Re: Washington Post Magazine article on ID

From: Robert Schneider <>
Date: Wed Feb 22 2006 - 16:00:04 EST


You may be familiar with the essay in "Natural History" magazine that
Stephen Jay Gould wrote about William Jennings Bryan. Gould noted that deep
concern that Bryan had in the way German militarists and others applied
Darwin's theory to support their own ideologies. His account of Bryan's
opposition to evolution was sympathetic and appreciative.

Bob Schneider

----- Original Message -----
From: "Ted Davis" <>
To: <>; <>
Sent: Wednesday, February 22, 2006 1:09 PM
Subject: Re: Washington Post Magazine article on ID

>>>> Pim van Meurs <> 02/22/06 12:28 PM >>>questions
>>>> the
> validity of this part:
> Or eugenics and Nazism
> "From this ill-conceived theory, she concluded, much harm had arisen. Nazi
> Germany had taken Darwin's ideas about natural selection, the credo that
> only the fittest survive, and followed it to its extreme conclusions --
> anti-Semitism, eugenics and death camps."
> Ted responds:
> I know this has come up before on this list, and it's a complex historical
> question to which there is no simple answer. However, I would say that to
> a
> considerable degree the excesses of Hitler were seen to be justified by
> evolution. That is, there is a clearly identifiable current of German
> "scientific" thinking in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, thinking
> that Hitler fell heir to and adopted, thinking that explicitly linked
> evolution with both racism (ie, German "Aryan" supremacy) and militarism
> (ie, Germany *ought* to dominate the rest of the world, it's only the law
> of
> nature worked out). They aren't making this up, Pim.
> Now I'm not saying that other factors weren't operative here, such as old
> fashioned antisemitism as promoted by Christians and others (don't
> overlook
> "others"). But evolution, at least as it was presented by German
> intellectuals such as Haeckel, did seem to give "scientific" impetus and
> respectability to it. If you don't believe this, have a look at the
> following article:
> George J Stein, "Biological Evolution and the Roots of Nazism," American
> Scientist 76 (1988): 50-58, reprinted from a collection called The
> Sociobiology of Ethnocentrism, ed. V. Reynolds et al (1987). It's a real
> eye-opener, not for "holocaust denyers" but for what we might perhaps call
> "evolution as racism" denyers.
> The best response to those who use this argument as yet another reason not
> to teach evolution (and this was one of Bryan's most compelling arguments
> 80
> years ago, Henry Morris and company didn't invent it), is to do two
> things,
> IMO. (1) Do one's best to separate science as science from science as
> grand
> metaphysical program, as one should do for folks like Dawkins. (2) Point
> out that lots of good Christian creationists (ignoring for the moment lots
> of libertines and other non-Christians at the same time) supported
> slavery,
> and used the Bible to that end, indeed used the supposed separate creation
> of various "races" as support for slavery.
> The history is complex, as usual, and a comment linking racism and
> evolution can certainly mislead, if taken out of context. But the actual
> historical context does show that it isn't wildly off base, any more than
> linking Darwinism to scientific atheism would be wildly off base.
> Ted
Received on Wed Feb 22 16:01:07 2006

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