Monday, October 19, 2009

Episode 55 From Darwin to Hitler

Did Darwin inspire the atrocities of the Third Reich? Richard Weikart’s book From Darwin to Hitler claims “In Hitler's mind Darwinism provided the moral justification for infanticide, euthanasia, genocide, and other policies that had been considered immoral by more conventional moral standards.” For this episode the doubtcasters draw upon the research of R.G. Price, Adrian Desmond, James Moore and the writings of Darwin himself to counter Weikart’s claims.

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27 comments:

Janine said...

Thanks for the new podcast! I just have to giggle a little because I had Richard Weikart as a professor when I was an undergrad. I took his course on Hitler and the Nazi Era. Although his book (the one you speak of in the podcast) was an optional text, we only discussed the ideas in passing during class. I did always find the idea a bit odd on the surface, although I didn't read the book. I was an undergrad and we all know how undergrads view "optional texts". Anyhow, thanks for the podcast.

-Janine

James said...

Ah yes, the "Satan is a Dick" theory of creation. I suspect the painting isn't anywhere near as good as the explanation provided by SMBC Theatre.

Steven said...

I can't get enough of Sagan's singing. Thanks guys, this was another excellent show all around. I hope it gets through to Ben Stein.

tinyfrog said...

It's also worth mentioning that Darwin's books were banned in Nazi Germany. I guess Hitler loved Darwin so much that he banned his books. Note number 6 listed below. (I have no idea what "primitive Darwinism" is or whether is it different than "Darwinism" or a claim that Darwinism is not "enlightenment" but is "primitive".)

Quote:
Guidelines from Die B├╝cherei 2:6 (1935)

1. The works of traitors, emigrants and authors from foreign countries who believe they can attack and denigrate the new German (H.G. Wells, Rolland).
2. The literature of Marxism, Communism and Bolshevism.
3. Pacifist literature.
4. Literature with liberal, democratic tendencies and attitudes, and writing supporting the Weimar Republic (Rathenau, Heinrich Mann).
5. All historical writings whose purpose is to denigrate the origin, the spirit and the culture of the German Volk, or to dissolve the racial and structural order of the Volk, or that denies the force and importance of leading historical figures in favor of egalitarianism and the masses, and which seeks to drag them through the mud (Emil Ludwig).
6. Writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism and Monism (Hackel).
7. Books that advocate "art" which is decadent, bloodless, or purely constructivist (Grosz, Dix, Bauhaus, Mendelsohn).
...
Source: http://www.library.arizona.edu/exhibits/burnedbooks/documents.htm

Patrick said...

I took the ITA from Project Implicit regarding sexuality (since in Germany, there aren't that many blacks, I felt that might be more relevant) – and what do you know, I am moderately inclined to prefer gay people! I must say this result really made my day – I discriminate for the gays.

danielg said...

tinyfrog:

Actually, as indicated over at the wikipedia entry for Social Darwinism, Haekel's and by association, Darwins works were probably rejected, not for their evolutionary content, but due to their association with Haekel's Monist League, which was associated with groups that opposed Nazism, not because Nazism was opposed to Darwinism:
the Monists were freethinkers who opposed all forms of mysticism, and that their organizations were immediately banned following the Nazi takeover in 1933 because of their association with a wide variety of progressive causes including feminism, pacifism, human rights, and early gay liberation movements.

danielg said...

Sorry if this is a second comment of this type, but I decided that, instead of posting a lonnng comment here, I would respond to your mention of my previous comment in a post - please see Examining the historical and logical links between Darwin and eugenics. Dialogue welcome.

James said...

Anyone who tries to derive a model for social behaviour from a description of nature is indulging in a fundamental fallacy: getting ought from is. Just because nature is this or that way does not mean we ought to model our society on this or that thing. Predators inflict a great deal of pain and suffering on their prey -- that's no theory -- but few would serious suggest that, therefore, we should do the same.

Furthermore, eugenics doesn't follow from the idea of natural selection. The whole idea of natural selection is that nobody actually does anything with the intent of getting rid of "less fit" individuals. Less fit individuals will reproduce less than more fit individuals (because of predation, disease, lack of breeding opportunities, whatever) because "reproducing less" is what "less fit" means.

Eugenics comes from animal husbandry: the idea that you engage in selective breeding to get the features you desire. It is inherently intention driven -- which natural selection, by definition, is not.

If the Nazis genuinely believed in Darwin's theory -- the real theory, not some perversion of it -- they would have had to come to the conclusion that the Jews, Gypsies, etc, were indeed "fit", because, otherwise, they would have already died off; or, if there were a major environmental change that (somehow) made them less fit, then they would die off naturally, without any intervention.

The fact that one can misconstrue a scientific theory to bad ends has no implication on the validity of the theory. If you want to use that sort of argument, you will also have to accept the idea that the fact that one can use the Bible to justify slavery and genocide (as many have done throughout history) must discredit the Bible.

For that matter, even if there are valid morally objectionable actions that can follow from a scientific theory, that fact does not in itself invalidate the theory. Only a failure to match up with observation and experiment can do that.

Basic nuclear physics tells us how to make an atom bomb, but the fact that the use of an atom bomb is morally objectionable does not mean that nuclear fission doesn't exist!

danielg said...

Here's some more objections to your informative podcast on Darwin and race:

1. You can't say that people distorted science to support racism and fail to make the same excuse for religion.

2. You fail to mention that abolition arose mainly out of the Christian temperance movement, and it was primarily Christians and Christian thought that overturned slavery in England and North America.

3. You claim that Darwin was trying to explain the 'equality' of men by showing their common lineage, but this is not true exactly true - he still considered some races less evolved, as he did other animals. He wasn't trying to prove the equality of races with his theory at all.

4. You fail to mention that the BIBLE specifically says that ALL men are equal, despite those who tried to use it to support their own racist tendencies.

Acts 17:26
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth,


5. Perhaps Darwin's compassion was due to his only degreed training, in theology (he had no science degree), and his religious upbrining. Why else would he refer to "made in the image of God," as you quoted him. His appeal for compassion on slaves was Christian in origin. So while you prove that Darwin was not a racist (a statement which us anti-Darwinists have no problem with), you prove that his lack of racism was due to his FAITH! Your straw man is on fire!

His sisters and grandfather were abolitionists BECAUSE they were Christian. What about Darwin, his son's, and his cousins membership in the British Eugenics Society? The DARWIN family was DIFFERENT than Darwin specifically because they WERE Bible believers.

6. While Darwin's statement about "the savage races" is not racist, he is not making a mere taxonomy point. He is indeed saying that some of the living 'races' of men *were inferior*, and that the natural process should eliminate them. Not that WE should. I would call this unintentional racism, and your excuse that he also thought the apes would be eliminated does not exonerate him from his *intellectual error*. We are not saying that he is approving of eliminating these races, only that he thought that nature would do it.

Again, this argument is that he was WRONG, not evil (sounds like a good movie ;). And again, his compassion for the races, as your quote above, was rooted in Darwin's CHRISTIANITY, and in no way exonerates Darwinism from it's intellectual consequences. Darwin was being intellectually inconsistent.

7. Darwin did bestialize human kind, but this is not just an offense to racist thought, but to Chrsitian thought, which values humans above mere animals, seeing them as made in the image of God. You muddied this distinction, and ingore the fact that the devaluing of human life is supported by the Darwinism view, and I think that this view of 'man is no better than animals' is ethically deficient.<.

danielg said...

8. Regarding the spread of Darwinism, religion, and successful societies, your correlation is merely that, not causation. A more logical explanation, which shows historical roots and causation of the progress of science and human rights can be made with the spread of Christianity. See:
Religion, innovation and economic progress - Part I
Religion, innovation and economic progress - Part I
Part I: How Christianity changed the world by Alvin Schmidt - Introduction
Part II: How Christianity changed the world - Life, Sex, Marriage & Status of Women
The biblical origins of science

Rather, I would say that atheism and it's scientific pal Darwinism are behind the great atheist atrocities of our century, not just part of the justification for Nazism and eugenics.
See again Atheist Atrocities.

9. Women in the home: perhaps the bias exists, not just because of societal stereotypes, but due to the understood requirements for healthy childhood development? Men don't have teats, and perhaps the early years of a child's devleopment is naturally supported by mothering. This may be a bias for what is good, not for what is societal or bad.

BTW, your definition of what is 'authoritarian' or 'fundamentalist' and association with racism is not clearly supported by the facts. What IS clearly supported is that these people (the more conservative, which liberals would call 'fundamentalist' or 'authoritarian') are MORE GENEROUS than non-fundies. See Who Really Cares: America's Charity Divide - Who Gives, Who Doesn't, and Why It Matters.

10. Racism and Obama - this accusation is largely baseless. True, we all have a baseline xenophobia, but this is not what Jimmy Carter is talking about. See
The boy who cried 'racism!' and other self-fulfilling prophecies
If not racism, what ARE the motives of the anti-Obama masses?

danielg said...

11. Regarding the lack of Darwinian quotes in Nazi literature or at Nuremberg, you are ignoring the controversial, see Jonathan Safarti's The Darwin - Hitler connection

The German-Jewish political theorist Hannah Arendt (1906�1975) wrote:

�Underlying the Nazis� belief in race laws as the expression of the law of nature in man, is Darwin�s idea of man as the product of a natural development which does not necessarily stop with the present species of human being.�16

British evolutionist Sir Arthur Keith (1866�1955) wrote:

�To see evolutionary measures and tribal morality being applied rigorously to the affairs of a great modern nation, we must turn again to Germany of 1942. We see Hitler devoutly convinced that evolution provides the only real basis for a national policy. � The German F�hrer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist; he has consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution.�17

Alan Bullock (Baron Bullock) (1914�2004) wrote in Hitler: A Study in Tyranny:18

�The basis of Hitler�s political beliefs was a crude Darwinism.�

The bookThe Coming of the Third Reich (Penguin, 2003) by British historian Richard Evans (1947- ) also argues that the eugenics movement and social Darwinism gained wide acceptance among German �lites starting in the last decades of the 19th century. Evans argued that this new secularist world view overturned the Judeo-Christian teaching �of the sanctity of marriage and parenthood, or the equal value of every being endowed with an immortal soul �� He documents that the German Darwinist philosopher Alexander Tille (1866�1912) strongly advocated the killing of the mentally and physically unfit and leaving congenital children's diseases untreated �so that the weak could be eliminated from the chain of heredity.� Evans concluded that the Nazis� anti-Semitism and racial hygiene were extensions of this secularization of society.

It�s hardly surprising that Nazi propaganda films showed strong animals overpowering the weak, and argued that humans should apply the same principles. One 1937 Nazi film, Victims of the Past, showed a retarded person accompanied by the narration:

�In the last few decades, mankind has sinned terribly against the law of natural selection. We haven�t just maintained life unworthy of life, we have even allowed it to multiply. The descendants of these sick people look like this!�


12. Regarding the atrocities of the church being overlooked:

Your argument seems to be "just like Christianity was warped to support racism, so was Darwinism." Our argument is that Darwinism's application to eugenics is NOT illogical or inconsistent, but a logical extension of it. That is the difference.

We are not covering up the mistakes of the often corrupt (Catholic) church, but rather, we are attributing those to error.

With Darwinism, we are saying that, like the logical extension of atheism into moral subjectivism and statist abuses, Darwinism logically leads, and has led in history, to eugenics, 'helping evolution along.'

danielg said...

>> JAMES: Anyone who tries to derive a model for social behaviour from a description of nature is indulging in a fundamental fallacy: getting ought from is.

I agree. This is part of the problem with justifying homosexuality based on it's possible genetic origins.

But with regard to evolution, the reason this assumption is made is that evolution has traditionally been seen as 'advancement' from our origins as primordial slime. So the 'ought' comes from the idea that we are getting more advanced and better, as opposed to the creationist view that we were created perfect, and have *degraded* over time, which seems to match what we see, rather than the anti-entropic evolutionary model (but that's another discussion ;).

danielg said...

>> JAMES: Furthermore, eugenics doesn't follow from the idea of natural selection. The whole idea of natural selection is that nobody actually does anything with the intent of getting rid of "less fit" individuals.

Not true. It can, and has historically (before Hitler) been seen as an extension of medicine - science helping individuals and society live longer and healthier lives. Combined with the idea that 'the better of the many should be seen as more important than the betterment of the few", this seems perfectly logical.

danielg said...

>> JAMES: Eugenics comes from animal husbandry: the idea that you engage in selective breeding to get the features you desire. It is inherently intention driven -- which natural selection, by definition, is not.

And since Darwinism replaces the divine, made-in-God's-image view with the "man is jsut a higher animal" view, it makes perfect sense that, since man is no longer special but merely another animal, we should be able to apply the animal husbandry logic, unless we invoke some other value that says "man is special." And Darwinism itself contains no such corollary.

danielg said...

>> JAMES: If the Nazis genuinely believed in Darwin's theory -- the real theory, not some perversion of it -- they would have had to come to the conclusion that the Jews, Gypsies, etc, were indeed "fit", because, otherwise, they would have already died off;

Untrue. As Darwin himself admitted, the persistence of the more 'savage races' should be short lived, even though they existed in his time. So Nazi's were perfectly following his logic by moving the process along.

>> JAMES: The fact that one can misconstrue a scientific theory to bad ends has no implication on the validity of the theory.

I agree, see my point 12 above.

James said...

I agree. This is part of the problem with justifying homosexuality based on it's possible genetic origins.

Good thing no-one's actually claiming that people ought to be homosexual, then, only that some people are, and that, if it's genetic, then it's definitely not a matter of choice.

But with regard to evolution, the reason this assumption is made is that evolution has traditionally been seen as 'advancement' from our origins as primordial slime.

Traditionally, but incorrectly. There is no concept of "advancement" in evolutionary theory, only "adaptation" to a changing environment.

as opposed to the creationist view that we were created perfect, and have *degraded* over time, which seems to match what we see, rather than the anti-entropic evolutionary model.

There is nothing anti-entropic about natural selection. The net entropy in the solar system is increasing at a great rate, and what the organisms on this planet manage to do only produces the tiniest of dents in that.

Not true. It can, and has historically (before Hitler) been seen as an extension of medicine - science helping individuals and society live longer and healthier lives. Combined with the idea that 'the better of the many should be seen as more important than the betterment of the few", this seems perfectly logical.

Nothing in this statement actually addresses my comment that you are supposedly responding to.

Also, there is no concept in evolutionary theory that says "the better of the many is more important than the betterment of the few". The concept of "betterment" does not exist in evolutionary theory, neither does the concept of goals or consequences. It's a description of how things happen, not what should happen or what would be best to happen.

And since Darwinism replaces the divine, made-in-God's-image view with the "man is just a higher animal" view, it makes perfect sense that, since man is no longer special but merely another animal, we should be able to apply the animal husbandry logic, unless we invoke some other value that says "man is special." And Darwinism itself contains no such corollary.

So, are you claiming that, because someone could use a scientific theory to falliciously come to a moral conclusion (via is therefore ought) and, as a result, apply another field entirely in an immoral way, the original scientific theory is false?

I have a sneaking suspicion that what you call "Darwinism" doesn't really have much to do with evolutionary biology.

Anonymous said...

DG.
"1. You can't say that people distorted science to support racism and fail to make the same excuse for religion"

Yes we can say that because religions actually do teach barbarous behavior such as:

Leviticus 25:44 "If you need slaves, you may buy them from the nations around you…You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever..”
Exodus 21: 7 "If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do."

1 Tim6:1 "All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God's name and our teaching may not be slandered."

These are not distortions of the bible, they are what it actually says. Although many abolitionists were christians, practically the entire population of the South were christians as well and used specifically biblical arguments to support slavery (and anti civil rights for 100 years). If your argument is that they ALL distorted chrisianity and got it wrong, at the very least, one may ask "why is it so easy for so many people to get wrong". The ease with which Darwin can be distorted is substantially less.

Anonymous said...

If Darwin's compassion depended on his faith, why did he maintain it long after he lost whatever faith he had? So if Darwin and Stalin were both trained religiously, and Darwin was a humane man while Stalin was a murderer, you are going to claim that religious training was responsible for Darwin's humanity but not for Stalin's sociopathy? Not allowed.

James said...

The ease with which Darwin can be distorted is substantially less.

I disagree. Evolutionary biology is distorted significantly by almost everyone who argues against it. You'll find very few accurate accounts of the core of evolutionary theory in any creationist book, but rather caricatures that often date back to well before the modern synthesis.

Anonymous said...

Well the correlation between non-religious societies and morality is about as correlational as claiming that religious people are more generous because they are religious. Except that we know that religious people become substantially less generious and helpful to the extent that the cause or charity is less related to religious contexts. Arthur Brooks indeed claims to have found that religious individuals give more to charity in this country, however many opportunities to do charitable work are connected with institutions such as churches. In spontaneous helping situations, religious people are not more generous and if the target is one who violates their values, they help less than non religious individuals.

There is indeed a correlation between fundamentalism, authoritarianism and atheism. I suggest you check out Robert Altemeyers "the authoritarians" online.

There are many Christians who claim that homosexuality is a learned behavior rather than a biologically and genetically influenced trait (e.g., focus on the family). The evidence of its genetic origins does not imply an "ought" but it does refute any claim that it is not natural. And that combined with simply no evidence whatsoever that it is associated with pathology or harm is enough to then conclude that there is no reason it should be associated with deviance in a pejorative way.

Further, one might ask, on the basis of this evidence, "why did god create a tendency for same sex attraction, only to condemn people for acting upon it". We await the reply.

Fletcher said...

Dear Blog Commenters,

We have a forum: http://doubtcast.forumotion.net

Please go there if you wish to have lengthy discussions about the contents of the show.

Sincerely,

~Fletch

RonH said...

thanks guys.

Steven already said 'excellent show show all around' so what do I say.

RonH

pandamonium said...

The song that was played at the closing of this week's episode was moving and a great artistic piece. I found it on YouTube and have been playing it way too much.

I also found out that the guy who did this piece also has another one, and both can be found and downloaded for free or for donation at: http://symphonyofscience.com/

Thanks for sharing this greatly inspiring piece of music with all of us!

James said...

I love how they worked the line "billion and billions of stars" into the newer song, We Are All Connected -- but, of course, not from Sagan (who never said it until after it became the stock Sagan joke), but from Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Brad said...

My favorite, and by far the silliest, science tune is Eric Idle's "The Galaxy Song."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buqtdpuZxvk

Jeremy said...

From now on all comments will be moderated. Let me explain why...

There’s this guy who calls himself Captain Chaos. You may have seen him here before. He usually writes these cryptic comments where he is clearly fed up with something we said on the show but even after wading through the smugness, hyperbole and obscure references to continental philosophy it’s unclear what his point is. I had gotten pretty used to ignoring him until our episode on Christian Zionism, which prompted a rant on the evils of “organized Jewry.” That one comment was a Rosetta Stone for decoding all previous online tantrums. Ahhh…I get it. Captain Chaos is an anti-semite.

I find it hard to imagine what he would even get out of listening to our show. Maybe he gets off when people criticize the Old Testament. Im guessing he doesn’t get a lot of that from his Jew-hating Christian friends at all the holocaust denier conventions.

Regardless, that was the first time I ever deleted a blog comment, and I did it because I was embarrassed to think that someone visiting our site for the first time might think that sort of thing is typical of our listeners. It’s not.

Anyway, it must have been too cold to sleep in his mother’s basement last night, because from 12 – 3am he posted a ten comment long rant consisting of just-so stories as to how those cold European winters must have bred a rugged individualism into the Caucasian race. He also included a series of quotes meant to establish that white liberal guilt is a Jewish plot to overthrow the white race. Wow.

So that’s why I’m moderating comments now. We’re all about debate at Reasonable Doubts, but some people are simply not worth it. Cap can get his own free blogger page where he can post paranoid self-masturbatory diatribes until his racist heart’s content.

James said...

Sorry -- had I known he was going to launch a rant about "the Jews", I wouldn't have bothered trying to clarify my points. I didn't realize quite what a waste of electrons that was going to be.