From Mr Richard Heron SIR – Your shock-horror headline “Darwin’s idea has cost lives” is followed by the even more emotive “the naturalist is a secular saint yet he has left a legacy of mass sterilisation and murder” (Features, December 4).
Dennis Sewell gives two clearly historically flawed instances of Darwin’s pernicious influence before he goes for the jugular with your readers on eugenics and the Abortion Act. To blame Darwin’s theories for chronic American racism and the racial outrages of Nazi Germany is palpable nonsense. America’s founding fathers did not need to be overtaken by Darwinian science to deny the selfevident truth that all men are created equal – their own hypocritical acceptance of slavery from the beginning was the basis for deep-rooted racism.
Nor did this just apply to black people – from 1898 until 1902 the US fought a vicious war in the Philippines shot through with racism from start to end. In the 1904 St Louis Exposition the most popular pavilion in the Philippine sector was that of half-dressed hill tribes, armed with bow and arrows. Ordinary Filipinos, as civilised as the citizens of Kansas, found this as offensive as anyone found Sewell’s pygmy in the Bronx Zoo monkey-house.
Sadly, such racism was not new. Spanish friales – Augustinians, Franciscans and others – who had oppressed the Filipinos for centuries regarded their flock as “relatives of monkeys” and expressed amazement when the likes of José Rizal became an author of international repute. The good Fathers’ opinions seem unlikely to have been inspired by Darwin.
For the Holocaust, Sewell graciously allows that “the part played by Christian anti-Semitism should certainly not be ignored”. The Protocols of Zion was hardly a Darwinian forgery and his claim that Darwin’s racial theory was a necessary condition seems to have overlooked the works of Nietzsche and other Germans of his ilk.
When it comes to the question of the murky world of eugenics he seems not to know, or prefers to ignore, that in the US one of the most prominent families supporting the movement was the Herberts, Walkers and Bushes – today so very “pro-life”.
On the other hand, there has never been any evidence that David Steel’s motivation in sponsoring the 1967 Abortion Act had any basis in the eugenics movement. It is this smear that seems to spark Sewell’s fear of being labelled a conspiracy theorist. A brief visit to Google shows that Sewell is getting heavy cover for his controversialism – judging by this article his true talent is that of the spin doctor. Abortion is dreadful but distortion does no cause any good.
Yours faithfully, RICHARD HERON By email