Teaching Darwin as Cultural Imperialism

I understand that the US is one of perhaps only two holdouts against a UN treaty supporting cultural diversity. This prompted me to think about what cultural imperialism is.

Is it cultural imperialism when we try to stop cultures from some practices which spreads disease (e.g., funerary cannibalism among the Fore), or try to stop female genital mutilation? How about making people let girls go to school? How about showing the rest of the world Spiderman and Harry Potter. Or even making children of fundamentalists study evolution in school?

My answer is yes to all of the above, but I still think they are all good ideas. The values of cultural diversity have been highly touted, especially among liberals. United States Defence Department employees, for example, are now required to have cultural diversity awareness objectives in their annual performance plans. Such ideas would have been considered bizarre a hundred years ago, and the Europeans who conquered much of the World over the past centuries had entirely opposite opinions. Aside from their hardly incidental pursuit of wealth, much of the justification for those conquests came from the desire to convert the heathen and show them the right. Similar motives impelled the conquests of Islamic expansion 1200 years ago.

The high tide of Western imperialism has passed, and with it has come a certain loss of confidence in Western culture, even as it continues to sweep away most traces of anything else. Multiculturalism holds that all cultures were created equal, with an equal right to survival, but even if we concede some sort of moral parity, we need to note that all cultures are not equal in their ability to compete in the world or provide for their members.

So I say, let us face up to the fact that we are asking people to change their culture, and that there are good reasons for insisting that immigrants to America learn English, and that all children in our schools learn about Darwinian evolution, and that not all cultural practices are compatible with today's world.


  1. I posted a reply on my blog of to your comment about the human genetics paper.


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