Featured Post: Coming out in the LDS Church


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dawkins, Darwin, and the Holocaust

In Richard Dawkins book, The Greatest Show on Earth, Dawkins write an exceedingly long footnote attempting to deny Hitler's connection to Darwin. This connection has long been used by Christians to assert the destructive potential of science, and to try to discredit the theory of evolution. Dawkins writes,
"The popular canard about Hitler being inspired by Darwin comes partly from the fact that both Hitler and Darwin were impressed by something that everybody has known for centuries: you can breed animals for desired qualities. Hitler aspired to turn this common knowledge to the human species. Darwin didn't. His inspiration took him in a much more interesting and original direction. Darwin's great insight was that you don't need a breeding agent at all: nature--raw survival or differential reproductive success--can play the role of the breeder. As for Hitler's 'Social Darwinism'--his belief in a struggle between races--that is actually very un-Darwinian. For Darwin, the struggle for existence was a struggle between individuals within a species, not between species, races or other groups. Don't be misled by the ill-chosen and unfortunate subtitle of Darwin's great book: The preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. It is abundantly clear from the text itself that Darwin didn't mean races in the sense of 'A group of people, animals, or plants, connected by common descent or origin' (Oxford English Dictionary, definition 6.1). Rather, he intended something more like the OED's definition 6.II: 'A group or class of people, animals, or things, having some common feature or features'. An example of sense 6.II would be 'All those individuals (regardless of their geographical race) who have blue eyes'. In the technical jargon of modern genetics, which was not available to Darwin, we would express the sense of 'race' in his subtitle as 'All those individuals who possess a certain allele.' The misunderstanding of the Darwinian struggle for existence as a struggle between groups of individuals--the so-called 'group selection' fallacy--is unfortunately not confined to Hilerian racism. It constantly resurfaces in amateur misinterpretations of Darwinism, and even among some professional biologists who should know better."
As a theist, and a Christian, I can tell you that, when it comes to Hitler's atrocities being inspired by the ideas of Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins as absolutely, undeniably correct.

Weren't expecting that, were you? That's right, Dawkins is correct. Hitler was not likely inspired by Darwin. However, in the quote above, Dawkins falls back on his old habit of dodging a question rather than answering in a way that actually resolves the issue. If I were to answer the question in an exceedingly long footnote, "Was Hitler's holocaust inspired by the writings of Darwin?" I would do it like this:
"The popular canard about Hitler being inspired by Darwin comes partly from the fact that Darwin's Origin of Species did have a link further back in the causal chain leading to the Holocaust. Darwin did inspire a few family members and friends, such as Charles Davenport, who became major proponents of eugenics and a major force behind its implementation in numerous countries. It is fairly well-known that Hitler and the Nazis were inspired by American policies in eugenics. Darwin inspired eugenics and eugenics inspired Hitler. Does this mean that Darwin inspired Hitler? Absolutely not. Eugenics was an unethical corruption of a scientific truth and is not at all what Darwin intended. It has little or nothing to do with Darwinian evolution by natural selection. The Holocaust was not the fault of science. If Christians are going to try to say that the Crusades are not the fault of Christianity because it was the result of a perversion of the doctrine, then they must apply the same reasoning here, or they are guilty of a double-standard. In addition, the Holocaust cannot be blamed on any single cause. As with all historically significant events, it was an extremely complex series of events which led up to it. The Holocaust likely would have happened regardless of what Darwin wrote, or whether he wrote anything at all. Saying that Darwin inspired the Holocaust shows an ignorant and short-sighted view of history. If Christians are going to try to say that 9/11 was not solely caused by religion, but was the culmination of many other forces, then they must apply the same reasoning here, or they are guilty of a double-standard. Darwin did not inspire Hitler or cause the Holocaust. The Holocaust cannot be blamed on science. Deal with it."


Post a Comment

Is there something here you like (or dislike)? Let me know! Your opinion matters!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...