Brute men
Race and society in evolution
in Race in a Godless World
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This chapter shows how the implications that evolutionary ideas held for thinking about race and society were far from straightforward. On the one hand, there were those who argued that evolution showed that all humans were related and that any racial differences between them were ultimately superficial in the vast expanse of evolutionary time. On the other hand, there were those who argued that races could be ranked in a hierarchy based on their evolutionary progress or that each race descended from its own unique ape ancestor. Evolution also shed light on the development of civilizations. The eighteenth-century idea that societies followed a linear course on the way to civilization fit well within an evolutionary worldview. Along with accepting the idea that white European civilization represented the apex of progress, other white atheists also gave a subversive reading of societal evolution in which religion itself was seen as a product of evolution, formed when humanity was in its “savage” state. In this view, Christians were really no better than their savage counterparts.

Race in a Godless World

Atheism, Race, and Civilization, 1850–1914

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