Thursday, January 24, 2008

Evolution Caused the Holocaust

I hate Holocaust revisionism--and there's a lot of it out there. So many people have twisted the evil of the Nazis and the slaughter of millions of Jews to somehow further their personal agenda. People like Scott Lively, author of The Pink Swastika, who teaches that the Nazis were homosexuals. People like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the current president of Iran, who believes the Holocaust never actually happened--that the idea was manufactured by Jews to gain sympathy.

People like Ben Stein.

Huh? Ben Stein? What?

Yeah. Stein is apparently an advocate of Intelligent Design. According to the Christian Post, Stein spoke at a recent news conference promoting a new film on Intelligent Design. There, the former speechwriter for presidents Nixon and Ford brought the crazy.
Stein pointed out that Darwinian teaching on natural selection and random mutation "led in a straight line to the holocaust and Nazism."

Darwin said that there were certain species that were superior to other species and all were competing for scarce supplies of food or resources, Stein pointed out. But if there was a limited supply of basic resources, Darwinism taught that "you owe it to the superior race to kill the inferior race," he told reporters.

Darwinian evolutionary theory fueled Nazi idealism that felt gypsies, Eastern Europeans and others were competing with them for scarce basic resources, explained Stein.

I think this is nuts. Nothing I've ever learned about Darwin's teachings or the modern-day theory of evolution has advocated murder or has attempted to "baptize" murder "for the common good." Evolution is not eugenics, people!

I think Stein is committing a disservice to others who believe in Intelligent Design. I know quite a few advocates of Intelligent Design, but none of them have ever blamed the Holocaust on evolution. Stein's comments only besmirch Intelligent Design.

hat tip: Christian Post


Topher said...

Not to be contrarian, but I think that Ben Stein has a (limited) contribution to make. In excoriating him for a sentence or two published in The Christian Post, I think it worthwhile to not gloss over whether there is still something to be learned.

The reaction here seems justified if we read only one sentence: Darwinism "led in a straight line to the holocaust and Nazism." If the line were so straight, we would've seen it prior to now.

But if we discount that Nazism and the holocaust is a direct result of Darwinism, we might still be able to trace some ideological links. And this has been done. For a good primer, please consult the article "eugenics" on I will summarize a few key points

The idea of eugenics began with Sir Galton in 1865, shortly after Darwin's publishing On the Origin of Species. It pertained to the idea of making the human race better through "intervention", including selective breeding. The movement even became an academically funded topic at universities in the early 1900's.

Outside of Germany, there were many examples of eugenics that are less publicized. In 1907 Indiana was the first state in the U.S. to pass a law requiring sterilization for certain individuals. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1927 even upheld a Virginia law that allowed sterilization of mental institute patients. In the end 60,000 U.S. citizens were forcibly sterilized, stemming from the idea of eugenics.

But it was in Germany where we see the greatest marks of eugenic philosophy. "Positive eugenic" practices that we may have heard of include awards that were given to Aryan women to have additional children. The "negative" side? 400,000 were sterilized, and it was these very people being sterilized at first (the mentally ill) who were also then targeted by euthanasia policies. Much of the same equipment used in these first euthanasia programs was later used for killing the eugenically-defined "undesirables". And eventually, the euthanasia program came to include millinos of Jews. However, I should mention that some people argue that killing the Jews can be considered "the antithesis of eugenic practice" because they were considered so intelligent/talented/etc.

So in the end, I agree: Darwinism didn't cause the holocaust. But his book and his ideas influenced those who did.

Joe Moderate said...

This is a good point, Topher... and disgusting/fascinating, too. Like studying the Holocaust, studying the eugenics movement captures my attention like staring at a train accident. It rivets my attention and makes me want to know "how could anyone justify such actions?"

I agree with you that eugenics was influenced by Darwinian theory. But I think you'll agree the line of thought that connects evolutionary theory to eugenics to the Holocaust is a twisted, convoluted, indirect route. Darwinism never taught, as Ben Stein claims, that "you owe it to the superior race to kill the inferior race." That's eugenics speaking.


Unfortunately this is not the first time creationism/intelligent design advocates have conflated evolution and eugenics.

seithman said...

Unfortunately, this is a very common practice. Hey, there's a link between this thing we're against and this other thing everyone is against, even if it is tenuous. So if we can build it up so the link seems more concrete -- or even inevitible -- we can convince people to be against the first thing, too.

I've actually seen the evolution/eugenics link used like this before. It strikes me as no different or better than bringing up historical events like the Crusades and Inquisitions in order to tar all of Christianity.

Joe Moderate said...

True that, Seithman. You know, I too thought of how religious folks get up in arms when people try drawing comparisons between the present "culture wars" and the Crusades... or between the present fight to prevent gay marriage and the fight of not-to-long-ago to prevent interracial marriage.

Caleb said...