Darwin Comes to Africa

A Case Study on the Consequences of Wrong Ideas

Here’s an experiment: Hand a country over to a foreign nation. Divide that country into parts. Give some into the care and governance of Christians, and put one large section into the hands of an agnostic who believes firmly in Darwinian evolution and its related Social Darwinist tenets.

Such was the fate of Nigeria.

That experiment writ large is the focus of a newly released book, Darwin Comes to Africa (February 2023), the result of extensive research by Nigerian pastor and scholar Olufemi Oluniyi. (Oluniyi died of Covid after submitting a draft of his work to Discovery Institute Press, and I was one of the editors entrusted by his family with the task of shaping the manuscript for publication.)

Oluniyi begins:

Here is how the idea of a nineteenth-century scientist traveled four thousand miles to grievously wound Northern Nigeria: Charles Darwin emerged at a time when Europe and Great Britain were hungry for an excuse to exploit Africa. Darwin’s theories provided a morally palatable (though as we shall see, entirely wrong and illogical) excuse. Further, in addition to justifying self-serving colonization, Darwin’s theories shaped the way British administrators managed Northern Nigeria and the various people groups therein. The false narrative of Social Darwinism as promoted by British colonizers caused great and unjust harm to Nigeria, and to this day many aspects of pernicious narrative are widely and harmfully believed to be true.

The book traces the devastating public policies resulting from the “pernicious narrative” of Social Darwinism, carefully supporting the claim of a causal connection. Oluniyi says that those policies are why Northern Nigeria, to this day, compares poorly to the regions that in the colonial era were governed by Christians who, contrary to Darwinian theory, saw all men as equal, regardless of skin color or geography.

The author doesn’t pretend that all Christian colonizers were free of racism or racist behaviors. He argues, rather, that the teachings of Christ and his apostles have served to urge its followers away from racism and toward universal brotherhood, and that Social Darwinism has done much the opposite.

Oluniyi also takes a step back and asks, “But is Darwinism true?” His conclusion, again well supported, is a resounding NO! He says one purpose of the book is “to show that Social Darwinism rests on a faulty foundation, so that perhaps the day may come when the House of Darwin and all his unruly, self-serving children harm no longer.”

Darwin Comes to Africa is a fascinating historical study with clear current-day implications. While Oluniyi presents many grim facts, his book ends on a hopeful note. We can, he argues, escape the fetters of the past, for we are made in the image of God and thus are capable of forgiveness, creativity, and grace. To this end, Oluniyi urges his readers to set aside discredited pseudo-scientific classifications dividing us into multiple races of varying inherent worth, and embrace instead our shared role as family members of a single human race.

Further Reading:

PhD, is an editor for the Discovery Institute and the author of four dystopian novels and many shorter works, both fiction and non-fiction. Before turning to editing, she taught as an adjunct English and humanities professor. She and her husband homeschooled their three children.

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