To The Salon – Darwin did not make an Error

There are some calling this Click-Bait. Low effort posts with precious little content or highly controvertial content solely to drive up blog hits.

Well this may be one of them. Normally a force for productive discourse, the Salon’s run two articles, the first is about Darwin’s “so called” error. 

“In general, the brain is larger in mature adults than in the elderly, in men than in women, in eminent men than in men of mediocre talent,  in superior races than in inferior races.” —Anthropologist Paul Broca in 1861

Paul Broca was incorrect.

Sometimes, but hardly always, racist belief flowed from some understanding of genetics, of the way that people can inherit physical and mental traits  from their parents. Racism usually contained the notion that different races, different  nationalities, and also specific classes of society, were born to behave in certain ways. Not  only were people of African or Asian descent assumed to naturally act differently from white people, but even different white nationalities—Scotch, Swedes, Greeks, or Poles—were described as having different inborn traits. The poorer classes of every society were also said to have been born with inferior moral and intellectual qualities that kept them at the bottom of the social ladder.

Except No…

Genetics wasn’t a field that was widely understood until AFTER the World War. The discovery of DNA and it’s structure came after that as well as it’s mechanisms.

We all know this argument. It’s the Ben Stein “Hitler Would Not Have Murdered Millions of Jews had there been no Evolution”. That we must hide the scientific theory of evolution and instead learn the superstition of creationism lest we all murder those we deem inferior.

Never mind the fact that History is filled with genocides of people who were deemed to deserve it not due to a scientific excuse but due to a variety of other ones. The first and foremost among them is religion. And Hitler was no different. Atheists and Evolution has precious little care about the alleged depravity of Jews. Christianity however, entrenched hate against them until very recently and often portrayed them as “Christ Killers”. That had more to do with Nazi anti-semitism than Darwin’s book.

There is a notion Darwinian evolution destroyed Judeo-Christian morality, especially the notion of reverence for life. Except for the fact that Judeo-Christians really didn’t need many excuses to oppress and destroy any culture. Darwin just became another person whose ideas were used to entrench the status quo and excuse behaviour. Prior to Darwin, it was due to the superiority of the Christian. After Darwin, it was because being white was inherently superior to being black.

Modern racism had several different intellectual sources, and only with difficulty could one say which of these was most important. I will focus here on the “scientific” strand of racism, which drew its inspiration from Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection. Several factors dictate  this emphasis on Darwinian racism. First, Darwinist racism explicitly motivated Hitler and many other leading perpetrators of the Holocaust. Second, Darwin inspired the researchers, most notably in biology and anthropology, who gave racism its aura of scientific certainty.  Third, Darwinian thought may well have been more popular in Germany  than anywhere  else during these years, in part because Germany was the world’s leading center of biological research before World War I and the Germans were exceptionally literate. Finally, Darwinist racism was the brand of racism most easily understood by the widest number of people, in part because Darwin’s theory was astonishingly simple and easy to explain.

Darwin’s theory was astonishingly easy to get wrong. Darwin himself was a huge fan of places like Brazil and thought racism was a frightful waste of time.

See this is just Inane. Everyone knows racists attempt to find anything that props up their alleged racial superiority. Just look at the Stormfront. Most have very little achievements in life. What they do is utilise the achievements of others and make it seem like they too are capable of it. They utilise anything to prop up the notion that they are better.

Religion? The Curse of Ham. Achievement? Being the same race as Newton. Science? Black people’s brains are different due to evolution.

As Darwin’s theory gained widespread acceptance, thinkers of every stripe began to find lessons in it for understanding the politics and  society of their time, using Darwinian thought to support their own agendas. This so-called  Social Darwinism ran in many different political directions. The right-wing branch of Social Darwinism—which was not necessarily the most popular strand of it—promoted racism, justified social and political inequality, and glorified war. It also inspired Adolf Hitler and his ardent supporters to launch a world war and exterminate the Jews of Europe.

Actually, the truth is less spectacular. Telephone Poles may have had more to do with going to war. And no. One can point out that 1700 years of concentrated anti-Jewish Christianity mixed in with Jews copping the blame for the defeat of WW I by making them handy scapegoats had more to do with the beliefs of Hitler than the notion that traits are passed on with an onus of survival being the key deciding factor.

Darwin’s new theory merely allowed racists to apply it to the situation and justify the dominance of White People over other people and explain it through this alongside others. They also explained a stratified society by claiming it was divinely ordained.

Right-wing Social Darwinism produced several ideas that were attractive and convenient to the ruling classes of Europe and North America, and especially to Germany’s warlike and antidemocratic elites. The most important idea may have been “struggle,” the notion that all relations between individuals and between nations were defined by a merciless battle for survival. Struggle followed inevitably from the laws of nature as discovered by Darwin, and therefore had no moral significance.  The Christian injunctions to “love your neighbor” and “love your enemies”  had no place in the animal  kingdom;  neither should they control the behavior  of human beings, who were not made  in the image of God,  but rather counted  as nothing more than an especially clever type of animal.

You may think that Christian love was “Love thy neighbour” but most of the rest of the world learnt Christian Love was “Getting Shot, Abducted, Enslaved and Brain Washed”. What fucking History does the Salon teach? History rewritten to make Christians look like charming people rather than the historical douchebaggery we all know about?

By contrast Darwin was a man who was deadly to insects.

This does humanity a great disservice. It is like suggesting that if there was no god, you would rape, murder and rob people.

That means the only thing keeping you obedient and civil is fear of a divine time out. You are not inherently a good person. You are a vicious monster kept in check by a leash. I do not require such a leash. And we know this is nonsensical. The Southern Christians of the USA during the Civil War weren’t big fans of Darwin. They justified their racism JUST FINE.

From these assumptions about struggle followed the argument that extreme social inequality was natural and permanent. The poor were poor because they were less fit than the rich. Charity for the poor blocked humanity from evolving to a higher plane, because it kept unfit members of society alive, allowing them to reproduce and pollute the gene pool with their inferior intelligence and moral weaknesses.  The belief in permanent struggle  also supported  a bias  toward violence  between nations, a glorification  of warfare. “Superior” peoples had every right  to conquer, exploit, and even exterminate “inferior” ones. If such aggression let superior peoples expand and become more numerous, the entire human race would  improve in the long run;  the extinction of lesser races was a cause for celebration rather than pity. In international relations, might made right: by winning a war, the victor showed that he deserved his victory, because his people were more fit to survive than were the losers.

And this is not new. Prior to Darwin the strata were explained as a divine construct. The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate were both created to those roles in society and to rail against that was blasphemy.

This brand of Social Darwinism fostered a racism that was all the more dangerous because it claimed a basis in scientific fact. Partly inspired by Darwin’s own writings, countless writers and politicians argued that each human population, each race or nation, had evolved from the first humans at its own pace, so that some had progressed further than others.  Probably almost all educated people in Europe and North America ranked  white people of European descent at the top of the evolutionary ladder,  with those of African descent on the bottom rung.  Perhaps for this reason, racist caricatures of the time typically represented black people with apelike features. The writers of popularized science, and  many  biologists and anthropologists, carefully  ranked  races and  nationalities from lowest  to  highest in value, whites always at the top, and among white people in numerous gradations. American elites generally agreed that among people of European descent, those who had emigrated to the United States from Northern and Western Europe— English, Germans, Scandinavians, and others—were born  with the highest intelligence, the strongest  work ethic, and the best of other moral qualities. In contrast, immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe—Poles, Greeks,  Italians, Russian  Jews, and  so on—were said to be markedly inferior, and  indeed  a potential threat  to the country’s “racial health.” Alarmed by this imagined  threat,  the U.S. Congress enacted an immigration law in 1924 that closed America’s borders to all but a limited number of immigrants from the “wrong” parts of Europe. Earlier laws had almost completely eliminated immigration from China and Japan, whose people, not even being white, were wholly unwanted.

None of these have to do with Darwin and this all has to do with historical white racism. Prior to Darwin the excuse was religion, this provided a pseudoscientific excuse.

Adolf Hitler tied the strands of this radicalized  thinking  together in his manifesto “Mein Kampf ” (“My Struggle,” 1925–1926). In a lengthy tirade against pacifism, which he termed  “Jewish nonsense,” Hitler explained his Darwinian view of international relations:  “Whoever would  live, let him fight, and he who does not want to do battle  in this  world  of eternal  struggle,  does  not  deserve life.” To oppose war was to ignore “the laws of race” and to “prevent the victory of the best race,” which was “the  precondition of all human progress.” In Hitler’s  view, Germany was too  small and too lacking in “living space.” It faced the danger of “perishing from the Earth” or serving other nations as a “slave people.” Consequently, “Germany will either become a world power, or cease to exist altogether.”

I fail to remember the part where evolution demands the genocide of Jews. In fact? Most professional evolutionists (AKA Biologists) are rather appalled by extinction level events caused by humans.

And the statement? That has nothing to do with Darwin.

Hitler fused his fear of communism, his demand for living space, and his beliefs about the racial inferiority of Russians and Jews into a comprehensive vision for Germany’s foreign policy. Germany could annex its needed living space from Russia, because that country  was “ripe for collapse.” The “inferior” Russians had become  a great  power only because they had been led by a Germanic ruling class, but the communists—who in Hitler’s mind were necessarily Jews because he believed that  Jews had instigated communism—had “almost completely  exterminated” this  Germanic element. “The Jew,” according  to Hitler,  “is  the  eternal  parasite, a bloodsucker, which spreads ever more widely like a harmful  bacillus,” a microbe that kills its host. The Jews who allegedly controlled communist Russia could therefore  not maintain a stable government, and Germany could easily conquer the Soviet Union.

Actually it has more to do with the fact that the Soviet Union maintained a WW I style army which was in dire need of mechanisation and had lost a fair number of it’s best Generals to the civil war. In addition the Soviet Union’s disaster in Finland solidified the notion that the Russians were badly equipped, badly lead and followed tactics that were not progressive and that even inferior and poorly equipped forces skilfully lead were inflicting horrific casualties.

This created the notion that Russia would be quick to fall.

Not because the German Generals had a bizarre faith in Communist Jew conspiracies.

As German soldiers stood poised  to invade the Soviet Union and crush the “Jewish-communist” conspiracy in June 1941, the army’s”Bulletin for the Troops” justified the ruthless methods soon to be used against the enemy. The article focused especially on the communist party’s political officers in the Soviet army, a high percentage of whom were supposedly  Jewish. “It would be an insult to the animals,” the author remarked, to describe these Jews as animalistic. “They are the embodiment of the infernal, the personification of insane hatred against all of noble humanity,” and “the rebellion of the sub-human against noble blood.”

No different from the posters of the Hun run by the Brits. The only difference is that we won so we consider our statements to be good and part of the war.

When Hitler subsequently decided to murder not only the Jews of the Soviet Union, but the entire Jewish population of Europe, he found that German civilian elites were willing to join their military counterparts in carrying out his plan. Without the help of tens of thousands of civil servants,  university-trained professionals, corporate managers,  and some academics, the Holocaust would not have been possible. Many, if not most, of these elites were not  Nazis, but they shared enough of the Nazis’ racism, anti-Semitism, and paranoid anticommunism to see the murders as morally justifiable, or at least tolerable. What made their participation easier was that they were not asked to dirty their hands with the actual killing; instead,  they “murdered from behind a desk.”  The victims died out of their sight, in Poland  and the Soviet Union, and these men could therefore deny their own responsibility, at least in their own minds. However, thousands of men who were neither  Nazis nor members of Germany’s ruling class were drafted into the  shooting squads that ultimately murdered 1.5 million Jews. These men would  have to kill in a way that was up close, personal, and very bloody. Unlike the bureaucrats back in Germany,  the members of the death squads could not ignore the moral implications of their acts. Very many were family men, with wives and children at home. When asked to murder defenseless civilians, including women and small children, what would they do?

I digress here, this entire article has many failings.

Firstly? It doesn’t understand Darwin or Evolution. Secondly? It has a very romanticised view of World War II. Thirdly? It doesn’t understand that racism finds excuses to justify racism. Fourthly? It ignores the role of religion to prop up the anti-semite views of WW II.

But let us leave all that aside. I find blaming Darwin for WW II rather idiotic due to the simplistic way of dealing with the issue.

I would say that Issac Newton had a bigger part to play in WW I and II than Darwin. Yet we never blame him and his theories for all those deaths that utilised the principles he discovered.

Ban Newton. His Laws murdered millions.


  1. colnago80 says

    It’s always amusing how creationists conflate Darwin and Frankenberger. They conspicuously overlook the fact that Frankenberger specifically rejected common descent in Mein Kampf.

  2. Al Dente says

    Number of times God or the Lord mentioned in Mein Kampf: 52

    Number of times Darwin or evolution mentioned in Mein Kampf: 0

  3. Randomfactor says

    Sounds to me like Hitler was, in one of the above excepts, more influenced by germ theory as a prop to his religiously-based anti-Semitism than he was evolution.

  4. minxatlarge says

    I’m glad to see that I wasn’t the only person who was Very Annoyed and Deeply Disappointed that this drivel was published by Salon. When I saw in in my Facebook feed yesterday, most of the commenters were also outraged.

    However, I think the most important fact is that “Social Darwinism” was not widely used until Hofstadter used it in a book title in 1944.

    When did Salon begin to think that this nonsense would be welcomed by anyone other than RWA Creationists?


  5. otranreg says

    Actually it has more to do with the fact that the Soviet Union maintained a WW I style army which was in dire need of mechanisation and had lost a fair number of it’s best Generals to the civil war. In addition the Soviet Union’s disaster in Finland solidified the notion that the Russians were badly equipped, badly lead and followed tactics that were not progressive and that even inferior and poorly equipped forces skilfully lead were inflicting horrific casualties.

    I’m sorry, this is just a silly post-hoc rationalisation. If the Red Army was a WWI-style army in dire need of mechanisation and equipment, then practically every major army (the German army first and foremost) was like this.

    The Pyrrhic victory in Finland was due to a number of bad strategic decisions — primarily because it was conducted in winter. Winter in a heavily-forested rocky marshland, where temperatures can easily go as low as -40. The Red Army simply couldn’t use its overwhelming advantage in mechanised units, artillery and air forces.

    Lack of leadership certainly did exist (and was acknowledged by the Germans at the time), but the article isn’t that far off on the fact that this idea — that the Communist regime in the Soviet Union was this tiny clique of (ethnic) revolutionaries, who just got lucky, and didn’t have much support in the general population — was a common one at the time, and predominant in many (right-wing) circles.

    Plus, don’t discount the inherent racism, with the belief that the Soviet Untermenschen couldn’t fight for shit.

  6. otranreg says

    And the lack of leadership was certainly not as much among the high ranking officers, as among the low and mid level officers, because with the change of government, WWI and the Civil War the normal streamlined training of officers was disrupted, and the Soviets had largely to invent a completely new thing.

    Plus, the top military commanders and policy-makers were usually people who were highly successful during the Civil War (which was a peculiar kind of war), but didn’t have much experience in conventional warfare. With the German invasion you see them quickly give way to the new wave, like Zhukov.

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    Randomfactor @ # 3: Sounds to me like Hitler was… more influenced by germ theory …

    Hitler rarely if ever made Darwinian allusions, but he loved medical metaphors:

    On the evening of 10 July 1941, Hitler declared at his table: ‘I feel I am like Robert Koch in politics. He discovered the bacillus and thereby ushered medical science onto new paths. I discovered the Jew as the bacillus and the fermenting agent of all social decomposition.’

    Therefore, we must abandon and put an end to all this misguided so-called “medical science”!!!1!


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