The Ugly History of ‘Scientific’ Racism

What's Wrong with Racism, Part I

By Jason Jones & John Zmirak Published on August 17, 2017

We like to swim against the stream. We saw that Christian leaders were rushing to judgment after the Charlottesville riot. And we knew we had to say something. To warn people not to rush in like lemmings. To harvest cheap grace by the bushel basket while making matters worse.

It’s important to remember the heart of what happened in Charlottesville: The mayor told the police to stand down, and let extremists fight it out in the streets of a U.S. city. One side used home-made flamethrowers. The other side weaponized a car. People died. That’s a failure of law enforcement, first and foremost. Also of political leadership.

Those are the real dangers we face. Not mere bad ideas. Those we’ve had always with us. No, we’re menaced by the collapse of public order and by intolerance on every side. Intolerance of people with different skins colors, of course. But also of people with different ideas, religious beliefs, or political affiliations. The left wants to make ethnic intolerance the only kind that’s disgraceful in America. It’s fine by them to fire, fine, or even imprison Christians who won’t take part in same-sex weddings, for instance.

With all of that said, there’s a very strong case we can make against racism and ultranationalism. In fact we devoted a chapter of 2014 book, The Race to Save Our Century, to doing just that. Here is a shortened, condensed version of what we published then.

Racism and Ultranationalism as Ideologies of Evil

These two forms of collectivism are as old as humankind. Empathy is a challenge for each of us. Thanks to the Fall, it’s natural for us spontaneously to experience fellow-feeling more intensely and automatically toward those who are closely related to us. Racial and ethnic groups can be experienced as a vast, extended family. So outsiders are easy to exclude from the circle of empathy. There are American Indian tribes that refer to their members as “humans.” They use other epithets for non-members. Greeks scorned “barbarians” for their uncouth-sounding speech and alien customs. We could multiply such examples of human fallenness by looking at every continent and century.

Of course, modern biology points the other way. It shows us that by any definition, human beings are a single species. We have roughly comparable qualities and a fixed, common nature. Just a few, insignificant genetic variations separate black from white from brown. Every human being who walks the earth descends from common parents. So the Book of Genesis tells us. The Christian church insisted on this in the wake of Europe’s discovery of America. The church taught the truth of human brotherhood for hundreds of years. Non-Europeans from “primitive” lands proved quite capable of learning European languages. They absorbed its highest culture. Just so, Europeans could learn from the ancient civilizations of India and China.

In the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries this crucial truth nearly vanished. Not in the backwoods. In universities. In the most educated countries on earth.

We Knew Better. We Forgot.

So how did we almost lose this common knowledge of human equality? In the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries this crucial truth nearly vanished. Not in the backwoods. In universities. In the most educated countries on earth.

What replaced this truth in the minds of millions? A much more primitive, atavistic denial of the humanity of the Other. The most extreme instance of neo-tribalism took place in Nazi Germany. There political ideologues invented a new, brutal religion to serve the invented god of race. But modern, “scientific” racist theory did not begin in Germany.

Breeding Humans Like Cattle

It started in England. With the new pseudo-science, eugenics. Its founder? Francis Galton, cousin and early disciple of Charles Darwin. Galton drew false and careless inferences from the work of his more rigorous relative. He theorized that we could speed up the process of natural selection among humans. Make it more efficient, less painful. How? By arranging that fewer “unfit” people would ever get born, so fewer would “need” to die off.

The method? “Scientific management” of the human breeding stock. Galton pressed “science” into the service of upper-class prejudice. Soon academic conferences in Britain, Germany and the U.S. convened. They explored how the human race could be better bred on the model of pedigree cattle. Academic chairs of eugenics appeared at first-rate research sites like the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute and (in the U.S.) the Cold Spring Harbour Carnegie Institution for Experimental Evolution.

Lawmakers took note. In cold fact, the science underpinning the whole eugenic enterprise was careless, hopelessly biased. It reproduce the prejudices of the researchers. It was wholly insufficient to support such a radical enterprise as remaking the human race. But nobody cared about that.

Sterilizing Americans

By the 1920s, with the support of Margaret Sanger’s Planned Parenthood and funding from health crank and cereal magnate Harvey Kellogg, things were rolling. More than a dozen U.S. states enacted laws requiring the sterilization of “idiots” and “imbeciles.” In practice this meant that American citizens were castrated for flunking a culturally biased (WASPy) I.Q. test. Then the Nazis took over Germany. Now the most literate country in human history remade itself along the lines of an elaborately fabricated, murderous “science of race.”

John Cornwell’s grim study Hitler’s Scientists documents the sad fact: Most of the scientific establishment fell in line with the new political creed. Nazi authorities pointed to American laws as models for their own, even more aggressive racial regime. That happened a full decade before the Nazis even decided on their Final Solution. The defeat of the Nazis helped to expose and discredit scientific racism. But eugenic ideas persisted in America for decades, and the last compulsory sterilization law was not repealed in Virginia until 1974.

In Part II we’ll examine why such pseudo-scientific and anti-Christian ideas proved so appealing.

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  • Mensa Member

    >> One side used home-made flamethrowers.

    “One side”?!?! On guy.

    Well, I guess running (and running and running) that photo of the black guy worked. Now conservative think they saw a whole side using flamethrowers.

    • Bryan

      Technically only one guy weaponized a car too.

      • Zmirak

        Precisely. When law enforcement abandons the streets to armed extremists, all it takes is one guy. Had one white doofus been incinerated, do you think we’d be having a national crisis over it? No.

    • Patmos

      Mensa Member is a fake Christian troll who was exposed here recently, and is merely trying to maintain the persona at this point.

    • Many Sparrows


  • tether

    So at least one person from each side used a weapon of sorts that was capable of inflicting pain up to and including death.
    I don’t know or care who started it or who did what both sides had a participant who went over the line, from a peaceful demonstration to an act of violence or at least the threat of violence.
    I don’t care what side of the fence you are on intolerance is not an acceptable reaction. Violence is also not acceptable. Both sides feel like their rights are being diminished. Regardless of reality, that is how they feel and they have a right to express that and to gather peacefully in protest. Neither side has the right to try to stop the other side from doing so. Both sides likely felt provoked by the other. The local officials created a perfect storm by ordering the police to stand down.
    I think the people, the citizens need to be heard in the ballots come next election. The officials who created the environment by ordering the police to stand down should not be allowed to remain in office. They should have known what would happen when the police were ordered to stand down. There needs to be an investigation and possibly charges against the officials who gave the stand down order.

  • Hmmm…

    I’m sorry; I missed the Christian leader rushed judgment. Can someone help me out with that? I don’t approve of hyper grace or the extreme on the other side, but I really would like to know what has been said. I’d like to know who and what if anyone here can help with that. I’ve read an article talking about Christian leader tepid and non-response, but I really want to know about this rushed judgment thing. Thank you.

    • AndRebecca

      Christian leaders have been on many talk shows and on the news. And, the Methodists and others in Charlottesville were ready to be in the anti-alt-right marches before the protests even occurred. They were organizing against a peaceful vigil before hand. And they seemed to have no problem with the thugs on the Left. Actually, as it has been pointed out on this site, the alt-right are socialists and related to the alt-left.

      • Hmmm…

        Oh good grief; I’m glad I missed all of that. You didn’t tell me about any judging on the national scale, but thanks.

        I think the alt-right are plain old neo fascists, don’t they claim and behave, like old kkk, same old ultra bigots so sadly. I’ve got my eyes open on that and the alt-left, with a bit of a different take. I think one reason the President and others want to include blame for them is because they are so supported, cloaked and used by the left, including media and Democratic leadership, paid by a Democratic contributor actually in many venues.

      • Hmmm…

        I’ll try to find the rushed judgment national leader thing, a name would help with that or the talk show, which I don’t habituate. Got my take on the two sides (socialists? good grief; how mild you are) thanks anyway

        • AndRebecca

          I thought your questions were serious. My mistake.

          • Hmmm…

            Sorry for any offense. It seems my question was not understood, thus your answer was a bit frustrating since it did not really hook up with it. Again, sorry, but misunderstandings happen. I understand that. You put in some time on it, and I thank you. Peace.

  • AndRebecca

    The alt-right let it be known to the mayor and council at least a month ago that they would be in Charlottesville. And, they let the rest of the country know as well. It was all over the web way back. Plenty of time for the mayor to do something regarding police protection. And, there must be some new kind of policing in parts of the country where they don’t just put people carrying bats to a fight in a paddy wagon and cart them away. The rioters looked a lot like the old labor union thugs in action. Very un-American.

    • Hmmm…

      Tolerance run amok.

      • AndRebecca

        Yes. Mob rule, not laws.

      • Hannah

        * “Tolerance”


        • Hmmm…

          not broken actually, thanks anyway ? 🙂

          • Hannah

            Just trying to interject humor because I’m an awkward person. Nothing to see here. :]P

  • BTP

    The problem with this analysis is that it whistles past the fact that there really are differences between groups that matter, depending on what one means by “difference” and “matter.”

    _of course_ humans are all the same species. The question is whether the variation in traits that are statistically meaningful at least at the level of race create issues that need to be considered when forming social policy. I suggest there are.

    None of which denies the essential Christian truth that humanity – all of it – is of infinite value, but it is to say that racial differences really do matter. To suggest otherwise is a failure to bring clear thinking to a vexing problem.

  • Ben Willard

    Charles Darwin “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the PRESERVATION of FAVOURED RACES in the Struggle for Life.”

  • Matamoros

    You do realize, I hope, that the Church has never condemned Eugenics per se, only negative eugenics.

    “EUGENICS. The science which aims at improving the well being of the human race by studying the factors which affect bodily and mental health, with a view to the encouragement of the beneficial and the elimination of the harmful. Statistics are adduced to show that the chief obstacle is the marriage of the unfit, leading to an increase of hereditable evils such as insanity, addiction to drink, consumption. venereal disease.

    The Church has nothing but praise for the aim of eugenics and has no objection to the positive method proposed as a remedy of the evil, e.g., granting diplomas to the fit, endowing them to encourage the rearing of a large family, providing healthy homes. educating public opinion; but she cannot approve of the negative methods suggested by some eugenists, * viz. *, “birth control” (q.v.), compulsory sterilization (q.v.) of degenerates. Compulsory segregation would imply a prohibition of the marriage of the unfit; this runs counter to present ecclesiastical law’ which, while not encouraging their marriage, does not forbid it; the alleged facts do not justify an interference with their right to marry. Where eugenists go astray. it is because they forget or deny that spiritual well being is of far greater importance than material, and that even a tainted existence is better than no existence at all. (A Catholic Dictionary, 1949, Macmillan & Co., NY)”

  • wmrdgd

    Eugenics is not from Hitler it’s strait from the progressives who are the Fabian Society at the end of the 1800 century, who are right out of the Bible, there the Sheep in Wolf’s clothing

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