Posted on May 18, 2022

How Science Fueled the White Supremacist Mass Murderer in Buffalo, NY

John G. West, Evolution News, May 16, 2022

Over the weekend, a teenage male shooter perpetrated a horrific mass murder in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, where 13 people were shot, and 10 died. All but two of the victims were black.

Journalists and commentators have rushed to report that the shooter is a white supremacist who hates blacks, Jews, and immigrants and subscribes to the racist theory known as “The Great Replacement.” The description is true as far as it goes.

But it is also woefully inadequate. It doesn’t tell us anything about the roots of the shooter’s twisted beliefs. Until we start paying attention to THAT question, we are unlikely to make progress in combatting these kinds of crimes in the future.

So What Fueled the Killer’s Toxic Ideology?

It certainly wasn’t Christianity. In a manifesto posted online that has been attributed to the shooter, the author does make a bizarre claim that he “believe[s] in and practice[s] many Christian values.” (p. 7) Apparently “thou shalt not murder” and “love thy neighbor as thyself” aren’t among them. More importantly, this pro forma statement in the manifesto follows an unequivocal rejection of Christianity. “Are you a Christian?” the manifesto’s writer asks himself. “No. I do not ask God for salvation by faith, nor do I confess my sins to Him.” He goes on to suggest he is an out-and-out materialist: “I personally believe there is no afterlife.”

If not religion, what about politics? Perhaps the shooter was persuaded by the rhetoric of Republican Party politicians or conservative pundits like Tucker Carlson, as some have recklessly suggested online? Sorry, but those who want to score partisan points in this awful tragedy should look elsewhere.


So if not religion or politics, what fueled his hatreds? Try evolutionary science.


In his purported manifesto, the shooter asserts that blacks “are a different subspecies of human.” Why? Because “Whites and Blacks are separated by tens of thousands of years of evolution, and our genetic material is obviously very different.” (emphasis mine, p. 14) Elsewhere he suggests that Europeans and Asians are more recently evolved than blacks (p. 17), which sounds eerily reminiscent of the view of countless racists of the past (including Charles Darwin himself) that blacks are the lowest humans on the evolutionary ladder.

You won’t find the shooter drawing on Tucker Carlson or Donald Trump in his manifesto. You will find lots of citations to articles in mainstream peer-reviewed science journals, including Nature Genetics, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Molecular Psychiatry, Journal of Research in Personality, Personality and Individual Differences, and Current Directions in Psychological Science. You will also find citations to science articles published in media outlets like the New York Times. The shooter cites those sources to try to justify genetic reductionism and his abhorrent belief in black genetic inferiority.

Unfortunately, the Buffalo shooter’s evolutionary racism is not an outlier among recent mass killers. Arguments drawn from evolution have been prominent in the ideologies of many mass shooters in recent years, including Anders Breivik in 2011, a Norwegian mass murderer cited as a role model by the Buffalo shooter. Other shooters smitten by Darwinian evolution have included the Columbine High School shooters in 1999, Finnish shooter Pekka Eric Auvinen in 2007, the Holocaust Memorial Museum shooter in 2009, and the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooter in 2019.

Obviously, believing in evolution doesn’t compel one to be a racist, let alone predispose a person  to be a killer. Nevertheless, if we want to counteract the influences that shape people like the Buffalo shooter, we need to face the way evolutionary science is being misused to support the new white supremacists.

{snip} The historical connections between evolutionary biology and racism are undeniable. As historian Richard Weikart meticulously documents in his recent book, Darwinian Racism: How Darwinism Influenced Hitler, Nazism, and White Nationalism (2022), evolutionary arguments have been a staple among scientific racists over the past century right down to the present. You will find some of the same evidence in my documentary Human Zoos.