Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Berkowitz on Kennedy, Darwin and Hitler

Bill Berkowitz has an excellent review of the absurd documentary being distributed by the D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries and the Worldnutdaily, Darwin’s Deadly Legacy. Drawing on such noted historians as Ann Coulter, the thesis of this documentary is simple:

In a statement, Kennedy said: “To put it simply, no Darwin, no Hitler. Hitler tried to speed up evolution, to help it along, and millions suffered and died in unspeakable ways because of it.”


As I documented here, one can just as easily trace Hitler’s final solution to the long history of Christian anti-semitism, particularly from Martin Luther, Germany’s own favorite son. Luther famously authored a little book called On the Jews and Their Lies, which contained such loving statements as this:

What then shall we Christians do with this damned, rejected race of Jews? Since they live among us and we know about their lying and blasphemy and cursing, we can not tolerate them if we do not wish to share in their lies, curses, and blasphemy. In this way we cannot quench the inextinguishable fire of divine rage nor convert the Jews. We must prayerfully and reverentially practice a merciful severity. Perhaps we may save a few from the fire and flames [of hell]. We must not seek vengeance. They are surely being punished a thousand times more than we might wish them. Let me give you my honest advice.

First, their synagogues should be set on fire, and whatever does not burn up should be covered or spread over with dirt so that no one may ever be able to see a cinder or stone of it. And this ought to be done for the honor of God and of Christianity in order that God may see that we are Christians, and that we have not wittingly tolerated or approved of such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of His Son and His Christians.

Secondly, their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed. For they perpetrate the same things there that they do in their synagogues. For this reason 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.

Thirdly, they should be deprived of their prayer-books and Talmuds in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught.

Fourthly, their rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any more…

Fifthly, passport and traveling privileges should be absolutely forbidden to the Jews. For they have no business in the rural districts since they are not nobles, nor officials, nor merchants, nor the like. Let them stay at home…If you princes and nobles do not close the road legally to such exploiters, then some troop ought to ride against them, for they will learn from this pamphlet what the Jews are and how to handle them and that they ought not to be protected. You ought not, you cannot protect them, unless in the eyes of God you want to share all their abomination…

To sum up, dear princes and nobles who have Jews in your domains, if this advice of mine does not suit you, then find a better one so that you and we may all be free of this insufferable devilish burden – the Jews…

Then there are the many statements by Hitler himself justifying his vile policies by reference to Christianity. Hitler was a propagandist, a man who used any and every possible rhetorical device at his disposal to manipulate whatever audience he was speaking to. The fact that none of the “Darwin to Hitler” advocates ever bother to deal with the innumerable times Hitler invoked Christianity in defense of his attacks on Jews shows that they aren’t really interested in anything like an objective historical study; they are interested only in demonizing evolution, by any means necessary.

Comments

  1. #1 Whatever
    February 27, 2007

    Haven’t these people ever heard of Godwin’s rule?

  2. #2 Chuck
    February 27, 2007

    Burning down synagogues and Jewish homes? Luther calls this “prayerfully and reverentially practic[ing] a merciful severity”? I’d hate to see what “vengence” would have entailed.

  3. #3 bones
    February 27, 2007

    So let’s take this arguement to further conclusions (to illustrate the ridiculous):

    -No Einstein, no atomic bomb (lot of dead people),
    -No Christ, no Crusades (lot of dead people),
    -No George Washington, no WWI and WWII (lot of dead people),
    -No Bible, no Salem With Trials or Inquisition (lot of dead people),
    -No Eisenhower (father of the US Interstate System), no Hi-wat fatalities (LODP),
    -No Westinghouse, no AC electricity deaths (LODP),
    -No Alfred Nobel, no Blitz……

    It’s easy to demonize people for the deluded actions of those that come after and use their ideas or inventions for their own evil purposes – but you don’t condemn the idea or invention if someone twists it to their own warped ends. Unless you want a life without electricity, Hi-ways, etc.

  4. #4 ZacharySmith
    February 27, 2007

    I can’t say for sure, but I’d be willing to bet that, in all his writings and speeches, Hitler never once referred to Darwin as an inspiration for his policies.

    I love the way Kennedy conveniently forgets that European anti-Semitsim has been around a lot longer than “Darwinism”.

  5. #5 Spirula
    February 27, 2007

    Can someone with a reference comment as to an assertion I’ve read that Hitler, in fact, banned “The Origin of Species”?

  6. #6 Pieter B
    February 27, 2007

    Back when this piece of cinematic trash first popped up, I ran a search on Mein Kampf for various Darwinian keywords. The only hits I got for “evolution,” IIRC, were references to the way political systems and philosophies change.

  7. #7 From so simple a beginning
    February 27, 2007

    Spirula,

    May be you are looking for This post .

  8. #8 Ginger Yellow
    February 27, 2007

    Let’s play the word substitution game!

    “To put it simply, no JF Sebastian, no Deckard. Sebastian tried to speed up aging, to help it along, and millions replicants suffered and died in unspeakable ways because of it.”

    Therefore we do not age.

  9. #9 Keanus
    February 27, 2007

    Spiralus, a good starting point is a posting by Nick Matzke last October The Panda’s Thumb
    http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/10/from_darwin_to_2.html
    It gives a number of hotlinks for data on book banning in general and by the Nazis in particular.

    Kennedy and his propaganda machine showed the video on a paid channel last fall in Philadelphia (and other cities as well). My wife and I watched it, enduring the hour of drivel mixed with fundraising pitches every 15 minutes or so. One of the featured “authorities” was a history professor and retired USAF Colonel who blathered on at length how Hitler was a direct consequence of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Well it happens that the college at which this prof has tenure, Grove City College near Pittsburgh, is my wife’s alma mater. She wrote a letter to the president pointing out the folly and sloppy scholarship of the prof and suggested that if he continues at the college, she’d cease supporting them with gifts. Of course, the prof has tenure, so the president hides behind that in his answer. I wrote a follow-up letter in which I tore the prof’s arguments to shreds and pasted the president to the wall. The prof will remain–tenure does protect him–but I made it clear the college would earn no plaudits by retaining such a fool on its faculty, and lose our continuing support. He should stick to teaching the military strategies of Alexander the Great.

    Yes, as a non-academic I do respect and value tenure, but it’s buffoons like this guy who give it a bad name. And, in my view, he’s much worse than Behe. Behe’s a fool who has little opportunity in his courses in which to pass off his flawed arguments about bacterial flagella and ID, but this history prof, whose name escapes me, actually teaches classes on Nazi history and Germany in the 20th century! Imagine the students he’s misled at this point.

  10. #10 David Heddle
    February 27, 2007

    Keanus,

    Well it happens that the college at which this prof has tenure, Grove City College near Pittsburgh…

    I think you are wrong. I was fairly recently involved in discussions about a faculty position at Grove City College and was told that they did not have a tenure system, just one-year contracts. I seriously doubt this man is tenured at Grove City.

  11. #12 Colugo
    February 27, 2007

    “Hitler was a propagandist, a man who used any and every possible rhetorical device at his disposal to manipulate whatever audience he was speaking to.”

    That is true; in addition, Nazi ideology does not easily fit into current political categories. Those realities are missed by those with a political ax to grind – of every political stripe – who selectively quote Hitler and other Nazis. I can find quotes by Hitler that make him sound like a fundamentalist Christian, an arch-conservative, a revolutionary socialist, or a Social Darwinist. The real, evil, unique volkish ideology of National Socialism is obscured under layers of distortions by those with political agendas who want to vilify their contemporary opponents.

    Hitler and other Nazis certainly used Christianity to mobilize and propagandize the German people (but see Dietrich Eckhart’s attacks on the Old Testament, the influence of Thule Gesellschaft, etc.) and the Nazis were influenced by Haeckel’s bizarre revisions of Darwinism. (While he did make some major contributions, on balance Haeckel was one of the worst things to happen to biology. See developmental biologist Scott F. Gilbert: http://8e.devbio.com/article.php?id=219 ) But to blame either Christianity or Darwin for Hitler and Nazism is wrong.

    (Historian Robert Richards argues that Haeckel ought not be blamed for the Nazis’ appropriation of some of some of his ideas. http://home.uchicago.edu/~rjr6/Bibliography1.htm)

  12. #13 Colugo
    February 27, 2007

    Sorry, that was a bad link on professor Robert Richards, here’s the correct one:
    http://home.uchicago.edu/~rjr6/Bibliography1.htm

    Michael Ruse on Social Darwinism and National Socialism
    http://www.metanexus.net/metanexus_online/show_article2.asp?id=3052

    The fact is that Nazism incorporated a lot of disparate influences: Luther, Nietzsche, Sorel, Wagner, Blavatsky, Hegel, and so on – in many cases, heavily distorted. National Socialism’s intellectual and ideological ancestors are legion, and to condemn all of them is to condemn much of the Western tradition itself.

  13. #14 raj
    February 27, 2007

    As I documented here, one can just as easily trace Hitler’s final solution to the long history of Christian anti-semitism…

    This is true, but, from what I have read, the “final solution” was just that. The Nazis had apparently been trying to rid Europe of Jews, but no other continent would take them. They had apparently considered shipping them off to Madagascar, but they couldn’t find a way to get them there. And, of course, the other possible destinations–the US, for example–didn’t want them either. Hitler wanted to get rid of them, not necessarily to kill them. If that’s true, Kennedy’s comment is idiotic.

  14. #15 Colugo
    February 27, 2007

    “Hitler wanted to get rid of them, not necessarily to kill them.”

    Wrong. Hitler fantasied about mass-murdering Jews very early on, long before the Nazi took power. (One idea involved mass hangings.) It was the larger German national socialist movement that changed its policies on Jews, not Hitler. Early Germany national socialist ideas of how to treat Jews included nonlethal methods such as re-ghettoizing Jews within Germany and various expulsion schemes. As the Nazi Party became increasingly Hitlerized, its official policy became more exterminationist.

    In fact, the Third Reich sought to export the Holocaust worldwide so the Jews would be destroyed everywhere.

    Nazis, Arabs Planned Final Solution for Pre-State Israel
    By Stan Goodenough
    http://tinyurl.com/29hu4a

    Holocaust-era Arab heroes and perpetrators
    http://tinyurl.com/yep7c5

  15. #16 Keanus
    February 27, 2007

    David Heddle commented…”I seriously doubt this man is tenured at Grove City”.

    David, you’re probably right, but our reading of their alumni pieces and other literature over the years strongly implies that theological purity (of a fundamentalist Christian variety) trumps academic excellence. Yet, the president in responding to our letters, strongly implied otherwise, claiming that academic freedom prevailed at Grove City, which claim I seriously doubt.

  16. #17 David Heddle
    February 27, 2007

    I agree with Ed and others that any idea can be co-opted by a lunatic to justify his cause. Nevertheless, every time this comes up, perhaps being overly sensitive, I feel obligated to remind those who might argue that while the Nazis misused evolutionary ideas for propaganda purposes they were “true Christians,” that the Nazis had a master plan to persecute the Christian church. Probably most readers are aware of this by now.

    Here is a link reproducing an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the research (I have no comment about the site posting the article, it is just a convenient source for it.)

    http://www.papillonsartpalace.com/endC.htm

    Note the link to the actual research in the Inquirer article is broken, here is the current link to the research documents at Rutgers University:

    http://org.law.rutgers.edu/publications/law-religion/nurinst1.shtml

    Keanus
    No doubt–but you wouldn’t really expect full academic freedom in the traditional sense to prevail at a Christian College, would you?

    However, I personally think Grove City is one of the best Christian Colleges in the country. There is academic freedom in the sciences in the sense that you will not be fired if you support an old earth or evolution. Calling Grove City fundamentalist is very misleading–it is not in the same category as a Bob Jones or a Liberty–not even close. Conservative perhaps, but fundamentalist–I don’t agree.

  17. #18 poly_math
    February 27, 2007

    Colugo wrote:

    … the Nazis were influenced by Haeckel’s bizarre revisions of Darwinism.

    Perhaps.

    The best argument for this influence was made by Daniel Gasman in The Scientific Origins of National Socialism. However, even he had to admit that the connection was passed through the Social Darwinism of Herbert Spencer.

    IMHO, a much more direct influence for Nazism was the eugenics movement and racialist theories promoted by folks like Francis Galton, Lathrop Stoddard, and Madison Grant. Hitler was an especial admirer of the latter, and there is direct documentary evidence for that.

    ———————————–

    Spirula asked :

    Can someone with a reference comment as to an assertion I’ve read that Hitler, in fact, banned “The Origin of Species”?

    There is no documentary or even non-documentary evidence for this.

    ‘Book-banning’ – even book-burning – did take place in Nazi Germany, of course, but it was not as systematic as is often implied. Various government and party organizations – or prominent officials – apparently promulgated lists of ‘banned books’ or banned authors, sometimes in speeches and sometimes in print. Occasionally lists of ‘recommended books’ were given out as well. Local groups also acted on their own initiative.

    But there is no evidence that Darwin or Darwin’s works were included in any of these.

    reference: http://www.library.arizona.edu/exhibits/burnedbooks/indexpage.htm

    By the way, in tying this all togther, the Nazis eventually ended up ‘banning’ Haeckel’s works – a strange treatment for someone who was supposed to be such an influence as was stated above.

  18. #19 Colugo
    February 27, 2007

    “a strange treatment for someone who was supposed to be such an influence as was stated above.”

    The Nazis banned certain volkish societies that had a role in setting the stage for national socialism. Hitler famously ordered an internal party purge in which early Nazi leaders, including Gregor Strasser, were assassinated. This does not mean that these purged individuals and groups did not have a role in developing Nazi ideology.

    As I mentioned, many individuals and movements – Madison Grant looms large – were influential in the development of national socialism. The ideological currents of volkism, holism, and eugenics were particularly important, and Haeckel was important in all of those.

    Robert Richards defends Haeckel from accusations that he is morally culpabile for Nazism, but culpable or not the connection undeniable.

    Robert Richards ‘The Moral Grammar of Narratives in History of Biology–the Case of Haeckel and Nazi Biology,’ Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology, ed. Michael Ruse and David Hull (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

    Richards: “That several Nazi race-hygienists appealed to Haeckel to justify their views is clear. One pertinent example is Heinz BrĂ¼cher’s Ernst Haeckels Bluts- und Geistes-Erbe (Ernst Haeckel’s Racial and Spiritual Legacy), published in 1936.”

    However, the Nazis rejected Haeckelian materialism.

    There is a temptation on the part of some to attempt to rehabilitate Haeckel because his reputation is under attack by Christian fundamentalists (I’m not saying that this is the case with poly_math), but that is a mistake.

    An interesting document: while evolution and Haeckel do not appear in this except, a Nazi biology textbook shows how the Third Reich used biology for political indoctrination.
    http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/textbk01.htm

    And, of course, traditional Christian antisemitism was very important in the development and propagandizing of Nazi antisemitism.

  19. #20 James
    February 27, 2007

    And lets not forget eugenics of any sort is artificial selection, not natural selection. Selective breeding in animals was Darwin’s metaphor for natural selection.

  20. #21 Greta Christina
    February 28, 2007

    “And lets not forget eugenics of any sort is artificial selection, not natural selection.”

    Damn. James, you beat me to it.

    In addition to everything else that everyone else has said here, the thing we have to remember is that eugenics, and the related creepy theories and practices that were prevalent in the 1930s (and they were prevalent in the U.S., too), were not, in fact, Darwinism. They were a grotesque misunderstanding of Darwinism. Its advocates thought that natural selection somehow needed our conscious help in order to work, and that without intervention humanity would degenerate into barbarism and chaos.

    It was a twisted and stupid theory that was easily twisted further by racists and bigots (Hitler wasn’t the only one to use it to justify getting rid of groups he didn’t like). But it wasn’t Darwinism.

  21. #22 raj
    February 28, 2007

    Greta Christina | February 28, 2007 12:34 AM

    They were a grotesque misunderstanding of Darwinism. Its advocates thought that natural selection somehow needed our conscious help in order to work…

    This is the point, of course. Social Darwinism was a complete misunderstanding of Darwin’s theory: genetic variation, followed by natural selection. What the Social Darwinists and their compatriots the eugenists wanted to do was to eliminate the first half–genetic variation.

    Quite frankly, though, humans–not just Social Darwinists–by manipulating their environment in the ways that they have done, have reduced genetic variation, too. That’s evident from the reduced genetic variation of domesticated animals and plants. If a cataclysm were to occur, not just climate change, but also if another meteor blast were to occur such as the one that wiped out the dinosaurs, one wonders whether humans could continue to infest the planet.

  22. #23 Roger Albin
    February 28, 2007

    For a nuanced discussion of 19th century racism which tends to minimized the influence of Social Darwinist ideas and emphasizes older forms of racist ideology, based significantly in the Romantic period rejection of science, see the writings of the late George Mosse.

  23. #24 Poly_math
    February 28, 2007

    Greta Christina wrote:

    … the thing we have to remember is that eugenics, and the related creepy theories and practices that were prevalent in the 1930s (and they were prevalent in the U.S., too), were not, in fact, Darwinism. They were a grotesque misunderstanding of Darwinism.

    With all due respect, you are ‘preaching to the choir’. No reasonable person today – at least I hope no one – denies that people like Dalton, Stoddard and Grant got it wrong.

    Nevertheless, at the time their views were considered to be within the scientific mainstream and to be fairly in accord with Darwin’s theories. This was often stated by them as well as by others. One only has to read their own books and others to notice how directly they refer to Darwin and his works. The putative connection was not in any way hidden.

    On another point, the history of ‘scientific racism’ in the US goes back well before the 1930’s, and that history sadly did not end here even after the abhorrent results of Nazism became apparent. ‘Scientific racism’ did not begin with Darwin, of course, but there is no doubt it incorporated Darwin’s ideas when they did come along.

  24. #25 Poly_math
    February 28, 2007

    colugo wrote:

    There is a temptation on the part of some to attempt to rehabilitate Haeckel because his reputation is under attack by Christian fundamentalists (I’m not saying that this is the case with poly_math), but that is a mistake.

    I’m glad that you put in the caveat – I’m not in any way trying to “rehabilitate Haeckel”. In fact, I’m personally repelled by his philosophy of Darwinismus.

    I was merely pointing out that it is perilous to speculate about these direct cultural connections without definitive evidence, especially with an authoritarian cult of personality such as Nazism. The connections can be obscure simply because we are often dealing with the development of the ideas of a small group of people – or even one person – rather then a broad consensus.

    In particular, the contradiction of being influenced, even indirectly, by a particular set of ideas on the one hand, and banning the original author of those ideas on the other hand.

    I just prefer direct documentary evidence.

    By the way, the English translation of Darwinismus – which was a banned philosophy in Nazi Germany – is “Darwinism”. Maybe this explains why some people have the mistaken impression that Darwin’s works were banned by the Nazis. It never happened as far as we know. However, this doesn’t mean that we should apply some sort of reverse Godwin’s Law about the relationship between Darwin and Nazism, either, as Kennedy does.

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