June 20, 2008

Avalos Contra Weikart: Part II: Weikart's Seven Darwinian Aspects of Nazism

Dr. Hector Avalos again responds to Dr. Weikart, below:

In Part I of the commentary on my debate with Dr. Weikart, I emphasized the general flaws that I see in his methodology. Here, I will concentrate on Dr. Weikart’s seven reasons for arguing that Darwinism was more important than Christian anti-Judaism in explaining Nazi ideology.

In order to understand my critique, it is necessary to keep in mind that, for Dr. Weikart, there is a dichotomy at work, which is roughly as follows:
1. Darwinism = atheistic materialism, which devalues life and sees death as a good part of producing better species.
2. Judeo-Christianity = a theistic moral system which emphasizes moral absolutes and the sanctity of life.
It is important to repeat how Dr. Weikart describes these seven reasons:
In the course of the debate Avalos showed little understanding of German history or Nazi ideology. He never addressed the major aspects of Nazi ideology that were heavily influenced by Darwinism, but on which Christian anti-Judaism had no influence. I listed seven such features of Nazi ideology...
Notice that he has made a very sweeping and generalizing claim by saying that “Christian anti-Judaism had no influence” on the seven aspects of Nazism he is about to detail. Since “no influence” = zero influence, then all I have to show is that there was more than zero influence to falsify his claim.

More importantly, Dr. Weikart has to show that these seven reasons are indeed Darwinist in the sense he defined it (“the theory of evolution through natural selection as advanced by Darwin in The Origin of Species”). I can show, however, that at least some of the concepts and practices he attributes to Darwinism are found in none of Darwin’s works, and have a very long pre-Darwinian history. So, let’s examine each of these reasons one by one.

1. Nazi eugenics policies, which led to the compulsory sterilization of 200,000 disabled people, forced abortions for disabled, and in 1939 killing the disabled (about 200,000 disabled people were murdered).

First, Dr. Weikart seems to believe that eugenics and compulsive sterilization are something new, and inspired by Darwin.

The term “eugenics” may be recent, but the concept is not. The fact that a concept can predate a current name for that concept is acknowledged by Dr. Weikart himself. In a review published in the German Studies Review (24, no. 3 [2001] p. 665), Dr.Weikart criticizes the dating of the concept of “the sanctity of life” by Udo Benzenhöfer (Der Gute Tod?Euthanasie und Sterbehilfe in Geschichte und Gegenwart [Munich: C. H. Beck, 1999]). Weikart remarks (p. 665):
I find it odd that Benzenhöfer argues that the concept of ‘the sanctity of human life’ was not present until it emerged in the late nineteenth century. The fact that the term was not used previously does not mean that the concept was new.
The same applies to eugenics, which usually comes in two forms:

A. positive eugenics seeks to enhance the good traits of a group;
B. negative eugenics seeks to eliminate the bad traits from a group.

In either form, the concept of eugenics is as old as the Bible. So let’s examine the ancient history of each type more carefully.

A. POSITIVE EUGENICS

The existence of positive eugenics in ancient religions is acknowledged by most of the earliest purveyors of modern eugenics. In his famous 1901 Huxley Memorial Lecture (published in Man 132 [1901] pp. 162-63), Sir Francis Galton, the father of modern eugenics, used ancient Jewish and Hindu marriage dowry policies as examples of eugenic practices:
The means that are available consist of dowries where a moderate sum is important help in emergencies, healthy homes, pressure of public opinion, honour, and the introduction of religious motives, which are very effective as in causing Hindoo girls and most Jewesses to marry young. The span of a generation would thereby be shortened which is the equivalent of increasing the fertility of one that was unshortened.
Observe how Galton indicates that religion was a very effective motivator for eugenics.

Rabbi Max Reichler, one of the authors of Jewish Eugenics and Other Essays (New York: Bloch Publishing, 1916, pp. 7-8) tells us:
To be sure eugenics as a science could hardly have existed among ancient Jews; but many eugenic rules were certainly incorporated in the large collection of Biblical and Rabbinical laws. Indeed there are clear indications of a conscious effort to utilize all influences that might improve the inborn qualities of the Jewish races, and to guard against any practice that might vitiate the purity of the race or ‘impair the racial qualities of future generations’ either physically, mentally, or morally...The very founder of the Jewish race, the patriarch Abraham, recognized the importance of certain inherited qualities, and insisted that the wife of his ‘only beloved son’ should not come from ‘the daughters of the Canaanites,’ but from the seed of a superior stock.
Rabbi Reichler, of course, is quoting Genesis 24:1, which encourages endogamy, and discourages marriages with outsiders. This is part of a concept that we can find from the Bible to the Nazi Nuremberg laws. Rabbi Reichler, also observes:
The aim of eugenics is to encourage the reproduction of the good and ‘blessed’ human protoplasm and the elimination of the impure and ‘cursed’ human protoplasm. According to Francis Galton, it is to ‘check the birthrate of the unfit, and to further the productivity of the fit by early marriages and the rearing of healthful children.’ The Rabbis may or may not have had such a definite purpose in mind, but their Halachic legislation and Haggadic observations naturally tended to bring about the same results. Early marriages were praised as most desirable.
However, we do know that some of the biblical marriage laws were explicitly said to be for the purpose of improving a positive trait. In Ezra 9:11-12, for instance, we have this stated purpose for marriage laws:
[11] which thou didst command by thy servants the prophets, saying, `The land which you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land unclean with the pollutions of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations which have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness.
[12] Therefore give not your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever.'
Notice that one reason given for this is “that you may be strong.” which is exactly the idea of positive eugenics insofar as it encourages the enhancement of a good trait (“strength”).

In the Jewish Talmud (Bekoroth 45b), we also find this instruction:
A very dark-complexioned man should not marry an equally very dark-complexioned woman, lest their offspring may be pitch-black.
Clearly, marriage on the basis of color, and to avoid certain colorations, was already practiced, at least in concept, long before Darwin.

One of the most organized eugenic experiments was in the infamous Oneida (New York) community in the late nineteenth century. In addition to liberal sexual practices, this utopian religious community developed what it called stirpiculture, which is another form of positive eugenics. See further, M. L. Holbrook, Stirpiculture Or the Improvement of Offspring Through Wiser Generation (New York: M. L. Holbrook, 1897).

And perhaps his focus on modern German history has made Dr. Weikart forget that German eugenics is as old as the Roman empire. At that time, Tacitus (ca. 56-117 CE), the celebrated Roman historian, made these remarks concerning the Germans (Germania 3.4, Loeb edition):
Personally I associate myself with the opinions of those who hold that in the peoples of Germany there has been given to the world a race unmixed by intermarriage with other races, a peculiar people, and pure, like no one but themselves, whence it comes that their physique is identical: fierce blue eyes, red hair, tall frames; powerful only spasmodically, not correspondingly tolerant of labour and hard work, and by no means habituated to bearing thirst and heat; to cold and hunger, thanks to the climate and the soil, they are accustomed.
So, even Tacitus is conscious that endogamy has been practiced to enhance or preserve certain hereditary features of the German tribes.

B. NEGATIVE EUGENICS

What about negative eugenics? Dr. Weikart conveniently ignores the fact that devaluing disabled people is already in the Bible. Killing or exiling the disabled is also found in the Bible, once we realize that “disabled” can refer to someone that holds any trait, physical or mental, that is cause for devaluation.

Nor was there a uniform “Judeo-Christian” treatment of the disabled. Indeed, Dr. Weikart seems very ill-read in the field of Disability Studies, in which I have published widely (e.g., Hector Avalos, Sarah Melcher, and Jeremy Schipper, eds., This Abled Body: Rethinking Disabilities in Biblical Studies [Atlanta: Scholars Press, 2007]).

While there are indeed passages that encourage us to help the disabled, there were plenty of other passages that encouraged the exile and devaluation of disabled persons. Blindness, for example, could be seen as a result of sin or as a curse from God (Deuteronomy 28:29).

A very cruel policy applied to persons afflicted with what is often translated as “leprosy,” which probably encompassed a wide variety of chronic skin conditions (Leviticus 13:44-45 RSV):
[43] Then the priest shall examine him, and if the diseased swelling is reddish-white on his bald head or on his bald forehead, like the appearance of leprosy in the skin of the body,
[44] he is a leprous man, he is unclean; the priest must pronounce him unclean; his disease is on his head.
[45] "The leper who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry, `Unclean, unclean.'
[46] He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp.
These lepers are left to fend for themselves, as was the case with the lepers in 2 Kings 7:
[1] But Eli'sha said, "Hear the word of the LORD: thus says the LORD, Tomorrow about this time a measure of fine meal shall be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Sama'ria."
[2] Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God, "If the LORD himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?" But he said, "You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it."
[3] Now there were four men who were lepers at the entrance to the gate; and they said to one another, "Why do we sit here till we die?
[4] If we say, `Let us enter the city,' the famine is in the city, and we shall die there; and if we sit here, we die also. So now come, let us go over to the camp of the Syrians; if they spare our lives we shall live, and if they kill us we shall but die."
This could be seen as passive negative eugenics. That is to say, the lepers are exiled, and seemingly have no communal support. They are expected to die or fend for themselves, and they are certainly not to reproduce.

In the Dead Sea Scrolls we find even stricter prohibitions against the blind and the lame, who were not even allowed to enter Jerusalem. The blind were seen as impure, and not of equal value to the healthy. There is no provision to care for them. Likewise, priests with certain deformities were not treated equally, but were barred from the priesthood (Leviticus 21:17-23).

On the scale of rigidity, the next step up might be sterilization. Here again, the Nazis are not the first to do this. God strikes undesirable people with barrenness or childlessness, as the case with Abimelech, the king of Gerar, who nearly slept with Sarah, Abraham’s wife and sister in Genesis 20:17-18 (RSV):
[17] Then Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abim'elech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children.
[18] For the LORD had closed all the wombs of the house of Abim'elech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife.
So, preventing undesirable people from having children is at least conceptually present in the Bible even if one does not believe in this sort of supernatural sterilization.

In modern times, many forced sterilization laws were promoted by Christian ministers, as is well documented by Christine Rosen in her book, Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the American Eugenics Movement (New York:Oxford University Press, 2004).

Also ignored by Weikart is that the Pre-Nazi and Nazi eugenicists often pointed to America as their model for the implementation of forced sterilization. For example, note this statement by a German eugenicists, known as Feilchenfeld, (quoted in Stefan Kühl, The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, The Nazi Connection, and German National Socialism [New York: Oxford University Press, 1994] p. 13):
The forceful and decisive North American does not consider the traditional moral code and does not consider the individual in order to implement what he thinks is right. After he recognizes the importance of heredity in determining mental and physical traits for the entire population, he does not hesitate to proceed from theoretical reflection to energetic practical action and to enact legislation which will lead to the ennoblement of the race.
The perceived success of eugenics in the United States is already touted in Austria by 1913, in the book titled Die Rassenhygiene in den Vereinigten Staaten von Nordamerika (“Racial Hygiene in the United States of North America”) published by Geza von Hoffman, an Austrian government official who had lived in California.

In 1927, the U.S. Supreme Court case known as Buck v. Bell allowed the forced sterilization of a woman (Carrie Buck) who was deemed to be mentally retarded. Buck had a record of prostitution and “immorality,” concepts that were influenced by biblical criteria. Indeed, many American states had sterilization laws before Nazi Germany was even established.

C. WHAT SANCTITY OF LIFE?

Throughout his book, Weikart promotes the myth that Christian civilization held to what he calls “the sanctity of life.” He contrasts this with Darwinists who devalue the life of those thought to be unfit. This devaluation took the form of euthanasia of the disabled or those judged to be useless in Nazi Germany (not to mention the more brutal Holocaust).

Yet, there was the outright killing of people that were thought to be unfit in the Bible. The entire reason that Canaanites were killed is that they were thought to have immoral qualities, as a group, that required their being killed.

Being born into the Canaanite group was sufficient justification for extermination, and so this really differs very little from the Nazi policy of killing persons by virtue of being born Jews. Insofar as genealogy is biological, then Canaanites were being killed for biological reasons (i.e., because their genealogy alone conferred undesirable features upon them).

Dr. Weikart tells us that Hitler killed Jews because he thought they had evolved immoral qualities. Yet, the idea of killing people for having inborn (or developed) moral deficiencies was part of biblical genocide programs, as well, (at least conceptually). These are the specific and general classes of people that were to be killed or sterilized:





Considering the fact that homosexuals might be stoned or burned to death under biblical law, Nazi euthanasia practices seem merciful by comparison.

Perhaps more importantly, Dr. Weikart seems to overlook the various subterfuges and theological devices often allowed the killing of the unborn, the disabled and the unwanted in European Christian societies.

Dr. Weikart is certainly incorrect to suggest that abortion has been uniformly prohibited by “Judeo-Christianity.” The fact is that even the Hebrew Bible does not see the abortion of a fetus as equivalent to killing of an adult. The famous passage in Exodus 21:22-23 clearly indicates that the accidental killing of a fetus incurs only a monetary penalty, whereas the accidental killing of an adult can incur a death penalty.

Despite attempts to mitigate the implications of this text (e.g., the NIV has an untenable translation that speaks of a premature birth rather than outright death of a fetus), even some conservative exegetes grant the power of this text to differentiate between the value of the unborn and the born (see Robert N. Congdon, “Exodus 21:22-25 and the Abortion Debate,” Bibliotheca Sacra 146 [April-June, 1989], pp. 132-147). As is well-known even traditional Jewish law allowed for abortion in some cases.

In Catholic thought, there has not been a uniform abortion policy either. The doctrine of ensoulment, especially as outlined by St. Thomas Aquinas, did not deem that a child had been “ensouled” (“quickened” as indicated by the feeling of movement in the pregnant woman) until at least 40 days for a boy (90 days for a girl) into a pregnancy. Already by 1211, Pope Innocent III, in a decree titled Sicut ex, made a distinction between abortions performed before ensoulment and those performed afterwards.

Outright excommunication for abortion, at any time in the pregnancy, was not codified universally until 1588 in a papal canon titled Effraenatam issued by Pope Sixtus V. Yet, in 1591 Pope Gregory XIV rescinded the universality of Effraenatam, and again made a distinction between abortion before and after ensoulment. This situation was not really fully reversed until 1869, during the time of Pope Pius IX.

And perhaps Dr. Weikart does not regard the tens of thousands of accused witches who were killed in Christian countries as cases of killing the disabled. Yet, by reading the records of the trials of those killed, it becomes clear that many of these people were probably mentally ill, had epilepsy, or other types of nervous system conditions that better explains why they reported the experiences they had. See further, Erik Midelfort, A History of Madness in Sixteenth Century Germany (Stanford, 1999).

Christian witch hunters did not call it “killing the disabled” but that is exactly what it would be once we realize that mental illness is a disability. In fact, what pre-Nazi Christians did to witches was much worse, as many old and sick persons were often made to endure torture in order to elicit confessions about their demoniac experiences.

And, of course, eugenicists did not see themselves as being cruel to people. Rather, eugenics was an act of love. As Galton phrased it, “Eugenic belief extends the function of philanthropy to future generations” (Eugenics as a Factor in Religion, p. 70).

The reasons the Nazis gave are really not much different from the ones given by Dr. Gleason Archer, the famed Christian creationist apologist, for the extermination of the Canaanites (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982], 121):
Just as the wise surgeon removes dangerous cancer from his patient’s body by use of the scalpel, so God employed the Israelites to remove such dangerous malignancies from human society.
Archer demonstrates what we have argued all along: There never was such thing as the ‘sanctity of life” if that means “ALL life” in Judeo-Christianity. Rather, it was always about the sanctity of some lives. The value of a life was always qualified by a myriad of features.

Natural selection is essential to Dr. Weikart’s own definition of “Darwinism.” But, Galton, while certainly influenced by Darwinism, sees his programme as opposed to natural selection. Observe how Galton describes his agenda (“Eugenics: Its Definition, Scope and Aims,” American Journal of Sociology 10 [July 1904] p. 5):
What nature does blindly, slowly, and ruthlessly, man may do providently, quickly, and kindly.
In other words, Galton’s goal is to defy natural selection, which he views as cruel and random. Galton wants to inject mercy and more rational methods in controlling the final product. This is definitely NOT NATURAL SELECTION.

Galton presciently also warned against the excesses in the use of eugenics (“Eugenics: Its Definition...,” p. 6):
Overzeal leading to hasty action would do harm, by holding out expectations of a near golden age, which will certainly be falsified and cause the science to be discredited.
If Galton is just extending Darwinism, then the Nazis certainly violated this warning.

And even if eugenics were a part of Darwin’s personal thought, we can show that Hitler quotes the Bible, not Darwin, for his rationales. One example is this statement from Mein Kampf concerning race mixing (Manheim edition, p. 249):
...it is one of those concerning which it is said with such terrible justice that the sins of the fathers are avenged down to the tenth generation...Blood sin and desecration of the race are the original sin in this world...
But whence does Hitler get the notion that blood desecration is a sin down to the tenth generation? It is not from any of Darwin’s works. Rather, it is from Deuteronomy 23:2-3 (RSV):
No bastard shall enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD. [3]"No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none belonging to them shall enter the assembly of the LORD for ever.
So, Hitler realizes that the Bible has much more authority with his readers than anything Darwin wrote.

In sum, Dr. Weikart’s dichotomy between Darwinism and Judeo-Christianity is false. Darwin never advocated any sort of policy to exterminate the disabled in On the Origin of Species. Darwin was describing natural selection, not advocating any particular artificial selection policy, which was more the case with Galton. Moreover, the most extreme measures of negative eugenics were already being used in the Bible. And the Bible was certainly a more familiar book to average Germans than anything Darwin wrote.

2. The drive for population expansion (Darwin claimed in Descent of Man that the birthrate should not be limited, because a higher birthrate was advantageous for evolution). Hitler often expressed the same view.

The drive for population expansion is not Darwinian per se. This has been a goal of all empires. This was a goal of God’s commandment Genesis 1:26—“be fruitful and multiply.”

Yet, this claim concerning the drive for population expansion raises another problem with Dr. Weikart’s definitions of Darwinism. As long as Darwin held an idea, then Weikart labels it as “Darwinist.” It does not matter if the idea existed before Darwin. His rationale is as follows:
If X holds an idea, then we can call it X’s idea.
This is fine as long as one is consistent, but Weikart is not. For example, by this logic we also can say that population expansion is also Mosaic, since Moses is said to have held that idea (and assuming the conservative Christian position that Moses wrote the Pentateuch). Yet, the drive for population expansion is not called “biblical” or “Mosaic” by Weikart.

3. The need for living space (this was one cause of World War II, not just a minor feature). Hitler often expressed the need for living space in evolutionary terms.

Dr. Weikart does not tell us what it means to express the need for living space “in evolutionary terms.” Living space is already seen as a scarce resource that causes strife in the Bible, as in Genesis 13:6-7 (RSV):
[6] so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together,
[7] and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's cattle and the herdsmen of Lot's cattle. At that time the Canaanites and the Per'izzites dwelt in the land.
The biblical author expects Abraham to generate a large population, and then he links that population explosion to the need for more territory:
[5] And he brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your descendants be."...
[18] On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphra'tes,
[19] the land of the Ken'ites, the Ken'izzites, the Kad'monites,
[20] the Hittites, the Per'izzites, the Reph'aim,
[21] the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Gir'gashites and the Jeb'usites."
Of course, the biblical narratives later detail the killing of the Canaanites and the taking of their land. So how was Nazi expansionist policy different from what any other ancient empire did, or from what the United States did at the time of its Manifest Destiny expansion?

4. Racial inequality – Darwin and Haeckel argued for human inequality on the basis of Darwinian evolution.

Since Hitler never quotes Darwin’s works, then it is not clear that racial inequality was argued on the basis of Darwinism by all Nazi ideologues.

And since Dr. Weikart seems to equate racial inequality with “human inequality,” then it is quite clear that this did not begin with Darwin, nor is it particularly Darwinian.

Throughout, Christian history we already have a division into at least two classes of people (Christian and non-Christian; saved and damned, etc.). Many other factors could yield different groupings that had different rights and privileges in Christian society.

Arthur de Gobineau (1816-1882), one of the most influential of the Pre-Nazi racial theorists, was working within a self-described Christian worldview. In his infamous book, The Inequality of the Human Races (Translation of Adrian Collins; New York: Howard Fertig, 1999), Gobineau said (p. 3):
The wisdom of the ancient yields little that throws light on our subject, except one fundamental axiom, the recognition of the finger of God in the conduct of this world; to this firm and ultimate principle we must adhere, accepting it in the full sense in which it is understood by the Catholic Church.
For Gobineau, common descent from Adam mattered very little because there were so many other factors that God had deployed in natural law in order to create inequality.

Inequality for the Jews was repeatedly codified by Christian societies. For example, in 1555 Pope Paul IV issued his document titled, Cum nimis absurdum. It established the Jewish Ghetto in Rome, the only area in the city where Jews were allowed to live. In other words it established the segregation of Jews, which is only a step away from complete removal, which is what the Nazis eventually tried to do in concentration camps.

The first sentence of Pope Paul IV’s edict states that one reason for segregating the Jews is that their “guilt has consigned them to perpetual servitude.” It goes on to say that the Jews “should recognize through experience that they have been made slaves while Christians have been made free through Jesus.” The Latin and English text of this edict may be found in Kenneth R. Stow, Catholic Thought and Papal Jewry, 1555-1593 (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1977), pp. 291-98.

In other words, Jewish inequality is a structural part of this Christian social system. So you don’t need Darwinism to create this type of anti-Jewish inequality, and Darwin does not say anything of the sort.

Indeed, the Jews were thought to be inherently unequal to Christians from the New Testament onward. In John 8:44, Jesus says that Jews are children of the Devil, not children of God. Such anti-Judaism is acknowledged by David Klinghoffer, a fellow member of the Discovery Institute. Klinghoffer said (Why the Jews Rejected Jesus [New York: Doubleday, 2005], p. 89):
The extreme hostility of the Gospels toward pharisaic teachings thus falls into place. So, as we’ll see does that of Paul toward Judaism as a whole.
Debra Hicks Strickland (Saracens, Demons, and Jews: Making Monsters in Medieval Art [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003]) has studied in painful detail how Christian artists had been portraying Jews as bestial and non-human for hundreds of years prior to Darwin. This alone powerfully refutes Dr. Weikart’s contention that presumed common descent from Adam avoided dehumanizing groups of people.

In sum, is absurd to think that Darwin’s On the Origin of Species better explains the anti-Judaism you see in Nazi Germany, when you have explicit and clear statements about Jewish subordination to Christians for hundreds of years before Darwin ever lived.

5. Anti-Marxism – The leading German Darwinist Haeckel argued that Darwinism disproved Marxism.

This reason cannot be part of the seven features of Nazism that Dr. Weikart says were influenced by Darwinism. Nowhere in On The Origin of Species do we find the notion that natural selection disproved Marxism. Haeckel may have thought that, but what Haeckel and Darwin thought cannot be conflated in this manner. Thus, the supposed disproof of Marxism cannot be labeled as a Darwinist idea proper.

6. History as a racial struggle for existence.

This idea is not particularly Darwinian either. Weikart (From Darwin to Hitler, p. 186) has repeatedly used the following quote from The Descent of Man to support this contention:
At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.
But this quote is taken out of context. The proper context is a lament for this extinction, and not an endorsement of it. This lament is clearer if one reads further, and where Darwin states: “But there is no lament in any writer of that period over the perishing barbarians” (The Descent of Man [Modern Library edition], p 543).

Indeed, Dr. Weikart would do well to consult Patrick Brantlinger, Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Extinction of Primitive Races 1800-1930 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003), which details the pre-Darwinian history of the extinction trope.

More importantly, Weikart attributes to Darwin what has been part of a metanarrative in European history for at least 2,000 years. Enmity between groups is part of biblical tradition. Jesus already calls the Jews the sons of Satan, which dooms Jews to perpetual enmity with Christians.

In the so-called War Scroll, which is part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we find a detailed description of a cosmic struggle between the sons of Darkness and the Sons of Light. These groups had reflexes in real people and groups, and its narrative is very similar to that of the Book of Revelation.

Prior to Darwin, many Christian historians already were portraying great events as part of a metanarrative of conflict between ethnic or racial groups. For example, Augustine Thierry’s famous tome, The Conquest of England (1825) painted that conquest as part of a struggle between the Anglo-Saxon and Norman races.

Pre-Darwinian American metanarratives were not much different. The Book of Mormon had, as part of its metanarrative, the struggle between the darker Lamanites and the lighter-skinned Nephites.

George Fitzhugh, the American pro-slavery advocate, had a racial struggle framed in a survival-of-the-fittest matrix already in 1854 when he said (Antebellum Writings of George Fitzhugh...(1854; Reprint Putnam &Sons, 1960], p. 61):
Members of Congress of the Young American party, boast that the Anglo-Saxon race is manifestly destined to eat out all other races, as the wire-grass destroys and takes the place of other grasses.
And contrary to Weikart’s claim that Christianity’s spiritual orientation resisted such racialist ideas, Robert Knox, the famous Scottish racialist writer, says (Robert Knox, The Races of Men, [Philadelphia: Lea & Blancard, 1850], pp. 38-39):
Now whether the earth be over-populated or not, one thing is certain---the strong will always grasp at the property and lands of the weak. I have been assured that this is compatible with the highest moral and even Christian feeling.
Indeed, John Campbell, a pro-slavery Christian writer, saw racial struggle as an essential part of the history of mankind and he quotes Knox for part of his 1851 essay, “Negro-Mania,” (in E. N. Elliott, Cotton is King and Pro-Slavery Arguments... [Augusta, GA: Pritchard, Abbott and Loomis, 1860], p. 520):
The antagonism of races is working itself out in every instance where two races are put in collision by the quicker or slower extinction of the inferior and feebler race...Knox has shown us everywhere the white blood treading down and exterminating the darker races. “The Saxon (he remarks) will not mingle with any dark race, nor will he allow him to hold an acre of land in the country occupied by him”...There is no denying the fact that the Saxon—call him by what name you will—has a perfect horror for his darker brethren.
Clearly, Dr. Weikart is working with profoundly naïve and simplistic views of “Judeo-Christian” ethics. Dr. Weikart cannot continue to ignore the fact that this view of history as a racial struggle is much more indebted to Christian and biblical history than to Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

7. The evolution of moral traits – Hitler believed that Jews had evolved bad moral traits, while Aryans had evolved good moral traits.

Does Dr. Weikart really believe that this reason shows “no influence from Christian anti-Judaism?” Dr. Weikart does not provide any specific moral traits that Jews have supposedly evolved. Nor does Dr. Weikart tell us what “evolved” traits mean.

But, certainly, most of the immoral traits ascribed to Jews by Hitler in Mein Kampf (e.g., lying, control of money supply, politics, stubbornness, lack of territorial rootedness) had been ascribed to them for hundreds of years, starting with passages such as John 8:44, where Jews are already pegged as children of the Devil and as liars.

CONCLUSION

Contrary to Dr. Weikart’s claims, none of the seven major aspects of Nazism he has identified can be attributed to Darwinism as he has initially defined it: “the theory of evolution through natural selection as advanced by Darwin in The Origin of Species.”

Some Nazi policies may, indeed, have received Darwinian interpretations, but Dr. Weikart attributes to Darwin what clearly has a longer Christian history (e.g., Jews are condemned to inequality in Christian societies) or generalized history (e.g., territorial ambitions have been part of history for millennia). Such features have nothing or little to do with anything Darwin advocated in The Origin of Species, or in any of his other well-known works.

Dr. Weikart’s dichotomy between Darwinian materialism and spirit-centered Judeo-Christian ethics certainly cannot withstand scrutiny. There was no such thing as “the sanctity of life” in Judeo-Christian societies, if that means all lives were regarded as equally deserving of the same privilege to life. For example, the “sanctity of life” for homosexuals was no more guaranteed in some parts of the Bible than it was in Nazi policy.

The valuation of the immaterial part of persons may itself have contributed to the devaluation of human bodies in Christians societies, something evident in the practice and glorification of martyrdom.

Numerous exceptions, qualifications, and theological rationales could allow abortion or the killing of what we would now recognize as disabled persons in Christian societies.

Jews, in particular, were seen as unequal to Christians, and Jews were routinely killed or exiled for not being Christian. So how does the inequality of Jews in Nazi Germany differ from the inequality that Jews had experienced for at least 2000 years in Christian societies?

The survival-of-the-fittest idea was not only not uniquely Darwinian, but it was a routine part of American socio-religious and government policy toward indigenous populations. Many Nazis specifically referred to American practices, rather than to Darwin per se, to draw their inspiration.

To explain Nazi Germany one needs to focus on the sort of moral authority that would have motivated average Germans who carried out these policies. Clearly, the Bible and Christian history would have more authority than Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, which Weikart makes the centerpiece of his formal definition of Darwinism.

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Postscript: In Part I, I noted how Dr. Weikart denied that theistic evolutionism could be seen as a type of creationism. However, William Dembski, the prime guru of Intelligent Design, seems to disagree. In a blogpost on Uncommon Descent (June 12, 2008), he chided theistic evolutionists for being enemies of ID, and then remarked: “You know, I would be happy to sit down with theistic evolutionists and discuss our differences. I think they are wrong to baptize Darwin’s theory as God’s mode of creation.” See further: here.

3 comments:

  1. Compare Weikart's attempt to equate Darwinism with Nazism, with Luther's plans for the Jews and see which is a better fit.

    First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, blaspheming of his son and of his Christians....

    Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed...

    Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.

    Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb...

    Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews.

    Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasures of silver and gold be taken from them for safekeeping...

    Seventh, I recommend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam .

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  2. Does Weikart ever explain how people could read Darwin and think he was ever talking about Jews?

    Does Darwin ever mention Jews or Judaism in Origin or the Descent of Man?

    So how did Hitler connect Darwinism with 'Kill-the-Jews', in the strange world of Weikartism?

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  3. From the London Times , December 3rd 1935

    Herr Himmler enjoined the S.S. to make themselves a model of physical manly perfection. Recruitmcnt was designed [he said] to single out those nearest the plhysical ideal of the Nordic-conditioned being," and would become ever stricter as "increasing understanding of blood and breeding " set the Gcrman people physically on the upward grade.

    Speaking of the religious attitude of the S.S. (who after training have largely withdrawn from the Christian Churches), he mentioned that the second of " 50 questions for the S.S. man " was Do you believe in a god ? " The reply was Yes, I believe in a Lord God."

    The third question was, "What do you think of anyone who does not believe in any got ? " The reply was, I regard him as a boastful and stupid mega lomaniac and unsuitable for us." They would not be the indissolubly plighted corps they were it we had not the convinced faith in a Lord God who stands above us and has crcated us and our Fatherland, our nation and this earth, and has sent us our Fuehrer.

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