Darwinism and Hitler
(This article was first published on my blog on the 23rd of August 2007).
The BCSE's "Research"
(Jump to the heading "And Now..." to skip the pre-amble about the BCSE's research in general).
This article is an examination of some more of the BCSE's "research". In science, the quality of your research and the inferences you draw from it is crucial. However, in previous investigations, we've shown the BCSE's minds are made up long before that stage: the point of the evidence is not to draw us towards a rational conclusion, but to form the raw material for smearing and slandering anyone who questions materialist dogma in general or Darwinism in particular.
I've not generally wanted to document the errors of any of the BCSE's articles in detail, because that would normally involve dragging someone's reputation through the mud again by repeating the BCSE's innuendos. But there have still been good opportunities to document the appalling quality of the BCSE's research:
What to make of this abysmal incompetence? It isn't particularly surprising, because as we've documented many times, the BCSE is not a collection of experienced researchers who have credible publication records. They are simply a group of self-publicising con-men who have given themselves a grand sounding name and seek to use it to trick the public and the politicians. Essentially, it's a false appeal to authority - you receive a letter from them, and you're meant to think it's from the experts, because you wouldn't suspect that anyone would be so audacious as to pose as a national centre of expertise with hardly a relevant qualification to go round between them.
Now I present an article written by Mr. Andrew Sibley of the "Creation Science Movement" (CSM). The CSM is one of the world's longest running anti-Darwinism movements, and its first president was Sir Ambrose Fleming, the inventor of the thermionic valve and hence the pioneer of modern electronics. Another obvious clown who forgot to spot that Darwinism is the basis of all true scientific progress. ;-)
I'm grateful to Andrew for sending me this article. It deals with a particular piece of research on the BCSE's site entitled "Charles Darwin and Adolf Hitler". This piece, written by BCSE chairman Mr. Michael Brass, seeks to deal with the question of whether the "science" (as it was then considered) of eugenics in general and Hitler's own plans for breeding a "Master Race" and eliminating the unfit (especially Jews in the "Final Solution" of the Holocaust) in particular were inspired by and/or a logical conclusion of Darwinian thought. This is a very legitimate and obvious question. If Darwinism teaches that the struggle up from bacteria to human beings was achieved solely through genetic selection, then the question arises - "and may we not progress much further through giving help to this selective process?". Hitler sought to help the selective process along by sending the disabled, gypsy and Jews to a premature death, that the pure Aryan "race" might rise to greater heights unhindered by admixture with inferior genes. His implementation of this idea was horrific; but the question is, can the logic which leads to such actions be faulted? Whether it causes us to feel moral outrage or not, is it rational and reasonable? Is our moral outrage itself irrational? Why did eugenics become an accepted part of science in the early 20th century?
You won't, unfortunately, learn the answers to any of these questions from Mr. Brass's article. Mr. Brass's aim is solely to discredit opponents of Darwinism, whatever subject or evidence is under discussion. Brass restricts his investigation to cherry-picking four short quotes out of Mein Kampf, adds a couple of Internet links, and then concludes "It is clear then, once again, creationists ... have opted to flog a dead horse." Maybe that's clear to Mr. Brass, but...
There's no examination or even quotation of any contrary arguments; no discussion of the primary source material that tells a different story, and no indication that Brass even knows it exists. For sources, we get the distinct impression that Brass used Google to tag on a couple of links after he'd written the piece - none of them are primary sources at all. The reader of Brass's article could come away not even knowing that eugenics existed. Brass did, however, find space in his word limit to irrelevantly laud Darwinism as "the framework for all biological sciences". His conclusion on the "key roots" of the Holocaust? According to Brass, Hitler was seeking to implement a particular vision of Christianity.
Right! Not exactly a surprise to discover that conclusion given what we know about the BCSE. And Brass's reference for this claim? An anonymous, 1 page article on the Internet, collected by a Darwinist activist with no other discernible qualifications in the area. Great stuff!
I invite all readers to have a look at Brass's article for themselves. Anyone who's ever made the slightest effort to interact with primary sources and document claims will know pretty quickly how to evaluate this piece of output: http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/DarwinAndHitler
Get On With It!
Ah yes! The article kindly sent me by Mr. Sibley. Here it is. The contrast in the areas I've pointed above with the BCSE's output hardly needs to be pointed out. The conclusions speak for themselves. All, from this point onwards, is Andrew Sibley.
Hitler’s link with Darwinism
Mike Brass of the British Centre for Science Education has produced a short piece entitled ‘Charles Darwin and Adolf Hitler’, which attempts to show that Hitler was not influenced by Darwinism. But does this claim fit with what is known about Darwinism and Hitler?
Brass claims that Hitler was not influenced by Darwin and provides apparent religious quotes from Mein Kampf, [My Struggle] where Hitler asserts for instance that he is acting with the will of the ‘Almighty Creator’ (Hitler 1933:262). It is well known that Hitler used religious language in this way in his speeches and writing, and often appealed to German national sentiment that linked the established Lutheran church with his nationalistic agenda. However, it was Hitler’s skilful use of rhetoric that blinded so many to his very un-Christian cause, although a number of German Protestant scholars, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Karl Barth signed the Barmen Declaration, and reject Hitler’s fascism.
Was Hitler influenced by Darwin?
Sir Arthur Keith for one thought that Hitler was an evolutionist. He comments
'‘The leader of Germany is an evolutionist not only in theory, but, as millions know to their cost, in the rigor of its practice. For him the national “front” of Europe is also the evolutionary “front”; he regards himself, and is regarded, as the incarnation of the will of Germany, the purpose of that will being to guide the evolutionary destiny of its people. (Keith 1946:9)''
In order to understand Hitler it is necessary to look beyond the simple rhetoric that has blinded Mike Brass. Hitler was in fact a pantheist believing that nature and god were one and the same with nature giving creative power over itself. This was a tradition in German philosophy stretching back to Spinoza, and Darwin’s German acquaintance Ernst Haeckel was for instance a pantheistic monist. This pantheism comes out in Hitler’s comments.
‘No more than Nature desires the mating of weaker with stronger individuals, even less does she desire the blending of a higher with a lower race, since, if she did, her whole work of higher breeding, over perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, might be ruined with one blow…When man attempts to rebel against the iron logic of Nature, he comes into struggle with the principles to which he himself owes his existence as a man.’ (Hitler 1933:260)
No, there is only one holiest human right, and this right is at the same time the holiest obligation, to wit, to see to it that the blood is preserved pure and, by preserving the best humanity, to create the possibility of a nobler development of these beings. …and finally to put an end to the constant and continuous original sin of racial poisoning, and to give to the Almighty Creator beings such as He Himself created.’ (Hitler 1933:262)
In other words, for Hitler, the ‘iron logic of Nature,’ was the process of evolution, or ‘the principles to which he himself owes his existence as a man.’ For Hitler, nature, through the process of evolution was one and the same as ‘Almighty God,’ because he believed Nature had creative power over itself. Hitler also hated Christianity, claiming that he wish to abolish it.
‘I do insist on the certainty that sooner or later—once we hold power—Christianity will be overcome and the German church, without a Pope and without the Bible, and Luther, if he could be with us, would give us his blessing’ (Hitler 1942:369).
Can we link Hitler directly to Darwin?
There are likely a number of links from Darwinism to Hitler’s fascism, but perhaps the most notable is through Charles Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton. Darwin himself corresponded with Ernst Haeckel, but it was Galton who developed eugenics and was converted to atheism through Darwin’s Origins book. Galton wrote to Darwin shortly after publication of Origins that he felt.
‘…initiated into an entirely new province of knowledge…Its effect was to demolish a multitude of dogmatic barriers by a single stroke, and arouse a spirit of rebellion against all ancient authorities whose positive and unauthenticated statements were contradicted by modern science.’ (Galton: 1908:287)
Galton’s eugenics work written in Heredity Genius has come in for severe criticism with Brookes for instance commenting that ‘Galton’s central thesis’ was ‘deeply flawed’ and notable for ‘its lack of objectivity’ (Brookes 2004:142). But many were won over to eugenics. Galton wanted to improve the human race believing this is what nature (i.e. evolution) determined. He didn’t have much respect for democracy either.
‘It is the obvious course of intelligent men – and I venture to say it should be their religious duty – to advance in the direction whither Nature is determined they shall go, that is towards the improvement of the race….But it [Democracy] goes farther than this, for it asserts than men are of equal value as social units, equally capable of voting, and the rest. This feeling is undeniably wrong and cannot last.’ (Galton 1873:119,127)
It is interesting to note from the above how closely Hitler’s writing reflects the writing of Galton. One of Galton’s German supporters was Alfted Ploetz. Eugenics began to take off in Germany, and in 1904 Galton received a letter from Alfred Ploetz who founded a journal of eugenics in Germany entitled Archiv fǘr Rassen – und Gesellschaftesbiologie. Ploetz wrote to Galton that ‘We take the highest interest in your eminent and important Eugenics’ (Brookes 2004:275).
A year later Ploetz founded the German Society for Race Hygiene in Berlin. Heinrich Himmler also publicly embraced the eugenics of Alfred Ploetz, Galton’s German admirer (Brookes 2004:289). Whereas Brass comments from a preface to Mein Kampf that Hitler picked up many of his racist and fascist ideas from catholic Vienna, Weikart asserts that time spent in Munich played an important part in Hitler’s thinking (Weikart 2004:221).
According to Weikart, Ploetz was active in Munich and although there is no clear evidence that Hitler met Ploetz, both were close friends of Julius Lehmann, a publisher of medical, racist and eugenic material. Lehmann was a leading member of Ploetz’s organisation and publisher of the German nationalistic journal Deutschlands Erneuerung. Lehmann had been interested in eugenics from the 1890s and joined the German Society for Race Hygiene prior to 1914. During the 1920s Lehmann had regular contact with Hitler, and was at this time publishing racist and eugenic material (Weikart 2004:221).
Was Darwinism a purely scientific theory?
It is noteworthy that Darwin was influenced by social and political thought in writing, such as work by Malthus on population growth, Adam Smith on free economics and a general Victorian attitude to liassez-faire economics. Darwin’s theory also influenced the social Darwinist Herbert Spencer, who coined the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ and justified exploitation of workers. As such the assertion that Darwin’s theory was a purely scientific theory is not entirely plausible. Himmelfarb for instance notes that.
‘The theory of natural selection, it is said, could only have originated in England, because only laissez-faire England provided atomistic, egotistic mentality necessary to its conception. Only there could Darwin have blandly assumed that the basic unit was the individual, the basic instinct self-interest, and the basic activity struggle. Spengler, described the Origin as “the application of economics to biology”, said that it reeked of the atmosphere of the English factory…natural selection arose…in England because it was a perfect expression of Victorian “greed-philosophy”, of the capitalist ethic and Manchester economics.’ (Himmelfarb 1962:418).
Despite the assertions of Mike Brass, it is quite clear that there is a link between Darwinism and Hitler’s fascism through for instance Francis Galton’s eugenics, although it is not established that this was Charles Darwin’s intention. However, Darwin took ideas from economics and applied them to biology, and did not object to Herbert Spencer and Francis Galton applying those biological ideas of evolution back to society. As such Darwinism cannot be seen as a purely scientific concept, but was a theory of its time embedded within Victorian economic, political and social thought.
It is also regrettable that the British Centre for Science Education has produced such a poor piece of research that overlooks the mountain of evidence that exists that shows the influence that Darwinism had on Hitler’s brand of fascism. Such poor quality research damages their claim to be representatives of good standards in British education.
Brookes, M. (2004) Extreme Measures: The Dark Visions and Bright Ideas of Francis Galton, Bloomsbury Publ. Plc. London.