Premier Christian Media’s screening of ‘Expelled’: From Darwin to Hitler?

Part Four of my analysis of Premier Christian Media’s screening and debate of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed examines the film’s claim that Darwin’s theory directly inspired Hitler and 20th century eugenics.

The final quarter of the film makes the outrageous allegation that Darwin’s work directly inspired Hitler and eugenics.   The host, Ben Stein, visits Darwin’s former home of Down House in Kent and his memorial at the London Natural History Museum.  He visits the Dachau concentration camp and Hadamar Clinic where he interviews the tour guide Uta George and Richard Weikart, Discovery Institute research fellow and author of From Darwin to Hitler.

I haven’t read Weikart’s book, but I listened to this lecture and was distinctly underwhelmed by the tenuous links made between the ancient idea of eugenics and Darwin’s theory.  Darwinism describes a scientific process for which there is ample evidence.  Whether we like its moral implication is irrelevant and Weikart is guilty of the naturalistic fallacy; confusing “what is” with “what ought to be”.  Weikart’s arguments rely heavily on some disgraceful quote-mining of Darwin’s work, more of which below.

Weikart also ignores a wealth of other social, economic and indeed religious factors that resulted in the rise of Nazism.  For excellent refutations of his thesis, I came across his radio debate against atheist Professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, Hector Avalos, as well as Avalos’ extensive blog posts on Debunking Christianity here and here.

Towards the end of Expelled, Stein reads out the following passage which is often quoted by creationists from The Descent of Man, first published in 1871:

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated.  We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination.  We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick, thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind.  No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man.  Hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

However, the passage in full shows that Darwin was deeply compassionate to the handicapped and was not in favour of any euthanasia programme:

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health.  We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment.  There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox.  Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind.  No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man.  It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused.  Nor could we check our sympathy, if so urged by hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature.  The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil.

There are several other passages from Darwin that creationists mine in their attempts to show that he was immoral, but reveal quite the opposite when read in their true context.  In the post-screening debate (at 43 minutes on the podcast) I asked the panel a question that drew their attention to this distortion, adding that while Darwin was about as racist as anyone else in Victorian England, he was a passionate abolitionist of the slave trade.  Surprisingly, my comments drew nods of agreement from Steve Fuller.  I also added that I have read Hitler’s Mein Kampf for myself.  It contains not one reference of Darwin, evolution or natural selection, but talks rather a lot about his faith in Heaven and the Almighty as well as his theological hero, Martin Luther.

Alastair Noble made noises about how Darwin influenced Stalin.  This claim is straight off the Answers in Genesis website and was repeated by David Robertson in our second debate on Premier’s Unbelievable? last year.  The truth is that Stalin rejected Darwinism in favour of Lamarckism which lead to Lysenko’s insane programme to grow giant vegetables and deliver multiple harvests in one year, leading to the starvation of millions:

Mendeleyev’s “periodic system of elements” clearly shows how very important in the history of nature is the emergence of qualitative changes out of quantitative changes. The same thing is shown in biology by the theory of neo-Lamarckism, to which neo-Darwinism is yielding place.

– Stalin 1906, 304

Steve Fuller replied that Mein Kampf discussed “selection”.  However, Hitler was referring to artificial selection which humans have known about for centuries.  Dog breeding and pigeon fancying have more responsibility for Hitler than On the Origin of the Species.

There is widespread confusion over Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection and “Social Darwinism”, which was coined by the Protestant anthropologist Herbert Spencer, who also came up with the term “survival of the fittest”.  Although still tarring Darwin’s good name, Hitler’s ethic is better described as “Social Darwinist”.

Irritatingly, many respectable scientists and historians have linked Darwin to Nazi Germany.  Sir Arthur Keith is often quoted by creationists as writing in Evolution & Ethics (1946) that Hitler was an evolutionist and was trying to create Darwin’s utopia based on the principles of eugenics, though Keith never showed which parts of Origins inspired Hitler.  Laurence Rees’ otherwise excellent study of the Final Solution, Auschwitz, was tarnished somewhat with the assertion that the Nazis’ ideology was “expressly Darwinian”, again without citing any primary sources in support.

The full original title of On the Origin of Species is infamously “Or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life”.  Again, creationists have argued that this is clear evidence that Darwin was in favour of a brutal struggle for survival where the strong would crush the weak.  However, as Richard Dawkins explained following the film’s release in an “Open Letter to a victim of Ben Stein’s lying propaganda”:

Darwin was using the word “race” in a very different sense from ours.  It is totally clear, if you read past the title to the book itself, that a “favoured race” meant something like “that set of individuals who possess a certain favoured genetic mutation” (although Darwin would not have used that language because he did not have our modern concept of a genetic mutation).

The Anti-Defamation League, an American Jewish pressure group dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, issued the following statement against Expelled which is the first and last word against anyone claiming that Darwinism is in any way a link to eugenics or Social Darwinism:

The film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed misappropriates the Holocaust and its imagery as a part of its political effort to discredit the scientific community which rejects so-called intelligent design theory.

Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan to exterminate the Jewish people and Darwin and evolutionary theory cannot explain Hitler’s genocidal madness.

Using the Holocaust in order to tarnish those who promote the theory of evolution is outrageous and trivializes the complex factors that led to the mass extermination of European Jewry.

Steve Fuller also argued that people who support the teaching of evolution also support abortion and euthanasia on the grounds that it will lead to a better version of humanity.  Again, I found this claim deeply offensive.  I have recently written that I am pro-choice on the grounds that the alternative is worse.  Abortion should be the last option.  Prevention is better than cure.  The answer is increased access to contraception and education as to its proper use.  I am not in favour of abortion because it is a quick and convenient method of wiping out Down’s Syndrome.

I can think of no better way to end these posts than with this compilation by YouTube auteur, Thunderf00t, that features Stein on a Christian TV network shortly after Expelled’s release making the appalling claim that “science leads to killing people”, juxtaposed with his own delusional fantasies about America needing to start World War Three in order to protect itself against Iran and North Korea.

P Z Myers couldn’t have phrased it any better:

What a vile little man.  I sincerely hope that his career is dead now … and that the rest of his life will be spent eking out speaking fees at Christian fundamentalist conventions, before audiences who will cheer him while dreaming of the day the Jews are exterminated or converted, bringing on Armageddon.

Right on, brother.

Now, a “call to arms” (in the strictly metaphorical, non-jihadist sense of the term) to all atheists, rationalists, humanists, secularists and everyone else who cares about truth in science and a proper education of school children which is free from religious dogma and presupposition: Let’s go to work.

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14 Responses to “Premier Christian Media’s screening of ‘Expelled’: From Darwin to Hitler?”

  1. Premier Christian Media’s screening of ‘Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed’ – A Review « manicstreetpreacher Says:

    […] From Darwin to Hitler? – My fourth and final post counters Expelled’s claim that there is a link between Origins and Dachau. […]

  2. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    I have started a discussion thread on the Unbelievable? group page on Premier Christian Community here.

  3. mynym Says:

    Irritatingly, many respectable scientists and historians have linked Darwin to Nazi Germany.

    That’s because they are correct and you are a biased ideologue.

    Darwin portrayed evolutionary creation myths and his pseudo-science as an actual, amoral scientific fact. He predicted the extermination of races based on his pseudo-science, then merely lamented it based on the vestiges of a “noble instinct” which he explained away as little more than an artifact of natural selection. Even in the passage you cite he says, “The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil.”

    And what could the great and present evil be if not the weak being “highly injurious to the race of man” and causing degeneration? Arguing something along the lines of “Well, Darwin was a nice fellow and he had a good little feeling about the weak.” has absolutely nothing to do with what he stated, incorrectly, as if they were scientific facts known based on his “theory.”

    This is why the Nazis said things like this:
    Our whole cultural life for decades has been more or less under the influence of biological thinking, as it was begun particularly around the middle of the last century, by the teachings of Darwin…
    Though it took decades before the courage was found, on the basis of the initial findings ofthe natural sciences, to carry on a systematic study of heredity, the progress of the teaching and its application to man could not be delayed any more. It was recognized that the natural laws discovered for plants and animals ought also to be valid for man, and this could fully and completely be confirmed during the last three decades both through family research (Familienforschung) and through the study of bastards and twins.
    (Hitler’s Professors: The Part of Scholarship in
    Germany’s Crimes Against the Jewish People
    by Max Weinreich
    (New York:The Yiddish Scientific Institute, 1946) :33)

    I’m sure that Darwin was a nice fellow and so on but that doesn’t change the fact that he created a mythology of progress based on pseudo-science which was destructive. As Karl Kraus noted, “Progress will make purses of human skin.”

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Yes, Darwin was a nice guy by the standards of his time. But even if he had been a baby-eating sociopath, that still would not affect the validity of his theory. Isaac Newton wasn’t even a nice guy, but apologists do not try to discredit his laws of gravity for moral reasons.

      Like Weikart, you commit the naturalistic fallacy. Saying that Darwin leads to immorality is like saying that nuclear physics is immoral because it lead to the Bomb.

      Hitler clearly believed in the theory of carbon combustion, which he used to burn corpses in the crematoria of Auschwitz and Dachau, but I never hear the religious arguing that the teaching of fire in schools should be banned.

      True, many scholars and intellectuals supported Hitler. Equally, many disowned him and were forced to flee Germany. Like Albert Einstein whose work in nuclear physics lead to Hiroshima and the Cold War according to your “reasoning”.

      Weikart quote-mines The Descent of Man where Darwin writes about stronger races wiping out inferior races in the battle for survival. However, Darwin was simply describing what he perceived would be a factual scenario brought about by colonialist expansion. He was most certainly not voicing approval of it in the same way that Al Gore talks about the imminent extinction of polar bears in the Arctic due to climate change, he is not advocating their extinction.

      You say that Nazis said things that proved their ideology was based on Darwinism and then go onto quote the post-war opinion of a Russian Jewish linguist! That is precisely the point I was making in my main post about the opinions of Keith and Rees. They tar the theory of evolution with their own ignorant preconceptions without providing any evidence of what any prominent Nazi criminal actually thought about Darwin!

      I agree that science and technology have been used to slaughter millions. Equally, they have rid the world of smallpox and other diseases which killed more than in the 20th century than all human conflict put together.

      • mynym Says:

        Weikart quote-mines The Descent of Man where Darwin writes about stronger races wiping out inferior races in the battle for survival.

        Not at all, it’s glaringly obvious that you do not understand what Darwin was saying and the fact that the Nazis took his projection of capitalist economics onto nature as a “scientific fact” seriously. Of course natural selection is a valid theory but it is also falsified in many instances, including in the case of man. Note that even proponents admit that biological observations have little to do with much of Darwinian theory:
        The link of Darwin to Malthus has been recognized and accorded proper importance from the start, if only because Darwin himself had explicitly noted and honored this impetus. But if Darwin required Malthus to grasp the central role of continuous and severe struggle for existence, then he needed the related school of Scottish economists…to formulate the even more fundamental principle of natural selection itself.
        ….
        In fact, I would advance the even stronger claim that the theory of natural selection is, in essence, Adam Smith’s economics transferred to nature.
        (The Structure of Evolutionary Theory by Stephen Jay Gould :122)

        However, Darwin was simply describing what he perceived would be a factual scenario brought about by colonialist expansion.

        It’s one thing to have an opinion about the future, it’s another to say that it is a force of nature as inevitable as gravity that you’ve supposedly verified based on science. Did Einstein say that he understood or was on his way to understanding the totality of human nature based on his science or that he knew that nuclear weapons would lead to the extermination of certain groups of people? No, that’s because he wasn’t engaged in pseudo-science.

        At any rate, why is it that you and so many others are so loathe to give up on denying the clear links between Darwinism and Nazism if it doesn’t even matter if there are links according to you? Besides, you could always invoke evolutionary creation myths or a mythology of progress to say that Darwin doesn’t matter. Although if you take that too far whatever you say today probably won’t matter tomorrow due to Progress.

      • mynym Says:

        You say that Nazis said things that proved their ideology was based on Darwinism and then go onto quote the post-war opinion of a Russian Jewish linguist!

        What? He was merely quoting Nazi documents and papers, i.e. historical evidence. The context:
        Arthur Butt, M.D., was a high official (Ministerialdirektor) in Frick’s ministry of the Interior. Falk Ruttke, doctor of jurisprudence, on the basis of the secret Nazi documents which we produce in chapter XXXIX, is now revealed as the author of the “infamous Nuremburg Laws,” as General Eisenhower termed them in his first order issued on German soil. The leading ideas of the authors were expressed in the introduction to the volume: “Our whole cultural life for decades has been more or less under the influence of biological thinking, as it was begun particularly around the middle of the last century, by the teachings of Darwin, Mendel, and Galton and afterwards has been advanced by the studies of Ploetz, Schallmeyer, Correns, de Vries, Tschermak, Baur, Riidin, Fischer, Lenz, and others. Though it took decades before the courage was found, on the basis of the initial findings of the natural sciences, to carry on a systematic study of heredity, the progress of the teaching and its application to man could not be delayed any more. It was recognized that the natural laws discovered for plants and animals ought also to be valid for man, and this could fully and completely be confirmed during the last three decades both through family research (Familienforschung) and through the study of bastards and twins.
        ….
        Extinction and selection are the two poles around which the whole race cultivation (Rassenflege) rotates, the two methods with which it has to work…Extinction is the biological destruction of the hereditary inferior through sterilization, the quantitative repression of the unhealthy and undesirable…
        ….
        Race cultivation has the task of changing the quantitative ratio of the good hereditary traits to the bad in favor of the former, in disfavor of the latter. In other words, it should see to it that more persons should be born with good hereditary traits than those with bad. It should try by all means to find out people with full value, normal and super-value traits (selection!)
        ….

        One of the Nazi leaders, Hans Schemm….aptly epitomized the situation by stating: “national socialism is applied biology.”
        (Hitler’s Professors: The Part of Scholarship in
        Germany’s Crimes Against the Jewish People
        by Max Weinreich
        (New York:The Yiddish Scientific Institute, 1946) :33-34)

        The bitter irony being that Darwin was generally merely projected Victorian era economics onto nature and what is actually observed in the real world has little to do with evolutionary creation myths. This caused a critic to comment:
        ….examples of Darwinian competition for life among humans, hypothetical ancient fights between Hobbesian bachelors were not nearly good enough. What was desperately needed were some real examples, drawn from contemporary or at least recent history. Nothing less would be sufficient to reconcile Darwinism with the obvious facts of human life [evidence of altruism, etc.]. Accordingly, Huxley made several attempts to supply such an example. But the result in every case was merely embarrassing.
        One attempt was as follows. Huxley draws attention to the fierce competition for colonies and markets which was going on, at the time he wrote, among the major Western nations. He says, in effect, “There! That’s pretty Darwinian, you must admit.” The reader, for his part, scarcely knows where to look, and wonders, very excusably, what species of organism it can possibly be, of which Britain, France, and Germany are members.
        ….
        A third attempt is this. Huxley implies that there have been “one or two short intervals” of the Darwinian “struggle for existence between man and man” in England in quite recent centuries: for example, the civil war of the seventeenth century! You probably think, and you certainly ought to think, that I am making this up; but I am not. He actually writes that, since “the reign of Elizabeth . . . , the struggle for existence between man and man has been so largely restrained among the great mass of the population (except for one or two short intervals of civil war), that it can have little, or no selective operation.”
        You probably also think that the English civil war of the seventeenth century grew out of tensions between parliament and the court, dissent and the established church, republic and and the monarchy. Nothing of the sort, you see: it was a resumption of “the struggle for existence between man and man.” Cromwell and King Charles were competing with each other, and each of them with everyone else too, à la Darwin and Malthus, for means of subsistence. So no doubt Cromwell, when he had had the king’s head cut off, ate it. Uncooked, I shouldn’t wonder, the beast. And probably selfishly refused to let his secretary John Milton have even one little nibble.
        (Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity, and Other Fables of Evolution
        by David Stove :7-9)

  4. mynym Says:

    But even if he had been a baby-eating sociopath, that still would not affect the validity of his theory. Isaac Newton wasn’t even a nice guy, but apologists do not try to discredit his laws of gravity for moral reasons.

    That is true but only in the abstract. In the real world people know that integrity is central to any scientia/knowledge. Even the word integrity is rooted in the mathematical notion of an integer with a logical basis. That’s why if a person is a moral degenerate then it is unlikely that they will be a great scientist.

    Like Weikart, you commit the naturalistic fallacy. Saying that Darwin leads to immorality is like saying that nuclear physics is immoral because it lead to the Bomb.

    Not at all, the naturalistic fallacy is Darwin’s. He’s the one who purported to explain morality in scientific terms and predicted the extermination of races as a “scientific fact” based on evolutionary creation myths which have more to do with the economic and social situation of his day than what can actually be observed in biology. To imply that Darwinian reasoning is the equivalent of Newtonian physics is absurd. What trajectory of adaptation does Darwinian “theory” predict? There is no highly specified theory of evolution that has been encoded in the language of mathematics and verified empirically. Indeed, biologists generally content themselves with studying outcomes, causing physicists to comment:
    “Biologists have a limited, intuitive understanding of complexity. They’re stuck with an inherited conflict from the 19th century, and are only interested in outcomes, in what wins out over others,” he adds. “But outcomes tell you almost nothing about the laws that govern the universe.” For physicists it is the laws of nature themselves that capture and structure the universe—and put brakes on it as well. –John Barrow

    At any rate, Einstein did not predict that his theory would ultimately lead to the extermination of certain groups of people because he was not engaged in projecting the economic and social situations of his day onto nature.

    I.e. pseudo-science of this sort:
    Darwinism imported sociological ideas into biology, and sociology took them back again once they had been ‘naturalized.’
    (The Pure Society: from Darwin to Hitler by Andre Pichot :47)

    The problem is that most biologists still treat imagining things about the past as the equivalent of empirical evidence, therefore they are prone to fall back into the same sort of pseudo-science as the eugenicists and others. A short summary:
    …the anthropological fable is a work of imagination, a historical scenario, yet offered as an explanation of one or another social phenomenon of either that time or our own. It is a kind of reverse science fiction, situated in the past rather than in the future. …

    What claim can this kind of historical fiction make to be scientific? It simply cannot, even in the loosest sense of science. It is just that the anthropological fable appeals to ideas of competition, struggle, selection, etc., ideas of Darwinian biology–or rather, socio-economic ideas that Darwinism borrowed and naturalized, thus giving them scientific backing. Returned to the sociology from whence they came, they are endowed with a kind of scientific aura, and their use in anthropological fables confers on the latter a dignity to which they have no right.

    The problem is that Darwinism, properly speaking, resorts to just this kind of historical scenario in its explanation of the origin of species. The simplest of these scenarios, in its modern form, sees a certain characteristic as appearing by chance mutation and, once shown to be favourable to its individual bearer, being preserved by natural selection. This basic model can be given added sophistication, mathematical for example, but the fact remains that the Darwinian explanation still consists in imagining a historical scenario… To criticize the explanatory principle that the anthropological model provides in social Darwinism is equally to criticize the Darwinian principle that explains the evolution of species by reconstructing historical scenarios. It thus amounts to an attack on science (since Darwinism is deemed scientific, at least among biologists)….
    (The Pure Society: from Darwin to Hitler by Andre Pichot :47-49)

  5. mynym Says:

    It’s curious that you actually cited Darwin approvingly here:
    The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil.”

    This rationalizes the “doubling” that the Nazi doctors engaged in perfectly. Darwinian reasoning allowed them to deal amorally with people based on supposed scientific facts and their public, professional identity for the good of the nation. On the other hand they could also lament what they had to do to avoid degeneration or extinction based on the vestiges of a private, personal “noble instinct.” The great and present evil they thought they were overcoming is what Darwin described here, which you also ironically cited approvingly:
    We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment.

    That is to say we stop natural “selection” from daily and hourly “scrutinizing” and perfecting man in the great mythology of evolutionary progress promoted by biologists based on pseudo-science.

  6. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    Thank you for your extensive contributions to this post, mynym. I may well let you have the last word after these replies, because we are going around in circles.

    I have asked you for direct quotations from prominent Nazis that they were bringing Darwin’s work to a natural conclusion and you keep rehashing the opinions of authorities made after the war who have erroneously linked evolution by natural selection to eugenics based on their ignorant preconceptions.

    We’ll have to agree to differ on Darwin’s semantics and syntax from Descent. I don’t have anything to add to my previous comments and main post. The Nazis were applying the biology of dog breeding i.e. artificial selection not natural selection.

    By arguing against a link between Origins and Nazism I am simply trying to protect Darwin’s reputation in history and argue for the true causes of man-made suffering.

    There is no evidence that holding to Darwin’s ideas will lead to Hadamar and Dachau. Science is a descriptive and explanatory discourse, not an ideology.

    However, if scientists and universities were systematically teaching eugenics and Social Darwinism as a legitimate means of “perfecting” the human race, then I would say we had a problem on our hands and I would be vehemently opposed to it. But this situation is not a reality.

    • mynym Says:

      I have asked you for direct quotations from prominent Nazis that they were bringing Darwin’s work to a natural conclusion and you keep rehashing the opinions of authorities….

      Not at all, the quote that begins “Our whole cultural life…” is ironically exactly what you seem to be requesting. It is a leading Nazi saying that they were carrying out what Darwin predicted as a scientific fact. They agreed that it was a scientific fact and nothing but an amoral application of known evolutionary facts. Like Darwin, they did not think that they were implementing some ideology. That is why they said things like:
      “And they were all doctors like me, who tried to think biologically, biology as the foundation of medical thought. . . . We didn’t want politics—we were critical of politics—but [concerned] with the way human beings really are—not just an idea or philosophy.”
      National Socialism as Applied Biology:
      The nation would now be run according to what Johann S. and his cohorts considered biological truth, “the way human beings really are.” That is why he had a genuine “eureka” experience—a sense of “That’s exactly it!”—when he heard Rudolf Hess declare National Socialism to be “nothing but applied biology” (see page 31). Dr. S. felt himself merged…
      (The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide
      by Robert Jay Lifton :129) (Emphasis added)

      Like Darwin they viewed what they did as a simple scientific fact of life similar to other laws of nature like gravity. They were merely a part of nature and viewed themselves as natural selection in operation. This allowed them to feel sorry for what they did privately but to disregard such feelings based on what Darwin taught were the scientific facts of life. It’s not surprising that a capitalist would take Dawkin’s pseudo-scientific repetition of Darwin’s projection of economics onto biology and supposedly “misunderstand” it too. Or some such nonsense, nothing is actually being misunderstood. Neither Ken Lay nor the Nazis were actually misunderstanding anything, the false projection economics onto biology is essential to Darwinism. I will not go on a tangent from the main point here (Weikart is correct and you are incorrect) but biologists are still often imagining Darwinism to be true in spite of what can be observed in biology just as Dawkins imagines it to be true in the case of man but then apparently admits that it need not apply because he’s just playing pretend again.

      I don’t have anything to add to my previous comments and main post. The Nazis were applying the biology of dog breeding i.e. artificial selection not natural selection.

      To a thorough going Darwinist there is no artificial selection. The very notion is merely an illusion brought about by the “Jewish influence” or creationist memes, i.e. the creation story of the Jews. Fortunately no one takes Darwinism seriously anymore, mainly because it is unfathomably stupid. Even ignorant proponents like Dawkins still have enough knowledge to imply, “But I don’t really mean it.”* Even they know it does not apply in reality but neither Darwin nor the Nazis knew that. That’s why the Nazis viewed themselves as naturally (not artificially) selected to apply Darwinian principles to society.

      *…consider the following representative statements made by leading sociobiologists. Richard Dawkins, easily the best-known spokesman for this movement, writes that ‘we are…robot-vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes,’ and again that we are ‘manipulated in order to assure the survival of our genes.’ The same writer also says that ‘the fundamental truth [is] that an organism is a tool of DNA.’ (That is, of the DNA molecules which are the organism’s genes.) Again, Dawkins says that ‘living organisms exist for the benefit of DNA.’ Similarly, E.O. Wilson, an equal or higher sociobiological authority, says that ‘the individual organism is only the vehicle [of genes], part of an elaborate device to preserve and spread them….The organism is only DNA’s way of making more DNA.’
      I will mention in a moment some other passages in which sociobiologists imply that genes are beings of more than human intelligence and power, but that implication should be clear enough already from the passages just quoted. According to the Christian religion, human beings and all other created things exist for the greater glory of God; according to sociobiology, human beings and all other living things exist for the benefit of their genes.
      […]
      It must be admitted that sociobiologists sometimes say other things which are inconsistent with statements like the ones I have just quoted. Dawkins, for example, sometimes protests that he does not at all believe that genes are ‘conscious, purposeful agents.’ But these disclaimers are in vain. Of course genes are not conscious purposeful agents: everyone will agree with that. Where sociobiologists differ from other people is just that they also say, over and over again, things which imply that genes are conscious purposeful agents; and agents, at that, of so much intelligence and power that human beings are merely among the tools they make and use.
      (Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity and Other Fables of Evolution by David Stove: 248-249)

  7. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    Occasionally, scientific ideas have been misconstrued as advancing ideology. Jeff Skilling, the former CEO of Enron, was so fond of Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene that he tried to apply it to the management of his company by firing the lowest performers of his workforce each year!

    But Skilling’s plan backfired because the people remaining at Enron weren’t necessarily the best, but the most ruthless and corrupt as they fought with each other to survive in the company.

    However, the Enron scenario was a gross misunderstanding of Dawkins’ ideas:

    Dawkins merely meant that the basic business of a gene is to get as many copies of itself as possible into the next generation, by whatever means. He has protested ever since that he never meant to advocate selfish behaviour as the best way to accomplish that.

    But Enron executives latched onto the idea of our innate selfishness with glee. To be fair, plenty of other voices also seemed to be advocating selfish behaviour. Economist Milton Friedman was famous for declaring that the “social responsibility of business is to increase its profits”.

    But in Skilling’s strange Darwinian interpretation, selfishness was ultimately good even for the victims, because it weeded out the losers and forced the survivors to become strong.

    Well, here’s where Skilling went wrong. Genes may be selfish. But people have evolved to be social. And these days, the Darwinian view includes an understanding that cooperation and even altruism are part of our genetic heritage.

    It’s true: you can get ahead in the short-term by being a nasty piece of work, but groups have a knack of punishing nakedly selfish or anti-social behaviour. Most of us figure out pretty fast that we are more likely to survive and succeed over the long term when we learn to control our raging egos and play along with the group.

    Dawkins was mortified when he learnt of Skilling’s methods and so added a new preface to the 30th anniversary edition of TSG stating clearly that evolutionary principles were no way to run a society or indeed a corporation.

  8. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    I disagree with your allusions to “evolutionary creation myths”. Evolution is as much an established scientific fact as gravity. Yes, there was plenty that Darwin did not know and indeed was plain wrong about, but the central tenants of his theory still stand.

    Scientists have plotted the evolution of the human genome from the first pool of primordial slime to the Homo sapiens you and I are today. However, this is off-topic for this post.

    • mynym Says:

      I disagree with your allusions to “evolutionary creation myths”. Evolution is as much an established scientific fact as gravity.

      To compare Darwinian reasoning with Newtonian reasoning only reveals its absurdity. Where have physicists made “pandas thumb” arguments about how a good God would not allow objects to fall on people, killing them, therefore they must have scientific theory? Physicists don’t need to make theological arguments like that because they have actual theories that are specified and verifiable. Where has a singular “theory of evolution” been specified in the language of mathematics and verified empirically? What trajectories of adaptation does it predict in different groups of organisms?

      It’s to Darwin’s credit that he tried to reform the hypothetical goo typical to the evolutionary creation myths of his day into a scientific theory. But he generally didn’t get far due to his commitment to naturalism, a pattern of thought that is little different than other forms of nature based paganism:
      The scholars whom we shall quote in such impressive numbers, like those others who were instrumental in any other part of the German pre-war and war efforts, were to a large extent people of long and high standing, university professors and academy members, some of them world famous, authors with familiar names and guest lecturers abroad…
      If the products of their research work, even apart from their rude tone, strike us as unconvincing and hollow, this weakness is due not to inferior training but to the mendacity inherent in any scholarship that overlooks or openly repudiates all moral and spiritual values and, by standing order, knows exactly its ultimate conclusions well in advance.
      (Hitler’s Professors: The Part of Scholarship in
      Germany’s Crimes Against the Jewish People by Max Weinreich
      (New York:The Yiddish Scientific Institute, 1946) :7)

      Similarly your notion of an imaginary sociopath producing sound scientific theories only sounds good in the abstract, in reality history shows that a lack of overall awareness of the nature of knowledge and morality leads to poor scholarship and pseudo-science.

    • mynym Says:

      I disagree with your allusions to “evolutionary creation myths”.

      Here is an example:
      What might a non-locomotor benefit [for bipedality] look like? A stimulating suggestion is the sexual selection theory of Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, of the University of Oregon. She thinks we rose on our hind legs as a means of showing off our penises. Those of us that have penises, that is. Females, in her view, were doing it for the opposite reason: concealing their genitals which, in primates, are more prominently displayed on all fours. This is an appealing idea but I don’t carry a torch for it. I mention it only as an example of the kind of thing I mean by a non-loco-motor theory. As with so many of these theories, we are left wondering why it would apply to our lineage and not to other apes or monkeys.
      (The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution
      by Richard Dawkins :91)

      Notice how hypothetical goo of this sort comports with all possible observations, even predicting one thing as well as the exact opposite at the same time. This is because With principles such as these, anything can be explained, and so can its contrary.
      (The Pure Society: from Darwin to Hitler by Andre Pichot :12)

      It seems that the main reason that people take stupidity of this sort seriously is ideological. Evolutionary creation myths are necessary to justify the mythologies of progress typical to progressives, so it doesn’t matter that many evolutionary “theories” are pseudo-science.

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