Let's Play the "Evolution = Nazism" Game

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, Universityof Wisconsin - Green Bay
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Ben Stein's Expelled is merely the latest in a long line of creationist pieces that argue that, since Hitler appealed to evolution to justify his ideas, therefore evolution bears much of the blame for Nazism and the Holocaust. Evolutionists retort that it's always possible to misuse any belief system, but that doesn't make the belief system itself wrong.

I think that's wussy.

First, it is fair to examine the role a belief system has in abuses that arise from it. It's certainly fair to examine the role that Western leftists played in making Stalin's and Mao's purges possible, or examine the question whether Vietnam activists abetted the Khmer Rouge atrocities.

Second, it's noble to persuade your adversary with calm reason. But it's far more satisfying to grab your adversary's best weapon and beat him to a bloody pulp with it. D'Artagnan is cool and gets the dates, but I'll bet Hagar the Horrible's fighting style is more fun any day.

So, you wanna play "Who's responsible for Hitler?" Fine, let's play.

Where Did Hitler Get the Idea to Persecute the Jews?

I can understand, if not condone, Hitler's animosity to the Russians. Communism was at one of its nadirs of barbarism, though we could argue endlessly whether Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot was the most evil. And the fear of invasion from the east is a primal one in Europe, fed by repeated invasions from the East. Although it had been 700 years since the Mongol invasions, the Turkish Empire was dead, and maybe it was time to let it go.

But why the Jews? Walled up in ghettoes, barred from many occupations, what threat were they to anybody? Yet somebody, for centuries, had been fanning irrational hatred of the Jews. Somebody gave Hitler this idea. Who was it?

Nazi anti-Judaism was the work of godless, anti-Christian criminals. But it would not have been possible without the almost two thousand years' pre-history of 'Christian' anti-Judaism.. 
                                                                                                            - Hans Kung

So Here's My Plan

One famous medieval diatribe against the Jews has an elaborate plan for making their lives miserable:

  1. 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 of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians. [All together now: "And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they'll kno-o-ow we are Christians by our love."]
  2. Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. [gypsies were among the victims of the Holocaust, too] This will bring home to them the fact that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.
  3. 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.
  4. Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb.
  5. Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside, since they are not lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let them stay at home....If you great lords and princes will not forbid such usurers the highway legally, some day a troop may gather against them, having learned from this booklet the true nature of the Jews and how one should deal with them and not protect their activities. For you, too, must not and cannot protect them unless you wish to become participants in an their abominations in the sight of God. Consider carefully what good could come from this, and prevent it. [Anyone who protects the Jews from violence is sinning, and a little lynching might not be such a bad thing.]
  6. Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. The reason for such a measure is that, as said above, they have no other means of earning a livelihood than usury [whose fault was that?], and by it they have stolen and robbed from us all they possess. [Predatory lending, 16th century style. Just the other day I was walking down the street and somebody pointed a gun at me and forced me to borrow money.]
  7. Seventh, I recommend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, 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 (Gen. 3:19). For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.

What did the Jews do to deserve all this?

I have read and heard many stories about the Jews which agree with this judgment of Christ, namely, how they have poisoned wells, made assassinations, kidnapped children, as related before. I have heard that one Jew sent another Jew, and this by means of a Christian, a pot of blood, together with a barrel of wine, in which when drunk empty, a dead Jew was found. There are many other similar stories. For their kidnapping of children they have often been burned at the stake or banished (as we already heard). I am well aware that they deny all of this. However, it all coincides with the judgment of Christ which declares that they are venomous, bitter, vindictive, tricky serpents, assassins, and children of the devil who sting and work harm stealthily wherever they cannot do it openly. [In other words, the fact that they deny these crimes proves that they're criminals]

But what about all those Christian commands to show mercy to others?

Nor dare we make ourselves partners in their devilish ranting and raving by shielding and protecting them, by giving them food, drink, and shelter, or by other neighborly acts...

Now let me commend these Jews sincerely to whoever feels the desire to shelter and feed them, to honor them, to be fleeced, robbed, plundered, defamed, vilified, and cursed by them, and to suffer every evil at their hands -- these venomous serpents and devil's children, who are the most vehement enemies of Christ our Lord and of us all. And if that is not enough, let him stuff them into his mouth, or crawl into their behind and worship this holy object. Then let him boast of his mercy, then let him boast that he has strengthened the devil and his brood for further blaspheming our dear Lord and the precious blood with which we Christians are redeemed. Then he will be a perfect Christian, filled with works of mercy for which Christ will reward him on the day of judgment, together with the Jews in the eternal fire of hell!

Thank heaven for theologians who can discern the truth! If it weren't for this explanation, I might read Matthew 25:35 ("For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in") and get a completely different impression.

Anti-Semitism is the fruit of centuries of teaching by Popes and the Catholic Church, like the above excerpts, by Pope Ooops, my bad. That's not by a Pope or Catholic theologian. That was written by Martin Luther; it's a thoroughly evil little pamphlet from 1543 titled On the Jews and Their Lies. This is the guy that Halley's Bible Handbook calls "Next to Jesus and Paul, the Greatest Man of all the ages." A bit further along, we read "Persecution is the spirit of the DEVIL, even though carried on in the name of Christ." Apparently Halley never read Luther's writings. (You can find Luther's diatribe quoted in William Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and many other places. You will probably not find it in a lot of "Christian" collections of Luther's works.)

Gotta love point 3, about taking all the books away. This from a guy who complained that the Catholic Church had taken the Bible away from the people.

The irony is that Luther, early in his career, condemned abuses of the Jews. He seems to have hoped that they would respond to his kinder, gentler Christianity. But when they didn't, he turned on them.

This is not to defend the Catholic Church, which has its own long list of anti-Semitic sins, but to demolish entirely the pretense that Things Would Have Been Different if Real Christians had been in charge.

There's more. Encouraged partly by Luther's break with Rome, the peasants of Germany revolted in 1525. In his letter An Admonition to Peace, Luther condemned the avarice of the nobility but had scant sympathy for the peasants. To them he wrote:

Again, it is not true when you declare that you teach and live according to the Gospel. There is not one of the articles which teaches a single point of the Gospel, but everything is directed to one purpose; namely, that your bodies and your properties may be free. In a word, they all deal with worldly and temporal matters. You would have power and wealth, so as not to suffer wrong; and yet the Gospel does not take worldly matters into account, and makes the external life consist only in suffering, wrong, cross, patience, and contempt for temporal wealth and life. [Bad peasants. Revolting merely because of oppression.]

ON THE THIRD ARTICLE [the peasants had drafted a manifesto with twelve articles] “There shall be no serfs, for Christ has made all men free.” That is making Christian liberty an utterly carnal thing. Did not Abraham and other patriarchs and prophets have slaves? Read what St. Paul teaches about servants, who, at that time, were all slaves. Therefore this article is dead against the Gospel. It is a piece of robbery by which every man takes from his lord the body, which has become his lord’s property. For a slave can be a Christian, and have Christian liberty, in the same way that a prisoner or a sick man is a Christian, and yet not free. This article would make all men equal, and turn the spiritual kingdom of Christ into a worldly, external kingdom; and that is impossible. For a worldly kingdom cannot stand unless there is in it an inequality of persons, so that some are free, some imprisoned, some lords, some subjects, etc.; and St. Paul says in Galatians 3:28, that in Christ master and servant are one thing. [Considering how often anti-evolutionists equate evolution with subversion, it's worth asking whether anyone who respects Luther, a man who hated freedom so vehemently, can call himself an American patriot. Imagine, all men equal! O the horror! At the very least, the irony of Martin Luther King being named after this man is overpowering. All the more so when we recall the whiff of lynch law in Point 5 above.]

Then compare these two passages:

The rulers unjustly take your property; that is the one side. On the other hand, you take from them the authority, in which their whole property and life and being consist. [Because life loses all its meaning if you can't boss people around.]

I must also give you an illustration from this present time. Pope and emperor have set themselves against me and have raged. Now how have I brought it about that the more pope and emperor have raged the more my Gospel spread? I have never drawn sword nor desired revenge. I have begun no division and no rebellion, but, so far as I was able, I have helped the worldly rulers, even those who persecuted the Gospel and me, to maintain their power and honor.

"I have begun no division and no rebellion." The mind just boggles. Within a short time, it was no more Mister Nice Guy. The pamphlet Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants really doesn't need much elaboration:

Stab, smite, slay, whoever can.

Luther was between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, many nobles blamed him for the Peasant Revolt (at least partly true) and other people condemned him for betraying the peasants in his later writings (also partly true). It was a no-win situation. But just as with the Jews, when his initial conciliatory approach failed, Luther turned vindictive.

Luther was an absolutely classic authoritarian, someone who felt justified in opposing any authority that impeded him but who could simultaneously demand that everyone else submit to authority. There's more than a passing similarity to Hitler, who lashed out at the intellectuals who spurned him by instituting a cult of authority. If Darwin bears some moral culpability for the Holocaust, where does that leave Luther and the people who have treated him as a hero?

Note for historically literate readers.

Everything Hitler Said About Evolution

Mein Kampf is available on line. The version I used is the James Murphy translation (1939). It's easy to download it and then do a word count. The results are interesting:

I can really see why people don't check this stuff out. It's so hard. It took me fully two minutes to find a link to an on-line version of Mein Kampf (courtesy of the Australian Gutenburg Project), at least a minute to download it, and two minutes more to do the word searches. Why, that's five whole minutes. As Hobbes once said to Calvin, "Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"

I have to salute Murphy. This is turgid stuff even in English. Making sense of it in German must have been no picnic. It's worse than even most of the comments on political blogs, if you can imagine such a thing.

Chapter X (Volume I): Why the Second Reich Collapsed

In the political field also observant eyes might have noticed certain anomalies of the REICH which foretold disaster unless some alteration and correction took place in time. The lack of orientation in German policy, both domestic and foreign, was obvious to everyone who was not purposely blind. The best thing that could be said about the practice of making compromises is that it seemed outwardly to be in harmony with Bismarck's axiom that 'politics is the art of the possible'. But Bismarck was a slightly different man from the Chancellors who followed him. This difference allowed the former to apply that formula to the very essence of his policy, while in the mouths of the others it took on an utterly different significance. When he uttered that phrase Bismarck meant to say that in order to attain a definite political end all possible means should be employed or at least that all possibilities should be tried. But his successors see in that phrase only a solemn declaration that one is not necessarily bound to have political principles or any definite political aims at all. And the political leaders of the REICH at that time had no far-seeing policy. Here, again, the necessary foundation was lacking, namely, a definite WELTANSCHAUUNG, and these leaders also lacked that clear insight into the laws of political evolution which is a necessary quality in political leadership.

Chapter XI: Race And People

Such a dispensation of Nature is quite logical. Every crossing between two breeds which are not quite equal results in a product which holds an intermediate place between the levels of the two parents. This means that the offspring will indeed be superior to the parent which stands in the biologically lower order of being, but not so high as the higher parent. For this reason it must eventually succumb in any struggle against the higher species. Such mating contradicts the will of Nature towards the selective improvements of life in general. The favourable preliminary to this improvement is not to mate individuals of higher and lower orders of being but rather to allow the complete triumph of the higher order. The stronger must dominate and not mate with the weaker, which would signify the sacrifice of its own higher nature. Only the born weakling can look upon this principle as cruel, and if he does so it is merely because he is of a feebler nature and narrower mind; for if such a law did not direct the process of evolution then the higher development of organic life would not be conceivable at all. [This is the only use even remotely related to biological evolution.]

Only after subjugated races were employed as slaves was a similar fate allotted to animals, and not vice versa, as some people would have us believe. At first it was the conquered enemy who had to draw the plough and only afterwards did the ox and horse take his place. Nobody else but puling pacifists can consider this fact as a sign of human degradation. Such people fail to recognize that this evolution had to take place in order that man might reach that degree of civilization which these apostles now exploit in an attempt to make the world pay attention to their rigmarole.

Unconsciously his instinct will submit to the knowledge that the preservation of the species, even at the cost of the individual life, is a primal necessity and he will protest against the fantasies of pacifist ranters, who in reality are nothing better than cowardly egoists, even though camouflaged, who contradict the laws of human development. For it is a necessity of human evolution that the individual should be imbued with the spirit of sacrifice in favour of the common weal, and that he should not be influenced by the morbid notions of those knaves who pretend to know better than Nature and who have the impudence to criticize her decrees.

The intellectual faculties of the Jew have been trained through thousands of years. To-day the Jew is looked upon as specially 'cunning'; and in a certain sense he has been so throughout the ages. His intellectual powers, however, are not the result of an inner evolution but rather have been shaped by the object-lessons which the Jew has received from others. The human spirit cannot climb upwards without taking successive steps. For every step upwards it needs the foundation of what has been constructed before--the past--which in, the comprehensive sense here employed, can have been laid only in a general civilization. All thinking originates only to a very small degree in personal experience. The largest part is based on the accumulated experiences of the past. The general level of civilization provides the individual, who in most cases is not consciously aware of the fact, with such an abundance of preliminary knowledge that with this equipment he can more easily take further steps on the road of progress. The boy of to-day, for example, grows up among such an overwhelming mass of technical achievement which has accumulated during the last century that he takes as granted many things which a hundred years ago were still mysteries even to the greatest minds of those times. Yet these things that are not so much a matter of course are of enormous importance to those who would understand the progress we have made in these matters and would carry on that progress a step farther. If a man of genius belonging to the 'twenties of the last century were to arise from his grave to-day he would find it more difficult to understand our present age than the contemporary boy of fifteen years of age who may even have only an average intelligence. The man of genius, thus come back from the past, would need to provide himself with an extraordinary amount of preliminary information which our contemporary youth receive automatically, so to speak, during the time they are growing up among the products of our modern civilization.

Chapter IV (Volume II)   Personality And The Ideal Of The People's State

In order to elucidate this point of view it may be worth while to glance once again at the real origins and causes of the cultural evolution of mankind.

In our case this term has no meaning. Because everyone who believes in the higher evolution of living organisms must admit that every manifestation of the vital urge and struggle to live must have had a definite beginning in time and that one subject alone must have manifested it for the first time. It was then repeated again and again; and the practice of it spread over a widening area, until finally it passed into the subconscience of every member of the species, where it manifested itself as 'instinct.'

Chapter VII  The Conflict With The Red Forces

No. The general evolution of things, even though it took a century of struggle, placed the best in the position that it had merited.

The sovereign rights which the individual states renounced in order to form the REICH were voluntarily ceded only to a very small degree. For the most part they had no practical existence or they were simply taken by Prussia under the pressure of her preponderant power. The principle followed by Bismarck was not to give the REICH what he could take from the individual states but to demand from the individual states only what was absolutely necessary for the REICH. A moderate and wise policy. On the one side Bismarck showed the greatest regard for customs and traditions; on the other side his policy secured for the new REICH from its foundation onwards a great measure of love and willing co-operation. But it would be a fundamental error to attribute Bismarck's decision to any conviction on his part that the REICH was thus acquiring all the rights of sovereignty which would suflice for all time. That was far from Bismarck's idea. On the contrary, he wished to leave over for the future what it would be difficult to carry through at the moment and might not have been readily agreed to by the individual states. He trusted to the levelling effect of time and to the pressure exercised by the process of evolution, the steady action of which appeared more effective than an attempt to break the resistance which the individual states offered at the moment. By this policy he showed his great ability in the art of statesmanship. And, as a matter of fact, the sovereignty of the REICH has continually increased at the cost of the sovereignty of the individual states. The passing of time has achieved what Bismarck hoped it would.

Chapter XI   Propaganda And Organization

The year 1921 was specially important for me from many points of view. When I entered the German Labour Party I at once took charge of the propaganda, believing this branch to be far the most important for the time being. Just then it was not a matter of pressing necessity to cudgel one's brains over problems of organization. The first necessity was to spread our ideas among as many people as possible. Propaganda should go well ahead of organization and gather together the human material for the latter to work up. I have never been in favour of hasty and pedantic methods of organization, because in most cases the result is merely a piece of dead mechanism and only rarely a living organization. Organization is a thing that derives its existence from organic life, organic evolution. When the same set of ideas have found a lodgement in the minds of a certain number of people they tend of themselves to form a certain degree of order among those people and out of this inner formation something that is very valuable arises. Of course here, as everywhere else, one must take account of those human weaknesses which make men hesitate, especially at the beginning, to submit to the control of a superior mind. If an organization is imposed from above downwards in a mechanical fashion, there is always the danger that some individual may push himself forward who is not known for what he is and who, out of jealousy, will try to hinder abler persons from taking a leading place in the movement. The damage that results from that kind of thing may have fatal consequences, especially in a new movement.

The National Socialist Movement, which aims at establishing the National Socialist People's State, must always bear steadfastly in mind the principle that every future institution under that State must be rooted in the movement itself. It is a great mistake to believe that by acquiring possession of supreme political power we can bring about a definite reorganization, suddenly starting from nothing, without the help of a certain reserve stock of men who have been trained beforehand, especially in the spirit of the movement. Here also the principle holds good that the spirit is always more important than the external form which it animates; since this form can be created mechanically and quickly. For instance, the leadership principle may be imposed on an organized political community in a dictatorial way. But this principle can become a living reality only by passing through the stages that are necessary for its own evolution. These stages lead from the smallest cell of the State organism upwards. As its bearers and representatives, the leadership principle must have a body of men who have passed through a process of selection lasting over several years, who have been tempered by the hard realities of life and thus rendered capable of carrying the principle into practical effect.

Chapter XIII The German Post-War Policy Of Alliances

This evolution has not yet taken the shape of a conscious intention and movement to restore the political power and independence of our nation; but the blame for this must be attributed to those utterly incompetent people who have no natural endowments to qualify them for statesmanship and yet have been governing our nation since 1918 and leading it to ruin.

These quotes make it obvious that Hitler never used evolution in a rigorous biological sense. By far most of the usages use evolution as synonymous with "development" or "historical forces." Not a single usage is remotely scientific and not a single one uses evolution to argue that Germany should adopt some policy or take some course of action. Hitler's usages are almost those of a vitalist - he seems to think evolution is driven from within by "spirit of sacrifice in favour of the common weal" or "the vital urge and struggle to live." In fact, since the word "Entwicklung" occurs far more than twelve times and is mostly translated as "development," one has to wonder if Hitler was even aware of Darwin's ideas at all.

Where Are the Jews Now?

The ones who died in the Holocaust, I mean?

"I don't know?" Oh, come, come, come. Don't be so modest. One of the principal things a religion tries to answer is the question of what happens when we die. And your religion doesn't know? Shame on you.

Or maybe you're saying it is possible to go to heaven without being a Christian. I don't have a problem, personally, but then I don't go around spouting creationist babble about links between evolution and Nazism.

No, anyone who believes evolution was a root of Nazism knows perfectly well what the answer to this question has to be. The Jews are in hell, because they didn'tacceptJesusastheirpersonalLordandSavior.

O-kay. So evolution is evil because it led to the Holocaust. You follow a god who condemns people to hell after they've been through Auschwitz. So if evolution is evil, where does your belief system fall?

Now I can picture one possible response to this argument. And I really, really, really hope somebody makes it.

So You Think I'm Exaggerating?

From Australia, one of the few places where extreme fundamentalists can be even more evil than their American counterparts, an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, November 19, 2008:

A Baptist pastor has admitted telling Jewish leaders that Jews were "going to hell" and faced a fate "worse than the Holocaust" because they had not accepted Jesus as their saviour.

Australia, even counting Ken Ham and the crackpot government of Queensland, is nowhere near the bottom of the barrel. There's far worse than this. From the British Observer, December 9, 2007:

The rainy season is over and the Niger Delta is lush and humid. This southern edge of West Africa, where Nigeria's wealth pumps out of oil and gas fields to bypass millions of its poorest people, is a restless place. In the small delta state of Akwa Ibom, the tension and the poverty has delivered an opportunity for a new and terrible phenomenon that is leading to the abuse and the murder of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children. And it is being done in the name of Christianity.

Almost everyone goes to church here. Driving through the town of Esit Eket, the rust-streaked signs, tarpaulins hung between trees and posters on boulders, advertise a church for every third or fourth house along the road. Such names as New Testament Assembly, Church of God Mission, Mount Zion Gospel, Glory of God, Brotherhood of the Cross, Redeemed, Apostalistic. Behind the smartly painted doors pastors make a living by 'deliverances' - exorcisms - for people beset by witchcraft, something seen to cause anything from divorce, disease, accidents or job losses. With so many churches it's a competitive market, but by local standards a lucrative one.

But an exploitative situation has now grown into something much more sinister as preachers are turning their attentions to children - naming them as witches. In a maddened state of terror, parents and whole villages turn on the child. They are burnt, poisoned, slashed, chained to trees, buried alive or simply beaten and chased off into the bush.

Some parents scrape together sums needed to pay for a deliverance - sometimes as much as three or four months' salary for the average working man - although the pastor will explain that the witch might return and a second deliverance will be needed. Even if the parent wants to keep the child, their neighbours may attack it in the street.

If evolution leads to the Holocaust, how shall we judge Christianity? Remember,

 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit (Matthew 7:18 - emphasis added)

Go ahead, debate me on "Evolution = Nazism." I'll be looking forward to it.

Note for Historically Literate Readers

This pretty much excludes anyone who buys the "Darwin = Hitler" idea.

I am perfectly well aware of the complexities of Luther. He did launch the Protestant Reformation, although so many other people broke with Rome at that time that it seems inevitable that someone would get away with it. And almost single handedly, he standardized German with his translation of the Bible. But he was a deeply flawed, contradictory and conflicted person. And under the veneer of spirituality, once you start reading his works, was a very vile, spiteful, and hate-filled person. Most historians draw a pretty straight line from Luther's anti-Semitism to Hitler's.

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