Darwin next for cancellation?

September 6, 2020 • 11:00 am

A couple of upset readers sent me links to the article below, but I don’t think it’s time to get upset quite yet. It’s not clear that the Cancel Culture will come for Darwin, though the Telegraph article below implies it. What it actually reports is that the Natural History Museum in London is assaying its evolution collection just in case they have to censor it because it bespeaks of “colonialism.” But nothing has been done yet beyond a survey.

Further, it would be hard to “cancel” Darwin, as he’s simply too important a figure in history and biology, to write him off. Nor was he a racist in the usual sense. He and his family were abolitionists, and Darwin couldn’t abide the poor treatment of blacks he saw in South America.  Yes, he made some bigoted statements, and was occasionally a white supremacist in his writings, but he was in fact less of a racist than most Brits of his time. If they’re going to come for Darwin, and put a caveat next to all his works because of his supposed racism, then there’s no hope for any white person before, say, 1930.

And, as we know, these caveats tend to bleed over into the work itself, so if Darwin gets canceled, that’s an inducement for teachers not to assign his works, like The Descent of Man, as students would object. Nor would the students want to read his work, as they’d concentrate on statements in Descent and Voyage of the Beagle, and ignore everything else: all the wonderful information and theory in a dozen books.

Click the screenshot to read:

Here’s the gist of the article, and, as you see, it’s way too early to start defending Darwin against cancellation:

The Natural History Museum will become the latest institution to review it’s [SIC!] collections after an audit warned its Charles Darwin exhibitions could be seen as “offensive”.

An internal review, sanctioned in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, has led to an audit into some rooms, statues, and collected items that could potentially cause offence.

It warns that collections which some may find “problematic” could include specimens gathered by Darwin, whose voyage to the Galapagos Island on HMS Beagle was cited by a curator as one of Britain’s many “colonialist scientific expeditions”.

Museum bosses are now desperately seeking to address what some staff believe are “legacies of colonies, slavery and empire” by potentially renaming, relabelling, or removing these traces in the institution.

The executive board told staff in documents seen by The Sunday Telegraph that “in light of Black Lives Matter and the recent anti-racist demonstrations around the world” the museum would undertake a review of existing room names and “whether any statues (or collections) or could potentially cause offence”.

One of the institution’s directors said in internal documents that new action taken to address these issues would alter “the use and display of our collections and public spaces”.

Note the improper “it’s” in the first line. What kind of paper would let that in? At any rate, let’s not get our knickers in a twist about this quite yet.

The paper adds, though, that Joseph Banks’s collections might be “canceled” as well as stuff relating to Thomas Henry Huxley, who lectured to poor working-class people about science:

The presence of a statue depicting Thomas Henry Huxley, known as Darwin’s Bulldog, could be questioned due to the scientist’s racial theories.

But wait! There’s more! Could Linnaeus himself be on the chopping block?

The museum holds one of the largest collections of items gathered by Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish scientist who devised the Latin naming system of different species.

He thought Africans “indolent”, and his naming system could be seen as erasing indigenous terms for specimens then collected and renamed by European naturalists.

If the Torygraph writer knew anything about biology, he would know that Linnaeus’s system of binomial nomenclature, using Latin names, doesn’t erase any names, whether they be indigenous or European names. It’s a system of scientific nomenclature, not folk nomenclature. Most people don’t even know any scientific names save Homo sapiens.

Anyway, rest easy, folks—at least for a while!

32 thoughts on “Darwin next for cancellation?

  1. I read the origin last year. He does refer to native people as savages, but that term probably wasn’t controversial in his day.

    1. The categories “savage”, “barbarian”, and “civilized” were part of the “official” scientific classification of human societies used in the second half of the 19th century. The terms were well defined with regard to the social organizations. Darwin was following the usage of the social anthropologists of his time. Darwin’s use of the terms in correspondence with anthropologists and others can be read at the Darwin Correspondence Project site:

  2. Yes they will have to cancel Darwin and Lincoln for the same problems. If they were having a problem with the white superiority business they should have googled.

    1. And it’s time to cancel Jesus and Jehovah. There are numerous parts of the new and old testaments that condone slavery and submission to the slave masters.

      1. Wait until they start reading about the Curse of Ham, the Mark of Cain, and what missionaries wrote home to keep the donations flowing.

  3. Dead people cannot practice the fine art of self-flagellation before the kangaroo court of High Wokeness, therefore they are automatically guilty of racism and must be canceled, erased, stricken from the hxstory books.

    I would hope that museums would be smart enough to resist this infantile ideology, but I had hoped the same for the professional science world and was dead wrong. Next stop, the destruction of the Royal Society.

    Well, you can have my collection of late 1800’s Appleton edition of Darwin’s books when you pry them from my cold, dead hands!

  4. Whenever I converse with people who support things like this, I like to point out that:
    – no one is perfect, if you look deep enough you can find something to complain about any significant figure
    – statues and naming buildings should be judged on the good work that was done to get that honor, and not on their other actions that are irrelevant to those works
    – how far will the slippery slope go? In the future, will we be taking down statues of MLK because he used the term Negro, or because he wasn’t a vegetarian or vegan?

  5. This was only a matter of time. People will need to cancel their grandparents soon.

    “A couple of upset readers sent me links”

    I don’t know how to send you links or alerts so sorry to go off topic on this post but I wanted to see if you or any other readers have heard about the new Ridley Scott series on HBO Max “Raised By Wolves” which is a childish, ignorant, on the nose, full frontal assault on “atheism” and “scientism.”

    It’s a futuristic atheist dystopia. Frighteningly facile fear mongering!

  6. Avoidance of “colonialist” associations is going to require the elimination of a lot of names. The zoological names of most species, to start with. And then place names. For example, “Africa” comes from the name of the Roman province Africa Proconsularis,
    and “America” is named after an Italian explorer. The planets are named after gods of the Roman imperialist empire. A lot of work to keep our post-colonialists busy.

    1. “Ethiopia” was a Greek name for the region south of Egypt. It means “Burnt face,” referring to the dark skin of the inhabitants. We should demand they change this one too.

  7. “Offensive” is a pretty vague and slippery term. Many, doubtless, find the very concept of evolution offensive, certainly so the conclusion that humans and apes share an ape-like common ancestor. Will we yield on that?

  8. The ‘offense culture’ is offensive!

    Someone suggested that science be
    de-colonialised. Perhaps they will try to get rid of the theory of gravity?


    1. “The ‘offense culture’ is offensive!”

      Yes, and so now we can have a brand new movement whose name will be:


  9. ‘It warns that collections which some may find “problematic” could include specimens gathered by Darwin . . . .’

    What can’t one speculate (and have reported in the media) by thusly employing words like “may” and “could”? (It’s true enough that ones speculation is a fact, as far as that goes.)

    ‘Note the improper “it’s” in the first line. What kind of paper would let that in?’

    As much as one might be so inclined, it seems that a Rutgers graduate cannot (yet) be blamed for it. (What will Rutgers do with undergraduates who insist on correct punctuation, spelling, syntax and grammar? Expel them for academic failure and insubordination?)

  10. It’s just a matter of time before he’s cancelled. While the creationism espoused by conservative christians is to be ridiculed, the creation myths of indigenous people are to be respected. That makes Darwin a problem. Add to that that he’s a white male from Victorian England, that practically makes him SJW Satan.

    1. “[T]he creation myths of indigenous people are to be respected.” Yes, exactly. Along with a pat on the head and something mumbled about different ways of knowing. It’s a patronizing and deeply racist way to view indigenous people as unable to learn and adopt something that is new and better. Of course no one says that we should ridicule indigenous creation myths, but they should get the same respect as other folk myths (leprechauns, fairies, dragons, centaurs) that are useful as cultural metaphors but are misleading as accounts of history.

      This attitude is closely related to the belief in belief, and the patronizing view that religion may be false but it’s good for the little people in fly-over country who can’t be expected to know (or learn) any better.

    2. “While the creationism espoused by conservative christians is to be ridiculed, the creation myths of indigenous people are to be respected.”

      There are similarities between some of the mythology in the Bible and that of indigenous peoples. Much of what was incorporated into the Bible originated in other countries and cultures around them. There is no rationale for ridiculing the mythologies of the Hebrews and, subsequently, the Christians, while not also ridiculing that of indigenous peoples since they originate in similar manners and are not exclusively homegrown. In my view, they either all are interesting and of value or they all are not.

  11. It strikes me as odd that the woke would be chasing after old men of the past. There’s a lot of racism throughout the population now that are much more of a threat. It seems practical solutions to racism is not the main thing on their minds.

  12. Enough of this madness! Declare BLM, as well as Antifa, legally terrorist organizations — and, seeing the support they’re getting from Iran and China, in service to hostile foreign powers — and prosecute them accordingly.

    1. That’s a president the Precedent really doesn’t want to set. It might affect the value of his backup retirement home in the Crimea.

  13. IIRC from the excellent 2-volume biography of Darwin by Janet Browne (recommended strongly by Jerry as I recall), the only example of a sort-of-racistlike sin which Darwin can honestly be accused of was a belief in the ‘inherent’ superiority of European culture. It would be exceptionally difficult to find many Europeans then, in the mid-1800s, who did not have that attitude, and usually much worse.

    He and his immediate family were strong anti-slavery advocates.

    1. It seems to me that the upper class in Britain (and Europe, and other countries around the world,) tended to view the lower classes in their own countries much the same as they viewed the peoples of Africa and the Americas, etc. All lands and all peoples who were not upper class Europeans were up for grabs and exploitation. Obviously, that the non-Europeans were unsuccessful in preventing land grabs and enslavement made it clear the Europeans that they were inferior.

      In reality, there had been, and were, superior cultures all over the world that exceeded what England and European countries

  14. Oh oh, Australia is going to be in trouble.

    We’ll have to rename Darwin, the capitol of our Northern Territory.

    Bankstown, a major suburb of Sydney will have to go.

    Where will it end?

  15. Actually, the very fact that a survey has been undertaken in the first place is subject of concern, in my view.

    Not too long ago, WEIT told us about a university teacher who thought that “surely, there were others before – and elsewhere – Darwin” to think about Evolution…

    So of course we’re going after Darwin. Who promoted darwinism, which is a colonial and white theory that allows racist classification. Why would those people think more and shrug it off ?

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