CREATIONISTS frequently use as one of their standard lies the claim that there is some kind of causal linkage between Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and communism. They often assert a direct linkage between Darwin and Karl Marx, and from there they blame Darwin for the atrocities of Stalin.
Sometimes the smear is more subtle, involving a half-truth. Creationists correctly link Marx and Stalin with atheism (asserting that atheism is the principal cause of their actions), and then they toss Darwin into the same discussion, so that he and his allegedly atheistic theory of evolution can be assigned a share their guilt merely because his name is mentioned along with theirs.
This is an exceedingly weak accusation against Darwin, involving two very debatable assumptions followed by an uncertain conclusion: (1) atheism caused the horrors of communism; and (2) Darwin’s theory is atheistic. Therefore, Darwin is accountable for the career of Stalin.
Regarding the first “debatable assumption,” that Stalin’s atheism was the cause of his atrocities — perhaps it was. But we suspect that if the holy warriors of the Crusades had been equipped with modern weapons, they would have given Stalin some real competition. History teaches that religion is no guarantor of civilized behavior.
The second “debatable assumption,” that Darwin’s theory is atheistic, is no more true of evolution than of any other scientific theory. Many religious denominations have no problem understanding that. See: Statements from Religious Organizations, and also The Clergy Letter Project. Darwin’s theory isn’t against religion, or even about religion; it’s about the evolution of living things. If you choose to believe that everything is a miracle, then all natural explanations will offend you, and you can link all scientists with Stalin.
Because there is no actual Darwin-Marx linkage, the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids) prefer the second method, which asserts guilt by the very dubious alleged association described above. Here are a couple of examples:
In this article by Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute, Kirk Answers Brooks on the Status of Darwinism in Western Culture, Chapman mentions Darwin, Marx and Freud together, and says: “My own view, realized about eight years ago, is that Darwin is the last remaining leg of the dangerous three-legged ideology that the 19th century bequeathed the 20th century.” A subtle smear, but marginally effective.
And here, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design: Evolution and Darwinism, while favorably discussing the work of someone else, another Discoveroid writes: “Atheist materialism and its creation myth — Darwinism — were the basis for modern eugenics and were permissive and canonical, respectively, to the atheist-materialistic ideologies — Nazism and Communism — that laid waste to the 20th century.” That was a not-so-subtle smear.
We shouldn’t be surprised by those Discoveroid articles. Consider this excerpt from the Introduction to their Wedge Strategy:
Debunking the traditional conceptions of both God and man, thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings, but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry, and environment. This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art.
Whether the claim involves the primitive fabrication of a direct Darwin-Marx connection, or a more sophisticated claim that “Darwinism” is somehow the foundation for the evils of communism, it’s all part of the same assault on Darwin and his theory of evolution, and ultimately on science in general.
It’s easy to see that the logic behind this attack on Darwin is faulty, but is there any actual truth to creationist claims about Darwin and communism? Let’s consider the issues one by one:
1. Was Charles Darwin a communist? Of course not. He was a life-long Victorian capitalist, and he lived the life of a conservative country squire. According to The Life and Death of Charles Darwin: 1809-1882:
As Charles Darwin matured, he became independently wealthy and was able to devote his time and energies, such as they were, to those questions which he found interesting rather than on a career to support his family. Upon his father’s death, Charles Darwin inherited approximately 45,000 pounds; this amount, combined with the 13,000 pounds he received from his father upon his marriage in 1839 to his cousin Emma Wedgwood (1808-1896) and the 5,000 pound dowry that Emma Wedgwood brought into the marriage, provided Mr. and Mrs. Charles Darwin with quite a bit of capital at all times. When Charles Darwin died in 1882, he had nearly quadrupled his inheritance and his estate was estimated to be approximately 282,000 pounds. This was done by investments in railroads, for in Darwin’s time, railroads developed over the canal system in the British Isles.
In 1882, a British pound was worth $4.87, so Darwin’s estate was then worth $1,373,340 in American money. Source for the conversion: Dollar-Pound Exchange Rate From 1791. It’s difficult to translate that into today’s dollars, but it would be at least twenty times the 1882 amount, and according to some indexes, perhaps five times more than that. However the figures are converted, Darwin was rich.
2. Was Stalin a follower of Darwin’s work? No, he actually opposed it. This man, not Darwin, was Stalin’s biologist: Trofim Denisovich Lysenko. Stalin’s biologist was definitely an anti-Darwinian. And a crack-pot.
3. Was Darwin’s work the origin of communism? Hardly. Communism has a long history. There are numerous passages in the bible encouraging communism. See: Is The Bible’s God a Communist?, which has examples of bible communism, with chapter and verse quotes.
See also: Early Communism for numerous examples of pre-Darwin communistic societies and communes. And don’t overlook our own reference to the communal society established by the Mayflower passengers: Of Plymouth Plantation: “Every Man for His Own Particular”.
4. Was Darwin’s work even remotely related to communism? Clearly not. The concepts don’t mesh; they conflict. Marxism’s maxim: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is pretty much the opposite of natural selection, according to which only those best adapted to survive will breed the next generation.
5. Don’t all creationists believe in the Darwin-Marx connection? No. Some creationists, for example the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), seem to claim the opposite. ICR has this article posted at their website: Darwin’s Influence on Ruthless Laissez Faire Capitalism. Besides having a rather leftish view of the free enterprise system, the author is supremely confused in other ways. He says this:
Darwin’s ideas played a critically important role in the development and growth, not only of Nazism and communism, but also of the ruthless form of capitalism as best illustrated by the robber barons. While it is difficult to conclude confidently that ruthless capitalism would not have blossomed as it did if Darwin had not developed his evolution theory, it is clear that if Carnegie, Rockefeller, and others had continued to embrace the unadulterated JudeoChristian worldview of their youth and had not become Darwinists, capitalism would not have become as ruthless as it did in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
It’s rather difficult to see how Darwin can be blamed for both capitalism and communism at the same time, but then, no one ever said creationists are logically consistent.
6. But, didn’t Darwin have some influence the views of Marx? No, the chronology is all wrong: It is beyond dispute that Marx wrote much of his work about communism before Darwin published Origin of Species, and therefore before he or the rest of the world had heard of Darwin and his theory of evolution; so Darwin had zero intellectual influence on Marx. Check this out: The Life and Work of Karl Marx, which, when combined with what we know of Darwin’s life, shows this timeline:
1831, Darwin sails on the Beagle, returning in 1836.
1848, Marx publishes Manifesto of the Communist Party.
1848, Marx publishes “Demands of the Communist Party in Germany.”
1856, Darwin starts writing Origin of Species, published in 1859.
7. What about Marx’s later work? The only significant writing by Marx after Darwin published Origin of Species was Das Kapital. The text contains no references to Darwin or the theory of evolution.
Well, there is one mention of Darwin in a small footnote in Marx’s final volume, but it doesn’t relate to evolution. Such footnotes are often sprinkled throughout nonsense texts to simulate the appearance of scholarship, but they’re really a form of pseudo-intellectual name-dropping. Nevertheless, we’ve actually seen a creationist claim that this footnote is the “smoking gun” that makes their case. We’ll let you decide — is this the creationists’ long-sought “proof” of a Darwin-Marx connection, or is it yet another in a long list of foolish creationist claims? We have nothing to hide, so here it is, footnote 2 in chapter IX, from this source: Theories of Surplus-Value:
2. Ricardo’s Fundamental Principle in Assessing Economic Phenomena Is the Development of the Productive Forces. Malthus Defends the Most Reactionary Elements of the Ruling Classes. Virtual Refutation of Malthus’s Theory of Population by Darwin.
Marx’s reference to Darwin’s refuting Malthus is most peculiar, given that Darwin credits Malthus for sparking his idea of natural selection. See: “Here, then, I had at last got a theory by which to work …”.
So we repeat — Darwin’s theory of evolution had no influence on Marx. And of course, vice versa. Darwin’s work contains no mention of Marx or any of his writings. Nothing in Darwin’s work even hints at anything resembling communism. So there is no intellectual connection between the two.
8. But Marx and Darwin lived at the same time! Yes, and so did Abe Lincoln (like Darwin, born 1809) and Robert E. Lee (born 1807), but they no more influenced each other’s thinking than did two later contemporaries: Idi Amin and Ronald Reagan. There is no connection between Darwin and Marx, other than that they were contemporaries. They never met or even corresponded. Well, there is one thing, and creationists try to make the most of it. They claim that Marx sent Darwin a copy of Das Capital, requested permission to dedicate it to him, and Darwin declined. Were that true, it would mean nothing, but even that tenuous “connection” appears to be mythology. See: The Book Dedication Claim, at TalkOrigins.
Will these facts ever stop creationists from attacking science by claiming a linkage between Darwin, Marx and Stalin? No, of course not.
[You may also want to see our earlier essay: Hitler and Darwin.]
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