Even Darwin did not believe that human races existed

Even Darwin did not believe that human races existed
Even Darwin did not believe that human races existed

Charles Darwin’s ideas were too far ahead of his time. Even for himself. After all, Darwin only intuited, perhaps with a mixture of audacity and chance, how the natural world worked, but he completely ignored what genes or chromosomes were.

When he wrote The Origin of Man, in 1871, for example, his interest was in elucidating whether human beings, as happened with any species, descended in some pre-existing way. It was something that was not clear at all because there was not even a strong fossil record that confirmed it: just a skull from Belgium, another from Gibraltar and a few bones from central Germany. Even so, Darwin did not find particularly important or permanent differences among humans.

The fallacy of the races

Darwin noticed the physical features of different human beings that crossed his path, which he referred to as races or subspecies not from the xenophobic point of view, but typical of the Victorian ignorance of the time:

But since he reached the rank of humanity, he has diverged into different races, or subspecies, as it may be more correct to call them. Some of them, like blacks and Europeans, are so different that if they took specimens to a naturalist without any other information, they would certainly consider them true species.

Of course, he did not consider these differences to be important or permanent : “I doubt that we can cite a single character that is distinctive of a race and is constant.”

It is true that there are differences, but no more than there may be in what has come to be called “race” and that it makes no sense in the light of biology . To consider the “black race” is as vague as to consider “individuals who process oxygen better at high altitude”, since in this group there are some African blacks, also some Tibetans … but most black Africans and Tibetans do not have that capacity. In addition, although the skin tone of the inhabitants of central Africa and the Andaman Islands are similar, they were acquired by different historical and biological routes.