Low Hanging Fruit

I was just listening to the debate between David Berlinski and Christopher Hitchens on the question, ‘Does Atheism Poison Everything?‘ I won’t detail too much of what was said (you should watch it for yourself here) but I did note that Christopher Hitchens made a terrible blunder. At about 36 minutes into the debate he states that it is a, “filthy slander” to say that Nazism was the ‘implementation of Charles Darwin”. He further states that Darwin’s thought was, “not taught in Germany” and that Darwinism, “was derided in Germany”.

Either Hitchens was being terribly disingenuous here (something I doubt as I consider him to be a very honest person) or he was simply and profoundly ignorant of history on this count. A simple review of the relevant history will show us how.

In 1912 the 1st International Eugenics Conference was presided over by Major Leonard Darwin, the son of Charles Darwin. It was dedicated to Sir Francis Galton, cousin of Darwin, who studied and popularized the idea of eugenics. This spawned a worldwide Eugenics movement which had its implementation in government policies as well as the establishment of eugenics institutes throughout the world. Eugenics was in modern parlance, the reigning scientific consensus.

The 3rd and final Eugenics Conference was in 1932. At that conference Ernst Rüdin was unanimously elected president of the International Federation of Eugenics Societies. It was the very same Ernst Rüdin who was to head the Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Rassenhygiene (German Society for Racial Hygiene) and who was one of the authors of the statute Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring which was the justification for Nazi sterilization laws, and later the elimination of the Jews.

So Hitchens is quite wrong on this count. While Nazi Germany was not the only country to implement the Darwin inspired eugenics ideas, the Third Reich was certainly the worst outgrowth of a movement which sprung directly from Darwin’s theories.

10 Responses to Low Hanging Fruit

  1. People who are related to Darwin do not represent Darwin, nor do they necessarily accurately represent what he said. Evolution was an idea rejected by Hitler (who was a creationist just like you) and it wasn’t taught in school. Like most people (including you), the Nazis recognized that evolution has the strong ability to lead people to atheism. For that reason they derided it.

    At any rate, descriptive claims are not normative claims, no matter the high level of confusion you may have on the subject.

  2. jackhudson says:

    The International Eugenics conferences weren’t filled with creationists, they were filled with people who wanted to practically implement Darwin’s evolutionary theory. They were as representative of Darwin as evolutionary biologists are today. More so, as many of them personally interacted with Darwin and idolized him.

    The primary architect of the Nazi view on race (and the one who gave scientific respectability to Hitler’s policies in Germany) was Ernst Rüdin who was no creationist. He was a product of the eugenics movement, ignorant denials to the contrary notwithstanding.

    This is indisputable historic fact, and only a self-serving revisionist would say otherwise.

  3. We both know you know eugenics was motivated by racism that stood long before anyone abused anything in biology. We both know you know evolution does not lead to eugenics. We both know you know there is no connection between Darwin and Hitler. We both know you know Hitler was a Roman Catholic creationist.

  4. jackhudson says:

    We both know you know eugenics was motivated by racism that stood long before anyone abused anything in biology. We both know you know evolution does not lead to eugenics. We both know you know there is no connection between Darwin and Hitler. We both know you know Hitler was a Roman Catholic creationist.

    Eugenics gave racism scientific respectability, but it was motivated by Franics Galton’s enchantment with his cousin’s theory, of which he was a staunch defender.

    And it’s not a matter of whether evolution leads to eugenics – evolution did lead to eugenics – this is undisputable history, not conjecture. Whether it should have is another question. If you don’t know this, then you are either ignorant of history or intentionally being deceptive.

    As far as Hitler’s Roman Catholicism, the fact is Hitler tried to start his own state run church under the auspices of the Nazi government (hardly the act of a faithful Catholic) headed by his handpicked ‘Bishop’, Ludwig Müller. This move (and Nazism itself) was opposed by the German Confessing Church, composed of a variety of Protestant churches. A number of leaders of this group of Christians ended up in concentration camps alongside the Jews.

    One of the disadvantages of being ignorant of religious history Michael is that it makes you ignorant of history in general.

  5. Justin says:

    I fail to see how eugenics was solely a racial issue. White proponents used eugenics against all sorts of “undesirables”, many of them also white, even here in America. Many of the targets were mentally challenged people, and it was a very tragic time.

    I find it curious that someone from a naturalistic worldview would deny evolution gave us eugenics. After all, evolution has given man everything we have, from our opposable thumbs to our internal sense of morality, and even racism itself, right?

  6. Hitler was a Catholic. Catholicism did lead to Nazism. If you don’t know this, then you are either ignorant of history of intentionally being deceptive.

    Sounds legit.

  7. jackhudson says:

    I have no reason to defend Catholcism per se (obviously as an Evangelical Protestant I have my own differences with them) but a leader who sets up his own church running under his own doctrines can hardly be described as an a practicing Catholic. Not to mention the Pope issued an Encyclical against Nazism, and the fact that the overwhelming number of Germans following Hitler weren’t Catholics.

    But Hitler did accomplish a goal I know you would appreciate Michael – church attendance (total) under Hitler dropped in Germany from 277000 to 23000 before they put the scumbag in the ground.

    Of course I am sure you will ignore these facts as well.

  8. Nate says:

    I’ve heard you say that people are born atheists. It would follow than that atheism does lead to theism.

    Makes as much sense as Catholicism leading to Nazism. I think more likely some political ideologies and narcissism lead to it but hey, who knows, if its more convenient to blame a religion for the worlds evils than be my guest.

  9. […] Neuroscience the New Eugenics? I have written previously about how the science of eugenics prevailed upon the scientific consensus of the early 20th century […]

  10. […] I just to bring even more clarity, I don’t think the scientific method was a direct and immediate emanation of Christian thought, nor do I think no scientific discoveries could be made apart from Christianity – obviously there were many. What I contend is that the methodology upon which modern science is based is the product of Christian minds acting in a Christian culture according to Christian pre-suppositions. What you fail to mention is that Christianity too has led to some horrendous results in societies were it was adopted as the basis. The Inquisition produced a holocaust comparable for scope and atrocities to the Nazi persecution of the Jews. And you know as well as I do that there are many more examples. Yes, you can argue that these societies were based on distortions or misinterpretations of Christianity. But your own sentence on Darwinism applies just as well to Christianity: And it’s not a matter of … […]

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