Discovery Institute: Hitler, Hitler, Hitler, Part IV

It continues to spew from 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).

This is, alas, a continuation of the series of which the last episode was Hitler, Hitler, Hitler, Part III. That has links to the earlier posts in the series. All of them reveal the Discoveroid’ desperate obsession with linking Darwin to Hitler.

Their latest post is More Missing Links — of Darwin, Eugenics and Hitler. It was written by Bruce Chapman, whom we affectionately call “Chappy.” He’s the founder and president of the Discovery Institute. Chappy’s position makes him Lord High Keeper of the Discoveroids’ Wedge strategy, and the ultimate leader of all Discoveroids. Chappy says, with bold font added by us:

Yale Alumni Magazine has done the world a favor by exposing one of the skeletons in the closet of that and other universities: the eugenics movement.

That’s nice, but as we explained three years ago, in Racism, Eugenics, and Darwin, eugenics has nothing to do with Darwin, or with evolution. So at the threshold, we see that Chappy is about to beat up on a straw-man. He continues:

The author, Richard Conniff, though himself a Darwinist, doesn’t pull punches. A century ago, he explains, well-meaning professors who contributed in positive ways to economics and conservation nonetheless also provided an intellectual weapon for evil that rocked the 20th century. A young activist in Germany was impressed. The movement started by Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, was carried to an extreme by this man and his friends in the decades to follow.

We haven’t checked Conniff’s article, so we don’t know if he made that claim about Galton’s influence on Hitler or if it’s Chappy’s fantasy. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Eugenics is far older than the writings of Darwin’s cousin — which Darwin specifically repudiated. That’s explained in our earlier link.

As we’ve said before, the “modern” eugenics movement isn’t modern at all. Horse breeders have been using such “science” since before the Trojan war. Cattle breeders have known how to improve their herds ever since humans have kept domesticated animals. Plato recommended state-supervised selective breeding of children (see The Republic by Plato, Book 5). And the Spartans routinely disposed of infants they regarded as imperfect. There’s nothing new about eugenics.

Unless Darwin and his cousin had access to a time machine so they could indoctrinate the ancients, neither of them can be held accountable for eugenics. Well, Galton advocated the practice, but Darwin never did. Chappy probably knows this, but that doesn’t matter. He’s a Discoveroid.

Chappy concludes his little essay like this:

Even Mr. Conniff cannot bring himself to explain how deeply implicated Darwinism is in eugenics. This is not to blame the dear old man, any more than American eugenicists are responsible for Hitler’s crimes. It is to say that the intellectual lineage is obvious and irrefutable. No Darwin, no eugenics.

Ah, a new Discoveroid slogan emerges from the sewers of Seattle: “No Darwin, no eugenics.” Nice going, Chappy. You continue to preserve the reputation of your “think tank.” as a perpetual fountain of filth. You must be proud.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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21 responses to “Discovery Institute: Hitler, Hitler, Hitler, Part IV

  1. I read the Yale article, it’s here:

    In Germany, an imprisoned political extremist viewed these developments with satisfaction. Writing Mein Kampf in his cell, Adolf Hitler complained that naturalization in Germany was not all that different from “being admitted to membership of an automobile club,” and that “the child of any Jew, Pole, African, or Asian may automatically become a German citizen.” Now, though, “by excluding certain races” from the right to become American citizens, the United States had held up a shining example to the world. It was the sort of reform, Hitler wrote, “on which we wish to ground the People’s State.”

    Nazi Germany would soon become the dark apotheosis of eugenics. When compulsory sterilization began there in 1933, the Nazi physician in charge of training declared he was following “the American pathfinders Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard” (author of The Rising Tide of Color against White World-Supremacy). Eugen Fischer, the leading Nazi eugenicist, would thank Grant and his racial theories for inspiring Germans to work toward “a better future for our Volk.”

  2. There was no direct link between eugenics and Darwinism in the article, although genetics played a role in advancing the theory. As such, Gregor Mendel’s work on heredity was specifically mentioned by Conniff as useful to the eugenicists. As a responsible author he does not, of course, implicate Mendel or his work as party to the eugenics movement.

    Chapman, however, purposely mischaracterizes the context of this article in his exhaustive effort to discredit evolution. But, by doing so, he unwittingly draws parallels between the devious methods and sometimes frivolous comparisons which the DI uses to promote and disseminate its pseudo-science to the same disingenuous means used by proponents of the pseudo-science of eugenics, as Conniff writes:

    “In truth, the facts were badly flawed, and Fisher had reason to know it. Yerkes’s test, which supposedly gauged innate intelligence, was mainly a measure of how long a person had been in the United States and perhaps also how well he might fit in at the local country club. Among the questions asked: “Seven-up is played with A. rackets, B. cards, C. pins, D. dice.” “Garnets are usually A. yellow, B. blue, C. green, D. red.” “An air-cooled engine is used in the A. Buick, B. Packard, C. Franklin, D. Ford.

    Fisher received a sharp upbraiding from a member of his organization’s own immigration committee over “the shakiness of the evidence” used in its lobbying. Herbert S. Jennings, a geneticist at Johns Hopkins University, resigned from the AES in 1924, citing its “clearly illegitimate” arguments. Privately, he advised Fisher that a eugenics society was no place for serious researchers, whose work depends on freedom “from prejudice and propaganda.”

    Does Chapman fail to see the irony here?

  3. Gabriel Hanna, good quote-checking. As expected, it’s not quite “No Darwin, no eugenics.”

  4. Great work Donna, that’s a very interesting quote. I love it when good scientists stand up to those who try to misuse it.

  5. As long as people continue to insist that they accept “micro”evolution, that is, evolution within “kinds” (or “baramins”), then we should point out that there is no way of distinguishing the influence of “micro”evolution within “mankind” and evolution in general on eugenics.

    Except that eugenics is based on the belief that “random variation and natural selection” is not enough to prevent “degradation of the kind”, but rather that directed intervention is needed (and desirable) to “improve the kind”.

    If evolution contributed to eugenics, it would have been “non-darwinian micro-evolution”.

  6. TomS, where are you? I need a back-up.

    The great majority of those who give it more than 5 minutes’ thought will certanly see the errors and fallacies in the “Darwin-Hitler” nonsense. Unfortunately most people don’t give it more than 5 minutes’ thought, and thus fall for sound bites that they are fully capable of knowing are wrong. But there’s yet more irony. For one, eugenics (and genocide, and “bad behavior” in general) all occur within what most evolution-deniers would call a “kind.” And they agree that natural selection operates within that “kind”. So if there were any validity to the “Darwin-Hitler” nonsense, it would apply equally to creationism/ID.

    Another thing that the great majority of people is capable of, but just lacks the time, interest or both, is to be suspicious of why these scam artists are even bringing up the “implications” nonsense, and the “is/ought” fallacy on which it’s based. If evolution truly lacks evidence, then there’s no need to play the “Hitler” card. At the very least it squanders effort that would be much more productively spent on describing and supporting that elusive “better theory.” Could it be that most of the scam artists know that other “theories” (especially those that would validate one of the mutually contradictory literal interpretations of Genesis) are thoroughly unsupportable, and that evolution is not at all as “weak” as they pretend? If you analyze the “evolution” of the anti-evolution movement over the last 50 years it sure seems so.

  7. TomS reads minds you know. 😉

  8. It was an interesting article – good of the DI to bring it to our attention. Of course, Chappie has to spin…

    “Even Mr. Conniff cannot bring himself to explain how deeply implicated Darwinism is in eugenics.” That’s a unwarranted assumption – the most likely reason is because Conniff, who appears to have actually done some research on the subject, didn’t surface any connection between Darwin and eugenics. It’s obviously not in the writings of his subjects.

    “Today, however, the Ivy League still hosts eugenicists, and once again they are toasted and lionized. They are very progressive, the fare of glowing New York Times articles and their apologists are legion.” WTF? Really? There are eugenicists currently in Ivy League schools who are toasted and lionized with legions of apologists? Who?

    The DI’s fascination with eugenics is really somewhat disturbing.

  9. Ed: “The DI’s fascination with eugenics is really somewhat disturbing.”

    But in a way encouraging. In accordance with Godwin’s Law, it’s an indication of their awareness that they lost the science debate. Then again, if “scientific” creationism (YEC or OEC variety) had even a hint of convergence of evidence, there would be no ID strategy to begin with. There might have been the same “playing dumb” with the designer’s identity but not with the basic “what happened when.”

  10. Please save me from these idiots. A climate change- and evolution-denying web site actually reprinted my entire article online, though they promptly took it down when I mentioned copyright infringement. Implicating Darwin in eugenics was about as far from my mind as implicating Jesus Christ in eugenics (and the “evidence” would have been about as good in either case). Richard Conniff

  11. Richard Conniff says: “Please save me from these idiots.”

    I wish I could. I’m trying to save the world from them, and not having much luck. But it’s good of you to drop in anyway

  12. @Richard: I just read your June Smithsonian article last night. It was an excellent read!

  13. NeonNoodle

    I’m trying to save the world from them, and not having much luck.

    That’s not exactly true. Creationism still cannot legally be taught as science in American public schools, despite their best efforts. Re: the general public, the NCSE recently ran an article suggesting 51% of New Jerseyans (New Jerseyans!) accept evolution in whole or in part, (according to a 2012 poll from Monmouth University and the Asbury Park Press.) That’s a start; it just takes time. We may not live to see it, but our kids almost certainly will. Re: the next generation and their views in this department, I see every reason for cautious optimism.

  14. Scientist: Evolution debate will soon be history

    Richard Leakey predicts skepticism over evolution will soon be history.

    Sometime in the next 15 to 30 years, the Kenyan-born paleoanthropologist expects scientific discoveries will have accelerated to the point that “even the skeptics can accept it.”

  15. @TomS:

    I was hoping to find something in Leakey’s article to raise my optimism, but didn’t. In fact he contributes to the misconception by labeling deniers (and activists who predend to deny for the “cause”) as “skeptics.” If anything, it’s the scientists (evolutionary biologists, paleontologists, geologists, molecular biologists, etc.) who are the real skeptics. They only accept evolution because of the overwhelming evidence conveging from multiple fields and 1000s of investigators, constantly rechecking each others’ work. If it didn’t they’d be every bit as incredulous as the “creationists.”

    After 12+ years I just started re-reading “Finding Darwin’s God” by Ken Miller . I can see why I was so much more optimistic back then. He sounds a lot like you and me, with a lot of calm, dispassionate discussion of the hopeless internal disagreements among anti-evolution activists, and the evasive games that they play. No giddy chants of “lying for Jesus” or “ID is too creationism.”

    What I think is slowly dying among both activists and their rank-and-file followers is confidence that independent evidence validates any of the mutually contradictory literal interpretations of Genesis. That was the big hope 25-50 years ago. But the current “I hear the jury’s still out about evolution” or “I guess something like evolution is true but I hear it has gaps” might be even more dangerous. Not to mention all the other pseudosciences that, like creationism/ID, depend on peddling a phony “conspiracy.”

  16. I wonder what evidence (or reasoning) would convince. Couldn’t one phrase that as “what evidence is lacking”? I can’t think of what discovery would convince anyone who does not as yet accept evolutionary biology. Just speculating, I would guess that at some time there will be a sudden change in public opinion, and there will not be anything specific that will motivate the change; just that one day we will notice that the public opinion polls will start marking major increases in the acceptance of evolutionary biology, and the more astute public figures will jump on board. We know that the change has become permanent when some of the groups will start insisting that they always were supporters of evolutionary biology, and it’s just a misunderstanding of the “true history” to say that there was any opposition.

  17. SC said:

    We haven’t checked Conniff’s article, so we don’t know if he made that claim about Galton’s influence on Hitler or if it’s Chappy’s fantasy.

    I checked. You’ll be shocked… SHOCKED, I tell you… to find that it was Chappy’s fantasy. According to Conniff’s article, the only mention of Galton is that he coined the term “eugenics” in 1883. The only other mention of Galton is in Galton’s concept of “regression towards the mean”. What that means (if I understand it correctly) is just because I have a masters and my wife has a PhD, if we have a kid, it doesn’t automatically mean our child will be intelligent. As for what inspired the Nazis, the article specifically says this:

    When compulsory sterilization began there in 1933, the Nazi physician in charge of training declared he was following “the American pathfinders Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard”

    In other words, no mention of Galton at all. Further, it wouldn’t have mattered if the had not found it with Galton. Galton was Darwin’s cousin, not Darwin. And that still would have not mattered for the science of the theory of evolution. Once again, the uber-anti-science folks have a full-on, absolute, total, and utter case of FAIL!

  18. @Tom
    We know that due to its concreteness and prestige, science is being co-opted to confer credibility onto religion. Your average, guileless person, with no strong background in science, accepts the discipline as a reality and would never willingly contribute to its demise, but can be led by creationist/ID arguments because he/she doesn’t realize the sneaky tactics and ultimate goals of the ringleaders. Nor does he/she conceptualize science as discreet, with boundaries and rules, and not some infinitely broad, practically indefinable, malleable entity.

    I believe that many of you posting here are in scientific fields and may have lost sight that most American adults were never taught much or have forgotten what they learned about science -even what is meant by the scientific method, basically the understanding what is and isn’t science. They, therefore, can be led by glib arguments (peddled by the DI), particularly if they are even somewhat religious (and polls tell us that most Americans do see themselves that way).

    Thus I think first and foremost, this majority needs assurance that evolutionary science can co-exist with religion and that scientists are absolutely not waging war against religion but trying only to protect the integrity of science – moreover, that opposition to any branch of science opposes all the rest, as well. You can be sure that most people don’t realize that science is vulnerable in this way, so I think it would be instructive to further assert that if science loses its integrity, the effect would be calamitous worldwide and our civilization would cease to exist. They can then draw their own conclusion about why certain factions in this country (and the world) might wish that to happen.

    Another problem is that many (most?) people don’t realize that the unthinkable (neo-con religiosity) has actual influence and is spreading at an alarming rate. What I’m saying is that many of us haven’t realized that Crazy has such a foothold in areas that matter to us all. I didn’t. I was secure in my belief of the infallibility of the Constitutional division between church and state, so I didn’t know until relatively recently that it had been overturned in some states’ school systems. I am busy and don’t keep up as well as I might with politics, and I’m not alone. However, people have become generally disgusted with the senseless, rabid partisanship and realize that, by and large, the players are merely puppets in a larger scheme. We have the GOP presidential primary to thank for an unmitigated view of “the unthinkable” infiltrating the highest level of government, and a much-needed wake up call for many of us who had been asleep.

    Finally, this bit might be unpopular on this blog, but I’m going ahead and declaring that I find the unrelenting smear campaign toward President Obama to be part and parcel of the same movement by the same anti-science, pro-religious/creationist group that we profess to denounce (there may be different factions or branches using different ploys, but it come down to the same) . The lies are as ridiculous and outright as the ones used to discredit evolution, and even when proven false they continue because 1) that’s what the base audience wants to hear anyway, 2) advertising or brainwashing can work by the constant repeat of information or misinformation, respectively, 3) no one forcefully takes them on and shuts them up – and now it will take an awful lot of energy to stop the momentum. But, I’m wondering how otherwise rational people choose to believe the religious-right in its assault on the President? In other words, what do they find so horrible about him (his administration, etc.) that causes them align themselves with an incalculably worse enemy (in my estimation)? As some of you know, I cut to the chase which is why, on this question, I don’t think you can have it both ways.

    I have a project to complete, so I must discipline myself away from the blog this next week (boo-ho). It’s a timely retreat, though, since I might take hits for this post.

  19. Donna says:

    Finally, this bit might be unpopular on this blog, but I’m going ahead and declaring that I find the unrelenting smear campaign toward President Obama to be part and parcel of the same movement by the same anti-science, pro-religious/creationist group that we profess to denounce (there may be different factions or branches using different ploys, but it come down to the same).

    I’ll probably stay out of this, except to say that it’s possible to oppose Obama without being a creationist theocrat.

  20. TomS: “I can’t think of what discovery would convince anyone who does not as yet accept evolutionary biology.”

    It won’t be either a new discovery or any of the massive evidence that exists already. The reason that at least half of evolution deniers deny it is simply because they haven’t given 5 minutes thought to it, or to the tactics of anti-evolution activists, or to how science works. To be clear I’m talking about the half (or ~1/4 of all adult Americans) that is not beyond hope. They have formed their doubts because they have been bombarded with misleading souund bites – many the fault of fellow “Darwinists” – starting with the obnoxious “only a theory.” What can turn the corner for them are dramatic sound bites like Pope John Paul II’s description of the evidence for evolution as “convergence, neither sought nor fabricated.” Especially when that is contrasted with what anti-evolution activists do, which is, despite all sorts of seeking and fabricating “evidences,” quote mining and other rhetorical tricks, to be unable to achieve convergence on the basic chronology by a factor of ~700,000! And increasingly covering up those fatal differences behind a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And of course the Hitler nonsense.

  21. @Curmie, who says:

    “I’ll probably stay out of this, except to say that it’s possible to oppose Obama without being a creationist theocrat.”

    Then rational Republicans – or more pointedly, their political representatives – need to distance themselves from the crazy, mean-spirited, intrusive lot that is co-opting the GOP, and show them some cold disdain to prove to the whole nation that their’s is a difference in practice, not just spirit (if indeed the party’s majority base is moderate, not fanatic). That means ridiculing, if necessary, the anti-evolutionists, signers of “family values” promissory letters, etc.
    I can’t help; I’ve defected in utter disgust.