Arriving just before the Civil War, On the Origin of Species was a godsend for abolitionists in America. Charles Darwin provided evidence that we are all the same in the eyes of science. Given that we are equals, should we treat other humans as less than ? This is part of what Randall Fuller writes about in the recently published The Book That Changed America: How Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation.
Darwin provided scientific evidence for a common origin, which gave a scientific argument to those criticizing slavery. How is it moral to enslave other humans? Well, the Bible repeatedly endorses slavery and Jesus never criticized slavery. Jesus actually used slavery as an analogy for belief in God, with believers as slaves and the slave owners as God.
Contrariwise, those who focused on the good parts of the Bible and avoided the bad parts, used Darwin’s book as the basis for advocating for a more moral approach to our fellow humans. Those who read the Bible differently from the advocates of slavery saw that they were not along. Science also opposed the moral abyss of slavery.
Not to spoil the ending, but the abolitionists were not successful at reasoning with those in the Bible Belt to end slavery in America. We ended up with over 600,000 Americans dead over different interpretations of the Bible on how to treat humans.
Upton Sinclair wrote about a similar, and perpetual, problem. It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!
While science is not the best at providing us with morality, science is great at exposing the dishonesty of the excuses made in defense of immorality. And science keeps improving.
Suppose that I think that I am better than they are. Who are they? They are any group that is being selected for second class, or third class, treatment. It doesn’t matter what the group is, this kind of justification is not supported by science.
Picking on the weak is unlikely to be popular in the long term. Blaming this bad behavior on my personal interpretation of the desires of my God (who just happens to think like me) is eventually going to expose my immorality. The contradiction of promoting immoral actions, while blaming God, eventually exposes itself.
Read The Book That Changed America: How Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation to see why abolitionists recognized On the Origin of Species as a godsend.