Thursday, February 24, 2005

I'm From Dayton, Not Cincinnati! No, Really!

A University of Cincinnati (as opposed to the University of Dayton, where I attended) student recently wrote this screed against evolution, trying to prove that evolutionary theory is inherently racist and thus those who accept evolution as the best explanation for speciation are racists. I'm not going to refute the entire article; Ed Brayton of Dispatches from the Culture Wars has already done so. I want to focus in on a single paragraph of this remarkably stupid article:

Possibly a more recent example happened in Rwanda with the Hutu-Tutsi
slayings. We can trace this back to when Belgium took over Rwanda in 1917.
Belgian Roman Catholic missionaries began working there, establishing many
social projects. However, this "church/state" alliance held to the belief that
one tribal group involved with its work was superior to the other tribes having
"less evolved" tribal members.

The author, one Scott Foust, seems to have missed in his Bible reading the part about not condemning another for the splinter in his or her eye but instead worrying about the tree in one's own. Guess what? Racists have, and still do, use any scientific theory, ideology, or religion to validate their views that their race is superior and all other races inferior.

Did evolution motivate Columbus and Cortez to claim that the Native Americans were of an inferior race? Did evolution motivate the Israelites to exterminate the inferior race of Amalekites? Did evolution motivate the Egyptians to keep slaves of the inferior Israelite race? Did evolution make medieval Christians and Muslims decide that each other were inferior races? Did evolution make the Romans claim superiority over the Goths, Visigoths, Vandals, and other Germanic tribes?

No. Religion and national identity did.

So, let's consider Mr. Foust's example. He claims that "Belgian Roman Catholic missionaries" practiced racism in Rwanda in 1917 and that evolution is to blame. Hmm. One would think that white Europeans had only been oppressing and exploiting Africans for the sixty or so years since the publication of "On the Origins of Species" in 1859. But, it turns out, no! Europeans were already exploiting Africans and decrying them as an inferior breed of man openly for hundreds of years! Imagine my (and Mr. Foust's) surprise!

Hmm. So, religion, in this case Christianity, has been used to support the exploitation of Africans since long before the publication of "On the Origins of Species," and the people who Foust accuses of evolution-based racism are, themselves, missionaries, tasked by the Catholic freakin' Church to carry out the God-appointed task of bringing the Gospel to African heathens. Could it possibly, just maybe, be that the racism of Roman Catholic missionaries was motivated more by the word they were sent to preach than by a scientific theory that the missionaries' own Church, at the time, rejected as heretical? Which is more likely, Mr. Foust?

But even were it not plain from the above argument that Mr. Foust's claim is specious, there is another reason it makes no sense. He has accepted the Hotel Rwanda explanation for the division of Africans in and around Rwanda (there are Hutus and Tutsis in Burundi, the Congo, and other nations as well), which is that Belgians created the groupings by choosing those who looked the most like Europeans to form the ruling Tutsi class and the others to form the subservient Hutu class. But, according to Philip Gourevitch's we wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories of Rwanda, the story is a bit more complex.

You see, the racial division between the Hutus and Tutsis existed long before 1917. It preexisted Darwin's publication of "On the Origins of Species." Rather, in fact, it was based on Biblical interpretation!

You see, the ruling Tutsi class, after having been brought into contact with the Bible long before 1917, believed that it was descended directly from one of Noah's sons following the great Flood, and therefore had a noble lineage. The Hutus had no such tradition. Christianity was the support used to foster division and prop up the framework of Tutsi superiority long before the Theory of Evolution ever existed.

Is it a coincidence that contact with white European Christians caused the ethnic group with more "European" features to believe that it was directly descended from Noah, who, of course, they were told, was a white guy? Or do you think the Europeans might have encouraged this view, even though they had never read the as yet unwritten "On the Origin of Species?"

I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count. (Hint: The answer is yes).

The title of Foust's article is "Evolution perpetuates racist ideologies." But, ironically enough, his example proves the exact opposite. The article should have been titled, "Religion, Christianity in particular, perpetuates racist ideologies."

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Foust!


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