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Historian Richard Weikart on how Darwinism eroded the value of human life

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Along with other ideologies:

Since the Enlightenment many secular ideologies have contributed to the devaluing of human life by arguing that human life is the product of chance processes. This has led to the erosion of the Judeo-Christian sanctity-of-life ethic, spawning the present “culture of death,” where many intellectuals accept abortion, infanticide, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. Peter Saunders, Chief Executive, International Christian Medical and Dental Association (ICMDA), interviews Richard Weikart, Professor of Modern European History, California State University Stanislaus, on these ideologies and a Christian response to them. (2018)

Richard Weikart, “Darwin, Hitler, and the Modern Devaluation of Human Life” at Forum of Christian Leaders

Darwinism situated human beings firmly as animals, which meant what it must mean.

See also: Richard Weikart: Is life a cosmic accident

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11 Replies to “Historian Richard Weikart on how Darwinism eroded the value of human life

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    For me, this is quite a revealing video because shows that, whatever Weikart’s reputation as an historian, he is clearly pursuing a fairly standard anti-evolutionary agenda which must call into question his evaluation of the role played by Darwinian theory in the emergence of Nazism in Germany.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Seversky, I have seen you constantly trying to argue that the Darwinian worldview does not devalue human life. ,,, And yet I have also seen you arguing for abortion. So which is it?

    Or do you somehow think that your Darwinian worldview did not have any effect whatsoever in how you formed your present belief on abortion?

    Might I suggest that the shoe is squarely on the other foot in regards to your criticism of Weikart?

  3. 3
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Seversky

    For me, this is quite a revealing video because shows that, whatever Weikart’s reputation as an historian, he is clearly pursuing a fairly standard anti-evolutionary agenda which must call into question his evaluation of the role played by Darwinian theory in the emergence of Nazism in Germany.

    This should apply to anyone who pursues a standard anti-Christian agenda when they speak about crimes that occur in Christian cultures.

  4. 4
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Since the Enlightenment many secular ideologies have contributed to the devaluing of human life by arguing that human life is the product of chance processes.

    Darwin was merely part of that trend.

    Darwinism situated human beings firmly as animals, which meant what it must mean.

    Exactly. It’s like Bill Nye shouting “I suck”. That’s the point. You’re the product of blind, meaningless, indifferent physical forces that have no interest in whether you are here or not.

    Christianity elevated the value of human life by an enormous (infinite actually) degree. So, it is proper to say that human life has been de-valued by ideas which have come later.

  5. 5
    Seversky says:

    Bornagain77 @ 2

    Seversky, I have seen you constantly trying to argue that the Darwinian worldview does not devalue human life. ,,, And yet I have also seen you arguing for abortion. So which is it?

    The unspoken part of claims about value is to whom is the thing of value since in my view “value”, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

    Certain metals and minerals, such as platinum or diamonds, are valuable to us because of their relative rarity and their uses in our technologies. On a planet where they were much more common and the native civilization did not use them in their technologies they would probably not be highly valued.

    When there are claims that human life has somehow been devalued by the advent of atheism or secularism or the theory of evolution, I tend to reject them on the grounds that, as an a/mat, I value human life highly. In fact, I would argue that atheists value it more than believers because, in the atheist view, this is the only life we get. That makes each individual life rare, to say the least. And we don’t have any comforting belief in a better afterlife as a fallback position.

    And, as I have argued before, the Christian claim to value life is belied by the stories in the Old Testament of what we would now consider to be atrocities. In the story of the Great Flood, for example, God wipes out all human life on Earth save for a chosen handful. That is far more than any 20th century regime even came close to achieving and it was supposedly committed by an omniscient and omnipotent deity who, we assume, very much had the power to do otherwise if He chose. And it is hardly evidence that He valued human life much.

    I grant that most Christians today would repudiate those OT atrocities as neither something that present-day Christians would do nor anything they would endorse. The legitimate question then becomes, that being the case, why haven’t they been expunged from the Bible? There is no preface to the Old Testament which includes a warning that some of the stories are only included as examples of how Christians should not behave. We have to assume, therefore, that those Christians who compiled the Old Testament both approved themselves and believed God approved of the events described.

    And that presents a fundamental, although hardly new, challenge to the values the faith espouses.

    And yet I have also seen you arguing for abortion. So which is it?

    My position on abortion is that I believe the individual human being’s right to life should cover the whole of that individual’s existence as a living being so I would prefer that abortion should be reserved for medical emergencies. However, that would entail providing much better support, both financial and emotional for the mother.

    The problem with lurid references to holocausts and murder is that some people need to be reminded forcefully that abortion involves two individuals and in the current state of the law only one has rights. If you change that to make abortion a crime you are then in the position that you are compelling a woman to carry to term a pregnancy she does not want, with all the physical and psychological harm that could entail. Moreover, if you shame here verbally for wanting such a thing and even use force to restrain her you could be committing assault and battery against the woman apart from other violations of her rights. Do you believe you are entitled to commit such crimes against another human being? Does Christianity value a zygote more than it does an adult woman?

    Or do you somehow think that your Darwinian worldview did not have any effect whatsoever in how you formed your present belief on abortion

    The theory of evolution, whether in Darwin’s original or in its current form, had no influence on my views on abortion nor on any other question of morals and ethics. You cannot argue from what is to what ought to be.

    Might I suggest that the shoe is squarely on the other foot in regards to your criticism of Weikart?

    You can suggest it. I don’t agree

  6. 6
    Seversky says:

    Silver Asiatic @ 4

    Christianity elevated the value of human life by an enormous (infinite actually) degree.

    As I just pointed out to BA77, evidence from the Old Testament suggests otherwise.

    So, it is proper to say that human life has been de-valued by ideas which have come later.

    As others have pointed out, current taxonomy situates human beings as one of the family Hominidae. We are one amongst several species commonly known as the great apes. Does that “devalue” human beings in some way? I don’t see how. I would no more kill, without good cause, a member of one of the other great ape species than I would a human being. And, to be frank, I value my cats more highly than a do a lot of other human beings.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Seversky, your view on abortion is a minority opinion (87% to 11%) among atheists

    Apparently your high view of human and/or ape life (except when it comes to your cats) does not hold for rank and file atheists.
    https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/religious-family/atheist/views-about-abortion/

    Might I suggest that you are once again deluding yourself?

    Even you yourself admitted there is no more inherent dignity to human life than to apes as far as your Darwinian worldview is concerned.

    That should give you a very big hint that you are wrong in your assessment of the situation.

  8. 8
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Silver Asiatic: Christianity elevated the value of human life by an enormous (infinite actually) degree.
    Seversky As I just pointed out to BA77, evidence from the Old Testament suggests otherwise.

    There is a misunderstanding here. You are citing various events where people die and using that as evidence that human life was not valued. But that’s missing the point. Christianity elevated the value of human life by:
    — teaching that human beings are Created by a Loving God, made in the Image of God, and Destined to live forever with God.
    — teaching that Jesus Christ is God, who became a human being. Thus elevating human life to a Divine Status.

    See the difference? Prior to this, there was nothing like it.

    As others have pointed out, current taxonomy situates human beings as one of the family Hominidae. We are one amongst several species commonly known as the great apes. Does that “devalue” human beings in some way? I don’t see how. I would no more kill, without good cause, a member of one of the other great ape species than I would a human being. And, to be frank, I value my cats more highly than a do a lot of other human beings.

    Well, two things. From the above, previously, human beings are created and loved by God, made in the image of God, to live forever, and God Himself became human. Then, what I call de-valuing human life, gives us human beings that in the family of great apes.

    You take it farther and say that your cat has more value that a lot of human beings.
    In one case, humans are godlike, so sacred and beloved by the perfection of God Himself, that God became a human.
    In the other case, humans are apes. Of the same meaning, origin and purpose as all other animals. Not created by a loving, powerful, knowing Creator of the universe, but formed accidentally from pre-human apes for reasons of survival and reproductive advantage.

    The contrast in those two views is enormous.

  9. 9
    vmahuna says:

    Um, no. Since at least the rise of Civilization (people living in permanent cities), most societies across most of the world have placed damn little value on the lives of anyone not a member of the upper class (which of course includes professional clergy). Famine and disease were accepted facts of life, and the infant mortality rate was 50%. Napoleon’s army at the beginning of the invasion of Russia in 1812 numbered around 1 million people (there were always some number of women associated with an army). When the survivors were reorganized in Poland in the Spring of 1813, the “army” had been reduced to something on the order of 10,000. That’s a 99% loss rate in only 6-9 months. I don’t think you can get any more uncaring about the value of a human life than THAT. Although I read an account of the Moslem attacks on Constantinople in which Christian prisoners were herded into the moat outside the city walls to act as FILL so the siege towers could approach the walls.
    Darwinism came at a time when at least Western countries were beginning to agree that for a reasonably small cost in public sanitation and a few professionally trained doctors, a whole lotta people didn’t HAVE to die before they were 30. That is, Darwinism is coincident with the INCREASE in the perceived value of a human life, at least among your own people. Of course the Industrial Revolution provided nifty new weapons that simplified murdering FOREIGNERS.

  10. 10
    tjguy says:

    Seversky @6
    “And, to be frank, I value my cats more highly than a do a lot of other human beings.”

    Thanks for your honesty. You just proved our point!

  11. 11
    ET says:

    Seversky:

    When there are claims that human life has somehow been devalued by the advent of atheism or secularism or the theory of evolution, I tend to reject them on the grounds that, as an a/mat, I value human life highly.

    That settles it, then, NOT. I reject you on the grounds that you spew nonsense. And anyone who is OK with abortions obviously does NOT value human life

    In the story of the Great Flood, for example, God wipes out all human life on Earth save for a chosen handful.

    Otherwise no one would be here now.

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