Hitler was a True Christian™

If you tuned in to that local debate on Christian radio, you know that one of the points the Christian fool trotted out was the tired old claim that the Nazis were no true Christians — no True Christian™ would ever commit such horrible acts. It’s an annoyingly feeble and unsupportable argument, but it has a lot of life in it, unfortunately.

This same argument has come up in Faye Flam’s Evolution column for the Philly Inquirer, and has gone on through several articles thanks to that hack from the Discovery Institute, Richard Weikart. It started with an article titled “Severing the link between Darwin and Nazism“, which cited real scholars like Robert Richards and Daniel Gasman to ably refute Weikart’s ridiculous claim that Nazism was inspired by Darwin. The Nazis banned Darwin’s books and rejected the idea that Aryans could have evolved from the lower orders. Weikart’s reply: But Hitler used the word Entwicklung, which translates as “evolution”. It also translates as “development” — Hitler did not use the language as representative of evolution at all.

So Flam got a contribution from a developmental biologist, the most excellent Scott Gilbert, who pointed out that biology and Darwinism were not factors in Hitler’s rise to power: the Lutheran and Catholic churches were. She also gets Keith Thomson, a biologist and museum director, to explain that Darwin did not and would not have approved in any way the Nazi philosophy. Weikart’s reply: but Darwin was a racist! Of course he was — he was a fairly conventional Victorian gentleman who thought the English were the greatest people on the planet. But these biases were not significant factors in his theory, and he struggled to overcome them.

Nazism was not science-based. It was pseudo-scientific religious dogma, tightly tied to the German culture of the time, which was almost entirely Catholic and Lutheran. All you have to do is look at Hitler’s own words to see that, even if he were personally a closet Satanist (I don’t think he was; he was an idiosyncratic Catholic), he tapped into the faith of the German people to achieve his ends. You cannot blame the horrors of the Third Reich on Darwin, who had negligible influence on the great masses of the German Volk, no political pull, and no appeal to the media. If you wanted a lever to shift public opinion on anything in the 1930s, religion was where you applied your force.

I have to give an early plug for my colleague, Michael Lackey (also on the CFI speakers’ bureau, by the way), who will be coming out with a book this Spring on exactly this topic.

His new book project (Modernist God States: A Literary Study of the Theological Origins of Nazi Totalitarianism) is on Hitler and the Nazis. In this book, he opposes one of the dominant interpretations of intellectual and political history, which holds that the West, since the Enlightenment, has been becoming increasingly more secular. Scholars who have adopted this approach claim that Hitler and the Nazis are the logical product of secularization, atheism, and humanism. By stark contrast, Lackey has been trying to demonstrate that secularization has only taken hold in very elite circles, mainly among academics, scholars, and intellectuals. As for the general population, it has actually become increasingly more religious, but in ways that are significantly different from pre-Enlightenment versions of religion. Based on his findings, Lackey argues that the only way to understand Hitler and the Nazis is to take into account the new conceptions of religious subjectivity that started to flourish and dominate among the general population in the early part of the twentieth century. Understanding these new conceptions sheds new and considerable light on Hitler’s and the Nazis’ religious conception of the political.

The Modernist God State: A Literary Study of the Nazis’ Christian Reich. New York and London: Continuum, (in press: forthcoming, Spring 2012).

Among the things he has done is to examine thoroughly the popular literature of Germany in the 1930s and 40s. Surprise, surprise, it isn’t singing paeans to Darwin and Science — these are eminently Christian Nazis.

The cover of his book says it all. I think it’s going to be a significant source for squelching these bizarre, ahistorical notions coming out of the Discovery Institute that somehow Nazi Germany was the apotheosis of the godless Darwinian state.


(Also on FtB)

Hunting shrimp

Watch the cuttlefish stalking shrimp, cautiously advancing by walking on a couple of arms — it almost looks like a tetrapod for a few moments. And then, finally, the lightning-fast strike. Oh, man, I wish I had a retractable spear built into my face. There are so many occasions when that would come in handy.

(Also on Sb)

Why I am an atheist – Peter Wagenaar

I’m an atheist because I see no reason not to be. There is no compelling evidence for the existence of God(s) – and an awful lot to the contrary. Added to which, I don’t need “God” – whatever that really means – to validate the life I have now. Its worth is also not dependent on a future eternal after-party at what you once described so beautifully as a “Disneyland in the sky for dead people”.

I’ve often joked that after 2000+ years and any number of ‘second coming’ predictions, we can safely assume that Jesus is a ‘no show’. But maybe the following innocent comment from my three-year-old niece shows up the sheer ridiculousness of religious belief better than any lengthy treatise I might write: “Why do we have to pray? Doesn’t Jesus have a phone?”

Peter Wagenaar
South Africa

It ought to be up to Americans to decide what is true!

You must watch this episode of the Daily Show — it’s all about science. Lisa Randall is on it plugging her new book, Knocking on Heaven’s Door (she actually doesn’t get to say much about it, but I’ve ordered it for my iPad anyway — I know what I’ll be reading on the plane to New Orleans tomorrow), a good section on the recent confirmation of global warming, and my favorite bit of all, Aasif Mandvi blithely leading a chipper Republican operative to agree with the most egregiously ignorant, anti-science claims.

Mandvi: Why are surgeons the only ones allowed to perform surgeries?
Blithering Republican: Absolutely.
Mandvi: Doesn’t make any sense.
BR: It never makes any sense!
Mandvi: and the only other people who can check whether they’re manipulating…
BR: are other scientists!

It also features Marty Chalfie defending himself against accusations of rape.

(Also on FtB)

Hunting shrimp

Watch the cuttlefish stalking shrimp, cautiously advancing by walking on a couple of arms — it almost looks like a tetrapod for a few moments. And then, finally, the lightning-fast strike. Oh, man, I wish I had a retractable spear built into my face. There are so many occasions when that would come in handy.

(Also on Ftb)

Thugs amuck

Whose side are the police on? Apparently, the side of the corporate masters and exploiter bankers. This is a scene from Occupy Oakland, where the police are targeting protesters rather brutally.

As is par for the course, the thugs are lying. Here’s what the Oakland PD had to say:

Q. Did the Police deploy rubber bullets, flash-bag grenades?

A. No, the loud noises that were heard originated from M-80 explosives thrown at Police by protesters. In addition, Police fired approximately four bean bag rounds at protesters to stop them from throwing dangerous objects at the officers.

It’s right there on video, a policeman tossing something that went bang right in the middle of a group trying to help an injured man. There is no excuse for that. None.

Photographic proof that the Oakland PD is lying.

Mississippi’s shame

The state of Mississippi will be considering Initiative 26 in less than two weeks. This ballot initiative is radical and dangerous; it intends to elevate a single cell to the full status of an adult human being, with all the rights and privileges of such status. It has an effect that ripples through every law on the books, because it changes who they apply to…and you know that no matter how charitably you might try to interpret the law, some fanatic somewhere is going to use it punish women for getting pregnant. It puts a little time bomb in the uterus of every expecting mother.

BALLOT TITLE: Should the term “person” be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof?

BALLOT SUMMARY: Initiative #26 would amend the Mississippi Constitution to define the word “person” or “persons”, as those terms are used in Article III of the state constitution, to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.

This is Dr Freda Bush, who seems to be the spokesperson for this abomination of a law. Notice how nice and positive she is, and how warm and sincere her voice is. Notice also that she lies through her smiling mouth.

Here’s what she says that fills me with fury. It’s a lie.

Science confirms that a person is a human being at the moment of fertilization. At that moment we are fully human and fully alive.

No, “science” does not say that. She is playing word games. It’s only true if all a person is to you is a cell or tissue with the right ancestry and the right collection of genes; she relies on our colloquial understanding of “human” to imply our better qualities, the gifts that make us different from animals, the elements our our nature that freight the word “humane”. Science does not judge that. Science can look at the derivation of a cell, and we could sequence genes from it and assess its relationship to human genes, and we could apply tests and tissue-type its proteins and tell you what species it belongs to, but there are no unambiguous markers for the broader meaning of humanity.

What she says is nominally, superficially true, but only in the sense that it also applies to an excised anal polyp…which is also “fully human” and “fully alive”, as the cells have the right number of chromosomes, are derived from a human parent, and have metabolisms whirring away just as industriously as any other cell in the body. We tend, however, to confine the meaning of “human” in the moral, social, aesthetic, and freakin’ meaningful sense of the word to something more substantial than the flavor of the meat. These mindless godbots want to throw that meaning away.

We can say that the cell at fertilization has no capacity for love, no sense of humor, no joy in its existence, no thoughts or plans — it lacks the neural substrates to do any of that. At some point, the developing fetus will acquire those abilities, but science can’t say precisely when, so it’s a lie to claim that you have a definitive, absolute, positive answer.

The real ambiguity of science and the imaginary certainty of these dogmatists has real consequences, though. If passed, it means women who are raped do not have recourse to abortion or even the morning after pill. It means fetuses with crippling, devastating abnormalities will be forced to be carried to term. Worse still, it means that common forms of contraceptive could be determined to be criminal: IUDs that prevent implantation and birth control pills that may prevent implantation (that’s not their primary mode of action) could be declared illegal. Proponents of the initiative claim that it will not, but they are being disingenuous and denying the known behaviors of the fanatical ‘pro-life’ crowd. You know some raving Catholic or devout Baptist will use this law as a lever to ban every potential instrument of family planning that hinders the hegemony of the patriarchy.

It also denies the reality of Mississippi.

It’s the most conservative state in the nation. Planned Parenthood (which doesn’t even provide abortions in its one clinic here) and the ACLU are dirty words. Where there were once seven abortion clinics in the state, the one remaining flies in a doctor from out of state. As for supporting life, Mississippi’s infant mortality rate is the worst of any state in the nation. The number of babies who die as infants in Mississippi is double the number of abortions annually. It also has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy nationwide, alongside a child welfare system that remains dangerously broken.)

If they really cared about babies, all their energy would be spent correcting that abysmal infant mortality rate. But they don’t. They care about god and public piety, nothing more.

This law is not about bringing public policy in line with the scientific evidence — the people behind it do not have a record of ever caring about that. This is pure religious illogic.

Imbuing fertilized eggs with rights isn’t a serious philosophical position, it’s a convenient rhetorical tactic to justify subjugating women.

It’s madness.