Did you know that Charles Darwin caused the Vietnam War? The Answers Research Journal says so!
Darwinism was a major influence on those persons who birthed, inspired, and supported the Vietnam War. This includes Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Ho Chi Minh. Charles Darwin’s (1809–1882) ideas helped to guide these leaders to Social Darwinism, which was an underpinning of the Communist and the National Socialist (Nazi) ideologies. Darwinism also played a central role in contributing to the conditions that eventually led to the American involvement in the Vietnam War, including the Communist Movement. The decade-long war, from 1965 to 1975, cost as much as three million lives during the time the U.S. was involved.
Darwinism, especially Social Darwinism, played a central role in contributing to the conditions leading to the communist domination of North Vietnam. Social Darwinism is the belief in the importance of the “survival of the fittest”—the idea that certain people are innately better than other people. Marxism, the political and economic theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, was developed by their followers to form the basis for the theory and practice of communism. Darwinism is a biological theory of the origin of different life-forms through the natural selection of life forms better able to survive their environment. In contrast, Social Darwinism, is a consequence and progression of Darwin’s theory best summarized as “survival of the fittest.” Social Darwinism is an underpinning of communism and National Socialist (Nazi) ideology.
It’s a Jerry Bergman production (remember Jerry Bergman?), so it rambles on and on with nothing but bald assertions and a lot of ahistorical nonsense. It scarcely touches on the role of colonialism and capitalism, which all preceded Darwin, and instead what drove the Vietnamese revolutionaries was Darwinism. Not French oppression, not a desire for independence, naw…they read the Origin of Species and bam, decided to overturn the natural order.
It really is typical Bergman. Repetition, repetition, repetition, and I couldn’t finish it.
Owosso Harpist says
As bad as Stupid Idiot’s repetitive claims about the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Matt G says
I have to give this to my students to recognize not only the logical fallacies (appeal to consequences, genetic fallacy), but the fact that it’s pure crap!!
OT: does anyone know the term used to disparage people who combine missionary work with their vacation? Instead of giving the full amount to an established aid group, they go themselves to win points, bragging rights, etc.
“the idea that certain people are innately better than other people”
I suppose Darwin was responsible for slavery and racism in the Americas too.
As for the Vietnam war, after France got its ass kicked, nobody forced the USA to intervene.
The name Bergman is known for surrealistic stuff, so it should not be surprising this rubbish is incomprehensible.
Did Ho Chi Minh play chess a lot?
Akira MacKenzie says
Why are these assholes down on “Social Darwinism?” It’s the foundation of the “free-market capitalist” and anti-welfare-state nonsense that these shits thick is so vital to “freedom.”
It’s because it doesn’t explicitly mention JEEZ-us as an excuse why the poor deserve to starve and the rich deserve their wealth, isn’t it?
Akira MacKenzie says
Also, Darwin “inspired” Stalin? Somebody better tell Lysenko!
Akira MacKenzie says
These Christo-fascist sideshow geeks love to dwell on the “crimes” of the old Soviet Bloc, but they never, ever, consider WHY these people turned to revolution in the first place.
And NO Bible-humpers, the answer isn’t “Satan” or the “JOOOOOOOOOZ.”
Lysenko is a frighteningly apt comparison to the anti-vaxxers and other science deniers.
And that reminds me, Friday will be the 70th anniversary of the death of Stalin.
His tyranny made such an impression on society that it was rather straightforward for Putin to dismantled democracy and re-start the policy of annexations and genocides.
Raging Bee says
“ChatGPT, yell at a cloud about Darwinism and Communism.”
@ ^ birgerjohansson : Huh. I thought that movie oniy came out in .. (cheats by czeching wiki) 2017..
great satirical movie worth watch’n tho..
Yeah, its late here, I’m over-tired, being silly & flip here, sorry~ish.I do know what ya mean.But also.. good movie deserves plug.
@Raging Bee : Weird thing is how much better “Darwinism” (worst aspects & social misunderstandings thereof anyhow) fits Capitalism esp the unrestricted extremer USA style versions of it than socialism does..
Albiet in the real biological, ecological world co-operation is observed to be a better tactic than competition kinda mostky~ish?
What baffles me most is that Social Darwinism is a philosophy of cutthroat competition, which is exactly the opposite of the collective action that is the basis of communism. This is like saying you hate the Nazis because they supported “degenerate race-mixing”; not just wrong, but bafflingly so.
I tend to look at the Viet Nam war as the last gasp of WW2.
@ ^ whheydt : Last gasp of imperialism maybe?
Or precursor to the American invasion of Iraq and Russian invasion of Ukraine?
Or the How many times do we have to demonstrate the limits of military power 101 exhibit 1,001?
@6. Akira MacKenzie : “Also, Darwin “inspired” Stalin?
Someone also better tell Stalin..Oh wait he’s dead and has been all my life..
^ Stalin that is.
Darwin is the NT’s capital a continet of a long way away from me..
Akira MacKenzie says
Ham and Co. are counting on their flock to be what they are: Willfully stupid, inbred, rural-and-suburban, pig-fuckers who thought middle school was a challenge and don’t go in for any of that “book larnin’.” They never took a history or political science course and never will because academics and experts are supposedly Satanic atheist commies who hate JEEZ-us and ‘Murica.
We live in a culture dominated by the fucking Beverly Hillbillies (only without the Beverly).
James Burke’s Day the Universe Changed (episode 8 Fit To Rule) showed that “Nazis” and “Commies” weren’t the only abusive forms of Social Darwinism.
Cutthroat American robber-baron capitalism is just as much a product of abusing Darwin’s words for justifying predatory social behavior as either of the other two. And is just as bad, yet would be absolutely defended by those that still use the phrase to denigrate the other two results.
@12 – the reasoning at the time for each of the 3 (again, summarizing Burke) is what level is the ‘species’.
In the case of American Capitalism, it is all about what benefits the single individual organism, as either the capitalist or the corporation. Being the most “fit” (of course, “fitness” was always a source of confusion, as it gets mixed up with “physically fit” in most people’s minds). A company’s financial success shows their ‘fitness’, and consuming other companies to remove competition is just a demonstration of that. (and fun: just as this was starting to get pushed back by anti-trust movements and Teddy Roosevelt, along comes the religious justification in the form of the ‘prosperity gospel’ to keep things as they were, something supported by both Taft and Wilson, leading us into the 20s and the rot from within)
In the case of Nazi fascism, the subject is race. He was pushing the fitness and superiority of the German-Aryan race over the others. (That most of the traits pushed as ‘superior’ are generally recessive genes?). He never really believed any of it (though others in the party leadership did). It was just a tool to inspire and mobilize people to follow him. Words to say with that charisma we’ll never understand.
In the case of Marx’s communism, the subject is nations and class. The fitness of the nation to survive and thrive only happens when internal predatory factors (oligarchs and dictators, including religious leaders) are removed from the system, through violent revolution if necessary. That was Marx in his purest form and how Lenin originally was inspired by it. Reality (human nature as being easily corruptible) certainly resulted in a total failure to actually implement Marx’s ideas, but that’s a failure in US education – they “teach” that the Soviets implemented a full Marxist system, but reality was it never even got close. Stalin was the total antithesis of the kind of leadership Marx was proposing.
If you’re taking James Burke as an intellectual authority it’s no wonder you’re so confused! Of the three ideologies he (according to you) traces to Social Darwinism, only that underlying minimally regulated (“free market”*) capitalism actually has any significant historical connection to it. Nazi ideology repudiated Darwin in favour of whackos such as Houston Stuart Chamberlain and vitalist woo-woo (and as far as we can tell, Hitler did believe in much of the Nazi ideology). Marx wasn’t much interested in nations: according to him history was all about the struggle between classes, but this had no similarity to the competition (between individuals, corporations and nations/states) which is valorised in Social Darwinism.
*There’s no such thing, as all markets require enforceable rules in order to function, but a lot of people believe or pretend to believe in them.
OT but a while ago PZ did a post about how many newspapers would report your murder/kidnapping based on your race, age, orientation, location, etc. Does anyone still have the link to that page? I could use it for something. Thanks!
I’ve seen the term ‘ego trips’ for those sorts of trips.
I was referring to Burke as the reference for how the phrase “Social Darwinism” got applied to those two ideologies, specifically to address the OP and @12’s question.
Yes, it is ‘garbage’ history to a degree, details are always different than the general public’s impressions. You may say that Nazism and Marxism aren’t forms of “Social Darwinism” and that’s fine. But the impression is that they are associated, as the original excerpt shows.
Yes my summary (from dusty memory from having last seen it 20 something years ago) is a bit off on the Marx one and sorry about that. (he races through that very quickly in the show and words jumbled as i was reconstructing it in my head)
Why didn’t the article point out that Darwin was the direct cause of our Civil War? And why didn’t Lincoln try to avoid it by conferring with Andrew Jackson?
At least the article was right about Darwinism causing the Vietnam conflict (it wasn’t a war as we were constantly reminded). For whatever reason, the Marxists didn’t appreciate capitalist Social Darwinism. They also could have benefitted by contacting Andrew Jackson.
Social Darwinism is more a bad label retrospectively slapped on by Richard Hofstadter for currents during an earlier time period than a tidy term with solid referents in the real world.
Spencerian laissez faire is one such current but if memory serves Spencer was more pacifist than militarist and so maybe a war in Indochina would not be to his particular liking. Oddly enough a gross militaristic nationalism was also called social Darwinism, but militaristic nationalism itself is a sufficient enough label.
The Vietnam War had many factors, French colonialism and rubber plantations for starters. During WWII the US had intelligence officers training Viet Minh so we had contact with Uncle Ho. FDR croaked and Truman didn’t do much for Vietnamese expectations of preventing return of the French. The French were rudely ousted by events like Dien Bien Phu. The US read the room wrong, not realizing centuries of animosity between Vietnamese and China. The Viet Minh were strongly nationalistic.
Some in the know thought Ho another Tito. Instead containment and dominos got us involved in place of the French. I’m not thinking “social Darwinism”, whatever that actually means, played a role. Vietnam itself was forcefit into the Cold War rubric of ideological struggle between welfare state capitalism and Stalinism/Maoism (whatever those terms may actually mean).
Yes, it’s Off Topic, But, I’ll not apologize for interrupting with this (I think and hope PZ approves):
Where to start?
What motivated the Vietnamese was foreign occupation going back many years. The Chinese, the French, the Japanese, the French again, and the Americans, in order. Not the first nor the last time Americans saw themselves as liberating a population, while much of that population saw them as more foreigners to be kicked out. I would recommend Vietnam: a History by Stanley Karnow, but I’m afraid the covers might be too far apart for some people.
“Survival of the fittest,” of course, was not coined by Darwin but by Herbert Spencer.
Darwin’s work showed the advantages of genetic diversity in a population. Any claim that Darwin’s work inspired Hitler is to deliberately misunderstand both.
Alan G. Humphrey says
It looks like Xian projection to me. Consider this: those godless communists getting ready to invade the land of the free and the home of the “In God We Trust”ers, we must kill them there…
@1 The answer to your question about missionaries is…assholes. Assholes do missionary work on their vacation.
As feralboy12 @27 points out, the birth and inspiration of the Vietnam War was imperialism, most directly by the French. After WWI, Ho Chi Minh went to Versailles to seek support for an independent Vietnam from the West. It’s questionable if he could have been turned from communism, but there’s /no/ doubt that Wilson was in a position to push for the French to reconsider colonial holdings in light of their own Revolutionary motto, and French commitment to an independent Vietnam, especially after WW2, would have completely circumvented any need for the war in the first place, as the string of corrupt administrations in the south doesn’t survive without French colonialism.
I think I have Karnow‘s book at home. Is that the companion to the PBS documentary series? They interviewed Archimedes Patti (OSS officer) and a State Department guy (Abbot Low Moffat???) who had great familiarity with Ho in one of the eye-opening early episodes. Fredrik Logevall has written several more recent histories that I’ve read through parts that interested me, such as on the Deer Team mission with Patti.
“In 1943, Moffat resigned his Assembly seat and took a position with the United States Department of State. He served as the head of the Division of Southeast Asian Affairs from 1944-1947 and in 1946 met with Vietnamese nationalist leader Ho Chi Minh. His reports to his superiors cautioned against Washington’s inflexible opposition against nationalist movements in Vietnam and other colonies. Convinced that American statesmen had erred grievously in making anti-communism the cornerstone of postwar foreign policy, he later asserted that it seemed as if the world had been plunged “right back in[to] the wars of religion”. In subsequent years, he was openly critical of American involvement in Vietnam.”
@ Alverant #21
Dont know the post, but the website is https://areyoupressworthy.com/ from the Columbia Journalism Review.
Yes, Karnow’s book was the companion to the PBS series, called, if I remember, Vietnam: a Television History.
I watched the series in the 80s, then ran across the book in my university library a few years later. DeSantis better get on banning that one, too, as it might make white Americans feel bad.
A few years after that, my daughter was using it as a textbook for a college class, and I had the prideful pleasure of telling her that I’d read it.
Another contributing factor in America’s entry into the “conflict” was a complete misreading of Vietnamese culture and willingness to keep fighting a technologically superior power, which resulted in part from the American government’s lack of experts on Asian culture and history, which itself resulted from the McCarthy era branding of such experts as commie sympathizers. A lot of people who should have known better thought them Viet Cong would just give up when the Americans showed up.
It’s been roughly 20 years since I did a deep dive on Vietnam, using those awesome PBS videos as one of my main sources. Some of it is foggy now, but I recall Vietnamese having culturally inherited a fierce xenophobic streak, not fond of getting fucked with by foreigners. The US was but another contender among previous others. The Vietnamese, or whatever their ancestors were going by at the time, pulled no punches with Mongols. So yeah, not fond of outsiders much!
Weirdly the US has come full circle and Vietnam could serve somewhat as an ally vis a vis China as those two have some issues so to speak.
Raging Bee says
@26: “My species has several anatomical oddities. Wanna see some more?” Sounds like a great pickup line…at least if you’re in that saloon in “Star Wars” on singles night…
Raging Bee says
Another contributing factor in America’s entry into the “conflict” was a complete misreading of Vietnamese culture and willingness to keep fighting a technologically superior power…
They seem to have also misread, or forgot, the experience of our own Revolution, in which much the same thing happened.
Two movies I loved when learning about our involvement with Vietnam were The Quiet American (2002!!!) and We Were Soldiers. Neither did full justice to the books, but were pretty good. Say what you will about Gibson the offscreen shitshow, but he’s an impressive filmmaker (except for the Passion snuff film). The tall Whisperer guy from The Walking Dead starred in We Were Soldiers. It did a reasonable both sides perspective of what was a horrific early battle in the war.
Akira MacKenzie says
I got a feeling that if Karl had been a handsome blonde-haired Christian instead of a rough-looking atheist of Jewish descent, Marxism would be A LOT more popular in the western world than it is.
At the end of WW2, Ho Chi Minh approached the US and asked for assistance in keeping Chinese expansion at bay. He even started his 1945 speech declaring the independence of Vietnam with words straight from the US Declaration of Independence
It’s a fascinating document, and I urge anyone with an interest in modern history to read it.
Of course we have the benefit of hindsight, and there were a few genuinely reasonable objections to allying with Ho Chi Minh, but what is perpetually astonishing (and what prompted Barbara Tuchman to include the Vietnam War as one of the great self-inflicted disasters of history in The March of Folly — highly recommended btw) is not just the missed opportunity, it’s looking at what the US decided to do instead.
The US chose to support a southern state that was created by the French wanting to reclaim their lost empire with military assistance from the British army — nothing more than a return to the old evils of European colonialism. Even from a purely strategic perspective, this was a bad situation. South Vietnam only existed because of French ambitions, which evaporated after the embarrassment of the First Indochina War. SV had no immediate geographical allies so was always going to need external support to survive. As with all colonial enterprises, it was inevitably corrupt, ruled by a recycled king whose main political goal was entrenching the interests of wealthy landowners, managed by a merry-go-round of military dictators mostly appointed by coup, and by the mid-1960s when the US formally waded in with direct military involvement, had quite obviously lost the support of its own populace. This is the regime the US decided to back.
John Morales says
Alverant @21, https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2023/01/13/im-a-16/
Thanks for that clarification. This sentence @18:
suggested that Burke, and you, actually considered Nazism and Communism “abusive forms of Social Darwinism”. I remember Burke from way back as presenter of the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World. I thought in his first Connections series he’d wandered rather into “pretentious wally” territory and haven’t followed his career since, so I may be misjudging him. He’s apparently still active at 86.
To sum all instances of what the sort who push this kind of nonsense get wrong, “You have it all f-ing backwards!” lol
Just watched a vid one Ape hierarchies, for example, for them, the “leaders” are empathetic, try to minimize fights, work to reconcile when conflict does happen, and the ones that don’t do this, i.e., the “Me first” bullies, tend to end up dead for some strange reason. But… damn sure that 100% of the Bergman’s of the world, even if they pretend to follow Jesus, also think that the “dominant male in society is the asshole, who doesn’t give an F about anyone else. And its Darwin’s fault when these people somehow, eventually, end up dead too.”
I’m currently writing a review of If Then: How One Data Company Invented the Future by Jill Lepore. Its focus, and my interest, is on the early use of computers in social science, particularly a company called “Simulmatics”. It’s an annoying book, because Lepore never describes in any detail how Simulmatics used computers – although I’ve found that that information is available in papers written at the time, which she must have read; and she appears to consider social science as a whole simultaneously impossible and evil. But Simulmatics did get involved in Vietnam, although apparently only through interviewing Vietnamese civilians and supposed National Liberation Front for South Vietnam (“Viet Cong”) defectors, rather than any fancy (for the time) use of computers such as they undertook in relation to US domestic politics, and seems to have contributed to the massive self-delusion of American politicians and military leaders.
Yes, chimpanzee hierarchies show that the males with prestige just below the big guy often gang together and kill him when they have had enough.
Chimp Jerry Bergman and others that have misubderstood biology would have a poor prognosis.
doctorworm@12 your comment makes me think of a dummy I saw on Twitter who stated that the first things fascists do when they get into power is impose communism.