Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Imperialism, Racism, and the Human Genome

“Imperialists, calling upon Darwinism in defense of the subjugation of weaker races, could point to The Origin of Species, which had referred in its subtitle to The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. Darwin had been talking about pigeons, but the imperialists saw no reason why his theories should not apply to men… Had not Darwin himself written complacently in The Descent of Man of the likelihood that the backward races would disappear before the advance of higher civilizations.” ~ Richard Hofstadter in Social Darwinism in American Thought

Ethnic prejudice could be as old as civilization itself. Most societies of the past have used derogatory labels like “barbarians” and “philistines” to describe people of other ethnicities, but the modern notion of “racism” is of recent origin. The word “racism” appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1910. The idea of racial superiority was developed in the nineteenth century when Europe had colonized a large part of the globe and the European intellectuals were under pressure to come up with a moral justification for the domination of people of other races. 

Can it be true that the Europeans are racially superior? In the areas of politics, warfare, and technology, they were probably superior. I use the past tense “were” because they were not always superior. Their superiority manifested itself from the fifteenth century to 1950. There could be genes which determine performance in politics, warfare, and technology—perhaps the Europeans had evolved a dominant form of those genes. According to geneticists, about 14 percent of the human genome has changed in the last 30,000 years. Many changes in the human genome have happened in the last 5000 years. 

Being superior in the areas of politics, warfare, and technology does not make the Europeans morally, religiously, and intellectually superior. Some of history’s worst wars, massacres, genocides, enslavements, and civil wars have happened in lands that were under European domination. European societies are easily corrupted by wealth and power. Nihilism, anarchism, and utopianism are a much bigger problem in European populations than in Asian populations. Since 1950, European civilizations have been on the decline.

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