Intelligent Design

What did Hitler believe about evolution?: Lines from a faroff Comments box

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I’m not sure how many people read the Comments to the Post-Darwinist, but some are quite interesting, so I want to draw your attention to a pair of them:

In response to the post on the Coral Ridge TV special on social Darwinism, blogger Steven Carr commented that Hitler was a creationist:

Hitler, of course, believed that mankind was specially created.

Hitler explicity rejected Darwinism and the evolution of man.

From Hitler’s Tischgespraeche for the night of the 25th to 26th 1942 ‘Woher nehmen wir das Recht zu glauben, der Mensch sei nicht von Uranfaengen das gewesen , was er heute ist? Der Blick in die Natur zeigt uns, dass im Bereich der Pflanzen und Tiere Veraenderungen und Weiterbildungen vorkommen. Aber nirgends zeigt sich innherhalb einer Gattung eine Entwicklung von der Weite des Sprungs, den der Mensch gemacht haben muesste, sollte er sich aus einem affenartigen Zustand zu dem, was er ist, fortgebildet haben.’

I shall translate Hitler’s words, as recorded by the stenographer.

‘From where do we get the right to believe that man was not from the very beginning what he is today.

A glance in Nature shows us , that changes and developments happen in the realm of plants and animals. But nowhere do we see inside a kind, a development of the size of the leap that Man must have made, if he supposedly has advanced from an ape-like condition to what he is’ (now)

And in the entry for 27 February 1942 , Hitler says ‘Das, was der Mensch von dem Tier voraushat, der veilleicht wunderbarste Beweis fuer die Ueberlegenheit des Menschen ist, dass er begriffen hat, dass es eine Schoepferkraft geben muss.’

However, Cal State prof Richard Weikart, who specializes in Hitler and the Nazis’ view of Darwinism, responded to Carr, saying:

Stephen Carr has perceptively located a passage from Hitler’s table talks (which were off-the-cuff conversations he held with his colleagues), which seems to deny that humans evolved from apes. If this were all we knew about Hitler’s views on the subject, Mr. Carr would have a strong case; we could conclude that Hitler did not even believe in human evolution (though this same passage implies that he does believe in the evolution of animals and plants).

However, Mr. Carr ignores a multitude of passages in Hitler’s writings (which should carry more weight than off-the-cuff comments) and speeches. In _Mein Kampf_, especially in the chapter, “Nation and Race,” Hitler expostulates on his evolutionary views and their application to humanity. Hitler’s _Second Book_, especially the first two chapters, spend even more time discussing human evolution and the human struggle for existence. And, Mr. Carr also overlooked some passages in the table talks (see Oct. 24, 1941, for example), where Hitler explicitly rejected creationism in favor of evolution.

I should also note that I don’t know of any reputable historians who claim that Hitler was a creationist, but almost all historians admit he was a social Darwinist.

My own view is that the reason for the controversy around films like the Coral Ridge special is precisely the fact that Darwinists have never really dealt with the implications of social Darwinism, so it keeps coming back to them like a bad penny.

While we are on this subject, here are some other recent posts on Hitler/ Hitler fans, social Darwinism, and Darwinism, to add to the mix:

Prof Richard Weikart, again, as horrified by student views on the moral neutrality of Hitler:

A number of years ago two intelligent students surprised me in a class discussion by defending the proposition that Hitler was neither good nor evil. Though I kept my composure, I was horrified. One of the worst mass murderers in history wasn’t evil? How could they believe this? How could they justify such a view?

They did it by appealing to Darwinism.

H.L. Mencken as Hitler fan:

H.L. Mencken, who popularized the view that only the booboisie would oppose Darwinism, supported eugenics. While I am here, I have noticed a tendency in American literati to refuse to face up to the fact the Mencken was a Hitler fan and an anti-democrat, as Terry Teachout shows. I am always hearing excuses, excuses, excuses for Mencken from the lar-di-dah quarters. Why?

Steve Gould on Darwinism as promoting racism by orders of magnitude:

“Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1850 but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory.”

Philosopher Fr. Edwin Oakes on Darwinism as unmitigated disaster:

But leaving aside whether natural selection actually does any explanatory work, the importation of that concept into human relations has been nothing but an unmitigated disaster for the 20th century: Karl Marx, John D. Rockefeller and Adolf Hitler were all enthusiastic Darwinians.

17 Replies to “What did Hitler believe about evolution?: Lines from a faroff Comments box

  1. 1
    Carlos says:

    Not to mention other depraved monsters, such as John Dewey. I mean, he was also deeply influenced by Darwin, so he must have been in the same league as Marx, Stalin, and Hitler, right?

  2. 2
    ScaryFacts says:

    Hitler was also a Lutheran. Should we blame Luther for genocide or should we point to the scriptures encouraging genocide as God’s plan?

    “It is easy to see how Luther prepared the way for Hitler.”

    The late DR. WILLIAM TEMPLE Archbishop of Canterbury
    (“The Archbishop’s Conference, Malvern, London, 1941, page 13).

    http://www.tentmaker.org/books.....estor.html

    These types of comments and arguments are effective with the populace (which is why a showman like DJ Kennedy likely used them in his television piece) but are beneath the integrity of scientific debate or even the basest form of Christian faith.

  3. 3
    BarryA says:

    It is interesting that you include Ed Oakes

  4. 4
    BarryA says:

    It is interesting that you should mention Edward T. Oakes in your post. Fr. Oakes writes frequently for First Things, both on its blog and it the journal, and he has visited our ROFTERs (Readers of First Things) group in Denver (where he used to teach) a couple of times. Both times I engaged him on ID/evolution, and both times he defended the evolutionary perspective. I once asked him how, as a Christian, he could account for the ontological discontinuity between humans and higher animals if he believed in evolution. He replied that he does not see any ontological discontinuity between humans and animals, which astonished me given John Paul II’s comments on the subject (I am not Catholic by the way, but it is fun to rub elbows, intellectually speaking, with my Catholic friends, and First Things is, of course, the premier journal of its type).

    My point is Fr. Oakes does not seem to understand that you can’t have it both ways. Either you have evolution and all of its implications or not. In other words, you can’t accept evolution without opening the door to its moral implications. Therefore, saying “leaving aside whether natural selection actually does any explanatory work,” and then railing against a logical consequence of what we just left aside makes absolutely no sense to me.

    In fairness to Fr. Oakes, maybe he was just playing “Devil’s advocate,” but if that were the case he certainly did an excellent job, because I came away believing he believed in evolution.

  5. 5
    Carlos says:

    O’Leary’s website contains some additional information about Oakes, Barry. Apparently he holds that common descent is true but that random mutation and natural selection are insufficient to account for it. (Though they may be necessary.) He wants to accept mutation and selection as ‘secondary causes’ within a broadly Thomistic framework without denying the primary cause, which is God. Or at least that’s how I read his remarks. I’m not up on my Thomism, to say the least.

    Incidentally, a brief Google search on “Darwinism + Thomism” turned up Thomas Aquinas vs. The Intelligent Designers
    What is God’s Finger Doing in My Pre-Biotic Soup?
    .

  6. 6
    PaV says:

    Thomism has a strong tendency to be formulaic. In Carlos’link in post#4, what the author defines as the “Cosmogonic Fallacy” is taken too far. His argument, taken to the extreme, means that matter,i.e., molecules made up of elements, has the potential to become life. This borders on being the equivalent of ‘spontaneous generation’. This argument also flies in the face of the book of Genesis where creation is seen to happen sequentially and also as coming directly from the hand of God. As I say, Thomists can be so formulaic that they miss things. St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, famously disagreed that Mary was “immaculately conceived”, something the Catholic Church later defined as dogma in 1854. In my humble opinion, they need to refine their thinking and their arguments.

  7. 7
    alfredrusselwallace2 says:

    Hitler may at times have deviated from his usual Darwinism, but it seems that Nazi leaders in general were devout Darwinists. Michael R. Rose, a prominent Darwinist biologist at U.C. Irvine, wrote in his book “Darwin’s Spectre: Evolutionary Biology in the Modern World” that “The 1937 Hitler Youth handbook was full of Darwinian theory and genetics, and such science was taken as warrant for the extermination of Jews. This is not to deny the long-standing racist elements in German culture. Darwinism did not bring them into being. But it was fuel for that particular demonic fire. Nor would it be fair to say that all Nazis were reflective evolutionary biologists. Some of them were just thugs.” (Princeton, 1998, p.143). Rose is prominent enough among Darwinist biologists that he rates two mentions in the Encyclopedia Brittanica Online article on Evolution (p67, p71.) Having been born in Germany in 1955, he has obviously researched the Darwin-to-Nazis connection and is unwilling to conceal it. Rose is a materialist and atheist who regards theism as inimical to science. For further information one can look up “Hitler”, “Nazism” and “God” in the helpful index. (Most of the book is simply an argument for the truth of Darwinism, a word which he uses repeatedly.)

  8. 8
    Robo says:

    Why pick on Hitler? He only killed about 20 million. Stalin was about 80 million. I think Stalin was a seminary student at the time he case across Origin of Species and becamse a born-again atheist.

  9. 9
    Carlos says:

    And John Dewey, the greatest American philosopher, after reading Darwin, killed no one at all. But who cares about facts when you’ve got the truth on your side?

  10. 10
    BarryA says:

    John Dewey’s greatest contribution to America was to almost single-handedly destroy its education system. He’s not the great American anything, unless one can be a great doofus.

  11. 11
    MikeFNQ says:

    When I first started to read and contribute to this blog a number of people, both ID and otherwise, correctly bemoaned the sad tendency of people on both sides to play the “Hitler Card”. Hitler used and abused Christianity. Hitler used and abused science. The maturity of both sides to realise that Hitler proves nothing about Christianity or Darwinism was refreshing.

    Unfortunately some individuals let their desperate desire to attack the other side cloud their judgement, and in they rush. So much for maturity and integrity.

  12. 12
    Karl Pfluger says:

    These attempts to link Hitler and Darwin are amusing for a couple of reasons.

    First of all, Darwinian theory, like evey other scientific theory, is descriptive, not normative. Physics tells us that the stars will all burn out eventually. Is that therefore a good thing? Should we try to get them to burn out faster? Of course not. Epidemiology tells us that future epidemics are quite likely. Should we therefore try to start an epidemic as soon as possible? Of course not. Evolutionary biology tells us that organisms compete for survival. Does this mean that competition is good and cooperation is bad? Of course not. Anyone attempting to derive morality from a scientific theory is making a profound category error.

    Secondly, those who try to link Darwin to Hitler, like The Coral Ridge Hour, seem to be taking one of three positions:

    1. Hitler was evil, Hitler was a Darwinist, therefore Darwinism is wrong.

    But Hitler also believed that the sun rises in the east and that water runs downhill. Should we therefore reject those “theories” as well? Obviously not. Evil people are capable of believing true things.

    2. Darwinism leads to evil. Therefore it should be suppressed.

    I have already argued that anyone deriving morality from a scientific theory is mistaken. But suppose they weren’t. Does a theory become false simply because it leads to undesirable consequences? Science is about truth, not about promoting a particular short-term agenda.

    To suppress a theory because of its consequences is to make the same mistake the Church made regarding heliocentrism. They felt that heliocentrism was a challenge to the authority of scripture, and must therefore be suppressed, regardless of the evidence.

    Are those who link Darwin and Hitler saying the same thing about evolutionary theory? What happened to “follow the evidence, wherever it leads”?

    3. We know that Hitler’s beliefs are irrelevant, but by linking Hitler to Darwin we can score points with the public and get people to reject Darwinism.

    This would amount to deliberately misleading people. I assume nobody on this blog would advocate such an approach.

    To summarize, Hitler’s feelings about Darwinian theory are irrelevant because:

    a. It is a mistake to derive morality from a scientific theory.
    b. Something does not cease to be true merely because an evil person believes it.
    c. Science is about the search for truth, not about protecting the public from supposedly corrupting beliefs.

  13. 13
    Carlos says:

    John Dewey’s greatest contribution to America was to almost single-handedly destroy its education system. He’s not the great American anything, unless one can be a great doofus.

    Oh, I agree entirely. I mean, comes on: Dewey believed that an education premised on authoritarian relations between students and teachers couldn’t produce the kind of self-directed character required for a democracy to flourish. And he believed that education needed to be grounded in a theory of human experience, which in turn needed to be consistent with a post-Darwinian metaphysics of nature. Only a great doofus would be convinced of something that stupid.

    Fortunately for us, Dewey’s experiments didn’t work, and education remains as authoritarian, and the students as complacent and bored, as ever. Thank god!

    (9) The maturity of both sides to realise that Hitler proves nothing about Christianity or Darwinism was refreshing. Unfortunately some individuals let their desperate desire to attack the other side cloud their judgement, and in they rush. So much for maturity and integrity.

    There should be a Latin phrase for an informal fallacy called “the Nazi fallacy” (argumentum ad Nazism?), which consists of responding “that’s the kind of thing Hitler would say!” to any assertion one disagrees with.

  14. 14
    mynym says:

    The maturity of both sides to realise that Hitler proves nothing about Christianity or Darwinism was refreshing. Unfortunately some individuals let their desperate desire to attack the other side cloud their judgement, and in they rush. So much for maturity and integrity.

    I half expect that some will believe that any type of anti-Christ type figure who proclaims himself to be the messiah in the future (while he fantasizes about world domination, suicide, sexual perversions, etc.*) also has nothing to do with the Christ because he’ll represent himself as a “good Christian,” yet conflate himself with Christ, etc. Is that pattern really so confusing?

    At any rate, there are plenty of madmen and tyrants around to make evil manifest but few are given the reins of political power combined with the science and technology typical to the West (thanks to anti-Darwinian philosophies rooted in transcendence over immanence) to the same degree that Hitler was. So people want to know why, and the general answer is that the side of transcendence/”religion” lost the Kulturekampf to Darwinian forms of pseudo-science in which transcendence supposedly emerges from immanence (naturally though, ever so naturally!).

    One could argue that the Nazis “perverted” Darwinism but it is difficult to pervert hypothetical goo from which more hypothetical goo constantly emerges that never had all that much transcendent definition in the first place. If you create pseudo-science based on pseudo-science, it’s all merges together as pseudo-science.

    On the other hand, it is easy to prove that this type of reasoning: “salvation is achieved through German blood, not the blood of Christ” is a perversion of and distinct from the true version of what is Christian as defined by Christian texts.

    *

    Alois Hitler was twenty-three years older than Klara, whom he called his “niece” when they were married. Adolf Hitler was twenty-eight years older than his niece, “Geli” Raubal, of whom he said, “Geli is the one woman I could ever marry.” He was twenty—three years older than Eva Braun, twenty-seven years older than “Mimi” Reiter, about twenty—four years older than Renée Mueller, and twenty-five years older than Unity Mitford. Miss Mitford probably never had intimate sexual relations with Hitler. All of these young women committed suicide or attempted to do so…

    (Adolf Hitler’s Guilt Feelings: A Problem in History and Psychology
    by R. G. L. Waite
    Journal of Interdisciplinary History,
    Vol. 1, No. 2. (Winter, 1971), pp. 234) (Emphasis added)

  15. 15
    mynym says:

    There should be a Latin phrase for an informal fallacy called “the Nazi fallacy” (argumentum ad Nazism?), which consists of responding “that’s the kind of thing Hitler would say!”

    The kind of thing that the Nazis would say: “The Jewish influence has no place in Christianity, the Old Testament is a record of the myths of such wandering goat herders and has no place in modern scientific culture, true German Christianity is revealed in German blood.”

    So it would be absurd to argue that the Nazis were generally creationists or Scripturalists, especially given the fact that one of the planks of the party was: “The…immediate cessation of the publishing and dissemination of the Bible in Germany.”(The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History
    of Nazi Germany
    by William L. Shirer
    (Simon and Schuster) 1990 :238)

    The typical action of creationists, Bible banning…

    Were they Darwinists? In as much as anyone fits a definition that is rooted in nothing more than hypothetical “fit” goo, I suppose so.

  16. 16
    Carlos says:

    In what I’ve looked at — Morris Berman’s Coming to Our Senses, and Emmanuel Levinas’ “Reflections on the Philosophy of Hitlerism” — it has become very clear to me that Nazism was grounded in an Gnostic appropriation of pagan (both Teutonic and Roman) imagery.

    Nazism was no more Darwinian than it was Christian, or vice-versa. The Nazis were more than happy to rework their policies in order to accomodate many different groups under their tent: Darwinian racists, anti-Semitic Christians, theosophists, capitalists, Luddites, etc. It was the ultimate in “big tent” strategies, with an attitude of “let’s get rid of the socialists, liberals, Jews, and gays first — we all hate them, right?”

    In any event, just because Hitler was able to appropriate Darwinian evolution in the fight of “Macht” (power) against “Geist” (spirit), it doesn’t follow that Darwinian theories must be the enemy of spirit — and I think that Dewey’s work, especially in Experience and Nature, shows that far more clearly than anything written by more rigorous thinkers could.

  17. 17

    This is an old thread, I know, but why not?

    The OP says:

    My own view is that the reason for the controversy around films like the Coral Ridge special is precisely the fact that Darwinists have never really dealt with the implications of social Darwinism, so it keeps coming back to them like a bad penny.

    Maybe so – and to deal with that bad penny, I have even gone as far as reading Weikart’s book and written a nice, little, six-part review, starting here

    Was Hitler a creationist? Was Hitler an evolutionist? In my opinion, he was both – believing in nature as a deity that had created the human races each for a specific purpose, and the “Aryan” race for the highest purpose.

    have a nice day
    – pwe

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