Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Debunking Corner - Darwin & Hitler: the Intelligent Design-Eugenics connection?

From Tom Bridgman Here

Periodically, the “Hitler supported evolution” claim is raised by supporters of Creationism and Intelligent Design (ID). It was used heavily in the ID-supported 'documentary' “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” (see 'Expelled Exposed'). Recently, the “Exposing Pseudoastronomy” blog had an interesting take with 'If Darwin Is Responsible for the Holocaust, Newton Is Responsible for Bombs', making the point that scientific discovery is morally neutral and that knowledge can be used for good or evil. The same studies of atomic and nuclear physics that made modern computers possible also contributed to the development of the atomic bomb. Bottom Line: Blaming science for human abuses of knowledge is a cop-out.
I had always seen this claim justified, not by what Hitler actually wrote or said, but based on someone else's *interpretation* of Hitler's behavior or writing. Considering the level of distortions possible through such third-hand routes, I decided to read the “Mein Kampf” for myself.

First note that I read the Ralph Manheim translation (1998, Houghton Mifflin Co, ISBN: 0-395-92503-7) which is in many bookstores. Hopefully I caught all the typos in my transcription below. I'll give the page numbers so others can confirm my claim (and perhaps check against other translations).

The rest of this post is based largely on a thread I originally posted to the USENET group Talk.Origins, in August 2006.

So what did I discover in this reading? Hint: I didn't find a single mention of Darwin in the nearly 700 pages of Hitler's ramblings.

Hitler believed he was doing God's work:
“Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.“ [pg 65]
In fact he used many religious comparisons throughout the text:
“Sooner will a camel pass through a needle's eye than than a great man be 'discovered' by an election.“ [pg 88]
“Verily a man cannot serve two masters. And I consider the foundation or destruction of a religion far greater than the foundation or destruction of a state, let alone a party.“ [pg 114]
“Certainly we don't have to discuss these matters with the Jews, the most modern inventors of the cultural perfume. Their whole existence is an embodied protest against the aesthetics of the Lord's image.“ [pg 178]
“Anyone who dares lay hands on the highest image of the Lord commits sacrilege against the benevolent creator of this miracle and contributes to the expulsion from paradise.“ [pg 383]
So regardless of any atheistic inclinations he exhibited after obtaining power, during his rise to power, he knew well invoking religion would increase his support among the populace. How many modern politicians exploit that same trick?

He expressed admiration of Christianity for its fanaticism:
“The greatness of Christianity did not lie in attempted negotiation for compromise with and similar philosophical opinions in the ancient world, but it its inexorable fanaticism in preaching and fighting for its own doctrine.“ [pg 351]
and the adherence to dogma over science:
“Here, too, we can learn by the example of the Catholic Church. Through its doctrinal edifice, and in part quite superfluously, comes into collision with exact science and research, it is none the less unwilling to sacrifice so much as one little syllable of its dogmas. It has recognized quite correctly that its power of resistance does not lie in its lesser or greater adaptation to the scientific findings of the moment, which in reality are always fluctuating, but rather in rigidly holding to dogmas once established, for it is only such dogmas which lend to the whole body of the character of a faith. And so today it stands more firmly than ever. It can be prophesied that in exactly the same measure in which appearance evade us, it will gain more and more blind support as a static pole amid the flight of appearances.“ [pg 459]
“Faith harder to shake than knowledge, love succumbs less to change than respect, hate is more enduring than aversion, and the impetus to the mightiest upheavals on this earth has at all time consisted less in a scientific knowledge dominating the masses than in a fanaticism which inspired them and sometimes in a hysteria which drove them forward.“ [337-338].
He didn't like the notion of being compared to apes (common ancestry with apes is a common complaint in creationist literature):
“A folkish state must therefore begin by raising marriage from the level of a continuous defilement of the race, and give it the consecration of an institution which is called upon to produce images of the Lord and not some monstrosities halfway between man and ape.“ [pg 402]
Here it almost looks like he's describing the Theory of Evolution:
“Nature herself in times of great poverty or bad climatic 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 deprivation 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.“ [pp 131-134]
but then there's this:
“No more than Nature desires the mating of weaker with stronger individuals, even less does she desire the blending of a higher with a lower races, since, if she did, her whole work of higher breeding, over perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, might be ruined with one blow.“ [pg 286]
where he suggests higher breeding is a GOAL of Nature. Isn't that one of the claims of Intelligent Design???

And this is consistent with:
“And in this it must remain aware that we, as guardians of the highest humanity on this earth, are bound by the highest obligation, and the more it strives to bring the German people to racial awareness so that, in addition to breeding dogs, horses, and cats, they will have mercy on their own blood, the more it will be able to meet this obligation.“ [pg 646]
Hitler compares his program of racial purification not to Darwin's natural selection, but to ANIMAL BREEDING or 'controlled selection', a practice which predates Darwin by thousands of years. Such 'controlled selection' was practiced by humans in forms ranging from 'ethnic cleansing' to maintaining 'royal' bloodlines LONG before Darwin. Like other pseudosciences, such racial programs were happy to incorporate modern scientific terminology in an attempt to enhance their credibility (see “Electric Universe: Everything I needed to know about science I learned from watching Star Trek?”). That species can change was known by animal breeders for millennia - Darwin just recognized that the natural environment could also act as a selection mechanism.

One of the key arguments used to support Creationism and Intelligent Design is that Natural Selection 'loses information', or is a 'degenerative' process, a claimed consequence of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This seems to be the very argument that Hitler uses against the process of 'natural selection' in that it still allows 'unfit' individuals to breed so he clearly advocated controlling breeding based on his criteria of 'fitness'.

The notion of Intelligent Design is that for 'higher' beings to evolve, a 'Designer' must intervene, lest Natural Selection cause the population to 'lose information' and degenerate. How is this different from Hitler's justification of his eugenics (Wikipedia) policies [note the 'defilement' quote from page 402 above]?

From an operational perspective, the only difference between eugenics and Intelligent Design I can see is that eugenics is willing to name the designer (other humans)! I have been disturbed by the amount of ID rhetoric which seeks to enhance the distinction of (superior) humans and (inferior) non-human species. How different is this different from the rhetoric of racist groups who equate others to non-humans?

Could Intelligent Design be a Trojan Horse for eugenics?

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