Hitler & Darwin, Part III

We weren’t expecting to write a sequel so soon to our post from two days ago, Hitler & Darwin, Part II, but the occasion calls for it and we can’t resist.

If you need background, we laid it out at the start of our earlier post before we wrote about a paper by University of Chicago historian Robert J. Richards titled Was Hitler a Darwinian? We also discussed an article by Faye Flam which was not only about Richards’ paper, but also about the campaign by Richard Weikart to claim that Darwin was the intellectual cause of the mad policies of Adolf Hitler.

Weikart is described in our earlier post so we won’t repeat that here. The main thing to know about him is that he holds the coveted title of “fellow” (i.e., full-blown creationist) awarded by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

After being confronted by Richards’ paper and also by Flam’s column about it, Weikart responded by writing Can Darwinists Condemn Hitler and Remain Consistent with Their Darwinism?, which which appears at the Discoveroids’ blog.

As you read Weikart’s blog article, keep in mind what he doesn’t say. He doesn’t defend his “Darwin caused Hitler” theory in any specific way. He doesn’t address Richards’ paper at all — not a bit. What he does instead is criticize Faye Flam — on a totally peripheral point. We’ll give you some excerpts, with bold font added by us. He begins by describing his interview with Flam before she wrote her article:

I threw down the gauntlet to many of my Darwinian opponents by telling her that if Darwinism is indeed a purposeless, non-teleological process, as many evolutionists and biology textbooks proclaim, and if morality is the product of these mindless evolutionary processes, as Darwin and many other prominent Darwinists maintain, then “I don’t think [they] have any grounds to criticize Hitler.”

We’ve seen this claim before from other creationist outfits, but they never seem to focus exclusively on Hitler — that obsession is almost unique to Weikart and his Discoveroid colleagues. The other creationist organizations usually just babble about morality in general — and we’ve written about such nonsense several times before. For example, see Creationism and Morality, and also see Morality, Evolution, and Darwin. Now we’re going to observe the same “Darwinism = Immorality” argument coming from the Discoveroids — who steadfastly deny being creationists despite using their key arguments. Weikart says:

I have spoken with intelligent Darwinists who admit point-blank that they do not have any grounds to condemn Hitler, so I am not just making this up. [Skipping some alleged quotes from “Darwinists.”]

This is obviously not an undisputed point among Darwinists, but it is a position embraced by many leading Darwinists, and it does seem to reflect Darwin’s own position. If indeed ethics is an illusion, merely the product of mindless, purposeless processes, it is hard to see what basis Darwinists could have to condemn Hitler morally. Indeed, on several occasions I have asked those committed to the evolutionary origins of morality about the implications of their views: “Can you say then that Hitler is objectively evil or not?” Usually, they reluctantly admit to me that they have no objective basis to condemn Hitler or any other purveyors of atrocities.

Strange stuff. Very strange. Let’s read on:

Flam, however, tries to take a different approach. First, she seems to imply that since we don’t suppose that Galileo or Newton or Einstein should provide us with any moral guidance, neither should we expect it from Darwin.

That’s a fair statement, isn’t it? Not to Weikart. He continues:

However, she (like many other Darwinists I’ve talked with) fails to make a crucial distinction here. Most scientists, including Galileo, Newton, and Einstein, did not ever claim to explain anything about morality. … . On the other hand, Darwin devoted quite a few pages of Descent of Man to explaining the evolutionary origins of morality. Applying Darwinian insights to morality is not distorting the theory at all (as it would be for someone to draw moral implications from relativity theory). Rather, it is explicitly part and parcel of Darwin’s own theory of human evolution.

Ah, we get it. Darwin’s theory of evolution is all about morality. No doubt, were we to consistently apply Weikart’s style of reasoning, we should conclude that Hitler’s National Socialism was all about Darwinism. Stay with us, it gets worse:

Secondly, she [Faye Flam] argues that “Darwin himself wrote that violence, selfishness, charity, and goodwill are all part of human nature. He hoped that we would choose to act on the better parts.” Wait a minute. Where did this notion of “better” come from? If Flam is taking a fully naturalistic Darwinian perspective, as she seems to be, with evolution being a purposeless, non-teleological process, why does she think that charity and goodwill are any “better” than violence and selfishness.

See there? Weikart brilliantly points out that only creationists can distinguish good from evil — which explains why we see such … such nobility of character continuously exhibited by all Discoveroids. The rest of us are wandering around in an immoral fog of random chaos. Weikart is too much of a gentleman to mention it, but his thesis easily explains the enormously high number of violent crimes committed by biologists, and — compared to all other categories of inmates — their embarrassingly high rate of incarceration in maximum security prisons. Here’s more:

Flam’s third response is plagued with the same problem. She concludes her article by asking, “If our lives really did hinge on countless accidents, couldn’t that notion make life ever more precious?”

We like that one. It’s been one of our oft-repeated notions. The last time we expounded on it was Creationism and the Value of Life. Responding to that, Weikart says:

Again, she is smuggling ideas into her argument that are fundamentally incompatible with her worldview. “Precious” implies that something has value, meaning, and significance; indeed it means that something has more value than other things. However, a naturalistic understanding of Darwinism cannot sustain the notion that life is precious, because everything, not just life, is the product of chance and would be equally valuable, making life no more precious than anything else in the cosmos.

Got that? Only creationism allows you to value things. How do we know? Weikart says so, and he’s a Discoveroid “fellow” so he knows what he’s talking about.

Is there any reason to go on with this? Well, we’ve come this far so here’s a little bit more from Weikart’s final paragraph:

I’m happy, of course, that Flam thinks that charity and goodwill are better than violence and selfishness. I’m also glad that she thinks human life is precious. Her inconsistency rescues her from the nihilism implicit in her worldview. … However, it would be even nicer if she were to embrace Christianity, which actually provides us with reasons to believe that human life has value, that loving your neighbors is superior to hating them, that acts of kindness are superior to acts of violence, and that Hitler was objectively evil.

Truly, this is creationism’s finest moment. When Weikart’s “Darwin caused Hitler” theory is taken down by a genuine academic publication, one which is mentioned by Faye Flam in her column, Weikart responds only to Faye. And how does he do that? By claiming that she has no morality — thus leaving it to his Discoveroid readers to conclude that they should ignore her because she’s probably some kind of hussy. Weikart is a classy guy.

Oh, Faye has posted a response: I Get Spanked by Creationists for Accepting Reality and being a “Darwinist”, but no response at all would have been better. That’s what creationists deserve.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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13 responses to “Hitler & Darwin, Part III

  1. Tomato Addict

    blockquote>Weikart says:

    … I have spoken with intelligent Darwinists who admit point-blank that they do not have any grounds to condemn Hitler, so I am not just making this up. [Skipping some alleged quotes from “Darwinists.”]

    Well I have spoken with Creationists who lie and make sh*t up constantly.
    ***sigh*** Sorry, no time for a proper rant today (but I want to).

  2. Let us assume for the sake of argument that there is something significant about questioning how “darwinists” can distinguish themselves from Hitler.
    I want to make that I do not share that assumption, because I do not want to be misinterpreted as saying something nasty about creationists.
    How do those creationists who see a connection between evolutionary biology and Hitler distinguish Hitler’s beliefs from creationism?
    1. Creationists often insist that they accept microevolution, that is, evolution within a “kind”. Yet eugenics, social darwinism, nazism, and various other social/political movements of the early 20th century were only concerned with changes within “mankind“. They had no interest (except maybe to deny it) in macroevolution – the descent of birds from dinosaurs, the origins of the vertebrate body plan (“the eye”, for example), the bacterial flagellum. So, if there is something bad about accepting evolution within “mankind”, then creationism is just as tainted by association as is evolutionary biology.
    2. Creationists often express their dislike of the idea that purely natural processes could result in complex products. This they share with the eugenicists, etc., who wanted intelligent, purposeful intervention to change the natural tendency “downward”. Eugenicists, etc., did not like natural selection. They wanted “intelligent design”.

  3. Humans and other apes are social animals. Among social animals, individuals with better social skills tend to have more opportunities to reproduce. Thus those skills become more widespread in populations.

    In the case of humans, as social groups became larger, selection pressure drove more complex social skills. Religion most likely was a very early social development, however one reason why it has been so successful as a social adaptation is because it was a strong reinforcer of a tribe’s social norms, lowering internal frictions and enhancing cohesion. Individuals who did not adhere to religion did not enjoy reproductive success.

    Weikart’s susceptibility to religious belief, and the the fact that he can believe and promote wildly irrational claims is itself a byproduct of his evolutionary history. The “purposeless, non-teleological process” of evolution, along with his life experiences, produced the very mind that he thinks with, along with all of it’s impulses and moral values etc. He only needs to look in the mirror to see what purely naturalistic processes can produce.

  4. How are the Discoveroids just like Hitler and the Nazis?

    They are all shameless liars and propagandists who practice the methods of the “Big Lie”, constant repetition, and character assassination by association. Come to think of it, this also makes them just like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, and Saddam.

    I wonder what the average frequency of the words Darwin, Darwinist, Darwinism, and Darwinian is in the Dishonesty Institute’s propaganda screeds. My first guess is it is at least one in every hundred words. The formula probably also requires using at least one of the following words for every usage of Darwin, Darwinism, Darwinist, and Darwinian — Hitler, Stalin, Nazi, materialist, atheist, communist, Marx, etc.

  5. Jeebus!

    How many times to we have to tell these dumb*sses…. Darwin’s theory is about NATURAL selection. Eugenics is about ARTIFICIAL selection.

    *grumblegrousefume*

  6. Several points come to mind…
    1. Argumentam ad consequentiam, or appeal to consequences. Something can’t be true because it would lead to undesirable results. This is the Creationists’ fallacy in this line of attack. But evolution is what really happened, so we have to learn how to live with that knowledge. Wishing otherwise won’t make it so.
    2. Is it moral because the gods decree it, or do the gods decree it because it is moral? Plato was wrestling with that problem, called the Euthyphro Dilemma, an awfully long time ago. Is morality something completely arbitrary that God dictates only for inscrutable reasons, and we have no choice but to follow His dictates because He’s bigger than we are, or is morality something that’s correct in and of itself and God commands and enforces it to promote social cohesion and order among His subjects?
    3. People don’t like to have their stuff stolen or be murdered in their sleep. Skeptic Robert Ingersoll pointed this out in just about those terms in 1879 in his “Some Mistakes of Moses.” Communities of people living together need rules to keep from breaking down. I was about to say “dog eat dog,” but even dog packs aren’t complete anarchies and have some structure and notions of accepted conduct. What we call morality doesn’t have to be dictated from on high, but can evolve out of the daily necessities of getting along. The idea that a deity demands certain behavior and is always watching invisibly for any infractions seems like a clever means of enforcement human authorities might come up with given human nature when nobody’s looking.
    4. What did Hitler do that Moses didn’t? See Numbers 31: 17-18.

  7. The Discoveroids have responded to Faye Flam’s latest post: ENV [the Discoveroids’ blog] Accused of Spanking Darwinist Lady. There’s not much to it, but we mention it for completeness.

  8. In the response to Faye, the Discoveroids said, regarding “Einsteinists” and “Hubbleites”….

    That last sentence is true, Faye Flam, but it is because there’s no controversy about Einstein’s science (or not until recently) or Hubble’s.

    AiG and ICR will not be pleased, if they are paying attention.

    Faye needs to learn more about the the Dishonesty Institute and when to ignore their provocations. Also, it seems she did not know that “Evolution News and Views” is a creationist/ID site run by the DI. Either that or she feigned ignorance.

    Now that she has taken the bait I wonder how long this blog war will go on.

  9. Jack Hogan says: “t I wonder how long this blog war will go on.”

    I suspect Faye has learned a lot in the last couple of days. I’m not aware of anyone who wastes his time on food fights with those people. Maybe PZ, sometimes, but probably not too often.

  10. TomS: “1. Creationists often insist that they accept microevolution, that is, evolution within a ‘kind’. Yet eugenics, social darwinism, nazism, and various other social/political movements of the early 20th century were only concerned with changes within ‘mankind’.”

    Thank You!!!

    Sadly, you are the only one I expected that would highlight that which I have been pointing out regulary since the “Expelled” lunacy of 2008. From my perspective, nearly everyone who engages these propagandists without shoving that in their face at every opportunity is “taking the bait.” Moreover:

    Curmudgeon: “As you read Weikart’s blog article, keep in mind what he doesn’t say.”

    Does he say anything about what he thinks happened (& when) in lieu of “mindless, puposeless ‘Darwinism’?” Specifically, does he agree with his fellow Discoveroid Michael Behe that all life descended (mindlessly? purposelessly?) from a cell that the unnamed designer (or one of his/her lackeys) built ~4 billion years ago. Or does he agree with his fellow Discoveroid Paul Nelson, who seems to think all “kinds” popped up in the same week a few 1000 years ago? Those are more questions that we need to demand answers for at every opportunity. If only to watch them frantically change the subject. That won’t persuade the hopeless rubes, of course, but neither will taking the bait. But – and I can’t emphasize this enough – at least half of those who fall for some of their propaganda are not hopeless, but just don’t have the time or interest to see what these weasels are doing (and refusing to do, like develop their own theories).

    If I may use the Curmudgeon’s metaphor, we must not participate in the “food fight,” but we need to get people to see that that’s the kind of idiotic game those scam artists are playing.

  11. TomS: “Eugenicists, etc., did not like natural selection. They wanted ‘intelligent design’.”

    Another classic! Mind if I steal it?

  12. Frank J: Be my guest.

  13. Hitler was undeniably a social darwinist as was Nietzsche. It is from the atheist Nietzsche that Hitler gets his belief in a Superman human race.
    Hitler was also the candidate the German feminists loved.