Hitler & Darwin, Part II

In the spring of 2008 we wrote Hitler and Darwin as our response to what we termed one of the “most despicable ploys of the Intelligent Design creationists” — promoting the lie that Darwin’s theory of evolution led to Hitler’s insane policies. We’re pleased to note that it’s been viewed a few thousand times.

In that post we linked to a few of what were then some of the more egregious writings of 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).

We did a fairly good job of demolishing the Discoveroids’ propaganda, but of course they didn’t quit — they just stepped up the ferocity of their attacks. As a result we’ve posted further on the subject, including Hitler, Darwin, and … Winston Churchill? — showing that the World War II leader who actually did read Darwin was Hitler’s principal opponent — Winston Churchill. We’re very proud of that one. Later we posted Hey, Klinghoffer: How About Hitler & Gobineau? — about a more likely source of Hitler’s goofball ideas.

But things kept getting worse at Discoveroid headquarters. It was at least a year ago that they shifted into high gear promoting the work of Richard Weikart. He’s not only a Discoveroid “fellow” (i.e., full-blown creationist), he’s also the author of a book titled From Darwin to Hitler, which influenced James Kennedy, the now-deceased televangelist who made the influential “documentary” Darwin’s Deadly Legacy. We might consider Weikart to be the intellectual godfather of the Discoveroids’ frequently-repeated malicious mantra: “No Darwin, no Hitler.” If he’s not the originator of that foul dogma, he’s certainly one of its principal pillars.

In response to continued Discoveroid propaganda we posted Discovery Institute: Hitler, Hitler, Hitler. But the flow of Weikart material from Discoveroid headquarters kept coming. A few months ago we posted The Shroud of Seattle, suggesting that the Discoveroids’ emphasis on Hitler indicated more than a movement in its final spasms — we predicted that the Discoveroids’ “All Hitler, All the Time” theme will be their shroud.

But there was more from Weikart and the Discoveroids. In response to their promotion of yet another Weikart book we recently posted Discovery Institute: Hitler, Hitler, Hitler, Part II

But now, dear reader, we’re delighted to inform you that we’re no longer engaged in what has seemed like a solitary struggle to hold back the tsunami of raw sewage from Seattle. One of our clandestine operatives recently told us about a scholarly rebuttal of the Weikart theme by University of Chicago historian Robert J. Richards. His paper is available online, and it seems to be an exhaustive treatment of the subject: Was Hitler a Darwinian? It’s a 45-page pdf file.

Today we found a newspaper article about Richards’ paper in the The Republic of Columbus, Indiana. Their headline is Severing the link between Darwin and Nazism. The author is Faye Flam. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Historian Richard Weikart appeared in the anti-evolution film “Expelled,” promoting this alleged Darwin-Hitler link. Weikart has written extensively on this, arguing that Darwinian evolution destroyed Judeo-Christian morality, especially the notion of reverence for life. Weikart does not try to push the idea that this invalidates evolution as a scientific idea. But he is openly creationist — a fellow at the Intelligent Design-promoting Discovery Institute in Seattle.

Hey, Faye Flam seems to understand what’s going on. Here’s her website. She’s good! Get this:

His [Weikart’s] message is that evolution kills morality. “If everything is a product of chance — purposeless — which is widespread in biology textbooks … then I don’t think you have any grounds to criticize Hitler.”

Our own view is that anyone whose mind functions like that has no grounds to criticize anything, ever. Then Faye mentions Richards’ paper, and she says:

Richards calls this [Weikart’s work] all a desperate tactic to undermine evolution. Creationism and Intelligent Design don’t hold up scientifically, he [Richards] said, so people like Weikart are trying to show that evolution is somehow morally dangerous.

“There’s not the slightest shred of evidence that Hitler read Darwin,” he said. Some of the biggest influences on Hitler’s anti-Semitism were opposed to evolution, such as British writer Houston Stewart Chamberlain, whose racial theory became incorporated into Nazi doctrine. Hitler uses language with “a Darwinian flavor,” said Richards, but if you look at the ideas behind it they have nothing to do with Darwin.

You’ll definitely want to read Richards’ paper. Oh, here’s where Faye mentions one of our favorite parts of Richards’ work — where he accuses Weikart of mistranslation:

Hitler often used the word Entwicklungslehre, Richards said, which can mean evolution but is a much more general term meaning development, and Hitler most often employed it to refer to economic development. “It’s quite unfair to translate this as evolution,” he said, as Weikart does.

Actually, Faye may have botched that. Richards’ paper says this on page 27:

But Weikart has played a sly trick. He generally translates the common German term “Entwicklung” as “evolution,” though the usual meaning and ordinary translation would be “development.” … By the end of the nineteenth century the term as meaning evolution had declined in use both in Germany and England, though in German “Entwicklungslehre” would still be used to mean evolution; but that term never appears in his book. In Mein Kampf, Hitler used “Entwicklung” in ways that make it clear he did not mean biological evolution …

Anyway, except for Weikart’s peculiar translation, Hitler never mentioned evolution — except twice in accounts of his conversation, where he wasn’t mentioning Darwin’s theory at all.

Okay, that’s enough. Read all of Faye’s article, then read Richards’ paper — it’s long, but worth the time. Our only comment on all of this is that no one but your Curmudgeon has mentioned the singular fact that Winston Churchill definitely read Darwin. Well, we’ve been unappreciated before, so we’re used to it.

See also: Hitler & Darwin, Part III.

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

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6 responses to “Hitler & Darwin, Part II

  1. I’m reading the Richards paper. It’s rife with quote mine material. For example, on page 3:

    Scholars like Gasman, Gould, Peter Bowler, Lary Anhart–as well as a host of others–attempt to distinguish Haeckel’s views from Darwin’s, so as to exonerate the latter while sacrificing the former to the presumption of a strong causal connection with Hitler’s anti-Semitism. I don’t believe this effort to disengage Darwin and Haeckel can be easily accomplished, since on central matters–descent of species, struggle for existence, natural selection, inheritence of acquired characters, recapitulation theory, progressivism, hierarchy of races–no essential differences between master and disciple exist. So if Hitler endorsed Haeckel’s evolutionary ideas, he thereby also endorsed Darwin’s.

    Watch for DI fellows to start quoting this one out of context. Richard’s refutation of this paragraph–he sets it out but ovbiously does not endorse it–takes 42 pages. So the quote mine will be almost impossible to counter with another quote.

    When you wrangle with creationists you have to assume they are going to lie about what you said, and you have to write with that in mind. Otherwise you are adding to the problem, not helping to solve it.

  2. Faye Flam writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer and is doing a regular column on evolution: Planet of the Apes (http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/evolution/). The most two recent installments continue the discussion of Darwin and Hitler, with comments from Scott Gilbert and Keith Thomson.

  3. Thank you, Glenn. I’ve seen the Planet of the Apes site before, but I’ve always ignored it, as I usually ignore blogs. I won’t ignore it any more.

  4. While Hitler had nothing to say about Darwin, he did claim affinity with Koch. Yet I think that there is nothing being written about how the germ theory of disease led to Nazism.

  5. “tsunami of raw sewage” it just rolls of the tongue.

    Curm: you truly have a gift for words.

  6. TJW says: “Curm: you truly have a gift for words.”

    It’s easy with all the inspiration they offer.