The sinful desire to dominate, reject, ignore or mistreat others for one’s own particular motives has never required much excuse. However, Darwin gave it a tremendous impetus, as has been shown before by both evolutionist and creationist writers. An unusual book helps document the links between evolutionary thinking and an upsurge in racism in Australian colonial history.

The book is called  Aborigines in White Australia: A Documentary History of the Attitudes Affecting Official Policy and the Australian Aborigine 1697–1973.1 Apart from a few introductory/editorial comments, it consists largely of substantial excerpts from documents as varied as parliamentary transcripts, court records, letters to editors, anthropological reports, and so forth.

Increase in brutality

Far from showing a progressive enlightenment as time goes on, one can see a distinct change for the worse after 1859, with a marked increase in callousness, ill-treatment and brutality towards Aborigines being evident in official attitudes. As the book’s editor writes:

‘In 1859 Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species popularized the notion of biological (and therefore social) evolution. Scholars began to discuss civilization as a unilinear process with races able to ascend or descend a graduated scale. The European was … the “fittest to survive” … [The Aboriginal] was doomed to die out according to a “natural law”, like the dodo and the dinosaur. This theory, supported by the facts at hand [i.e. that Aborigines were dying out, which was due to ill-treatment and disease—C.W.] continued to be quoted until well into the twentieth century when it was noticed that the dark-skinned race was multiplying. Until that time it could be used to justify neglect and murder.’

In the transcript of an interrogation of a policeman during a Royal Commission of inquiry in 1861 (p. 83), we read concerning the use of force against tribal Aborigines:

‘And if we did not punish the blacks they would look upon it as a confession of weakness?’

‘Yes, that is exactly my opinion.’

‘It is a question as to which is the strongest race—if we submit to them they would despise us for it?’

‘Yes …’

The influence of evolutionary thinking can also be seen in a transcript on page 100. The writer, also author of an 1888 book, is justifying the killing of Aborigines in the State of Victoria. He writes:

‘As to the ethics of the question, there can be drawn no final conclusion.’….

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