Posted by: cjobrien | 29 March 2008

Lassen County Primer on Ben Stein’s Expelled #6: Creating a Nazi Link with Nazi Propaganda


It is truly difficult to believe the excruciating efforts Intelligent Design proponents will make to link Darwin and Hitler. No one, with any understanding of Darwin, evolutionary theory, the rise of Nazism, or for that matter the rise of Christianity, can seriously make a case for such a link. Those who claim that link, like Richard Weikart, cherry-pick the data to make the link as strong as it can be without overtly lying about history. Time and again, this link has been refuted, but the Intelligent Design community has such a theological stake in the idea of intelligent design and is so rabidly against anything that smacks of Darwinian evolution that any and all anti-Darwin mythology much be sustained at all costs. Intelligent Design activists propagate the Hitler-Darwin link with the same fanaticism that the Nazi’s promulgated a Jewish conspiracy against the German people. If anything, the better link appears to be between the fanatic efforts to exploit the masses’ fear of ethnic diversity (Nazism) with fanatic efforts to exploit the masses’ fear of Darwinism (Intelligent Design).


















PZ points that the real link between Darwin and Hitler, if there really is one, falls along the lines of a simple method known since early farmers began to selectively breed plants and animals for specific characteristics:

There is a central, incredibly obvious fact in Darwin’s insight.

If members of a population die or are killed off, they will leave no descendants for subsequent generations.

It isn’t razzle-dazzle genius. Any idiot can figure that one out – and many idiots have. Farmers have known it for millennia, when they set aside particularly fruitful seed stock or especially robust farm animals for breeding, and eat the rest. Nazis used this elementary logic when they decided to exterminate Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals. Eugenicists used it when they wanted to argue for shifting the distribution of certain properties in a population.

It ain’t “Darwinism”.

This is a point lost on Intelligent Design activists for the simple reason that their arguments are not about understanding the historical relationships for the purpose of gaining knowledge and insight into human behavior, motivations and ethics. They simply want to find the most heinous historical crimes against humanity and link them to an idea they find distasteful (Darwinism) in order to play on people’s fear and ignorance. In this way they can sow seeds of doubt among a generally illiterate populace on what is probably the most scientifically established idea the world has ever known…because they have theological issues with it.

The extent to which Hitler and the Nazis were influenced by an anti-Jewish Christianity is certainly up for debate, but I doubt anyone can seriously doubt that Christianity was less culpable than any other philosophical position known at the time. Skeptico makes a good point that if intelligent design activists really want to follow this line of reasoning (linking Hitler with Darwin…and the primary thrust of Expelled: No Intelligent Design Allowed is precisely this) it requires re-examining the rise of Nazism (at least for rational people in it for knowledge) in the context of other influences, such as Christianity:

Christian creationists may live to regret opening up this particular can of worms. In future, every time they trot out this tired piece of propaganda they should have Hitler’s real Christian influence, rationally for the Holocaust and his exact words thrust back down their throats. Evolution wasn’t responsible for the Holocaust. The Holocaust was the result of the exact same kind of unquestioning groupthink that characterizes religion. Or, to paraphrase the creationist twit I quoted at the top: Religion leads to unquestioning belief in what you’re told by authorities, leads to acceptance of an authoritarian state, leads to eugenics, leads to Holocaust, leads to Nazi Germany.

However, a commenter on Skeptico’s post raised a far more significant issue. Regardless of Hitler’s specific relationship with Christianity (whether he was a doubt believer or simply using the images and words as a political tool) he used Christian arguments to frame Germany’s problems as the result of other ethnic groups, and his followers rallied to those arguments:

What’s relevant is that Hitler’s followers were not atheists. That’s why they lapped up all that christian lets kill the jews for jesus crap. Whether or not Hitler believed it, he spouted it as part of his call to arms, and it worked. The Einsatzgruppen were not darwinists. The SS were not atheists or even fans of PZ Myers. Pope Pius the XII, who celebrated Hitler’s Birthday every year was not speaking to the atheist darwinists in his flock when he spoke of the “fervent prayers which the Catholics of Germany are sending to heaven on their altars” for Hitler’s success and well-being.

Don’t waste your time arguing about Hitler. Argue about what proportion of the Nazi party were avowed atheists (0% I am figuring)

There is incredible insight here and a point those of us who are forced to continually falsify the Hitler-Darwin link often miss. Moreover, while Hitler’s followers may have used and accepted the artificial selection arguments Darwin himself discussed, they completely rejected the Darwinian notion of evolutionary change, favoring instead a vision of creation more along the lines of those advocated by intelligent design proponents themselves. In reading the comments I was reminded of a piece I had posted sometime back challenging Worldnutdaily editor Joseph Farah’s tortured arguments in favor of the Hitler-Darwin link:

As I read through this, the depth to which Farah himself manipulated the article’s data to demonstrate his own warped sense of history became increasingly apparent. But the most egregious example was to come. Farah either didn’t read the whole article or (more likely) specifically ignored the following gem:

Himmler also found time to take Bohmers aside at a gathering to convey his personal views on the subject of human evolution. It must have been an instructive conversation. As Bohmers later reported, Himmler dismissed outright the notion that the human race was closely related to primates. He was also outraged by an idea proposed by another German researcher that the Cro-Magon arose from the Neanderthal. To Himmler, both these hypotheses were “scientficially totally false”. They were also “quite insulting to humans.”

Himmler, head of the SS and Gestapo, the person whose activities and ideology Joseph Farah would most like to lay at the feet of evolutionary theory, did not believe in evolution! In fact, it is quite clear that Himmler’s ideas on the subject of evolution were exactly the same as…Joseph Farah’s!

But in re-reading the post, I was further reminded of the greater relationship between the method of promoting Nazism to the German people with the methods of promoting Intelligent Design to the American people:

There was a final parallel I couldn’t help but notice. In an opening paragraph to the article I found the following description of Himmler’s need to establish the Ahnenerbe, which was partly to correct the fact that scholars had not uncovered evidence of the designers of the “master race”:

The answer to this problem, in Himmler’s mind, lay in more German scholarship – scholarship of the right political stripe. So he created the Ahnenerbe, which he conceived of as a research organization brimming with brilliant mavericks and brainy young upstarts who would publicly unveil a new portrait of the ancient world, one in which Aryans would be seen coining civilization and bringing light to the inferior races…”

The concept of conscripting “brainy young upstarts” to “publicly unveil” a new way of looking at things sounded vaguely familiar. And I didn’t have to go far to find where I had originally read it:

Scientific revolutions are usually staged by an initially small and relatively young group of scientists who are not blinded by the prevailing prejudices and who are able to do creative work at the pressure points, that is, on those critical issues upon which whole systems of thought hinge….The primary purpose of Phase II is to prepare the popular reception of our ideas. The best and truest research can languish unread and unused unless it is properly publicized….We intend these to encourage and equip believers with new scientific evidence’s [sic!] that support the faith, as well as to “popularize” our ideas in the broader culture…

These are from the Discovery Institute’s Wedge document. Will ironies never cease?


  1. Intelligent Design is not only a different theory from evolution, it is a different _kind_ of theory. Research in evolution involves the gathering of physical facts, analyzing them, and building or adding to the theory to fit them. Research in ID, however, consists of finding quotations of authorities, and interpreting them to fit into an unchanging framework.

    This difference in approach leads to some significant disconnects–as, for example, when Martin Luther disputed Copernicus’ observations by quoting scripture. This difference explains the rationale behind the movie “Expelled.” To falsify the theory of evolution, according to ID’s methodology, it is not necessary to find contrary physical evidence. If ID can demolish the credibility of the authorities who espouse evolution, then the theory itself must be false.

    This difference, of course, reflects the different backgrounds of evolution and ID. Evolution is a scientific theory, and partakes of the requirements of science. ID is at bottom a theological theory, and, like all such theories, is grounded in divine revelation rather than in the natural world. Evidence for ID is therefore to be found in the statements of authorities, rather than in observation of natural phenomena.

    The unfortunate part is that most laymen are more familiar with ID’s methodology than they are with scientific research.

  2. Stein is under heavy attack for ‘exaggerating’ the influence of evolutionism behind Nazism and Stalinism (super evolution of Lysenkoism in the Soviet Russia). But the monstrous Haeckelian type of vulgar evolutionism drove not only the ‘Politics-is-applied-biology’ Nazi takeover in the continental Europe, but even the nationalistic collision at the World War I.

    The marriage laws were once erected not only in the Nazi Germany but also in the multicultural states of America upon the speculation that the mulatto was a relatively sterile and shortlived hybrid. The absence of blood transfusion between “white” and “colored races” was self evident (Hailer 1963, p. 52).

    The first law on sterilization in US had been established in 1907 in Indiana, and 23 similar laws had been passed in 15 States and sterilization was practiced in 124 institutions in 1921 (Mattila 1996; Hietala 1985 p. 133; these were the times of IQ-tests under Gould’s scrutiny in his Mismeasure of Man 1981). By 1931 thirty states had passed sterization laws in the US (Reilly 1991, p. 87).

    So the American laws were pioneering endeavours. In Europe Denmark passed the first sterilization legislation in Europe (1929). Denmark was followed by Switzerland, Germany that had felt to the hands of Hitler and Gobineu, and other Nordic countries: Norway (1934), Sweden (1935), Finland (1935), and Iceland (1938) (Haller 1963, pp 21-57; 135-9; Proctor 1988, p. 97; Reilly 1991, p. 109). Seldom is it mentioned in the popular Finnish media, that the first outright race biological institution in the world was not established in Germany but in 1921 in Uppsala, Sweden (Hietala 1985, pp. 109). (I am not aware of the ethymology of the ‘Up’ of the ancient city from Plinius’ Ultima Thule, however.) In 1907 the Society for Racial Hygiene in Germany had changed its name to the Internationale Gesellschaft für Rassenhygiene, and in 1910 Swedish Society for Eugenics (Sällskap för Rashygien) had become its first foreign affiliate (Proctor 1988, p. 17).

    Hitler’s formulation of the differences between the human races was affected by the brilliant sky-blue eyed Ernst Haeckel (Gasman 1971, p. xxii), praised and raised by Darwin. At the top of the unilinear progression were usually the “Nordics”, a tall race of blue-eyed blonds. Haeckel’s position on the Jewish question was assimilation, not yet an open elimination. But was it different only in degree, rather than kind?

    In 1917 the immigration of “defective” groups was forbidden even in the United States by a law. In 1921 the European immigration was diminished to 3% based on the 1910 census.
    Eventually, in the strategical year of 1924 the finest hour of eugenics had come and the fatal law was passed by Congress. It diminished immigration to 2% of the foreign-born from each country based on the 1890 census in order to preserve the “nordic” balance in population, and was hold through World War II until 1965 (Hietala 1985, p. 132).

    Richard Lewontin writes:“The leading American idealogue of the innate mental inferiority of the working class was, however, H.H. Goddard, a pioneer of the mental testing movement, the discoverer of the Kallikak family,
    and the administrant of IQ-tests to immigrants that found 83 % of the Jews, 80% of the Hungarians, 79% of the Italians, and 87% of the the Russians to be feebleminded.” (1977, p. 13.) Finnish emmigrants put the cross on the box reserved for the “yellow” group (Kemiläinen 1993, p. 1930), until 1965.

    Germany was the most scientifically and culturally advanced nation of the world upon opening the riddles at the close of the nineteenth century, and in 1933 the German people had not lived normal life for twenty years. And so Adolf Hitler did not need his revolution. He did not have to break the laws in Haeckel’s country, in principle, but to constitute them.

    Today, developmental biologists are anticipating legislation of laws that would define the do’s and dont’s. The legislation should not distract individual researchers from their personal awareness of responsibility. A permissive law merely defines the ethical minimum. The lesson is that a law is no substitute for morals and that dissidents should not be intimidated.

    I am suspicious over the burial of the Kampf (Struggle). The idea of competition is innate in the modern society. It is the the opposite view in a 180 degree angle to the Judaeo-Christian ideal of agapee, that I personally cheriss. The latter sees free giving, altruism, benevolence and self sacrificing love as the beginning, motivation, and sustainer of the reality.

    You may read more on the matter from my conference posters and articles defended and published in the field of bioethics and history of biology (and underline/edit them a ‘bit’):
    Biochemist, drop-out (Master of Sciing)

    PS. Here’s the final chapter scanned from an evolutionist scholar D. Gasman from his The Scientific Origins of National Socialism: Social Darwinism in Ernst Haeckel and the German Monist League (chapter 7, Gasman 1971)
    I emphasize that Daniel Gasman, unfortunately, is NOT an IDist or Idealist of any kind.

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