Damien and Darwin

Daily Telegraph journalist Damien Thompson doesn’t like Evangelical Christians’ theory that Darwinism lead to Hitler’s death camps. He thinks this is another example of American religious right wing lunacy.

I won’t dispute with Damien that there are some seriously nutty right wing Evangelical Christians in America, but I don’t think this particular theory of theirs is that far fetched. The link isn’t a direct one, (Nietzsche actually criticized Darwin’s scientific theories) but he accepted Darwin’s basic cosmological views that there was no master designer behind nature, and surely the step from Darwinism’s “survival of the fittest” is only a short hop to Nietzsche’s philosophy of the superman and the super race, which was an inspiration for Hitler.

You have to ask the question, “Could Hitler have done what he did without Nietzsche and could Nietzsche have written what he wrote without Darwin first preparing the ground?”

Things that are not connected in directly causal ways are often connected in the long view in more subtle ways. I once argued that the Protestant Reformation led not only to the Thirty Year’s War, but also to the French and Russian Revolutions…but that’s another story.

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  • I agree with you completely on that last point.

  • No doubt Darwinism had an impact and was used to justify ideas coming from the growing neo-Germanic paganism at the time.

  • Hear, hear. Though, I fear the Plague had a lot to do with the Reformation. (Most of the good and holy priests and religious having died caring for the plague-ridden, while the careerist seventh-sons-of-minor-nobility clergy survived–who then perpetuated their mindset until the shock of the Reformation. Also there was as a general blaming of and distrust of the institutional church for having “failed” to stem the tide of the epidemic).

  • Hitler misinterpreted Nietzsche horribly. Nietzsche would have been horrified to learn what the Nazis did in their misapplication of his philosophies.

  • James

    From some of the materials that I have studied, the link from Darwin to the Nazis don’t pass directly from Nietzsche, but through Ernst Haeckel, a German biologist and philosopher. One of his quotes in “politics is applied biology.” He promoted the German ‘Volk’ as superior, and the need to protect and develop it through a program of eugenics. You can read more about him and his links to both Darwin and Nazism at Wikipedia.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Haeckel

  • Of course Darwin’s theories had an impact on the slaughters of the 20th century. Once God has been removed from His Creation, there are no consequences for any actions. That creation becomes centered around the individual and the guy in charge can dispose of everyone else however he chooses. Not just Hitler, but Stalin, Pol Pot, etc.