Many regard Charles Darwin as the Father of Evolution, a scientific breakthrough that is considered one of the greatest accomplishments in science. Little does the general public consider the social effects that his contributions made on racism, as well as sexism, not only in his lifetime, but also for the generations following his research. His recognition in one area of study automatically made him a voice that echoed for centuries against women’s suffrage, pro-slavery, and influenced Hitler’s ideology.
Apart from his genetic research and theories of evolution, Darwin was not afraid to compare the human race to that of other animals. This analogy caused a lot of the discrimination that he blatantly labeled as scientific fact. In the Descent of Man, “Darwin noted that the inheritance of special tastes and habits, general intelligence, courage, good and bad temper, and so on is evident in dogs and other domestic animals, and that the same pattern is seen in almost every human family” (Paul, 226). Darwin was not afraid to make non-scientific comparisons between the human race and other animals.
Although many of Darwin’s findings are scientifically rational, and others simply deny his theories because of their religious faiths, it is difficult to ignore the consequences of his “Origins of Species” or “The Descent of Man” writings. Although Darwin wrote that all men shared a common descent, he used societal observations to pinpoint the differences in mental faculties between races, while contrasting the culture of “the lowest savages” with European civilization. Young Darwin simply wanted a non-religious explanation of how our world came to be.
“Evolutionary thinking enabled [Darwin] to rescue the idea of human unity, taking it over from a religion that no longer provided adequate support, and put the idea of common descent on a rational foundation... [However, as he aged and] as attitudes to race became harsher, sympathies for black people in the Americas more scant, and the fate of “savages” a matter of indifference, Darwin’s won sympathies were blunted by the prevailing fatalism” (Kohn).
Darwin was obviously influenced by the society around him, and therefore formed conclusions that were not based on scientific fact.
The most bewildering findings of the expert on human sexual reproduction and inheritance is the fact that he considered males to be superior to females, and that the golden strands of genetic code was more successfully passed on to the male “species”. His comparison of woman to men to a cow and a bull showed that
“The chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes is shown by man’s attaining to a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than can woman – whether requiring deep thought, reason, or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands. If two lists were made of the most eminent men and women in poetry, painting, sculpture, music (inclusive both of composition and performance), history, science, and philosophy, with half-a-dozen names under each subject, the two lists would not bear comparison,” (Paul, 228).
Although one may comment that Darwin was simply a product of his time, he incorrectly conducted his studies by starting from his conclusions and working backwards. The social construct of the society degraded women, and did not allow for their education. Several cultural factors influenced the role that woman had as the head of the household. Upon receiving criticism from Boston feminist, Caroline Kannard, he commented,
“Although [...] women morally [are] superior to men, they had in the course of evolution become men’s intellectual inferiors. Although it might in fact be possible to recover the original equality between men and women, the cost would be high as it would require that ‘women must become as regular ‘bread-winners’ as men; & we may suspect that the easy education of our children, not to mention happiness