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The Human Zoo: A Result of Embracing the Scientific “Truth” of Social Darwinism over the Truth of the Bible

I recently came across this video on YouTube and remembered that I had written about human zoos in my first book.


At the end of the 19th and into the beginning of the 20th century, human zoos were set up at the many different world’s fairs as a way to display social Darwinism. These zoos, while having a certain amount of entertainment value to the crowds, were actually scientific endeavors. The Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893 was a primary example of this scientific theory put on display.

Along the Midway, fair-goers could walk through the evolutionary history of man. Beginning with the African race and moving forward through the red and yellow races, villages were set up and people of color were put on display. The exhibit ended with the European villages and culminated with the glorious “White City,” which was the final goal toward which humanity was moving.

This  wasn’t a sideshow; it was the latest science!  Since the goal of the fair was to showcase humanity’s progress, the best minds were put to the task.

To lend anthropological legitimacy to their enterprise, Chicago’s exposition directors placed the Midway under the nominal direction of Harvard’s Frederic Ward Putnam, who had already been chosen to organize an Anthropology Building at the fair.

Putnam envisioned the Midway as a living outdoor museum of “primitive” human beings that would afford visitors the opportunity to measure the progress of humanity toward the ideal of civilization presented in the White City. (1)

Putnam was a student of Louis Agassiz, the influential Harvard professor who embraced scientific racism and immersed a whole generation of students in its precepts. Scientific racism (a.k.a. polygenism) was the belief that each of the races had different parents (not just Adam and Eve). In contrast, the belief that all the races came from one set of parents was called “monogenism.”

Thomas Jefferson, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and Voltaire were all polygenists. The abolitionists were monogenists. They based their beliefs on Acts 17:26, which says God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.

In polygenism, racial subjugation was defended because some of the races could be considered to be sub-human. In Darwinism, darker races were less evolved. Supposedly, the lighter the skin, the more evolved the race was.

When Darwinian evolution made the claim that all life evolved from a common ancestor, monogenism became vogue again, and scientists abandoned polygenism and  flocked to the new scientific view.

Regardless, neither polygenism, nor Darwinism placed the darker races in a position of equality with the lighter races, but monogenism, as taught by Bible-believing Christians, taught that all races came from “one blood,” which meant that people with darker skin were human beings just like people with lighter skins.

The impact of social Darwinism, although rarely heard of today (perhaps due to the embarrassment felt by the scientific and intellectual community for supporting it), was widespread. In 1864, the Atlantic Monthly declared that Herbert Spencer (who coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” and is considered to be the founder of social Darwinism) was a “power in the world” and that he represented the “scientific spirit of the age.” (2)

And yet, Herbert Spencer was wrong and those who trusted in the truth of the Bible were right. In fact, while social Darwinism’s proponents (of whom Hitler is counted) are rarely remembered, those who stood on the Word of God (Wilberforce, Newton, the Clapham Sect, Douglass, and Garrison) are now our heroes.

(1) Robert W. Rydell, “World’s Columbian Exposition,” Encyclopedia of Chicago (Chicago Historical Society, 2006), http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1386.html (accessed 08/11/2008).

(2) Joseph L. Graves, The Emperor’s New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002), 75.


Why am I WAITING for “Shalom?”

"They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven . . ."
(1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10a)

The word "shalom" in the Hebrew has many meanings which indicate restoration, renewal, friendship, peace, safety and so on. At one time, God placed his creation in a perfect garden--a place of safety, security, provision and peace--and we disobeyed God, losing 1) our relationship with God and 2) paradise.

Since that time, we've attempted to bring back both of these losses in our own way. Religion is our attempt to gain back our relationship with God, and politics is our attempt to gain back paradise.

The solution to both of these losses is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet the world refuses to believe the good news! Instead they try to attain the restoration--the shalom--in their own way through their own effort.

I believe that the kingdom of God is restored in the hearts of men as they receive Christ's finished work, but the kingdom of God doesn't come physically to earth until Christ comes.

Any effort to bring about the promise ahead of time in our own strength is akin to Abraham going to Hagar for fulfillment of the promise instead of waiting with Sarah for the birth of the promised child through whom the nations of the earth would be blessed.

The evangelical church is rushing en masse to bring about shalom through their own effort, power, and influence. Men like Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Jim Wallis, and Donald Miller are losing their faith in the promise of Christ that he would prepare a place for them and they're attempting to restore paradise now.

I want to let it be known that I'm WAITING for shalom. I won't be a part of their dream. They are moving ahead of God rather than waiting on God and they will create another Ishmael as a result.

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