Ernst Haeckel was one of the most widely read evolutionists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the man who did more than anyone to popularize Darwin’s theory in Germany. His drawings of embryos that supposedly showed humans and amphibians sharing a common path in the first stages of life were used in my biology class in college and in some high school texts even as late as last year. That the drawings were long ago exposed as erroneous guesswork (or a fabrication) on Haeckel’s part didn’t matter to Darwinists when they were called out on it.
To them the point — the narrative as they say — is that the drawings illustrate a “larger truth.” (Discovery Institute has copies of the textbooks, so it is futile for Darwinists to pretend Haeckel’s embryo drawings are not still in use. And, to the extent they have been dropped from new editions, it is largely thanks to Discovery’s exposure of their continued use/misuse.)
Haeckel also was the most ardent and successful popularizer of Social Darwinism in Germany. In the words of John Cornwell’s review of Hitler’s Philosophers (Yale University Press) in last weekend’s Financial Times, “Haeckel taught that human beings should be governed by the laws of evolution, survival of the fittest; that the Aryan race had earned its superiority at the apex of a hierarchy which put Jews and black Africans at the bottom.” Despite being the “dictator’s favoured resource,” along with the “Völkisch pan-German nationalism of Houston Stewart Chamberlain,” he died before the Nazis arose and therefore can hardly be blamed for the Holocaust or the euthanasia of handicapped people.
But the dangerous impact of Social Darwinism cannot simply be blinked away. Today, it has moved from the far right to the far left.
Regarding the impact on Hitler and the Nazis, Richard Weikart, a California State University professor of German history and a fellow of Discovery Institute, has written on this topic authoritatively and at length. However, he also has been abused by the Darwinists who want to whitewash the past.
So now comes Yvonne Sherratt’s Hitler’s Philosophers and it, too, takes on the influence of Haeckel. Irrelevant? Let’s just say that the Nazis had many unattractive traits, and that one of them was intolerance of academics who deviated from the party line. That is quite relevant.
Mention all this in a debate with a Darwinist and he is likely to get angry. Too bad about that.