*Yawn* Evolution Blamed for Hitler. Again.


Jerry Bergman, one of the many creationists who claim fake credentials as real (his “doctorate” is from Columbia Pacific University, an unaccredited diploma mill that was so bad that the courts shut it down in 200), has a new book out that — stop me if you’ve heard this before — claims that evolution is what led to Adolf Hitler. The Worldnetdaily, unsurprisingly, is fawning over the book.

In a new book, “Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview,” Bergman (a university professor for four decades) presents fascinating portraits of the top Nazi killers, the men who planned the ghastly Final Solution.

Although “secular science” has issues with his conclusion, the data and analysis are unmistakable: Darwin did it.

The overall premise of naturalism – that everything in the universe is random and purposeless – is a damning indictment of the worst elements of Darwinian philosophy. This mindset has created everything from schoolyard bullies to the Third Reich. Bergman’s offers a devastating critique of Darwinian philosophy, and frankly, his profiles of Hitler and his henchmen are so riveting, you won’t be able to look away. Even though you want to.

Oi vey. Where to start? First of all, the premise of naturalism is not that “everything in the universe is random and purposeless.” That’s a rather cartoonish and moronic straw man. Secondly, there is no such thing as “Darwinian philosophy.”

Take Reinhard Heydrich, the feared mastermind of the Final Solution, and Himmler’s top deputy. Raised in an educated home that appreciated the arts (and staunchly Catholic, yet anti-Semitic), Heydrich built-on his Darwinian perspective to become such an efficient and content killer that Hitler had to figure out ways to control him.

Uh, okay. Where’s the evidence, or even the claims, of a connection to the theory of evolution? And I love the fact that he refers to Heydrich as “staunchly Catholic, yet anti-Semitic” as though those two things were in conflict. The Catholic Church had engaged in pogroms against Jews for nearly 2000 years by then. The current relative ecumenism between Catholics and Jews is a very recent phenomenon. Since the days of Jesus, there has been, until just the last few decades, relentless hostility between the two groups.

Or what of Julius Streicher, a mentor to Hitler in the early days? The publisher of the anti-Semitic newspaper Der Sturmer, Streicher had a hatred of the Bible and hence the Jewish people.

As Bergman writes: “Although Streicher’s views on Darwinism are mixed, it is well documented that he accepted the social Darwinian inferior race theory, and concluded that Jews were one of the worst of all biologically inferior races.”

This led to the view that the “master race” could not be contaminated, and led to the sterilization of untold numbers of people deemed inferior.

Which has nothing at all to do with the theory of evolution or with Charles Darwin, who was not a “social Darwinist” himself. Typical creationist logic-leaping from one thing to an entirely different thing. I could easily quote Adolf Hitler, who said over and over again that his campaign to destroy the Jews was a Christian quest, that he was doing it to establish Christianity. But I don’t even have to bother with that; there’s no evidence here to the contrary at all.

I could also show the rather obvious history of Martin Luther, German’s most important and influential theologian and the founder of Protestant Christianity, who hated the Jews so much that he commanded his followers to burn down their homes and synagogues and chase them out of Germany. If you’re looking for the root of Hitler’s madness and the reason why his views found fertile soil in Germany, look no further than Luther.

Comments

  1. colnago80 says

    And overlooks the fact that Frankenberger in Mein Kampf rejected common descent, the backbone of the theory of evolution. Darwin’s writings were banned in Germany and books on evolution were burned.

  2. D. C. Sessions says

    staunchly Catholic, yet anti-Semitic

    Sounds like Tomás de Torquemada. Was he a closet Darwinian?

  3. says

    “an unaccredited diploma mill that was so bad that the courts shut it down in 200.”

    Well, it’s too bad that Emperor Septimius Severus was busy banning women from fighting in gladiatorial contests or he he’d have maybe taken a person interest in preserving that bastion of teh burnin’stoopit.

  4. says

    Actually, having done exhaustive research on Mel Brooks’, “The Producers”, I’m pretty sure that Hitler’s interest in Darwinism was likely overshadowed by his interest in Busby Berkley production dance numbers.

  5. dingojack says

    “Jerry Bergman, one of the many creationists who claim fake credentials as real (his “doctorate” is from Columbia Pacific University, an unaccredited diploma mill that was so bad that the courts shut it down in 200)”

    Just how old is Jerry Bergman? Is he realy a vampire?
    I mean having a degree from an outfit that closed some 1813 years ago….
    :) DIngo

  6. jaytheostrich says

    “Streicher had a hatred of the Bible and hence the Jewish people.”

    Because nobody who loves the Bible has ever hated a Jew, amiright?

  7. kesara says

    All those books about the Nazis being Darwinists (who cares that Darwin´s books were banned in the third reich and that the people who drafted the Nuremberg laws either never mentioned Darwin at all or rejected his ideas in the strongest terms, amirite?!) and totally not Christians could be summed up in four short sentences:
    1. Darwinism is evil.
    2. Christianity is good.
    3. The Nazis were evil.
    4. From 1-3 follows, the Nazis must have been Darwinists and could not possibly have been Christians.

  8. John Pieret says

    With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

    The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, if so urged by hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil.

    – Darwin, C. R. 1871. The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. London: John Murray. Volume 1. 1st edition, pp. 168-169.

    A real monster, that man!

  9. says

    John Pieret @11: That’s a good quote, but also alarmingly ripe for quote-mining. By itself the first paragraph could be spun (and probably has been) as being a plea for eugenics.

  10. alanuk says

    The first paragraph could be from the Tea Party Manifesto – the case against Obamacare.

  11. says

    If you’re looking for the root of Hitler’s madness and the reason why his views found fertile soil in Germany, look no further than Luther.”

    And who was Luther’s favorite author? Charles “The Jew Killer” Darwin*. Luther even had an autographed copy of Darwin’s book, Die Abstammung des Menschen. I rest my case.
     
     
    * Darwin traveled on the Beagle to gather samples of Jews from around the world. True story.

  12. cptdoom says

    I’m so relieved to learn that the “inferior race theory” only began with Darwin; no other humans had conceived of it before then. Not the Japanese in relation to their Asian neighbors, not the Americans in regards to their slaves or the Irish and certainly not the English in regards to, well, the rest of humanity.

  13. colnago80 says

    Re cpdoom @ #19

    One promulgator of the inferiority of Africans was one Thomas Jefferson who died when Darwin was barely into his teens.

  14. matty1 says

    Darwinian philosophy… created… schoolyard bullies

    “Tom Brown’s School Days” – which features a school bully, published 1857
    “On The Origin of Species”, published 1859

    He can’t even get the incidental details right.

  15. Akira MacKenzie says

    colnago80 @ 20

    That’s different. We nuked those dirty Japs for America, Mom, Baseball, Apple Pie, and Jesus, so it’s OK.

    Marcus Ranum @ 24

    Hmmmm… allow me to revise that observation, then:

    Newtonian physics can’t be true because of Werner Von Bruan and the V2.

  16. Chiroptera says

    This mindset has created everything from schoolyard bullies….

    Huh. When I think of “schoolyard bullies,” the first thing that comes to my mind is good Christian Youth bullying gay kids. (Or kids merely labeled as “gay.”)

  17. theignored says

    From what I posted on a different site:

    Julius Streicher (one of Hitler’s top henchmen and publisher of the anti-Semitic Der Sturmer) was asked during the Nuremberg trials if there were any other publications in Germany which treated the Jewish question in an anti-Semitic way., Streicher said:

    Dr. Martin Luther would very probably sit in my place in the defendants’ dock today, if this book had been taken into consideration by the Prosecution. In the book ‘The Jews and Their Lies,’ Dr. Martin Luther writes that the Jews are a serpent’s brood and one should burn down their synagogues and destroy them…

    Trial of The Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, 14 November 1945– 1 October 1946, Vol. 12, p.318

    As an ironic twist, Johnathon Sarfati, a member of Creation Ministries International is one of the guys who really loves to pound the “Darwin-to-Hitler” drum.

    In an argument on an Aussie religious right’s page Sarfati, in a post:

    Jonathan Sarfati
    21.6.07 / 9pm

    called the ADL member Rabbi Foxman a “secular misochristic Jew” because Foxman dared to say that the movie “Expelled” was wrong in blaming the holocaust on Darwin.

    What would Foxman know? He is no historian, unlike Weikart who specializes in modern European history, but a secular misochristic Jew who is more interest in pushing liberal causes than Judaism. Indeed, he is an embarrassment to many of his fellow Jews; see Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s defence of James Kennedy and his film, Which Jews does the ADL really represent?. The group Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation has also attacked Foxman and the ADL for other intemperant anti-Christian bigotry, calling the ADL “another liberal front group”.

    “Misochristic means “christ-hating”, like misogynistic means women-hating.” Look up the phrase “christ-hating jew” on the search engines and see who uses that….it ain’t the “darwinists”! To top the irony off, Sarfati is a jewish convert to xianity!

  18. says

    @3:

    I also recommend the article by Richards. I had long taken for granted that Hitler was a Social Darwinian, as It’s a commonplace in much of the historical literature about him–but RIchards demonstrates how very weak the case for that proposition is.

  19. says

    The assertion that Darwin was banned in Nazi Germany always seems to me to be based on this statement from Die Bucherei, a Nazi periodical for librarians:

    “writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism and Monism (Haeckel).”

    That’s evidence that the Nazis banned Haeckel, and also that they drew a distinction between “primitive” Darwinism (whatever exactly they meant by that), which clearly was banned, and some other kind of Darwinism, which the passage seems to imply was NOT banned. Whatever else it may mean, this passage is not evidence that Darwin was banned.

  20. Nick Gotts says

    Hitler derived his views of biology primarily from the anti-Darwinian, vitalist writings of Houston Stewart Chamberlain. Chamberlain also contributed to his views on race, along with Hans K.F. Gunther, author of Racial Typology of the German People, Madison Grant, author of The Passing of the Great Race; or, The Racial Basis of European History, and Henry Ford (the well-known automobile manufacturer), author of The International Jew. Interestingly, Chamberlain was English by birth, and Grant and Ford were American, so Hitler was by no means averse to influence from foreign authors – but Darwin was not among them.

  21. zmidponk says

    aaronbaker:

    The assertion that Darwin was banned in Nazi Germany always seems to me to be based on this statement from Die Bucherei, a Nazi periodical for librarians:

    “writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism and Monism (Haeckel).”

    That’s evidence that the Nazis banned Haeckel

    …who was best known in Germany for being a promoter of Darwin’s work, as well as discovering and naming thousands of species and drawing up a genealogical tree showing how all life was related to each other.

    and also that they drew a distinction between “primitive” Darwinism (whatever exactly they meant by that), which clearly was banned, and some other kind of Darwinism, which the passage seems to imply was NOT banned.

    If you read it in a straightforward manner, leaving vague implications out of it, that passage actually seems to indicate that both Darwinism and Monism is primitive and false, and therefore all works featuring them, such as those by Haeckel, should be banned, according to the Nazis.

  22. birgerjohansson says

    It was actually I and my time machine designer that should be blamed for Hitler…

  23. kesara says

    @29 Aaronbaker

    That’s evidence that the Nazis banned Haeckel, and also that they drew a distinction between “primitive” Darwinism (whatever exactly they meant by that), which clearly was banned, and some other kind of Darwinism, which the passage seems to imply was NOT banned. Whatever else it may mean, this passage is not evidence that Darwin was banned.

    It seems that the label “primitive” was simply used as a pejorative in this case (you won´t find a distinction between “primitive Darwinism” and any other kind of Darwinism in the works of german eugenicists or leading Nazi ideologues).
    The Nazi Rassenlehre was explicit about there being different human races which were created by God, with the Aryan race being the only one that was created in God´s image. One of the main ideas of why Darwin was rejected is, that his views implied that all humans not only had a common ancestor with non-human animals, but also with each other – and that was inacceptable given that they believed that the Aryan race, and ONLY the Aryan race, was created perfectly.
    Furthermore, the Nazis not only banned Häckel´s works, they went further than that, to quote Günther Hecht of the Department of Race-Politics in the third Reich:
    “The party and its representatives must not only reject a part of the Haeckelian conception — other parts of it have occasionally been advanced — but, more generally, every internal party dispute that involves the particulars of research and the teachings of Haeckel must cease.” (Günther Hecht, “Biologie und Nationalsozialismus,” Zeitschrift für die Gesamte Naturwissenschaft 3 (1937–1938): 280–90, at 285)
    => They rejected Häckel´s ideas (who was the main popularizer of Darwin´s ideas in Germany, Darwin´s books themselves were not widely read) as a whole, not only his monistic views (which was his personal philosophy), but also his scientific ideas (which were based on Darwin´s) completely.

  24. caseloweraz says

    The WND: …and frankly, his profiles of Hitler and his henchmen are so riveting, you won’t be able to look away. Even though you want to.

    Hmmm…

  25. says

    Häckel’s monism doesn’t seem to have been based completely on Darwin; he was also, I believe, a pacifist, which would have made the Nazis hate him all by itself.

    Repeatedly Häckel is mentioned, but neither Darwin nor any of Darwin’s books. So I repeat: so far, I’ve seen no evidence that Darwin or his books were banned.

  26. says

    I’d add that the Nazi periodical in question calls these books of which it disapproves: “writings of a philosophical and social nature,” rather than biology texts. The author would appear to have in mind books that use biology in the service of social and philosophical commentary (as, for example, Social Darwinians did and do). This would fit in with Häckel’s monism being the chief target here.

  27. kesara says

    Repeatedly Häckel is mentioned, but neither Darwin nor any of Darwin’s books. So I repeat: so far, I’ve seen no evidence that Darwin or his books were banned.

    Again, there were not even many copies of Darwin´s books that could be banned because Häckel was the main popularizer of Darwin´s ideas in Germany. So, even if your interpretation re “primitive Darwinism” would be correct (which is implausible because it would make no sense to ban Häckel´s popularization of Darwin´s ideas, but not Darwin´s ideas themselves), this would be a distinction without a difference, because the overwhelming majority of germans that were aware of Darwin´s ideas, learned those ideas from Häckel´s books, not from Darwin´s.

    I’d add that the Nazi periodical in question calls these books of which it disapproves: “writings of a philosophical and social nature,” rather than biology texts. The author would appear to have in mind books that use biology in the service of social and philosophical commentary (as, for example, Social Darwinians did and do). This would fit in with Häckel’s monism being the chief target here.

    Nope, that is a poor translation of the original german. The german text said:
    “Schriften weltanschaulichen und lebenskundlichen Charakters, deren Inhalt die falsche naturwissenschaftliche Aufklärung eines primitiven Darwinismus und Monismus ist (Häckel)”
    – I highlighted the words that were translated to “philosophical” and “social”. Translating “weltanschaulich” to philosophical is acceptable (the word means “related to a worldview or worldviews”), the translation to “social” is anachronistic, because in those times, “Lebenskunde” meant “Biology”, it could nowadays be used to refer to social studies, but the word is essentially dead and no longer used in contemporary german (see this entry in a german dictionary for example: http://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/Lebenskunde ).

  28. freehand says

    Raised Southern Baptist, I was assured by Preacherman Grandpa that black folks were being punished by God for the sins of their ancestor Ham*, and it was our duty to enslave them and simultaneously punish them and keep them out of trouble. He also explained at me that they were happier then, and never complained about civil rights, as they were in the 1950s. I grew more dubious over time, perhaps because I was reading science and other ungodly books.

    But this wasn’t prejudice, this was doing God’s work.

    * Ham’s sin was telling his brothers that their dad Noah was lying drunk and naked in his tent. The implication was that he was less than respectful in doing so. I note that nothing in the bible actually indicates that Ham founded the “African race”. Another case of biblical literalists just making crap up about the bible. I suspect the biblical writers were making escuses for taking the lands of the Canaanites and committing genocide. (Canaan refers to Ham’s fourth son and the country he supposedly founded.)

  29. says

    @38:

    On the German text, you’re absolutely right; one should always check the original, and I didn’t.

    So, even if your interpretation re “primitive Darwinism” would be correct (which is implausible because it would make no sense to ban Häckel´s popularization of Darwin´s ideas, but not Darwin´s ideas themselves), this would be a distinction without a difference, because the overwhelming majority of germans that were aware of Darwin´s ideas, learned those ideas from Häckel´s books, not from Darwin´s.

    Implicit in this is the assumption that Haeckel was nothing more than a German popularizer of Darwin–he was considerably more than that, as, for example, the German wikipedia article about him makes clear: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Haeckel#Haeckel_als_popul.C3.A4rer_Forscher. He certainly didn’t get his monism from Darwin–and the monism was clearly at least part of what pissed off the Nazi author of this notice. So the argument “If Haeckel was banned, so would Darwin have been banned//Haeckel WAS banned, therefore Darwin WAS banned” simply doesn’t work here.

    The most an historian would be justified in saying would be: “Haeckel was banned; therefore Darwin may have been banned”. If, then, the historian sees in the abundant material about Nazi Kulturkampt the complete absence of an express ban on Darwin, the historian would then be perfectly justified in saying: “We have no reason, or no compelling reason, to conclude that Darwin was banned.” What I’m not seeing so far is any such express ban, and so until I do, I have no compelling reason, and neither do you, to believe that Darwin was banned.

  30. kesara says

    The most an historian would be justified in saying would be: “Haeckel was banned; therefore Darwin may have been banned”. If, then, the historian sees in the abundant material about Nazi Kulturkampt the complete absence of an express ban on Darwin, the historian would then be perfectly justified in saying: “We have no reason, or no compelling reason, to conclude that Darwin was banned.”

    Well, if the point is that we cannot prove that Darwin´s books were banned, I guess you are right. But it would certainly have to be mentioned that, if Darwin was mentioned at all by german eugenicists or leading Nazi ideologues, it was not in a favorable way, but only to express disagreement with his ideas, particularly involving common descent.

    And re:

    Implicit in this is the assumption that Haeckel was nothing more than a German popularizer of Darwin–he was considerably more than that, as, for example, the German wikipedia article about him makes clear: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Haeckel#Haeckel_als_popul.C3.A4rer_Forscher. He certainly didn’t get his monism from Darwin–and the monism was clearly at least part of what pissed off the Nazi author of this notice.

    Remember my quote from Günther Hecht earlier:
    “The party and its representatives must not only reject a part of the Haeckelian conception — other parts of it have occasionally been advanced — but, more generally, every internal party dispute that involves the particulars of research and the teachings of Haeckel must cease.” (Günther Hecht, “Biologie und Nationalsozialismus,” Zeitschrift für die Gesamte Naturwissenschaft 3 (1937–1938): 280–90, at 285)
    Günther Hecht was certainly not a nobody in the third Reich, and this particular opinion involves not only a rejection of Häckel´s philosophy, but also of his research.

  31. alanuk says

    “By that rationale, Newtonian physics led to Werner Von Braun.”

    Two darlings of the creationists. Verily they scrape the bottom of the barrel.

    Newton – a creationist (surprise, surprise) completely avoiding the fact that he did not believe in the divinity of Christ and had to adopt devious means to avoid taking holy orders. Also he was a thoroughly nasty man, but I suppose that doesn’t count.

    Werner von Braun – a 20th century creationist (if you are desperate) and a scientist (if you stretch a point). Of course you need to disregard the fact that he was no YEC. You also need to forget that he was an SS officer, a war criminal, and the designer of weapons of mass destruction. Of course he never had the chance to build an intercontinental missile for the Germans (to bomb the US) but he did go on build the ultimate weapon of mass destruction with the help of Edward Teller. The irony, a Nazi and a Jew.

  32. colnago80 says

    Re alanuk @ #42

    In defense of Isaac Newton, everybody was a creationist at that time. There was no conception of the notion of common descent. I think that criticizing him for being a creationist is unfair. Hell, Charles Darwin was a creationist when he stepped foot on the Beagle and that was more then 200 years after Newton.

  33. matty1 says

    Akira MacKenzie “Newtonian physics can’t be true because of Werner Von Bruan and the V2.”
    Modusoperandi “Is that from your musical?”

    School time for Hitler?

  34. alanuk says

    Re colnago80 @#43

    Of course everyone was a creationist at that time. This is why it is so stupid of the creationists to pick on someone just because they are famous. Newton was a bad choice as I have said.

    Finding a 20th century creationist who is also a famous scientist is much more difficult, really they only have their own ranks to choose from. The problem is that even if one of them is a genuine scientist, he is only famous for being a creationist. Thus the barrel scraping. Werner von Braun is just another very poor choice but he happens to be the best that they have got.

  35. says

    @41:

    I would say, on the basis of statements I’ve seen attributed to Hitler, that he believed in the fixity of species, and so, if asked, would have disagreed with Darwin. Many of his followers doubtless felt the same way–but I’m not sure all did. For a possible example: Robert Richards, whose article on Hitler and Social Darwinism, was cited with well-deserved approval above, has written extensively about the Nazi reaction to Haeckel (in a recently published book that I haven’t read though i’d like to), and in a lengthy, vituperative controversy online with another scholar named Daniel Gasman–and he points to one Nazi official and scientist, Heinz Brücher, who tried (ultimately unsuccessfully) to promote Haeckel. It MAY in fact be Brücher whom Hecht has in mind when he says: “other parts of [the Haeckelian conception) have occasionally been advanced.” I don’t want to press Brücher’s example too hard here, as I don’t know from Richards WHICH of Haeckel’s ideas Brücher was promoting. But that he promoted Haeckel at all suggests that promoters and practitioners of Nazi biology were not monolithic.

    [For Brücher, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinz_Brucher;

    Brücher is mentioned by Richards in http://home.uchicago.edu/~rjr6/articles/Response%20to%20Daniel%20Gasman.pdf

    More to the point perhaps: Hitler didn’t ban every opinion he disagreed with. So the mere assertion (correct as to Hitler) of disapproval doesn’t get us to banning. (This came up in an earlier discussion, where I pointed to the lack of evidence (at least so far as I knew) that atheism, per se, was illegal in the Third Reich, despite Hitler’s pretty clearly being a theist. The fact of Hitler’s theism kept being cited as if were some sort of unanswerable objection. )

    Your next assertion is, in short, this: Hecht is telling us: Haeckel must be banned completely, all his opinions, all of his research, everything he did, and so (by implication) any kind of Darwinian theory. Maybe–though once again, the statement in question is an explicit condemnation of Haeckel, not Darwin. Also, this kind of totalizing language is often used to condemn another whom one regards as vicious –without being meant as literally as you’re suggesting. Couldn’t Hecht simply have believed that Haeckel’s conceptions so corrupted his work (and were so likely to corrupt others) that it would be dangerous to discuss them at all?

  36. zmidponk says

    @aaronbaker

    Let’s state a few things which seem perfectly obvious to me, and see if you agree with them:

    1) One of the fundamental principles of Nazi ideology was the superiority of the Aryan race.

    2) Another fundamental principle of Nazi ideology was that there are clear and precise differences between different races, thus allowing the assertion that the Aryan race is superior.

    3) Darwin quite explicitly made the point, in The Descent of Man, that there are no clear differences between races and that ‘they graduate into each other, and that it is hardly possible to discover clear distinctive characters between them’, to quote him exactly.

    Now, if you agree with all these three points, and given that this makes a very clear and direct contradiction between Darwin’s work and Nazi ideology, does it not make much more sense that the passage from Die Bucherei actually means what a simple, straightforward reading of it suggests, that Darwinism (and Monism) is banned, rather than your rather roundabout, indirect interpretation of it that only some undetailed thing referred to as ‘primitive Darwinism’ is banned, but normal Darwinism is A-OK?

  37. says

    There’s nothing roundabout about the interpretation I’ve suggested. If we mimic the structure of the German sentence and say: “We’ll have NO discussion of any subject the content of which is a primitive fascism and corporatism (Mussolini),” the next, perfectly natural and question is: what about other kinds of fascism? Or: what about fascism WITHOUT corporatism? Or: what about someone besides Mussolini? None of these questions arises because the listener has implausibly contorted the meaning of the statement.

    The belief in some kind of Darwinian viewpoint, even given Darwin’s statement above, is perfectly compatible with the most virulent racism (in fact, Darwin himself managed to utter racist opinions from time to time)–so I’m not convinced that Nazis would have regarded Darwinism per se as so contrary to their racial dogmas that it had to be suppressed.

    And, as I’ve indicated before, the history of Nazi oppression is abundantly documented (we’re not dealiing with Ancient Egypt or Athens here, where the evidence is quite fragmentary). If in all that material, this is the closest thing we can find to a ban on Darwin, I think it has to be concluded that the case for a Nazi ban on Darwin is weak.

    I’ll make myself as clear as I possibly can, in the hopes I’ll avoid misunderstanding: I don’t believe Hitler was a Darwinist in any way, shape, or form (thanks largely to Richards’ excellent article). This is something of a sore point for me, as in some disputes on the Pharyngula board I repeatedly expressed my view that Hitler was a theist, and I was repeatedly accused, by some person or other too lazy to read what I’d actually written, of claiming Hitler was an atheist. Maybe Hitler thought Darwin’s views WERE completely incompatible with Nazism; maybe he banned those views–but we can’t reach that conclusion on the evidence so far provided.

  38. zmidponk says

    aaronbaker:

    There’s nothing roundabout about the interpretation I’ve suggested. If we mimic the structure of the German sentence and say: “We’ll have NO discussion of any subject the content of which is a primitive fascism and corporatism (Mussolini),” the next, perfectly natural and question is: what about other kinds of fascism? Or: what about fascism WITHOUT corporatism? Or: what about someone besides Mussolini? None of these questions arises because the listener has implausibly contorted the meaning of the statement.

    Except this isn’t a situation of someone saying ‘let’s not have any discussion of this particular subject’, this is a situation of a listing of things which are banned from Nazi libraries. Reading it as what it is, an entry in such a list, the meaning becomes utterly clear that Darwinism is banned (along with Monism), because they are ‘primitive’ and ‘false’, with Haeckel being given as an example of the kind of thing this refers to. The only way you can actually interpret it as anything else is if you do what you have so far done – either change what the passage actually is, from an entry in a list of banned items into something else, or assume that ‘primitive Darwinism’ is only a small, particular subset of Darwinism, and only that is banned, despite this list failing to detail what parts of Darwinism are actually considered ‘primitive Darwinism’, and there seeming to be no clue as to what ‘primitive Darwinism’ actually is from other sources, if it is, as you claim, not simply the Nazis calling Darwinism ‘primitive’.

    The belief in some kind of Darwinian viewpoint, even given Darwin’s statement above, is perfectly compatible with the most virulent racism (in fact, Darwin himself managed to utter racist opinions from time to time)

    I’ve seen that accusation made many times. The closest I’ve seen to any concrete evidence of it is things like people using Darwin’s use of language like ‘races’ and ‘savages’ in his two most famous books to try to indicate this is evidence of racism, but ignoring the fact that, when you read the relevant passages in context, it’s clear he is simply using the language of the time to refer to other cultures, or to refer to different species of plants and animals (which was a common use of the word ‘race’, at the time). On the contrary, in The Descent of Man, he expressly makes the point that there are no essential differences between different races (and, indeed, it’s hard to even define what a ‘race’, in that sense, actually is), plus making the point that, and I quote, ‘The evidence that all civilised nations are the descendants of barbarians, consists, on the one side, of clear traces of their former low condition in still-existing customs, beliefs, language, &c.; and on the other side, of proofs that savages are independently able to raise themselves a few steps in the scale of civilisation, and have actually thus risen.’ This indicates that even the ‘savage’ cultures of the world are not inherently bound to what he perceives as their low status on the ‘scale of civilisation’ by anything due to their race. Which, again, is directly opposed to Nazi ideology.

    so I’m not convinced that Nazis would have regarded Darwinism per se as so contrary to their racial dogmas that it had to be suppressed.

    And, as I’ve indicated before, the history of Nazi oppression is abundantly documented (we’re not dealiing with Ancient Egypt or Athens here, where the evidence is quite fragmentary). If in all that material, this is the closest thing we can find to a ban on Darwin, I think it has to be concluded that the case for a Nazi ban on Darwin is weak.

    Well, from where I’m sitting, this ‘weak’ evidence is an official Nazi periodical, giving official guidelines to libraries as to what is banned under Nazi ideology, listing Darwinism as such an item, and labelling it as a ‘false scientific enlightenment’ and ‘primitive’. This is part of this ‘abundant documentation’, of a form that can’t really get much clearer without it being, say, a personal memo signed by Hitler himself that consists of four words and four words only, ‘Darwin’s works are banned’, yet you seem to be unclear as to what this actually says.

  39. says

    You may well know more about Darwin’s attitudes toward race than I do. You surely aren’t going to deny that many people have been both followers of Darwin and racists.

    I’m completely cognizant of what the list in question is– and you’re the one twisting its meaning. It cannot mean what you say it means in ordinary German; if it had said, “the false, primitive enlightenment of Darwinism (i.e. “des Darwinismus”) and monism,” your interpretation would be tenable, but it doesn’t and it isn’t. “The false enlightenment of a primitive Darwinism [“eines primitiven Darwinismus”]” makes the adjective “primitive” a limiting adjective, whether you like that fact or not. It would be an extraordinarily clubfooted, confusing, and misleading way to express the meaning you’ve imposed on it–particularly in a document whose author (as you’ve indicated) was aiming at some degree of precision. And the list does detail what the author has in mind by stating an example of the aforesaid primitive Darwinism: “Haeckel.”

    As for the complete silence on the subject elsewhere: you’re understating I think just how problematic that is. Since Darwinian conceptions pretty much swept the field after the War, there would have been comment, and a lot of it, on just this subject by both laypeople and scientists who had experienced such a ban in Germany. That doesn’t seem to have happened.

    So, to recap: no other evidence of a blanket ban on Darwinism; AND you can regard this passage as a blanket ban only by twisting its language to extract something other than its plain meaning.

    Why might a ban have been limited to Haeckel? I would say: not all Nazis were hostile to evolutionary theories (and I gave an example of one such Nazi above).

  40. zmidponk says

    aaronbaker:

    You may well know more about Darwin’s attitudes toward race than I do. You surely aren’t going to deny that many people have been both followers of Darwin and racists.

    Depends what you mean, precisely. If you mean that they accept and properly understand Darwinian evolution and are racists despite this, yes, that I accept (people can and do display that kind of cognitive dissonance all the time). If you mean they are racists BECAUSE they accept Darwinian evolution, then no, I don’t accept that, because a proper understanding of Darwinian evolution makes racism an utterly nonsensical position.

    I’m completely cognizant of what the list in question is– and you’re the one twisting its meaning. It cannot mean what you say it means in ordinary German; if it had said, “the false, primitive enlightenment of Darwinism (i.e. “des Darwinismus”) and monism,” your interpretation would be tenable, but it doesn’t and it isn’t. “The false enlightenment of a primitive Darwinism [“eines primitiven Darwinismus”]” makes the adjective “primitive” a limiting adjective, whether you like that fact or not. It would be an extraordinarily clubfooted, confusing, and misleading way to express the meaning you’ve imposed on it–particularly in a document whose author (as you’ve indicated) was aiming at some degree of precision.

    So, what you’re saying is that, because this writer of this put ‘primitive’ right next to ‘Darwinism’, he MUST be talking about something called ‘primitive Darwinism’, not calling Darwinism ‘primitive’, but this person, who you admit must be aiming at some degree of precision, utterly fails in any way to detail exactly what ‘primitive Darwinism’ actually is? Sorry, this simply does not make sense. At all. Plus, of course, if he phrased it the way you argue, he would be calling the enlightenment given by Darwinism ‘primitive’, which doesn’t really make much sense, so it simply may be the case he wanted to directly call Darwinism itself ‘primitive’.

    And the list does detail what the author has in mind by stating an example of the aforesaid primitive Darwinism: “Haeckel.”

    Well, it’s gratifying you now, at least, admit, that Haeckel is merely an example of what is covered by this entry, not, as you appeared to be trying to make out before, the specific person whose work they were trying to ban for some other reason than because he accepted and promoted Darwinism.

    As for the complete silence on the subject elsewhere: you’re understating I think just how problematic that is. Since Darwinian conceptions pretty much swept the field after the War, there would have been comment, and a lot of it, on just this subject by both laypeople and scientists who had experienced such a ban in Germany. That doesn’t seem to have happened.

    And how much work, precisely, was done by scientists in Nazi Germany on any kind of Darwinist ideas (leaving aside ‘Social Darwinism’, which Darwin himself rejected)?

  41. says

    As to your first argument, I agree with Steven Jay Gould (if I understand his meaning correctly) that “human equality is a contingent fact of history,” i.e. rather than a necessary one, and that there might have been (in an alternative world) significant average differences in intelligence or other characteristics between different populations, which differences were caused to some extent or other by biological and not simply environment factors. This, I think, is the modern “scientific” racism of a Charles Murray or a Michael Levin–and though I find it odious and mistaken, i don’t see how it’s incompatible with evolution by natural selection.

    So, what you’re saying is that, because this writer of this put ‘primitive’ right next to ‘Darwinism’, he MUST be talking about something called ‘primitive Darwinism’, not calling Darwinism ‘primitive’, but this person, who you admit must be aiming at some degree of precision, utterly fails in any way to detail exactly what ‘primitive Darwinism’ actually is? Sorry, this simply does not make sense. At all. Plus, of course, if he phrased it the way you argue, he would be calling the enlightenment given by Darwinism ‘primitive’, which doesn’t really make much sense, so it simply may be the case he wanted to directly call Darwinism itself ‘primitive’.

    IF the point of the statement is to say that Haeckel is banned, the author needn’t have done more than what he does: mention Haeckel as the example of what he means by “primitive Darwinism and monism.” Why must he go into further detail?

    As for using “primitive” to qualify “enlightenment,” fine: I’ll say, rather, that you’re reading this sentence as if it’s saying something like “whose content is the false enlightenment of Darwinism, which is a primitive doctrine” and so on. Some such syntax would make your interpretation quite a bit more plausible than it is, given the actual syntax of the statement in front of us.

    Well, it’s gratifying you now, at least, admit, that Haeckel is merely an example of what is covered by this entry, not, as you appeared to be trying to make out before, the specific person whose work they were trying to ban for some other reason than because he accepted and promoted Darwinism.

    I would say the yoking of “monism” with “primitive Darwinism” suggests all by itself that it wasn’t just his acceptance of Darwinism that got Haeckel banned. Also, I never said that Darwinism had NOTHING to do with his being banned, as you seem to be suggesting here; remember that I’ve read this statement as condemning a “primitive” Darwinism, whatever the author meant by that characterization.

  42. zmidponk says

    aaronbaker:

    As to your first argument, I agree with Steven Jay Gould (if I understand his meaning correctly) that “human equality is a contingent fact of history,” i.e. rather than a necessary one, and that there might have been (in an alternative world) significant average differences in intelligence or other characteristics between different populations, which differences were caused to some extent or other by biological and not simply environment factors. This, I think, is the modern “scientific” racism of a Charles Murray or a Michael Levin–and though I find it odious and mistaken, i don’t see how it’s incompatible with evolution by natural selection.

    What makes this incompatible with evolution is that even Darwin, back in the latter half of the 19th century, knew that this is simply not what has or is happening in THIS world, and expressly says so. Anyone who is familiar with and understands Darwin’s work knows this. I know this, and I only have a fairly moderate familiarity and understanding of it.

    IF the point of the statement is to say that Haeckel is banned, the author needn’t have done more than what he does: mention Haeckel as the example of what he means by “primitive Darwinism and monism.” Why must he go into further detail?

    Well, if the point of the statement was to say Haeckel is banned, it only needs to read ‘Haeckel is banned.’ It doesn’t. It gives Haeckel as an example of a much more general group of writings that are banned, but fails to elucidate precisely what qualifies for inclusion in this group, other than saying ‘Monism’ and ‘primitive Darwinism’, which, according to you, is something different from ordinary Darwinism, but the details of how this is different, or how you can tell if a particular writing is ‘primitive Darwinism’ rather than simply ‘Darwinism’ don’t seem to be there.

    As for using “primitive” to qualify “enlightenment,” fine: I’ll say, rather, that you’re reading this sentence as if it’s saying something like “whose content is the false enlightenment of Darwinism, which is a primitive doctrine” and so on. Some such syntax would make your interpretation quite a bit more plausible than it is, given the actual syntax of the statement in front of us.

    I’m seeing nothing wrong with the syntax. The syntax you’re saying is required is a slightly more formal way of saying the same thing, but that is all.

    I would say the yoking of “monism” with “primitive Darwinism” suggests all by itself that it wasn’t just his acceptance of Darwinism that got Haeckel banned. Also, I never said that Darwinism had NOTHING to do with his being banned, as you seem to be suggesting here; remember that I’ve read this statement as condemning a “primitive” Darwinism, whatever the author meant by that characterization.

    Your whole position so far is that this is not evidence, in any way, that Darwinism is banned or even thought badly of by the Nazis, as it was Haeckel they actually wanted to ban, perhaps, in part, due to his ‘primitive Darwinism’, but this is different to regular Darwinism, and is definitely not the Nazis simply calling Darwinism ‘primitive’, so doesn’t count. Yes, you’re quite clearly not saying that Darwinism was lauded by the Nazis or was any part of Nazi doctrine, but this still means you are saying that this is not evidence of the Nazis wanting to ban Darwinism, whilst denying that you’re saying that Haeckel’s work on promoting Darwinism and Darwin’s work has nothing to do with his name appearing in this list.

  43. says

    I think we’re reaching (if we haven’t reached already) a point of returns diminishing rapidly to zero. But thank you for making me think harder about my position than I did before.

  44. zmidponk says

    aaronbaker:

    I think we’re reaching (if we haven’t reached already) a point of returns diminishing rapidly to zero. But thank you for making me think harder about my position than I did before.

    I’m kinda coming to the same conclusion – I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. Thanks for the interesting discussion.

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