Expelled and Holocaust denial

Orac doesn’t think Expelled’s Nazi claims are a form of Holocaust denial. I disagree.

Orac has some good points, and “denial” may be a strong word. Orac gives the basic criteria of Holocaust denial as rejecting at least one of these statements:

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.

Expelled is either silent on or in agreement with all of those. Even so, I think Orac is too kind in saying:

given the actual definition of Holocaust denial generally agreed upon by academics, I have conclude that [Caplan]‘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

He is simply wrong in continuing that sentence:

and do not show any signs of the anti-Semitism that accompanies Holocaust denial.

Not when you’ve got David Klinghoffer defending the movie by saying that Hitler was right about the Jews. The central belief of the Holocaust’s architects was that Jews were evil, and that this evil was genetic, and had to be rooted out of the German (or Aryan, if we must) lineage. In order to claim that evolution is at all relevant to the Holocaust, the producers of Expelled must believe that there really is some genetic component to Judaism, and that a selective breeding program really would have some effect on society. Of course, these claims are wrong.

The effect of the claims made in Expelled, and championed by Richard Weikart, are to remove blame from the shoulders of Hitler and other implementers of the horrific Nazi policies. And in doing so, they are nibbling away at the first of Orac’s criteria. They don’t deny that the Nazis did what they did, but as Disco. Inst. VP John West puts it, they were simply enforcing “a fundamental law.”

But this is false, and if we weren’t talking about such a serious topic, it would be pretty funny to suggest that laws of nature have to be enforced by the government:

The effect of these attempts to shift blame off of the Nazis is to trivialize the Holocaust. As the ADL’s Abe Foxman said about televangelist D. James Kennedy’s attempt to argue for Weikart’s hypothesis:

This is an outrageous and shoddy attempt by D. James Kennedy to trivialize the horrors of the Holocaust. Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan to exterminate the Jewish people. Trivializing the Holocaust comes from either ignorance at best or, at worst, a mendacious attempt to score political points in the culture war on the backs of six million Jewish victims and others who died at the hands of the Nazis.

Which nicely meshes with Orac’s conclusion:

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, and that is the intentional misuse of the Holocaust as a political weapon.

While trivializing the Holocaust isn’t one of the standard criteria of Holocaust denial, I think it should be. The Holocaust is quite possibly the most horrific event in human history. No small part of that is the fact that it was carried out in an orderly process with a shocking amount of public acceptance. To trivialize that, and make it just another political chit to cash in debate is to deny the significance of the event, though not to deny the event itself.


  1. #1 evolutionary humanism
    April 24, 2008

    It occurs to me that evolutionary biologists need to be pointing out that genocide as a practice is inconsistent with the knowledge we gain from Darwin. An evolutionary approach illustrates the folly of racism or ethnic persecution. Healthy populations in the environment tend to contain diverse individuals and natural variation in genotype. The very success of sexual reproduction, and the resilience of many strains of bacteria, hinge upon the ability to pass along a different mix of genes. This increases the odds that the next shuffle will have survival value. If we take the lessons of evolution to heart, the real lesson would seem to be that we need more, not less, mingling of human populations. Far from resulting in persecution of Jewish people, an evolutionary approach would require recognizing and valuing their contributions to the human genome.

  2. #2 Badger3k
    April 24, 2008

    Aren’t the people behind the movie the kind of Fundie that thinks all Jews will convert to Jesus or die and go to hell forever? Sounds kinda Anti-Semitic to me.

  3. #3 Colugo
    April 25, 2008

    “Not when you’ve got David Klinghoffer defending the movie by saying that Hitler was right about the Jews.”

    As flawed Klinghoffer’s premise was, he certainly was not suggesting that Hitler was right about the Jews being “evil, and that this evil was genetic, and had to be rooted out of the German … lineage.” Rather he was arguing that Hitler was right about Judaism being in defiance of and superseding nature. A prime example of this, Klinghoffer argues, is circumcision. Klinghoffer’s thesis is that since Nazis strove to be in communion with their view of Nature, they had to be utterly opposed to Jewish privileging of the law over nature. (I don’t recall exactly how he put it.)

    “the producers of Expelled must believe that there really is some genetic component to Judaism, and that a selective breeding program really would have some effect on society.”

    This sounds like Kevin’s MacDonald model.

    In any case, I disagree that must follow (though I understand your reasoning) in terms of the views of Expelled’s producers (I don’t know what they think). It is noteworthy but not necessarily indicative of a cryptic sinister agenda (in addition their overt sinister agenda of promoting creationism/ID) that they chose as one of their experts a Polish geneticist and politician who also happens to be a creepy antisemite.

    “to remove blame from the shoulders of Hitler and other implementers of the horrific Nazi policies.”

    Again, I disagree that this follows no matter how incorrect Expelled’s “explanation” or any other one. To explain is not to excuse nor exculpate. Citing Martin Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies as part of the historical context for the Holocaust is not to remove blame from the perpetrators of the Holocaust. To use a less example with less historical baggage, referring to male reproductive strategies, testosterone, local cultural mores, or pornography, or all of these as part of an understanding of male adultery is not (by itself) an exercise in excusing adultery nor absolving the adulterers.

  4. #4 Deacon Duncan
    April 26, 2008

    Hmm, if point number one is that the Holocaust was the intentional murder of European Jews, it sounds like Expelled does indeed border on Holocaust denial–not denying that it happened, but that it ought to count as “murder.” If you buy the idea that evolution actually justifies anti-Semitism to the point of exterminating Jews, then you’re not only shifting blame away from the Nazis, you’re implying that maybe no crime was committed at all. That’s an even worse form of Holocaust denial, because it suggests that Jews would still be a “problem” in search of a “final solution.”

  5. #5 Josh Rosenau
    April 26, 2008

    I’m honestly not sure what Klinghoffer’s argument was, or how it was supposed to relate to Expelled. He seems to think that this defiance of nature could reasonably be taken as a trait carried genetically within the Jews, and that it was reasonable to apply selective breeding to it.

    The sense in which Klinghoffer, at least, thinks Jews defy nature seems no different from what any technological society does. If his argument is taken on its face, it’s trivially stupid. And I don’t think Klinghoffer is stupid. I think he knows that saying “Hitler understood something about Judaism that even many Jews today donít grasp,” he’s making a statement that takes some serious justification. He’s asserting that Hitler’s genocidal ideology was rooted in a correct statement about the evils of the Jewish race, and that’s patently absurd, and an utterly offensive thing to say any time, especially the day before Passover.

    Deacon Duncan’s logic seems right to me. Klinghoffer is arguing that Hitler’s policies were a logical and correct application of true knowledge about Jews and accurate interpretation of evolutionary biology, and that does seem like an attempt to justify the Holocaust and to move it out of the realm of unthinkable horror. That’s wrong. Hitler was wrong about the Jews, wrong about evolution, and wrong on just about every other front imaginable.