Wednesday, September 09, 2009
The YEC Cure
Well, we're in for another round of "Darwin fathered Hitler" crap from the Discovery Institute droids. Richard Weikart's new book, Hitler's Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Process has been published (Amazon wants $53.96 US for it, so it may have limited impact among non-Discoveryoids). Larry Arnhart, at his blog Darwinian Conservatism, has the skinny. Professor Arnhart is a good source on the supposed link between evolutionary theory and the Holocaust and has frequently written cogently on the subject, engaging Weikart and his arguments in particular. On this latest entry, Arhart makes several points:
~ Weikart has made a strong case that Hitler's ultimate goal was the evolutionary improvement of the human species through the triumph of the Aryan race in the struggle for existence.But the strangest report Arnhart delivers of Weikart's book is his apparent analysis of where Hitler went wrong:
~ But, once that is granted, at least three questions remain: "First, was Hitler's Darwinian ethics scientifically correct? Second, was it logically derived from Darwin's science? Third, what alternative view of morality is Weikart offering us?
~ As to the first, "Weikart admits that Hitler's evolutionary thinking was scientifically false--often ridiculously so (201-202). But Weikart's point here is that its falsehood was not evident at the time. In Hitler's times, many prominent people--including many prominent scientists--embraced the same crude ideas about the evolution of superior races ..."
~ On the second question, Weikart seems to be arguing "that even if Hitler's ethic did not arise by logical necessity from Darwin's teaching, Darwin's language could easily be interpreted as supporting Hitler."
~ Although Arnhart agrees "that some of what Darwin says is open to Hitler's Social Darwinist interpretation, any careful reader of Darwin would have to conclude that Hitler and the Nazis had to distort Darwin's teaching to get the conclusions they wanted." Still, "Weikart admits that Darwin never recommends violence against "inferior races," and he never says anything to support anti-Semitism" and there is no evidence that Hitler had any direct knowledge of Darwin's work. Instead, Weikart argues "that Hitler's writing shows the influence of thinkers who did read Darwin and who did find support for their Nazi thinking in Darwin's writing."
~ Weikart overstates his case and glosses over weaknesses in it by ignoring contrary evidence. After noting that Haeckel taught that the human races were actually separate species, he fails to note that Darwin directly denied that. Although Weikart cites Daniel Gasman's book on the fundamental influence of Haeckel on Hitler's Social Darwinism (The Scientific Origins of National Socialism), Weikart fails to raise the fact that Gasman argues that Haeckel's thinking "had little, if anything at all, to do with Charles Darwin." Weikart notes that Hitler was a crude genetic determinist, who attributed not just physical traits but morality and culture to genetic inheritance along racial lines, but fails again to say that Darwin denied that claim. Arnhart states that there are many more examples where "Weikart passes over in silence evidence and argument that works against his position."
~ On the third question, Weikart had suggested in his earlier book (From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany) that the alternative was "Judeo-Christian ethics" based on all humans having equal dignity as a result of being created by God in His own image. Here, though, "Weikart admits that Hitler often refers to God as Creator and to human beings as created in His Image." As to that, Weikart only makes the enigmatic comment that he wants to write another book showing that Hitler was "neither an atheist nor a Christian."
In none of the relevant quotations from Mein Kampf does Hitler state that humans were specially created in the recent past by the miraculous intervention of God. On the contrary, Hitler repeatedly insisted that humans are subject to inescapable natural laws and that they are the product of eons of change. He often presented evolution as a universal process encompassing humans as well as other creatures.As Arnhart says:
So what exactly is Weikart suggesting here? To avoid the evils of Hitler's evolutionary ethics, it seems, it is not enough to believe that God created human beings in His Image. Is Weikart saying that one must be a young-earth special creationist who believes that human beings were created a few thousand years ago in the Garden of Eden? Is he saying that believing that God would use a natural evolutionary process to bring about His creative intentions would necessarily lead to something like Hitler's Nazi ethics?I suspect that Weikart is arguing more along the lines of it being better if the "masses" believe in a simplistic basis of morality than that "highly educated adults" need to. But it would not be the first time that the Discoveryites had spoken out of both sides of their mouths to keep the "big tent" of creationism from tattering.
If Weikart is suggesting that the only reasonable basis for morality is young-earth creationism based on a literal 6-days-of-creation reading of Genesis, then he is in disagreement with the Discovery Institute's promotion of "intelligent design theory" as something distinct from young-earth creationism.
Update: John Wilkins takes the criticism of Weikart even further.
Ann Taylor Allen
review of "From Darwin to Hitler ..." by RIchard Weikart
Journal of Modern History, March 2006, pages 255-257
I thought that this comment of Allen's was "interesting"
"Up until the late nineteenth century, he claims, European civilization was governed by what he calls the "Judeo-Christian ethic" and its central principle,
the "right to life." This principle ... forbade assisted suicide, infanticide, and abortion(75). Weikart does not explain how other aspects of these codes, such as their requirement of the death penalty ... affirmed the "sanctity of human life.""
If my impression is accurate, this seems to say that Weikart is anachronistically reading certain 20th century Amerian values back into European history,
including the concept of a Judeo-Christian ethic.
including the concept of a Judeo-Christian ethic.
I think that is very likely. Weikart and the other Discoveryoids are basically making an apologetic argument to American Christians (mostly to evangelical Protestants) and reaffirming the American exceptionalism that has been read back into those faiths is a natural way to get them on board.
Again, I'd think that is a likely thread in his argument. American exceptionalism has a strong streak of that, with robust American values deemed superior to effete European decadence, that, in turn, winds up sounding like their cardboard caricature of Epicureanism.
Anti-intellectualism, anti-academia, anti-"elitism," anti-expertise (ala McLeroy in Texas), and many other sauch threads in creationism have strong elements in American exceptionalism which, in turn, is compatible with, if not directly arising out of, Sola Scriptura.
Does the "Judeo-Christian ethic" include the rampant anti-Semitism that existed throughout Europe from at least the 12th century up till the end of the Second World War?
In my limited experience, "Judeo-Christian" is used to mean "ethical monotheism without emphasis on any doctrines specific to Christianity." But historically speaking, that conception is a result of (i) Christianity and (ii) the Enlightenment critique of religious dogmatism. So "Christian-Enlightenment" would be more accurate than "Judeo-Christian," for those interested in accuracy.
When I'd said that Weikart coined the "Darwinism --> Epicureanism" meme, I was in error; I'd confused Richard Weikart with Benjamin Wiker.
The problem there is that some of the most intolerant, bigoterd, racist scumbags fit that bill precisely. So it certainly is no guarantee of moral superiority.
I think this needs more publicity so we can all finally see how heinous Newton was and how wrong his physics was if it led to something like this.
Not to mention using Archimedes' work to operate all those nasty U-boats.