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A question for Ben Stein: Why are you singling out Darwin and ignoring the true inspirations for the Holocaust, Pasteur and Koch?

Nasal drone Ben Stein, as you would be hard-pressed not to know if you are a regular reader of ScienceBlogs, is hosting what looks to be a truly execrable crap-fest called Expelled!: No Intelligence Allowed. The movie basically consists of two themes: (1) Whining about “intellectual oppression” by those evil “Darwinists” directed against any valiant “intelligent design” creationist or anyone else who “questions” Darwin and (2) lots of blaming the Holocaust and other atrocities (but mainly Hitler and the Holocaust) on “Darwinism,” replete with lots of shots of Nazis, Ben Stein clumsily emoting at Dachau (and thus pissing on the ashes of his fellow Jews murdered by Hitler), and a few pictures of Stalin and other violent dictators thrown in for good measure. Indeed, it was not for nothing that I directed a Hitler Zombie attack against Ben Stein not too long ago.

I just have one question for Ben Stein: Why pick on Charles Darwin as the inspiration for the Holocaust?

P.Z. may have facetiously asked why Stein isn’t blaming Sir Isaac Newton for Hitler and demanding the academic freedom to “question” Newtonian physics, but it was clearly facetious. Hitler never mentioned Darwin in Mein Kampf, and, as far as I can tell, never mentioned him or “Darwinism” in any of his many public speeches, with the possible exception of one.

So why all this focus on Charles Darwin?

Consider this quote by Hitler:

For us, this is not a problem you can turn a blind eye to-one to be solved by small concessions. For us, it is a problem of whether our nation can ever recover its health, whether the Jewish spirit can ever really be eradicated. Don’t be misled into thinking you can fight a disease without killing the carrier, without destroying the bacillus. Don’t think you can fight racial tuberculosis without taking care to rid the nation of the carrier of that racial tuberculosis. This Jewish contamination will not subside, this poisoning of the nation will not end, until the carrier himself, the Jew, has been banished from our midst. Speech delivered by Hitler in Salzburg, 7 or 8 August 1920. (NSDAP meeting)

Hmmm. Here Hitler is likening the Jew to a disease, to a “racial tuberculosis” even. Who originated the germ theory of disease? Louis Pasteur! So why doesn’t Stein blame the Holocaust on Louis Pasteur instead of Darwin?

But, wait, here’s an even better example. Hitler actually explicitly likened himself to a a scientist, but not just any scientist…one specific scientist:

On the evening of 10 July 1941, Hitler declared at his table: ‘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.’

Hitler never explicitly likened himself to Charles Darwin. At least, if he did there is no record of it. Indeed, I challenge Ben Stein to show me an example where Hitler ever likened himself to Darwin. But he did explicitily liken himself to Robert Koch! (That evil atheistic baby-killer! Who knew?) In fact, Hitler even went one step further:

At Hitler’s table talk on 22 February 1942, the following statement was recorded:

It is one of the greatest revolutions there has ever been in the world. The Jew will be identified! The same fight that Pasteur and Koch had to fight must be led by us today. Innumerable sicknesses have their origin in one bacillus: the Jew! Japan would also have got them if it had remained open any longer to the Jew. We will get well when we eliminate the Jew.

In fact, it has been seriously argued that the Holocaust was based on not evolution, but concepts of immunology:

The law to which Hitler believed Germany was subject, I hypothesize, was the law of the immune system. Insofar as the German nation constituted a “single organism,” therefore one might expect it to act like every other organism–to reject cells identified as not-self. The Final Solution, it would appear, was generated based on this idea or fantasy that Germany was an actual body (politic) possessing an immune system. As a body possessing an immune system, the German nation would react like any other body–automatically destroying cells identified as foreign.


One of the clearest explications of National Socialism’s immunological concept of the nation-state was presented by Konrad Lorenz (later to win a Noble Prize for his work in ethology) in the 1930’s in the “German Journal of Applied Psychology and Characterology.” Lorenz explained that there was a close analogy between a “human body invaded by a cancer” and a nation “afflicted with subpopulations whose inborn defects cause them to become social liabilities.” Just as in cancer the best treatment is to eradicate the parasitic growth as quickly as possible, the eugenic defense against afflicted subpopulations, Lorenz claimed, is of necessity “limited to equally drastic measures.”


One of the images appearing with greatest frequency in the rhetoric of Nazi leaders is that of the Jew as bacteria or virus. In a speech before the Reichstag on January 30, 1937, Hitler explained that the anti-Jewish policy he had inaugurated in National Socialist Germany reflected his endeavor to make the German people “immune against this infection.” Measures enacted by National Socialism, Hitler said, were designed to enable the German people to avoid “close relationship with the carriers of this poisonous bacillus.”


At the Wansee Conference in 1942, Nazi chief Reinhardt Heydrich and other high-ranking Nazi officials met to determine the fate of 11 million European Jews. Their files contained voluminous statistics on the precise number of Jews in each country under Nazi occupation. With fanatic determination, they plotted to kill every single Jew in each of these countries. Immunologist Ronald Glasser reports that our battles against microbes have “never been a war of percentages.” Every microbe that enters our body, Glasser explains, has to be destroyed, not 98% of them or 99, but 100%. It has to be “total war; not one single enemy can be left alive.” Just one survivor, by continuing to grow, would eventually mean death, and “so all have to be eliminated.”

The above principles for eliminating the Jew from Nazi territory are clearly those of Pasteur and Koch, not Charles Darwin, and Hitler repeated this rationale on many occasions, as did his underlings! Oh, the perfidy! Where is Ben Stein on this one? How is it that he can’t recognize the true sources of Hitler’s evil. Not Charles Darwin. Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur! And, the clincher:

A chapter of Edleff Schwab book Hitler’s Mind (1992) focusing on Hitler’s attraction to immunology is entitled “The Pasteur-Koch complex.” Schwab poses the question of what possible connection Hitler could have discovered between the work of two scientists who had devoted their lives to the betterment of the human race and his own obsession with destroying Jewish people? He suggests that something must have “struck a chord when early in his life he heard and Pasteur & Koch;” their major scientific breakthroughs must have “fascinated him as he pondered the meaning of the world.” Hitler, Schwab suggests, found in Pasteur’s and Koch’s contributions a model that became the “nuclear element in his paranoid system and assumed a major role in his entire emotional life.”

The renowned chemist Louis Pasteur (1822-95) had reasoned that sickness in animals and people can be caused by bacteria. Support for this notion was provided soon after by the German researcher Robert Koch (1843-1910). The concept of social disease, Schwab theorizes, fused in Hitler’s mind with the teachings of these two bacteriologists, Pasteur and Koch. Hitler took it upon himself to become a self-appointed crusader to salvage the health of the nation.

Like Pasteur and Koch, Hitler saw himself as a benefactor of humankind. Just as a physician kills bacteria and viruses by applying medication to restore health, Hitler felt that by killing people he could save human civilization. In planning the Final Solution, Schwab suggests, Hitler thought he was applying the procedures of modern medical technology on a massive scale as a health-restoring program to assure human existence in the future. Thus did ideas about the body, disease and the immune system become the basis of Hitler’s paranoid belief system.

Clearly, if Pasteur’s and Koch’s discoveries were able to affect the young mind of the future mass murderer Hitler in such a profound manner, there must be something inherently evil in them, right? After all, that seems to be just what Expelled! says about Charles Darwin, isn’t it? So, Ben Stein, by your own sorts of arguments, shouldn’t you be blaming Pasteur and Koch for the Holocaust even more than Charles Darwin? After all, it’s questionable whether Hitler ever even mentioned Charles Darwin publicly even once as the inspiration for the Holocaust, but it’s undeniable that he mentioned Koch and Pasteur in public many times as his inspiration. In fact, based on the above information, I submit to you that it is at least as plausible to blame Pasteur’s and Koch’s sciences of immunology and microbiology for the Holocaust as it is to blame Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

So where are all the attacks on immunology and microbiology, Stein? Clearly Hitler admired those sciences far beyond evolution. Arguably, he found them far more inspirational to his evil mission than anything Charles Darwin ever wrote.

How about it Stein?

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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