Historians, help me out here. I’ve recently become aware that many creationists have swallowed as accurate Richard Weikart’s book making Darwin complicit in the Nazi Holocaust of World War II.
I have always dismissed Weikart. His claims fly in the face of history recorded by too many reputable and trustworthy hands. Others aren’t concerned with what history really shows, or are simply ignorant of history (candidates for Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” segment). I am working to assemble what I hope will be a short piece showing the error of Weikart’s claims.
It seems to me there are many holes in the history case Weikart tries to make. And the history case needs to be nailed down, accurately.
Scientists already have responded. The American Academy for the Advancement of Science complains that the scientific inaccuracies in the film muddy the waters between science and religion unfairly and unnecessarily (see video here). The Jewish Anti-Defamation League has complained about the unholy Holocaust claims. Movie reviewers have not been kind to the film, with reviews like the New York Times:
One of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” is a conspiracy-theory rant masquerading as investigative inquiry.
Still there are creationists, and other people of faith out there, who grant credence to Weikart’s claims. So we need a clear rebuttal to Weikart’s claims, from the history viewpoint.
The National Center for Science Education has a brief that touches on these arguments; what other sources do you recommend on these specific claims listed below?
Weikart makes six claims (I’ve borrowed here from an article he wrote for American Spectator):
1. Darwin argued that humans were not qualitatively different from animals. The leading Darwinist in Germany, Ernst Haeckel, attacked the “anthropocentric” view that humans are unique and special.
That seems directly contrary to the view of Darwin presented in the better biographies. I don’t recall Darwin ever arguing this point at all. Is Weikart imagining this?
2. Darwin denied that humans had an immaterial soul. He and other Darwinists believed that all aspects of the human psyche, including reason, morality, aesthetics, and even religion, originated through completely natural processes.
Darwin never denied the existence of human souls. While Darwin made rather brilliant arguments for how morality could arise through evolution, going so far as to say that morality is necessary for the survival of a social species such as humans, at no point in his arguing for the natural processes does he deny or disavow the supernatural. Descent of Man will offer Darwin’s work on the rise of morals and art — what other sources would you recommend?
3. Darwin and other Darwinists recognized that if morality was the product of mindless evolution, then there is no objective, fixed morality and thus no objective human rights. Darwin stated in his Autobiography that one “can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones.”
Notes from Evil Bender, Creationist quotemining of Darwin: moral relativism edition, has already called out the gross error in Weikart’s claim here — this is quite contrary to what Darwin actually argued and said. But again, there should be a few other sources to rebut Weikart’s claim. Which do you recommend?
4. Since evolution requires variation, Darwin and other early Darwinists believed in human inequality. Haeckel emphasized inequality to such as extent that he even classified human races as twelve distinct species and claimed that the lowest humans were closer to primates than to the highest humans.
Actually, Darwin was a potent advocate of legal equality, for example in his advocacy and support for ending slavery. Weikart’s claim here completely steps away from reality. I admit to not being overly familiar with Haeckel’s work, partly because Haeckel doesn’t represent Darwin, partly because I have just never found the guy’s work particularly interesting or useful. What sources and arguments do you recommend here?
5. Darwin and most Darwinists believe that humans are locked in an ineluctable struggle for existence. Darwin claimed in The Descent of Man that because of this struggle, “[a]t some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.”
That’s a complete distortion of what Darwin wrote, of course — the NCSE site has a short rebuttal. Darwin was writing of the clash between colonists and natives, largely between Europeans and aboriginals, or between Europeans with guns and aboriginals without them. Key case in point: The Tasmanian “Wars,” which led to the almost complete extinction of native Tasmanians, a sad circumstance Darwin saw on his voyage. Got other sources you recommend?
6. Darwinism overturned the Judeo-Christian view of death as an enemy, construing it instead as a beneficial engine of progress. Darwin remarked in The Origin of Species, “Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.”
This claim is so full of hooey I’m not sure where to start. What do you think? Can you imagine how quickly Darwin would have gotten his shotgun out for some fool who suggests, like Weikart does here, that Darwin was not grieved by the death of Annie? Are you outraged at the butchering of the last paragraph from Origin of Species?
Comments are open. Please chime in.