Century of Slander

The first species, Homo primigenius, or the ape-man, the ancestor of all the others,
probably arose in the tropical regions of the old world from anthropoid apes. Of these
no fossil remains are as yet known to us, but they were probably akin to the gorilla
and orang of the present day. The three following woolly-haired species, and of them
the Papuan Negro mentioned next are, among living races, the nearest to Homo primigenius.
— Ernst Haeckel, Pedigree of Man, Freethought Publishing, 1883.

Indigenous peoples, especially the natives of Terra del Fuego, Papua and Australia, should hire some sharp lawyers and go after evolutionary biologists — maybe even after Darwin’s estate or Haeckel’s. You see, not only have evolutionists been heaping baseless slander on these people for over a century, they published countless science books full of slander like that, made a living off it, and furthered their careers by it.

In his 1865 book Prehistoric Times, John Lubbock gave a quick summary of the state of the art, at the time, of the evolutionist’s thinking on indigenous peoples:

Travellers and naturalists have varied a good deal in opinion as to the race of savages
which is entitled to the unenviable reputation of being the lowest in the scale of civilisation.
Cook, Darwin, Fitzroy, and Wallis were decidedly in favor, if I may so say, of the Fuegian;
Burchell maintained that the Bushmen are the lowest; D’Urville voted for the Australians
and Tasmanians; Dampier thought the Australians “the miserablest people in the world;”
Forster said that the people of Mallicollo “bordered the nearest upon the tribe
of monkeys;”
Owen inclines to the Andamaners; others have supported the North
American Root-diggers; and one French writer even insinuates that monkeys are
more human than Laplanders.
(pg. 445-446)

While we can’t guess in what context this french author meant that monkeys are more human than Laplanders, we can be sure that an evolutionist like Lubbock will repeat it so as to give his reader a not too subtle suggestion that Laplanders are a transitional form between monkeys and man. A few decades later on, in History of Creation (volume 2, 1887), we find Haeckel lecturing more explicitly on the ‘indigenous peoples = monkeys and apes’ equation, which had by then become a grand theme of evolutionary biology…

At the lowest stage of human mental development are tlie Australians, some tribes
of the Polynesians,, and the Bushmen, Hottentots, and some of the Negro tribes…
some of the wildest tribes in southern Asia and eastern Africa have no trace whatever
of the first foundations of all human civilization, of family life, and marriage. They live
together in herds, like apes, generally climbing on trees and eating fruits; they do not
know of fire, and use stones and dubs as weapons, just like the higher apes… They
have hardly risen above the lowest stage of transition from man-like apes to ape-like men,
a stage which, the progenitors of the higher human species had already passed through
thousands of years ago.
(pg 363-364.)

Haeckel then suggests that it isn’t a bad idea to classify these indigenous peoples with the animals rather than humans.

Now, if instituting comparisons in both directions, we place the lowest and most ape-like
men (the Austral Negroes, Bushmen, and Andamans, etc.), on the one hand, together
with the most highly developed animals, for instance, with apes, dogs, and elephants,
and on the other hand, with the most highly developed men Aristotle, Newton, Spinoza,
Kant, Lamarck, or Goethe we can then no longer consider the assertion, that the mental
life of the higher mammals has gradually developed up to that of man, as in any way
exaggerated. If one must draw a sharp boundary between them, it has to be drawn between
the most highly developed and civilized man on the one hand, and the rudest savages on
the other, and the latter have to be classed with the animals. This is, in fact, the opinion
of many travellers, who have long watched the lowest human races in their native countries.
Thus, for example, a great English traveller, who lived for a considerable time on the west coast
of Africa, says: “I consider the negro to be a lower species of man, and cannot make
up my mind to look upon him as a man and a brother, for the gorilla would then also have to be
admitted into the family.”
(pg 365.)

Notice how, in the last part, Haeckel takes a statement intended as invective against “the negro”, and turns it into a point for evolution. It is as if we would cite a teacher heaping opprobrium on his class of sixth-graders, “look at those morons, they’re no better than baboons” and present it in a science book as a piece of scientific evidence for man’s origin from apes. History of Creation was, after all, a science book, and an acclaimed one at that. The rest of the book contains many nuggets of evolutionary wisdom, such as these:

“The chimpanzee builds himself a house or shelter almost equal to that of some savages…
So long, indeed, as he was confined to the tropics, he may have found a succession of fruits,
and have lived as the monkeys do now. Indeed, according to Bates, this is the case with some
of the Brazilian Indians. “The monkeys” he says “lead in fact a life similar to that of the Pararauate
Indians.” (pg 475-476.)

This is an easy sort of science isn’t it? Just sit back in your arm-chair, light up a spliff or a crack-pipe, and make up any sort of analogy between indgenous peoples and monkeys or apes that your heart desires. Haeckel, as well as others, got very much mileage out of it. In Wonders of Life (1905), Haeckel explores new dimensions of this kind of anthropological science:

The lowest and oldest savages come very close to the anthropoid apes from which
they have descended, in bodily structure
and habits… The value of the life of
these lower savages is like that of the anthropoid apes, or very little higher… Other scattered
remnants of these ancient negroid dwarfs, which approach closely to the anthropoid apes
All recent travellers who have carefully observed them in their native lands, and studied their
bodily structure and psychic life, agree in this opinion… Their only interests are food and
reproduction, in the same simple form in which we find these among the anthropoid apes.
(pg 392-393.)

What an astonishing statement! So now, it isn’t just that savages are similar to apes in “mental life,” “habits” or “interests”, but “bodily”, anatomically! These indigenous people, according to Haeckel and others, are anatomically similar to apes! By Jove, if you thought that evolution science was improving and ‘correcting itself’ since 1839 when Darwin said comparable idiocies about the Fuegians, you thought wrong!

Speaking of that, in Voyage of the Beagle, Darwin famously relates his impressions of the natives of Terra del Fuego. Since then, the Fuegians, like the Tasmanians and others, have been a staple in the evolutionist’s pantry of ‘primitive almost-ape-men’ who are ‘nearer to our monkey ancestors’ etc. And they have been a regular target of evolutionary slanders by biologists who need to make their daily bread somehow. Darwin was actually making a ridiculous analogy between civilized men versus Fuegians on the one hand, and domesticated animals versus wild ones on the other. David Stove explains…

When Darwin first encountered the Yahgan Indians in their homeland of Tierra del Fuego,
he was thunderstruck. “I could not have believed how wide was the difference between
savage and civilised man: it is greater than between a wild and [a] domesticated animal”…
But in fact Darwin was mistaken about the Yahgans: indeed, just about as completely
mistaken as it would have been possible to be. We know this from the testimony of a man who
was born and spent most of his life among them. This was Lucas Bridges, whose parents were
Christian missionaries to the Yahgans, and the first white settlers in Tierra del Fuego, only a
few decades after the Beagle’s visit.

Darwin, and everyone else on the Beagle, believed that the Yahgans were cannibals. In fact they
were so far from being so that, among them, even to eat the flesh of a condor earned opprobrium,
because that bird might have eaten human flesh. Their language, Darwin wrote, “scarcely deserves
to be called articulate”. But Lucas Bridges’ father compiled a Yahgan dictionary of 32,000 words,
which did not pretend to be complete at that. Darwin thought the Yahgans were careless and even
brutal towards their children; in fact they were intensely devoted to them. Their religion was as
important to them as it is to every primitive people; Darwin was unaware of its very existence.
And as for their everyday social life, much of it was, even by Darwin’s own description, “just like home”.
There was, for example, lying and detestation of liars; theft aid recognition that theft is a crime;
men who alienated the affections of other men’s wives, amid general disapproval; and so on. All of
which was no doubt equally true of the civilised people on board the Beagle, even under the command
of that most formidable autocrat, Capt. Robert Fitzroy.

Yet Darwin actually said, as we have just seen, that the difference between the Yahgans (say) and
the people on the Beagle (say) is greater than the difference between a wild and a domesticated animal!
Just a few weeks earlier, he had had a blazing row with Fitzroy, as a result of which he thought he
might be obliged to leave the ship. Now suppose Fitzroy had marooned him among the Yahgans, with
only the clothes he stood up in. There would then have been only two ways he could have survived:
by being sustained, like a Yahgan child, by the generosity of the adults; or by getting food every day,
as the adults did, without even the assistance of fish hooks or bows and arrows, in one of the most
appalling climates and inhospitable terrains on earth. Then he would have seen the world rightly! In
particular he would have seen rightly the difference between civilised and savage man. He would have
seen that if the Yahgans were wild animals, or something more foreign still, then so was he; and that,
since he clearly was not that, then neither were they…

Marooning Darwin with the Fuegians. Now there’s a fine idea! With Haeckel too. A few years of living among the savages would have set those two aright. Perhaps they would have been cured of that detestable habit of theirs, of comparing Fuegians, Australians and Africans to apes and monkeys.

Although Lucas Bridges’ account refutes — long long ago — everything that Darwin said about the Fuegians, and everything that Haeckel said about the Fuegians, and everything that any other evolutionist said about them, especially those tales where the Fuegians were held up to be an example of some kind of near-ape… and yet despite this… why should Lucas Bridges’ account, or any other account stop an evolutionist? Clearly, the evolutionist Ed Clodd (his real name, not making it up) had no need of Lucas Bridges and his account. This is what Clodd says in Story of Creation, 1904.

Yet even in brain-structure the differences between [man] and the chimpanzee are slight when
compared with the differences between the brain of the chimpanzee and the lemur. It is in the
deeper furrows and the more intricate convolutions that the distinction lies; but even
here the gap between civilised and savage man is greater than that between the savage and
the man-like apes.
Therefore, in following evolution to its highest operations and results,
the comparison lies between the several races of mankind. Darwin… describes
the Fuegians, who rank amongst the lowest savages, as men “whose very signs and expressions
are less intelligible to us than those of the domesticated animals, men who do not possess the
instinct of those animals, nor yet appear to boast of human reason, or at least of arts consequent
on that reason”. Such races are somewhat nearer to the ape than to the European,
and it is from like accounts of existing savages that we may form a rough picture of primitive man.
(pg 183-185)

And so, we see that evolutionists have had a really, really hard time staying away from this particular crack-pipe.


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