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.