4.02.2008

Where does the Darwin Hitler connection come from?

Richard Weikart. From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. xi + 312 pp. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $59.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-4039-6502-8.

http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=37981105462766

Weikart goes so far as to assert that "in philosophical terms, Darwinism was a necessary, but not a sufficient, cause for Nazi ideology" (p. 9). As the book portrays it, Darwinism's causal role lay in undermining Christian ethics, which would otherwise have held as the last bastion against Nazism, no matter how many other causes were working in Hitler's favor. I suppose this is also the rationalization for leaving all those other causes out of the book. There is of course no way to investigate what would have happened without Darwinism, or even to imagine the modern world without any challenges to pre-modern Christian doctrines. Perhaps Nazism could have been avoided, as Weikart asserts. Perhaps it would only have had to appropriate less biological rhetoric and more of some other sort.

Do I need to say anything about this? There are underlying assumptions that are unsupportable as well as a flawed understanding of Natural Selection that is just plain wrong.

4-15-2008 Addition to post.
War in Heaven/Heaven on Earth: Theories of the Apocalyptic (Millennialism & Society)

War in Heaven/Heaven on Earth: Theories of the Apocalyptic (Millennialism & Society) by Stephen D. O'Leary and Glen S. McGhee

A chapter by David Redles that is meticulously researched outlines the motivations of Adolph Hitler.

Instead of theorizing about influences, Redles offers Hitler in his own words. A moving portrait of a man who believed in God first and foremost. A believer in God's plan for his people. A believer in the essential Jewishness of the bolshevics. A believer in destiny and in sterilizing his environment for the eventual entry of his people into God's embrace.

One of the problems I see with the Weikart book that the religious right and Ben Stein use is where he goes light on the essential fallacy of "Jewish bolshevism" which is Hitler's acceptance of the false origins of the bolshevics from what were evidently very poor sources.

Redles understands that understanding Charles Darwin's theory sheds no light on the Third Reich at all. Weikart says that there are several kinds of darwinism which is his way out as although he identifies an influence from the eugenics movement in Hitler's racial improvement theory, he also says it has darwinist influences.

Does it? Does it really? Darwinism doesn't describe what Hitler wanted to do to other people. Darwinism isn't even what he tried to do to the volk. But I can see why people who don't understand Natural Selection think so.

Conclusion? If Hitler was a "darwinist" then so were Jim Jones, Marshall Herff Applewhite (Heaven's Gate), and David Koresh. Hitler took the added precaution of eliminating others prior to ascending. Sterilizing the soil before planting new seed. Is that significant? Not unless you want to twist it yet again and turn it against innocent people.

Weikart himself says this about his book:
These scholars apparently are unaware that I wrote a previous book, Socialist Darwinism: Evolution in German Socialist Thought from Marx to Bernstein, in which I explained the reception of Darwinism by German socialists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. No, all Darwinism didn't lead to Nazism, and I of all people know this quite well. If my critics skipped the introduction of my book, they could also have learned my views in the conclusion, where I stated: "It would be foolish to blame Darwinism for the Holocaust, as though Darwinism leads logically to the Holocaust. No, Darwinism by itself did not produce Hitler's worldview, and many Darwinists drew quite different conclusions from Darwinism for ethics and social thought than did Hitler." (p. 232)
This quote comes from his academic website.

2 comments:

  1. I saw your comment on Panda's Thumb. Wikipedia offers an explanation.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Darwin#Eugenics

    ReplyDelete
  2. Perhaps I should have mentioned the origin of eugenics. Eugenics is however not the offspring of Charles Darwin or of evolutionary theory in my view.

    ReplyDelete