Sunday, April 13, 2008

What Do They Have In Common?

Expelled, the disingenous diatribe that supporters of ID will fill movie theaters to see, makes the feeble-minded case that Darwinism is a "condicio sine qua non", without which there would have been no intellectual justification for the Holocaust. Besides the obvious fact that one could make the same (or a stronger) link between religion and the Holocaust, here is an interesting post that compares the tactics of Holocaust deniers and evolution deniers.


Jeff Burton said...

OK, put it up. The link between religion and the Holocaust, I mean.

Just last week I attended the traveling exhibit from the National Holocaust Museum on Nazi medicine. As you enter, there's a great big picture of Darwin. As you leave, you read about Mengele's last writings found among his effects in Brazil after his death: it concerned evolution. Call me crazy, but somehow I think it's fair to connect the stuff in between with Darwinism.

Darwinism was neither a necessary nor even a sufficient cause for the Holocaust, but no one is claiming that. That's not the argument, and the more you rant about this, the sillier you look.

Sirfab said...

The movie Expelled, according to those who have had a chance to see it so far, makes ample use of juxtapositions of Darwin and the Holocaust.

You are free to connect the theory of evolution with the Holocaust, regardless of the obvious problem that if we descend from common ancestors the argument for the superiority of one race over another collapses. Just as I am free to link genocides with the Bible and other sacred text (much stronger, I believe).

This is my blog, and I am free to rant about anything I want. Even when you don't understand what I am talking about, which happens quite a lot.

Jeff Burton said...

I asked elucidate a link between religion and THE Holocaust. BTW, now you find yourself in the curious position of arguing with the Nazis, not me.

Sirfab said...

How am I "arguing with the Nazis"?

The link between religion and the holocaust, if you look for it, is right there in Mein Kampf. I know Mein Kampf is long, but you can do a search, can't you?

Says Hitler: "And so I believe to-day that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator. In standing guard against the Jew I am defending the handiwork of the Lord."

Or, again: "Of course, one doesn't discuss such a question with the Jews, because they are the modern inventors of this cultural perfume. Their very existence is an incarnate denial of the beauty of God's image in His creation."

Am I suggesting that this is enough to link the Holocaust with religion? Or I am suggesting that blaming Hitler's insane views and actions on is equally insane as blaming his views on Darwin's ideas (as, by the way, Expelled does)?

That I say that the link between religion and the Holocaust is stronger is a consequence of the fact that nowhere in his manifesto does Hitler mention Darwinism, but he mentions God or the Creator several times. This does not mean that the link between the Holocaust and religions is reasonable, just that it would be more plausible, since nowhere in Mein Kampf can you find a mention of Darwin or Darwinism.

John Rennie, in this beautiful Scientific American article, dismantles Expelled and its dishonesty and hits the nail on the head:

The most deplorable dishonesty of Expelled, however, is that it says evolution was one influence on the Holocaust without acknowledging any of the other major ones for context. Rankings of races and ethnic groups into a hierarchy long preceded Darwin and the theory of evolution, and were usually tied to the Christian philosophical notion of a "great chain of being." The economic ruin of the Weimar Republic left many Germans itching to find someone to blame for their misfortune, and the Jews and other ethnic groups were convenient scapegoats. The roots of European anti-Semitism go back to the end of the Roman Empire. Organized attacks and local exterminations of the Jews were perpetrated during the Crusades and the Black Plague. The Russian empire committed many attacks on the Jews in the 19th and early 20th century, giving rise to the word "pogrom." Profound anti-Semitism even pollutes the works of the father of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, who reviled them in On the Jews and Their Lies and wrote, "We are at fault in not slaying them." I don't think Protestantism is accountable for the Holocaust, either, but whose ideas were most Lutheran Germans of the 1930s more familiar with: Darwin's or Luther's?

Sirfab said...

So Jeff, now I ask you to elucidate:
When you say "Darwinism was neither a necessary nor even a sufficient cause for the Holocaust, but no one is claiming that. That's not the argument" [emphasis mine], do you know what you are talking about?

Jeff Burton said...

I know exactly what I am talking about and the quote you include gives the whole game away.

it says evolution was one influence on the Holocaust

That is the claim and it is true, as your source implicitly admits. Why should a movie about Darwinism and evolution go into other reasons for the Holocaust? The claim is not

A) Without Darwinism, there would be no Holocaust
B) With Darwinism, the Holocaust was inevitable

I am not going to waste my time explaining what necessary and sufficient causes are. You can figure that out for yourself.

The claim is simply that the Nazis were inspired by/influenced by/took as justification from Darwinism. It's a matter of historical record.

Your appeal to Mein Kampf is insufficient for both your cases (to associate the Holocaust with Christianity and absolve Darwinist thinking) because

A) That was not the only thing Hitler wrote or said.
B) Hitler did not single-handedly implement the Holocaust.

As a final thought, if you are going to the use the "No True Scotsman" fallacy to defend Darwin here, I guess I can use it to defend Christianity as well.

Jeff Burton said...

Have you really searched through Mein Kamp thoroughly? Have you combed every paragraph and page? How about this:

Nature herself in times of great poverty or bad climactic conditions, as well as poor harvest, intervenes to restrict the increase of population of certain countries or races; this, to be sure, by a method as wise as it is ruthless. She diminishes, not the power of procreation as such, but the conservation of the procreated, by exposing them to hard trials and deprivations with the result that all those who are less strong and less healthy are forced back into the womb of the eternal unknown. Those whom she permits to survive the inclemency of existence are a thousandfold tested hardened, and well adapted to procreate-in turn, in order that the process of thoroughgoing selection may begin again from the beginning. By thus brutally proceeding against the individual and immediately calling him back to herself as soon as he shows himself unequal to the storm of life, she keeps the race and species strong, in fact, raises them to the highest accomplishments.

The entire passage is illuminating. You would profit from reading it in its entirety. You will find it in volume one, chapter four.

Sirfab said...


I agree that your example illustrates a possible link between Hitler's thought and Darwin's theory, particularly in light of other statements like these on the survival of the fittest:

1. "Struggle is the father of everything."

2. "There is enmity between such animals as dwell in the same localities or subsist on the same food. If the means of subsistence run short, creatures of like kind will fight together."

Except, of course, that the concept of the "struggle for existence" is not Darwin's:

1 is from Heraclitus of Ephesus
2 is from Aristotle

By the time Darwin wrote On The Origin Of The Species the concept that life is a struggle for survival, in which nature plays as a role, had been around over a couple of thousand years. Why not blame the ancient Greeks for the Holocaust?

Isn't Hitler's insane thought process a sufficient precondition for the Holocaust? What does the Holocaust have to do with Darwinism? Once again, keep in mind that if you assume common ancestry, as Darwin does, it takes an uncanny ability to justify the superiority of one race or ethnicity over another. I don't doubt that Creationist are equal to the task of climbing mirrors. It's all they ever do.

Jeff Burton said...

Darwin's key insight of differential reproductive success is clearly there, so I think your response is weak. But my larger point, made in a comment you declined to publish, is that Mein Kampf does not exhaust Hitler's thoughts on the matter, nor those of his many minions who actually implemented the Holocaust.

Sirfab said...

I don't really know what you are referring to, since I think I have published everything you sent on the subject. If it got lost, please resubmit.

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