“Darwin’s Sacred Cause Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins” Desmond and Moore

Publisher’s Synopsis

"This book, by Darwin’s most celebrated modern biographers, gives a completely new explanation of why he came to his shattering theories about human origins. Until now, Desmond and Moore argue, the source of the moral fire which gives such intensity and urgency to Darwin’s ideas has gone unnoticed. By examining minutely Darwin’s manuscripts and correspondence (published and unpublished) and covert notebooks, where many of the clues lie, they show that the key to unlocking the mystery of how such an ostensibly conservative man could hold views which his contemporaries considered both radical and bestial, lay in his utter detestation of slavery. Darwin’s Sacred Cause will be one of the major contributions to the worldwide Darwin anniversary celebrations in 2009."

But does this hold up? Is it an attempt to whitewash Darwin?

An acid test for Desmond and Moore’s hypothesis (about race and inequality) is to compare his attitude to slavery with his attitude to indigenous peoples.

We could add his attitude to his fellow British citizens cast as convicts in New South Wales and Van Dieman’s  Land to round out the picture

The comparison with between Darwin and Capt Fitzroy brings out some of the finer detail.

The pro-slavery Captain, as Governor, did good work with Maori people in Aotearoa/ New Zealand and Pakeha colonists considered he got the answer wrong!

Read the first chapter from:


Publisher’s details , blurb and interview with authors:


ebook from


A Scientist review:

See review: Darwin’s Sacred Cause by Adrian Desmond and James Moore

    * 04 February 2009 by Rowan Hooper





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