British naturalist Charles Darwin has become the latest historical scientist to run afoul of the “decolonise the curriculum” movement, with Sheffield University reportedly claiming that Darwin’s theory on evolution was used to “justify white male supremacy”.
A handbook produced by the university informs lecturers and pupils that celebrating “white saviour” figures such as Darwin serves to overshadow less privileged scientists and scholars and that the “whiteness and Eurocentrism of our science” should be deconstructed, according to The Telegraph.
The guidance, which was seen by the right-leaning newspaper, is said to add that “It is clear that science cannot be objective and apolitical,” and “the curriculum we teach must acknowledge how colonialism has shaped the field of evolutionary biology and how evolutionary biologists think today”.
The passage on Darwin also claims that his famed trip on the HMS Beagle — when he collected plant and animal specimens used to develop his theory of natural selection — was in fact a clandestine mission to map colonies for the British Empire.
This claim has been disputed by Oxford University historian Professor Nigel Biggar, who told the paper: “During Darwin’s lifetime the British Empire was busy emancipating slaves across the world.
“The ‘decolonising’ assumption that ‘colonial mapping’ was all about oppression is false, and the judgement that Darwin should be damned by association is morally stupid,” the professor said.
‘White Saviour’ Isaac Newton Benefited from ‘Colonial-Era Activity’, Claims University: Report https://t.co/RyliwUnhCa
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 26, 2021
The school’s reported attack on Darwin is also questionable, particularly when taking into account his staunch abolitionist views. He famously declared that slavery “makes one’s blood boil” and termed the elimination of the practice a “sacred cause”.
Charles Darwin biographer Professor James Moore noted: “Almost everyone in Darwin’s day was ‘racist’ in 21st-century terms, not only scientists and naturalists but even anti-slavery campaigners and abolitionists.”
“What set his ‘racism’ apart – and makes him more like us today – was his profound conviction that all the human races are ‘family’, sisters and brothers.
“Darwin’s wokeness was most obvious in his maintaining the full common humanity and unity of the races in the face of a rising anthropology that insisted the races were in fact separately originated and unrelated species, thus offering justification of atrocities that Darwin is now blamed for.”
Professor Moore went on to question whether or not Sheffield University consulted with members of staff before producing the leftist guidebook, saying that if they failed to do so it could be considered an authoritarian “violation of academic freedom”.
A University of Sheffield spokesman defended the push to decolonise the curriculum, saying: “We are not removing key historical figures from our curriculum, but we are adding those who have also made significant contributions to the fields of maths, science and engineering that are not currently represented.”
In April, Breitbart London reported that Sheffield University’s push against so-called “white saviour” figures included physicist Issac Newton, for possibly benefitting from “colonial-era activity”.
Charles Darwin has also previously been swept up in the Black Lives Matter furore, with Britain’s Natural History Museum launching a review in September into “offensive” and “problematic” collections, including exotic birds collected by Darwin.
UK’s Natural History Museum to Review ‘Offensive’ Charles Darwin Exhibits, Bowing to BLM Pressure https://t.co/SaChhCuVFM
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) September 8, 2020
Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka