The Anti-Defamation League has joined the chorus blasting D. James Kennedy’s flagrantly dishonest TV special about Darwin and Hitler. They issued a press release that addressed the Francis Collins issue as well:
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today blasted a television documentary produced by Christian broadcaster Dr. D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries that attempts to link Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution to Adolf Hitler and the atrocities of the Holocaust. ADL also denounced Coral Ridge Ministries for misleading Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute for the NIH, and wrongfully using him as part of its twisted documentary, “Darwin’s Deadly Legacy.”
After being contacted by the ADL about his name being used to promote Kennedy’s project, Dr. Collins said he is “absolutely appalled by what Coral Ridge Ministries is doing. I had NO knowledge that Coral Ridge Ministries was planning a TV special on Darwin and Hitler, and I find the thesis of Dr. Kennedy’s program utterly misguided and inflammatory,” he told ADL.
ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said in a statement: “This is an outrageous and shoddy attempt by D. James Kennedy to trivialize the horrors of the Holocaust. Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan to exterminate the Jewish people. Trivializing the Holocaust comes from either ignorance at best or, at worst, a mendacious attempt to score political points in the culture war on the backs of six million Jewish victims and others who died at the hands of the Nazis.
It must be remembered that D. James Kennedy is a leader among the distinct group of ‘Christian Supremacists’ who seek to “reclaim America for Christ” and turn the U.S. into a Christian nation guided by their strange notions of biblical law.”
And here is Kennedy’s blatantly dishonest reply. Take a look at this stunning claim:
Even leading evolutionist Niles Eldredge freely admits the link between Darwin and Hitler. Eldredge, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, has written that “social Darwinism,” which he regards as an illegitimate offspring of Darwin’s theory, “has given us the eugenics movement and some of its darker outgrowths, such as the genocidal practices of the Nazis in World War II–where eugenics was invoked as a scientific rationale to go along with whatever other ‘reasons’ Hitler and his fellow Nazis had for the Holocaust.”
Are they too stupid to understand that if social darwinism was an illegitimate offspring of evolution, as it is both in reality and in Eldredge’s view, then it cannot be an admission of a “link between Darwin and Hitler”? Or are they just lying, knowing that most of their followers are too stupid to recognize the obvious contradiction in this paragraph? And does it really matter whether the explanation is stupidity or dishonesty to exploit stupidity?
Kennedy’s response also tries to gain credibility by citing Richard Weikart, author of a book called From Darwin to Hitler and, not surprisingly, a Discovery Institute fellow. Other historians have almost universally rejected Weikart’s thesis, including at a conference on Judaism and evolution attended by ScienceBlogger John Lynch last year, where every single historian in attendance other than Weikart rejected his simplistic argument. A good example of that rejection can be found in this review by Sander Gliboff, historian from Indiana University. He writes:
The method becomes problematic, however, when one tries to argue from these kinds of resemblances to causal relationships. Is the scientific causing the political? Influencing it? Converging with it? Being appropriated and misrepresented by it? Maybe the influences go the other way, and science is responding to political trends and pressures. Maybe science and politics are both responding to something else in the historical context. A good historian of science will have an eye out for various patterns of give and take among biologists, physicians, social philosophers, politicians, even theologians, interested segments of the public, and eventually Hitler. With Weikart, it is a foregone conclusion that the connections are causes and influences, always emanating from Darwin.
That stands the proper method of historical interepretation on its head, but that’s hardly the worst sin of the book. The book makes the same ridiculously simplistic argument that Kennedy makes, that Hitler could not have happened without Darwinism “undermining” the validity of Christianity, since Christianity held that everyone is valuable and that ethic had to be changed to make the final solution palatable. This is an astoundingly ridiculous argument for anyone to make, doubly so for an actual historian.
In order to be a valid argument, there would have to have been no genocide in pre-Darwinian history, back when that alleged Christian ethic of the value of every human being held sway. But not only is that not the case, one can point to instances of genocide not only justified by Christian theology but explicitly ordered by their Biblical God (according to their scripture, of course; I don’t believe it for a moment). And to go even further, there is a vast history of Christian pogroms against the very group that Hitler’s genocidal zeal was aimed, Jews. And as I showed a few days ago, Hitler cited those anti-Jewish statements by Christian theologians over the centuries to justify the Final Solution.
We know that it was possible for people to target the Jews for oppression and even death based solely on Christian hatred of the Jews because it happened several times throughout the history of Europe. After the Roman Empire converted to Christianity in the 4th century, it instituted a long series of anti-Jewish laws similar to the Third Reich. The Justinian Code, based so heavily on Biblical laws, had an entire section on the rights of Jews, essentially forbidding them from having any. They were forbidden to build synagogues, forbidden to read their scriptures in Hebrew, and even forbidden to gather in public places. Their property was confiscated.
There were many church conferences that passed anti-Jewish laws. The Trulanic Synod in 692 even made it illegal for a Christian to go to a Jewish doctor. The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 required Jews to wear distinctive clothing to distinguish themselves from Christians (sound familiar? Remember, this was centuries before Darwin was born). The Council of Basel forbid Jews from attending universities. All of this was perpetrated by Christians long before Darwin lived; so much for the notion that before Darwin undermined Christianity, everyone was valuable.
And do we even have to go into Martin Luther, a man whose vicious anti-Semitism virtually knew no boundaries? It’s not an accident that Luther was Germany’s most influential theologian and Lutheranism the official church of Germany at the time of Hitler’s takeover. It was largely Luther’s virulent anti-Jewish screeds that provided fertile ground for Hitler’s assault on the Jews. It was Luther who encouraged his followers to set Jewish synagogues on fire and declared that “they ought to be put under one roof or in a stable, like gypsies, in order that they may realize that they are not masters in our land, as they boast, but miserable captives, as they complain of incessantly before God with bitter wailing.” Sounds a lot like a concentration camp, doesn’t it?
Another evil that Weikart attributes to Darwinism is racism, which during this era fueled cruel and even genocidal policies in many parts of the world. But the major problem here, as he himself admits, is that the form of racism that was most important to Hitler — antisemitism — cannot be traced to Darwin or Darwinism. Weikart does not explain that the origins of this prejudice lie chiefly in a much older tradition of Christian anti-Judaism, for which Darwinism provided only a new and prestigious rationale. For to attribute the decline and fall of Christian civilization to Darwin is to overestimate the influence of even that great thinker. In fact, National Socialism was able to gain widespread support among populations that were, in their great majority, practicing and believing Christians. Furthermore, with a few notable exceptions, Christian belief raised few obstacles to cooperation with National Socialist policies. In many cases, moreover, the religious intolerance that was encouraged by the churches actually increased popular support for Nazi antisemitism.
This picture of the Holocaust as the outcome of a “culture war” between religion and science leads to serious distortions on both sides. The “Judeo-Christian” worldview is unproblematically associated here with many beliefs — such as opposition to birth control, legalized abortion, and assisted suicide — that many believing Christians and Jews would reject. And “Darwinism” is equated with a hodgepodge of ideas about race, politics, and social issues. If all these ideas were to fall into well-deserved obsolescence, this would in no way detract from the validity of Darwin’s contributions to modern biological science. Neither religion nor science is well served by this oversimplified view of their complex history.
The bottom line, and I do not think I’m being too strident in using this language, is that this simplistic “Darwin led to Hitler” thesis is laughably ridiculous. It simply cannot be taken seriously by anyone with even a minimal amount of historical knowledge and the ability to reason. Small wonder, then, that it is being pimped so heavily by the Discovery Institute and their creationist allies like D. James Kennedy.