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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Evolution in pop culture: How come the "Out of Africa" people are always portrayed as black?

Inventor Forrest Mims, who has a good reason to wonder, asked a few people, including yer humble hack, recently:

Is it not time for a candid assessment of the racial implications of "Out of Africa"?

- Why are pre-fully human ape-like creatures usually portrayed as black?

- Why did Stephen F. Gould declare himself a vestigial racist in DISCOVER magazine? (They printed my letter about this and his reply as previously posted here some time ago.)

- Why did a PhD anthropologist who assisted in the discovery of Lucy tell me he left the profession over its rivalries, jealousies and racism?

- Are not Darwin's conclusions alone a sufficient justification for racism?

- Why did SCIENCE last week couple to a photo of three fossil jaws of apes that ate roots and tubers a photo of a modern black African preparing the same for a meal?

- I'll be teaching some African Christians about experimental science in Lausanne in a few weeks. What can I tell them about this issue?

Yes, now that you mention it, why not a pic of Americans slicing and dicing potatoes with some new contraption, credited to their charge cards via the Internet? Doesn't eating all amount to the same thing in the end?

Okay, so yer humble hack wrote back and asked Mims, well what did you say and how did Gould reply?

Here's his response:

His letter:

Stephen Jay Gould boldly reopened an old evolutionary closet to reveal the vestigial racism that remains there [“We First Stood on Our Own Two Feet In Africa, Not Asia,” May]. Then he bravely confessed his own vestigial racism, implying it was more vestigial than racist. Finally, he told of us his trip to Kenya where he and Richard Leakey “stood on the very site, in the very context of dessication that may have driven our ancestors out of Africa and onward into history.” I suspect my brethren who remained in Africa will find a good deal more vestigial racism in that one sentence than Gould might care to admit. - Forrest M. Mims III, Seguin, Texas

Stephen Jay Gould replies:

Your brethren are my brethren. Our African ancestors were forebears to all of us–and equally. By onward, I only meant, as any paleontologist would, forward in time. And it was equally forward to all living races.
DISCOVER, August 1986, p. 87.

In case you wondered, yes, Forrest Mims is that guy who was booted by Scientific American because he wouldn't pledge allegiance to Darwinism, and whose science wunderkind daughter Sarah is among the youngest persons ever to be lead author of a paper in a science journal.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for the following stories?

"Academic Freedom Watch : Here's the real, ugly story behind the claim that 'intelligent design isn't science'?".

Roseville, California, lawyer Larry Caldwell is suing over the use of tax money by Darwin lobby groups to promote religious views that accept Darwinian evolution (as opposed to ones that don’t). I’m pegging this one as the next big story. It will be interesting to see the line that the “separation of church and state” people take.
How to freak out your bio prof? What happened when a student bypassed the usual route of getting frogs drunk and dropping them down the chancellor's robes, and tried questioning Darwinism instead.

Joseph, Cardinal Schonborn is not backing down from his contention that Darwinism is incompatible with Catholic faith, and Pope Benedict XVI probably thinks that’s just fine. Major US media have been trying to reach rewrite for months, with no success.
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