THE EVOLUTION OF RACISM by Pat Shipman

THE EVOLUTION OF RACISM

Human Differences and the Use and Abuse of Science

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A thoughtful and provocative look at scientific racism from the rise of the theory of evolution to the present. Paleoanthropologist Shipman (coauthor, The Neanderthals: Changing the Image of Mankind, not reviewed) explores scientific (and, all too often, pseudoscientific) thinking about the meaning of race, showing that its history is ineluctably linked to the story of thoughts about the origins of humanity itself. The author begins her consideration with Charles Darwin. Although he contended that there were no value judgments attached to his theory of evolution, he also refused to believe that indigenous, ``less civilized'' peoples were human beings of the same order as Europeans. In England, Thomas Huxley proselytized on behalf of Darwinian theory as a way of affirming the primacy of science in its frequent battles with the church, which grew nastier as the theory of evolution challenged the biblical account of creation. In Germany, the debate took on a more political character, eventually culminating in the state's attempt, backed by a politicized science of eugenics, to distinguish a master race from subhumans. Shipman traces the story from the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species through the horrors of Nazism and down to the present. She convincingly demonstrates the links between the abuse of evolutionary theory and racism, showing that such thinking still sets the terms for discussion of matters of race and human characteristics today. The key question she raises is whether we have the capacity to acknowledge human differences without rushing to measure their value. It's a problem, she notes, of growing importance given the advances currently being made in genetics. This volume is ``must'' reading. Shipman gives readers a compelling discussion and candidly asks: ``Have we the courage and the intelligence to face the truth about ourselves?''

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-671-75460-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1994




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