The reason why #BlackLivesMatter exists, or the civil rights movement needed to take place, or the Underground Railroad was created, or for that matter, why racism in all of its forms has ever existed, is because billions of people have failed to learn and then teach the truth regarding the common descent of all human beings.
The truth, simply put, is this: We are all African. The scientific evidence for this claim is overwhelming. The evolutionary sciences have unequivocally demonstrated that every human on this planet descended from common ancestors in Africa. If you want proof – and I would expect that you would demand it – there’s an overwhelming amount of it.
The truth of the fact that we are all indeed, African, is not open for choice; it is simply a scientific fact regarding the common ancestry of our human origins. If other beliefs, or feelings, or systems of belief stand in the way of accepting this scientific fact – whether they be religiously motivated or not – we need to recognize that such biases should have no direct affect regarding the fact that every human who has ever existed is related.
In 2005, I was fired from an Ontario university largely for teaching: “We are all African.” I had no idea those four words could get me in so much hot water in the academic communities. But they did. And they shouldn’t have. And it is because of the failings of our education systems at all levels, that the average person does not even know that we are, indeed, all African and hence, related. If we had taught critical thinking skills from kindergarten to grade 12, through all colleges and universities, and made it accessible to all businesses and professions, we would all know and accept this fact.
But we don’t teach critical thinking at these levels; and hence, here we are witnessing protests that need not happen had we all been better educated; for inherent within the critical thinking skill set is the understanding and application of scientific reasoning. Through the use of scientific reasoning, anyone can accept our African heritage as a fact. This, in turn, can allow us to better understand why racism is an extension of evolutionary traits involving xenophobia. The term xenophobia means ‘fear of foreignness or foreigners’. In biology, this translates to “better safe than sorry”. It creates a level of discrimination between species as to which other species might be considered predators or in any way harmful or detrimental to their survival and reproductive abilities. However, humans evolved with an emergent consciousness which allows us to better understand and function within complex social systems. Once levels of familiarity are reached between our species, the level of xenophobia or fear becomes reduced, and a peaceful level of cohabitation can occur. As a member of the mammalian animal species, humans have been naturally xenophobic and have been evolving from our primate ancestors for millions of years. Over that time, our conscious capacities have allowed us to move beyond basic survival strategies to develop complex societies. But again, to know this, requires humanity to be educated in the evolutionary sciences and to accept that we are the last surviving hominid lineage that originated in Africa and over tens of thousands of years, have populated this entire planet.
And now the hard part: Are we ready to accept these facts globally (or even nationally) and, as a consequence, understand their entailments?
For if we can accept our common heritage, then it becomes obvious that what we call ‘racism’ is not only a misnomer – for no races actually exist between humans – but that discrimination against any human on the basis of their physical or phenotypic traits is irrelevant in our attitudes and treatment of them. This is the type of information the entire world needs to know, understand, and accept. For if we can accept this information as true, then it reduces considerably the logic, the actuation, and the perpetuation of inequitable treatment based on such physical traits.
Can we all accept that every human on this planet is related and that all of our ancestors originally lived in Africa?
For if we can all accept this as true, then maybe it will become just a little more difficult to hate, to hurt, and to discriminate. Our education systems are failing us on a number of levels. But we can change this; and in so doing, we will deal far better with issues like racism because our youth will be far better informed.
If you want a better world – teach critical thinking.
Christopher DiCarlo is a philosopher, educator, and author. He often teaches in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Toronto (in Scarborough) and the Life Institute at Ryerson University in Toronto. He is also a lifetime member of Humanist Canada and an Expert Advisor for the Centre for Inquiry Canada.
Barnett, Bronwyn. 2003. ‘Genetics may help solve mysteries of human evolution’, in Stanford News Service, February 19.
Bar-Yosef, Ofer and Pilbeam, David eds. 2000. The Geography of Neandertals and Modern Humans in Europe and the Greater Mediterranean, Peabody Museum Bulletin 8, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
Bar-Yosef, Ofer, and Bernard Vandermeersch. 1993. Modern Humans in the Leviant. Scientific American, April, p. 64.
Dawkins, Richard. 1976. The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (See also revised
ed., Dawkins 1989).
Deacon, Terrence W. 1997. The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the
Brain, W.W. Norton and Co. New York.
de Waal, Franz. 2001. Tree of Origin: What Primate Behavior Can Tell Us about Human Social
Evolution, Harvard University Press,
de Waal, Franz. 2000. Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes. Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press.
DiCarlo, Christopher, 2010. “We are all African: Can Scientific Proof of our Commonality Save
Us?” in Free Inquiry Vol. 30 No. 4 June/July 18-22.
- 2006 “We are all African: Four Words that can Change the World” in SIRS Enduring Issues: an eight-volume reference collection of the best articles and graphics of the year. A request for reprint from Proquest Information and Learning: the leading provider of microform and electronic information to school, academic, public, and government libraries around the world.
- 2006 “We are all African: Four Words that can Change the World” in Humanist Perspectives, Issue 156, Spring.
- 2004 “On the Naturalistic Fallacy: A Conceptual Basis for Evolutionary Ethics”, co-authored with John Teehan. Evolutionary Psychology: An International Journal of Evolutionary Approaches to Psychology and Behavior 2: 32-46, March.
- 2000 Critical Notice of Anthony O’Hear’s Beyond Evolution: Human Nature and the Limits of Evolutionary Explanation. Biology and Philosophy, Vol. 16, No. 1, 117-130.
- 2000 Abstract: “The Influence of Selection Pressures and Secondary Epigenetic Rules on the Cognitive Development of Specific Forms of Reasoning” in The Journal of Consciousness Studies: Consciousness Research Abstracts.
Dunbar, Robin. 1998. Grooming, Gossip and Language, Harvard University Press,
Leakey, Richard. 1994. The Origin of Humankind, Basic Books, New York.
Lieberman, P. 1975. On the Origins of Language: An Introduction into the Evolution of Human
Speech, New York: Macmillan.
- 1984. The Biology and Evolution of Language, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Lumsden, Charles L and Wilson, E.O. 1981. Genes, Mind and Culture by, Harvard University
Press, Cambridge, MA.
Mithen, Steven. 1999. The Prehistory of the Mind. Thames and Hudson, London, UK.
Mithen, Steven. 2003. After the Ice: A Global Human History, 20,000-5,000 BC. Weidenfield
and Nicolson, London, UK.
Ruse, Michael. 1998. Taking Darwin Seriously, Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY.
Sakai K, Passingham RE (2006) Prefrontal set activity predicts rule-specific neural
activity during subsequent cognitive performance. J.Neurosci. 26, 1211-1218.
Sapolsky, Robert. 2003. ‘Taming Stress’ in Scientific American, Vol. 289, No. 3,
Sylvester, Robert. 1994. ‘How Emotions Affect Learning’, in Education Leadership, Vol 52, No.
Tattersall, Ian. 2003a. ‘Once We Were Not Alone’, in Scientific American: New Look at Human
Evolution, June: 20-27.
- 2003b ‘Out of Africa Again…and Again?’ in Scientific American: New Look at Human Evolution, June,: 38-45.
- 1997. Becoming Human : Evolution and Human Uniqueness,
‘The Mind’s Big Bang’. 2002. From the series Evolution, WGBH: Boston.
Vincent, J.D. 1990. The Biology of Emotions. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell.
Whiten, Andrew. ‘Social Complexity and Social Intelligence’ in Novartis Found Symp. 2000, 233:185-96.
Wilson, David Sloan. 2002. Darwin’s Cathedral. University of Chicago Press.
Wrangham, Jones, Laden, Pilbeam, Conklin-Brittain. 1999. ‘Cooking and the Ecology of Human Origins’, Current Anthropology, 40: 567-594.