Creationists, Intelligent Design proponents, and several other anti-science and historical revisionist groups come unglued every February about this time — February 12 is Charles Darwin’s birthday. He was born in 1809, on the exact same day as Abraham Lincoln.
Part of creationists’ coming unglued revolves around that fact that the science behind evolution grows stronger year by year, and at this point no argument exists that creationists can make against evolution that has not been soundly, roundly and thoroughly. This makes creationists nervous in a discussion, because even they recognize when they lose arguments. Creationists don’t like to lose arguments about how well Darwin’s theories work, because they erroneously believe that if Darwin is right, God and Jesus are wrong.
God and Jesus cannot be wrong, in their view, but intellectually they see they are losing the argument, and they grow desperate. In their desperation they grasp for claims that shock uneducated or unfamiliar viewers. Since about 1970, among the more shocking arguments one can make is to claim one’s opponent is racist.
Claiming Darwin, and hence evolution, boost racism, slaps history with irony. Creationism’s roots were in denying that Europeans and Africans are evolutionarily equal, a claim necessary to allow slave holders to enslave Africans and go to church on Sundays. The Civil War is 150 years away, the Emancipation Proclamation 148 years old, and even die-hard creationists generally have forgotten their own history.
Creationists accuse Darwin of being a racist, they claim evolution theory is racist, and they claim, therefore, it cannot be scientifically accurate. There are a lot of holes in that chain of logic.
This is Darwin’s birthday. Let me deal with major wrong premise, and give creationists room to correct their views with accurate history, so we don’t have a shouting match.
Way back in 2008, nominally-liberal evangelical preacher Tony Campolo got suckered in by a conservative evangelicals claim to him that evolution and Darwin are racist. Below is my answer to him then — I think Campolo learned his lesson — but this builds on the claims Campolo made which are really copied from creationists.
In short, Darwin is not racist, and here are some explanations why, with a few updated links and minor edits for Darwin’s birthday, and Lincoln’s birthday, in 2013:
Tony Campolo is an evangelical Christian, a sociology professor and preacher who for the past 15 years or so has been a thorn in the side of political conservatives and other evangelicals, for taking generally more liberal stands, against poverty, for tolerance in culture and politics, and so on. His trademark sermon is an upbeat call to action and one of the more plagiarized works in Christendom, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming” (listen to it here).
Tony Campolo, in a publicity still from his website. He should be more gray by now (this photo is no later than 2008, and probably earlier).
Since he’s so close to the mainstream of American political thought, Campolo is marginalized by many of the more conservative evangelists in the U.S. Campolo is not a frequent guest on the Trinity Broadcast Network, on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club,” nor on the white, nominally-Christian, low-budget knock-off of “Sabado Gigante!,” “Praise the Lord” (with purple hair and everything).
Campolo came closest to real national fame when he counseled President Bill Clinton on moral and spiritual issues during the Lewinsky scandal.
His opposite-editorial piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer back in 2008, “The real danger in Darwin is not evolution, but racism,” is out of character for Campolo as a non-conservative evangelistic thinker — far from what most Christians expect from Campolo either from the pulpit or in the college classroom. The piece looks as though it was lifted wholesale from Jerry Falwell or D. James Kennedy, showing little familiarity with the science or history of evolution, and repeating canards that careful Christians shouldn’t repeat.
Campolo’s piece is inaccurate in several places, and grossly misleading where it’s not just wrong. He pulls out several old creationist hoaxes, cites junk science as if it were golden, and generally gets the issue exactly wrong.
Evolution science is a block to racism. It has always stood against racism, in the science that undergirds the theory and in its applications by those scientists and policy makers who were not racists prior to their discovery of evolution theory. Darwin himself was anti-racist. One of the chief reasons the theory has been so despised throughout the American south is its scientific basis for saying whites and blacks are so closely related. This history should not be ignored, or distorted.
Shame on you, Tony Campolo.
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