Historians are now generally agreed that the Darwinian recognition and institutionalization of the polygenist position was more than merely nominal.194 Wallace, Vogt, and Huxley had led the way, and we may add Galton (1869) to the list of those leading Darwinians who incorporated a good deal of polygenist thinking into their interpretions of human history and racial differences.195 Eventually “Mr. Darwin himself,” as Hunt had suggested he might, consolidated the Darwinian endorsement of many features of polygenism. Darwin's Descent of Man (...) was published in the same year that the Anthropological Institute was founded, and it was no coincidence that it was broadly congruent with Knoxian/ Anthropological race science. Recent scholarship has stressed the derivative character of the Descent, and Darwin's views on race were clearly influenced by the earlier interpretations of the abovecited Darwinians.196However, although the Descent was written in the light of the anthropological struggles of the 1860s, it is essential to acknowledge its origins in Darwin's notebooks of the late 1830s and early 1840s. A good deal of the congruence between Darwinian and Knoxian conceptions of race may be traced back to these early notebook constructions. As these document, Darwin, like Knox, brought to his very earliest conceptions of human evolution a “commitment to the idea of human races as discrete biological units with distinct moral and mental traits.”197 The young Darwin had been concerned with the same sorts of questions on racial biological and cultural differences that preoccupied Knox around the same time, and he was committed to as ruthless a naturalism. Apart from their individual and independent debts to Quetelet's “moral statistics,” both Darwin and Knox drew heavily on the general themes of struggle and adaptation in the contemporary “common context” of biological and social thought.198 Given their common context, the broad general similarities between the Knoxian laws of race antagonism and subordination and the Darwinian struggle for existence between races need occasion no strained historical explanation of direct influence.199Nevertheless, in more explicit ways, the Descent does show the conflation of Knoxian/Anthropological and Darwinian racial views, and Darwin located his discussion of these issues squarely within the dispute “of late years” between polygenists and monogenists.200 His mature views on race were shaped by the contemporaneous confrontations and negotiations between the Darwinians and the Anthropologicals. It is within this context that the minor historical puzzle of Darwin's failure to acknowledge Knox's “generic descent” may be explained. Apart from the difficulties of integration and interpretation of his scattered theoretical writings, Knox, through his adoption by Hunt and the Anthropologicals, became identified with anti-Darwinism and therefore with antievolutionism.201 Moreover, Knox, the disreputable and marginal “savage radical” and lately resurrected and equally unsavory “Anthropological,” was hardly an acceptable “precursor.” Yet, paradoxically, it was via the antithetical medium of the Anthropological platform that Knox's race science made an indirect and unacknowledged, but lasting, impact on the Darwinian anthropological model.In the Descent, Darwin argued that racial traits arose very early in the prehistory of man, were not biologically adaptive, and were therefore relatively fixed in character. By viewing race formation as a distant and closed episode of human history, Darwin endorsed the Knoxian categories of race as fixed and unalterable types. Although he thought it irrelevant whether human races were called species or subspecies, he conceded more to the Knoxian view than Huxley by granting that a naturalist confronted for the first time by specimens of Negro and European man “might feel himself fully justified in ranking the races of man as distinct species.”202 Consistent with the Knoxian interpretation, struggle, competition, and survival occurred between racial units rather than between individuals and, in Darwin's view, accounted for the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon and the inevitable triumph of the more intellectual and moral races over the lower and more degraded ones.Darwin was as insistent as Knox on the biological basis of intellectual and moral differences, and, through his tendency to reduce social and cultural differences to biology, he maintained the essential Knoxian/Anthropological link between race and culture.203 For above all, the Descent did much more than offer a naturalistic explanation of human evolution: it proffered social interpretation, justification, and prescription, and its timely appearance gave a powerful boost to the “moralizing naturalism” of Huxley and Galton, and to Spencer's “Social Darwinism.”204 We may draw a straight line from Knox's “moral anatomy,” through Hunt's “anthropology,” and on to “Social Darwinism” and the “social surgeons” of the eugenics movement.The Darwinians did not, of course, we their tendency to naturalize existing economic and social relations to Knox or Hunt and the Anthropologicals—they were simply reflecting the same general intellectual trend that had affected Knox and the Anthropologicals as well. And in the larger context, the forces that had created a climate receptive to Knox's racism had intensified: in the seventies, the need to justify white imperialism and class and racial inequalities was greater than ever. Scientific racism no longer appeared an aberration but the very essence of the scientific study of man, taking on a newfound respectability in the “new” evolutionary anthropology. But in more specific ways, through the struggle between the Darwinians and Anthropologicals for scientific and ideological hegemony, Knox's “moral anatomy” was institutionalized and perpetuated in late Victorian scientific racism. In the process, the delicate balance that Knox had maintained between his radicalism and his racism was outweighed by conservative institutional and social needs, and his “moral anatomy” was retooled — first by Hunt, and then by the Darwinians — to fit those needs. (shrink)
Banging on about Darwin: Hodge in context Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-5 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9550-4 Authors Evelleen Richards, Unit for History and Philosophy of Science, University of Sydney, PO Box 255, Thirroul, NSW 2515, Australia Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.