… but varying results:
Today Dan Lowe, friend in political philosophy sent me this article, written by a group of political scientists. They conducted a survey in which they asked 2000 participants (who were all white) to rank how ‘evolved’ they believe blacks and whites to be using a 0-100 scale placed below a popular depiction of the “ascent of man”, an image which undoubtedly stirs up ladder-of-life thinking.
Thirty-eight percent of the respondents rated blacks less evolved, with rationales including being more ‘closer to’ or ‘like animals’. The researchers report being surprised by these results, but I am not at all surprised. Not just because we know that racism is prevalent in our country, but also because the public understanding of evolution, and particularly common ancestry, is depressingly low.
Anyone who has been taught evolution (including tree thinking) should protest, no humans could ever be considered less ‘evolved’ than any other! All humans are more closely related to each other than to any other species, so none of us is ‘closer to animals’! Anyway, all of us are animals.Stacy Smith, “The phylogenetics of equality” at For the love of trees (December 2, 2016)
Well, wait. If we’re all animals, we’re all as close to animals as we can be. Aren’t people are getting their Darwinisms all jumbled up?
Here’s the article Smith is referring to.
And here’s a Twitter thread from just yesterday where Smith goes after the Ascent of Man graphic. You know the one: slob to yob to Bob …
At one point, she says, “If we let the notion slide that some living species are primitive, ancestral, less evolved, it’s all too easy for those ideas to seep into society and be extrapolated to humans.”
Okay. The awkward problem is that, to most people, evolution means Darwinism, period. And until comparatively recently, that’s what Darwin’s followers genuinely did believe. It wasn’t an extrapolation, it was part of their global belief system — as it was of Darwin’s. It’s no use looking hither and yon for how that “less evolved” idea got started. At one time, racism was based on a variety of folklore grounds; Darwin came along and made it sound scientific.
Anyway, sure we’re animals. But so what? Wayne Rossiter, author of Shadow of Oz: Theistic Evolution and the Absent God, comments “Just some snark here, but the irony, of course, is that she represents the only species that types on engineered computers to argue reasoned positions based on objective logic. When a chimp or amoeba does this, I’ll buy her position.”
The thing is, if we don’t believe that we are all more than animals, what does a battle against racism amount to? Shunning the outsider is normal animal behavior. Maybe it;s adaptive. So on what basis, exactly, does Smith think we should be different?