Darwin’s Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins by Adrian Desmond and James Moore - review by Kenan Malik

Kenan Malik

The Unity of Man

Darwin’s Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins

By

Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 484pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

Perhaps the most celebrated collision between scientific rationality and anti-racist sensibility came in a Tennessee courtroom in 1925, when the teacher John Scopes was prosecuted for propagating Darwin’s theory of evolution in the classroom. Leading the prosecution was America’s most famous anti-Darwinist, William Jennings Bryan, whose campaigning had persuaded Tennessee to pass a law outlawing the teaching of Darwin’s theory. 

Bryan is usually portrayed as an ignorant, Bible-thumping, reactionary buffoon. He was in fact a radical of national renown who three times ran as the Democratic presidential candidate (and three times lost). What shaped his opposition to Darwinism was not his religious literalism but his search for social justice. ‘Darwinian

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