This is a comment I gave in response to someone’s blog about the above topic, I thought it repost-worthy. Hope you find it informative:
“…but the following are pretty indisputable: 1. Evolutionary theory and social darwinism inspired Hitler. I think there are many sources talking about how the early eugenics movement (with much closer ties to leading evolutionary figures than scientist are comfortable admitting) was central to Hitler’s thinking.”
Darwin did not invent the idea of different races or racism or heredity or genetics or of one group being better than the other. That hitler invoked biological pseudoscience to justify his views does not automatically mean they were based on darwin’s ideas specifically, and in fact they weren’t. As evidenced by the fact that, as far as I know, there is not one single instance of hitler ever referring to darwin once in any of his writings, speeches or the quotes attributed to him, and there are many examples of him saying things which contradict evolutionary ideas, like that species can only vary within established “kinds”. Add to this that what hitler was doing was not eugenics but was actually systematic in-breeding and completely goes against not only the principles of darwinian evolution where a larger gene pool is always better but the pre-darwinian principles of basic animal husbandry. Add to this that darwin said that forced eugenics would be, in his exact words, an “overwhelming present evil” and that darwin’s writings are on the lists of books banned and burned under the nazi regime, the idea that hitler was inspired by darwin is absolute bullshit. Know what he was actually inspired by? The same thing modern anti-semites are inspired by.
“My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. “
– Adolph Hitler
The flaming cross is the symbol of choice for the KKK for a reason you know.
This “hitler was inspired by darwin” garbage is just another form of holocaust denial. A complete rewrite of history. Yes the nazis invoked science to justify their views but scientists in germany were not allowed to disagree with those views. And the nazis also chiseled swastikas in ancient ruins and released news reels about how they’ve discovered the ancient remains of the third reich. So why aren’t creationists blaming archeologists for the holocaust?
“2. Processes can’t be trivially extended across time scales. Things go wrong. The difference between micro and macro is a fundamental hole in our current understanding of evolution.”
Micro is change within a species, macro is everything else. Once a species splits off into two there is no mechanism to keep them similar and the two groups diverge more and more over time. I don’t see what your objection is really.
“3.” Like everyone else, scientists are influenced by prejudice and preconceived ideas. You should also remember that just because most people believe a particular thing does not necessarily make it true.”
Yes but the beauty of science is that it’s based on tests, not opinions. A scientist digging up a fossil and then speculating about it’s origins is pseudoscience. A scientist using a theory to predict what fossil should be in what strata in what environment, in what region of the world and should have what characteristics then going out and finding it or someone else finding it for him – that’s science. Once you know and declare what has to be true and can’t be true if your theory is correct, the chips fall where they may and your opinion or belief or bias is irrelevant.
“This last point has always been a fundamental critique leveled by the left – see for example the excellent work of Levins and Lewontin. In fact, the most dangerous manifestation of this is not creationism, but the rise of biological determinism and social Darwinist thinking.”
“Social darwinism” is, ironically, embraced by the religious right and generally not embraced by people who actually believe in evolution. The reason for this is, I suspect, that only people who believe in a personal, infallible deity are subject to the naturalistic fallacy, the idea that if something is natural it must therefore be good. But people who understand the actual science know that evolution and natural processes lead to extinction, pain, parasites, poisonous creatures, animals that can suffer eating each other and many other terrible things. In the united states you have the republican party which is disproportionately religious and contains virtually all of the evangelicals and fundamentalists and they’re the party of screw the poor and only the rich should get to go to the hospital. The secular, evolution accepting, liberal party is the party that believes in a universal social security net for everyone. So the idea that accepting evolution is a slippery slope to “social darwinism” to me seems backwards. Understanding what evolution actually is and how it works tends to inoculate people against it. It did with darwin.
“I think we have to be more honest about how we confront criticism of evolution. The creationists are clearly wrong — their theories are entirely made-up — but evolution is far from complete or correct in its current form. Defending evolution reflexively opens the door for dangerous biological deterministic currents, a problem much more serious than the cartoon critiques of Creationists.”
Of course we don’t understand everything, but that life evolves and has been evolving a long time is undeniable. We should be careful with our words, I agree.