Some might wonder why there is little engagement with the history of scientific racism, particularly the theory of polygenism
and ideas about innate inferiority, which had become a staple of antebellum discourse.
For much of this period, speculation on the relative fertility of hybrids served as a proxy for attribution of 'monstrosity' and 'degeneracy' to mixed progeny, though incapacity to reproduce declined in importance as a criterion as mixed populations proliferated, and as polygenism
, which posited separate racial creations, lost credibility.
Hale provides a nice account of Wallace's often overlooked address to London's Anthropological Society that attempted to reconcile its avowed polygenism
with the monogenism espoused in Darwin and Thomas Henry Huxley's Ethnological Society.
In attempting to understand the origin of living organisms, the ancients quite reasonably reversed (retrojected) the series of immutable organisms back in time to the de novo creation of the first individual (monogenism) or group (polygenism
) of every kind of creature.
marks the moment when the doctrine of polygenism
had finally declined out of view, lifting the racist penumbra that had overshadowed any consideration of cultures as distinct" (50).
It is impossible, for instance, to understand Desor's publications on Egyptian flints or those on Siberian grave finds without realizing, even if this is never explicitly referred to in these archaeological works, that the debates about the Egyptian Neolithic or the Russian Bronze Age were instrumental in another discussion --the major anthropological debate on monogenism versus polygenism
(i.e., the unique or plural origin of mankind).
Initially, Darwinism was shunned by the academic community in favor of a militant adherence to the scientific theory of polygenism
, the belief that the races of mankind each had distinct origins.
Embedded in this debate over racial fusion were conflicting debates in France over how races originated: Paul Broca's monogenism, "which posited an original race from which all subsequent races had emerged," and Arthur de Gobineau's polygenism
, "which argued that a variety of 'pure' races had existed during the early period of human life." (41) These debates colored all discussions of race in Spain and influenced how "European ideas about origins and racial types" meshed with Spaniards' conceptions of "their own particular national land political] context" (41-42).
(10) The genie of polygenism
had been let out of its bottle.
A new more severe form of racism based on "biblical polygenesis" flourished and, along with lynchings and legal segregation, represented "the South's contribution to the triumph of harsh racism throughout the Western world." In the end, Luse argues, the proslavery Christian position could not prevail against the power of polygenism
. "On questions ranging from the internal slave trade, fears of racial mixing, and advocacy of white democracy, the new ethnology provided a firmer foundation for white supremacy.
At least one book was written in 2007 that attempted to resuscitate the Pre-Adamite races (Mayer 2007.) Despite the popularity of polygenism
in the 19th century, the most commonly held view for the origin of human races in America was monogenist.
The pope also said that regardless of what evolutionary theories there are about polygenism
, the Roman Catholic Church knows from the Bible that all human beings descended from Adam.