The most evolved of the “races of man”…

The book from which [John] Scopes taught was an approved school text called A Civic Biology by George Hunter. The [“orthodox”] story tells us that Scopes read his class chapter seventeen of Hunter’s book, which is said to be about Darwin and the Origin of Species. However, chapter seventeen is actually titled “Heredity, Variation, Plant and Animal Breeding” and, as befits a book of civic biology, is mainly about practical applications to farming. Indeed, the modern reader is surprised at how little this book has to say about Darwin. It certainly regards him as a “great name in biology” and attributes to him the discovery of evolution, but it focuses most on Darwinism’s social implications. In particular, chapter seventeen discusses the application to human society of “the laws of selection” and approves the eugenic policies and scientific racism common in the United States at the time. Hunter believed that it would be criminal to hand down “handicaps” to the next generation and regarded families with a history of tuberculosis, epilepsy and feeble-mindedness as “parasitic on society.” The remedy, according to Hunter, is to prevent breeding:

If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. (A Civic Biology, p. 263)

In common with many at the time, Hunter believed that the most evolved of the “races of man” is that of “the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America,” which is “the highest type of all.” If, as the story claims, Scopes was teaching his school pupils from chapter  seventeen of Hunter’s book, we might have some sympathy with the people of Dayton for wanting to stop him.

Philip Sampson, from Six Modern Myths About Christianity & Western Civilization, p. 54-55

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