Respectful Insolence

Yesterday, I did a rather long post that used as its introduction an assertion by bioethicist Arthur Caplan in a review of the anti-evolution propaganda movie Expelled! that the claim that Darwinism led more or less directly to the Holocaust is a form of Holocaust denial. In my post, I concluded that I don’t agree with that assertion and that likening Ben Stein’s claims in the movie actually weakened his otherwise excellent article that appropriately pointed out the inherent immorality and dishonesty in the way the movie links Darwinism to the Holocaust. To my surprise, Dr. Caplan actually showed up in the comments and responded:

I stand by my claim that attributing the Holocaust to Darwinism is a gross and disgusting form of Holocaust denial. If you say that 6 million Jews died, not from racism and bigotry, but because of a plan to implement Darwinism, then you blur the ethical offense of the Holocaust and, in Stein’s case, deliberately so.

Holocaust denial is not just about did an event happen or not. It is crucial to know why the Holocaust happened. And we do know–racism. To imply, suggest or pronounce other causes is to deny what happened just as surely as to say no one was killed in the concentration camps. History encompasses both events and their causes.
Denial is to ignore both.

Expelled is a vicious form of Holocaust denial.

As much as I respect Dr. Caplan (indeed, I’ve cited him before approvingly on more than one occasion) and know that he’s written about the medical aspects of the Holocaust before (for example, When Medicine Went Mad: Bioethics And The Holocaust), thinking about his response actually led me to conclude that I really do disagree with his conclusion more strongly than I did when I wrote yesterday’s post. I don’t know how much about Holocaust denial he knows. In my experience, even Holocaust scholars often don’t know that much about Holocaust denial. Many find it so ridiculous that they consider it not worth their attention in much the same way that evolutionary biologists dismiss creationism and its bastard offspring “intelligent design” creationism as being beneath their notice and many physician advocates of science- and evidence-based medicine dismiss homeopathy as too ridiculous to pay any attention to. They’re too busy doing their work to concern themselves with what they rightly view as pseudoscience or pseudohistory. In any event, I can sympathize with Caplan’s disgust at Expelled!, but, although it causes me trepidation to disagree with as accomplished a bioethicist and scholar as Art Caplan, I just can’t agree with his characterizing Ben Stein’s intellectual dishonesty as a form of Holocaust denial.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate my point is to look at how those of us who take an interest in Holocaust denial actually define it. The definition is actually fairly specific and commonly accepted. Before I get to that definition, let me first point out what Holocaust denial is not. It is not Holocaust revisionism, as dearly as Holocaust deniers would like to argue that what they do is no different from what revisionist historians do and call themselves “revisionists.” To call Holocaust denial “revisionism” is an intentional misnomer used by deniers to try to claim an undeserved mantle of intellectual and academic respectibility. Holocaust History Project Board Member Gord McFee in his essay Why “revisionism” isn’t described well what legitimate historical revisionism entails:

On its basic level, revisionism is nothing more than than the advocacy of revision, which in itself is the act of revising, or modifying something that already exists. Applied to history, it means that historians challenge the accepted version of the causes or consequences of historical events. As such, it is an accepted and important part of historical endeavour for it serves the dual purpose of constantly re-examining the past while also improving our understanding of it. Indeed, if one accepts that history attempts to help us better understand today by better understanding how we got here, revisionism is essential.

In other words, historical revisionism is nothing more than examining new evidence or looking at historical events and putting the evidence together with new evidence in order to determine whether current understanding of historical events fits with the evidence. What distinguishes scholarly historical revisionism from Holocaust denial is that the conclusion is not foreordained. In Holocaust denial, as in all forms of denialism and many forms of crankery, the evidence is cherry-picked to support the desired conclusion. Again, McFee describes this well:

Revisionists” depart from the conclusion that the Holocaust did not occur and work backwards through the facts to adapt them to that preordained conclusion. Put another way, they reverse the proper methodology described above, thus turning the proper historical method of investigation and analysis on its head. That is not to say that historians never depart from a preconceived or desired result; they often do. But in adhering rigorously to the correct methodology, they accept that the result of their investigation may not be what they envisaged at the beginning. They are prepared to adapt their theories to that reality. Indeed, they are often required to revise their conclusions based on the facts. To put it tritely, “revisionists” revise the facts based on their conclusion.

Of course, in order to understand how Holocaust denial is defined, one must understand how the Holocaust is commonly defined. This is, as you might expect, not an easy task. However, there are three or four core elements of the group of related historical events that historians call the Holocaust. Although there may be some minor variations, Andrew E. Mathis, writing the chapter Holocaust Denial, A Definition in Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia, lists these generally accepted elements of the “Final Solution of the Jewish problem” that became the Holocaust:

  1. The Holocaust was the intentional murder of European Jews by the Nazi government of Germany during World War II as a matter of state policy
  2. This mass murder employed gas chambers, among other methods, as a method of killing
  3. The death toll of European Jews by the end of World War II was roughly 6 million.

Yad Vashem uses a similar definition, defining Holocaust denial as:

Claims that the mass extermination of the Jews by the Nazis never happened; that the number of Jewish losses has been greatly exaggerated; that the Holocaust was not systematic nor a result of an official policy; or simply that the Holocaust never took place.

Michael Shermer points out in Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Bogus Notions of Our Time also points out what Holocaust deniers do not deny:

Deniers do not deny that antisemitism was rampant in Nazi Germany or that Hitler and many of the Nazi leaders hated Jews. Nor do they deny that Jews were rounded up and forced into concentration camps where, in general, they were very harshly treated and made the victims of overcrowding, disease, and forced labor.

From having spent nearly a decade delving into the cesspit of Holocaust denier websites, blogs, and discussion boards, I can with some confidence tell you that the usual key claims made by Holocaust deniers include at least two (and usually all) of the following:

  1. There was no policy in Nazi Germany to exterminate European Jewry and other non-Jewish racial “undesirables.” There are many variants and subclaims related to this. One is that the “Final Solution” to the “Jewish question” was not extermination but rather expulsion. And, indeed, early in the war, that was the original plan before the invasion of the USSR, which placed millions of Jews into Nazi hands, far more than could be deported or transported to Madagascar (an early Nazi idea for getting rid of the Jews that was clearly impractical given British naval power) and the relative weakness of the German Navy. Another variant of this is that Hitler knew nothing about what was going on and his underlings in fact instigated mass killings of Jews without his knowledge. (This is one of David Irving’s favorite gambits.) Of course, there is a a debate among Holocaust historians over whether Hitler intended to exterminate the Jews from the beginning or whether the Holocaust evolved over time from persecution and repression to genocide in response to increasing radicalization (i.e., it took on a life of its own). This is known as the functionalism versus intentionalism debate. Not surprisingly, this debate is often hijacked by Holocaust deniers to sow doubt, just as debates among biologists over the mechanism of evolution are hijacked by creationists to attack evolution itself. However, what makes functionalism different from Holocaust denial is that the end result was still that, by 1942 the Nazis had a policy of intentional mass extermination of Jews in their territories, something Holocaust deniers deny.
  2. There were no homicidal gas chambers. This is a very frequent denier technique (warning: link leads to a truly vile and anti-Semitic site). Indeed, there is a Holocaust denier refrain that goes, “No gas chambers, no Holocaust.” This, too, is a favorite canard of David Irving. This, too has many variants. One is that the gas chambers were used for fumigation. Some were, but there were still homicidal gas chambers. Another variant is that the main causes of Jewish death were starvation and disease, caused primarily by Allied bombing of German supply lines and food shortages at the end of the war, a claim that also denies the intentionality of the Holocaust and allows deniers to blame the Allies for a large part of the death toll from the Holocaust. To Holocaust deniers, the reason that the existence of homicidal gas chambers must be denied, of course, that their existence is irrefutable evidence that there was intentionality in the mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust. Starvation, disease, shootings, and even hangings could be rationalized as not being part of an intentional campaign of mass murder, but large gas chambers used to kill large numbers of Jews at one time are pretty hard to explain in any other way other than an intentional government policy of industrialized mass murder. Another common corollary to this claim is that the crematoria were used because of so many deaths from disease or starvation, not because the activity of gas chambers made them necessary.
  3. Nowhere near six million Jews died. Usually, as creationists accept microevolution but not macroevolution, Holocaust deniers will “admit” that several hundred thousand Jews died but deny that it was anywhere near the accepted estimates of five to six million. In other words, they “accept” a small claim and deny the larger and accurate claim.

There are two other elements to Holocaust denial that must be pointed out because they are virtually always present. The first is conspiracy theories. Indeed, Holocaust denial, as Andrew Mathis points out, is nothing if it isn’t a huge conspiracy theory, the conspiracy theory to end all conspiracy theories, the mother of all conspiracy theories, if you will. If you have the stomach to delve into the websites and writings of Holocaust deniers, you will very rapidly discover this element. Indeed, this is the element behind the offensive term “Holohoax,” which is meant to imply that the Holocaust is nothing more than a massive hoax, designed to gain reparations, a Jewish homeland, or any other of the supposedly nefarious desires of the Jews. Moreover, a claim that often accompanies the “Holohoax” is that somehow the Jews have been able to fool historians into thinking that there was an intentional policy by Nazi Germany to exterminate European Jewry, even sometimes going so far as to claim that the documents used to convict Nazi leaders at Nuremberg were forged. I know, I know, it’s hard to believe, but it’s true, as Jamie McCarthy so gleefully mocks in his essay The “Hoax.” In fact, my favorite technique in the old days to tweak Holocaust deniers was to ask persistently and politely who, exactly, was behind this conspiracy and what the evidence was to support this contention. Again, Andrew Mathis describes the conspiracy-mongering aspect of Holocaust denial quite well:

It can thus be seen that Holocaust denial is a conspiracy theory that seeks to place Jews behind an international movement to promote a falsehood for monetary gain. In this way, Holocaust denial is no different than many other previous forms of antisemitism, which imputed to Jews monetary greed as well as a conspiratorial air. Besides the haphazard manner in which deniers have chosen to lump all Jews together, regardless of religious or political orientation, as perpetrators of this “hoax,” deniers also engage in efforts at pseudoscience to try to prove their point of view regarding the Holocaust. To date, none of their efforts has made any lasting impression on Holocaust historiography. While the rational observer will conclude that this is a testament to the truth of the history of the Holocaust, for the Holocaust deniers, it is merely one more piece of evidence of a conspiracy to quash what they believe to be the “real truth” about the fate of Jews during World War II.

The second element of Holocaust denial that is always present in Holocaust denial is anti-Semitism, often neo-Nazi sympathies and more than a little measure of admiration for Hitler. Why else would anyone want to deny the Holocaust? Indeed, years ago back in the old playground on Usenet known as alt.revisionism (or, more commonly called these days, the “cesspit” because only the dumbest Holocaust deniers seem to post there anymore) Allan Matthews illustrated this nicely with a question:

Gee, you’d think that after many months of posting this at least one revisionist who isn’t a neo-Nazi or anti-Semite would have come forward and said “Here I am!”

But, no. It appears that there just aren’t any such revisionists around.

Based on their past posting history, the few bozos who have bothered to claim that they aren’t neo-Nazis or anti-Semites were, upon examination of their claims, found to be clearly lying. Of course, given the general behavior of revisionists, this lack of honesty isn’t surprising in the least.

However, just in case some revisionist ‘scholars’ have missed my question to date, here it is again:

Where are the revisionists who aren’t neo-Nazis or anti-Semites?

It’s a fair question. After all, how can revisionists hope to be taken seriously if they all have such apparent biases, agendas and axes to grind?

So, then, if Holocaust revisionism is an intellectually honest endeavor, where are the revisionists who aren’t neo-Nazis or anti-Semites?

He never found any, and neither did I. Neither will you, either, if you look. Anti-Semitism and at least a tendency towards neo-Nazi sympathies are part and parcel of Holocaust denial. Indeed, Holocaust denial cannot be separated from them, and Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt was spot on correct when she pointed out that “the real purpose of Holocaust revisionism is to make National Socialism an acceptable political alternative again.”

As much as I respect Art Caplan for his work in bioethics, given the actual definition of Holocaust denial generally agreed upon by academics, I have conclude that he’s incorrect when he asserts that the vile lies in Expelled! are a form of Holocaust denial. I can fully understand why he might want to say that, but I can’t agree with it. As many lies about Darwin and the Holocaust as Ben Stein and Mark Mathis pack into the movie, they accept the basic historicity of the Holocaust and do not show any signs of the anti-Semitism that accompanies Holocaust denial. Thus, I must respectfully disagree that postulating a false explanation for why the Holocaust happened is the equivalent of denying that it did, in fact, happen as history tells us. Moreover, even though it is true that the claim that Darwinism leads necessarily and inevitably to an event like the Holocaust is a foul lie, it is true that Nazi eugenics policy was based in part on a misunderstanding of Darwin’s theory. I’m not sure I can go as far as saying that playing up that aspect to a ridiculous extreme and in the meantime failing to mention that it was a version of Darwin’s theory twisted by the mind of Hitler and Nazi physicians that led to the Holocaust, not Darwin’s theory itself, can be considered a form of Holocaust denial unless the definition of Holocaust denial is changed to accommodate it.

What’s really going on with Expelled! is something that’s gone on almost since the very end of World War II, when Soviet forces liberated Auschwitz from the East, and Allied forces liberated Dachau and other camps from the West: the intentional misuse of the Holocaust as a political weapon. The Expelled! producers are using the Holocaust as nothing more than a convenient weapon to advance their ideological and political agenda by linking their opponents, in this case Darwin and scientists who accept the theory of evolution, to the ideology that led the Nazis to perpetrate genocide. Not accepting the historicity and horror of the Holocaust would make it very difficult to use it as a cudgel with which to beat one’s opponents into submission. What is really happening is not Holocaust denial; rather, in making Expelled! and perpetuating the claim that Darwinism led inevitably to the Holocaust, what’s really happening is that Ben Stein and Mark Mathis are pissing on the mass graves of the millions of victims of the Holocaust in the name of their right wing political agenda, a particularly odious spectacle, given that Ben Stein is Jewish. They are not denying the Holocaust, nor are they exhibiting anti-Semitism or Hitler apologia. They are desecrating the memory of the dead.

Although I reluctantly must disagree with Dr. Caplan on whether the dishonest linking of Darwinism to the Holocaust constitutes a form of Holocaust denial, there is one thing that I certainly agree with him about. I agree that Ben Stein, Mark Mathis, David Klinghoffer, and the rest of the merry band of anti-evolutionists pushing the myth that the Holocaust is a direct consequence of Darwin’s theory are despicable liars of the first order who will say anything to smear their opponents. The reason, of course, is that they do not have facts or science on their side; so that’s all they have left.

Comments

  1. #1 Anthony McCarthy
    April 24, 2008

    I agree with most of this, Orac, but I think what’s really going on with Expelled is the Republican right coming out with a movie to rally the religious right during an election year. The content is secondary to their real intent, the political use of the issue.

    I’d better point out that as far as I know the only James in my family was a great uncle who died before I was born and who was a shell-shocked, factory worker in Lynn Mass.

  2. #2 TomS
    April 24, 2008

    I realize that what you are discussing is Holocaust Revisionism, so excuse me for selecting one small point of what you write, but I am interested in this:

    Moreover, even though it is true that the claim that Darwinism leads necessarily and inevitably to an event like the Holocaust is a foul lie, it is true that Nazi eugenics policy was based in part on a misunderstanding of Darwin’s theory.

    Is there any evidence that there was, to any extent worth mentioning, a basis in “Darwin’s theory”, even a misunderstanding of Darwin’s theory?

    I am not terribly knowledgeable about the subject, so I am ready to accept correction about this, but what little I’ve seen indicates that they didn’t even care to mention Darwin very much at all, and there was at least as much negative as positive mention about anything “darwinian” or “pseudo-darwinian”.

  3. #3 Tophe
    April 24, 2008

    What distinguishes scholarly historical revisionism from Holocaust denial is that the conclusion is not foreordained. In Holocaust denial, as in all forms of denialism and many forms of crankery, the evidence is cherry-picked to support the desired conclusion.

    So if Expelled is not Holocaust denial, should we consider it to be “scholarly historical revisionism”, or is the above quote a false dichotomy?

    To me, it is a form of denialism. It’s doesn’t deny the event, but it denies the reasons and in fact shifts all of the blame from the individuals responsible onto Darwin himself.

  4. #4 MarkH
    April 24, 2008

    I tend to agree. I’m reluctant to call it Holocaust denial as it lacks the goal of anti-semitism or promotion/exoneration of Nazism.

    It’s still despicable, and still denialism. It’s Holocaust exploitation more than anything.

  5. #5 gerald spezio
    April 24, 2008

    If Ben Stein performed his Darwin-done-the-Holocaust, anti-evolution, designed to be persuasive “act” as a dedicated adversarial lawyer protecting his client before a jury carefully “selected” for their biases and prejudices, how would we analyze Ben’s “performance?”

    If Johnnie Cochran can successfully invoke the Hitler frame in a sacred court of law, should anybody be shocked or surprised when Ben, who has the best lawyer & peeyar credentials plus three decades of experience in both scamming businesses, pulls an essentially identical “stunt?”

    Orac cuts to the chase; “…pushing the myth that the Holocaust is a direct consequence of Darwin’s theory are despicable liars of the first order who will say anything to smear their opponents.”

    I would add this to Orac’s phrase; “and sway the jury and the schmuckery – no holds barred.”

    Ben is marketing the Holocaust brand and/or the Holocaust Denial Brand, and he is doing it very skillfully & successfully.

    “Let’s give them the Darwin frame and have a debate,” and scientists join Ben’s carefully crafted debate.

    Ben-the-bamboozler has scored, and we are the marks.

  6. #6 gerald spezio
    April 24, 2008

    Would Ben exploit science, Darwin, & “ethics” to push his marketing agenda?

    What conditions Ben’s ethics or Ben’s “lack of ethics?”

    Do the all pervasive & causal “ethics” come from Pluto in space ships with the aliens, or do they generate spontaneously as maggots of yore.

    Ben posta have “professional ethics” because he is a trained lawyer with a Yale Law degree.

  7. #7 Curt
    April 24, 2008

    TomS, this quote from Mein Kampf is probably the closest you can get to a tie to Darwin.

    From: Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
    Volume One – A Reckoning
    Chapter XI: Nation and Race
    “In the struggle for daily bread all those who are weak and sickly or less determined succumb, while the struggle of the males for the female grants the right or opportunity to propagate only to the healthiest. And struggle is always a means for improving a species’ health and power of resistance and, therefore, a cause of its higher development. … Nature does just this by subjecting the weaker part to such severe living conditions that by them alone the number is limited, and by not permitting the remainder to increase promiscuously, but making a new and ruthless choice according to strength and health.”

    It’s a general description of natural selection. However, if you read the entire section, you can see that his ideas about it differ greatly from Darwin’s and he uses it to make different conclusions about its affects on nature. He actually argues that natural selection is responsible for animals remaining within their “kinds”. To put it in differently, he thinks that natural selection is the barrier between micro-evolution and macro-evolution.

  8. #8 jf
    April 24, 2008

    Good post Oric. I sadly think that Caplin’s statements will provide the Expelled makers with very useful fodder to reinforce their arguments and bolster their presumed possession of the moral high ground.

  9. #9 Colugo
    April 24, 2008

    McCarthy: “the Republican right coming out with a movie to rally the religious right during an election year. The content is secondary to their real intent, the political use of the issue.”

    The conspiracist mind draws connections too readily. Specifically, it consider possible consequences of an event and concludes that these must be involved in causality. If this had not been released in an election year, what overarching “reason” would you have come up with?

    Maybe the primary intent is really is what it looks like: a group of creationists/IDists intended to promote their belief system.

    Back to the issue of connections: While McCarthy and cee overemphasize and oversimplify connections, and McCarthy is especially egregious in attributing to Darwin himself views held by his eugenicist followers, many of those on the other side are overly defensive.

    Above all, the eugenics of the late 19th to early 20th C. was an anti-dysgenic program. There was also a goal of improving humanity (sometimes to ridiculous heights – read Trotsky on selective human breeding, for example), but the driving motivation was to counteract the decline that was thought inevitable under conditions of civilization. This degeneracy discourse predates Darwin; however, the theory of natural selection provided a powerful explanation why human populations would be expected to decline. Darwinism made degeneracy fears more seemingly scientific and ironclad in logic. (We now know that this dysgenic fear is vastly overblown and the premises of traditional eugenic – particularly, the drive to reduce diversity – are utterly mistaken.) Darwin was very concerned about forces (including the absence of forms of selection) acting to degenerate human hereditary material. However, he was also a Whig, wary of excessive government intervention and he was kindly, so he did not want to end charity for the poor and care for the sick.

    In addition, Darwin was a multilevel selectionist. Competition and selection was not just between individuals but between races/varieties as well as species. (Yes, “races” in the subtitle of Origins also referred to human races; Wallace thought so.) Also, Darwin and his colleagues did sometimes use inferior-superior Chain of Being rhetoric, including in regard to human races.

    It is very important to point out that Darwin, Wallace, Huxley et al were NOT modern evolutionary biologists. I see a habit of refuting some racist or reactionary biodetermist view with an explanation of how it is incompatible with modern evolutionary biology and hence with Darwin. Not the same thing.

    On connections and citation: Darwin, through followers and revisionists, can still be one of many influences (albeit highly distorted and misinterpreted) on Nazi thought even if he is not specifically cited by Hitler or top Nazis (actually, one of them did, but I don’t want to provide a mined quote for cee). What many Europeans understood as Darwinism or evolutionary biology in the early 20th century was actually Haeckelism, which is Darwinism mixed with some other ideas – including social organicism, the idea that human societies are like organisms (the context for Nazi germ rhetoric). This, combined with selection between groups and a strife-based ethos derived from Nature’s supposed struggle of all against all, is a potentially incendiary idea. (It can also be a perfectly benign one, depending on who is using it.) The inevitable and progressive nature of eliminationist struggle between groups was as important as anti-declinist eugenics in Nazi biopolitics.

    There was a multiplicity of rival schools of biological thought within Nazism (holist vs mechanist, anti-Haeckelian vs Haeckelian etc.). But the fact that there was an SS Ernst Haeckel Society is pretty hard to ignore.

    I do not believe that “Darwin was necessary but not sufficient” for the Holocaust. I believe that traditional Christian antisemitism deserves that designation. Rather, a grossly perverted biology derived partly from Darwinism (via Galton, Haeckel, Woltmann, Madison Grant, Lenz etc.) shaped the rationalizing ideology of Nazism and the Holocaust. A rationale is not the same thing as a cause, although it can influence the specific manner of implementation, and which kinds of specialists are overseeing the implementation. That can be seen in the biomedical and bioanthropological aspects of the implementation of the Holocaust, including the carryover of features from the handicapped euthanasia-murder program. This biopolitics had a lot of important features not derived from Darwin, including antisemitism, vitalism, teleology, and social organicism.

    The Nazis took ideas from a wide variety of sources, some of them profoundly reinterpreted and redefined. There are clearly socialist ideas in Nazi ideology and practice (see Sheri Berman, The Primacy of Politics), yet many people are offended by the idea that Nazism had anything to do with socialism. Many Nazis followed a very weird variant of Christianity (see Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich); some Christians dismiss Nazi Christianity while some anti-theists suggest that the Nazi elite was a group of devout mainstream Catholics and Protestants. The same with biology in the service of Nazi ideology. And to recognize this is not to blame Darwin nor Darwinism for the Holocaust at all.

    Sources

    Patrick Bratlinger. 2003. Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Extinction of Primitive Races, 1800-1930.

    Christopher M. Hutton. 2005. Race and the Third Reich.

    Robert Proctor. books: 1988. Racial Hygiene. 1999. The Nazi War On Cancer.

    G Stein. 1988. Biological science and the roots of Nazism. American Scientist 76:50-58.

    Paul Weindling. 1989. Health, race and German politics between national unification and Nazism, 1870-1945.

  10. #10 Anthony McCarthy
    April 24, 2008

    Do you really think that Hitler would talk up a Brit in the period after WWI? I’m not a great reader of his junk but I’m having a hard time imagining it.

    I’m noticing that people have a hard time understanding several things, that influences can be indirect, that the existence of one cause for something doesn’t negate the existence of another contributing cause, that results can happen independently of intention and can even be the opposite of what the originator intended them to be. These are especially true of looking for the causes of complex events that happened over a long period and with many people bringing them about.

    Which is why it’s stupid to keep playing the creation industries’ game in defense of someone who has been dead 120 years. The science is there, you don’t need Darwin.

  11. #11 Anthony McCarthy
    April 24, 2008

    The conspiracist mind draws connections too readily.

    Right, like the Republican-right wouldn’t think to bring out a piece of Darwin-war propaganda during an election year without its usefulness in rallying the religious-right escaping their attention. Never occur to them. Especially it would have escaped their notice that they can count on the knee-jerk response from “the left”.

    It’s always a bad idea to underestimate the intelligence of these people or their guile or their sincerity. Or the fact that they’ve got an enormous amount of money.

  12. #12 Anthony McCarthy
    April 24, 2008

    Make that: their guile or their insincerity…

  13. #13 Despard
    April 24, 2008

    @Anthony McCarthy: Do you really think that Hitler would talk up a Brit in the period after WWI? I’m not a great reader of his junk but I’m having a hard time imagining it.

    Hitler loved us Brits. He was anxious for Britain not to get into the war at first because he had so much regard for the British character (and IIRC our admittedly isolationist policies).

    Besides, we invented concentration camps, during the Boer war.

  14. #14 rpenner
    April 24, 2008

    I am not an expert on history, Hitler or Nazi philosophies, but….

    From Nazi villains in American movies, I gathered that the general goal was to return Germany to a mythic past of “racial purity” by resurrecting a mythic archetype blond, blue-eyed mythic with straight teeth, and weeding out all peoples not fitting that mode. (Like, dark-haired Hitler?) In means, they applied 1000-year-old principles of animal husbandry (which Darwin in 1871 wrote would be an inhumane and stupid thing to do) and in goal they were trying to “undo” “history” — which is a basic concept not based on Darwinian evolution or its successors.

    Please criticize away, as you should given my award-winning scholarship. :)

    Also, I heard that Hitler loved the woo.

  15. #15 Calli Arcale
    April 24, 2008

    It boggles my mind that anyone can think that the natural conclusion of Darwin’s publication “Origin of the Species” is Hitler’s particular brand of insanity. Hitler’s ultimate goal was to achieve racial purity — a concept diametrically opposed to what Darwin was talking about. Darwinian evolution doesn’t encourage the idea of a holocaust. On the contrary, it tells us that quest for racial purity is futile.

    Hitler was led by ancient principles of animal husbandry — encourage the traits you want by preventing individuals with undesirable traits from breeding, while selectively breeding those with desirable traits. (Funny Ben Stein mentioned the Holocaust but didn’t bring up Hitler’s Aryan breeding programs. This supports the idea that Ben Stein et al are perfectly aware that the argument is ridiculous, and are just using the Holocaust because it gets attention.) His objective was essentially to isolate the desirable genes from the undesirable ones and then allow the Aryan race to grow.

    But what Darwin found was that if you isolate a specific set of genes, you don’t get racial purity. At first you do, but over time that line changes, *evolves*, and, most damning of all for Hitler’s plan, *diversifies*.

    So if, as Ben Stein alleges, Hitler based his plan on Darwin’s theory of natural selection, then the ultimate irony is that Darwin’s theory reveals a fundamental flaw in the concept.

  16. #16 BAllanJ
    April 24, 2008

    I don’t think I would call it denialism either. I’m not a big fan of using labels to attempt to resonate hatred by either people I agree with or don’t. I would say it’s a blatant attempt to exploit the holocaust for unrelated reasons. And it is unrelated. It offends me.
    BTW…I’m a Canadian and not a student of the holocaust, but I /think/ that here the holocaust refers to all the victims of the concentration camps, not just the jewish ones. I may be mistaken.

  17. #17 Beth
    April 24, 2008

    Stein is not denying the What or How of the Holocaust, but rather denying the Why and putting in its place his strawman “Darwinism.” If its not a *NEW* form of Holocaust denial, what would it be? He’s still denying a rather fundamental part of this nightmare, just not the part you usually think people would deny. Has anyone really done this before, saying ‘Yes it happened, yes it was six million, yes they used gas chambers, yes Hitler did it, but not becausu he saw the Jews as dirty infectious parasites but because (insert bullshit)’ ?

  18. #18 Janine
    April 24, 2008

    Ben Stein and the rest of the Expelled crew are using denialism, just not Holocaust denial. As Orac and others have pointed out, they are trivializing the murder of millions to score political points. The denialism they are using is the denial of christian history.

    In the stark argument that creationist use against the theory of evolution, they have to be on the side of goodness while the followers of Darwin have to be the beasts, fitting in their mind’s eye because of evolutionist’s acceptance of humans being a part of nature. Therefore, against all evidence, evolution is responsible for racism (Just ignore the idea of “The Sin Of Ham”.) and anti-semitism (Just ignore centuries of belief in blood libel.) The one thing the Expelled crew and Holocaust deniers have in common is the absolute need to whitewash the past of their fore-bearers.

    As for rpenner’s questions, in a lot of ways the, the ideas of the use of eugenics and techniques from farm breeding comes from Himmler. He came from a agricultural background and had dreams of setting up a culture of farmer-soldiers in Poland, western Russia and The Ukraine.

  19. #19 Anthony McCarthy
    April 24, 2008

    Notice that everyone keeps talking about The Origins of Species when it’s mostly in his later work that the troublsome quotes are found. I’m sorry, but he didn’t stop writing in 1859 and the opposition knows that. I’m afraid you will not be able to avoid dealing with the passages they are bringing up that way.

    Despard, I haven’t looked at M. K. since I was in college but I don’t recall Hitler being very generous to the English during that period. Look to my antagonist, Colugo’s post to see that a lot of the German influence of Darwin would have come though his colleague Haeckel, I think he might have been one of Darwin’s translators, though I’m not entirely certain of that.

    Colugo, since Darwin cites Haeckel and Galton in his late work, and there was a close collegeial relationship between him and both of them, indeed, it’s impossible to name someone closer professionally to Darwin than Galton I don’t think the assertion that they perverted his work is credible. There is a minor Haeckel appology effort that I read about a while back, you might want to look into that.

    When Darwin died Thomas Huxley and Francis Galton were put in charge of his funeral by the Darwin circle. I don’t think you get to assert that he was remote from it. Especially seeing that Leonard Darwin was his successor in the British Eugenics Society.

  20. #20 Orac
    April 24, 2008

    If its not a *NEW* form of Holocaust denial, what would it be?

    Almost precisely my point. Darwin-Hitler pseudohistory doesn’t fit into the current definition of Holocaust denial as accepted by historians who study this issue. Consequently, the definition would have to be changed to accommodate it if Stein’s and Mathis’ crapfest is to be considered Holocaust denial. If Caplan had argued that it should be considered a new form of Holocaust denial rather than saying that it is a form of Holocaust denial, I might have agreed with him. As it is, though, Stein’s historical fart doesn’t have key elements to it that would allow us to properly categorize it as Holocaust denial.

  21. #21 Janine
    April 24, 2008

    That is because it really is a denial of the bad parts of christian history.

  22. #22 Anthony McCarthy
    April 24, 2008

    I think assuming Ben Stein’s participation in the movie was anything except him doing another right-wing propaganda job for pay is thinking about it too hard. The guy has no interest in evolution or genocide, he’s a high priced ideological harlot.

  23. #23 ERV
    April 24, 2008

    No, Arthur Caplan is right.

    I get the same thing with certain kinds of HIV deniers– Oh sure, they accept the fact that HIV causes AIDS and its a terrible, world wide pandemic. But they have a vast conspiracy set up in their minds involving illegal ‘monkey’ trading and evil white men in hidden laboratories creating HIV from scratch to kill black people.

    Those people deny 100% of the history of HIV, and 99% of the science– they just accept that HIV causes AIDS. I call them HIV deniers just like the people who think AIDS is a sham.

    EXPELLED is the same thing. They ignore the real history of antisemitism and invent a pseudohistory of the holocaust.

    It might be better to call these people HIV/Holocaust conspiracy theorists, but calling them HIV/Holocaust deniers instead is entirely appropriate.

  24. #24 Tophe
    April 24, 2008

    Should we email Ben and ask him what kind of denialism it is?

    (sarcasm on) I’m sure he’d give us an honest answer. (sarcasm off)

  25. #25 cee
    April 24, 2008

    Many miss the point that the individuals who participated in the huge production that resulted in “The Holocaust,” acted primarily on a benefit/cost system. Like I mentioned yesterday, my fellow Jews were seperated immedietly after coming out of the cattle cars into slave laborer quarters or showers…crematoriums. Why? It was based on who was fit to serve the needs of those superior to them. The “order” the Nazis established was for the benefit of the state personified in The Fueher and yes, it had racist components. But the practical nature of the enterprise was geographic domination through war that required resources.

    We can argue all day long how Darwin’s conclusions on man’s place in the universe, and those who placed those conclusions in practice through eugenics or Darwinian ethics, lead to Hitler’s final solution. The plain truth when it is all striped down is to how the moral (or really immoral) decision was made. It is my opinion, as a Jew that believes in a personal God who created the universe and man, that the extreme conclusions of skepticism had lead to the ultimate end, nihilism. Darwin’s world view is a point on that road. People may stop at any point along that road but many continue to the point of ideologues and when political power and economy are at the ideologue’s disposal, atrocities occur.

    The knowledge of that fact of history is what causes many to have a visceral reaction to those ideologues prepared to dismiss others’ points of view, especially in a free society like ours in The United States.

    It is interesting that Charles Darwin himself, proclaiming himself a slow converter to agnosticism, ended the portion of his autobiography with a paragraph discussing skepticism. It ends, “My father used to quote an unanswerable argument, by which an old lady, a Mrs Barlow, who suspected him of unorthodoxy, hoped to convert him: ‘Doctor, I know that sugar is sweet in my mouth, and I know that my redeemer liveth.’”

    http://www.update.uu.se/~fbendz/library/cd_relig.htm

    I believe that if the ideologues seen in EXPELLED, like Richard Dawkins and many on this board, had a small amount of the humility Charles Darwin displayed in the close of that part of his autobiography, the great divide we see between the two great competing world views would be less contentious.

    Once again, I challenge those who believe there is a wall between scientific discovery and social, economic and ethical implications read Alfred Nobel’s struggle and meditate on reversing such a simplistic conclusion.

  26. #26 gerald spezio
    April 24, 2008

    If Ben Stein performed his Darwin-done-the-Holocaust, anti-evolution, designed to be persuasive “act” as a dedicated adversarial lawyer protecting his client before a jury carefully “selected” for their biases and prejudices, how would we analyze Ben’s “performance?”

    If Johnnie Cochran can successfully invoke the Hitler frame in a sacred court of law, should anybody be shocked or surprised when Ben, who has the best lawyer & peeyar credentials plus three decades of experience in both scamming businesses, pulls an essentially identical “stunt?”

    Orac cuts to the chase; “…pushing the myth that the Holocaust is a direct consequence of Darwin’s theory are despicable liars of the first order who will say anything to smear their opponents.”

    I would add this to Orac’s phrase; “and sway the jury and the schmuckery – no holds barred.”

    Ben is marketing the Holocaust brand and/or the Holocaust Denial Brand, and he is doing it very skillfully & successfully.

    “Let’s give them the Darwin frame and have a debate,” and scientists join Ben’s carefully crafted debate.

    Ben-the-bamboozler has scored, and we are the marks.

  27. #27 gerald spezio
    April 24, 2008

    If Ben Stein performed his Darwin-done-the-Holocaust, anti-evolution, designed to be persuasive “act” as a dedicated adversarial lawyer protecting his client before a jury carefully “selected” for their biases and prejudices, how would we analyze Ben’s “performance?”

    If Johnnie Cochran can successfully invoke the Hitler frame in a sacred court of law, should anybody be shocked or surprised when Ben, who has the best lawyer & peeyar credentials plus three decades of experience in both scamming businesses, pulls an essentially identical “stunt?”

    Orac cuts to the chase; “…pushing the myth that the Holocaust is a direct consequence of Darwin’s theory are despicable liars of the first order who will say anything to smear their opponents.”

    I would add this to Orac’s phrase; “and sway the jury and the schmuckery – no holds barred.”

    Ben is marketing the Holocaust brand and/or the Holocaust Denial Brand, and he is doing it very skillfully & successfully.

    “Let’s give them the Darwin frame and have a debate,” and scientists join Ben’s carefully crafted debate.

    Ben-the-bamboozler has scored, and we are the marks.

  28. #28 gerald spezio
    April 24, 2008

    If Ben Stein performed his Darwin-done-the-Holocaust, anti-evolution, designed to be persuasive “act” as a dedicated adversarial lawyer protecting his client before a jury carefully “selected” for their biases and prejudices, how would we analyze Ben’s “performance?”

    If Johnnie Cochran can successfully invoke the Hitler frame in a sacred court of law, should anybody be shocked or surprised when Ben, who has the best lawyer & peeyar credentials plus three decades of experience in both scamming businesses, pulls an essentially identical “stunt?”

    Orac cuts to the chase; “…pushing the myth that the Holocaust is a direct consequence of Darwin’s theory are despicable liars of the first order who will say anything to smear their opponents.”

    I would add this to Orac’s phrase; “and sway the jury and the schmuckery – no holds barred.”

    Ben is marketing the Holocaust brand and/or the Holocaust Denial Brand, and he is doing it very skillfully & successfully.

    “Let’s give them the Darwin frame and have a debate,” and scientists join Ben’s carefully crafted debate.

    Ben-the-bamboozler has scored, and we are the marks.

  29. #29 gerald spezio
    April 24, 2008

    If Ben Stein performed his Darwin-done-the-Holocaust, anti-evolution, designed to be persuasive “act” as a dedicated adversarial lawyer protecting his client before a jury carefully “selected” for their biases and prejudices, how would we analyze Ben’s “performance?”

    If Johnnie Cochran can successfully invoke the Hitler frame in a sacred court of law, should anybody be shocked or surprised when Ben, who has the best lawyer & peeyar credentials plus three decades of experience in both scamming businesses, pulls an essentially identical “stunt?”

    Orac cuts to the chase; “…pushing the myth that the Holocaust is a direct consequence of Darwin’s theory are despicable liars of the first order who will say anything to smear their opponents.”

    I would add this to Orac’s phrase; “and sway the jury and the schmuckery – no holds barred.”

    Ben is marketing the Holocaust brand and/or the Holocaust Denial Brand, and he is doing it very skillfully & successfully.

    “Let’s give them the Darwin frame and have a debate,” and scientists join Ben’s carefully crafted debate.

    Ben-the-bamboozler has scored, and we are the marks.

  30. #30 gerald spezio
    April 24, 2008

    If Ben Stein performed his Darwin-done-the-Holocaust, anti-evolution, designed to be persuasive “act” as a dedicated adversarial lawyer protecting his client before a jury carefully “selected” for their biases and prejudices, how would we analyze Ben’s “performance?”

    If Johnnie Cochran can successfully invoke the Hitler frame in a sacred court of law, should anybody be shocked or surprised when Ben, who has the best lawyer & peeyar credentials plus three decades of experience in both scamming businesses, pulls an essentially identical “stunt?”

    Orac cuts to the chase; “…pushing the myth that the Holocaust is a direct consequence of Darwin’s theory are despicable liars of the first order who will say anything to smear their opponents.”

    I would add this to Orac’s phrase; “and sway the jury and the schmuckery – no holds barred.”

    Ben is marketing the Holocaust brand and/or the Holocaust Denial Brand, and he is doing it very skillfully & successfully.

    “Let’s give them the Darwin frame and have a debate,” and scientists join Ben’s carefully crafted debate.

    Ben-the-bamboozler has scored, and we are the marks.

  31. #31 gerald spezio
    April 24, 2008

    If Ben Stein performed his Darwin-done-the-Holocaust, anti-evolution, designed to be persuasive “act” as a dedicated adversarial lawyer protecting his client before a jury carefully “selected” for their biases and prejudices, how would we analyze Ben’s “performance?”

    If Johnnie Cochran can successfully invoke the Hitler frame in a sacred court of law, should anybody be shocked or surprised when Ben, who has the best lawyer & peeyar credentials plus three decades of experience in both scamming businesses, pulls an essentially identical “stunt?”

    Orac cuts to the chase; “…pushing the myth that the Holocaust is a direct consequence of Darwin’s theory are despicable liars of the first order who will say anything to smear their opponents.”

    I would add this to Orac’s phrase; “and sway the jury and the schmuckery – no holds barred.”

    Ben is marketing the Holocaust brand and/or the Holocaust Denial Brand, and he is doing it very skillfully & successfully.

    “Let’s give them the Darwin frame and have a debate,” and scientists join Ben’s carefully crafted debate.

    Ben-the-bamboozler has scored, and we are the marks.

  32. #32 gerald spezio
    April 24, 2008

    If Ben Stein performed his Darwin-done-the-Holocaust, anti-evolution, designed to be persuasive “act” as a dedicated adversarial lawyer protecting his client before a jury carefully “selected” for their biases and prejudices, how would we analyze Ben’s “performance?”

    If Johnnie Cochran can successfully invoke the Hitler frame in a sacred court of law, should anybody be shocked or surprised when Ben, who has the best lawyer & peeyar credentials plus three decades of experience in both scamming businesses, pulls an essentially identical “stunt?”

    Orac cuts to the chase; “…pushing the myth that the Holocaust is a direct consequence of Darwin’s theory are despicable liars of the first order who will say anything to smear their opponents.”

    I would add this to Orac’s phrase; “and sway the jury and the schmuckery – no holds barred.”

    Ben is marketing the Holocaust brand and/or the Holocaust Denial Brand, and he is doing it very skillfully & successfully.

    “Let’s give them the Darwin frame and have a debate,” and scientists join Ben’s carefully crafted debate.

    Ben-the-bamboozler has scored, and we are the marks.

  33. #33 gerald spezio
    April 24, 2008

    If Ben Stein performed his Darwin-done-the-Holocaust, anti-evolution, designed to be persuasive “act” as a dedicated adversarial lawyer protecting his client before a jury carefully “selected” for their biases and prejudices, how would we analyze Ben’s “performance?”

    If Johnnie Cochran can successfully invoke the Hitler frame in a sacred court of law, should anybody be shocked or surprised when Ben, who has the best lawyer & peeyar credentials plus three decades of experience in both scamming businesses, pulls an essentially identical “stunt?”

    Orac cuts to the chase; “…pushing the myth that the Holocaust is a direct consequence of Darwin’s theory are despicable liars of the first order who will say anything to smear their opponents.”

    I would add this to Orac’s phrase; “and sway the jury and the schmuckery – no holds barred.”

    Ben is marketing the Holocaust brand and/or the Holocaust Denial Brand, and he is doing it very skillfully & successfully.

    “Let’s give them the Darwin frame and have a debate,” and scientists join Ben’s carefully crafted debate.

    Ben-the-bamboozler has scored, and we are the marks.

  34. #34 gerald spezio
    April 24, 2008

    If Ben Stein performed his Darwin-done-the-Holocaust, anti-evolution, designed to be persuasive “act” as a dedicated adversarial lawyer protecting his client before a jury carefully “selected” for their biases and prejudices, how would we analyze Ben’s “performance?”

    If Johnnie Cochran can successfully invoke the Hitler frame in a sacred court of law, should anybody be shocked or surprised when Ben, who has the best lawyer & peeyar credentials plus three decades of experience in both scamming businesses, pulls an essentially identical “stunt?”

    Orac cuts to the chase; “…pushing the myth that the Holocaust is a direct consequence of Darwin’s theory are despicable liars of the first order who will say anything to smear their opponents.”

    I would add this to Orac’s phrase; “and sway the jury and the schmuckery – no holds barred.”

    Ben is marketing the Holocaust brand and/or the Holocaust Denial Brand, and he is doing it very skillfully & successfully.

    “Let’s give them the Darwin frame and have a debate,” and scientists join Ben’s carefully crafted debate.

    Ben-the-bamboozler has scored, and we are the marks.

  35. #35 gerald spezio
    April 24, 2008

    If Ben Stein performed his Darwin-done-the-Holocaust, anti-evolution, designed to be persuasive “act” as a dedicated adversarial lawyer protecting his client before a jury carefully “selected” for their biases and prejudices, how would we analyze Ben’s “performance?”

    If Johnnie Cochran can successfully invoke the Hitler frame in a sacred court of law, should anybody be shocked or surprised when Ben, who has the best lawyer & peeyar credentials plus three decades of experience in both scamming businesses, pulls an essentially identical “stunt?”

    Orac cuts to the chase; “…pushing the myth that the Holocaust is a direct consequence of Darwin’s theory are despicable liars of the first order who will say anything to smear their opponents.”

    I would add this to Orac’s phrase; “and sway the jury and the schmuckery – no holds barred.”

    Ben is marketing the Holocaust brand and/or the Holocaust Denial Brand, and he is doing it very skillfully & successfully.

    “Let’s give them the Darwin frame and have a debate,” and scientists join Ben’s carefully crafted debate.

    Ben-the-bamboozler has scored, and we are the marks.

  36. #36 gerald spezio
    April 24, 2008

    If Ben Stein performed his Darwin-done-the-Holocaust, anti-evolution, designed to be persuasive “act” as a dedicated adversarial lawyer protecting his client before a jury carefully “selected” for their biases and prejudices, how would we analyze Ben’s “performance?”

    If Johnnie Cochran can successfully invoke the Hitler frame in a sacred court of law, should anybody be shocked or surprised when Ben, who has the best lawyer & peeyar credentials plus three decades of experience in both scamming businesses, pulls an essentially identical “stunt?”

    Orac cuts to the chase; “…pushing the myth that the Holocaust is a direct consequence of Darwin’s theory are despicable liars of the first order who will say anything to smear their opponents.”

    I would add this to Orac’s phrase; “and sway the jury and the schmuckery – no holds barred.”

    Ben is marketing the Holocaust brand and/or the Holocaust Denial Brand, and he is doing it very skillfully & successfully.

    “Let’s give them the Darwin frame and have a debate,” and scientists join Ben’s carefully crafted debate.

    Ben-the-bamboozler has scored, and we are the marks.

  37. #37 gerald spezio
    April 24, 2008

    If Ben Stein performed his Darwin-done-the-Holocaust, anti-evolution, designed to be persuasive “act” as a dedicated adversarial lawyer protecting his client before a jury carefully “selected” for their biases and prejudices, how would we analyze Ben’s “performance?”

    If Johnnie Cochran can successfully invoke the Hitler frame in a sacred court of law, should anybody be shocked or surprised when Ben, who has the best lawyer & peeyar credentials plus three decades of experience in both scamming businesses, pulls an essentially identical “stunt?”

    Orac cuts to the chase; “…pushing the myth that the Holocaust is a direct consequence of Darwin’s theory are despicable liars of the first order who will say anything to smear their opponents.”

    I would add this to Orac’s phrase; “and sway the jury and the schmuckery – no holds barred.”

    Ben is marketing the Holocaust brand and/or the Holocaust Denial Brand, and he is doing it very skillfully & successfully.

    “Let’s give them the Darwin frame and have a debate,” and scientists join Ben’s carefully crafted debate.

    Ben-the-bamboozler has scored, and we are the marks.

  38. #38 gerald spezio
    April 24, 2008

    If Ben Stein performed his Darwin-done-the-Holocaust, anti-evolution, designed to be persuasive “act” as a dedicated adversarial lawyer protecting his client before a jury carefully “selected” for their biases and prejudices, how would we analyze Ben’s “performance?”

    If Johnnie Cochran can successfully invoke the Hitler frame in a sacred court of law, should anybody be shocked or surprised when Ben, who has the best lawyer & peeyar credentials plus three decades of experience in both scamming businesses, pulls an essentially identical “stunt?”

    Orac cuts to the chase; “…pushing the myth that the Holocaust is a direct consequence of Darwin’s theory are despicable liars of the first order who will say anything to smear their opponents.”

    I would add this to Orac’s phrase; “and sway the jury and the schmuckery – no holds barred.”

    Ben is marketing the Holocaust brand and/or the Holocaust Denial Brand, and he is doing it very skillfully & successfully.

    “Let’s give them the Darwin frame and have a debate,” and scientists join Ben’s carefully crafted debate.

    Ben-the-bamboozler has scored, and we are the marks.

  39. #39 gerald spezio
    April 24, 2008

    If Ben Stein performed his Darwin-done-the-Holocaust, anti-evolution, designed to be persuasive “act” as a dedicated adversarial lawyer protecting his client before a jury carefully “selected” for their biases and prejudices, how would we analyze Ben’s “performance?”

    If Johnnie Cochran can successfully invoke the Hitler frame in a sacred court of law, should anybody be shocked or surprised when Ben, who has the best lawyer & peeyar credentials plus three decades of experience in both scamming businesses, pulls an essentially identical “stunt?”

    Orac cuts to the chase; “…pushing the myth that the Holocaust is a direct consequence of Darwin’s theory are despicable liars of the first order who will say anything to smear their opponents.”

    I would add this to Orac’s phrase; “and sway the jury and the schmuckery – no holds barred.”

    Ben is marketing the Holocaust brand and/or the Holocaust Denial Brand, and he is doing it very skillfully & successfully.

    “Let’s give them the Darwin frame and have a debate,” and scientists join Ben’s carefully crafted debate.

    Ben-the-bamboozler has scored, and we are the marks.

  40. #40 gerald spezio
    April 24, 2008

    If Ben Stein performed his Darwin-done-the-Holocaust, anti-evolution, designed to be persuasive “act” as a dedicated adversarial lawyer protecting his client before a jury carefully “selected” for their biases and prejudices, how would we analyze Ben’s “performance?”

    If Johnnie Cochran can successfully invoke the Hitler frame in a sacred court of law, should anybody be shocked or surprised when Ben, who has the best lawyer & peeyar credentials plus three decades of experience in both scamming businesses, pulls an essentially identical “stunt?”

    Orac cuts to the chase; “…pushing the myth that the Holocaust is a direct consequence of Darwin’s theory are despicable liars of the first order who will say anything to smear their opponents.”

    I would add this to Orac’s phrase; “and sway the jury and the schmuckery – no holds barred.”

    Ben is marketing the Holocaust brand and/or the Holocaust Denial Brand, and he is doing it very skillfully & successfully.

    “Let’s give them the Darwin frame and have a debate,” and scientists join Ben’s carefully crafted debate.

    Ben-the-bamboozler has scored, and we are the marks.

  41. #41 cee
    April 24, 2008

    Oh and to those on this board, and the effete elitist Mr. Dawkins, another quote regarding “the beginning” by Charles Darwin (just after he speculated that belief in God could be like a monkey’s instinctive fear of snakes):

    “The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble to us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.”

    http://www.update.uu.se/~fbendz/library/cd_relig.htm

    Oh my. He stepped to the edge and retreated. Oh that so many elitist intellectuals since his time of polite society would do the same!

    So to those who KNOW how the first cell came to being, or how the first self-replicating, self-correcting information containing molecule came to being, I challenge you to address the quality of evidence for your theory compared to the evidence of those who still are open to the possibility of a creator. I think Mrs. Barlow (see above) answered that controversy quite nicely.

  42. #42 windy
    April 24, 2008

    I believe that if the ideologues seen in EXPELLED, like Richard Dawkins and many on this board, had a small amount of the humility Charles Darwin displayed in the close of that part of his autobiography, the great divide we see between the two great competing world views would be less contentious.

    In context, the quote about the old lady is in a chapter where Darwin reflects on the decrease of such overt religiosity in his lifetime: “Nothing is more remarkable than the spread of scepticism or rationalism during the latter half of my life.” It’s an amusing anecdote, not an endorsement.

  43. #43 Tyler DiPietro
    April 24, 2008

    “The conspiracist mind draws connections too readily. Specifically, it consider possible consequences of an event and concludes that these must be involved in causality. If this had not been released in an election year, what overarching “reason” would you have come up with?”

    I hope you’ll reconsider such reflexive dismissal of that idea, Colugo. There were obviously some deep pockets behind the marketing effort of the movie, and it doesn’t look as though they were too concerned about making a profit (propaganda flicks are rarely money makers anyway). The idea that it is intended to generate antipathy for secularists among the religious right, in a year where the Democrats’ electoral prospects are better than they ever have been in recent history, is by no means an implausible conspiracy theory.

  44. #44 cee
    April 24, 2008

    Um, windy….what is “sweet.” Can you describe me what “sweet” is? “Objectify” the sensation described as “sweet.” ARGUE “sweet.” However you want to pose it…Analyze, “sweet.”

    Please try to expand your mind a little. Try tolerance of others. Darwin showed his tolerance with the quote from Mrs. Barlow and his stopping at a place along that road to nihilism.

    Where have you stopped, windy?

  45. #45 Tyler DiPietro
    April 24, 2008

    “The plain truth when it is all striped down is to how the moral (or really immoral) decision was made. It is my opinion, as a Jew that believes in a personal God who created the universe and man, that the extreme conclusions of skepticism had lead to the ultimate end, nihilism.”

    So about how much of the Third Reich do you think accepted the “extreme conclusions of skepticism”? Hitler was by all evidence a Roman Catholic. Other members of the Reich who were not Christian, e.g. Heinrich Himmler, were absorbed in all sorts of occult and paranormal nonsense. The notion of “the purity of Aryan blood” is certainly not a notion that can withstand even the slightest application of scientific scrutiny. So, as a wise-man once said, “show me the money”.

  46. #46 windy
    April 24, 2008

    Please try to expand your mind a little. Try tolerance of others. Darwin showed his tolerance with the quote from Mrs. Barlow and his stopping at a place along that road to nihilism.

    You are quite stupid. Fine, I tolerate that. Don’t ever change.

  47. #47 cee
    April 24, 2008

    Adolf Hitler and the Nazi elite were gnostics…Hitler believed he was messiah, on a mission from God. He did not believe in orthodox Christianity.

    When one comes to the conclusion that, as Darwin speculated, “A man who has no assured and ever present belief in the existence of a personal God or of future existence with retribution and reward, can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones.” the sky’s the limit! So I feel it is best to institute a program to rid the society of undesirables based on a particular assessment of race, defect and utility…..let’s go for it.

    That is where skepticism leads. I believe some call it “moral relativism.” The world view, ideology, is the key and I suppose the distractions you would rather dwell on are easier to blame it all on.

    Hitler also had a funny looking mustache…perhaps that explains his ideology?

  48. #48 cee
    April 24, 2008

    Ah, windy….another compassionate and kind response from a poster here. Keep it up, EXPELLED showed people the anger and hatred as well.

  49. #49 Colugo
    April 24, 2008

    I’ll take that into consideration, Tyler. The idea that this is really about the election strikes not so much as implausible as superfluous and less parsimonious than the simpler explanation. (And perhaps this is indicative of my being poorly attuned to the Red State zeitgeist, but I don’t see Expelled as helping the GOP. Maybe I’m wrong.)

    McCarthy: “Darwin cites Haeckel and Galton in his late work, and there was a close collegeial relationship between him and both of them”

    But that does not mean that Darwin’s and their ideas are identical either. Rather, Galton and Haeckel were part of a lineage of evolutionary thought applied to social affairs that leads to Pearson, Davenport, Laughlin, Lenz, Carrel etc.

    To clarify, I called Nazi biopolitics “a grossly perverted biology derived partly from Darwinism.” Certainly Galton and Haeckel revised Darwin’s ideas. Darwin and his colleagues had agreements and disagreements. Again, you are not entirely wrong even as you oversimplify. There is a tendency to characterize Darwin and Wallace as being more line with today’s liberal sensibilities than they actually were, and to suggest that Haeckel was more of an intellectual renegade than he was. (SJ Gould is partly responsible for these somewhat skewed views.)

    A troubling fact is that the applications of biology to social affairs made by Social Darwinists, eugenicists, and scientific racists are only pseudoscience by today’s standards. To people of that time, these approaches were simply part of science – unfortunately reflected in medical and biology textbooks of the era.

    You asked about criticism of eugenics by Darwinists. Raymond Pearl, a student of Karl Pearson, published an article critical of eugenics ‘The Biology of Superiority,’ in 1927. Pearl’s role in the movement is complex, however. (I keep emphasizing complexity and nuance, while you, cee and lot of other people on both sides keep insisting on simplifying.)

    Also see Alfred Wallace, ‘Human Selection’ in The Electic Magazine p. 547, 1890. (Available on Google Books). You might be able to harvest some quotes to help you bash Darwin, but maybe it will provide a more complex picture of the views of that era.

  50. #50 Tyler DiPietro
    April 24, 2008

    “Adolf Hitler and the Nazi elite were gnostics…Hitler believed he was messiah, on a mission from God. He did not believe in orthodox Christianity.”

    I’m sorry, but by “show me the money” I meant “present actual evidence”, not “recycle specious claims grounded in nothing but gut feelings.” For instance, you are obviously conflating “heterodox Christianity” (Hitler’s explicit belief in which you have not substantiated) with secularism or skepticism.

    “When one comes to the conclusion that, as Darwin speculated, “A man who has no assured and ever present belief in the existence of a personal God or of future existence with retribution and reward, can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones.”

    Hitler very clearly believed in a personal god.

  51. #51 Colugo
    April 24, 2008

    Aside: One could argue that Social Darwinism, eugenics, scientific racism was also pseudoscience by an idealization of the scientific standards of the late 19th – early 20th C too, but the important thing is that scientists of that era generally didn’t think that was the case.

    It’s like arguing whether Mormons are really Christians, or if Social Democrats are really socialists – descriptive vs idealized/prescriptive labels.

  52. #52 DavidCT
    April 24, 2008

    When Dr. Caplan uses Holocaust denial the way he does it makes his ideas are difficult to conceptualize. He may be right technically and I don’t disagree with the idea he is trying to present. It is just that the mental gymnastics required to understand his point of view are not very elagant and as a result it is not as useful as it could be. Smart or stupid you only get one vote politically. If Dr. Caplan is unclear to someone as smart as Orac the impact of his outrage is lost.

    Ben Stein’s great opus is easy for the true believers to understand. Even though it is a bunch of lies, it will have more impact with his target audience. Micheal Shermer reported that when he attended a showing of Expelled with a religious group, it was well received. I think we all could use a viewing of “Flock of Dodos” and take the message to heart.

  53. #53 Anthony McCarthy
    April 24, 2008

    Colugo, Darwin had disagreements with most of his closest associates on matters of natural selection, even Thomas Huxley, that doesn’t impeach those associates as close and often most trusted colleagues of Darwin. Galton’s statements that Darwin was an inspriation of his eugenics, along with at least one letter from Charles Darwin to Galton I’ve seen enthusiastically praising Hereditary Genius, can’t be refuted by people who never knew Darwin or were associated with him. You would have to have a contemporary refutation by someone as closely associated with Darwin to do it, I’ve looked and haven’t found that kind of authoritative refutation of Galton.

    And then there is Leonard Darwin who also cited his father’s inspiration for his eugenics career, I seem to recall it was the bulk of L. Darwin’s “science”. You would also need as close an associate to Charles Darwin, that would probably be another one of his children, to refute Leonard Darwin.

    I’ll remind you that both Galton and L. Darwin had sources of information no one alive today has, they talked to Charles Darwin off-record. He is likely to have told them things he never wrote or published. Charles Darwin was famous for avoiding public disputes, he avoided them. He was almost certainly more candid in conversations with his own family than he would have been for publication. I don’t see how anyone in 2008 can be taken as more authoritative than these two eugenicists.

    About Social Darwinism, you do know that Spenser preceeded Darwin and, though I don’t have my copy of The Descent of Man, I believe Darwin calls Spenser something like “our best philospher” in it. Though I’d like to get my copy before I make a fast committment to that point.

  54. #54 Pierce R. Butler
    April 24, 2008

    My (personal, amateur, uncredentialed) viewpoint is that the term “Holocaust” should be applied to all the (non-combat) slaughter conducted by the Nazis and their European allies for ideological reasons. This encompasses the murders of leftists, gays, Romany (Gypsy) peoples, those with mental or physical infirmities, religious sects (particularly Jehovah’s Witnesses), etc, etc.

    In particular, it applies to the attempted extermination of Slavs. The lowest estimate I’ve found for the number of non-Jewish Polish civilians killed by the Germans is well over a million; in Poland itself the figure 3 million seems to be widely held (matching the estimate of 3 million murdered Jewish Poles). Add in a couple of million or so Soviet POWs deliberately starved after their capture, and the total of non-Jewish fatalities approaches that of the Jews.

    In more heated moments, particularly when considering the political exploitation of Hitler’s genocide by the state of Israel, I’ve been known to claim that the equation of “Holocaust = 6,000,000 Jews” is in itself a form of Holocaust denial.

    Rather surprisingly, I’ve only found two books (The Other Holocaust: Many Circles of Hell by Bohdan Wytwycky, and A Mosaic of Victims: Non-Jews Persecuted and Murdered by the Nazis by Michael Berenbaum (ed), dealing with this “big picture”. (Recommendations for further reading would be more than welcome.)

    There is very little attention given to the Holocaust in its entirety. Almost all research and writing is focused on the subset I suggest might be more properly called the Shoah.

  55. #55 Sastra
    April 24, 2008

    cee wrote:

    The plain truth when it is all striped down is to how the moral (or really immoral) decision was made. It is my opinion, as a Jew that believes in a personal God who created the universe and man, that the extreme conclusions of skepticism had lead to the ultimate end, nihilism.

    The problem with Hitler and the Nazis doesn’t appear to have been that they were too rationally skeptical. Nor were they pessimistic nihilists. On the contrary, they were highly emotional optimists who believed in divine destiny, the march of history, the purity of the national character, racial progress, and the ultimate creation of Utopia — all done to fulfill the will and character of their Creator. They came out of 19th century Romanticism — enthusiasts who relied heavily on intuition and feelings, the stirrings within the blood.

    Nothing is more relative than religious belief. What people “choose” to have faith in, and how they see and interpret “God,” goes all over the board — and with no way to check it against a non-relative and neutrally-located God. The belief that this worthless world is nothing more than a test, or waystation on the way to a better one, is nihilistic. The belief that God has a plan he wants you to implement is dangerous. The belief that all people have been divided by God into the saved and the damned — and the damned deserve their damnation — is not necessarily conducive to brotherly harmony and mutual respect.

    With God, all things are permitted. It’s the exclamation point on any position you want, and says “Don’t argue with this!” It’s far easier to point out specific empirical problems with pseudoscience, than it is to argue that someone who thinks they understand God doesn’t — but you do. Faith is relativism, with every side having a different “objective” God setting things in unquestionable stone. Don’t kid yourself that religion is any kind of solution.

  56. #56 cee
    April 24, 2008

    Oh boy, Sastra, your conclusions are very radical.

    I refer you to this article:

    http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/science/sc0020.html

    “Nietzsche welcomed the death of God as a necessary precondition for the fruition of human greatness. But his older Russian contemporary, the great novelist Foodor Dostoevsky, like John Donne before him, was appalled by the consequences that the victory of science over religion were likely to bring with it. If God was dead, he said (through the mouth of one of his characters, Ivan Karamazov), then everything was permitted.

    “At this point in the story, we run into another fascinating paradox. While it was in becoming ‘modest’ that the human mind seemed to have grown to superhuman proportions, it soon forgot, in the headiness of its accomplishments, the respect for its own limits that had made the gigantic accomplishments of reason possible in the first place. Now the idea spread that reason in the form of science had shown that it, not God, was omnipotent and was on its way to usurping the divine attribute of omniscience as well.”

  57. #57 Anthony McCarthy
    April 24, 2008

    Found it. Our great philosopher, Herbert Spencer, has recently explained his views on the moral sense. He says (46. Letter to Mr. Mill in Bain’s ‘Mental and Moral Science,’ 1868, p. 722.), “I believe that the experiences of utility organised and consolidated through all past generations of the human race, have been producing corresponding modifications,…. Descent of Man 1874, 2nd Edition

    So Darwin was mighty impressed with the inventor of “Social Darwinism”, apparently in the idea of an upward spiral too, though I’m too busy to read the whole, long winded thing. You would need Charles Darwin, himself after 1874, I’m afraid to negate this link to Social Darwinism.

  58. #58 Colugo
    April 24, 2008

    McCarthy: Your argument rests on the premise that Darwin lacked candor and was even disingenuous on the topic of eugenics. But that is unprovable, unless we find a journal entry by a confidante that reveals something different than what Darwin wrote in his own books, papers, journals, and letters.

    I could probably do even better than you on finding quotes by Darwin praising Spencer, Galton, and Haeckel. Those three were brilliant and they made significant intellectual contributions, along with some very noxious ideas. It’s a very troubled legacy. I could make a similar observation about Marx, Hegel, Nietzsche, St. Augustine…

    In the case of Galton and Haeckel I believe that they do bear some indirect (not direct) historical responsibility for the Holocaust. An anthropologist once told me that anthropologists honor their ancestors by ritually crucifying them. I think that’s a good idea for a number of fields, whether biology or theology.

    Incidentally, Spencer, a feminist and anti-imperialist, is a more complex and in some ways sympathetic figure than he is often made out to be.

    But bad ideas – some which look a lot like forms of “Social Darwinism” – can come from a lot of different sources. Friedrich Engels, two opinion pieces (The Magyar Struggle and Democratic Pan-Slavism) published in 1849 (10 years before The Origin of Species) in which Hegel is cited:

    “in history nothing is achieved without violence and implacable ruthlessness”

    “Then there will be a struggle, an “inexorable life-and-death struggle”, against those Slavs who betray the revolution; an annihilating fight and ruthless terror — not in the interests of Germany, but in the interests of the revolution!”

    “…the Austrian Germans and Magyars will be set free and wreak a bloody revenge on the Slav barbarians. The general war which will then break out will smash this Slav Sonderbund and wipe out all these petty hidebound nations, down to their very names.”

    “The next world war will result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples. And that, too, is a step forward.”

  59. #59 CanadianChick
    April 24, 2008

    cee – do you not recognize how ridiculous it is to be using that source (the catholic website)as support for your argument?

    Sastra’s conclusions are not radical, they are logical.

  60. #60 Sastra
    April 24, 2008

    cee wrote:

    Now the idea spread that reason in the form of science had shown that it, not God, was omnipotent and was on its way to usurping the divine attribute of omniscience as well.”

    When people blend pseudoscience with the religious impulse for achieving omnipotence, omniscience, and perfection, you do indeed get a very nasty product. That’s not really an apology for the value of the religious impulse.

    Those who justify atrocities through science have to make their case using reason, to other human beings. Those who justify atrocities using God don’t have to make their case, because God doesn’t have to justify Himself to human beings. He can’t be argued against. He need simply be presented.

    Tell me one thing that is not permitted — even if it is the will and intention of God.

    Now tell me how to be absolutely sure what God’s will is.

    ‘Doctor, I know that sugar is sweet in my mouth, and I know that my redeemer liveth.’(Mrs. Barlow)

    “I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord..” (Adolf Hitler)

    Isn’t that sweet. They are both so sure of God — and of themselves. As sure as sure can be. Self-evident sure. No hubris there. Nope.

    Bringing the certainty of God into any world view is a seriously over-rated method for reminding ourselves we needs be modest and cautious. Your remedy is not really a remedy, because it doesn’t act as a check against dogmatic certainty.

  61. #61 pedlar
    April 24, 2008

    Yesterday I posted (a longer version of) this comment on the original Caplan thread.

    I think Caplan’s point about Holocaust denial can be be illustrated by a kind of argumentum ad absurdum.

    1. I accept 6 million jews died in Nazi Germany. But they were killed by an asteroid strike. Holocaust denial, right? Even though the deaths are accepted.

    2. I accept 6 million jews died in Nazi Germany. In concentration camps. But it was an outbreak of plague that killed them. Well, that started of better – but it’s still Holocaust denial. Right?

    3. I accept 6 million jews died in Nazi Germany. In concentration camps. Killed by camp guards. Deliberately. But the guards were infected by aliens from Planet Xenu. Pod people, you know. And that’s still Holocaust denial.

    And so on. Anything that deliberately lies about the truth of what happened and why it happened is a form of Holocaust denial.

    I thought that was a reasonable debating point and left it at that. (I’m posting from the opposite side of the world; it was bedtime here.) The next day I came back to find a very strange post from Christian Cynic, announcing that:

    you sure don’t have a very good grasp on the plain meaning of “Holocaust denial.” The options you gave materially change the events that occurred [italics in original] …

    You there, CC? I just wondered if you could explain your logic. See, to me the single relevant material event was that 6 million jews died in Nazi Germany. So let’s recap my examples.

    1. I accept 6 million jews died in Nazi Germany … etc.
    2. I accept 6 million jews died in Nazi Germany … etc
    3. I accept 6 million jews died in Nazi Germany … etc

    Clear so far?

    Okay. So that’s the unchanged material event. Surrounding that event are questions of cause, of morals and motives and intent. Now, if Ben Stein had denied the central fact, that 6 million jews died in Nazi Germany, then Art Caplan (and others) would have accused him of straightforward Holocaust denial. But Stein didn’t do that, he perverted and lied about the surrounding questions; and so Caplan called this a form of Holocaust denial.

    I still think that’s a fair point, but I also think that at bottom this debate is little more than a question of definitions – as these debates usually are. I really don’t mind what opinion CC or anyone else holds on the matter. But crappy logic pisses me off.

  62. #62 sailor
    April 24, 2008

    It may not be a form of denial in the sense of denying it happened. However, as an athiest, it makes me mad to have Ben and Pope blame Hitler Youth and the holocaust on Darwin/ rationalisam. At least a few reviewers have given Ben his due. The pope on the other hand gets brownosed by every journalist, all who pimp for people with power. They repeat his words like they came from a sage. No one had remarked that Hitler both invoked God and was, as far as the record shows, a Catholic.
    Neither Hitler youth nor the holocaust had ANYTHING to do with godlessness or science.
    And yes it is a form of denial. We are told the holocaust was not due to racism and Hilter but Darwin and godlesness. Say instead we blamed it on some other group -say Muslims, would this not be a form of denial of the history?

  63. #63 cee
    April 24, 2008

    Did any of the proud, logical scientists here read the end of that horrible page from a catholic site?….

    “As Mr. Jastrow sees it, this is where the story ends. But alas, he is correct only for the older breed of natural scientists. A new breed, which did not yet exist in the 17th century, has come along in the latter part of the 20th and seems likely to reignite the war between science and religion. This new breed, made up of geneticists, molecular biologists and biotechnologists, is in the only the early stages of its work. Like their predecessors in other scientific fields, they have gone very far very fast, but they have neither begun with nor yet acquired any sense of the limits of what they can do.

    “A good illustration is provided by two leading pioneers of the ‘new philosophy’ of our own day, Francis Crick and James D. Watson, who jointly won the Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA. So confident were these men of their powers that in the early 1970s they entertained the idea of administering genetic tests to newborn infants who, if they failed, were to be put to death. At the time this idea was so shocking that Mr. Crick prudently refused to allow publication of the BBC interview in which he had floated it, while Mr. Watson confined his endorsement to private conversation (with me, among others).

    “Of course they defined ‘failure’ as a likely predisposition to certain diseases, so that the infanticide it entailed wore a reassuring therapeutic mask. Yet what was to prevent the future inclusion of standards of height or beauty or intellectual potential as necessary qualifications for the right of a newborn to go on living?

    “By now, even with this terrible question still hanging in the air, we have a philosopher like Peter Singer throwing all caution to the winds and developing a rationale for an allegedly benevolent program of infanticide. Mr Singer’s reward for his brazen outspokenness has been an appointment as professor of bioethics at the Princeton University Center for Human Values (!). In response, the resistance within the religious community is heating up at a rapid clip.

    “But wait. Thanks to the progress of genetic engineering, which assures us it can rectify defects in advance, infanticide may prove unnecessary. This sounds wonderful, but wait again. As the political theorist Francis Fukuyama has written, the biotechnical revolution is “on the brink” of being able to custom-design creatures who will resemble humans but will not be governed by human nature as we have always known it.

    “Unlike his namesake Francis Bacon, who greeted the first stage of modern science with hope and enthusiasm, Mr. Fukuyama looks forward with fear and trembling to this next stage. ‘To the extent that nature is not something given to us by God or by our evolutionary inheritance, but by human artifice, then we enter into God’s own realm with all of the frightening powers for good and evil that such an entry implies.’”

    I suppose there is no value in looking inward to many on this site but only observe, comment, accept or dismiss what is external. This new brand of naturalist is concerning and were the main antagonists in EXPELLED.

  64. #64 pedlar
    April 24, 2008

    And while I’m as fond as the next person of the minutiae of history and the many shades of philosophical grey, I’d still like one of these Expelled apologists to explain to me precisely what the F*** Darwin’s theory had to do with the Holocaust anyway. (To repeat some more from yesterday’s post) Darwin didn’t discover Evolution. He discovered Natural Selection. The concept of Evolution – that organisms change over time – goes way back. Almost as far as the concept of Artificial Selection. That goes back at least ten thousand years to the beginning of systematic agriculture and animal breeding. And Eugenics (and its offspring, the Holocaust) is BY ITS VERY DEFINITION ARTIFICIAL SELECTION, NOT NATURAL SELECTION.

    QED. Darwin is innocent. Go pick on someone else. Martin Luther, maybe.

  65. #65 Anthony McCarthy
    April 24, 2008

    McCarthy: Your argument rests on the premise that Darwin lacked candor and was even disingenuous on the topic of eugenics. But that is unprovable, unless we find a journal entry by a confidante that reveals something different than what Darwin wrote in his own books, papers, journals, and letters.

    Yes, it is unprovable, that’s not going to make a single bit of difference politically. And that is just too bad.

    Colugo, you know that what really matters isn’t what I think, it’s what people who are skeptical about Darwin to begin with would need to be won over. With two-thirds of Americans not accepting evolution, the number constantly whined about by the Darwin partisans, what you really should ask yourselves is how much is evolution worth to you. Is it worth it to rescue to the mythic, and long dead, Charles Darwin which was never accurate to begin with?

    I don’t think the preservation of the mythology of Darwin is worth a good 10th, grade Biology text book being rejected. I also don’t think parading Darwin as a political symbol is worth losing a congressional district over, never mind a presidential campaign. You would be shocked how indifferent I am to Darwin’s reputation, he is not an important issue in science in 2008, he isn’t someone the political left should fall on its sword over.

    Now, I’ll tell you what I said this morning. The political case to rescue Darwin will not be able to insist a standard of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. To make that you would have to virtually prove that, despite many, many of his own words, the words of Francis Galton and, his own son, that he was not a figure in eugenics. The son alone is enough to lose you the political case because his career in eugenics along with the record of his correspondences, etc. will have political resonance that I doubt the salvage operation will be able to surmount. I guarantee you that the argument about these two intimate associates of Darwin having information you don’t will be brought up and since it will match everyones’ personal experience, it will be especially effective for the anti-Darwin side.

    You will almost certainly not be able to rely on a preponderance of the evidence because that is murky at best, highly incriminating, most likely. And you would still have to overcome the son and cousin and his other close associates.

    You will actually have to overturn the enormously effective anti-evolution propaganda of decades, including the cluelessly provided words of tone-deaf, self-indulgent figures like Richard Dawkins, and that would take longer than either of us is going to be alive.

    So, before I go back to politics, which I like a lot more than coming to the Scienceblogs, I’m going to say that Darwin should be given up, as the most notorious Sci-blog bully might say, allowed to go back to his base elements. He is not important, evolution in the public schools and as a funded science are. Darwin isn’t worth the cost he has been to them.

  66. #66 pxcampbell
    April 24, 2008

    The movie disrespects science, Darwin, and the millions of people slaughtered by the Third Reich. Call it revisionist, denialist or any -ist you think of. I’m going with the “disses” – disgusting, disingenuous and disrespectful. Fortunately, history (revisionist or otherwise) has a funny way of putting such bilge in its place.

    Rather than weigh in further, I offer the following quotes.

    “It has always puzzled me that so many religious people have taken it for granted that God favors those who believe in him. Isn’t it possible that the actual God is a scientific God who has little patience with beliefs founded on faith rather than evidence?”
    Raymond Smullyan, 5000 B.C. and Other Philosophical Fantasies (1983)

    “The religion that is afraid of science dishonors God and commits suicide.”
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “I do not feel obliged to believe that same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect had intended for us to forgo their use.”
    Galileo Galilei

    “No contemporary religion and no New Age belief seems to me to take sufficient account of the grandeur, magnificence, subtlety and intricacy of the Universe revealed by science.”
    Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle in the Dark (1995)

    I don’t understand — I probably never will — why so many of the so-called faithful are so adamantly opposed to science. I don’t understand how ignoring the awesome complexity of our world — that spans billions of years change and growth — how dismissing all of that does anything to serve the glory of their God.

    In my opinion, a God capable of producing the complexity that is our real world is far more powerful, more awe-inspiring than the deity described by ignornant, unlearned people eighteen hundred years ago. (Allowing, of course, for the fact that the canonical gospels weren’t actually written down until sometime around 190 CE.)

    In the Diety Death Match, my money is on the God who created science.

  67. #67 Anthony McCarthy
    April 24, 2008

    pxcampbell, the cartoon hero Darwin isn’t just dead, he never existed. He has nothing to do with science.

    Carl Sagan.

    Yep, predictable as the decay of dung, the Power Rangers of Scientism.

  68. #68 Tyler DiPietro
    April 24, 2008

    “pxcampbell, the cartoon hero Darwin isn’t just dead, he never existed. He has nothing to do with science.”

    Other than being one its most important historical figures, I’d agree. He’s exactly as irrelevant to the state of science today as he is to the political situation in the Western world several decades after his death.

  69. #69 Anthony McCarthy
    April 24, 2008

    Tyler, I’ve been here two days now making comments, if you are going to talk about me, at least find out what I said instead of what you imagine I’d said.

  70. #70 Tyler DiPietro
    April 24, 2008

    I have read your comments Andrew, and your primary beef seems to be that we are defending Darwin unnecessarily. My retort is a response to one of your statements, and compactly illustrates a contradiction in the case you’ve made here:

    “I’m noticing that people have a hard time understanding several things, that influences can be indirect, that the existence of one cause for something doesn’t negate the existence of another contributing cause, that results can happen independently of intention and can even be the opposite of what the originator intended them to be.”

  71. #71 pxcampbell
    April 24, 2008

    Andrew, if I understood what the frak you were talking about, I’d respond.

    But since your post seems to be some kind of quip that only you can understand, this is all I can do.

    BTW, calling people names — “predictable” or “cartoon heroes” or likening them to dung is a rather childish form of debate. And it does not actually gainsay or counter their words, does it?

  72. #72 Damian
    April 24, 2008

    Anthony McCarthy:

    We aren’t politicians. Nor do many of us wish to be politicians, I would imagine. We respect what is true, and particularly that which is verifiably so. I cannot speak for others, but I am not prepared to misrepresent, mask, or even just not mention history for political gain. You can call me insane if you wish, but some of have a little too much self-respect for that. I do not wish to paint a pretty picture of the history of science and its leading exponents. I wish to paint an accurate one. One that is logically and evidentially justifiably.

    While I will agree with Colugo that too many on “our” side are overly defensive about the role of Darwin’s ideas in eugenics, social-Darwinism, and other such perversions, it is hardly surprising considering the nature of the attacks. We are not expert historians, either. But in the end, when we are presented with a convincing argument, backed by evidence and a sound logical basis, we tend to learn from it and even change our minds, accordingly. I have learned much from Colugo about this issue. Thanks for your incite.

    I suspect that you, Anthony, come from a political background. That may explain the difference between us. Just as we are not prepared to alter or cover up scientific findings for political gain, nor are many of us prepared to allow the rewriting of history to pass without doing something about it, regardless of how politically damaging that might be. It is known as having a respect for evidence, and you simply haven’t made your case, here. The many errors in your reasoning have been pointed out, and no matter how many times you insult us, that won’t make you right.

    Having said all of that, Charles Darwin isn’t important to modern evolutionary theory. It doesn’t stand or fall on whether Darwin rose from his grave to become chief eugenics adviser to Adolf Hitler or not. And you might be right in that we are losing this battle in the public sphere, although it is not entirely clear that we are, certainly not concerning those who are relevant. It is likely that a certain number of people will always be impervious to evidence, but we also have to learn lessons about how to better market science, even if we are not involved in a fair fight and never have been.

  73. #73 pxcampbell
    April 25, 2008

    Damian,

    Well said!

  74. #74 The Christian Cynic
    April 25, 2008

    pedlar:

    You there, CC? I just wondered if you could explain your logic.

    I’m here; I just happen to be a full-time student with a full-time job, a family, and a full plate with the semester about to end. I’m happy to explain my point, however.

    See, to me the single relevant material event was that 6 million jews died in Nazi Germany.

    Ignoring the explicitly subjective note (“…to me…”), this wins the argument for me: If the only relevant material event to consider for one to admit the occurrence of the Holocaust is that 6 million Jews died in Nazi Germany (and I’d like to note as mentioned above that this figure does severe injustice to the deaths of other groups by the Nazis), then Expelled! is clearly not a case of Holocaust denial.

    As to whether it’s a “form,” I think that there’s some semantic hair-splitting occurring here for the pure rhetorical effect of attributing Holocaust denial, however loosely, to this film. I think it’s dishonest to use this term because it evokes connotations unfairly – the ordinary person will see this and think that the makers of the film deny that the Holocaust occurred at all. This is entirely disingenuous, and I’m pleased to see Orac distancing himself from this claim even further. Expelled! should fall on its own faults, not by twisting language to put it down.

    (Consequently – and I wanted to mention this before but thought better of it at the time – pointing the finger at Martin Luther by this logic would seem to be the same sort of insidious denial that the Darwin-Hitler connection is. I abhor the anti-Semitism of Luther, but I think it’s ridiculous to make a simple conclusion as “Luther caused Hitler.” It’s about as ridiculous as “Slavery was the reason for the American Civil War” and about as historically accurate.)

  75. #75 The Christian Cynic
    April 25, 2008

    By the way, since I just got back to check the first part, I agree that Holocaust abuse or exploitation (the latter seems most appropriate) would be fitting terms for what Expelled! has done in regards to pointing the finger squarely at Darwin for the Nazis. Denial, however, is simply not an appropriate or accurate term.

  76. #76 Colugo
    April 25, 2008

    “He’s exactly as irrelevant to the state of science today as he is to the political situation in the Western world several decades after his death.”

    On the money, Tyler.

    Good remarks, Damian, and I’m gratified that you found my comments useful. I agree that the fact that evolutionary science is under siege in this country is a big part of the reason why there is a rallying around Darwin and defensiveness concerning the eugenics movement, rather than emphasizing the flaws of the genetic fallacy and the fallacy of argument by consequences (while trying to set the historical record straight as well).

    “It doesn’t stand or fall on whether Darwin rose from his grave to become chief eugenics adviser to Adolf Hitler or not.”

    Precisely.

    While intellectual history is interesting and relevant, the most crucial issue is whether eugenics, Social Darwinism, and scientific racism are implicit in modern evolutionary biology itself. The answer is no. On the other hand, that make it even more noteworthy that there is still a small minority of biologists, psychologists, and other intellectuals who believe that it does – and assert this not to discredit evolutionary biology, but to defend racism and eugenics. Can we spare a fraction of the indignation directed towards creationists who argue for an evolution/eugenics link – for the evolutionists who do the same but in the service of a very different agenda? And which group makes evolutionary science look worse: creationists or scientific racists/eugenicists?

    McCarthy has a point about it being unfortunate that Darwin has been made into human symbol of evolution and even science itself, a focus that sometimes appears adulatory. Never mind what creationists or even the lay public thinks; it is a disservice to the story of the development of evolutionary theory to suggest – even inadvertently – that modern evolutionary biology sprung entirely from the head of Darwin. Let us appreciate Darwin’s accomplishments and, more importantly, move on.

  77. #77 Penny
    April 25, 2008

    I agree with you that what Expelled are doing probably isn’t Holocaust denial as such. But I also agree that with Dr Caplan that the reasons the Holocaust happened are important.

    Using the Holocaust as an ideological weapon is irresponsible and unethical, regardless of who is doing it and for what reason. It’s particularly worrying that it seems to be used by Expelled to generate the same kind of unthinking hate that is genuinely implicated in causing the Holocaust. Unfortunately, these tactics involving the Holocaust seem to be rather common, so maybe we should think of a new term for them.

  78. #78 Anthony McCarthy
    April 25, 2008

    I have read your comments Andrew, and your primary beef seems to be that we are defending Darwin unnecessarily.

    Hey, kid. Get the name right.

    My primary beef is that you guys are jerking your knees on cue from Ben Stein and the Republican right that planned you to.

    I don’t care if you keep your fantasies about St. Charles Darwin to yourselves if you could keep them out of leftist politics because you are costing us politically. The guy was a figure of the Anglo-Saxon establishment who gave the wealthy the good news that they were the crown of creation and that the poor dross were doomed anyway so they could keep their money to themselves. The guy was no hero of the left except to the clueless who fall for the Darwin industry myths. That the political right was also able to create a Darwin industry useful to their political tactics wasn’t difficult, he supplied them with the raw materials and there has been a steady stream of new stuff supplied by clueless Darwinists right up to the next losing junk that comes out of Richard Dawkins pie hole. Funny thing, it’s the Republicans who are putting the Darwinian-Malthusian social program into effect by cutting the modern welfare state back to a Victorian level in the interest of “competition” so the losers can be selected out. Irony, huh?

    That the Scienceblog sci-jocks tend to be conceited, obnoxious and pretty dishonest is irritating but of no importance by comparison. That they are politically clueless is the point.

  79. #79 TomS
    April 25, 2008

    I just want to thank Curt for his reply. That is helpful.

  80. #80 randy
    April 25, 2008

    I have not seen the film, but this comes from Laurie Lebo’s review at http://www.alternet.org/movies/83427/

    Sitting in front of the Dachau concentration camp, Stein interviews a writer, who argues that while Hitler may have been evil, he was misguided and misled, a victim of the scientific establishment. He says, “Hitler thought he was improving humanity by driving evolution forward.” Stein reacts to this by burying his head in his hands. It’s truly amazing how low Stein, a Jew, sinks here. The Holocaust most assuredly deprived the scientific community of countless great minds and there is no telling the scientific accomplishments that might have been made. Perhaps one of the victims might even have discovered how life began. But Stein exploits their deaths and dishonors their memory in order to portray science as a bogeyman.

    Given this quote, I would agree that indeed this film is a form of holocaust denial. Hitler and the Nazis become the victims, not the perpetrators.

  81. #81 Pierce R. Butler
    April 25, 2008

    Anthony McCarthy: … The guy was a figure of the Anglo-Saxon establishment who gave the wealthy the good news that they were the crown of creation … The guy was no hero of the left …

    I guess you’ve never heard the story about Darwin and Karl Marx, eh?

  82. #82 marco sch.
    April 25, 2008

    Calling it denialism depends on the definition of Holocaust, not on the definition of denial.

    And of course the definition of Holocaust is subjective: does it include the reason for the killing?

    For some the Holocaust includes the killing of Roms, gays, Slavs, etc. But if your definition is limited to the genocide of Jews, which seems to be the accepted definition here, then I think it must necessarily incorporate the reason why the Jews were targeted. It does not make sense otherwise. In that case the reason is of course christian anti-semitism, and not “darwinism”. To say otherwise is denialism.

  83. #83 gerald spezio
    April 25, 2008

    Hitler was a dedicated vegetarian who was aghast that intelligent humans viciously devoured animals and liked it.

    Hitler routinely chastised others for killing and eating innocent and hapless animals.

    Was Hitler “in denial” of his prior carnivorous behavior of eating delicious Kraut sausages while serving in the Kaiser’s army in WWI?

    Was the Kaiser in on a conspiracy to turn his devoted minions into beastly carnivores?

    Are the Israelis “in denial” when they routinely try to exterminate the Palestinian untermenschen.

    Is Joe Lieberman crazy, in denial, or just lying when he says that the Iranians are trying to kill him, the Israelis, and all the supporters of Israel.

    Is Joe Lieberman really a Yale Law School graduate, as is Ben Stein?

    Is Ben Stein “in denial” about his alcoholism?

    I don’ t even know if Ben is on the juice or has ever drunk more than a few glasses of Mondavi or Manishevitz.

    I don’t know if Ben could even tell the difference between Mondavi & Maneshevitz.

    Is it fair to frame (i.e. use framing science for my own petty designs) Ben Stein as a alkie when I don’t know jack about Ben’s “tastes?”

  84. #84 Orac
    April 25, 2008

    At the risk of feeding the troll (whom until now I have assiduously avoided), I have to say that what you just said makes zero sense and I’m getting a bit tired of your incoherent ramblings.

  85. #85 Ian Thal
    April 25, 2008

    I think that what is at issue is the difference between “hard-core” Holocaust denial which does fit the strict definition used above and “soft-core” denial. “Soft-core” neither denying that the Holocaust occurred, nor the scale of the event, nor who the primary victims were, nor the techniques used by the killers but still amounts to a disseminating lies about history’s best documented mass murder.

    There are several forms that “soft-core” Holocaust denial, the form that is salient in this discussion is denying the causes. Historians are generally agreed that the Holocaust was conducted by the German state under the control of the Nazi party with assistance from both Germany’s allies and some of the non-governmental sectors of the involved societies, and that they were motivated by centuries old European hatred of Jews, as well as by newer ideologies of racism and nationalism. Historians often disagree on the details and where to put the emphasis.

    The “soft-core” denier might:

    1.) Claim that the Holocaust was in part the work of Zionists attempting to get European Jews to emigrate to Palestine (this is the position taken by many self-described “anti-Zionists.”)

    2.) Claim that the Nazis and the Holocaust were an outgrowths of professional psychiatry (this point of view has been advocated by the Church of Scientology in some of their propaganda.)

    3.) Claim that the ideology of the “racial hygiene” which was a major component of Nazi anti-Semitism and the impetus towards genocide, was a direct consequence of “Darwinism” as understood by the scientific community at the time. This does appear to be the position that the film “Expelled” seems to advocate.

    So, if we were to understand Professor Caplan to mean “soft-core” denial, then he is absolutely correct. Still, nitpicking whether or not Caplan uses a modifier or not is a distraction from the fact that Caplan is defending historical truth while Stein and his allies are promulgating lies.

  86. #86 gerald spezio
    April 25, 2008

    Can we say that Edward Bernays maliciously manipulated the literary speculations of Freud, a licensed medical doctor, into modern framing science in order to market all kinds of stuff, including Lucky Strike cigs that caused lung cancer in millions of US GIs during WW2?

    But, proceeding logically…

    Can we say that Dr. Joseph Goebbels, a licensed academician, re-framed Bernays’ mercenary manipulations into all manner of monstrous distortions under the Teutonic Sun?

    More logic …

    Therefore it follows, as Aristotle would have it, that Freudian ideas not Darwinian ideas, caused the Holocaust.

    In intellectual history everything is caused by ideas – the worst craziness is caused by really crazy ideas.

    Freud, being a Jewish fellow himself, just makes it worse.

  87. #87 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 25, 2008

    At the risk of feeding the troll (whom until now I have assiduously avoided), I have to say that what you just said makes zero sense and I’m getting a bit tired of your incoherent ramblings.

    Seriously. WTF was that.

  88. #88 Orac
    April 25, 2008

    I have no idea.

    If you can understand Spezio’s ramblings, please feel free to translate. I give up. He’s making no sense and irritating other commenters. There’s one other commenter here who’s not incoherent but equally annoying. I think you know who that is. (Certainly not you, of course.)

  89. #89 Anthony McCarthy
    April 25, 2008

    I’ll grant annoying, I reject incoherent. Though keeping up answering different people who are throwing it at you all at once can seem like that at times. That is if it’s me you’re talking about, Orac.

  90. #90 gerald spezio
    April 25, 2008

    If racism caused the Holocaust, as Professor Caplan explains for us; we must be on the lookout for the tentacles of racism in other Holocausts?

    So, racism caused the Armenian Holocaust?

    And the fire bombing of Dresden?

    And the bomb tossing on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

    And the Vietnam Holocaust by the Mericans.

    And the Hutus chopping up the Tutsis in the Ruwandan Holocaust?

    And “must” be causing the Israeli Holocaust against the suffering Palestinians?

    And the open and flagrant Israeli demands to bomb and murder the Iranians in cold blood in the abscense of any evidence?

    Although the above may irritate some, I tried to be coherent.

  91. #91 gerald spezio
    April 25, 2008

    I do not know if Senator Lieberman and mad dog Norman Podhoretz are racists, but it surely is a workable hypothesis.

    I do accept as factually true that Lieberman and Podhoretz have openly advocataed murdering innocent people.

    I do not know if Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle et al are racists.

    I do acccept as factually true that these same Israel Firsters were critical engineers of the Iraq HOLOCAUST!

  92. #92 The Christian Cynic
    April 25, 2008

    marco sch.:

    And of course the definition of Holocaust is subjective: does it include the reason for the killing?

    Of course? It depends what you mean by subjective. If you mean that each person may have a different idea of what the Holocaust is, then perhaps; if you think that there’s not a degree of semantic consensus on the matter, then it’s just false. People know what they mean by the word, and it generally does not include the reason. Would we call someone who said that the American Civil War was fought because of slavery a Civil War denier? I would say no, as long as they still agreed that there was a war fought between the U.S. federal government and the Confederacy from April 1861 – April 1865. Trying to tie in the reason to the historical event is – as I’ve said before, without any substantive reply – a rhetorical trick, nothing more, and that goes equally for terms like “soft-core denial” which are still getting at the same effect.

    Come on, people, do we have to stoop to creationist tactics?

  93. #93 gerald spezio
    April 25, 2008

    When Israeli “settlers” openly steal the indigenous Palestinians’ land and openly say that the God of Abraham wants them, the Chosen People, to remove the Palestinians & enjoy the Palestinian’s homeland for themselves, we are forced to claim that such unethical land grabbing by the Israelis must be “racism denial,” genocide denial, or another clear instance of Holocaust denial.

    As you can see Orac, these Holocaust studies have tentacles and more tentacles.

  94. #94 Colugo
    April 25, 2008

    More wit and wisdom from Gerald Spezio:

    comment on Dissident Voice, 8/27/07:

    “The well-orchestrated Darfur Scam by the Lobby is falling on its arse just like Dershie.”

    note: “the Lobby” = Israel Lobby; “Dershie” = Alan Dershowitz

  95. #95 gerald spezio
    April 25, 2008

    Slavery in the American South was caused by the idea of racism in the “Southern Mind”.

    Claims that the infrastructure of plantation agriculture conditioned the practice of slavery are absurd.

    The reason that Vermonters, Mainers and Eskimos didn’t suffer from racism and slavery was because they didn’t have the idea of rascism leading them down the dark road into keeping slaves and whipping them when the slaves done bad.

    Anti-Semitism among the Palestinians (you can’t deny it) is caused by the idea of anti-Semitism in the “Palestinain Mind.”

  96. #96 gerald spezio
    April 25, 2008

    Give us the url for lawyerman Dershie above and get out your Hasbra handbook, colugo

  97. #98 Colugo
    April 25, 2008

    Sorry Orac; I should have used a tinyurl. Better yet, I should have ignored Spezio.

  98. #99 marco sch.
    April 25, 2008

    Christian Cynic,

    “if you think that there’s not a degree of semantic consensus on the matter, then it’s just false”

    I would have thought that the remaining of my post spoke for itself, but I’ll try to use simple words for you:

    For some the Holocaust is all the extermination done by the Nazi, ~11 millions dead.

    For others the Holocaust is the extermination of the Jews, ~6 millions dead.

    This is a difference.

    If you use the second definition, which seems to be the prevalent one here (and in the movie?) you are making a difference between the Jews victims and the other victims. There’s nothing wrong with that but then the reason for the Holocaust is implied by its very definition. It would not have happened without the long tradition of christian anti-semitism and racism in Europe.

    If you don’t think so you are the one in denial.

  99. #100 jre
    April 25, 2008

    I’ve just been listening to the very entertaining podcast of Scientific American editors talking with Mark Mathis about Expelled. By Mathis’ description of what the movie’s creators think is its message, Caplan is clearly wrong and Orac right on this question. Mathis does not want to say the Holocaust never happened, or that the Nazis were not responsible for it, or claim it was not state policy, or that it was not motivated by racism. He’s on board with all of that. He does want to blame Charles Darwin for the Holocaust, but without taking responsibility for the essential sliminess of that position. Which he does with several weasel-worded statements:

    1) We claim that “Darwinism” was a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for the Holocaust.

    2) We are saying that ideas have consequences.

    3) A materialistic world-view is necessary for states to commit atrocities such as the Holocaust.

    That’s all the movie is saying, and you can … (wink, wink) … draw your own conclusions.

    I find Mark Mathis to be no more and no less disgusting than any of the other morally brain-dead douchemonkeys who have trivialized the Holocaust in the service of some unrelated ideology. He just has a little more PR-awareness than some.

  100. #101 Orac
    April 25, 2008

    It’s true that the Holocaust encompasses a large number of non-Jews, estimates almost approaching the number of Jewish dead. However, you will almost never hear Holocaust deniers even acknowledge this. One reason, of course, is that it wouldn’t do to bring attention to the fact that Hitler was more than happy to murder people who were just as “Aryan” as any German just because of their faith, sexuality, or because they were mentally ill. Another reason, of course, is that the driving motivation behind Holocaust denial is anti-Semitism and neo-Nazi sympathies. Thus, the reason to deny the Holocaust is not because lots of non-Jews were also murdered; it is because Jews were murdered, and denying this allows deniers not only to try to make National Socialism an acceptable political alternative again but it allows them to smear Jews as the perpetrators of a vast “hoax.”

    Consequently, that’s why for purposes of Holocaust denial the primary focus is the Jewish death toll of the Holocaust. It’s not that the non-Jewish toll wasn’t horrific or important. It’s that mentioning it or denying it isn’t ideologically useful to Holocaust deniers, other than on very rare occasions that I’ve seen to bemoan that “all the attention goes to the Jews.”

  101. #102 The Christian Cynic
    April 25, 2008

    marco, your response doesn’t really get at what I said. For instance, you only quoted one part of what I said:

    It depends what you mean by subjective. If you mean that each person may have a different idea of what the Holocaust is, then perhaps; if you think that there’s not a degree of semantic consensus on the matter, then it’s just false. (emphasis added)

    You’re suggesting the first option, but you quoted the second, so I don’t know what you’re getting at.

    And then I said:

    People know what they mean by the word, and it generally does not include the reason.

    Which you apparently ignored, since you only told me that some people think the Holocaust was just the mass slaughter of Jews and others the mass slaughter of several sub-groups. (The latter is more accurate, of course.) That still doesn’t include the reason, although it might imply one (e.g. anti-Semitism here). What matters – and I keep emphasizing this – is the affirmation that these events occurred. If people said that only Jews were killed in the Holocaust, then I’d be tempted to say that they’re misinformed; if they said that no such extermination was attempted by the Nazis, then that’s denial, no two ways about it.

    By the way, I acknowledge the influence of anti-Semitism in individuals like Martin Luther (I consider most other anti-Semitism links to Christianity tenuous because they don’t appear to be proximal enough), but like I’ve been saying this whole time, I don’t think the answer is so clear cut as “Luther caused Hitler,” and I remain suspicious of any comparable claims.

  102. #103 cee
    April 25, 2008

    Well, in reference to Orac’s last post, EXPELLED concentrated on the Nazi’s extermination of the sickly, the mentally disabled and the “unproductive.” The selection of the Jews for extermination was touched upon tangentially. So again, the reasoning for why involuntary euthanasia was used by the Nazi’s does not seem to support that aspect of Holocaust denial in the anti-Semitic sense, as Orac brought up, because the selection of those going to the crematorium was based on resource/population management….A point I made earlier and no one refuted. Limited resources….a population too large to be supported in a time of military expansion….what a LOGICAL SOLUTION?…..Kill those who cannot contribute positively and in fact are “parasites” on the body politic (German Christian anti-semitism had nothing to do with the decision). Even Jews were saved in the concentration camps for slave labor that contributed to the war effort. Why? They were strong enough to survive in the SOCIAL DARWIN construct and that decision had nothing to do with Christian anti-semitism at that point of the process.

    So the Holocaust denial argument seems weak simply because, as Orac suggests, these denials are usually based on anti-Semitism. EXPELLED discussed the medical reasoning behind the killing of invalids, the mentally ill and “unproductive.” SOCIAL DARWINISM and I agree with Anthony that those who willfully ignore the close links of Charles Darwin to Social Darwinism do so at their own risk.

  103. #104 Pierce R. Butler
    April 25, 2008

    CC: … I consider most other anti-Semitism links to Christianity tenuous because they don’t appear to be proximal enough…

    Matthew 27:25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

    John 5:16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him…

    John 5:18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

    John 7:1 After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.

    John 10:31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.

    John 19:14-15 And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
    But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him.

    etc, etc, etc.

    How could anybody ever say there is a closer connection between anti-semitism and christianism than Luther in the 16th century?

  104. #105 The Christian Cynic
    April 25, 2008

    Pierce, you give me a handful of Bible verses ripped out of context and expect me to believe that anti-Semitism is a natural assumption from it? The claim of anti-Semitism in these verses (especially when contextualized) is tenuous in the truest sense of the term: it’s a major stretch.

    This all beside the point that I was suggesting (even though I was perhaps slightly unclear) that the connection of the anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany was largely due to Luther as opposed to general attitudes about the Jews (since there was plenty of anti-Semitic sentiments in various places of Europe, not always easily attributed to Christianity despite the prevalence of the religion but instead to the same sorts of stereotypes that still sometimes hold today, cf. Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice).

  105. #106 Pierce R. Butler
    April 25, 2008

    CC: The claim of anti-Semitism in these verses (especially when contextualized) is tenuous in the truest sense of the term: it’s a major stretch.

    Arguably so – but it’s a major stretch that “orthodoxy” has made for almost two millennia, and counting…

    You want context? Pro-christian advocates generally hold that these prejudices are secondary or tangential to the “central message”, but the historical fact is that all their surviving sects are rooted in cults which split apart from Jewish cults right at the time their formative documents were being written. Thus, the feuds and factionalism of that time (particularly animus against the Pharisees, who could be considered as forerunners of the rabbincal traditions) have been cemented in “Holy Writ” and employed for scapegoating as needed ever since.

    Anti-semitism in Europe hardly began with Luther or Shakespeare, but was “in the air” fairly continuously – sustained by clerical efforts whenever the laity lagged, with intermittent regional exceptions. See R.I. Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Power and Deviance in Western Europe, 950-1250 and James Carroll, Constantine’s Sword: The Church Against the Jews, A History, for some of the details.

    Was it Woody Allen who said that the Jews have experienced 19 centuries of Christian love and are now all nervous wrecks?

  106. #107 Anthony McCarthy
    April 25, 2008

    If you can understand Spezio’s ramblings, please feel free to translate.

    It’s got the quality of a Burma Shave sign writer on acid.

  107. #108 Leni
    April 26, 2008

    Orac wrote:

    Thus, I must respectfully disagree that postulating a false explanation for why the Holocaust happened is the equivalent of denying that it did, in fact, happen as history tells us.

    Insofar as it robs of us of the opportunity for meaningful historical examination, and therefore comprehension of the truth and hopefully prevention of future abuses, yes, they are equivalent.

    It’s like blaming the “cause of” 9/11 on the Bush Administration. Or autism on vaccines. Or wife-beating on alcohol. Or AIDS deaths on “poppers”. They don’t deny that there are casualties, and there might be a kernel of truth to it all.

  108. #109 Anthony McCarthy
    April 26, 2008

    Insofar as it robs of us of the opportunity for meaningful historical examination, and therefore comprehension of the truth and hopefully prevention of future abuses, yes, they are equivalent.

    I haven’t noticed much of an interest in examining the historical record on the part of the Darwininsts. I used to believe the assertions that Charles Darwin had nothing to do with eugenics or “Social Darwinism” until I went back and read his late writings and what Francis Galton said about him being his great inspiration. Since Darwin cites both Herbert Spenser and Francis Galton in his late work, favorably, the assertion that he, himself, wasn’t influenced by their work and that Galton, as he was developing his eugenics wasn’t influenced by what Darwin wrote.

    And there is little interest in the fact that Leonard Darwin, Charles’ son was Galton’s successor as the head of the British Eugenics Society, which fact, I assure you, has rather strong political power to make a connection between Charles Darwin’s ideas and the people Leonard Darwin was associated with. And that list isn’t a very pleasant one to have to read.

    That is what the history shows, the record destroys the wall between Charles Darwin and eugenics.

    Since I’m a life long believer in evolution, indeed, I used to buy the “one great man” propaganda from the Darwin industry, and I am an absolutist in the separation of church and state, it’s possible for someone looking at the documents to conclude that relying on today’s Charles Darwin myth is a disaster for evolutionary science without having ulterior motives. But don’t come to the ScienceBlogs with the evidence because you’ll get called a creationist, and lots of other names, by Sci-jocks too lazy to read up thread and too arrogant to see that they should adapt their mistaken ideas about Charles Darwin.

    Anyone who thinks Ben Stein cares about evolution or the Holocaust is giving him more credit than he deserves, he’s a political hooker selling his services to the side that pays him the most. And it’s the creationists in this case. He’s got about the same morals as Dick Morris, with a less sleazy on-screen appearance. You guys are thinking about him too hard. He doesn’t run that deep.

  109. #110 Anthony McCarthy
    April 26, 2008

    Make that:

    Since Darwin cites both Herbert Spenser and Francis Galton in his late work, favorably, the assertion that he, himself, wasn’t influenced by their work and that Galton, as he was developing his eugenics wasn’t influenced by what Darwin wrote is at best a comforting myth, more likely, a cover up.

  110. #111 cee
    April 26, 2008

    Do any of those tired of the silly Holocaust denial line want to traverse the connection EXPELLED made (and you all are ignoring) of Margaret Sanger’s ideology to Darwinism? Would anyone like to defend Sanger’s compatibility with the ideas concluded by Charles Darwin, the Social Darwinists, and the eugenicists as well as the transformation of Planned Parenthhood to the sanitizied version of the organization that is presented to the public today? Let’s discuss the common thread of “life” ideology…is it special or is it not?

  111. #112 cee
    April 26, 2008

    “Today eugenics is suggested by the most diverse minds as the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems. I think you must agree … that the campaign for birth control is not merely of eugenic value, but is practically identical with the final aims of eugenics … Birth control propaganda is thus the entering wedge for the eugenic educator. As an advocate of birth control I wish … to point out that the
    unbalance between the birth rate of the ‘unfit’ and the ‘fit,’ admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes. In this
    matter, the example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feebleminded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken classes, should not be held up for emulation. On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.”

    M. Sanger “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda.”
    Birth Control Review, 1921

    “In passing, we should here recognize the difficulties presented by the idea of ‘fit’ and ‘unfit.’ Who is to decide this question? The grosser, the more obvious, the undeniably feeble-minded should, indeed, not only be
    discouraged but prevented from propagating their kind. But among the writings of the representative Eugenists [sic], one cannot ignore the distinct middle-class bias that prevails.”

    M. Sanger, quoted in Charles Valenza. “Was Margaret Sanger a Racist?” Family Planning Perspectives , January-February 1985, page 44.

    I hear echos of Hadamar in Germany’s future in these two of many quotes of Ms. Sanger. No anti-Semitism here. She surely was NOT a Christian! Oh my, where could these ideas of “fit” and “unfit” come from? From where did her ideology EVOLVE? What scientific theory legitimized, in Ms. Sanger’s mind and in many, the idea that some life is better than others?

    Any speculation?

  112. #113 Orac
    April 26, 2008

    Insofar as it robs of us of the opportunity for meaningful historical examination, and therefore comprehension of the truth and hopefully prevention of future abuses, yes, they are equivalent.

    Morally equivalent, perhaps, but they are not equivalent in content.

  113. #114 The Christian Cynic
    April 26, 2008

    Arguably so – but it’s a major stretch that “orthodoxy” has made for almost two millennia, and counting…

    I’m not here to defend anti-Semitic sentiments of other Christians (as noted previously – damn, I’m getting tired of repeating myself), but I want to note that anti-Semitism has never been an “orthodox” belief that I’m aware of, regardless of whether or not church leaders (such as Luther) espoused explicitly anti-Semitic views that they attributed to Scripture without considering the myriad of other factors which should have tempered any anti-Semitic sentiments (such as, I don’t know, the theology of Romans 10 – that’s sort of a dead giveaway…).

    My point about context is largely that those quotes are not meant to incite anti-Semitic attitudes. The synoptic accounts of the crowd (Matthew 25, Mark 15, Luke 23) do not mention whether or not the crowd was Jewish (it mentions Jewish leaders only), and John’s use of “Jews” tends to mean “those who opposed Jesus.” (Why would “the Jews” as an entire group be conspiring to kill Jesus when he and his followers were Jewish?) Claiming they are or even that they evidence underlying attitudes of anti-Semitism is just absurd.

    Also:

    Anti-semitism in Europe hardly began with Luther or Shakespeare

    Of course not; that’s a ridiculous idea that no one’s presented thus far, least of all me. Shakespeare, for one, was drawing off other sources for Merchant of Venice, so that’s an easy claim to falsify. However – and you haven’t addressed this – the stereotypes upon which most anti-Semitism was based (and continues to be based in a large way) are not generally Biblical ones (e.g. the shrewd businessman who tries to exploit and control others for his own personal gain and/or amusement) – that is, even there can even be considered a Jewish stereotype anywhere in the Bible.

    Finally, I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment of Orac’s last comment, which I think underscores the whole psychology behind using this term: moral indignation.

  114. #115 Prup aka Jim Benton
    April 26, 2008

    Orac: I’m tempted to agree with both you and Dr. Kaplan on this. You are right that, by the definition you use — and which I agree with, btw — EXPELLED is not ‘denialism.’

    But I think we need to find a new term for an argument that accepts the reality of the Holocaust but which finds a specious or false reason for it. This category would include EXPELLED, THE PINK SWASTIKA, the baby Goldberg’s LIBERAL FASCISM and John Hagee’s “God used the Holocaust to punish Judaism for denying Christ and to drive them back to Israel.” And yes, I’d include those on ‘my side’ who argue that ‘fascism is the natural end-result of capitalism’ and see Hitler as the puppet of — rather than the manipulator of — German industrialists and bankers.

    Any suggestion for a good term, which would eliminate some of the squabbling between people who are really saying the same thing?

  115. #116 Orac
    April 26, 2008

    There’s no need for a new term for what Stein and Klinghoffer are doing. “Holocaust exploitation” fits quite nicely.

  116. #117 Colugo
    April 26, 2008

    McCarthy is wrong about Darwin advocating eugenics (because we cannot divine what Darwin’s private thoughts and unrecorded conversations were) but he is right about Darwin being more of a “Social Darwinist” than we like to think and his acceptance of the premises that eugenicists based their advocacy on – namely, the threat of dysgenic decline. But description is not prescription.

    Alfred Russel Wallace, ‘Human Selection,’ The Eclectic Magazine, 1890:

    “In one of my last conversations with Darwin he expressed himself very gloomily on the future of humanity, on the ground that in our modern civilization natural selection had no play, and the fittest did not survive.”

    Darwin, letter to a Zurich law professor Heinrich Fick, 1872:

    “I much wish that you would sometimes take occasion to discuss an allied point … namely the rule insisted on by all our Trades-Unions, that all workmen,-the good and bad, the strong and weak,-sh[oul]d all work for the same number of hours and receive the same wages. The unions are also opposed to piece-work,-in short to all competition. I fear that Cooperative Societies, which many look at as the main hope for the future, likewise exclude competition. This seems to me a great evil for the future progress of mankind.”

    In other words, Darwin is against ending piece work and instituting maximum hours for laborers.

    (Darwin was responding to a letter from Fick that suggested that men physically ineligible from military service be prevented from marrying for eugenic reasons.)

    See Diane B Paul’s chapter in The Cambridge Companion To Darwin for more on Darwin’s social views. Darwin was a Whig. Perhaps his most faithful successor in that regard is Larry Arnhart, author of Darwinian Conservatism. (The most faithful successors to Darwin’s views on racial inequality are, I hate to say it, people like JP Rushton.) But we are under no obligation to display fidelity to Darwin’s views on the implications of evolution for economic, political, and social affairs, or race. Or his gemmule theory, or anything else. Darwin himself, with the benefit of today’s scientific knowledge, might well have changed his mind on a number of issues.

    I intend to give a tip of the hat to Darwin, flaws and all, next year with the 150th anniversary of The Origin and his 200th birthday. (And don’t forget that next year marks 200 years since Lamarck’s Zoological Philosophy too – another imperfect great scientist.)

  117. #118 Anthony McCarthy
    April 26, 2008

    McCarthy is wrong about Darwin advocating eugenics

    Apparently Darwin forgot to pass that word on to his son and his cousin. You going to tell them they don’t know who inspired their eugenics? You going to convince the majority of people paying attention who are skeptical, pardon the use of the word, Orac, about Darwin already, that his son’s eugenics wasn’t what they would take of proof of his father’s private opinion of that?

    I don’t know how old you are Colugo, but, believe me, at my age you tend to go all autumnal and gloomy at times. If I had Darwins’ nasty opinion of humanity I’d be gloomy too.

  118. #119 Anthony McCarthy
    April 26, 2008

    Darwin himself, with the benefit of today’s scientific knowledge, might well have changed his mind on a number of issues.

    He might well have, that still doesn’t change the past, which is the material that the political case, the only one that matters now, on the character of Charles Darin will be decided. I say “will” only as a courtesy, I’m afraid that after a hundred years of successfully using his words against him that the case has been lost.

    I see him more of a Ripon Society “liberal” than as an old Labour type. Though he’d probably fit in with the more aristocratic Liberal Democratic types.

    Do you scientists really look forward to continuing this for another 100 years? Because by the look of it the other side continues to keep it up and they’ve got the resources to do it.

  119. #120 Pierce R. Butler
    April 26, 2008

    CC: I want to note that anti-Semitism has never been an “orthodox” belief that I’m aware of…

    The reason I put that word in quotes was to indicate that, while anti-semitism may not have been in the canon as such, it was certainly part of what (most) Christian authorities promoted as “right thought” in practice.

    …Romans 10… I got as far as verse 3: For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

    Doesn’t sound like “live & let live” to me: more like the “we’re right, they’re wrong” attitude that’s been in evidence all these centuries. Ditto for your evasions (“…whether or not the crowd was Jewish…”), which may have some nit-picking lawyerly merits, but obviously have been interpreted otherwise by those claiming the authority to do so.

    Why would “the Jews” as an entire group be conspiring to kill Jesus when he and his followers were Jewish?

    And when has there ever been a lynch mob insisting that they accept the guilt for their crimes on behalf of their children? We’re looking at a story told by a not-very-realistic cult for the purpose of exculpating their inglorious purported founder and denigrating their rivals (said rivals being known to them as “the Jews”).

    A splinter group is always hostile to the original establishment from which it sprouted. (Check out the attitudes toward Republicans and Democrats from, say, spokespeople for the Constitution and Green Parties, respectively.) That enmity among the original “Judeo-Christians” set a pattern which has persisted for about a hundred generations.

    …you haven’t addressed this – the stereotypes upon which most anti-Semitism was based … are not generally Biblical ones…

    The stereotypes of, say, modern US anti-immigration xenophobia are not those applied to Mexicans a generation ago. Do you want to deny that there is continuity of anti-Hispanic racism?

    Look, if you tried to make the point that most modern Christians – especially the church hierarchies – have finally overcome their long traditions of anti-semitism, we could come to agreement. But denying that the very well documented historical Christian antagonism against Jews has anything to do with Christian doctrine is a losing cause, which can only lead you to ever-increasing contortions and absurdity.

  120. #121 Dan S.
    April 26, 2008

    Do you scientists really look forward to continuing this for another 100 years? Because by the look of it the other side continues to keep it up and they’ve got the resources to do it.

    Ok, Anthony, what do you propose?

  121. #122 Anthony McCarthy
    April 27, 2008

    I propose that you guys give up on the Darwin myth and promote the hard science that has happened in the past 126 years instead of the junk mixing evolution with the muck of the social sciences, modern Social Darwinism.

    It’ll take a while to live Darwin and his intellectual heirs down but keeping his phony myth alive because it would hurt your pride is only going to divert resources that could be used for something useful, like science.

    How come you’re not complaining about the volume of Darwin pieces here, Dan? Double standard or something?

  122. #123 Anthony McCarthy
    April 27, 2008

    Pierce R. Butler, I don’t think you’re wise to bring up American immigration restrictions into this, considering some of the people who supported them, though I don’t intend to go that far in the six degrees of separation that some people could make on that matter.

  123. #124 Colugo
    April 27, 2008

    Here you go, McCarthy, some actual evidence in favor of your thesis. Though not a smoking gun by any means.

    Leonard Darwin to Karl Pearson, 1914:

    http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/2142.html

    “I should chuck most of it* but for a sense of duty and a belief that my Father would have liked me to do what little in me lies as regards Eugenics.”

    *Referring to committee meetings; at the time he was chair of the British Eugenics Society.

    This, however, is a smoking gun: Darwin’s views on policy.

    Letter from Charles Darwin to Francis Galton, 1873 (note:
    http://www.galton.org/letters/darwin/correspondence.htm

    “the greatest difficulty, I think, would be in deciding who deserved to be on the register. … Though I see so much difficulty, the object seems a grand one; and you have pointed out the sole feasible, yet I fear utopian, plan of procedure in improving the human race. I should be inclined to trust more … to disseminating and insisting on the importance of the all-important principle of inheritance.”

    In other words, Darwin (in line with his Whiggish views) in a private letter wrote that he preferred public education and persuasion to things like breeding registries. So he was arguably a “eugenicist” in the sense of wanting to promote voluntary behaviors through education, but not a coercive, central planning-type eugenicist. The term “eugenics” covers many different, sometimes incompatible, approaches and policies (positive vs negative, coercive vs voluntary, anti-dysgenic emphasis vs improvement emphasis etc).

  124. #125 Anthony McCarthy
    April 27, 2008

    Colugo, I think somewhere in these comments I said something about him favoring a form of passive eugenics, or seeming to, Charles Darwin seldom being unevasive, giving himself outs on just about anything like that. It would be in line with that infamous passage from The Decent of Man. His thinking that nature is the best method isn’t a surprise. Thinking that organizations are too inefficient is more a problem of means than anything else. I’m not enough of a Darwin scholar to know but I’ve always suspected he might have thought birth control was an unattractive idea (wouldn’t that be useful countering some of the creationist line?) . He produced ten children so it wouldn’t seem like something he practiced himself.

    I’m not happy about finding stuff like that ties a political symbol like Charles Darwin to eugenics, you know. But it exists along with the insurmountable fact, politically, that his son was one of the major eugenicists in the period when it was officially respectable to be one. I’m certainly not happy about anything that strengthens the political strength of creationism or, even more so, the Republican Party. That’s why the continued and unnecessary instence on keeping the Charles Darwin myth as the face of science, and as a feature of leftist culture is so aggravating. He isn’t important for either, he has been dead too long to be that important to science and his politics are hardly in line with leftism of the kind a modern democracy could tolerate.

  125. #126 Pierce R. Butler
    April 27, 2008

    Anthony McCarthy, you seem to have confused my debate with The Christian Cynic and yours with Colugo et al: I haven’t taken any stands regarding the eugenics question here.

    I’ve seen it claimed, though I can’t locate it at present, that much of the “science” (meaning, citations) used by Nazi anti-semiticists came from American sources. Those writings, in turn, were inspired/subsidized by the backlash against Jews (& others) from Central/Eastern Europe emigrating to the US circa 1880-1910. As usual, this uptick in immigration generated a wave of xenophobia, but this one gained munificent sponsorship from the reigning robber barons of industry because the new arrivals brought with them a strong tradition of labor unionism.

    As you guys seem quite at home with 19th-century political propaganda, can any of you confirm, deny, or correct this story?

  126. #127 Anthony McCarthy
    April 27, 2008

    that much of the “science” (meaning, citations) used by Nazi anti-semiticists came from American sources

    You know that the Nazis cited the American and British eugenics efforts as proof that they “were not alone” in ramping up their “race hygiene” laws. I believe Leonard Darwin retired from the presidency of the British Eugenics Society in the late 1920s but he lived till during the war. I am not through going through what I can find of his documented words but I haven’t come across anything yet where he renounces eugenics, if anyone knows of that important piece of political information, I’d love a citation.

    I’d never have gotten involved with this discussion,here, if I hadn’t already known about the documents tying Darwinism to eugenics and the links between Anglo-American eugenics to Nazis. Charles Davenport seems to have had particularly strong association with German and Austrian racists, as well as those in the United States. As noted here and elsewhere, he also has left a two-way correspondence with Leonard Darwin. If you don’t think that’s a problem for those wanting to preserve the Charles Darwin of myth, you are mistaken.

    If I hadn’t had people throwing up things like “PZ says” and “Orac says” to me on other blogs I’d have kept clear of the ScienceBlogs scene, though I do actually like Orac and a few other ScienceBloggers, I’m not too fond of the comment thread community of the Sci-blogs.

    You do realize, that just about none of this Darwin mania has anything to do with modern evolutionary science in 2008, don’t you? It’s more a trademark protection struggle than anything else.

  127. #128 Pierce R. Butler
    April 27, 2008

    You know that the Nazis cited the American and British eugenics efforts as proof that they “were not alone” in ramping up their “race hygiene” laws.

    Yabbut my particular point was that the academic assertions regarding the “racial inferiority” of Jews and Slavs apparently came from those with a particular capitalist ax to grind.

    As for the question of Charles Darwin, he’s getting swiftboated in just about exactly the same way as Margaret Sanger (whose personality is no less irrelevant to Planned Parenthood’s present operations than Darwin’s to modern biology). Both were mostly decent, highly intelligent and hard-working human beings who filled in major social/cognitive gaps, to be rewarded by scorching hatred from church authorities and their allies.

    Both were pushed by their respective impacts and backlashes into political currents beyond their depths. Both made (relatively minor) errors in accepting support from major contemporary factions that we can now see were politically and scientifically wrong.

    Both are now being tarred with these affiliations by those dedicated to demonizing their successors by any means available, with absolutely zero regard for nuance, context, or basic honesty. As a matter of elementary tactical necessity, we who are being targeted in this way must not leave these attacks unanswered, even though the facts leave ambiguities which we know will be exploited by the “if it ain’t all white, then it’s black!” demagogues. (Ask John Kerry what happens when you give those bastards an inch…)

  128. #129 Dan S.
    April 27, 2008

    I propose that you guys give up on the Darwin myth and promote the hard science that has happened in the past 126 years instead of the junk mixing evolution with the muck of the social sciences, modern Social Darwinism.

    Y’know, I wasn’t fully aware of some of the historical realities you brought up in your earlier series of posts, and that you and Colugo are discussing here – ie, that late in life Darwin flirted with – heck, despairingly courted – a kind of proto (non-legally coercive) eugenics. That’s important, and I think some folks do oversimplify the issue (even as you seem to go beyond the evidence, to head not into hero worship – very Victorian, that – but monster-hating).

    But your advice above – it seems badly out of touch with the realities of the science/creationism conflict. Honestly, you seem to be turning into an Amy Sullivan (or Will Saletan) type, and the stuff in the previous thread about a supposed ‘Darwin cult’ (which, of course, is exactly one of the frames creationists are trying to hang on modern science – no, you’re not a creationist, which makes it worse)) – well . . . {shakes head}.

    What do you imagine the “Charles Darwin myth” is? Do you not realize we are constantly, even desperately trying to “promote the hard science”? There are, unfortunately, some people who promote “junk mixing evolution with the muck of the social sciences, modern Social Darwinism” – but you won’t usually find them on ScienceBlogs, you know? That’s a separate (and genuine) issue; as I’ve mentioned before, I wonder if seeing all the pop-evo-psych garbage and folks screeching about the poor put-upon martyrs Summers and Watson have given you a misleading sense of the shape of things. In some ways, your character, at least as expressed through blogging, is of the outsider, and while there is often great merit in that, it does run the risk of misinterpretation and misunderstanding.

    And while you’re certainly right to stress the political aspects (though we’re talking religious and cultural politics, and I am rather doubtful of your election-year-strategy interpretation)the stuff about ol’ Chuckie as a “feature of leftist culture” and that “his politics are hardly in line with [modern democratic] leftism [no doubt true] – well, that’s coming from an utterly different worldview than mine, at least, one that would seem to submerge everything under political considerations. Darwin’s importance is as a scientist, historically a major one – though one whose scientific descendants, as we agree it is vital to point out, have far outstripped him. One can, if of a historical bent, admire his work, as one would intellectually respect a Newton, or Galileo, say, or even in philosophy a Socrates or Plato – and what they represent in terms of the value of intellectual striving – without endorsing all their views, insisting on viewing them as contemporary figures, or setting them up as political heroes. And likewise, while I think it’s absolutely vital to face messy and even ugly historical realities, rejecting figures within the history of science because of their political views (and these views’ present-day usefulness) – that’s a somewhat worrying proposition.

    You also seem to be missing the point of the current outcry. One of the Expelled‘s claims seems to be that ‘darwinism’ (=evolutionary biology,=science,=atheism, the film apparently argues) is more or less directly responsible for the Holocaust. One can certainly feel that some of the responses are naive or oversimplified and still recognize this as a slanderously dishonest distortion, no?

    Again, I feel you just somehow don’t get a lot of the background here. -For example, much of the impetus for creationism is of course tied into specific religious interpretations (although that’s a short sentence for a more complicated sociopolitical thing, and of course supplies easy fodder for political operatives: see for example Coutler’s execrable book Godless); this is something you always seem to avoid, for some reason. Expelled‘s Godwin-mongering isa way to reinforce group belief and commitment, and similar strategies are widespread throughout that movement. The creation museum blames, iirc, divorce, drug use, crime, pornography, abortion gay teens, and, I think, genocide on ‘darwinism’. The DI’s Wedge Strategy document very specifically blames ‘darwinism’ (along with Marxism and Freudian psychology) for a “materialistic conception of reality [that] eventually infected virtually every area of our culture” with “devastating” consequences, from “moral relativism . . . [that] still undergirds much of modern economics, political science, psychology and sociology” to “modern approaches to criminal justice, product liability, and welfare“, to “ materialist reformers [who] advocated coercive government programs that falsely promised to create heaven on earth.”

    The product liability bit always cracks me up, I must say – but look, this is what they do. Like the forced-birther folks screeching about how black women who have abortions are committing racist genocide, it’s also an attempt to expand beyond their base; while they may very well believe it, it’s also an extremely cynical and manipulative ploy – oh, I know what would convince or neutralize liberals! – and look at you: it kinda works! And more importantly, you have to understand, they will not stop. It doesn’t matter what we do, up to and including holding daily scheduled Two Minutes Hates in which we watch while a droning Charles Darwin morphs into Hitler and lines of Jews are herded into gas chambers.

    So what I do I think we should do (just in case you don’t ask)? Well, I’m certainly no expert – and certainly no political mastermind. All I can say, going by my values, is that we have to support truth and historical accuracy; reject oversimplified and easy accounts, certainly, but also strenuously explain and reject the disgusting dishonesty of the creationist camp; and to do our best to explain why rejecting modern evolutionary biology is like rejecting modern astronomy or medicine, leaving us all poorer not just in wonder and knowledge, but in terms of concrete benefits for one another.

    And what on earth do you have against Sagan?

  129. #130 Anthony McCarthy
    April 27, 2008

    Hey, Dan. You ever heard that when you’re trying to get out of a hole you should stop digging? If that 2/3rds of Americans polling for creationism that I’m always hearing from the Darwin fan club is really true, you’d better dump him, if you want to rescue the teaching of evolution in the public schools is the real goal. Quite frankly, it seems more to me like a bunch of macho posturing to rescue the pride of those who’ve gone on record for the Darwin myth than a promotion of science or the preservation of the wall of separation. I’m kind of more interested in retaining those than in saving the tender feelings of you guys.

    You want to discuss the legendary master of the Power Rangers of Occam with me, you know where to find me so I don’t annoy Orac more than I have to.

  130. #131 Anthony McCarthy
    April 27, 2008

    Pierce, if you can’t distinguish between someone who is an absolute supporter of the separation of church and state and someone who accepts evolution from a creationist – after me giving you no reason to believe I’m a creationist – I’d say that’s your problem.

    See response to Dan S. above, your feelings that get hurt when the historical record really gets exposed isn’t going to keep me from talking about it.

  131. #132 Colugo
    April 27, 2008

    Pierce R. Butler: “Both made (relatively minor) errors in accepting support from major contemporary factions that we can now see were politically and scientifically wrong.”

    I disagree with that characterization. Both Sanger and Darwin actually arrived at and held views which are troubling by today’s standards; they weren’t just accepting support from or making concessions to unsavory allies because they were under siege from a reactionary backlash. And whatever they believed – about anything – has no implications for today’s Planned Parenthood nor for evolutionary biology.

    While capitalist robber baron funding was important to the eugenics movement, they were not the only faction responsible for eugenicist and racialist advocacy. Jack London and H.G. Wells, like some other Fabians, were both eugenicists and racists. Alfred Ploetz, pioneering German eugenicist, was a socialist, as were other early German eugenicists. In America, it was the progressive church rather than Catholic traditionalists that embraced eugenics. I could cite many other feminists, pacifists, and progressives. One forgotten advocate is David Starr Jordan, a Unitarian, pacifist, and Stanford president whose racialist writings are today cited by neo-Nazis.

    From the late 19th to early 20th century a coercive eugenics and white supremacist, even sometimes eliminationist, discourse can be found across much of the political spectrum. Very few public figures who remarked on those issues can withstand scrutiny; Franz Boas is one of those who can (if we forgive his grave-robbing of Indians and exploitation of Inuit). That’s the truth, whether or not we are interested in giving the forces behind Expelled an inch.

    I recall that we both commented on Dave Neiwert’s response to Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism.

    One error made in these debates over history is a tendency to think of the “bad guys” as our current adversaries just in a different era, of past “heroes” as simply an earlier incarnation of our own side, and past conflicts as current values pushed backward in time. The reality is far more complex and sometimes more troubling.

    Some sources on the early question about US eugenics and Nazism.

    Was Nazi eugenics created in the US? Garland E. Allen, EMBO Reports, 2004
    http://www.nature.com/embor/journal/v5/n5/full/7400158.html

    Review of ‘Better for All the World’ Sally Satel, New York Times, 2006
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/26/books/review/26satel.html?fta=y

    Museum of Disability: Timeline of Eugenics
    http://www.museumofdisability.org/html/exhibits/society/timeline_eugenics.html

  132. #133 Dan S.
    April 27, 2008

    If that 2/3rds of Americans polling for creationism that I’m always hearing from the Darwin fan club is really true, you’d better dump him, if you want to rescue the teaching of evolution in the public schools is the real goal.

    Again, not only does this seem a bit more on the side of political expediency than truth – Darwin is important in the history of science, even if modern evolutionary biology has gone far, far beyond his work – you seem to be badly misdiagnosing the problem. Darwin – even Darwin’s political views late in life – aren’t the issue for the vast majority of the folks polling for creationism. Do you honestly not get that?!

    And look, I can get a little annoyed at how Sagan – at least in TDHW – often seemed not to quite grasp why people believe one or the other idea, but you really seem to dislike him. Is there a invisible dragon in your garage?

    Why do you think Pierce Butler’s confusing you with a theocratic creationist? I don’t see that in the 12:26pm post – and you don’t reply to any of those political points. (“As for the question of Charles Darwin, he’s getting swiftboated” – that’s a marvelously anachronistic sentence!)

    your feelings that get hurt when the historical record really gets exposed isn’t going to keep me from talking about it.
    Of course, that’s not at all what Butler (or I, nor anyone) is actually saying.

  133. #134 Anthony McCarthy
    April 27, 2008

    Dan, if you want to pretend that the constant whining of the Darwinists in response to the creationists isn’t ENTIRELY a political manifestation I’m not going to convince you and am not going to try. If the past 90 years can’t teach you that lesson nothing I say will.

    Sagan, take it to my blog, the top tread is far from full.

    Now, I think I’ve imposed on Orac’s patience long enough, and I’ve got my own stuff to write.

    Thank you Orac, I hope I demonstrated that the creationists actually have found stuff to work with and that the assertions that Darwinism, yes, Darwinism is actually linked to eugenics and through its associations, unfortunately can get pinned with links to actual Nazis, though Charles Darwin could never have predicted that was going to happen when he died more than 50 years before Hitler came to power.

    I hope you understand that this isn’t a fight about science but about politics and you will lose unless you fight it as a politcal fight including dumping a failed brand name in the process.

  134. #135 Pierce R. Butler
    April 27, 2008

    Huh? You seem to have interpreted something I said as a personal slam (what?)

    You’re making factually-based arguments with no gaping non sequiturs, so I’d engage with you on a topic of interest whether I considered you a creationist/religionist or not.

    My main unanswered question to you is whether you can tell us anything more about certain alleged links between American eugenicists of the late 19th century and Nazi ideologues of a few decades later; my most recent point is that it would be tactically counterproductive in the present situation to try to (somehow) throw Charles Darwin from the sleigh.

    Neither of these has anything to do with you or yo’ mama, or the First Amendment or John Scopes. I accept that we are (generally) on the same side, and am trying, not to shut you up, but to elicit information from you.

  135. #136 Pierce R. Butler
    April 27, 2008

    … a marvelously anachronistic sentence!

    Thank you, Dan S. – I think…

  136. #137 Colugo
    April 27, 2008

    McCarthy and I have some disagreements and he is repetitive, but he does have a point about the what could be called the “brand identity” of evolutionary biology: its embodiment in the personage of Charles Darwin. The pro-science side is just as guilty of this as the creationists. Never mind Dawkins’ habit of invoking “Darwinism” – there’s Darwin Day / Evolution Sunday, Darwin Month, reconstructing the Beagle, pilgrimages to his estate, posing in front of statues etc. It is funny that as the old bearded white guy Darwin bears some resemblance to notions about the appearance of Moses or Jehovah. At the very least he serves as a kind of secular saint. (In that light, thank goodness that it was Darwin and Wallace rather than Ernst Haeckel who introduced natural selection to the scientific community. Of course, the French regard their fellow countryman Lamarck as the great man of evolution.)

    People rise to defend Darwin’s honor as if he were a revered elder relative rather than yet another dead guy in the history of science. Is anyone particularly defensive about the character and eccentricities of Isaac Newton? Stephen Hawking has no problem calling out Newton as a jerk. Because it doesn’t matter.

    Darwin is in many ways a very admirable and sympathetic figure. Insights can be gained from his scientific writings even today. He also had some views that were disturbing and even scandalous. So did Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Woodrow Wilson. Come to think of it, we build statues to them too. So feel free to gush over Darwin, but let’s all learn to let go a little bit.

  137. #138 Tyler DiPietro
    April 27, 2008

    “Is anyone particularly defensive about the character and eccentricities of Isaac Newton?”

    There really doesn’t seem to be any particular need. Newton isn’t deliberately associated with socio-political atrocities as part of a campaign to undermine public education in physics. I have no problem acknowledging that Newton was, by all accounts, a rather unpleasant individual personality wise. Similarly, I have no problems acknowledging that Darwin was an imperfect individual and, like most of his contemporaries, a product of the Victorian English cultural milieu. It really should be a non-issue, and ostentations from certain people aside, the pro-science community is not chiefly responsible for such not being the case in the current political climate.

    Despite his clear imperfections, Darwin is most certainly a man deserving of celebration. As you mention, the same is true of many of our slave-owning founders and our generally admired presidents.

  138. #139 Dan S.
    April 27, 2008

    Dan, if you want to pretend that the constant whining of the Darwinists in response to the creationists isn’t ENTIRELY a political manifestation

    Anthony, what on earth does this even mean? For starters, who are “the Darwinists”? Do you mean evolutionary biologists? Science-lovers? People who support modern science against the literalist absurdities of a crude, anti-intellectual, loudly anti-modern modern fundamentalism (a kind of religiosity rejected by mainstream denominations?) The late S. J. Gould? Scienceblog bloggers? PZ and Dawkins? Anyone you don’t like? People who constantly whine in response to creationists as a political manifestation? (Making the statement a bit tautological . . .)

    Secondly, re: the claim that this “constant whining . . . [is] ENTIRELY a political manifestation” – what are you trying to say here? One might, with some straining, interpret it as referring to foolish and hapless “Darwinists” who get provoked into playing (and losing) the creationists’ political game. You’ve already made that argument, after all. But that’s not the way it sounds. Rather, you seem to be saying that it is the Darwinists‘ constant whining that’s a political manifestation – that is, a political action?

  139. #140 Anthony McCarthy
    April 27, 2008

    Dan, who do you think you are Derrida? Maybe you should go down to the phoneme level and try that means of pretending you don’t understand it.

    Rather, you seem to be saying that it is the Darwinists’ constant whining that’s a political manifestation

    What part of “in response to the creationists” don’t you get?

    You asserting this back and forth is, what? Science? Rhetoric? Maybe it’s exobiology, the science in search of a subject that it never intended to find. Just like the Pleistocene Tales of evolutionary psychology pretending to know what happened in the entirely lost, as in absolutely no trace available to analyzed or reviewed.

    Just where did the funding for exobiology come from, I wonder?

  140. #141 Dan S.
    April 28, 2008

    What part of “in response to the creationists” don’t you get?

    Um, all of it – either you’re not being clear, I’m being dense, or both. (The second choice is all too possible, sad to say.) Again, are you saying that that by responding to creationist agitprop (ie, “constant whining“) the unspecified ‘Darwinists” are getting politically played, that their response is part of some knowingly political scheme on their part, what?

    FWIW, I edited out two paragraphs of not especially nice rhetoric from that last comment because I figured, hey, I really don’t get what he’s saying here, and I actually would like to understand it. Still do. Can you explain?

    And as someone with a (very, very, very minor, it must be said) background in archaeology and paleoanthropology , going on about how anything that happens in the Pleistocene stays in the Pleistocene, “with absolutely no trace available to [be] analyzed or reviewed” is really kinda somewhat of an overstatement (which doesn’t make crappy pop evo psych clearly being grasped at to reinforce threatened gender roles and presumed male superiority any less crappier; in fact, the very worst tends to involve wildly implausible scenarios of what life in the Pleistocene was like – females languidly lying around caves all day with their offspring waiting for The Mighty Hunter to return home, and nonsense like that.

    Just where did the funding for exobiology come from, I wonder?

    Hitler, apparently. Or something. What’s your point here? (Is it that the “constant whining of the Darwinists” is really all about getting funding? Huh. Isn’t that more of a climate change denialism talking point?)

    And honestly – first you’re hatin’ on Sagan, and now you’re some sort of xenophobe? (Ok, exobiophobe). I mean, ok, it doesn’t necessarily seem like the most immediately useful field, but of course, one might not have singled out a mid-19th C. monk puttering around in a pea field, or a early 20thC botanist poking at some evening primroses (or even some strange scientist with a lab full of fruit flies) as being especially important either. (And to the extent that exobiology has focused attention on extremophiles, it might have had some rather concrete benefits). – Is that what you’re getting at? I really am not understanding you.

  141. #142 Leni
    April 28, 2008

    Orac wrote:

    Morally equivalent, perhaps, but they are not equivalent in content.

    That doesn’t mean that they aren’t both a kind of denial. Which is how Caplan described it anyway, if I remember right.

    That’s why I brought up 911 and autism troofers. They don’t deny that people died, they just deny who killed them and why. If we can call those actions “denialism”, I don’t see why we should take Caplan to task for doing the same thing with regard to the Halocaust.

  142. #143 Anthony McCarthy
    April 28, 2008

    Um, all of it – either you’re not being clear, I’m being dense, or both.

    Actually, I’m teasing you, Dan S. I’m afraid it’s a habit picked up by a short kid who wears glasses when dealing with bullying by…. Well, you can fill in the picture yourself. I hope.

  143. #144 Anthony McCarthy
    April 28, 2008

    And honestly – first you’re hatin’ on Sagan, and now you’re some sort of xenophobe?

    Irony abounds in the Darwin cult, huh? I know I’ve recommended that you go through the list of ethnic and racial groups in The Descent of Man to see if your ancestors might have numbered among those Darwin referred to as “savages” as mine were.

    The least you could do Dan S., if you’re going to keep this up at both Orac’s and Echidne’s blogs is to give a plug for the long essay I posted there about the political idiocy of retaining the failed “Darwin” brand name. I mentioned Orac so as to up his blog meter count, afterall.

    I think you saw that I don’t back down the last time we got into this, but I actually do respect Orac and would rather you didn’t do this on his blog. Mine is quite available, I don’t sell advertising so no one has to worry about me profiting from the traffic and other people won’t be bothered if we brawl there.

  144. #145 Anthony McCarthy
    April 28, 2008

    OK. I really didn’t want to go into it here but I’ve had it.

    Risking the off chance that the “S” might stand for “Sagan”,and so hurting your feelings, despite his considerable personal charm and some admirable stands, Carl Sagan’s advocacy for Kurtzian scientism was rank hypocrisy due to his own semi-pseudo-science and his dabblings into the area of logic were pretentious, at times misinformed and dilettantish. The throngs of blog materialists who read “Billions of Demons” (nod to the great scientist and honest thinker, Richard Lewontin, who understands when a debate is political, you should really look up his review of that name online, it’s available) and think they’ve mastered the subject PZ me off with their repeated demonstrations that they all they’ve learned was how to throw a few buzz words around while showing that you can lead a bore to culture, you can’t make them think.

    Answer your question?

  145. #146 Pierce R. Butler
    April 28, 2008

    … those Darwin referred to as “savages” …

    Wasn’t that just the standard Victorian English term for those we might now call native peoples/indigenous population/Third World/Fourth World/subsistence lifestyle or suchlike terms? Was there any suitable vocabulary available to Darwin that would not raise modern hackles?

    Likewise, weren’t Darwin’s predictions that these “savages” would be exterminated by “civilized nations” verified by subsequent (and continuing) developments – that is to say, descriptive rather than prescriptive?

  146. #147 Anthony McCarthy
    April 28, 2008

    Spoken like a true Anglo-Saxon, Pierce S. Butler.

    Considering how savage the English gentry were, it’s hysterical to hear him use the term for anyone else. Look a little farther into the Descent of Man, at the passage where he talks about the usless “drones” bred to the aristocracy and see how, as he says discouraging things about vaccinating the underclass, he lets them off the hook on the incredible assertion that they don’t produce many offspring. Funny, I don’t remember much mention of the chastity of younger sons of the aristocracy in contemporary writers, you’d think someone else would have noticed.

    I still wonder what Orac makes of his assertions about the dysgenic effect of vaccination on the general population.

    As for the “he was only using the language of his time” that’s the discreditable in pursuit of the incredible, every single person who has read that book without pretending knew who he was talking about, even for those ethnic groups he didn’t sterotype by name.

  147. #148 Anthony McCarthy
    April 28, 2008

    Well, the Supreme Court just shot a hole in the side of the Voting Rights Act so there are more important fights in the war to save democracy so you guys can jaw among yourselves, and I do mean it this time, Dan.

  148. #149 Pierce R. Butler
    April 28, 2008

    Colugo @ April 27, 2008 1:04 pm – sorry for overlooking your comment earlier, and thanks for the links!

    Anthony McCarthy: Spoken like a true Anglo-Saxon, Pierce S. Butler.

    a) Er, is that mistyping of my middle initial supposed to mean something?
    b) Do be careful when you sling such terms at the Irish: some of us are pretty damn quick with a shillelagh. (Maybe I’ll take that as my new middle name.)

    Do you think modern defenders of Darwin are the mirror images of hyperchristians, determined to paint him as flawlessly progressive by 21st-century standards in the same way Steinophiles depict him as the vilest of villains? He did go a long way toward personally overcoming the cultural blinders of his milieu, but most historians seem to agree that Darwin was more of a plants-&-animals-&-rocks type of guy, and neither an anthropologist nor a purist political rebel against upper-class Victorian English prejudices. (Alfred Wallace, who rubbed shoulders with the locals in jungles around the world, was much more “modern” in that sense.)

    As for the “he was only using the language of his time” that’s the discreditable in pursuit of the incredible… Okay, I take it back: he was actually writing in high Tocharian, with the spelling preferred by mid-23rd-century asteroid miners.

  149. #150 The Christian Cynic
    April 28, 2008

    Pierce:

    First, a correction: Romans 10 was a typo. What I was referring to is the section of Romans 11 where Paul (a Jew – how do we forget that?) is talking about Gentiles being “grafted” onto Israel.

    Regardless, though:

    Doesn’t sound like “live & let live” to me: more like the “we’re right, they’re wrong” attitude that’s been in evidence all these centuries.

    This isn’t a fair response at all. For one, “we’re right, they’re wrong” doesn’t even start to describe the more complex situation of early Christians – whose leaders were almost all Jewish and were carrying on Jewish theology in new ways – especially given Paul’s Pharisaic education. Yes, there was disagreement, but you can’t raise this to the point of persecution.

    Ditto for your evasions (“…whether or not the crowd was Jewish…”), which may have some nit-picking lawyerly merits, but obviously have been interpreted otherwise by those claiming the authority to do so.

    Actually, that’s not a matter of nitpicking – my construction was to be honest about the fact that the composition of the crowd is simply not discussed in the synoptics. It’s John that gives that impression, and I stated that such a conclusion is probably faulty on the basis of how John uses the term (which is not broadly describing Jews as either a racial or religious group).

    And when has there ever been a lynch mob insisting that they accept the guilt for their crimes on behalf of their children? We’re looking at a story told by a not-very-realistic cult for the purpose of exculpating their inglorious purported founder and denigrating their rivals (said rivals being known to them as “the Jews”).

    Forgiving your far-from-objective characterization, I’m not sure what relevance this has. I stated that it’s not exactly coherent for Jesus to be talking about all Jews when a large portion of his own followers were Jewish, and your response is that the story is trying to “denigrat[e] their rivals.” I can’t imagine painting a portrait after the fact that Jesus’ execution was all just a big misunderstanding. On the other hand, I’m not sure exactly what Jesus needed to be “exculpated” from, and I think anything you suggest will be highly speculative.

    The stereotypes of, say, modern US anti-immigration xenophobia are not those applied to Mexicans a generation ago. Do you want to deny that there is continuity of anti-Hispanic racism?

    Another fine example of rather uncharitable reading (or just poor reading comprehension, but I’ll assume the former): I said that the stereotypes upon which anti-Semitism was built were not found in the Bible – hence the Bible cannot be blamed for them. You proceed to say something irrelevant about Hispanic racism – what’s your point? I’m not denying that Christians have never been anti-Semitic (I figured that someone might have figured this out when I explicitly condemned Luther’s anti-Semitism) but rather that anti-Semitism doesn’t follow from Scripture without lots of contortion.

    Look, if you tried to make the point that most modern Christians – especially the church hierarchies – have finally overcome their long traditions of anti-semitism, we could come to agreement. But denying that the very well documented historical Christian antagonism against Jews has anything to do with Christian doctrine is a losing cause, which can only lead you to ever-increasing contortions and absurdity.

    I do agree that Christians by and large have overcome anti-Semitism, but you haven’t met your burden of proof in establishing this as an accurate reading of Scripture. I’m not so worried about doctrine, but you haven’t shown anti-Semitism even to be doctrine but instead just the policy of organizations and leaders (which I’ve already stated I don’t agree with and consider their references to Scripture to be manipulative and – dare I say, in light of the larger discussion – exploitative). And what I especially disagree with is this underlying tone that Christian anti-Semitism undercuts the truth of it somehow, which of course makes just as little sense as evolution being untrue if Darwin’s ideas were a factor in Hitler’s attempts at extermination. What I’d like is some equity in evaluation, which is why I’ve appreciated what Orac has said in response to this “Holocaust denial” statement.

  150. #151 Pierce R. Butler
    April 28, 2008

    Oy.

    For this tonight I am not ready.

    … the more complex situation of early Christians – whose leaders were almost all Jewish and were carrying on Jewish theology in new ways – especially given Paul’s Pharisaic education. Yes, there was disagreement, but you can’t raise this to the point of persecution.

    What’s mattered so far is the subset of that sect’s competing stories that made it into The Canon when that was first frozen at Nicea three centuries after the events purportedly described. The first generation of Puritan “Pilgrims” actually got along pretty well with the Native peoples of Massachusetts Bay, but who would take that as the definitive measure of white/red relations?

    … the composition of the crowd is simply not discussed in the synoptics. It’s John that gives that impression…

    To doubt John would be to doubt Jesus, Tha Bible, and Everything, throughout Christian history up until the decadent present. (At least for once we don’t have blatantly contradictory accounts.)

    Forgiving your far-from-objective characterization

    You should know some of us tend to grow massive shoulder chips when Christians “forgive” us gratuitously…

    Back on topic – you consider a set of second- or third-hand texts, inscribed two to three generations after the subject’s death as a condemned criminal, and distilled through competing cult politics across the eastern Mediterranean, as “objective”? My irony meter just had to be put to bed with an icebag…

    I can’t imagine painting a portrait after the fact that Jesus’ execution was all just a big misunderstanding.

    So you’re claiming that the Romans, Sanhedrin, that howling mob of foreign tourists who just happened to be in Jerusalem to join in the locals’ quaint Passover rituals, and the prankster with the vinegar all knew that they were piling on the AlphOmega Man?

    C’mon, the authors of the Gospel stories are so frantic to exculpate JC that they don’t even get around to listing what he was charged with under Roman law, only his alleged offenses against the Temple. Kinda like Premise Media begging for help against Yoko Ono & the boys without mentioning why they’re in litigation, isn’t it?

    … rather uncharitable reading (or just poor reading comprehension, but I’ll assume the former)…

    Thank you.

    … something irrelevant about Hispanic racism – what’s your point?

    That a change in the stereotypes against a group does not disprove continuing hostility against said group, but arguably illustrates it.

    … anti-Semitism doesn’t follow from Scripture without lots of contortion.

    That contortion was successfully accomplished.

    Wikipedia sez

    The first accusation of deicide against the Jewish people as a whole: that they were collectively responsible for the death of Jesus came in a sermon in 167 CE … When Christianity became the state religion of Rome in the 4th century, Jews became objects of religious intolerance and political oppression. Christian literature began to display extreme hostility to Jews, and this occasionally resulted in attacks on Jews and the burning of synagogues. … Discrimination became worse in the 5th century… Synagogues in the following places were destroyed: … Other synagogues were confiscated: …

    … the policy of organizations and leaders (which I’ve already stated I don’t agree with …

    Which thereby gives you the right to declare them not really Christian? Sorry, but all Christians say that about other Christians – it’s practically a trademark. (Note: non-Christians generally don’t care. Around here that ploy usually gets you referred to the True Scotsman fallacy.)

    Me, I accept the scriptural definition: 2 or more, gathered in The Name. (Talk about open licensing…)

    … anti-Semitism, but you haven’t met your burden of proof in establishing this as an accurate reading of Scripture.

    You might as well ask for an “accurate” reading of the Iliad or last night’s sitcoms. There are multiple possible interpretations of a skimpy text subjected to decades of tendentious editing (doesn’t every book in the NT include badmouthing of “false teachers”?), with not even an agreed methodology for measuring error.

    That leaves the documents with their many hostile remarks, and the recorded history of Judeo-Christian interaction as the most “objective” areas of study. So far the evidence doesn’t look too good for the anti- anti-semitic school of thought.

    … equity in evaluation …

    Izzat like “equal time” and “teach the controversy”? Is it still considered intolerably rude to ask for material evidence?

    Speaking of Christian Cynicism, I’m reminded of Burton Mack’s view in Who Wrote the New Testament? that many of the sayings and attitudes ascribed to Jesus came from the Greek Cynics and fellow-traveling philosophers. Is your handle derived from that hypothesis?

  151. #152 The Christian Cynic
    April 29, 2008

    Considering that I’m up a little past my bedtime and am horribly procrastinating as a result, I’m going to do this as quickly as possible:

    First, I’m not saying that Christians haven’t been anti-Semitic or that Christian leaders haven’t promoted anti-Semitism using their influence. That should have been clear a few posts ago, but I’m trying to make it painfully explicit now. I’m not letting Christians off the hook for doing bad things. What I am saying – and I don’t see you defending this point very well – is that Christians had to (and did, I must again point out) twist Scripture in some pretty strange ways to justify it. This shouldn’t be a surprise, though; some people can justify anything.

    You should know some of us tend to grow massive shoulder chips when Christians “forgive” us gratuitously…

    Try to be more unbiased in your use of language, and I won’t have to forgive you for such. I wouldn’t think that’s a hard lesson to learn…

    Back on topic – you consider a set of second- or third-hand texts, inscribed two to three generations after the subject’s death as a condemned criminal, and distilled through competing cult politics across the eastern Mediterranean, as “objective”? My irony meter just had to be put to bed with an icebag…

    It must be hard reinforcing stereotypes and propagating false information, isn’t it? Not to mention putting words in people’s mouths… (Hint: I didn’t call the gospels objective or even imply such. That one’s on the house; you’ll have to figure out the next one on your own.)

    Which thereby gives you the right to declare them not really Christian? Sorry, but all Christians say that about other Christians – it’s practically a trademark. (Note: non-Christians generally don’t care. Around here that ploy usually gets you referred to the True Scotsman fallacy.)

    Here you go, you can do this now: Where did I say or imply that Christian leaders who espoused anti-Semitism weren’t “true Christians”? I leave that exercise for the critical reader.

    (P.S. Some Christians do understand logic and fallacies and such. Just FYI.)

    Izzat like “equal time” and “teach the controversy”? Is it still considered intolerably rude to ask for material evidence?

    “Equity in evaluation” means “being fair in your judgment.” When you distort the positions of the people you’re arguing against, that’s pretty much a textbook case of being inequitable. But way to go in promoting some more stereotypes that don’t fit me; it’s getting to be a bit amusing. (Well, that, or I’m starting to get delirious since it’s almost 5 a.m. here…)

    Speaking of Christian Cynicism, I’m reminded of Burton Mack’s view in Who Wrote the New Testament? that many of the sayings and attitudes ascribed to Jesus came from the Greek Cynics and fellow-traveling philosophers. Is your handle derived from that hypothesis?

    Much simpler than that: I’m a Christian who tends to be pretty cynical about a lot of things, such as convincing creationists and “freethinkers” (Van Gogh was right on about that label, by the way) about most anything on the Internet. (I also find most of the Jesus Seminar-type scholarship to be pretty laughable, especially the revisionist stuff like that, so no, definitely not because of that hypothesis.)

  152. #153 Anthony McCarthy
    April 29, 2008

    “freethinkers” (Van Gogh was right on about that label, by the way)

    What’d he say?

    I’m very skeptical of the “Skeptics”, who I apparently have ruffled enough to produce some interesting results. There’s no room for anyone who doesn’t accept the agenda of the “Skeptics” without question in the ScienceBlog realm. You must believe and accept, or at least pretend to.

  153. #154 Pierce R. Butler
    April 29, 2008

    … Christians had to (and did, I must again point out) twist Scripture in some pretty strange ways to justify [anti-Semitism].

    Whether or not you consider that interpretation a twist (the whole body of the Bible is too convoluted to allow for any straightforward readings without precise cherry-picking), there was enough anti-Jewish bias in the NT to support the anti-semitic case, and not enough to sustain any pro-semitic factions.

    Moreover, as you seem focused on the first few generations of Christians, let me point out that “scripture” was evidently less important to them (lacking a fixed canon, while provided with a mixed, growing, and constantly revised set of “gospels” after the second generation). They worked by word of mouth and under the expectation that Everything was going to end soon anyway (so why bother with preserving records for future generations?).

    Try to be more unbiased in your use of language…

    I take a skeptical point of view. Forgive it if you must, but don’t try to make me water it down for you if you want the respect of being treated honestly.

    Where did I say or imply that Christian leaders who espoused anti-Semitism weren’t “true Christians”?

    Here’s the quote I was answering:

    … you haven’t shown anti-Semitism even to be doctrine but instead just the policy of organizations and leaders (which I’ve already stated I don’t agree with and consider their references to Scripture to be manipulative and – dare I say, in light of the larger discussion – exploitative).

    You seem to be defining True Christians ™ as those who follow your reading of “Scripture”; at the least, you’re agreeing that those who just happened to be leaders and policy-setters within the early Christian community were manipulating and exploiting scripture, community, or both. Such behavior easily falls within my definition of Christian, but I had (mis-?)read you as seeing that differently.

    When you distort the positions of the people you’re arguing against…

    I’m still not clear just what “equity in evaluation” meant in this context, but it seems to imply accepting underlying premises that lack evidence (either the veracity of the gospel stories or the assumption of early Judeo-Christian amity). If challenging such premises is distortion, I’ll have to sew a scarlet D on my t-shirt right away.

    I’m a Christian who tends to be pretty cynical …

    Congratulations. That must be a difficult position to maintain, what with faith & skepticism being diametric opposites and all.

    … convincing creationists …

    I haven’t discussed much doctrine with those few Christians who have the brains to vocally oppose creationism, but that seems an odd attitude for one prioritizing “Scripture”. Bibliolatry is typically a fundamentalist stance, no?

    … “freethinkers” (Van Gogh was right on about that label, by the way) …

    Eh? What did Mssr. One-Ear have to say on les penseurs libre’?

    I also find most of the Jesus Seminar-type scholarship to be pretty laughable …

    I haven’t enough Greek or Hebrew to reach a conclusion on such scholarship, myself. That said, I think G.A. Wells (not one of the Jesus Seminarians) raises some important questions, and hope you get an opportunity to read some of his books on whether Jesus existed.

  154. #155 Anthony McCarthy
    April 29, 2008

    I’m always interested to see that the “freethinkers” generally all end up in the same place. How come I suspect that those making up the lists wouldn’t include any who conclude something they didn’t require of those listed. Doesn’t seem so “free” does it.

  155. #156 The Christian Cynic
    April 29, 2008

    This is getting tedious. I think some questions you’re asking are fair, but the ones that aren’t are too distracting for me to care enough about this conversation.

    For instance:

    Congratulations. That must be a difficult position to maintain, what with faith & skepticism being diametric opposites and all.

    This sets up a false dichotomy based on a faulty (albeit common) definition of ‘faith’ that I’m not likely to accept. When you attribute a position to me that I don’t hold, then what point is there to argue? You’ve got your preconceived notions, and the fact that you act on them shows that you aren’t so open-minded as you might think.

    (By the way, you have a tendency to take what I say in the very strict context of things we’ve said: when I talk about convincing creationists, that doesn’t mean I’m talking doctrine.)

  156. #157 Pierce R. Butler
    April 29, 2008

    CC: Sorry this hasn’t worked out for you – maybe we’ll do better some other time.

  157. #158 Dan S.
    April 29, 2008

    I haven’t discussed much doctrine with those few Christians who have the brains to vocally oppose creationism,

    Hey, now . . . iirc, all (or at the very least most) of the Dover plaintiffs, for example, are Christians.

    How come I suspect that . . .

    Hmm. Well . . .

  158. #159 Anthony McCarthy
    April 30, 2008

    “I haven’t discussed much doctrine with those few Christians who have the brains to vocally oppose creationism,”

    If the statistics are correct, it is almost a certainty that a large percent, perhaps most, of the people who accept evolution in the United States and in Europe would define themselves as “Christians”.

    Stereotyping by and away, the majority of the population as having non-functioning brains isn’t going to help.

    You wonder how poor old Mendel got as far as he did, and dear old Theodore Dobzhansky, who was probably the foremost evolutionary biologist of my youth. But then, look what that Franciscan of the strict observance, William of Occam, was able to overcome. He was a Franciscan so dedicated to St. Francis that he was a part of the group that got in trouble with the Pope. He just must have believed in St. Francis’ stigmata, it was a central part of contemporary Franciscan culture. Funny patron saint for pop-materialists, huh?

  159. #160 Dan S.
    April 30, 2008

    If the statistics are correct, it is almost a certainty that a large percent, perhaps most, of the people who accept evolution in the United States and in Europe would define themselves as “Christians”.

    Anthony, I *gasp!* agree with you about this. (I don’t know about most, but certainly a pretty decent chunk). (Of course, there are other ways to look at this – ie, a massively overwhelming % of the people who blindly reject modern biology (often along with large swaths of physics, chemistry, astronomy, archaeology, etc.) are a rather specific variety or set of Christians, with an small assist from their equivalents in other religions. But still.)

  160. #161 Pierce R. Butler
    April 30, 2008

    Stereotyping by and away, the majority of the population as having non-functioning brains isn’t going to help.

    Please note, my comment was about “those few Christians who have the brains to vocally oppose creationism”. Just sitting there with a carefully blank expression while your fellow believers drag down your faith (or at least its reputation among the educated) does not fall into the category of intelligent action.

    You wonder how poor old Mendel got as far as he did…

    Father Gregor spoke out in favor of natural selection and against the model of divine creation? Please provide a (sourced) quote!

  161. #162 Anthony McCarthy
    April 30, 2008

    Pierce, I don’t happen to be a Christian, I’m a leftist who is tired of neo-atheists being self-indulgent, immature, jerks and costing the left politically. Or, you might say I’m not a fan of the culture of the ScienceBlogs, or of Seed apparently, as I study the funding of this place. More on that later.

  162. #163 Ed
    May 3, 2008

    The Nazi Eugenics program and its origins can not be ignored.

    http://www.waragainsttheweak.com

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