Weikart's book

From: Ted Davis <TDavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Tue Sep 28 2004 - 10:16:00 EDT

Now that I've finally wakened up and gone into the office, I'll provide the
promised defense of Weikart's book against the flimsy review posted earlier.
 To start with, try this for a much fairer review:


And, lest anyone think I have some agenda against Sander Gliboff, the
author of the review I do not think is fair and unbiased, I'll note that he
teaches in the dept that gave me my doctorate. I don't know him, if I did
I'd send him this.

Dr. Weikart has replied to Prof Gliboff as follows:

Many thanks to the editors of H-German for inviting me to respond to
Gliboff's review of my book.

In _The Descent of Man_, Charles Darwin stated, "At some future period,
very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will
almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage
races."[1] Based on this--and, of course, much, much more--evidence, I
conclude that Darwin contributed to the development of theories of racial
extermination that were prominent among leading German biologists and
eugenicists in the early twentieth century. Despite Gliboff's dismissive
comments about my book, most scholars agree with me that racial struggle
an integral part of Darwin's account of human evolution, and some even
explicitly discuss the role of racial extermination in his theory.[2]

Gliboff tries to marginalize my position by pretending that the source of
my views is creationism, when I am sure that he knows--but somehow forgets
to mention--that many, many scholars have reached conclusions similar to
mine. For example, he criticizes me for "mak[ing] only cursory use of the
extensive secondary literature on the origins of National Socialism and
history of Darwinism." He then produces a list of the literature on this
topic, implying that I did not engage this literature. However, in my
I cited all the works he listed--plus many more he did not list--except
Peter Bowler's _Evolution: The History of an Idea_, which I have already
cited in earlier publications. Also, the books he cites often support my
position as much or more than his!

Also, Gliboff fails to mention that most of the literature on German
eugenics, including books by Robert Proctor, Paul Weindling, Stefan Kuehl,
and many others, discuss the linkages between Darwinism, eugenics, and
ideology. Here is what Peter Weingart, Juergen Kroll, and Kurt Bayertz
in their highly regarded work, _Rasse, Blut, und Gene: Geschichte der
Eugenik und Rassenhygiene in Deutschland_: "Ideengeschichtlich gesehen war
der faschistische Staat eine logische Konsequenz jenes Zweigs der Eugenik,
der dem sozialdarwinistischen Auslesegedanken verhaftet blieb"
from the viewpoint of the history of ideas the fascist state was a logical
consequence of that branch of eugenics which remained bound up with social
Darwinist ideas of selection").[3] I'm not claiming that all these
Scholars would agree in every way with my analysis, but the connections
between Darwinism and Nazism cannot be so glibly wished away, as Gliboff
tries to do.

Moreover, a rich literature on German social Darwinism--beginning with a
path-breaking essay by Hans-Guenter Zmarzlik, proceeding through Daniel
Gasman (whose work is problematic), Peter Emil Becker, Juergen Sandmann,
and moving on to more contemporary work by Mike Hawkins and Richard
Evans--shows the way that social Darwinism in Germany paved the way for
Nazism. Hawkins even spends an entire chapter showing the social
framework of Nazi ideology.

Further, Gliboff seems oblivious to the fact that it is a commonplace,
uncontroversial assertion among most historians writing about Nazi
that social Darwinism was a central ingredient of Nazi ideology. Has he
never read Detlev Peukert's essay, "The Genesis of the Final Solution from
the Spirit of Science," or noticed that Ian Kershaw in his two-volume
biography of Hitler repeatedly refers to social Darwinism as an integral
part of Hitler's ideology? Other scholars noting the strong Darwinist
to Nazism (besides those I=92ve mentioned above) include Eberhard Jaeckel,
Brigitte Hamann, Michael Burleigh, and the list could go on.

Gliboff also fails to mention that on the issue of the connection between
Darwinism and euthanasia, which is another significant topic in my book,
Ian Dowbiggin and Nick Kemp in their recent books on the euthanasia
movements in America and Britain agree wholeheartedly with my assessment.
Not only that, but Udo Benzenhoefer in _Der gute Tod?_ and Hans-Walter
Schmuhl in _Rassenhygiene, Nationalsozialismus, Euthanasie: Von der
Verhuetung zur Vernichtung 'lebensunwerten Lebens' 1890-1945_, both
the importance of Darwinism in shaping euthanasia ideology in Germany.
Schmuhl even states: "Die rassenhygienische Paradigma konstituierte eine
Ethik neuen Typs, die scheinbar durch die darwinistische Biologie
wissenschaftlich abgesichert war" ("The race hygiene paradigm constituted
ethic of a new type, which was ostensibly grounded scientifically in
Darwinist biology").[4]

Now none of this proves that I have succeeded in my analysis, and perhaps
some of these scholars I have mentioned will take issue with some aspects
of my scholarship. Also, I'm well aware that not all Darwin scholars
with my position on social Darwinism. Alfred Kelly in _The Descent of
Darwin_, for example, denies or at least downplays the Darwinism-Nazi link
(but he still contributed a nice blurb for my dust-jacket). Thus the
controversy over social Darwinism and its role in the advent of Nazism is
still a live debate, but I am confident--despite Gliboff and a minority
that refuse to entertain the idea that Darwinism could possibly have
produced unsavory political ideologies--that my position will ultimately

Finally, Gliboff's "dismay" about my work--heightened by the fact that it
"is rich in primary material, thoroughly documented, and clearly and
concisely written"--drives him to misrepresent my position at times. I
cannot deal with all of these misrepresentations, but let me give just one
glaring example of central importance. He asserts that the upshot of my
argument is that "All else [besides God-given morality] leads to Hitler."
Scholars will be happy to learn, however, that I overtly warn against such
an interpretation, stating in the introduction, "The multivalence of
Darwinism and eugenics ideology, especially when applied to ethical,
political, and social thought, together with the multiple roots of Nazi
ideology, should make us suspicious of monocausal arguments about the
origins of the Nazi worldview" (p. 4). I later state, "Nor am I making
absurd claim that Darwinism of logical necessity leads (directly or
indirectly) to Nazism" (p. 9) But Gliboff implies that I do make this
absurd claim, which is all the more perplexing, since my earlier book,
_Socialist Darwinism_, shows the impact of Darwinism on German socialist
thought. I invite readers to find out for themselves why Gliboff is so
worried about my book.


[1] Charles Darwin, _Descent of Man_, 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1981), 1: p. 201.

[2] See Adrian Desmond and James Moore, _Darwin_ (New York: Michael
1991), pp. xxi, 191, 266-68, 521, 653; Robert M. Young, "Darwinism Is
Social," in _The Darwinian Heritage_, ed. David Kohn (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1985), pp. 609-638; John C. Greene, "Darwin as Social
Evolutionist," in _Science, Ideology, and World View: Essays in the
of Evolutionary Ideas_ (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981);
Peter Bowler, _Evolution: The History of an Idea_, revised ed. (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1989), p. 301; Gregory Claeys, "The
'Survival of the Fittest' and the Origins of Social Darwinism," _Journal
the History of Ideas_ 61 (2000): pp. 223-40; I admit that some scholars,
however, emphasize Darwin's abolitionist sentiments and sympathy for other
races, e.g., Greta Jones, _Social Darwinism and English Thought: The
Interaction between Biological and Social Theory_ (Sussex: Harvester,
1980), p. 140; Paul Crook, _Darwinism, War and History: The Debate over
Biology of War from the 'Origin of Species' to the First World War_
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 25-28.

[3] Peter Weingart, Juergen Kroll, and Kurt Bayertz, _Rasse, Blut, und
Gene. Geschichte der Eugenik und Rassenhygiene in Deutschland_ (Frankfurt:
Suhrkamp, 1988), p. 171.

[4] Hans Walter Schmuhl, _Rassenhygiene, Nationalsozialismus, Euthanasie.
Von der Verhuetung zur Vernichtung 'lebensunwerten Lebens' 1890-1945_
(G=F6ttingen: Vandenhoek und Ruprecht, 1987), p. 2.

Finally, let me reinforce my earlier comments. Prof Gliboff has not only
given us an inaccurate and unfair evaluation of Dr. Weikart's book,
something that reviewers do all the time; he has also made part of his
review into something close to a type of ad hominem attack on Dr. Weikart,
simply b/c Dr. Weikart has some sympathy for the ID movement. In the
academic context in which this review is written, I suspect that Prof
Gliboff knows that his comments will be interpreted as dismissive, that he
will simply label Dr. Weikart a "creationist" and hope that no one takes his
book seriously. I hope I'm wrong about that, it would be a cowardly act.

Received on Tue Sep 28 10:47:17 2004

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Sep 28 2004 - 10:47:19 EDT