Why the Darwin-Hitler Link Is So Sensitive

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This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Darwin to Hitler?


Series: Darwin to Hitler?

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William Dembski asked again yesterday, “What’s wrong with uttering ‘Darwin’ and ‘Hitler’ in the same breath?” There actually is a connection, he says (rightly), so why is something like Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed so vilified for saying so? Expelled’s most criticized feature in the period prior to its release has been its use of Nazi-related imagery. (I was on an airplane last night, so I still haven’t seen the film myself.)

Dembski asked this question rhetorically. It would help to consider some actual answers anyway. I propose four of them here.

1. There is no inevitable link from Darwin to Hitler.

Richard Dawkins pointed this out in his predictably scathing review of Expelled:


It is one of the classic philosophical fallacies to derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’. Stein (or whoever wrote his script for him) is implying that Hitler committed that fallacy with respect to Darwinism.

He goes on to say he doubts Hitler is more guilty of this fallacy than other world leaders have been. Dawkins is right at least to this extent: to say, or even to imply, that there is a strict philosophical and ethical progression from Darwin to Dachau is wrong. Darwin’s theory was a description of how life’s complexity and diversity arose. It’s a statement of a condition of nature. As such, it contains no ethical imperative. It just is, or rather, Darwinian theory just claims to tell about an “is.” Oughts don’t come from is-es.

Now, as I have suggested elsewhere, we still have to wonder about the problem this raises. For Dawkins and others, neo-Darwinism is the sole explanation for life. If the sole explanation of life cannot lead to any oughts, then are there any oughts at all? Where do they come from? Dawkins’s own ethics (see his review article, in the paragraph about Hitler) have nothing to do with his beliefs about what life is about. They almost seemed snatched out of thin air, so disconnected are they from his other views regarding reality.

Nevertheless, we must be quite cautious never to suggest that Darwin led inevitably to Hitler by philosophical necessity.

2. We’ve forgotten that there is an historical link from Darwin to Hitler.

Darwinism did not have to lead to Hitler, but the way evolution was interpreted in Germany, it happened anyway. The story is told in Richard Weikart’s From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany. David Klinghoffer has recently written a short synopsis of the same. Weikart traces a line among German scientists, physicians, psychiatrists and other thinkers that began a (philosophically false yet historically real) belief that, under evolutionary theory, the “progress of the species” is a great moral imperative. Progress was defined such that the mentally or physically handicapped were impediments to this progress, so they should not be allowed to reproduce. Eugenic practices–both forced sterilization and “elimination” (killing)–were vigorously promoted.

This theory was not confined just to individuals, though. The Northern European “species” of humans (yes, they used that term) was considered the most advanced. Ernst Haeckel, famous for doctoring drawings of embryos, used his creative artistry also to “show” that some “species” of humans were more close related to simians (apes, etc.) than to Europeans. I’ve been unable to find an internet-available version of the Haeckel woodcut that Weikart reproduced in his book, but there is one very similar to it here. Just imagine the same, only rearranged to show a “progression” from human to ape, in which the Hottentot and Papuan are placed next to the simian, and look much more simian than human (as Haeckel represents them).

Haeckel was not the only one. There was, as a matter of historical fact, an influential group of people writing of a moral imperative to improve humanity by eliminating its “lesser” members. These scientists do not appear to have been particularly anti-Semitic–that was HItler’s special contribution to the horror. But they laid a cultural groundwork. I’m convinced that Hitler could never have persuaded an entire nation to cooperate with his murderous program if they had not already been conditioned by this principle of racially-oriented eugenics. Darwin has hardly the only basis for Nazism–war and anti-Semitism have a much longer history than that!–but this particular form of murder could not, in my opinion, have happened without the groundwork laid by German Darwinists.

3. The Darwin-Hitler link carries incredible emotional and rhetorical power.

I find myself having to pause often for a sigh or a deep breath when I’m writing on this topic. Hitler was a horror. He invokes an incredible emotional effect–emotions that are entirely legitimate. We recoil from the images of the Holocaust.

Now when I try to put myself in the shoes of someone who is not prone in the first place to support Expelled’s message, I can easily imagine feeling outraged. Part of that outrage would be toward the Holocaust itself, and part of it would be toward the possibility that Expelled is making an effective point with it. But this leads to a far deeper and more important issue:

4. We’ve sacralized the Holocaust, so that it seems wrong to use it in support of another purpose.

Dembski’s article, to which this one is a response, refers to the Anti-Defamation League’s complaint of “trivializing the horrors of the Holocaust.” I don’t think that just speaking of historical realities leading up to the Holocaust could be considered trivializing. The problem is that this was used to support another theory, another agenda.

Let me compare this to something else on a far smaller and less important scale. For me as a musician and as a Christian believer, there is hardly anything higher or greater in all of art than Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. Musically magnificent, it is also an incredibly glorious recounting of the greatness of Jesus Christ and his coming kingdom. Some bright advertising agency apparently got the idea, though, that its message was not much more than, “Gosh, I’m happy.” And they used it as the musical score for a toilet tissue advertisement. I was incensed. I think that ad disappeared rather quickly–I don’t watch much TV so I don’t know for sure–but I still get worked up just remembering it.

Six million deaths are considerably more significant than that, and if we can distinguish “sacralizing” from “deifying,” then there is something sacred, holy, and untouchable about the six million–each of them as individuals, and collectively as the victims of the Holocaust. We tread on holy ground here, and we ought to expect emotions to rise quickly and forcefully. Why is it wrong to say “Darwin” and “Hitler” in the same breath? Partly for the same reason, magnified, that it’s wrong to use the Hallelujah Chorus to sell toilet tissue.

And yet…

Yet there is a difference, too. God help us if we don’t learn from the Holocaust. If there really was an historical link from Darwin to Hitler–and there was–we must learn what happened, and why. The very sacredness of the Holocaust, the memory of the victims, demands it.

Richard Weikart’s recent article on this topic outlines six lessons to learn from it. I will focus on just one. What was it about Hitler and the Holocaust that was (and is) so horrifying? Stalin and Mao both killed more people than Hitler did. Pol Pot and Idi Amin rank high among genocidal maniacs. Why Hitler? Why is it that when we want to point to one glaring example of utter evil, it’s always his name that comes up?

I think it’s because before he killed the six million, he dehumanized them. He dehumanized them rhetorically, in his writings and his speeches; and he dehumanized them by packing them like merchandise on trains, carting them off to death factories, killing them by assembly-line methods, using them for horrific experiments, and storing parts in warehouses. There’s still a roomful of human hair at Dachau, according to a friend of mine who has visited there. The thought angers me deeply even as I write this. Yes, Hitler was worse than the rest!

Before Hitler, Haeckel dehumanized vast sections of humanity. He did it in the name of evolution. And here, I think, the philosophical link is valid. There may not be an “ought” to derive from the “is” of evolution, but there is this: if Darwin’s version (along with its 21st century updates) is the whole story of humans, then there isn’t much difference between us and any other organism. There is no such thing as “more advanced,” because evolution knows no advancement except for the more excellent adaptation to an ecological niche. Ingrid Newkirk of PETA can rightly say, “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy,” because there’s no real difference at the bottom of it all, no ontological difference.

I do not think it’s prostituting the Holocaust to draw this lesson from it: that which dehumanizes, points us toward Auschwitz and Dachau.

Conclusion

None of this has a lot to do with the manner in which Nazism was portrayed in Expelled. It couldn’t–I haven’t seen the movie yet. I hope, though, that it will help bring understanding to both sides: that supporters of Darwin will recognize there’s an actual historical basis for linking Darwin to Hitler, and it’s not wrong to say so. I hope others who disagree with evolution will be aware of the emotions we may stir up by saying so. I hope we can reason together on these things, learning from the facts, recognizing the real feelings, learning for the future.

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48 Responses to “ Why the Darwin-Hitler Link Is So Sensitive ”

  1. Very thoughtful and well-written.

    Another aspect of all this I’ve been considering is how Hitler, the demagogue, operated rhetorically. You’ve done a great job of avoiding the black/white, broad-brush simplifications evident in his style and so apparent in these discussions today.
    Keep an eye out for those who know only vilification.

  2. Tom,

    This is very well written. You are right…the Darwin/Hitler subject cuts so deep that it potentially overshadows the actual point of the movie.

    I hope that we can not get lost in the emotion of the debate and can see that we really don’t have a fair and balanced debate on this issue.

  3. Two comments:

    1) I think one thing that drives the vitriolic reaction to the Hitler-Darwin connection is the fact that it is not necessarily evolution that implies eugenics, but naturalism. Naturalism is the canon, it is the faith, the creed of the Dawkinses of the world. Evolution is a necessary implication of naturalism, not the other way around. The reaction is violent because these people realize what is being said here is that Naturalism accommodates atrocities because of the necessary lack of an external axiological reality. Naturalism, being a philosophy, is their faith. Their faith is being attacked (/shown for what it is) and it arouses emotions.

    2) That being said, I think it is the height of hypocrisy for anyone like Dawkins or Hitchens to imply the insensitivity of acknowledging the Holocaust’s relationship to naturalism. After all, Dawkins and Hitchens have made millions by preaching that the Crusades and Inquisition prove their statements about the evil of religion (especially monotheism). Are Muslim or Protestant victims somehow less worthy of grave respect than Jews? For the record, Expelled handled this issue tastefully and sensitively. That is exponentially more than can be said for the works of Dawkins and Hitchens.

  4. The scary thing about Hitler is that he came to power on a wave of public support for his antisemitism. That wave of support would not have existed without our old friend Martin Luther who wanted to slaughter the Jews and laid the groundwork for centuries of antisemitism. The idea that the mobs of Krystallnacht were motivated by evolutionary biology is gonna be a tough case to prove. Antisemitism in German Christian culture? Gott mit uns.

    The support for this anti-intellectual movie is not only disappointing, it’s ironic. Fascism and religion have so much in common. The slogans, the songs, the obsession with crime and punishment, the hatred of homosexuals, and… anti-intellectualism. The aim of this movie is to make a case for ID to the mob because ID has been flunked (not expelled) in the scientific and academic community. If you can’t convince people familiar with the science, at least convince those ignorant of it.

  5. doctor(logic),

    If your point about Martin Luther is that there was more than one stream of events and thinking that led to Nazism, then we agree.

    If you’re saying that Luther was more to blame than Darwin, I don’t have a clue how you would make that assessment. Do you? Have you read the histories?

    Now, was Martin Luther himself more wrong, ethically, than Haeckel and others who took Darwinism as support for racially-based genocide? Well of course he was! Luther was wrong because he was wrong within his own system. Christianity itself contains all the corrective one could desire for anti-Semitism. Haeckel, Plotz, Schallmayer, and others who took Darwinism to support eugenics (individual or racial) weren’t wrong at all in Darwinian terms, except insofar as they thought Darwinism actually led to such a thing as an ethical right or wrong.

    Your closing paragraph is the standard answer. The parallel you draw is all too convenient. I’ve spent extended time in one officially atheistic country, and I’ve had shorter visits to two others. Widely in evidence there were “The slogans, the songs, the obsession with crime and punishment, the hatred of homosexuals, and… anti-intellectualism.” (Do you have any clue who Mao targeted in the Cultural Revolution? Or Pol Pot, in the killing fields?) Except I can’t vouch for the “hatred of homosexuals”–the topic didn’t come up in my conversations. (May I humbly inform you, by the by, that my homosexual friends don’t think I hate them?)

  6. What must it have been like to be a Jewish child growing up in a Nazi Germany?

    For some reason, the wise words of Paul Copan come to mind ””What then of the children? Death would be a mercy, as they would be ushered into the presence of God and spared the corrupting influences of a morally decadent culture.”’

  7. Steven,

    I’ve read enough of Copan to know that what he meant by this one sentence cannot be understood without the rest of its context. He certainly did not mean, as I think you’re implying, that such killings were morally good.

  8. Tom,

    Haeckel, Plotz, Schallmayer, and others who took Darwinism to support eugenics (individual or racial) weren’t wrong at all in Darwinian terms, except insofar as they thought Darwinism actually led to such a thing as an ethical right or wrong.

    They were totally wrong, and had no scientific basis for their beliefs. Their belief that Jews were inferior came from Martin Luther and the old Christian culture of hating Jews. It was not scientific. They just cooked up some pseudoscientific rationalization for their desire to exterminate the Jews. So Martin Luther is far more to blame for the Holocaust than Darwin is.

    The argument that naturalism doesn’t prohibit killing people is irrelevant on every level. First, people don’t act based primarily on abstract philosophy. Second, that the world doesn’t objectively prohibit something doesn’t mean I ought to do it. When you say these guys were not wrong in Darwinian terms, that’s like saying that they were not wrong in “ballistics terms” or in “economic terms”. Even if their pseudoscientific justification were correct (it wasn’t), it would be irrelevant because a material fact is not by itself a moral justification.

    Finally, being Christian doesn’t stop a man from genocide. The Nazis were Christians. The American settlers who wiped out the Native Americans (on both continents) were Christians. What it takes to commit these genocides is (pseudoscientific, pseudophilosophical) rationalization of ones own prejudices and one’s own superiority.

    You bring up communist China as an example of a state that used slogans, songs, obsession with crime and punishment, etc. That was bad, right? So wouldn’t you agree that songs, slogans and such obsessions should not be encouraged? And that critical thinking should be encouraged in its place? Singing for entertainment, good. Singing for political/idealogical conditioning, bad.

    You see, not believing in God isn’t a way of life. It’s just a belief about the world. One can be an atheist, and still fail to think critically, or fail to be a good citizen or a good leader. One can be an atheist and commit acts that we would both think are evil. That’s because atheism is not specifically about morality (and neither is theism for that matter). That seems to be a common thread here. You think that theism cures people of evil. But theism is neutral in that regard, as Hitler proves. I would rather you were Christian and good than atheist and evil. The problem I have with Christianity (and religion in general) is that it is more like fascism and communism than, say, a university. Religions don’t thrive on academics. They thrive on a hysteria that impedes critical thinking. Atheism doesn’t do this, and yet to suggest that all I want is atheism is like me suggesting all you want is theism.

    Tom, I don’t think you hate homosexuals. You rarely bring up the topic. However, there’s a hatred of homosexuals just below the surface in parts of America, and Christianity as an institution leverages this. Consider how important the issue is to American Christians, and how unimportant it is in scripture.

  9. There are very few places where more nonsense is spoken than in universities. I mean, universities, which are supposed to be the residual fortress[es] of knowledge and sense, are the residual fortress[es] of nonsense.

    – Ben Stein

  10. Jordan, I have indeed read it, and I’m sorry to say I can’t share your enthusiasm for it. The reasons follow:

    They were totally wrong, and had no scientific basis for their beliefs. Their belief that Jews were inferior came from Martin Luther and the old Christian culture of hating Jews.

    Historically inaccurate and off the mark.

    Haeckel et al., about whom I have been mostly speaking, were not anti-Semitic, as far as the history shows. (Hitler obviously was.) Haeckel and company were highly prejudiced against races that were allegedly more simian in appearance (it galls me even to write it, but that’s what they believed). This prejudice was supported by their belief that the more simian races were lower on the evolutionary ladder. Who knows what else fed this prejudice? It wasn’t Luther. And it was their science–misinterpreted, yes–that gave them a moral standing from which they could pronounce the value of racial eugenics.

    Your blaming Luther for this is short on evidence and long on error.

    The argument that naturalism doesn’t prohibit killing people is irrelevant on every level. First, people don’t act based primarily on abstract philosophy.

    Yes they do. Come on! They act on it when it gets translated from abstract philosophy into live discussions, art, music, media, and so on.

    Second, that the world doesn’t objectively prohibit something doesn’t mean I ought to do it. When you say these guys were not wrong in Darwinian terms, that’s like saying that they were not wrong in “ballistics terms” or in “economic terms”.

    Sigh.

    Why do you object to what I didn’t say? I didn’t say that it meant you ought to do it. I said it did not provide any prohibition against doing it. Big difference! I agree with your final sentence in this quote, of course. I have said here that there are no oughts in Darwinism; I have also said that if that is your sole explanation for the basis of life, that might just mean you’re left without any oughts against which to judge your own morality. Luther was wrong within a system that could truthfully say to him, “you’re wrong.” Haeckel and others, if they were wrong (which they were), were not wrong in terms that are coherent from within the system. The wrongness of their conclusions is imported from somewhere else, someplace that actually supplies an ethic.

    Finally, being Christian doesn’t stop a man from genocide. The Nazis were Christians.

    Agree and disagree. Saying “I am a Christian” doesn’t stop a man from genocide. Actually following Christ does.

    You bring up communist China as an example of a state that used slogans, songs, obsession with crime and punishment, etc. That was bad, right? So wouldn’t you agree that songs, slogans and such obsessions should not be encouraged? And that critical thinking should be encouraged in its place?

    Actually, it was you who brought up slogans, songs etc., as examples of how Christianity messes up people’s ability to think. I brought up the (unnamed, actually) officially atheistic places I’ve visited as evidence that your thesis regarding Christianity is completely off the mark.

    I don’t think there’s an either-or between motivational methods and critical thinking. I have thought through my beliefs very thoroughly, and given them a lot of critical thought. They stand the test. I appreciate the effect that songs etc. supply in helping me integrate those beliefs into my whole person. I’m not just a cognitive blob; I have a life to live. It’s not just about thinking right, it’s about integrating it all together and acting accordingly. Motivation helps considerably.

    You see, not believing in God isn’t a way of life. It’s just a belief about the world.

    Well, believing in God is a way of life, because God made whole persons, not just brains-in-bodies. It implies beliefs, emotions, actions together.

    The problem I have with Christianity (and religion in general) is that it is more like fascism and communism than, say, a university. Religions don’t thrive on academics. They thrive on a hysteria that impedes critical thinking. Atheism doesn’t do this, and yet to suggest that all I want is atheism is like me suggesting all you want is theism.

    Sigh again.

    How can I persuade you that this just isn’t true. At least, not universally, and not in a way that defines what Christianity is. Christianity doesn’t have an intellectual entrance test–that’s not what it’s about. It’s about grace from God. So there are certainly non-intellectual Christians. Many Christians, though, are thoughtful, well-read, and so on, and I assure you, Christianity thrives there, too.

    Atheism doesn’t impede critical thinking? Harrumph, I say. There are atheists who know how to think, and there are dogmatic atheists who can’t see a good counter-argument if it bites them on the nose. I could name example after example of this. The one that comes most readily to mind is the mindless, dare I say simple-minded (for it is so incredibly dogmatic, unnuanced, and unidimensional) repetition of “Intelligent Design is nothing but religion.” Or the unidimensional assertion that Christianity impedes critical thinking. That’s dogmatic and it’s wrong.

  11. Tom,

    I wasn’t saying that Haeckel et al. were necessarily antisemitic. In fact, I think Plotz specifically condemned it. I am saying that it was the prejudices implanted by Luther and hundreds of years of Christian leadership that led Hitler and his supporters to consider Jews as racially inferior.

    The science of Haeckel et al was scientifically wrong, and Nazi interpretation of their work was even more scientifically wrong. We can also argue that the Nazi brand of Christianism was also incorrect.

    So, in 1930’s Germany, there were a bunch of evil fascist politicians who were wrong on multiple levels. What would it take for these politicians to convince people to follow them in their genocidal plans? Among other things, it takes ignorance of science, an environment that stifles academic and critical thought, and a perverse form of antisemitic Christianism. (Remember that the Nazi base were not naturalists, but self-described Christians.)

    But where would such a perverse form of Christianism come from? Unfortunately, antisemitism was fueled, practiced and taught by Christian leaders (including Luther and many Popes) across Europe for centuries.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism

    Alas, the motivational methods used by the Nazi’s were also familiar.

    So the idea that Darwinian biology played a larger role in the Holocaust than Christianism is preposterous. The millions of followers of Hitler were not naturalists, but antisemitic Christians.

    If Darwinian biology and Christ are the “correct” sources, then the analogies to Haeckel et al. are the centuries of Antisemitic Christian leaders (who were themselves responsible for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Jews before Hitler).

    I don’t think there’s an either-or between motivational methods and critical thinking. I have thought through my beliefs very thoroughly, and given them a lot of critical thought.

    I know you do, Tom. But wouldn’t you say it is dangerous to employ the emotional/motivational methods in the absence of the critical thought? That would condition people to accept claims uncritically whenever the emotional vibe is right, and not when the claims are supportable critically. So, wouldn’t you say it is irresponsible for churches to state their claims and sell them with emotional sugar without first confirming that their members have critically evaluated the claims?

  12. I think Craig’s explanation is rather clear. If you want an audio version it’s at this podcast.

    Your sarcasm aside, Steven, let me take note for those who are ready to hear it that it is wrong to kill men, women, and children unjustly, and for humans to do it for their own purposes, aside from the proper administration of justice, is always wrong.

    God’s relation to life and death differs from ours, for he superintends all life and death, as well as what follows in each soul’s eternal state. He does indeed make all things right.

    The nations that Israel killed in that one very, very short period of history were completely corrupt. There was justice done there. This offends our sensibilities, as Craig said, perhaps because we’ve never encountered that same depth of depravity, and because we know that even if we did, it would not be our place to judge them. But it is God’s right to do so. He superintends the extent of every person’s life, and the time of each person’s death. It is his proper place to do so.

    I’ll let you read Craig for more on how this ties into God’s using human instrumentalities to accomplish this.

    I’m wary of opening up this comment thread to an entirely new topic, which is whaty you’ve done by bringing up Old Testament wars. There is some connection to the main topic, though, so I’m not going to cut it short. I am, however, going to ask that there be informed discussion. At least read Craig’s article and try to understand what he’s saying before you jump in.

  13. I am saying that it was the prejudices implanted by Luther and hundreds of years of Christian leadership that led Hitler and his supporters to consider Jews as racially inferior.

    I’ve asked you several times for a source on that. I’m aware of Luther’s anti-semitism, but you’re asking me just to take your word for it that it traced all the way down 400 years to Hitler.

    What would it take for these politicians to convince people to follow them in their genocidal plans? Among other things, it takes ignorance of science, an environment that stifles academic and critical thought, and a perverse form of antisemitic Christianism. (Remember that the Nazi base were not naturalists, but self-described Christians.)

    doctor(logic), be careful of imposing 21st century understandings on the situation. It did not take ignorance of science to do this. It took familiarity with the consensus science of the day. The consensus science of the day was wrong, but it’s all the science any era has to work with, isn’t it? Unless we allow that scientists on the fringe, scientists who disturb the consensus, may have something to offer?

    Where can you show me that the Nazi “base” were Christians? I’m not sure what the term means. Are you referring to the thought leaders? And are you aware what Jesus Christ says about “self-described Christians”?

    The “stifling of academic and critical thought,” the deadly consensus science of the day: sounds like you’re getting prepared to argue Expelled’s thesis for us. I suppose if Richard Dawkins can suggest that intelligent design is possible by seeding from outer space, then anything’s possible.

  14. Tom,

    See the Wikipedia section on Luther and the Holocaust and the references in it:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_and_the_Jews#Use_by_the_Nazis

    It took familiarity with the consensus science of the day.

    What do you think the consensus science was? People wrote books on racial hygiene, but publishing something in a book isn’t consensus science.

    Where can you show me that the Nazi “base” were Christians? I’m not sure what the term means. Are you referring to the thought leaders? And are you aware what Jesus Christ says about “self-described Christians”?

    Well, Nazi supporters weren’t Jews. Neither were they atheists because the Nazis hated communism and atheism. That leaves the Christians. And his supporters were more often protestants than Catholics. And those who self-described did so because Luther was their model of what a Christian was.

    Edited by Siteowner: the last paragraph, with included a number of ad hominems–name-calling, to be specific–was deleted, in accordance with blog discussion policies.

  15. Neither of us is an historian, but based on what I’ve read from Weikart and other sources, Darwinian eugenics (including racial eugenics) was certainly mainstream, if not consensus science.

    Well, Nazi supporters weren’t Jews. Neither were they atheists because the Nazis hated communism and atheism. That leaves the Christians.

    That leaves the Christians, the secularists, the secularists who pretended to be Christians for social reasons (the nominal Christians, in other words), and a whole host of other options. I wrote last time that just calling oneself a Christian doesn’t make one so.

    Luther’s influence is very controversial, according to your Wikipedia source. The influence of eugenically-based thinking really doesn’t seem to be so, based on other Wikipedia sources (if that’s where we’re going to go for our information).

    But even if Luther had an influence that the Nazis picked up, we have to think through what that might mean. What does it say about Luther? What does it say about Christianity? And how do these implications compare to those relating to Darwinism? This are major questions and belong in a separate post, which I’ll try to write in a day or so.

    Your final paragraph was inflammatory and completely filled with ad hominems–name-calling, in this case–and is being deleted in accordance with the discussion policies. You’re welcome to try to rewrite it if you wish.

  16. doctor(logic)

    The Nazis were Christians.

    That is wrong. The Nazis were not Christians. They co-opted Christianity for their own purposes, when it suited them.

    Before making such an indefensible statement, you might take a moment to read some recent research, namely the Nuremberg project at Rutgers. There, declassified documents show that the Nazis had a plan to persecute the Christian church.

    Julie Mandel, the editor of the project, told the Philadelphia Inquirer:

    When people think about the Holocaust, they think about the crimes against Jews, but here’s a different perspective. [The Nazis] wanted to eliminate the Jews altogether, but they were also looking to eliminate Christianity.

    People who take Hitler at his word (Hitler!) based on those times when he claimed to be a Christian (conveniently neglecting other times when he disparaged Christianity) are, at best, hopelessly naïve.

  17. heddle,

    The Nazis were not Christians. They co-opted Christianity for their own purposes, when it suited them.

    The Nazi leadership co-opted Christianity for their own purposes, when it suited them. That’s not the point. The point is that the Nazi party had millions of members (and many millions more supporters), and that base of support was predominantly Christian.

    Now you can argue that there’s a difference between one who self-identifies as a Christian and a “proper” Christian (whatever that means), but then I can do the same with science. I can say there’s a difference between someone who self-identifies their positions as scientific and someone whose positions actually are scientific.

    The argument being made by Christians here is that it was misconceptions about evolutionary biology that were the primary influence on the formation of the Nazi dictatorship. That even if Darwinism (a doctrine) isn’t the same as Darwinian evolutionary biology (a science), the science inspired the doctrine through bogus interpretations.

    Well that argument condemns Christianism far more strongly.

    To start with, there is no “correct” Christianism (a doctrine) except in the opinions of the various sects. So there’s really no good basis to say that viciously antisemitic European Christianity (of Luther and the popes) was “incorrect”. But let’s suppose that the contemporary Christianities are “more correct.”

    Then you may say “those millions of followers of Hitler weren’t correct in their Christianity.” So what? That’s not the standard of condemnation you’ve chosen to adopt. Were the followers of Hitler who welcomed him with open arms inspired more by “incorrect” antisemitic Christianity or by incorrect science? I think it is absurd to think that the millions of Nazi supporters (most of whom were working class) were more inspired by bogus science than by the Christian churches who devoted their efforts to the art of inspiration and motivation.

    Yes, the Nazi leadership “co-opted Christianity for their own purposes, when it suited them.” The reason it suited them so well is that Christianity focuses on motivation and emotional appeals (as opposed to critical thinking), and the churches of Europe had a long tradition of persecuting Jews. By co-opting the churches, they could have persecuted Jews for any reason they wanted. Hitler didn’t need Darwinism to slaughter Jews, he just needed to co-opt the church.

  18. doctor(logic)

    I can say there’s a difference between someone who self-identifies their positions as scientific and someone whose positions actually are scientific.

    Yes, of course, I’m not arguing otherwise. I agree that regardless of whether or not the Nazis actually believed in evolution or Christianity, their invoking of those ideas for evil purposes does not impugn either underlying system. The point of my comment is that you (like almost everyone else) attempt the simplistic response: no it wasn’t evolution’s fault, if anything it was Christianity’s fault. As I pointed out in the previous post, the Nazis had a documented plan to persecute the Christian church and replace it with some sort of Aryan paganism. It is hard to make a case that they were true believers in that which they had a plan to eliminate.

    To start with, there is no “correct” Christianism (a doctrine) except in the opinions of the various sects. So there’s really no good basis to say that viciously antisemitic European Christianity (of Luther and the popes) was “incorrect”.

    People say that all the time, but it doesn’t withstand scrutiny. If there was no way to judge people who are way, way outside the pale of orthodoxy, the bible would not have given clear sanction to the practice of excommunication, which boils down to saying even though this person claims to be a Christian, you are to treat them as though they are not. The bible would have stated: you must treat all those who claim to be Christian as true believers, regardless of their behavior. Instead, the unrepentant man sleeping with his step-mother in the Corinthian church claimed to be a believer, but was judged not to be. Simon the Magician was said to believe and be baptized, yet later judged to be a false Christian. Christians are instructed to judge others who claim to be Christian—but a primary yardstick is plain enough that it can be applied by non Christians. While recognizing that all fall short, we can still apply a simple sanity check: Jesus’ primary instruction for how we are to treat one another is to love our neighbors as ourselves. A reasonable non Christian could look at Hitler, or Fred Phelps, and say: there is no way his behavior can measure up to this great commandment of Christianity. A non-Christian may have trouble judging whether, say, a well-behaved LDS or JW is a true Christian, and scoff at, say, traditional Protestants who make the claim, but they should have no trouble identifying unrepentant mass murderers as false Christians. Of course for those who wish to impugn Christianity, it is far more convenient to argue that everyone who claims to be a Christian is a legitimate Christian regardless of their deeds.

    He didn’t need Darwin to slaughter Jews, he just needed to co-opt the church.

    That’s arguably true—but no different from speculating that he didn’t need to co-opt the church, he just needed to co-opt Darwin. All we know for sure is that he optimized by co-opting both.

  19. This line, “For Dawkins and others, neo-Darwinism is the sole explanation for life.” is a strawman argument, and makes any subsequent logic used in this article fallacious.

    Dawkins is a proponent of evolution, which makes no theoretical claims about the origins of life. Dawkins and other scientists are redundantly clear that evolution does not attempt to explain how life came about. Requiring the theory of evolution to explain the origins of life is similar to asking the theory of gravity to explain the origins of atomic particles.

    Saying that the theory of evolution as put forth by Darwin has historical ties to Naxism is like saying there is a historical link between Christianity and to David Koresh’s Waco cult, or violent sects of Mormonism, etc.

  20. Thanks for that, David. I agree fully–he co-opted both. Further:

    doctor(logic)

    To start with, there is no “correct” Christianism (a doctrine) except in the opinions of the various sects. So there’s really no good basis to say that viciously antisemitic European Christianity (of Luther and the popes) was “incorrect”.

    Wrong on two counts. Really wrong.

    First: is there a correct “Christianism?” (Where did you get that term from?) Yes, there is an agreed central core of beliefs in Christianity, so those who claim to be Christians and step outside that core are not, truly speaking, Christians. This core is stated in the historic creeds. C. S. Lewis had this core in mind with the title of his book Mere Christianity.

    If you want to argue that my view is narrow and bigoted, then I’ll return this to you and (I think) make the matter moot: historic Christianity, as expressed in the creeds, is the only kind of Christianity that I am defending. If you were to say, for example, that the Mormons are Christians and they were racist up until a few years ago, I would say ho-hum, that’s not the group I’m talking about, and what they believed about race has nothing to do with the kind of Christianity I believe. If you want to say that there were some kinds of Christians in Germany who didn’t teach or believe in historic Christianity, I would say the same.

    Second: is there really a basis to say vicious antisemites are incorrect? Of course, of course, of course! There is the Bible, our core and true founding document. Nowhere in the Bible does it teach antisemitism. It teaches quite the opposite in Ephesians 2:

    I’m not going to exegete that fully, but it’s about the new unity of Gentiles and Jews, spiritually, through Christ. It says “He himself is our peace, who has made the two one and destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”

    Furthermore in many ways and many places it teaches the true dignity of humans, and love for all.

    In Christian terms, antisemitism is just wrong, Luther was actually, really wrong (objectively wrong, in fact) in that aspect of what he taught, and your comment here is based on a serious misunderstanding.

    I think it is absurd to think that the millions of Nazi supporters (most of whom were working class) were more inspired by bogus science than by the Christian churches who devoted their efforts to the art of inspiration and motivation.

    Some evidence for this please? I’ve asked more than once. The Wikipedia page you sent me to said nothing about this. It said there’s considerable controversy over whether Hitler was influenced by Luther. Frankly, I don’t have any reason at this point to believe this about the churches. I’ll deal with this charge only if I have some firm evidence that it’s true.

    The reason it suited them so well is that Christianity focuses on motivation and emotional appeals (as opposed to critical thinking),

    doctor(logic), for all the good discussions we’ve had, and the interesting challenges you’ve brought forth, I have to say I’m really tired of hearing this one from you. How many libraries of critical thinking would it take for you to believe that Christianity invites critical thinking?

    Earlier you wrote,

    But wouldn’t you say it is dangerous to employ the emotional/motivational methods in the absence of the critical thought? That would condition people to accept claims uncritically whenever the emotional vibe is right, and not when the claims are supportable critically. So, wouldn’t you say it is irresponsible for churches to state their claims and sell them with emotional sugar without first confirming that their members have critically evaluated the claims?

    What a great argument for teaching Intelligent Design in the public schools! Thank you! After all, there’s a lot of emotional and other motivational pressure on students to conform to what they’re taught to believe there, too. It’s not in the form of songs, maybe, but it’s certainly strong on motivational power. To disagree is highly fraught with risk. Just ask my daughter, who has recently come through the evolution segment in her science class. She wasn’t given permission even to ask questions about it!

    Seriously, though, I don’t advocate teaching ID in the schools, though I do advocate teaching critical thinking about evolution. And believe me, I do advocate teaching critical thinking about religion. I keep telling people everywhere I go that they should ask all their questions, and pursue them until they’re satisfied with the answers.

    But no, I do not think churches should say, “we’re not sure this is true, so we’re not going to encourage you to believe it,” any more than you would want a science teacher to do the same regarding evolution. As a Christian teacher, I have done tons of critical work–and so have most pastors. Why not teach what we’ve learned? And since (as I’ve already said), Christianity is about the whole person, why not express it through the whole person?

  21. Tony:

    This line, “For Dawkins and others, neo-Darwinism is the sole explanation for life.” is a strawman argument, and makes any subsequent logic used in this article fallacious.

    Will Provine, in Expelled, makes it very clear that as an evolutionist he believes evolution completely and absolutely eliminates any hope for meaning and for free will. He gets it.

    Would it resolve the issue for you if I corrected myself by saying, instead of “neo-Darwinism,” “materialistic assumptions about life’s origins plus neo-Darwinist explanations about life’s development”? It’s rather bulky, but it actually is what I had in mind when I wrote “neo-Darwinism” earlier.

    The two are kissing cousins, anyway. Everybody who believes in naturalistic evolution also believes the origin of life followed an analogous path–chemical evolution, that is–or that it came from some unknown alien source.

    The naturalistic OOL and naturalistic evolution, together, are claimed to be the sole explanation of life, and together, they provide no basis for ethically correcting racial eugenics.

    Saying that the theory of evolution as put forth by Darwin has historical ties to Nazism is like saying there is a historical link between Christianity and to David Koresh’s Waco cult, or violent sects of Mormonism, etc.

    There’s definitely some truth in that, except for this: the sects you name have clearly violated definitive ethical teachings of Christianity. They have quite clearly violated core teachings about the nature of ultimate reality (God) and of humankind. What ethical teaching of Darwinism did racial eugenicists specifically violate? What does Darwinism tell us about the nature of reality, that racial eugenics violates? It seems to me that Darwinism opens wide the door for eugenics. After all, it’s all about inequality. It teaches that some members of populations really are less fit. It teaches that they don’t get to survive/reproduce. And it doesn’t say a word about that being morally wrong.

  22. I wrote last night,

    But even if Luther had an influence that the Nazis picked up, we have to think through what that might mean. What does it say about Luther? What does it say about Christianity? And how do these implications compare to those relating to Darwinism? This are major questions and belong in a separate post, which I’ll try to write in a day or so.

    Now I’m thinking we’ve already covered it here.

  23. I’m actually pretty surprised at your reply.

    You wrote this: “The naturalistic OOL and naturalistic evolution, together, are claimed to be the sole explanation of life, and together, they provide no basis for ethically correcting racial eugenics.”

    Abiogenesis and Evolution are (separate) scientific theories. Why in the world would you require them to have a position on racial eugenics? Racial eugenics is carried out on the political level, not the scientific level. I am seriously confused why you think scientific theories should direct public policy and personal morality.

    If you wanted to make a stretch and say that hypothetically science should inform morality and thus reflect in govern policy (I don’t agree with that, by the way), I would say that Evolution absolutely offers a basis for correcting racial eugenics; the removal of the alleles that define a race within our species would reduce the potential for variability in the genome, which would reduce the variability that helps a species survive changes in its environment. That, for one, is a basis for correcting racial eugenics based on an understanding of Evolutionary theory. Once again, though, I can’t see why that is considered appropriate.

  24. Tony,

    Abiogenesis and Evolution are (separate) scientific theories. Why in the world would you require them to have a position on racial eugenics? Racial eugenics is carried out on the political level, not the scientific level. I am seriously confused why you think scientific theories should direct public policy and personal morality.

    The German Darwinists before WWII, not I, were the ones who said they implied a certain position on racial eugenics. They were the ones, not I, who said it should direct public policy and personal morality.

    Were they right on that? No, for that ethic does not follow from Darwinism (or from the Darwinism/OOL package). But the reason it does not follow is because no ethic follows from Darwinism. That means that Darwinism also lacks a corrective to that ethic. It has no oughts. It doesn’t say you ought to pursue racial eugenics, and it doesn’t say you ought not to. Further, if Darwinism (along with abiogenesis) is taken to be the sole explanation for life, I can’t think of any other source for such oughts. They are completely lacking. That’s what Provine saw, by the way.

    So I agree with your final sentence: it’s not appropriate to draw any ethic out of Darwinism. Some people did it, and they were wrong to do so. Having done that, though, their worldview left them without a moral corrective to their error.

    To simplify, here’s what I’m trying to say, once again:

    If Luther took an antisemitic stance (and he did), then he did it in clear contradiction of his own beliefs regarding the nature of ultimate reality.

    If the German Darwinists took a stance in favor of racial eugenics (and they did), then they did not do it in clear contradiction of their own beliefs regarding ultimate reality.

  25. Here’s another way to put my conclusion to the previous comment, Tony:

    Luther’s antisemitism was really inexcusable, if the rest of his beliefs were true. The German Darwinists’ racial eugenics were quite excusable, if the rest of their beliefs were true. In fact, Luther’s antisemitism was excusable if the German Darwinists’ beliefs were true.

    I’m not arguing that Luther was right. I’m arguing that he was wrong, and wrong in a way that makes sense within his overall system. The German Darwinists were not wrong in a way that makes sense within their overall system. That’s the point I’ve been trying to make.

  26. Tom,

    So I agree with your final sentence: it’s not appropriate to draw any ethic out of Darwinism….Having done that, though, their worldview left them without a moral corrective to their error.

    Agreed. A full and complete explanation such as the Darwinian/OOL package that lacks ethical oughts (one way or the other) is one that leaves the universe without any ethical oughts – period.

    I never quite understand how people can think there are no ethics, except personal ethics. That’s like saying there’s no light in the room, except the light I can see. Well….which is it?

  27. Okay, so your point is, if I can extend it, that adherence to Evolution leads one to make amoral decisions. (I think this is like saying adherents to the Theory of Relativity would necessarily make bad legal systems because they believe that time is relative and are therefore lacking a compass with which to direct justice, btw.)

    But Evolution isn’t a belief system whose purpose is to guide personal conduct. No scientific theory does that. I think this is a case of projection — you believe that because some of the conclusions found in Evolution undermine the Christian Religion that Evolution seeks to replace the Christian Religion. I think that would be true if we were comparing Islam and Christianity, but that’s not the case with a scientific theory and a religion. Scientific theories are not religions. One can see analogues, but they are inherently different in a way that prohibits one from conflating the other.

    It appears to me that the German Darwinists you describe made bad (immoral) decisions and sough to justify / cloak their crimes in a bad interpretation of Evolution’s practical implications. This is no different than any of the justifications used in Germany, Poland, Russia, etc. to justify pogroms that occurred centuries before Darwin was born.

    Nowhere do Scientific theories tell us what we should or should not do. They just don’t. Blaming Scientific Theories for philosophical beliefs and moral decisions is like blaming the sun for the last 20 years of Global Warming.

    So that’s why you oppose Evolution / prefer ID? Because you fear Evolution leads to moral relativism, and ID retains a moral code?

  28. Tony,

    To extend the point I’ve already made would take some considerable time and work. What I really wanted to say is what I already said. doctor(logic) said that Luther was as responsible for Hitler as Darwin was. I don’t have the historical knowledge to assess that, so I’ve been doing a kind of “so what” analysis: What if he’s right? The outcome of that was what I’ve already said: Luther was wrong in a way that makes sense within his own system, but the German Darwinists were not.

    Does that lead a person to make amoral decisions? I don’t think that’s a good conclusion to draw from what I wrote. An amoral decision is made when one either doesn’t care what is moral, or doesn’t believe in morality. I don’t think either was true of the German Darwinists. (I’m not even sure it was true of Hitler.) They made their decisions in light of a moral code. You may not agree with their moral code, but you couldn’t go back and tell them that in terms that would matter to them. Within their overarching system, there is no better morality than theirs. (The same is not true for Martin Luther.)

    So, from where did they get their morality? It’s imported from somewhere; probably in pieces from various other sources. It does not follow from their ultimate views regarding life, so it must come from another source. So there is morality there, but wrong morality in terms of your understanding and mine.

    I think this is a case of projection — you believe that because some of the conclusions found in Evolution undermine the Christian Religion that Evolution seeks to replace the Christian Religion.

    That’s not projection. Bear in mind that I’ve been thinking all along about naturalistic evolution (as I said in my 10:25 am comment today), which says that there was no guiding hand on the development of life. That is contradictory to Christian belief, and to the extent that its followers want us to believe it, they want us to disbelieve Christianity. Dawkins, at least, is honest about that, as are PZ Myers, Dennett, Atkins, and others.

    Nowhere do Scientific theories tell us what we should or should not do. They just don’t. Blaming Scientific Theories for philosophical beliefs and moral decisions is like blaming the sun for the last 20 years of Global Warming.

    Agreed. There is no morality in a system that seeks to be 100% scientific, and will not allow for knowledge by any other method to be admitted as actually being knowledge.

    So that’s why you oppose Evolution / prefer ID? Because you fear Evolution leads to moral relativism, and ID retains a moral code?

    I oppose evolution because I have seen it lead to moral relativism. I don’t prefer ID because it retains a moral code, however. I prefer Biblical Christianity because I think it’s true.

    You probably have not seen it here unless you’ve been reading this blog for a while, but my attitude toward ID is that it may or may not prove ultimately to be a successful scientific description of the world. Its intent is to show that God (or the designer) left actual fingerprints of his creation work in nature. There seems to be very good support for that in cosmology, but as for biology, I’m content to see how it all plays out over the next decade or two. My support for ID is not based on a conviction that it’s correct, but that it ought to be supported as a general program of inquiry.

  29. “I think this is a case of projection — you believe that because some of the conclusions found in Evolution undermine the Christian Religion that Evolution seeks to replace the Christian Religion.”

    I meant that this is projection in that supporters of ID would like to replace scientific theory based on empiricism with their own religious (unprovable) convictions. By its nature ID says that, at some level, God created either life or elements of life and classifies these components as beyond empirical science. At some level, ID seeks to halt / replace scientific inquiry; there’s no other conclusion you can make about its end result. On the other hand, I don’t think Evolution (or Cosmology for that matter) seek to stop or replace religious thought and exploration. I agree that a literal Christian has a great deal to fear from sciences like Astronomy and Evolution, but that being replaced by these sciences is not one of them.

    That’s what I meant by projection; that a desire on the part of ID proponents to stop science as practiced by Evolutionists is what they accuse Evolution of doing to ID (and by extension to Religion). I haven’t looked it up recently, but I thought projection was taking one’s undesirable thoughts and putting those thoughts onto someone(thing) else. I think that some proponents of ID fear the undermining effects of Evolution and would like to stop it from going further, and they then accuse proponents of Evolution of this very desire.

    The way I’ve expressed it may sound harsh, but I don’t mean it to be a personal criticism of you as much as a reasonable explanation for some of the fierce characterizations of Evolution I’ve seen among ID proponents.

  30. John,

    Luther may have hated the Jews but he certainly didn’t hate this group of people. And Nazism was able to de-humanize them just as effectively as they did the Jews….

    Naturalistic evolution may not be a sufficient cause for such de-humanization, but the ability to dehumanize people to the level Nazis did certainly requires a frame-work that allows the perpetrator to see their actions as a moral right.

    Excellent point–thank you.

  31. Tom,

    You wrote

    Evolutionary and cosmological inquiry, rightly practiced, within proper philosophical frameworks, are no threat to Christianity.

    By “rightly practiced within proper philosophical frameworks” I think you mean by pre-supposing that there is a God. If no one, least of all ID proponents, has any idea how to prove the existence of God to the point of physical law then why should this be? You keep on saying that reality alone is what informs your moral outlook, but it seems to me that you are taking on faith the existence of God. Those are your personal convictions and that is fine, but in order to conduct science you must convince others — observe, predict, experiment, explain. You can’t, and that’s why there’s no Theory of God in science and why there’s religion, philosophy, etc.

    I think you’re taking advantage of the fringes of scientific thought and inserting “must be God” where science says “we don’t know.” The absence of knowledge is an invitation to speculate, but it’s not an invitation to substitute speculation for fact.

    ID never said, nor (properly understood) implied that it wants to halt science in its tracks. (I’m speaking now of well-informed, thoughtful ID leaders now. You could probably find exceptions to this but they do not speak for ID.)

    This kind of talk is the “No True Scotsman” defense. Because there is no Theory of ID it can be whatever someone says it is, and when that’s proven to fail to meet the standards of science, let alone supplant Evolution, someone can say that ID means something slightly different. If you know that ID, properly understood, does not want to halt science in its tracks then you must know what the theory of ID is. If you can’t tell me what the theory of ID is then you cannot say the above.

    Maybe it would help if I wrote down what I believe the Theory of ID is, and you could correct it to what it should be? Then at least we’d have something to do science against. As I’ve said before I find it absolutely incredible that a movement that attracts so many adherents fails to speculate on what phenomena it can observe and what experiments it can conduct that would fortify it’s predictions and explanations.

    By the way, agreed that this posting has been fun. Also, I have a pile of books I’m going through, although I haven’t started my collection of essays on the philosophy of science.

  32. “Now, as I have suggested elsewhere, we still have to wonder about the problem this raises. For Dawkins and others, neo-Darwinism is the sole explanation for life. If the sole explanation of life cannot lead to any oughts, then are there any oughts at all? Where do they come from? Dawkins’s own ethics (see his review article, in the paragraph about Hitler) have nothing to do with his beliefs about what life is about. They almost seemed snatched out of thin air, so disconnected are they from his other views regarding reality.”

    Dawkins points out a simple falsehood, a theoretical model on how life evolves does not equate to a violent political and racial ideology.

    In response you attempt to build an argument where you equate Dawkins own ethics to being based on absolutely nothing by quote mining his words in the following:

    “As I have often said before, as a scientist I am a passionate Darwinian. But as a citizen and a human being, I want to construct a society with universal healthcare” etc. etc.

    The argument is made to imply that because Dawkins doesn’t have a basis for his ethical standing then where else is he drawing it if not from his belief on how life began. Which of course returns us to the original problem, of applying a mechanical description of a process into a philosophical ideology. Which only begs the question, what does Dawkins own ethical views have to do with the problem originally presented?

    Not to mention that there is still the hidden presumption that god belief is the only way to have a moral code. Why else would you be questioning someone elses lack of a position on ‘origins of life’ you hold unless you presume it to be a requirement for morality and in combination with god belief. More importantly, there is also a false dilema in that you are submitting that atheism=evolution and theism=creationism. In order to also demonstrate the red herring involve we only need to elaborate,”As if a god could not create a universe where evolution is simply a function of biological development.” This is ignoring of course that ‘evolution’ as in strict biological evolution has nothing to do with the ‘origins’ of life. It is also ignoring your questionable usage of ‘darwinism’ to imply atheism or attempting to explain the origins of life.

    I must also point out that jews are not simply a ‘race’, jews represent a cultural group that encompasses several racial groups and are often integrated into the very communities that they inhabit. Historically, jews had been in europe for hundreds of years and even well ( several hundred years ) before the holocaust they often had to wear dehumanizing/demonizing representations to ‘identify’ them as they left the jewish ghettos. ( Look up Judenhuts ) Which only begs the question, if eugenics and nazi ideology was about the aryan race then why were the targets of their hate so often divided over religious beliefs/political issues as they were race?

  33. Here’s a fundamental problem with Weikart’s analysis:

    David Klinghoffer has recently written a short synopsis of the same. Weikart traces a line among German scientists, physicians, psychiatrists and other thinkers that began a (philosophically false yet historically real) belief that, under evolutionary theory, the “progress of the species” is a great moral imperative.

    That’s a religious argument. It’s not only not suggested by evolution theory, it’s exactly contrary to evolution theory. If you research the origins of the Crown of Creation argument, you’ll discover it’s a Christian claim.

    Doesn’t anybody on the creationist side ever read history?

    It’s not wrong to utter “Darwin” and “Hitler” in the same breath. It’s a moral corruption to claim that Hitler’s ideas grew from Darwin, or that evolution theory was used to justify the Holocaust, when that is not the case.

  34. Sheesh. I’ve already asked you, Ed, not to try to make me defend things I did not say. I’m being precise, and I precisely did not claim what you say here:

    It’s a moral corruption to claim that Hitler’s ideas grew from Darwin, or that evolution theory was used to justify the Holocaust, when that is not the case.

    See points 1 and 2 in my post.

  35. Tom,

    I don’t think you’re being fair or precise to Ed here. You asked Ed to not make you defend things you did not say.

    Ed says you “claim that Hitler’s ideas grew from Darwin, or that evolution theory was used to justify the Holocaust, when that is not the case,” and you say that you did not say this.

    But, you wrote all of these:

    Second, it’s not quite true that there is no philosophical link from Darwin to Hitler. There are two at least two valid connections between them.

    The connection is this: naturalistic Darwinism, if taken to be the sole explanation for all of life,* erases all ethical requirements.

    There is an ontological implication in Darwinism: humans are the same kind of thing as animals. Hitler applied this selectively, to be sure, but he applied it with great effect.

    Darwinism dehumanizes in a different way. Hitler treated humans like animals; Darwinism says that’s what we are.

    Darwin was responsible [for opening an ideological or ethical door for the Nazis, which would not otherwise have been opened.]

    Without Darwinism, I believe, Germany would have resisted Hitler.

    So, I think Ed’s question to you is a fair one, at least in the first part of his assertion, that you claim that Hitler’s ideas grew from Darwin. The points 1 and 2 you refer to on this topic state otherwise, but all the comments above are ones you made later. When I’ve asked you clarify your claims to me it seems to me that you assert precisely what Ed says you claim above.

  36. In point 1 of my post I point out that there is no necessary philosophical link from Darwin to Hitler. Elsewhere I have said that naturalistic Darwinism opens a door through which a Hitler could walk, leading a whole nation with him.

    In point 2 I spoke of an historical link that can be traced from Darwin to the German Darwinists to a nation that was prepared to follow Hitler into the committing of the Holocaust.

    So I must correct myself on a recent point. I do not believe Darwin is entirely to blame for the Holocaust. That would be a ridiculously simple-minded and historically ignorant position to take. I do believe that the general mindset of a nation was conditioned by Haeckel (whom Darwin personally endorsed) and other German Darwinists to believe that there were higher and lower races of mankind. This could then be used to justify the Holocaust. It is not an inevitable or even good philosophical progression but it is what happened historically.

    See also Pez’s comment on Telic Thoughts.

  37. Tom,

    I still disagree with you on a number of conclusions and arguments you use in this topic. I’m must going to start with the ones that occur to me first.

    You state that that “there is no necessary philosophical link from Darwin to Hitler.”

    First off, I don’t know what you mean by inserting the qualifier “necessary” there. Either there is a philosophical link, or there is not. I don’t think you can make the point you’re trying to conclude — that Darwin bears any responsibility for the Holocaust — unless you declare that there is a philosophical link between Darwinism and the Holocaust. Otherwise you’re just saying that Darwin is in some way involved as a (historical) precursor, and this just follows a “butterfly effect” argument that would blame everyone and everything (even those who tried to stop it, or who advised against it) that came before the holocaust.

    I imagine that you’re thinking, “Tony, this isn’t that hard — Darwin’s theory of evolution tends to lead to naturalism, which says that a man and an animal are the same, so believing in evolution very often leads to a philosophy where there is nothing to prevent humans from killing other humans.”

    Here are just a few of the problems with that argument:

    – Where is the evidence that humans who prescribe to a naturalist philosophy tend to dehumanize (it seems to me that there is evidence for the opposite);
    – Where is there a naturalist treatise or theory that prescribes immoral / malevolent behavior? Is there a naturalist theory that prescribes (” you ought…” ) any behavior or code of ethics, and if there is, is it essentially different than a Christian code of ethics?
    – Humans have dehumanized one another for the purposes of violence and wholesale slaughter throughout history without reference to Darwin or naturalism. Are you aware of how both the Nazis and Tojo’s Japan justified their own expansions vis-a-vis the (Western / Christian) conquest of the America’s?
    – Germany was a Christian nation during the Holocaust. Why didn’t the population’s over-arching theory of Christian ethics prohibit them from enacting the atrocities of the Holocaust?

  38. First off, I don’t know what you mean by inserting the qualifier “necessary” there. Either there is a philosophical link, or there is not.

    What I mean is that the logic of the Holocaust does not follow ineluctably from the logic of Darwin.

    I don’t think you can make the point you’re trying to conclude — that Darwin bears any responsibility for the Holocaust — unless you declare that there is a philosophical link between Darwinism and the Holocaust.

    There is another option: that not I, but some German Darwinian scientist declared there was such a link. They did. They were philosophically mistaken, but they did it anyway. And they were believed by much of Germany. And Haeckel in particular was endorsed in his theories by Darwin. Thus I conclude there is an historical link, which is what I’ve been saying all along.

    Otherwise you’re just saying that Darwin is in some way involved as a (historical) precursor, and this just follows a “butterfly effect” argument that would blame everyone and everything (even those who tried to stop it, or who advised against it) that came before the holocaust.

    There are always major influences and minor influences, necessary precursors and casual precursors. It would appear to me that Darwinism was probably necessary and certainly a major precursor.

    Where is the evidence that humans who prescribe to a naturalist philosophy tend to dehumanize (it seems to me that there is evidence for the opposite);

    Peter Singer and animal rights activists. Will Provine, Daniel Dennett, denying free will. For a start.

    Where is there a naturalist treatise or theory that prescribes immoral / malevolent behavior? Is there a naturalist theory that prescribes (” you ought…” ) any behavior or code of ethics, and if there is, is it essentially different than a Christian code of ethics?

    There is no such theory that I know of that prescribes such behavior. There is no ought at all in naturalism. Precisely my point. I’ve stated it several times.

    Humans have dehumanized one another for the purposes of violence and wholesale slaughter throughout history without reference to Darwin or naturalism. Are you aware of how both the Nazis and Tojo’s Japan justified their own expansions vis-a-vis the (Western / Christian) conquest of the America’s?

    Sure. But saying it could happen without reference to Darwin doesn’t mean that applies to the Nazis.

    Germany was a Christian nation during the Holocaust. Why didn’t the population’s over-arching theory of Christian ethics prohibit them from enacting the atrocities of the Holocaust?

    Because they had been persuaded of the good of advancing the species and had become blinded to the Christian ethic. Very clear in Weikart.

  39. Tom,

    So you defend the aspersion that Darwin bears some responsibility for the Holocaust because

    some German Darwinian scientist declared there was such a link [to Darwin’s ideas and The Final Solution?]. They did. They were philosophically mistaken, but they did it anyway.

    So this is how you defend the aspersion that Darwin is in some way responsible for the Holocaust? Under what code of ethics or fairness are people impugned for having their ideas misrepresented and crimes then committed as a result of the misrepresentation? What other historical figure is considered “responsible” for later outcomes that they did not act in and were contrary to their positions? That’s like saying that Jesus was both necessary and a major precursor to Charles Manson, who declared that he was Jesus Christ, was mistaken, but killed people anyway. If you’re comfortable saying that then your logic is at least consistent, although I hold that such an argument renders itself absurd.

    You keep saying that

    There is no ought at all in naturalism.

    But how can a system that has no “oughts” lead to any behavior? I mean this seriously. Music has no code of ethics. Math has remained on the fence about what we must do since, well, forever. So how can naturalism, which you claim has no oughts, be singled out for blame, and how did Music and Math get off scott free?

  40. Tony,

    Under what code of ethics or fairness are people impugned for having their ideas misrepresented and crimes then committed as a result of the misrepresentation?

    I don’t blame Darwin the man and I don’t think Tom is blaming him either. However, there is a link as Tom pointed out. There are unfavorable links associated with Christianity too. Do you think Christianity and the Crusades are unfairly linked?

    But how can a system that has no “oughts” lead to any behavior?…So how can naturalism, which you claim has no oughts, be singled out for blame, and how did Music and Math get off scott free?

    Naturalism isn’t to blame. Moral agents are to blame. It’s always been that way.

  41. A number of points  you seem to be missing:
    Haeckel’s ideas on race were from Gobineau, and in contradiction to Darwin’s.
    There appears to be a relationship between Christianity and anti-semitism, going back a lot way. See: http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/genocide/antisem15.htm.
    There are many historians out there other than Weikert. I can’t find any others who take his thesis at all seriously. None of the biographies of Hitler, for example, that I have looked at, mention Darwin in their index. I haven’t read Weikert’s book yet, but I watched his lecture at http://thoughtsongod.wordpress.com/2008/02/11/from-darwin-to-hitlerideas-have-consequences/#comment-372 where he does not demonstrate any great familiarity with Darwin’s ideas, but rather seems to be repeating the creationist strawman version.
    So-called social Darwinism predates Darwin, and has little if anything to do with his ideas.
    Hitler never mentioned Darwin (or evolution, in the present sense) in Mein Kampf or any of this speeches that I can find on line. Do you know of any evidence that he had any real knowledge of Darwin’s ideas?
    Any comments?
     
     

  42. “Darwin’s theory was a description of how life’s complexity and diversity arose. It’s a statement of a condition of nature. As such, it contains no ethical imperative. It just is, or rather, Darwinian theory just claims to tell about an “is.” Oughts don’t come from is-es”

    The hypothesis of Evolution indeed contains no ethical imperative; but as a qualitative assumption — which has no place in natural science — it will necessarily lead to one.

  43. Hitler did not target just Jews in his quest to help Naturalism weed out those that should not spread their genes in the Human population, there were 7 Million Christians that are part of the holocaust. This is little known, as is the fact that the media did not oppose him nor did the Universities. Rather, the Universities endorsed the pseudo-intellectual/scientific notion of Darwinian Evil-ution. The University endorsement gave him more justification to promote Aryanism at the expense of all other races. The Christian Church did oppose him; it could have done more. However, the supposed intellectual Atheists are not on record opposing him with any fervor. As is typical of the Atheist to deny, it is a small wonder that Atheists deny the natural conclusion of the destructive message in Darwinian Evil-ution. Hitler believed the Arians to be more evolved, and therefore more fit to survive and spread genetic information. It’s all ironic, since the Atheist denies: God, absolute truth, the resurrection of the dead, judgment day, eternal hell fire, a purpose for living etc. The Atheist should rather eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die and that’s is that. The End. Why do you bother to defend lies for evolution? Evolution is theoretically incoherent, fact-free-science since materialistic naturalism, which is the brainless, purposeless, unguided mystical force with super hero time behind it, cannot be tested, and cannot be falsified. Materialistic Naturalism is a MYTH.

  44. They co-opted Christianity for their own purposes, when it suited them.

    Isn’t this this the definition of a Christian person?