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Missing the Point on Darwin and Hitler

Supposing some scientist goes out into some wilderness area and observes the behavior of predators with a species of herd animals. He observes that the slowest and weakest of the herd animals tend to fall prey to the predators while the stronger or faster ones survive. This scientist comes back and and reports on this behavior and its effects.

A while later some politician reads this article and decides to base a political philosophy on it. Obviously, based on that article, the best way to improve the human species is to subject them to such pressure from hunting. Only in this way, he says, can we ensure that the human species continues to improve.

Which of the following behaviors would be reasonable:

  1. Criticizing the scientist for providing fodder for the politician
  2. Assuming that the scientist desired the outcome proposed by the politician
  3. Determining that the scientist must be wrong because immoral conclusions could be drawn from his work
  4. Deciding that the politician has misapplied the science
  5. Criticizing the politician on moral grounds irrespective of the science

I suggest that the first three are obviously wrong, while the last two are possibilities, amongst many, for dealing with the situation. Yet people err in precisely this way with respect to evolution and its relation to Hitler and the Nazis.

There’s a simple point here missed by such people as David Klinghoffer, who is (surprise!) a fellow of the (No-)Discovery Institute. He manages to point out that Hitler (gasp!) quoted Darwin. And then Joe Carter, over at evangelical outpost goes ahead and links to it as though it had intellectual content.

Come on folks, this is a lousy argument. It’s not a sensitive one; it’s just plain lousy. As in it has no merit whatsoever.

The theory of evolution is either a good scientific theory, or it’s not. Whether Hitler quoted the scientist who first proposed it is of no relevance one way or another. Even if it’s a bad theory, the fact that Hitler quoted it would add not one little bit of weight to the arguments against it. If it is a valid theory, being quoted by Hitler takes nothing from that.

It’s a scientific theory; it stands or falls as such.

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11 Comments

  1. Yes! Just because something CAN be abused does not make that thing wrong or evil. There are many people who abuse their political power but we don’t use that as proof that our political system is bad. Likewise with religion.

    I’ve also heard a similar argument about morality and the Nazis where they are “proof” that morality must be based on the edicts of the God who is putting forth the argument.

  2. I have not personally verified this, but my understanding is that Hitler in his book “Mien Kempf” also quotes from Martin Luther’s “Jews and Their Lies”. I’ve read excerpts from “Jews and Their Lies” and it’s quote shocking that the leader of the Reformation had such anti-Semitic views.

  3. Your implication seems to be that to criticize the way a theory is used or abused is the same as to criticize the theory itself. I don’t think this is always the case, and definitely not in the case of the Klinghoffer article you linked to. I think your gleeful disdain for Klinghoffer and the Discovery Institute clouded your reading of the piece.

    Face it: both science and religion can and have been horribly misused.

    Personally, I think Hitler was a bona fide whackjob who didn’t need evolutionlary theory to help him out. But it was there, so he used it. So what?

    The key to our Christian faith does not lie in Genesis, but in the person of Jesus Christ. To ridicule fellow Christians and others who disagree with our view of origins is easy but not productive.

    1. Personally, I think Hitler was a bona fide whackjob who didn’t need evolutionlary theory to help him out. But it was there, so he used it. So what?

      Which is precisely my point. Its use by Hitler is irrelevant to its scientific validity. You may believe Klinghoffer and the DI are making this point, but they aren’t. They are promoting Expelled!, which has another message, that evolution and Hitler are inextricably connected.

      If Klinghoffer would denounce Expelled! for giving precisely the opposite message to the one you claim he’s giving, then I might reconsider my reading of his post. Until then, no.

      As a final note, I find it interesting that you accuse me of ridiculing fellow Christians who disagree with me, yet that is precisely what is happening in Expelled!

  4. Seems like now it will go through.

    The message I tried to post follows:

    The title of Darwin’s book:

    On the Origin of Species by Means of Batural Selection; Or, the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life

    seems to not just be good science, but seems to denote racism in the title of the book. I think the point is that Hitler used this material for his benefit, but other peoples minds was easily bent because it seemed scientific.

    It is easier to divorce Hitler and Darwin than other examples, but if we look at other examples like Ota Benga that was more a direct result of the science of the day, it becomes harder to divorce the science of the day from bad morality.

    I like to ask what other scientific theory have had as bad influence as Darwins famous book? Other examples like Pickled Aboriginal brains to determine why they are different from whites (They were killed for their brains). Or what about 10 000 aboriginal people being shipped in a frenzied state to a British museum to provide proof that they were the missing link? What about a documented 45 aborigines that were killed, heads chopped of, their flesh and brains cooked of, so that the best examples be sent of to a museum.

    Hitler was bad, but there was equally a lot of bad people using the same science to promote bad morality.

    The point for me is not that evolution stands or fall because of the morality people can take from it, but the fact that it did help promote such beliefs, and still today do, is quite worrying (like monkey noises at black soccer players in the UK).

  5. I don’t understand why my comments does no want to come through. Whenever I try and post them nothing happens.

    Has it maybe something to do with the comments only being allowed to be a certain length?

    1. Your comments are going into moderation. I’m not certain why. They should only do so if they have more than 2 links, or contain certain words (generally obscenities or words taken from common spam), in which case I approve them as soon as possible.

      I don’t see anything that matches my criteria for moderation, so I’m not certain what caused it, but presumably there’s an accidental match for some of my moderation criteria.

      I apologize for the delay, but generally the moderation works well to reduce spam.

      1. Thanks,

        Just one problem though is that a double posting happened. Is it possible to delete all my other comments and keep it to one post?

        Thanks.

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