I am writing in response to the letter to the editor "Another historical figure to expunge" (The Daily Progress, Dec. 30) glibly suggesting that Charles Darwin, scientist and now racist, is unworthy of historical stature.

Darwin did not justify the practice of slavery. The author even states, quoting Stephen Jay Gould, that 19th-century scientists after Darwin abused science to support their own prejudices. And it is well known that social Darwinism (the adaptation of evolutionary theory to social questions: economic, political, ethical) was an ideological tool to support inequality and the racist status quo.

Darwin argued that humans were continuous with animals — that was his radical legacy. We are subject to the same laws of nature as the rest of the animal kingdom, a form of natural selection. But natural selection for Darwin just means survivability; it does not equate to progress — although sometimes Darwin, in "The Descent of Man," slides into coupling natural selection with progress. But in his more lucid moments, he recognizes that humans exist in a world where social structures and institutions can enable traits to increase or decrease.

It doesn't take much to realize that in a racist economic and political environment that adaptability for some groups would be harder than for others.

Margaret Nash

Albemarle County

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