“Intelligent Design” is a fundamentalist religious movement that, despite it’s claims that physics, chemistry, biology, history, archeology etc are all wrong and the world has been created relativly recently by some superbeing (okay, let’s not play games here, they mean the christian god) tries to disguise itself as a science. At the moment most supporters of that idea live in the USA – I sometimes wonder if they have some kind of contest over there like, you know, “who manages to do the most damage to the countries reputation” (at the moment they have a tie between warmongers and religious nutjobs).
Now a Canadian tries to claim his share of the price money by repeating the claim that there is a link between the work of Charles Darwin and the Destruction of the european jews, the Holocaust. He writes:
For the trolls (and you know who you are!), I simply offer the original title Darwin gave to his book,
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life
,and ask you to explain how such a social (and Holocaust-endorsing) statement can be classified as the title of a purely scientific work — until I get a direct answer to that.
From context I gather that this is to mean two different things:
- that Darwin endorsed the holocaust – which would be impossible, he had been dead for some 60 years when the holocaust happened (and Darwin didn’t supported Nazi-style eugenics, if that is what is meant) and
- that the theory of evolution is wrong because Darwin endorsed the holocaust, which is like saying that rocketry doesn’t work because von Braun used KZ inmates in the factories that built the A4 rocket.
PZ Myers from the Pharyngula Science Blog already gave the direct answer: Charles Darwin and the Nazis lived in different times and meant different things when they used the word race (if you think that weasling out of the issue then look up race in your Websters, it is until today a synonym for subspecies and Origin talks extensively about domestication). Race is actually a somewhat ambigous term – for example the german term Rassenhygiene (race hygiene) , a word that by now is almost universally connected with Nazi race crimes originally referred to all of the human race (as opposed to animals; the idea was to release mankind from the evils of alcoholism).
But what is probably the more important argument against the supposed Darwin-Hitler link is that the people who laid down the theoretical (it would be more appropriate to say “metaphysical”) framework that fostered national socialism did not agree with Darwin.
Houston Stewart Chamberlain – born british, naturalised german and Richard Wagners son-in-law – quoted Darwin multiple times in his 1899s’ Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts (Foundations of the 19th Century), which became a standard textbook of racially defined anti-semitism. Chamberlain was familiar with Darwins work because of his studies in botany (he held a bachelors degree but eventually failed with his dissertation), but in Foundations.. dismissed Darwinism as a “manifestly unsound system“. Chamberlains main complaint was that Darwins theory was a theory of change, not necessarily of improvement and was thus unfit to explain the genesis of his supposed superior races.
It is not clear how much influence Chamberlain had on Hitler – it is known that Chamberlain, who felt as a german nationalist, held high hopes in Hitler, but by the time they finally met Chamberlain already was paralitic and hardly able to speak. The Wikipedia entry on Chamberlain contends that he was a major influence on Hitler, but the claim alone does not make a fact and more serious Hitler Biographies list Chamberlain without special emphasis as one of many sources for Hitlers Weltanschauung.
But as a scholar and due to his connections to the Wagner family he was a man of some reputation in german society and he transformed racist theory and anti-semitism from a pasttime for illiterate rabble rousers into an respectable occupation for the better classes. And frankly the news gets even worse for the canadian intellegent design proponent, since Chamberlain did not only reject Darwin but also created a link between christian religion and racism – a large portion of Foundations is dedicated to the “proof” that Jesus Christ could have not possibly have been a member of the “jewish race”, which made Chamberlain popular among the antisemitic factions of the german christians.
Chamberlain was a man who disguised his disreputable, unscientific ideas as mainstream theory, who ignored or distorted scientific evidence to do so and who jumped straight into metaphysics when the real world did not support his ideas. From that observation one could easily (and much more conclusively than a Darwin-Hitler link) construct a kinship between the racist theory that inspired Nazi Germany and todays intelligent design movement.
Thus I like to conclude this post with the following quote:
“And so we have seen the idea of evolution develop itself till it spread from biology and geology to all spheres of thought and investigation, and, intoxicated by its success, exercised such a tyranny that any one who did not swear by it was to be looked upon as a simpleton.”
which incidentally is not taken from the intelligent design movie “Expelled“, but from “Foundations of the 19th century“, the book by the racist, antisemitic Hitler-admirer Houston Stewart Chamberlain.
Ian Kershaw, Hitler, Stuttgart 1998
Joachim Fest, Hitler – eine Biographie, München/Berlin 1991
Wikipedia – Houston Stewart Chamberlain
Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Foundations of the 19th century, from http://www.hschamberlain.net
Weingart u.a., Rasse, Blut und Gene, Frankfurt M. 1988