted these creatures are to their particular environment. Creatures have different genes (or genotypes) and these genes contribute to different traits (or phenotypes). Darwin’s theory is that creatures that are better adapted to a particular environment will be more likely to reproduce than creatures that are less adapted.
For example, creatures that are faster, more intelligent, and more energy-efficient than others will be more likely to survive. What Darwin proposes is that the biological diversity we observe in the many different species of organisms is due to the proliferation of certain random mutations and the natural selection of characteristics best suited to particular niches in the environment. Thus, when we see apparent design in the natural order, it is simply the result of the past selection of different traits that an organism needed to survive. There is no teleology in this biological construct. All apparent purpose in biological design can be explained by the unconscious selection of biologically advantageous traits acquired through random mutations. Darwinists teach that we cannot infer design from the appearance of purpose in the arrangements of nature, as theologian William Paley argued. Instead they attribute the existence of such apparent purpose to the natural selection of beneficial traits in organisms. This is what atheist Richard Dawkins calls “the blind watchmaker.”
While I do believe that Darwin made some correct observations about the interaction of genes with their environment, I find Darwinism to be quite deficient as an explanation for the existence of biological life in general as well as the wide diversity of biological life in particular. There are many problems with the idea that life as we know and experience it could have evolved through a process of slow, random mutations. Even without considering the question of the age of the earth or the universe, mathematical models can clearly demonstrate that random mutations cannot account for the existence of positive traits in different species or for speciation, i.e. the change of one species into another species over time.
Another major hurdle that Darwin’s theory of evolution cannot clear is what Dr. Michael Behe calls irreducible complexity. The concept of irreducible complexity applies to biological systems which involve multiple components. In these systems, the removal of one of the components does not merely make the system work less efficiently than if it were complete; instead, the system lacking just one of the components does not work at all. Behe uses the example of a mousetrap, which includes several parts working in tandem. If one of the components of the mousetrap is removed, the entire system becomes worthless for its intended purpose.
The same applies to biological systems, almost all of which are far more complex than a simple mousetrap. It is simply impossible for these systems to have evolved by gradual changes over time, since these systems could not have existed without all of their components working properly. Examples of these systems include, but are by no means limited to, the bacterial flagellum and the blood-clotting cascade. Biochemists even refer to these systems as “molecular machinery,” which means that the purposeful design of these systems really isn’t lost on them. Organ systems and complex organisms are even less likely to have evolved by gradual changes, since these systems are even more complex than singular molecular machines and hence require countless numbers of these systems to function together. If these systems lacked just a single feature, then they would provide zero survival value for natural selection to identify. (In fact, these incomplete systems could be positively detrimental, as they would serve no positive purpose but still occupy biological space.) Irreducible complexity hence prohibits complex systems from forming piecemeal. These are just two of the more formidable arguments against the Darwinian model.
The purpose of this article, however, is not to provide a comprehensive rebuttal to the Darwinistic view of the origin of biological life. Darwinism has become far more than a mere biological or even scientific hypothesis. Today Darwinism, in spite of its obvious flaws, serves as the primary intellectual basis for atheistic naturalism. To put it another way, if Darwinism is true, then there is no particular reason to believe that the existence of God is necessary. Creationists are well aware of this fact, so they rightly dedicate themselves to providing compelling reasons why Darwinism is false and cannot account for the existence of biological life, arguing that Christianity is true and can alone account for life.
In this I agree with my fellow creationists: refuting Darwinism should be a priority in Christian apologetics, both because of its profound impact on contemporary culture and because it is atheists’ primary recourse when explaining the existence of life. Where I believe many creationists go astray is in linking the concept of race to the atheistic, Darwinistic, and naturalistic worldview. The purpose of this article series is to counter the assertion made by some creationists that the concept of human races as we commonly understand them today has its origin in the Darwinistic worldview. While the concept of race has certainly developed over time, it is a concept with which our Christian ancestors were familiar and with roots in biblical anthropology. First, let us look at the claims made by creationist Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis regarding race and its supposedly Darwinistic origins.
The Supposedly Darwinist Origins of “Racism”
Ken Ham has made quite the name for himself in the world of young-earth creation apologetics. Ken Ham is not neutral on the question of race; he considers the denial of racial divisions within humanity to be an essential component of the Christian worldview. Ham maintains that the concept of racial distinctions has origins in the naturalistic evolutionary view of Charles Darwin. There is even a silly graphic on his website, Answers in Genesis, with the word “races” in scare quotes in a garbage can with the caption, “Get rid of this evolutionized term!”
In his article on race, Ham writes, “In the 1800s, before Darwinian evolution was popularized, most people, when talking about ‘races,’ would be referring to such groups as the ‘English race,’ ‘Irish race,’ and so on. However, this all changed in 1859 when Charles Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.”
Ken Ham is committed to the idea that there is only one race because of our common descent from Adam. He quotes Acts 17:26 to this end in his article (while conveniently ignoring the implications of the second half of the verse). Problematically, Ham gives us no operating definition of race while dogmatically asserting that all humanity must be considered to be one race. Ham leaves his readers to fill in this important omission for ourselves. This is a common problem with those who deny the existence of race or who suggest that all of humanity must be considered one race, any other distinctions being cultural and dividing humanity into abstract “people groups.” Ham seems to imply that race is denoted by common descent from an exclusive group of ancestors. In other words, a race would be a group of individuals or organisms who are completely biologically unrelated to members of another race, having no ancestors in common. The problem is that no evolutionist in history (or almost anyone else, for that matter) understood race this way! Historically, most people have understood race to denote some level of common ancestry. There could be racial distinctions even if two or more races had ancestors in common. Thus there was no problem with Christians in the past using the word “race” for particular nations (or larger groupings), since they weren’t denying the fact of common descent from Adam.
Our friend Tim summarizes this in his critique of Ken Ham’s pamphlet called “One Blood”:
[V]ery clearly Mr. Ham thinks racism has something to do with common vs. disjunctive origin. . . . But this is crazy. Many people that believe humanity is divided into races also believe that all men are descended from a single pair, and the vast majority of Christians that believe in the existence of races share that belief. Moreover, chronologists, genealogists and mappers of humanity developed a comprehensive theory on the distribution of the races of humanity long before evolution was believed by any but a few esoteric neo-Platonists here and there. Their material on genetic theory is interesting, but Ham et al. are tilting at windmills if they think this is telling against a belief that races exist.2
There is another problem with Ham’s contention that racial differentiation is intrinsically evolutionary and Darwinistic. If races are defined by Ham’s vaguely implied definition of strictly exclusive ancestry, then it would be grossly false to say that Darwinists believe in multiple human races, or even different races of any life forms whatsoever. Tim notes that there is a strong sense in which Darwinists are even more committed to a one-race theory than creationists: “One could be cute and point out that some evolutionists believe in a common ancestor with a vengeance — indeed, that all living things descend from the same single cell! So by Ham’s definition, evolutionists not only deny ‘races’ among men, but would be forced to concede that men and apes are of the same race. And elephants, and beetles.”3 If a race should be classified as everyone that has any ancestors in common, then by the Darwinist’s reckoning, all organisms, and not just all humans, should be classified as one race. This seems to go right over Ken Ham’s head, since this fact entirely nullifies his contention that Darwin is responsible for the notion of separate human races.
In this short opening paragraph on what supposedly constitutes race, Ken Ham suggests that the modern concept of races, such as the white race, black race, Mongoloid race, etc., began in 1859. He suggests that the concept of race “changed in 1859” with the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species from what we now recognize as nationality to a larger concept of closely related national and ethnic groups. What amazes me is how intellectually dishonest this contention is when we look at the historical development of the concept of race. It is indeed true that the word “race” has had different relative meanings throughout history. Webster’s dictionary defined “race” as a hereditary concept based upon descent from a common ancestor: “The lineage of a family, or continued series of descendants from a parent who is called the stock. A race is the series of descendants indefinitely. Thus all mankind are called the race of Adam; the Israelites are of the race of Abraham and Jacob. Thus we speak of a race of kings, the race of Clovis or Charlemagne; a race of nobles, &c. Hence the long race of Alban fathers come.”4
From Webster’s definition, we can see that race is a term with some fluidity, and it can be applied broadly or specifically. There is a sense in which we can legitimately refer to the human race as the race of Adam, since he is the universal ancestor of humanity. There is also a sense in which the word can be applied far more proximately, such as to familial dynasties spanning multiple generations. The fact that “race” was applied at the national level in many cases, as Ham himself admits, is proof that Christian nations considered national identity as having a hereditary basis rather than a propositional one. Nevertheless, it is true that the concept of race did develop – though not how Ham has suggested. Divisions of mankind among large subgroups based upon common physical characteristics existed long before Darwin.
The concept of race as large subgroups of humanity – which definition I will use from here on – largely became systemized during the advent of modern taxonomy, which took place during the Enlightenment. However, although the science of taxonomy developed during this time, it does not follow that the concept of race began during this period. As our friend Phinehas Fury states, “[T]he Romans, Greeks and Egyptians had already placed the races into different categories and had documented the different outwardly physical, emotional, cognitive and technical abilities.”5
Perhaps one of the best examples of the teaching of racial solidarity in the medieval church can be supplied by one of its most prominent theologians. In his magnum opus, the Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas provides us with an excellent case of racial identification based upon physical characteristics and rooted in heredity, anticipating the modern science of taxonomy by centuries. Aquinas concludes that likeness or similarity is a cause of love when he writes, “For the very fact that two men are alike, having, as it were, one form, makes them to be, in a manner, one in that form: thus two men are one thing in the species of humanity, and two white men are one thing in whiteness.”6 From this we can clearly see that medieval Christian Europeans possessed an understanding of their common racial identity, even when they were not living in the presence of other races as today. Race is not a concept that is tied to the Enlightenment, and it is most definitely not tied to Darwinism. It is simply dishonest for Ken Ham to suggest that everything “changed in 1859” when Darwin published On the Origin of Species.
Nevertheless, in spite of all this evidence, because taxonomy developed during the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Enlightenment period, many creationists have mistakenly concluded that taxonomy is derived from the naturalistic and rationalistic presuppositions of the Enlightenment. The reality is that the father of taxonomy, Carolus Linnaeus, was an orthodox Christian who presupposed that all humans descended from Adam. The Linnaean taxonomical categories still serve as the foundation for most of modern taxonomy. Another outstanding racial taxonomist was Johann Friedrich Blumenbach. Blumenbach proposed what has been called degeneration theory, in which he believed that Adam and Eve were created Caucasian, and that the other races constituted deviations from the original Caucasian characteristics. While I have no doubt that Ken Ham and other creationists would consider both Linnaeus’s and Blumenbach’s observations to be “racist,” it is interesting to point out that two of the major racial taxonomists who helped develop the concept of race believed that all humans had common ancestors. This is called the monogenetic position. In fact, the liberal cultural Marxist George Fredrickson even admitted that Blumenbach “went out of his way to refute the common claim that Africans were ‘nearer to apes than other men.’”7 The alternative would be the polygenetic position, advocated by some anthropologists like Josiah Nott, George Gliddon, and Louis Agassiz, which postulates that the races of humanity descend from different ancestors.8
While the two theories of monogenism and polygenism were debated during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, monogenism was consistently the majority view among anthropologists. This leads to another element of dishonesty in Ham’s article on race. In this article, Ham has a graphic towards the beginning of his article which shows a picture of an ape with several separate arrows pointing to different races. The implication is that Charles Darwin and his disciples believe in a polygenetic theory of the origins of humanity. Yet Darwin was actually a proponent of monogenism. Although he rejected the biblical account of creation, Darwin nevertheless staunchly believed that all humanity was descended from a group of common human ancestors. Darwin wrote in his book on human ancestry called The Descent of Man: “Those naturalists . . . who admit the principle of evolution, and this is now admitted by the majority of rising men, will feel no doubt that all the races of man are descended from a single primitive stock.”
Darwin certainly spoke of the existence of different human races, as was the convention of the time, but he still believed that they had a common origin. Therefore it is dishonest for Ken Ham to portray Charles Darwin as though he believed in the polygenetic theory. Ken Ham and other creationists are fond of quoting Darwinists like Ernst Haeckel and Thomas Huxley as to their “racist” opinions. What Ham has not done is to demonstrate that belief in race or racial differences is intrinsically tied to Darwinism. Many early Darwinists were racially conscious, but so were many who rejected Darwinism. There is nothing uniquely Darwinist about the concept of race or racial differences.
Ironically, many Christians today use an unstated definition of race that seems to be more influenced by Darwinian presuppositions. Many people today define race in terms of the ability to interbreed. In this way, race would be essentially identical to our concept of species. By this definition, two members of a race can interbreed, and two individuals of different races cannot. The evolutionary presumption is that all organisms descend from a common group of primitive organisms, and that these organisms reproduced until their distant descendants could no longer interbreed because of their biological differences. This is referred to as speciation, or the dividing into separate species. Many Christians insist that humans be classed as a single race or kind because all humans can interbreed, but this doesn’t accord with the biblical usage of the word “kind.” In Leviticus 19:19, we read that the Israelites were not to interbreed animals of different kinds. This indicates that animals of different kinds could interbreed, as it would be pointless to have a law against impossible breeding. The biblical concept of kind doesn’t exclude the possibility of interbreeding or some degree of common ancestry.
The Contemporary Darwinist Position on Race
The perceptive reader will notice that while Ken Ham considers “racism” as intrinsically Darwinist and classes “racism” with the greatest of human evils, he quotes from several Darwinian evolutionists who share Ham’s view on the evils of “racism.” This raises the question: if the concept of human races is so dependent upon a Darwinian evolutionary perspective, why do so many contemporary Darwinists find themselves in agreement with Ken Ham on the question of race? The fact that many early Darwinists advocated race realism is unimpressive, since there isn’t anything particularly unique about their views in comparison with orthodox Christians of the time. Ham seems aware of this tension. In this lecture, Ken Ham remarks, “The secular world has actually been leading the way in dealing with the race issue and not the church.”9 Ham suggests that this is because the church adopted evolutionary thinking. Is Ham serious? I am disgusted by the way Ham throws my faithful and racially-conscious Christian ancestors under the bus in favor of the contemporary secularist consensus. Outstanding Christians of the past, such as R.L. Dabney, had a robust understanding of racial differences which had absolutely nothing to do with evolution. Moreover, if it was the supposed evolutionism of the church which hindered their efforts at “reforming” the country’s racial issues, then why wouldn’t the even more evolutionistic secular world be even more hindered? Ham’s explanation not only impugns the biblical faithfulness of our Christian ancestors, but lacks internal consistency as well.
Ken Ham often laments the corrosive effect that rejecting the biblical account of creation has had on Western culture, and I agree. The rejection of biblical authority has indeed devastated the West, but given this problem, why is it that racial differences are being rejected as “racist” at precisely the time in history when these same secularists are rejecting the authority of the Bible and the doctrine of creation? This isn’t a merely academic issue, nor is it coincidental. Contemporary pop culture is saturated with propaganda encouraging people of different races to intermarry and promoting the ideal of racial and ethnic diversity over homogeneity. The worst and most liberal elements of society are the vanguard of this movement, with Hollywood, MTV, professional sports, mainstream media, secular universities, and other public schools leading the way. Does Ham actually want us to believe that all of these institutions of the secular world – which he says are “leading the way in dealing with the race issue” – are implicit creationists when it comes to race?
Ham begins his article by approvingly quoting evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould on the topic of so-called “scientific racism.” Gould admits that Darwinian thinking contributed to the belief in the existence of race: “Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1859, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory.” This is the same Stephen Jay Gould who has been caught red-handed in fabricating lies about nineteenth-century anthropologists. Gould claimed that data regarding the morphological differences between the different races was fabricated due to the researchers’ bias. Gould specifically accused anthropologist Samuel George Morton of fabricating his data in his studies of skull sizes of different races. It turns out that a reexamination of Morton’s data has vindicated Morton and proven that Gould was the one who was lying in his book, The Mismeasure of Man. Gould is not at all qualified to speak to the integrity of real scientists when it is clear that he fudges the data to support his own egalitarian worldview. While Ken Ham published his article before Gould’s lie was exposed, evidently Ham hasn’t done sufficient research into the reality of race, since he quotes from many questionable sources in his quest to disprove the existence of race.
Ham quotes the Advancement of Science Convention in Atlanta: “Race is a social construct derived mainly from perceptions conditioned by events of recorded history, and it has no basic biological reality.” Likewise, Ham quotes no less of an authority than ABC News: “More and more scientists find that the differences that set us apart are cultural, not racial. Some even say that the word race should be abandoned because it’s meaningless.” Ham then cites dubious sources, such as the Journal of Counseling and Development and a New York Times article, as being in agreement. Of course, none of these quotes prove anything, other than the fact that Ham is perfectly comfortable with contemporary opinions. Do any of these sources reject Darwinian evolution along with the biological reality of race? The answer is, of course, no. Ironically, Ham often correctly observes that an abandonment of biblical orthodoxy has destroyed our culture and morality. If Ham is correct about race, why has race-denial come into vogue at a time of widespread apostasy and infidelity? If Ham had done more thorough research, then he would have found that the biological reality of race is a well-established scientific fact.
We read in the general epistle of Jude that even the Archangel Michael dared not bring a railing accusation against Satan himself (Jude 9). This is a principle that Ken Ham should have followed in handling the ideas and evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin. Like all orthodox Christians, I believe that Darwinian evolution fails as an explanation for the origins of life because it conflicts with the Bible, and further grounds for my belief are the issues of mathematical impossibility and irreducible complexity. Darwin’s errors have certainly played a role in the decline of society. Yet, this does not mean that we can charge Charles Darwin with frivolous accusations of “racist” genocide or slaughter. We must be just in accurately criticizing our opponents.
It doesn’t take Ken Ham long to identify Darwinism as the source of Hitler’s National Socialist ideology. Ham makes an obvious reductio ad Hitlerum argument, suggesting that disagreement with his “anti-racist” opinions ultimately makes one a Nazi. The link between Darwinian evolution and German National Socialism appears to be tenuous. Among the literature included in a list of banned books under National Socialism appear “[w]ritings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism and Monism (Häckel).”10 This doesn’t mean that Darwin had no influence on the thinking of National Socialists such as Hitler, but the link between the two isn’t what Ham imagines it to be. Today, it’s fashionable to make the abstract concept of “racism” into the worst of evils and to demonize any basis for white identity which runs contrary to the cosmopolitan spirit of the age. Ken Ham knows this implicitly. Hence he guilts his intellectual opponents into agreement by teaching that those who reject his views are evolutionists and hence “racists” and Nazis. Ham’s hope is that the guilt and social pressure accompanying the “racist” label will suffice to silence those who disagree with him, convincing them to renounce their evolutionary views and embrace creationism.
Is this strategy working? Ken Ham’s “evolution = racism” strategy does not appear to be working at all. Darwinian evolution continues to dominate biology departments at colleges and universities worldwide. The theory enjoys a virtually unchallenged position in every scientific journal published throughout the world. When someone does manage to challenge the Darwinist consensus and defend the biblical worldview, the reason for his doing so isn’t because of the unsurpassed “racism” of Darwinists, but rather because Darwinism is an insufficient explanation for the existence of life. Trying to pin false guilt on Darwinists is a poor tactic. Instead, Christians should be focused on exposing the shortcomings of the Darwinist perspective and proving the explanatory superiority of the biblical account of creation.
In the next article, we will discuss Ham’s pitiful arguments in disproving the reality of race, and his public display of piety in promoting miscegenation.
Read Part 2: Racial Realism and Miscegenation
- Throughout this article I will use the word “creationist” to denote creationist organizations such as the Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis rather than just any adherent to the belief in biblical creationism. Because we believe in the biblical account of creation, all Faith and Heritage writers would be considered creationists in this more general sense. There are several ongoing disputes that Ken Ham is involved with among proponents of creationism. Ken Ham has been accused of unethical business practices during a dispute with Dr. Carl Wieland of Creation Ministries International. Answers in Genesis has also been caught editing without comment the sermons of Charles Spurgeon to cover up Spurgeon’s old-earth creationism. For more information on the dishonesty of Answers in Genesis, see here and here. ↩
- First Word, “Ham on Racism and Evolution” ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Webster’s Dictionary, 1828 ↩
- Phinehas Fury, “Sleeping with the Enemy” ↩
- Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (II:I, 27:3). Other church fathers, such as Tertullian, also spoke of race in a hereditary sense. See http://ironink.org/2013/08/tertullian-race/. ↩
- George M. Fredrickson, Racism: A Short History, page 57. Cited in Phinehas Fury, “Sleeping With the Enemy” ↩
- See Josiah Nott and George Gliddon, Types of Mankind. ↩
- Ham makes this comment around time 34:30. ↩
- Strothmann, Dietrich. Nationalsozialistische Literaturpolitik: ein Beitrag zur Publizistik im Dritten Reich. Bonn: H. Bouvier, 1968. pp. 143-144. Translation by Dr. Roland Richter. See here for the original source and translation. ↩