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Profs and Pints presents: “The Damage Done by Darwin,” a look at how the acclaimed naturalist's racism and sexism undermined his work and haunts us to this day, with Rui Diogo, associate professor of anatomy at Howard University's College of Medicine and resource faculty member at George Washington University's Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology.
[Under current District of Columbia regulations attendees will be required to wear a mask except while eating or drinking. The Bier Baron also is requiring anyone seeking to enter to provide proof of a Covid-19 vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test from within the previous 72 hours. It also will be requiring ticketed event attendees to purchase a minimum of two items, which can be food or beverages, including soft drinks.]
Charles Darwin has long been put on a pedestal and idolized as an objective, rational thinker who challenged the theist views of this day and changed how we see the world for the better. The truth, however, is a lot more complicated. Many of Darwin’s ideas were less original than widely believed and, in many cases, repackaged the false assumptions and prejudices of his era as the purported product of scientific observation. They helped buttress racist and sexist worldviews in ways that would do tremendous damage even to this day.
Join Rui Diogo, an evolutionary biologist who has extensively reviewed Darwin’s books, diaries, notebooks, and letters, for an unflinching examination of Darwin’s life, thinking, and impact.
Professor Diogo will look at how almost none of the grand ideas attributed to Darwin—including the theory of natural selection—truly originated with him. He’ll discuss how Darwin stated as “fact” inaccurate constructions based on Victorian biases and stereotypes. And he’ll explore how Darwin’s assertions, and their warm reception, were very much a reflection of a broader ideological war that had left England’s wealthy Victorian elite eager to find new justifications for their relative privilege in the face of feared revolution.
Many scientists involved in similar research during Darwin’s time were not nearly as racist or sexist in their thinking. But Darwin was more skilled than most in packaging his ideas in ways that made them accessible and appealing to the general public. As a result, his writings became easy ammunition for generations of colonialists, white supremacists, and others seeking to defend social hierarchies, discrimination, and oppression.
The point of this talk is not to “cancel” Darwin, who was in fact right about some important things. Instead, it seeks to offer a more complete, nuanced, and clear-eyed assessment of him that might leave us better equipped to reject prejudices and false assumptions and evolve in our own thinking. (Advance tickets: $12 plus sales tax and vendor fees. Doors: $15, or $13 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later. Please allow yourself time to place any orders and get seated and settled in.)