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25.02.2004 Feature Article

Charles Darwin, Rawlings, and the NRC?

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A response to Paa Kwesi Plange: Gye Nyame Concord. (Feature article published on Ghana Home Page, February 22, 2004) Dear Paa Kwesi:

I have read your feature article entitled, "JJ's Day At NRC And Matters Arising" (Ghana Home Page, Feb 22, 2004) and while I find the political discussion interesting, I am writing in response to your references to Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

The entire section of your article that relates Darwin's theory to modern human politics and racism is completely wrong and demonstrates a serious lack of understanding of Darwin's work on your part. My guess is that you are neither a student of biology nor a person who understands scientific reasoning. In fact, I suspect that your misrepresentation of Darwin has a basis in religious fundamentalism that places evolution as diametrically opposed to “creation theory” as the basis of life on this planet.

I will not debate evolution versus creationism with you because it is difficult for people with limited knowledge of biology to appreciate the true wonders of life and the beauty of Darwin's theory. I simply want to clarify some issues related to Darwin's work and refute some of your wild claims and associations. First, please understand that Darwin's theory, while applicable to humans, was derived mainly from the study of other biological forms. To refer to Darwin's work as "inherently racist" suggests that Darwin's scientific work was aimed at explaining differences in human beings. Far from it, Darwin's work sought to explain the origin of the tremendous variety of living organisms on earth. His conclusions, based on his theory of Natural Selection, simply stated that species of living organisms were not independently created but descended from other species. It is this notion that religious people who believe in "creation" find conceptually unacceptable.

The theory of Natural Selection as the driving force behind evolution IS STILL scientifically the most acceptable explanation for the origins of biologic diversity on earth. It has been supported by fossil evidence as well as molecular analyses of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) from various species. It is incorrect therefore, Mr. Plange, to refer to Darwin's work as "theory of evolution which was considered a major scientific leap at the time". Today, Darwin's theory is still the best explanation for why 99% of the DNA of the chimpanzee is identical to that of humans. This does not mean we are chimpanzees; it simply means that the differences between chimpanzees and humans are due largely to only 1% of our genes, the molecular instructions in that determine form and function of biologic organisms. It also supports the theory that the human derived from the chimpanzee species!

Your attribution of human brutality and racism to Darwin's theory is a reflection of the distortion of Darwin's ideas by bad people who, like the devils who cite the scripture to suit their purpose, use the theory of evolution as the justification for their evil deeds. Within the theory of Natural Selection is the concept of "Survival of the Fittest". This concept has been misunderstood by many people and exploited by misguided humans as the bases for many cruel acts. In some cultures, severely deformed but otherwise viable newborn babies are either killed or allowed to die unfed. In other situations, one group of humans has subjugated another group of humans simply because of perceived differences. These human practices are not as justifiable by Darwin's theory as they are by simple economics or political exploitation. The truth is that almost all the common perceived differences between modern humans offer no better survival advantage. Whether you are short or tall, thin-lipped or thick-lipped, straight-haired or curly-haired, brown-eyed or blue-eyed, French-speaking or Fante-speaking, you are just as fit to survive on this earth as is another human being.

It is interesting to me that in the examples of human brutality you cited, you chose mostly those that did not involve all Africans. Inter-human brutality requires no Darwin for explanation or justification. When teenage Sierra Leoneans were chopping off the hands of fellow countrymen because of perceived political/ethnic differences, were these teenagers citing Darwin's theory? When Hutus hacked hundreds of thousands of Tutsis to death in Rwanda, was the theory of evolution their guiding principle? Why do you believe that Hitler's turning of Germans against their Jewish neighbors is somehow different from these African brutal acts and is somehow guided by Darwin's theory?

In Africa today, many people believe that there is something superior about a human being who is lighter skinned than one who is darker skinned. Even many dark-skinned people believe in their own assumed inferiority. Even though the bases for this misperception are mostly political, economic, and technological, many people on either side of the "skin-color line" attribute the differences they see to biology. This black-white misperception has nothing to do with the theory of evolution. Humans, despite all of our perceived differences, form ONLY ONE SPECIES. Darwin's theory did not seek to explain the differences between Jew and German, Hutu and Tutsi, capitalist and communist, or Christian and Muslim. No, Darwin's theory tries to explain the differences between orange and lime, coconut and cocoa, frog and fish, dog and cat, horse and donkey, and yes, between chimpanzee and human.

I don't know any Holy Scriptures that teach believers to kill others for their different beliefs or for their refusal to believe in one religion or another. However, the same human history you cite is replete with hundreds of stories of religious humans slaughtering others while citing Holy Scriptures to defend their atrocities. Just as I cannot accept that God will send one group of his children to murder another group, I cannot blame the scripture for its misrepresentation by zealots. White racists (mostly Bible-toting Christians) who cite Darwin's theory as the source of their hatred for black people are just as wrong as any religious people who cite their “Holy” Scriptures as the justification for waging “Holy Wars”. It is not the scripture that is to blame but the folly of man. Similarly, it is not Darwin's theory that should bear the blame for the stupidity and brutality of the Ku Klux Klan, Hitler, or Idi Amin.

The theory of evolution as outlined by Darwin in his seminal paper, Origin of Species, does not address human racial differences. Was Darwin personally racist? Many articles have been written on this aspect of the life of a man who lived in the 1830s. It is fair to say that most serious analysts have concluded that a son of parents who were abolitionists (of slavery of Africans), Darwin was not a racist. Certainly, his study of plants and animals had nothing to do with man's inhumanity to man.

The effort of you and other religious fundamentalists to discredit the scientific work of Darwin only exposes your limited appreciation of the beauty and complexity of nature and the life that we all enjoy on this lonely planet, spinning as it bathes in the energy flowing from the sun. Now, Paa Kwesi Plange, what has Darwin got to do with Rawlings and the National Reconciliation Commission? Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Kwaku Professor M.D. Ohene-Frempong
Kwaku Professor M.D. Ohene-Frempong, © 2004

The author has 4 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwakuProfessorMDOheneFrempong

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