WWII was comprehensible as adaptations of the lineages in question. Christ.

I guess Richard Dawkins has limits on where he’ll allow the Intellectual Dork Web to take him. This is a conversation between Dawkins and Bret Weinstein, from a Pangburn debate a few years ago, where Weinstein rambles insanely about World War II as an exercise in population genetics, as if “German”, “Jew”, and “Russian” are distinct, non-overlapping sets of alleles marching off to replace each other.

…you had the Fatherland effectively raping Mother Russia … what this was was a lineage level phenomenon in which a population [Germans] went after two other populations [Jews and Russians] …understood from the perspective of German genes, vile as these behaviors were, they were completely comprehensible from the level of fitness.

That is nuts. “German genes”…what “German genes” acquired an advantage by murdering their neighbors? This is extreme reductionism assembled on a framework of simplistic and false assumptions. It is embarrassing that a biologist would flaunt his ass this nakedly.

One good thing about it is that at least Richard Dawkins demonstrates some good sense. He looks very uncomfortable during Weinstein’s monolog, and manages to utter a hesitant, mild rebuke of the former Evergreen College professor.

I think nationalism might be an even greater evil than religion. And I’m not sure that it’s actually very helpful to talk about it in Darwinian terms.

It was a net gain for Evergreen to get rid of that guy.

The creationist Paul Nelson reviewed the debate, and sad to say, chose to chide Dawkins for being insufficiently Darwinian…because Nelson seems to share with Weinstein a cartoonish version of evolution. Good work, Weinstein, you’ve got the Discovery Institute on your side.


  1. says

    After the Red Army killed and raped its way across Germany, and wave of American troops established occupation, there was a wave of pregnancies. Is he saying that was some subtle eugenic strategy? If so, whose?

    The Hundred Years’ war, Mongol invasion, Napoleonic Wars, WWI and WWII took care of any pure “blood lines” that might have existed in someone’s rotisserie-league breeding program. A real ubermensch would understand regression toward the mean, wouldn’t they?

  2. nomdeplume says

    Somewhere I have seen a video of the changes in European nations and their boundaries over the last 1000 years (not sure, might be more), It shows a compkex shifting kaleidoscope of coloured patches that shrink and expand and appear and disappear. Perhaps Weinstein might be encouraged to watch it before talking nonsense about the application of Herbert Spencer to World War 2, and suggesting that the nations as they existed in 1939 were equivalent to species.

  3. A Sloth named Sparkles says

    But why did Dawkins invite him in the first place, beyond “Freeze Peach, Right or Wrong!” or “Enemy of my enemy”?

    But then, this isn’t his first wheelhouse. Remember him tweeting about Geert Wilders & the English Defense League?

  4. hemidactylus says

    @5- nomdeplume

    What exactly do you mean by “application of Herbert Spencer to World War 2” in terms of the OP?

  5. chrislawson says

    OMG. ‘German’ and ‘Russian’ aren’t even lineages and ‘Jewish’ is far too complex to be defined by genetics.

    Weinstein’s argument implies a ‘homosexual lineage’, a ‘communist lineage’, a ‘Spanish Republican in occupied France lineage’, an ‘Esperanto-speaking lineage’, and a ‘German political dissident lineage’ since these groups were also murdered or sent to concentration camps during WW2.

    In 1938, several million people in the Sudetenland suddenly became of ‘German lineage’ without a single codon of DNA exchange. For quite some time ‘Italian lineage’ was considered good in Germany. After the Italian surrender in 1943, suddenly ‘Italian lineage’ became a reason to be sent to concentration camps along with all the other ‘lineages’ Weinstein seems to think Nazi Germany was decimating for adaptive reasons.

  6. chrislawson says

    Also, adaptation implies a reproductive advantage. How exactly did WW2 improve the success of the ‘German lineage’?

  7. chrislawson says

    Third, as quoted, ‘WW2 was comprehensible as adaptations…’ means that WW2 was a phenotype. Apparently the ‘German lineage’ genes were expressed somatically as a world war.

  8. stroppy says

    “…completely comprehensible from the level of fitness….”

    Or so Nazis would no doubt argue to this day. Why is this Weinstein guy saying this shit? Is he just stupid? What am I missing?

  9. hemidactylus says

    @11- nomdeplume

    So Herbert Spencer advocated a clash of nations militarism that was tantamount to lineage selection undergirded by eugenic promotion of beneficial alleles or elimination of deleterious alleles? Herbert Spencer? Really? The Lamarckian Spencer?

    Sounded like social darwinism is a very confusing trope. It applies to WWI German clash of nations militarism. It applies to the eugenics promoted by herd management conservationists like Madison Grant who influenced Hitler. It also applies incongruously to callous proto-Randroid ‘fuck the poor’ asshats like the pacifist anti-imperialist Herbert Spencer.

    What Weinstein was rambling about, in as much as I tried to make sense of it and Dawkins very charitably tried to drop the subject, is not Spencerism. Egads!

  10. nomdeplume says

    @14 Well, I stand by it. Spencer was also into the evolution of society and social systems. But more generally it seems to me Spencer, and Weinstein above, fall into the same trap of applying population evolution to societies, as if the processes of change were the same. But maybe I have misunderstood what Weinstein is on about – always a possibility these days…

  11. hemidactylus says

    @15- nomdeplume

    Getting kinda vague. Dawkins spawned a cottage industry of applying population evolution concepts to societies. Is that social Darwinism too? Granted I find memetics to suffer greatly from the curse of disanalogy.

  12. Phrenomythic Productions says

    You feel that breeze, Richard Dawkins? It’s from the Alt-Right funnel trying to suck you in too!

  13. doubtthat says

    I’m having trouble understanding what this genetic theory of WWII adds to the discussion (other than it just being wrong).
    Like, he seems to recognize that the Jewish population and Russia had, you know, resources and shit the Germans wanted (while failing to understand how Judaism and the Bolsheviks were used as scapegoats and propaganda targets…). So, what does this genetic craving add beyond the conventional explanations?
    Are we puzzled by why Hitler invaded Russia and need to posit some bizarre gene-level craving?

  14. doubtthat says

    I would also like to advance a general skepticism that “Darwinism” explains warfare (whatever that means).
    Did Hitler have more kids because he invaded France and Russia? Again, looking at this genetically, how did this enhance his ability to pass on genetic material?
    Because it sure as hell didn’t enhance the survivability of Germans, in general, even if they “won” or achieved some sort of armistice, vs. total destruction. I would say the chance of passing on one’s genes was significantly less for all participants of Operation Barbarossa than it was for someone hanging out at the house in, say, Switzerland.

  15. says

    German genes. You know, German, as in “the piece of land every conquering, occupying and retreating army came through in the last few millenia”.