MLK’s Highly effective Critique of Scientific Racism

Photograph credit score: Ricardo Gomez Angel by way of Unsplash.

Editor’s be aware: This commentary was initially printed on January 18, 2019.

On this Martin Luther King Day weekend, I will probably be visiting Athens, Texas (a city south of Dallas) for a free public screening of my documentary Human Zoos, which explores the sordid legacy of scientific racism and eugenics in America. I’d prefer to assume that the occasion will probably be a becoming exercise for MLK Day weekend, as a result of King was a strong opponent of each scientific racism and scientific materialism.

Dr. King accepted the animal ancestry of people as taught by Darwinian evolution, however he was sharply crucial of the misuse of science to advertise racial discrimination, and he additionally spoke forcefully towards the concept people are the merchandise of a blind materials course of.

A lot of King’s ideas on science are interspersed all through a brief e-book titled Power to Love, a set of sermons King initially printed in 1963. I’ve been studying the e-book on my journey to Texas, and far of its knowledge is simply as pertinent right now as when the e-book was first printed.

Power to Love

With regard to scientific racism, King lamented that “Science was commandeered to show the organic inferiority of the Negro” (p. 37) and he spoke of how segregationists “flip to some pseudo-scientific writing and argue that the Negro’s mind is smaller than the white man’s mind.” (p. 38) King argued that the true findings of science didn’t assist such claims: “They have no idea, or they refuse to know, that the concept of an inferior or superior race has been refuted by the most effective proof of the science of anthropology… though there could also be inferior and superior people inside all races, there isn’t any superior or inferior race.”

With regard to scientific materialism, King was searing:

To consider that human persona is the results of the fortuitous interaction of atoms and electrons is as absurd as to consider {that a} monkey by hitting typewriter keys at random will ultimately produce a Shakespearean play. Sheer magic! It’s way more smart to say with Sir James Denims, the physicist, that “the universe appears to be nearer to an important thought than to an important machine,” or with Arthur Balfour, the thinker, that “we now know an excessive amount of about matter to be materialists.” Materialism is a weak flame that’s blown out by the breath of mature pondering. (p. 70)

King added in one other chapter that “This universe isn’t a tragic expression of meaningless chaos however a fabulous show of orderly cosmos.” (p. 128)

King and Clever Design

I do not know what King would have considered the trendy concept of clever design, however lots of the concepts he expressed in Power to Love are definitely pleasant to clever design.

Like C.S. Lewis, King additionally was a fierce critic of scientism, the declare that fashionable science is the one path to fact and the accent claims that we should now depend on science to save lots of society from its issues. At one level, King mockingly wrote that fashionable man had rewritten the Twenty-Third psalm as:

Science is my shepherd; I shall not need.
It maketh me to lie down in inexperienced pastures:
It leadeth me beside the nonetheless waters.
It restoreth my soul….
I’ll worry no evil: for science is with me;
Its rod and its workers they consolation me. (p. 71)

“Then Got here the Explosion”

King noticed that “Those that previously turned to God to seek out options for his or her issues turned to science and expertise, satisfied that they now possessed the devices wanted to usher within the new society.” King thought that Darwinian concept specifically had been used to advertise this sort of utopian pondering: “Herbert Spencer skillfully molded the Darwinian concept of evolution into the heady thought of automated progress. Males grew to become satisfied that there’s a sociological regulation of progress that’s as legitimate because the bodily regulation of gravitation.”  (p. 70) However issues didn’t work out fairly the way in which some had hoped:

Then got here the explosion of this fable. It climaxed within the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and within the fierce fury of fifty-megaton bombs. Now we now have come to see that science may give us solely bodily energy, which, if not managed by non secular energy, will lead inevitably to cosmic doom. (p. 71)

King was not anti-science. He acknowledged that “The achievements of science have been marvelous, tangible, and concrete.”  (p. 70) However he warned that “The means by which we dwell have outdistanced the ends for which we dwell. Our scientific energy has outrun our non secular energy.” (p. 73)

Sobering phrases, however price pondering — maybe much more so now than once they have been first written.

Photograph: Martin Luther King, 1963, by way of Wikimedia Commons.

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