‘Human Zoos’ Exhibits the Racist Toll of Darwinism

Ota Benga, on exhibit at New York City's Bronx Zoo

By John Zmirak Published on November 19, 2018

The powerful documentary from the Discovery Institute Human Zoos is something every young person needs to see. Before he goes off to college. It’s a film that churches should show, with discussion groups afterward. Ideally, multi-ethnic congregations ought to gather and watch the film together. Then talk about the really stunning questions it raises, such as:

  • How was it that people who considered themselves Christians could troop through exhibitions, such as at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, and gawk at other groups of people exhibited like animals? Just because they came from more “primitive” cultures, such as the Philippines’?
  • How could thousands of church-going New Yorkers, over several sold-out weeks, go to the Bronx Zoo to gawk at Ota Benga, an African pygmy kidnapped from his faraway home, and displayed in a cage with orangutans, as the “missing” link in evolution? (After protests from black clergymen, he was eventually released, but ten years later committed suicide.)
  • How exactly did America’s intellectual elites, in the 1920s and 30s, fall in love with eugenics, and back laws in 13 states that forcibly sterilized thousands of Americans — just for flunking culturally biased IQ tests?
  • How can the eugenics organization, Planned Parenthood, which sponsored those laws (soon emulated in Nazi Germany), still be a major force today, receiving hundreds of millions in federal funding?

Darwin and the Death of Man

I didn’t use to believe it, but I’ve come to see that the single most powerful force for dissolving religious faith in the West was, and still is, Darwinism.

By that I don’t mean the observation that some species might have originated from others. Or that biological competition plays a crucial role in which species thrived and which disappeared. Those are all straightforward inferences which scientists can draw from observing nature.

No, I mean the dogmatic, untestable, but completely unshakeable faith that Darwinism demands in its central tenet. Blind chance, playing out over unimaginable eons of time, is responsible for everything. First, the emergence of the universe and its laws. Then the spread of the galaxies. The formation of our solar system and the earth. The rise of life in the first place. The growth in sophistication of one life form from another. The development of mammals, then primates, then man, then you and me. (Yes, Darwinism combines natural selection — a law-like process — with random variation. But the source of change is blind chance.)

All of it is simply “stuff that happened,” and it could well have happened some other way. Every one of our human attributes is likewise an accident. It emerged by blind mutation, and survived in us exclusively because it tweaked our ancestors’ chances of living long enough to breed. Your love for your parents, spouse, children, neighbors, country? Every last bit of it boils down in the end to nothing more than … some biological weapon, which helped your distant animal ancestors live longer or breed faster. The human bond of marriage? It’s no different, really, than the mating habits of preying mantises, which end with the female devouring the male.

Adolf Hitler cited Darwin in Mein Kampf as the thinker who opened his eyes to the “real” engine of history — a ruthless struggle among the races, to see which is fittest, and will survive.

A mother’s tenderness toward her baby? It may touch our hearts. But really it amounts to the same thing as a viper’s potent venom. Or a spider’s lethal web. Just another bio-weapon, in the endless war for survival. In practical terms, it means the survival of some clumps of “selfish” DNA. But otherwise it means … nothing.

New Morals to Suit a New and Harsher Creed

Now when you abandon the Faith, Hope, and Charity that accompany belief in a creator God, you don’t just lose the human faculties that once served those virtues. They still remain, like “vestigial” organs. So they go right on working, but attach themselves to new objects. They have to, really.

So we find new objects of Faith. Liberal Christians who swallowed an overdose of Darwin lost faith not just in the plain reading of Genesis, but in the events of the Gospels. When materialistic biblical scholars patiently pored through the New Testament, ruling out in advance any miraculous events or supernatural claims, some Christians duly believed them. But they didn’t want to abandon the happy, uplifting implications of Christian ethics. After all, that was what they’d been raised with. Christianity meant for them not so much a stark series of supernatural claims as … being kind to the weak, having good manners, and generally being civilized.

Help us champion truth, freedom, limited government and human dignity. Support The Stream »

Imagine a stained glass window of Jesus that has faded over centuries, so His face no longer appears. But the window still paints the room in rosy, pastel colors. So you decide that the real purpose of the window was decorative, all along. It’s just that your generation is now advanced enough to see it. Christianity is just a superior mode of living. It helped us outcompete other tribes, like the Muslims and the Buddhists. It made us … fitter to survive. So things seemed to Westerners in 1900, whose colonial empires ruled most of the world.

Racism: Darwinism’s “Killer App”

In fact, as Human Zoos makes clear, Darwinism fed strongly into the racist views current back then. Prominent Darwinists strove to make the random evolution of man more plausible by pointing to … more “primitive” races. Exhibits meant to sell evolution to the masses routinely pictured Africans as virtual “missing links” between lower primates and … nice, rich, “civilized” white folks in frock coats and bustles. Adolf Hitler cited Darwin in Mein Kampf as the thinker who opened his eyes to the “real” engine of history — a ruthless struggle among the races, to see which is fittest, and will survive.

Instead of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Resurrection of the Body, Darwinized Christians put faith in … social reform. The “Social Gospel,” as they called it. The “real” meaning of Christianity was making society better. A future, more perfect world replaces Heaven as the object of our Hope.

Achieving that meant more “rational” economic systems, such as socialism. It demanded more “rational” breeding, to improve the human strain, as we selectively breed domestic animals. Culling our herd for the sake of the future? Not so much feeding the poor as eliminating them? That was the new face of Charity.

There is nothing especially sacred about any aspect of human life. There’s no metaphysical bond between one race and another. No common descent from Adam and Eve. No Last Judgment coming at which we all, rich and poor, black and white, will cower equally as sinners. Nope.

Cruel to Be Kind

We are none of us unique creations, made in the image of God. We are biological accidents, closer to or further from our subhuman primate ancestors. But some of us want to do the “Christian” thing and make the world a better place. We can do that by observing the “primitive” traits of “lesser” human strains, and helping to breed those attributes out of existence.

Liberal Christians who swallowed an overdose of Darwin lost faith not just in the literal sense of Genesis, but in the events of the Gospels. When materialistic biblical scholars patiently pored through the New Testament, ruling out in advance any miraculous events or supernatural claims, some Christians duly believed them.

H.G. Wells, the gifted science fiction writer who gave us The Time Machine and War of the Worlds, exemplified the world-view of Darwinist progressivism. A socialist and eugenicist, he wanted to engineer the same ideal future that Social Gospel Christians dimly dreamed of. But he offered pragmatic measures. He wrote:

[T]he ethical system which will dominate the world-state will be shaped primarily to favour the procreation of what is fine and efficient and beautiful in humanity – beautiful and strong bodies, clear and powerful minds, and a growing body of knowledge – and to check the procreation of base and servile types, of fear-driven and cowardly souls, of all that is mean and ugly and bestial in the souls, bodies and habits of men … the method that has only one alternative, the method that must in some cases still be called in to the help of man, is death. …

[H]ow will the New Republic treat the inferior races? How will it deal with the black? How will it deal with the yellow man? How will it tackle that alleged termite in the civilised world, the Jew?

Firm in his new, Darwinian Faith, socialist Hope, and eugenic Charity, Wells had an answer:

[T]hose swarms of black and brown and yellow people who do not come into the needs of efficiency? Well, the world is not a charitable institution, and I take it they will have to go.

Elites Still Think They’re Part of a New and Higher Species

Liberal Christianity has no good defense against such a worldview. As it happened, the Nazis took eugenicist ideas so far, so fast, they rendered them unfashionable. It’s no longer tasteful to openly endorse eliminating entire human ethnic groups. (Though nations such as Iceland can boast about “curing” Down Syndrome by aborting 100 percent of fetuses who fail a DNA test.)

Groups such as Planned Parenthood must speak instead of addressing poverty, reducing crime, and “empowering” women, by slashing into the birth rates of “unwanted” children. But Planned Parenthood still targets poor people, black and brown people. It still pursues a worldly utopia achieved by culling millions out of the human herd. Liberal elites can still speak with sneering disgust of entire groups of people, this time the “Deplorables,” the “backward” religious believers, conservatives, Christians, and other throwbacks who hold back the march of Progress.

If some on the left have their way, the next human zoos will house rural white people in MAGA hats, complete with guns, and bibles, and other attributes of the “missing link” between the primitive and the modern, civilized measure of man. In fact, one street artist in New York City already paved the way, decorating trash cans with images of white, Christian conservatives.

I’ll see you inside the monkey house, my friends.

Print Friendly
Comments ()
The Stream encourages comments, whether in agreement with the article or not. However, comments that violate our commenting rules or terms of use will be removed. Any commenter who repeatedly violates these rules and terms of use will be blocked from commenting. Comments on The Stream are hosted by Disqus, with logins available through Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or G+ accounts. You must log in to comment. Please flag any comments you see breaking the rules. More detail is available here.
  • Fyodor D

    Excellent essay!

    As I advance in age, the smug self-righteousness of our “elite” grates on me more and more. So assured of their own moral superiority are they that dissenting opinion (even facts!) can be angrily dismissed as the braying of the benighted. These people rail on and on against the hateful “religious right”, attributing the worst possible motives to positions that conflict with theirs. God save us from their preening virtue signaling.

  • Patmos

    Darwin, Marx, and Freud are a trifecta of evil. They are the devil’s modern unholy trinity, if you will. Well, not so modern anymore, and really just a foundation for what is to come in the anti Christ.

    • Ken Abbott

      Toss John Dewey into this pile of baleful influences–a one-man wrecking ball for the American educational system.

      • Patmos

        There are a great number of people you could toss onto that pile, all of which fall under the influence of these three I’ve mentioned. Dewey would fall under Marx. Freud gave us mind manipulator Edward Bernays and the freak show Alfred Kinsey, etc. etc.

  • Nick Stuart

    Note to parents: If you have your children in public school, you have placed them under the tutelage of a system whose foundational world view is atheistic materialism, with Darwinian (i.e. purely mechanistic) evolution as it’s creation myth. And this is just one element how the public school system fights against your efforts of raising Christian children.

    A couple dozen hours a year of Sunday School and youth group are not going to outweigh a couple thousand hours of public school indoctrination.

    Quit living in denial, get your children out of public school now.

  • tz1

    Meanwhile here, Margaret Sanger was speaking to the KKK, and the ACLU was suing to get Scopes to be able to use Hunters’ “Civic Biology” (Inherit the wind is fake history but showing fake news with “radio man”). You can find copies of the relevant pages with any search engine

    Here is an excerpt:

    The Races of Man. At the present time there exist upon the earth five races or varieties of man, each very different from the other in instincts, social customs, and, to an extent, in structure. These are the Ethiopian or negro type, originating in Africa; the Malay or brown race, from the islands of the Pacific; the American Indian; the Mongolian or yellow race, including the natives of China, Japan, and the Eskimos; and finally, the highest type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America.

    They wanted that in. Inherit the wind indeed. And they got prayer and the bible out.

  • Paul Trey

    “some species might have originated from others”-You might define this more specifically.

  • swordfish

    The fact that some racists and eugenecists might have once used a misinterpreted version (“survival of the fittest”) of Darminian evolution to further their cause is irrelevant to the truth of evolution as a scientifc theory. Some Christian slave owners used the Bible to justify slavery, although most Christians today would see that as wrong, not as a reason to reject their beliefs.

    Like it or not, Darwinian evolution is both a fact and a theory which has stood for 160 years and which has only been strengthened by each new discovery which has been made. It isn’t going to go away just because you don’t like it.

    • pseudo-intellectual

      Dream on…

  • Anthony Bradley

    “Plain reading of Genesis.” Please stop. This article is a great example of the confirmation bias of conservatives. They many historical blind spots. In fairness, white evangelicals, esp. in the South, adopted these exact same views, from the Bible, through the 1960s. So much of evangelical world missions was motivated by “civilizing native culture with the gospel and Western culture.” The fact that non-Christians believed this is not the scandal. The fact that evangelicals resisted dismantling Jim Crow by biblically supporting Darwinian progressivism (and fails to acknowledge it today or teach their children how evil Presbyterians and Southern Baptist evangelicals became in the South during slavery and Jim Crow) is the real unbelievable scandal.

    Also, we now know that Hitler and the Germans developed their version of eugenics from the USA/UK version supported by US elite Christians (save low-class fundamentalists).

A Christian ‘Opposite’ Strategy for Making a Difference
Tom Gilson
More from The Stream
Connect with Us