Anti-Semitism Evolution History Holocaust Intelligent design/creationism Pseudoscience Skepticism/critical thinking

Random dispatch from the road: More on Darwin & Hitler

The other day, in the wake of D. James Kennedy’s dishonest documentary Darwin’s Deadly Legacy, which blatantly tried to blame the Holocaust and Nazi racial hygiene policies to Darwin’s theory of evolution in a totally dishonest way. Particularly ridiculous was Richard Weikart’s emphasison the observation that the Nazis used the term “selection” when doctors met each new train transport of Jews at the entrances to the camps to choose who would go straight to the gas chambers and who would survive a while to work, most likely to die in a matter of weeks or months of a combination of starvation, overwork, and disease–or were sent to the gas chambers themselves if they ceased to be able to work as hard as demanded by camp commanders.. Given that Richard Weikart is an historian, it’s really hard to understand how he could make such an easily debunked claim, unless one either postulates that he has no clue about what evolutionary theory actually says, he’s intentionally being misleading, or both. (Hint: In evolutionary theory “selection” requires differential reproductive fitness based on variation in a trait or traits. “Selection” as practiced by the Nazi doctors at the camps involved only a choice of who would die immediately and who would die later, with the intention being to get some work out of prisoners who looked reasonably healthy before they too died. There was never any intent that any of them would survive the experience, and the only reason thousands did was because the Third Reich fell before they actually died.

In any case, I pointed out that Hitler frequently referred to Jews as “bacilli” causing a “disease” in the German volk and in any nation in which they were found or as a “cancer” eating away at the breast of Germany. Indeed, Hitler used this terminology at least as much as he did terminology justifying the “strong” ruling over the “weak.” Given that, I sarcastically asked why ID advocates didn’t routinely blame the Holocaust on Louis Pasteur or Robert Koch, two great scientists largely responsible for demonstrating that microorganisms cause infectious disease, or on William Halstead, the great 19th century surgeon who was the foremost advocate of radical extirpation of cancerous tumors as the only means of cure. (As radical as his surgeries were, given the technology of the 19th and early 20th century, he was probably right. Remember, there was no such thing as chemotherapy or radiation therapy back then; surgery really was the only cure for solid tumors.) Because I happened to be on the road, I couldn’t find as many quotes as I would have liked to support my sarcasm.

Fortunately for me, Sergey Romanov over at Holocaust Controversies has provided some explicit quotes by Hitler likening himself to Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur. One example:

I feel I am like Robert Koch in politics. He discovered the bacillus and thereby ushered medical science onto new paths. I discovered the Jew as the bacillus and the fermenting agent of all social decomposition. (10 July 1941, Hitler’s Table Talk.)

Here’s another such quote from the same source that Sergey cites:

Thus Russia had become a dangerous plague-centre [Pestherd] for the whole of humankind…If even one state, on whatever grounds, tolerated a Jewish family in its midst, this would become the breeding-ground for bacilli for a new subversion. If there were no more Jews in Europe, the unity of the European states would not be disturbed any more. (Meeting with the Croatian Minister of Defence, Marshal Slavko Kvaternik, on 21 July 1941)

Given Hitler’s obsession with bacteria, germ theory, and viewing National Socialism as an “immune system” against the “bacillus” of the Jew, it’s far more plausible to blame the Holocaust on Pasteur, Koch, and germ theory than it is on Darwin. As Sergey adds sarcastically, “I guess, we should burn all the immunology textbooks”

At most Hitler’s racial ideas involved selective breeding, something known to farmers for millennia prior to the 1930’s. In that aspect, his plan to reshape the German race was more akin to “intelligent design” than Darwin’s theory of evolution. In addition, it’s quite possible to make an even more compelling argument that Christianity played a major role in shaping Hitler’s vision of eliminating the Jews.

So loony is D. James Kennedy’s thesis blaming Hitler on Darwin that even the ADL has come out against it:

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today blasted a television documentary produced by Christian broadcaster Dr. D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries that attempts to link Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution to Adolf Hitler and the atrocities of the Holocaust. ADL also denounced Coral Ridge Ministries for misleading Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute for the NIH, and wrongfully using him as part of its twisted documentary, “Darwin’s Deadly Legacy.”

After being contacted by the ADL about his name being used to promote Kennedy’s project, Dr. Collins said he is “absolutely appalled by what Coral Ridge Ministries is doing. I had NO knowledge that Coral Ridge Ministries was planning a TV special on Darwin and Hitler, and I find the thesis of Dr. Kennedy’s program utterly misguided and inflammatory,” he told ADL.

ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said in a statement: “This is an outrageous and shoddy attempt by D. James Kennedy to trivialize the horrors of the Holocaust. Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan to exterminate the Jewish people. Trivializing the Holocaust comes from either ignorance at best or, at worst, a mendacious attempt to score political points in the culture war on the backs of six million Jewish victims and others who died at the hands of the Nazis.

It must be remembered that D. James Kennedy is a leader among the distinct group of ‘Christian Supremacists’ who seek to “reclaim America for Christ” and turn the U.S. into a Christian nation guided by their strange notions of biblical law.”

The documentary is scheduled to air this weekend along with the publication of an accompanying book “Evolution’s Fatal Fruit: How Darwin’s Tree of Life Brought Death to Millions.”

A Coral Ridge Ministries press release promoting the documentary says the program “features 14 scholars, scientists, and authors who outline the grim consequences of Darwin’s theory of evolution and show how his theory fueled Hitler’s ovens.”

Ouch. That’s going to leave a mark, particularly the part pointing out D. Jame’s Kennedy’s status as a leader of the Christian Supremacy movement. Even more amusing is the lame response published on WorldNet Daily defending the thesis behind the special. I won’t bother to deconstruct it, as it’s been well dismantled by Ed Brayton.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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