Ordering the world of life into “species,” Linnaeus provided a framework for others to try it on humans:
History has shown that these ideas were picked up by eugenicists such as German biologist Ernst Haeckel in the 19th century. Haeckel divided humans into 12 hierarchical species and 36 races, with the “Mediterranese” (specifically, the “Indo-Germanians”) ranked the highest and groups that made up “Primaeval Man” (Indigenous peoples in Africa and Oceania) ranked the lowest. He used physical but also cultural traits, such as language, to both define these “races” and make claims about their evolution (noting which ones were more or less evolved).
These ideas, combined with Haeckel’s social Darwinist belief that evolution ruled human civilization and nature, may have helped shape the racist ideologies of some Nazi organizers. Alfred Rosenberg (who was appointed leader of the Nazi movement by Adolf Hitler after he was jailed in 1924 for an attempted coup) reportedly read and was influenced by Haeckel’s ideas. Similarly, his ideas are thought to have helped stimulate the birth of fascism in Italy and France.Brittany Kenyon-Flatt, “How Scientific Taxonomy Constructed the Myth of Race” at Sapiens
Now, how on earth did Haeckel get the idea of “social Darwinism”? Or is it “social Derwoodism?” Surely Haeckel can’t have been riffing off the celebrated Brit toff who wrote all this racist stuff? Kenyon-Flatt goes on:
Linnaeus surely remains an important historical figure, and his taxonomic ideas will likely continue to be taught in schools globally. However, it must be remembered that when his work is praised as a major scientific achievement, his deeply problematic legacy is also celebrated.
While it is true, as many scholars argue, that Linnaeus did not promote the idea of distinct human species, his concepts of human classification paved the way for pseudoscientific ideas about human biological diversity—the horrific consequences of which are still felt today.Brittany Kenyon-Flatt, “How Scientific Taxonomy Constructed the Myth of Race” at Sapiens
One wonders how long it will be before war on science types will be attacking the concept of speciation (as a proxy for achievement in science) — for all the wrong reasons.
Yes, there is lots wrong with speciation — it’s a Darwinian obsession and otherwise a conceptual straitjacket. But what’s wrong with it is not whatever Haeckel, inspired by Darwin, made of Linnaeus.
So Darwin still has an asbestos reputation among the Woke. Anyone can be blamed for the generally racist attitudes of 19th century scientists except the man who did so much to pass them on.
See also: Deplatforming Isaac Newton: The trend to deplatforming major math and science figures will likely end in comfort with widespread innumeracy. Why study what one is taught to despise?