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Why My Critics Care So Much About the Darwin-Hitler Connection


Howls of indignation erupted from the Darwinian community after I published my earlier historical works, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany (2004) and Hitler’s Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress. Hardly anyone, however, bothered to engage the arguments, except for Robert Richards at the University of Chicago, whose critique of my position is riddled with errors, not only of interpretation, but also of basic facts.

DeathofHumanity3D.jpgAs I demonstrate in my newly released book, The Death of Humanity: And the Case for Life, there is a fundamental tension between many Darwinists’ claim that morality is an evolved trait — thus having no objective reality — and their moral indignation toward Hitler (and toward me for explaining how Darwinism informed Hitler’s ideology).

To be sure, I have encountered some true believers in Darwinism who have told me that their Darwinian-inspired moral relativism leads them to the conclusion that Hitler was neither right nor wrong. I once held a conversation with a philosophy graduate student who defended moral relativism on Darwinian grounds. After I pressed him to see if he was willing to be relativistic about Hitler’s atrocities, he uttered the stunning words, “Hitler was OK.”

Maybe you think this student was just off his rocker. However, the leading evolutionary biologist and world famous atheist Richard Dawkins took a similar position in an interview, where he was being questioned about his moral relativism. Dawkins asked, “What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question.” If this is a tough moral question for Dawkins, he should stop pontificating about how religions are “the root of all evil,” especially since he doesn’t believe that evil actually exists!

Most Darwinists, however, including those who believe in the evolution of morality, do not have consciences as dead as Dawkins, so they are genuinely outraged by the historical connections between Darwin and Hitler. They consider Hitler truly evil, and they don’t want their positive image of Darwin tarnished by any association with this evil man.

However, why do they care about this at all? If they believe, as many do, that morality is simply “an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes,” as evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson and philosopher Michael Ruse famously put it, then what makes the illusions of some people superior to Hitler’s illusions? Why do everything possible — even denying obvious historical facts — to obscure the historical linkages between Darwin and Hitler? I have a hunch that at some level they recognize that their evolutionary account of morality is inconsistent with reality.

In The Death of Humanity: And the Case for Life, I expose many of the inconsistencies within secular philosophies, such as Darwinism, materialism, positivism, and many others.

Dr. Weikart is professor of history at California State University, Stanislaus, and Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

Image source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H1216-0500-002 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons.

Richard Weikart

Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Richard Weikart is Emeritus Professor of History, California State University, Stanislaus, and author of seven books, including From Darwin to Hitler, Hitler’s Ethic, The Death of Humanity, and Hitler’s Religion. His most recent book is Darwinian Racism: How Darwinism Influenced Hitler, Nazism, and White Nationalism (2022). His PhD dissertation, Socialist Darwinism, earned the biennial prize of the Forum for History of Human Sciences as best dissertation in that field. He has lectured at many universities and other venues in the US and Europe. He also has been interviewed on dozens of radio shows, podcasts, and TV, and appeared in seven documentaries, including Expelled. Some of his lectures and interviews are available on YouTube.