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T.H. Huxley was racist (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (T.H. Huxley was racist (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CA005.3:

Thomas H. Huxley was racist. He said,

"No rational man, cognizant of the facts, believes that the average negro is equal...of the white man. And if this be true, it is simply incredible that, when all his disabilities are removed...he will be able to compete successfully with his bigger-brained and smaller-jawed rival, in a contest which is to be carried out by thoughts and not by bites."


  • Morris, Henry M. 1973. Evolution and modern racism. ICR Impact #7. Oct 1, 1973.
  • Foust, Scott, 2005. Evolution perpetuates racist ideologies. The News Record (Cincinnati), Feb. 14, 2005.

CreationWiki response:

It's a puzzling thing why Talk.Origins feels the need to "refute" this at all, since according to him it is irrelevant to the "science" of evolution. But note that the author doesn't actually attempt to say that Thomas Huxley wasn't racist; he just tried to justify his racism.

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. Huxley's view of the inferiority of blacks was not a product of evolution, but was the prevailing attitude of the time. He was less racist than most of his contemporaries. Abraham Lincoln, for example, held much the same view as Huxley:
I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together on the footing of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said any thing to the contrary, but I hold that notwithstanding all this, there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence -- the right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is entitled to these as much as the white man. I agree with Judge Douglas that he is not my equal in many respects, certainly not in color -- perhaps not in intellectual and moral endowments; but in the right to eat the bread without the leave of any body else which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every other man (Lincoln 1858).

Just like with Darwin, Talk.Origins is saying, "Everyone was doing it." It doesn't matter what everyone else was saying: the point is that Huxley was racist.

2. In the sense of racism as promoting preferential treatment of one group over another, Huxley was not racist. The quote above comes from an essay in which Huxley argues against slavery and for equal treatment of blacks and women (Huxley 1865, 66-67). For his times, he was a radical reformer.

Mrs. P. A. Taylor, of the Ladies London Emancipation Society, said of Huxley,

He believes in the doctrine of freedom, or equal personal rights for all men, and he pronounces the system of slavery to be root and branch an abomination -- thus making his physiological definition of the Negro's place among men equivalent to an earnest plea for Negro emancipation. Nay, as will have been noted, be goes farther, and, in virtue of the strength of his feeling with respect to slavery, avows a state of opinion regarding the American War in which many who share his feeling with respect to slavery will refuse to go along with him (Taylor 1864).

Talk.Origins is, for some reason, favoring a quote from someone saying something about him rather than the obvious quote from Huxley himself. We should also note that the quote from Huxley was in 1865, a year after Taylor said this about him. This means that Huxley didn't later change his mind.

3. The views of Huxley or any person are irrelevant to the fact of evolution. Evolution is based on evidence, not on people's opinions.

Not so fast there. People bring presuppositions to the evidence. It is very relevant to analyze the views of evolutionists and creationists alike.