Richard Weikart summarizes his devastating research into the Darwinian foundations of Nazis – and the continuation of those themes by modern evolutionists.
Darwin and the Nazis
By Richard Weikart Published 4/16/2008 12:07:03 AM American Spectator
Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, and some other Darwinists are horrified that the forthcoming documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, will promote Intelligent Design to a large audience when it opens at over a thousand theaters nationwide on April 18. Ironically, their campaign to discredit Ben Stein and the film confirms its main point, which is to expose the persecution meted out by Darwinists to those daring to criticize Darwinian theory.
One aspect of Expelled that troubles Dawkins and some of his colleagues is its treatment of the ethical implications of Darwinism, especially its discussion of the historical connections between Darwinism and Nazism. Isn’t this a bit over-the-top, suggesting that Darwinism has something to do with Nazism? After all, Darwinists today are not Nazis, and Darwinism has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.
However, what is most objectionable about the Nazis’ worldview? Isn’t it that they had no respect for human life? Their rejection of the sanctity of human life led the Nazi regime to murder millions of Jews, hundreds of thousands of Gypsies, and about 200,000 disabled Germans. Where did the Nazis get the idea that some human beings were “lives unworthy of life”?
As I show in meticulous detail in my book, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany, the Nazis’ devaluing of human life derived from Darwinian ideology (this does not mean that all Nazi ideology came from Darwinism). There were six features of Darwinian theory that have contributed to the devaluing of human life (then and now):
1. Darwin argued that humans were not qualitatively different from animals. The leading Darwinist in Germany, Ernst Haeckel, attacked the “anthropocentric” view that humans are unique and special.
2. Darwin denied that humans had an immaterial soul. He and other Darwinists believed that all aspects of the human psyche, including reason, morality, aesthetics, and even religion, originated through completely natural processes.
3. Darwin and other Darwinists recognized that if morality was the product of mindless evolution, then there is no objective, fixed morality and thus no objective human rights. Darwin stated in his Autobiography that one “can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones.”
4. Since evolution requires variation, Darwin and other early Darwinists believed in human inequality. Haeckel emphasized inequality to such as extent that he even classified human races as twelve distinct species and claimed that the lowest humans were closer to primates than to the highest humans.
5. Darwin and most Darwinists believe that humans are locked in an ineluctable struggle for existence. Darwin claimed in The Descent of Man that because of this struggle, “[a]t some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.”
6. Darwinism overturned the Judeo-Christian view of death as an enemy, construing it instead as a beneficial engine of progress. Darwin remarked in The Origin of Species, “Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.”
These six ideas were promoted by many prominent Darwinian biologists and Darwinian-inspired social thinkers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. All six were enthusiastically embraced by Hitler and many other leading Nazis. Hitler thought that killing “inferior” humans would bring about evolutionary progress. Most historians who specialize in the Nazi era recognize the Darwinian underpinnings of many aspects of Hitler’s ideology. . . .
Richard Weikart is professor of history at California State University, Stanislaus, and author of From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany (Palgrave Macmillan).