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The Descent of Darwinism from Hitlerism

Finally, a writer known to me personally to be a smart and honest guy, no ignoramus nor a propagandist, attacks the Hitler-Darwin thesis in Expelled.

Ronald Bailey, who used to write book reviews for me at National Review, comments on the movie in the libertarian magazine Reason. He complains that linking Darwinism with Nazism is the “most egregious part of the film.” He harrumphs that the Expelled filmmakers “overlook the fact that people down through the millennia have found all sorts of justifications for why they are permitted to murder each other, including plunder, tribal competition, and, yes, religion.”

OK, but when Muslims today commit mass slaughter in the name of their religion, or when Christians once did so, it becomes reasonable on that basis to ask probing questions about the truth of Islam or Christianity. For that matter, it’s fair to question my own faith, Judaism, for the Hebrew Bible’s countenancing of Joshua’s bloody war against the natives of Canaan.

It would be ridiculous to say that any of this adds up to a slam-dunk argument for rejecting Islam, Christianity, or Judaism. Similarly, Hitler’s appropriation of Darwinian language in Mein Kampf is by itself no case for rejecting Darwinism.

Yet, Darwin in his writing presents a certain picture of reality, just as the three monotheist religions do in their different ways. If that worldview lends itself naturally to framing an appeal for genocide, truthfulness demands that be recognized as a difficulty in Darwin’s legacy.

For, in fact, the Darwinian legacy is one that seems well suited for plundering by a catastrophically wicked movement like Nazism. If you had a chance to open Mein Kampf and read for yourself yesterday, now open up Darwin.

The moral relativism of The Descent of Man, the doctrine of violence and death as the path to species advancement as found in The Origin of Species, these are accompanied by the warning about the consequences of letting the worst animals reproduce freely, and the prophecy of genocide by the superior races against the inferior.
From the Descent:

Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

Or this, also from the Descent: “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.”

Darwin speaks clearly here. What is often called “Social Darwinism” is just the practical application of ideas Darwin himself formulated. The original full title of his best known book, infrequently cited today, says it all: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life.

I don’t think that the prophet Muhammad would approve of the 9/11 attacks. Yet the infamous deed was, in part, a consequence of words he wrote almost 1,400 years earlier. Just so, Darwin and Hitler.

Almost all the major ingredients of Hitlerism are in Darwin. That is, all but the obsession with Jews, though more on that tomorrow, when I’ll also be able to share links to pieces I’ve written on this material, crystallizing it to essentials, for a general audience.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.