Of course not, as we all know. But someone forgot to tell Hector Avalos, a critic of my role in the movie “Expelled.”
In a radio debate with me on WHO in Des Moines this morning, Avalos (religion professor at Iowa State University) claimed that Hitler was a creationist. I objected to this ridiculous claim. I countered that Hitler may have believed in a God of some sort who created natural laws, but one of the laws he thought God had created was the law of evolution by natural selection and the struggle for existence. I then quoted from Hitler to demonstrate that he did indeed believe in human evolution. In an extended conversation about evolution on October 24, 1941, Hitler lambasted Christianity, claiming that evolutionary science showed the poverty of the church’s dogmas. Hitler then stated, “There have been humans at the rank at least of a baboon in any case for 300,000 years at least.”
Bizarrely, Avalos in his closing remarks then thanked me for conceding that Hitler was a creationist, because, he said, anyone believing in a God who created natural laws is a creationist by definition. Well, then Darwin must have been a creationist, too, when he wrote in The Origin of Species about “the laws impressed on matter by the Creator.” (p. 458 of the Penguin edition) So, according to Avalos, Darwin was a creationist, as is anyone who claims to believe in a God that created natural laws. Francis Collins in his book, The Language of God, makes clear that he believes in a God who created natural laws. Avalos, then, thinks Collins is a creationist.
Does Avalos really not understand the distinction between theistic evolutionism and creationism? Does he really not understand that Collins and other theistic evolutionists are not considered creationists by most people’s definition of the term? Does Avalos think he can just make up his own definitions during a debate?
Our debate was over the question: “Was Darwinism MORE significant than Christian anti-Judaism in explaining Nazi ideology?” In the course of the debate Avalos showed little understanding of German history or Nazi ideology. He never addressed the major aspects of Nazi ideology that were heavily influenced by Darwinism, but on which Christian anti-Judaism had no influence. I listed seven such features of Nazi ideology:
1. Nazi eugenics policies, which led to the compulsory sterilization of 200,000 disabled people, forced abortions for disabled, and in 1939 killing the disabled (about 200,000 disabled people were murdered).
2. The drive for population expansion (Darwin claimed in Descent of Man that the birthrate should not be limited, because a higher birthrate was advantageous for evolution). Hitler often expressed the same view.
3. The need for living space (this was one cause of World War II, not just a minor feature). Hitler often expressed the need for living space in evolutionary terms.
4. Racial inequality — Darwin and Haeckel argued for human inequality on the basis of Darwinian evolution.
5. Anti-Marxism — The leading German Darwinist Haeckel argued that Darwinism disproved Marxism.
6. History as a racial struggle for existence.
7. The evolution of moral traits — Hitler believed that Jews had evolved bad moral traits, while Aryans had evolved good moral traits.
All these views were all upheld by prominent Darwinists on the basis of Darwinism. They permeated racial ideology in the pre-Nazi period. Hitler also upheld them and made clear they were central aspects of his ideology. Avalos completely ignored most of these points (many of which I had already made in my book, From Darwin to Hitler, so he should not have been surprised that I raised them).
Avalos focused all his attention on Nazi anti-Semitism. Fair enough. He showed that Luther made horrible remarks about Jews. However, Avalos claimed falsely that Luther’s anti-Judaism was essentially the same as Hitler’s. This not only shows that Avalos does not know how to properly make distinctions, but it shows complete ignorance of the history of anti-Semitism and Nazi ideology. Avalos did not distinguish at all between Luther’s stated reasons for persecuting the Jews–their religion, and Hitler’s stated reason for persecuting the Jews–their racial characteristics. He didn’t distinguish between Luther’s idea of killing rabbis who continue to illegally teach Judaism, and Hitler’s idea to kill all the Jews of Europe, men, women, and children, no matter whether they believed in Judaism or not. He didn’t distinguish between Luther’s desire to convert Jews to Christianity, and Hitler’s opposition to converting Jews to Christianity. As distasteful, shocking, and repugnant as Luther’s anti-Semitic views were, they were not simply the same as the Nazis (I ran out of time in the debate or I would have mentioned many other aspects of Hitler’s anti-Semitism that had nothing to do with Luther’s anti-Judaism, e.g., the idea of a Jewish world conspiracy; Hitler’s linking Jews with communism; the idea that Jews were sponsors of internationalism; the idea that Jews promoted liberalism and parliamentary democracy; Jews as controllers of the press and theater; etc., etc.).
I will leave it to listeners to decide who won the debate, but I left the debate doubting that Avalos knows much about German history, which was the major field of my Ph.D.