Darwin’s Influence




Michael Greer

Michael Greer

By Michael Greer

There are times in our lives when we have moments of clarity about something we didn’t previously understand. Last night, I had one of those moments.

American Freedom Alliance’s Avi Davis presented another informative and insightful Literary Café event, “Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany”. The book discussed was “From Darwin to Hitler” by Richard Weikart.

The evening started with a short film by John West: “The Biology of the Second Reich (the Social Darwinist Origins of the First World darwin.to.hitlerWar)”. This was followed by a Skype chat with Mr. West himself. His film is based on Richard Weikart’s book, which is about the influence Darwin’s Theory of Evolution had on Germany’s leaders and society. Before World War I, Germany had a very sophisticated society. Its educational system was second to none, and its scholarly and scientific output was admired worldwide. The intelligentsia, in their arrogance, fell prey to Darwin’s theory.

Darwinism undermines the Judeo-Christian ethic and the sanctity of life. I have never understood how an intelligent, sophisticated society could go from being so civilized, to exterminating entire races of people. I wondered why there was little to no outcry from the general population. But, if you believe man is the result of “natural selection”, and life is about “survival of the fittest”, then it isn’t such a leap to accept that extermination of an inferior race is a necessary part of the evolutionary process ~ no matter how distasteful such a necessary part might be.

Germans believed they were a superior race. Many saw war as a biological, even moral, necessity in the progression toward natural selection. Evolutionary ethics promoted eugenics as a way of keeping the race superior. The only way to do that was to eliminate “inferior” people. The conflict was who would decide which people were inferior.

Darwinism spawned many movements that denied the sanctity of life. I think that’s what I had not previously realized, that Darwinism had influenced so many biologists, philosophers, and scholars during late 1800’s and early 1900’s. People like Margaret Sanger, who founded Planned Parenthood to eliminate the black race. And Peter Singer, who believed humans are not superior to animals. He coined the term “speciesism”, which is the “prejudice” of human superiority to animals.

Darwinists believed morality was not fixed, that it “evolved” as times changed. They believed anything that improved the superior race was moral, and anything that degraded the superior race was immoral. Therefore it was moral to eliminate inferior, weaker people.

Professor Weikart’s book examines Darwinism’s influence on Hitler and German scholars. He explores moral relativism, evolutionary ethics, devaluing the sanctity nazi-german-propaganda-christopher-purcell[1]of life, de-humanizing the disabled, and eugenics. He doesn’t suggest that Darwinism caused Nazism, only that it was an influence. Hitler embraced evolution’s survival of the fittest and claimed it was a moral imperative. In “MeinKampf”, he says “preservation of culture is tied to the iron law of necessity and the right of victory of the best and strongest … Whoever wants to live, must struggle, and whoever will not fight in this world of eternal struggle, does not deserve to live. Even if this is harsh, it is simply the way it is”. Hitler considered the Jews dishonest, greedy, and immoral, and, therefore, inferior. Eliminating them was moral, according to evolutionary principles.
Richard Weikart’s book is well researched and extensively footnoted. Dr. Weikart is a professor of history at Cal State, Stanislaus.

I had never realized the depth of influence Darwin had on scholars of that era, and I wonder how much he prejudiced their studies. Were they able to be objective, or did they look for how evolution fit their worldview? I can see how Darwinism was so readily embraced by the authors and founders of every political movement responsible for the moral decline of recent history.

Fabian Socialist George Bernard Shaw believed that people should have to justify their existence, or not be allowed to live. I can’t help but compare that to what is happening today.

Our schools are teaching evolution as fact, although it is still only a theory. If schools insist on teaching it as fact, they should then accept its “natural selection” and “survival of the fittest” precepts. They should reject the sanctity of life. According to evolution, if a life can’t survive on its own, it shouldn’t. Superior races should reproduce, and inferior ones should be allowed to die out. That would require us to stop vaccinating people, stop using life-saving methods, stop transplanting organs, and stop supporting the poor. Wouldn’t that be the natural evolution of Darwin’s theory?


Michael Greer retired from the film/television industry and is the co-organizer of the Santa Monica Tea Party and the Los Angeles Tea Party, on the board of directors of the Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights and was a member of the Republican Central Committee for the 41st Assembly District.  Her website is: http://madderthanhell.wordpress.com/

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Phil Erwin

A well-written synopsis, Ms. Greer, and not the first such that I’ve seen from you. Your thinking is clear and your writing crisp and effective.

However, you have overlooked (as most do) the role that culture now plays in the human condition. Darwin’s theory was based strictly on, and related strictly to, the changes in physiological characteristics of a population over time, based on the interactions between that population’s gene pool and the environment. The “stronger” were the ones who most successfully carried on their genes through their progeny. The “weaker” were those who died too soon to do that. But humans are now able to effect their own gene pool in ways no other species can — through genetic engineering, for example; or simply through medical technologies as “mundane” as life-saving transfusions on injury victims. Cultural and technological advances make the question of “survival” more than simply a contest of who is “stronger.” So Darwin’s theory, which so effectively explains evolutionary observations that it can be taken as “fact” (i.e., “Natural Law”), is no longer the ONLY explanation for how human society can evolve.

In other words: “Selection,” “survival” and “the fittest” don’t really have the same meaning for humans that they once did, and still do for all other species (excepting the influence of humans on other species.) Human technology is re-defining the concept of “the fittest,” just as human altruism has altered the particulars of “survival.” These changes don’t negate or conflict with Darwinism, they simply alter the evolutionary outcomes.

So it is not necessary for biologists to “reject the sanctity of life” in order to be practicing Darwinists. They simply need recognize that technologies alter the parameters of the survival equation. It is HOW those parameters are altered that carry the moral and spiritual challenges. We can help Downs Syndrome babies survive to adulthood. That’s a moral thing to do, though it doesn’t help the species. But should we also support them procreating? (I don’t actually know whether they can, but you get the point of the example.) Or should we discourage that, on either sociological or moral grounds? And if the latter, should “discourage” translate as “preclude”?

The closer we step to that last choice, the closer we move toward the Germany you describe. The only way to avoid that is to recognize that Science is nothing more than a toolkit; it cannot make our moral and ethical choices for us. “Evolution” doesn’t say whether an organism should survive, or not; it merely proposes that it cannot procreate once it is dead. And with the advent of frozen sperm and in vitro fertilization, humans have already stepped around that postulate. That doesn’t mean Darwin’s theory is no longer valid; it just means we have tools that other species do not, and we can alter the evolutionary outcome by wielding those tools.