The Cafeteria is Closed has a very nice little discussion of whether Nietzsche was properly the foundation of German nationalism and anti-Semitism, answering, with documentary support, no to each claim. Given the recent slurs on evolutionary theory as the foundation for Nazism and the holocaust, it’s a good point to make.
But is Nietzsche even a “Darwinist” (a term only the Discovery Institute, or as we like to call it, DIsco, seems to use these days, as it has no real meaning)? He certainly accepted that evolution occurred, and he managed to avoid some of the sillier philosophical claims about it. But he does one thing, which Spencer also did, that disqualifies him from being a proper Darwinian, and which was rejected by Huxley, and implicit in the views of many others: he takes what is to be right. This is the Naturalistic Fallacy of George Moore, which was largely framed to deal with Spencer, and possibly also Nietzsche, in his Principia Ethica.
Nietzsche says, in the Antichrist:
I call an animal, a species, an individual corrupt, when it loses its instincts, when it chooses, when it prefers, what is injurious to it.
On an evolutionary account, there is a term for forms of life that do this – extinct. Why have a moral valuation for this? Some organisms will do things, make a living and grow in ways that are relatively better than other forms of life, and some will survive because of it, and others will die off. Why make this a virtue? There is no moral claim here.
Nietzsche has a view of life as a struggle, and the superior forms survive. Thus far, this is Darwinian. But he seems to think there is an absolute scale for “superior” and “inferior”, which has no warrant at all in evolutionary biology. If it turned out that the meek and mild inherit the earth, by subjugating themselves to the will of stronger cultures, forms or races, then they would be the superior race (using “race” here to mean a form of life that is subspecific) on a Darwinian account, no matter what Friedrich Nietzsche felt about meekness. Without that absolute scale, anchoring moral values in evolutionary facts strikes me as a purely arbitrary activity, and when these sorts of arbitrariness occur in moral reasoning, they always end up focussing on some contingent cultural milieu of the author.
In short, such theorists either end up claiming that God is an Englishman (or something similar) or they end up saying that God is going to come out of being English (or something similar – I use English because of F. H. Bradley’s famous essay “My Station and its Duties”, and because Nietzsche, ironically, hated German nationalism). And the next step is to say, we must defend the English way of life by attacking the Irish (or something similar – there is a theorem we might call the Irish Theorem: every ethnicity has an Ireland to deride). This, not evolution, is the basic error of eugenics and nationalisms. And it does not rely on evolution. It merely relies on an absolute ranking of things, which is something, also ironically, that Christianity, with all other religions, does very well.
Late note: I amended the title. I was going to talk about N’s views on Christianity, and forgot to change the heading. Sorry.