August 4, 1944: Germans capture Anne Frank and her family

August 4, 2011

When I look at the time line, I feel frustrated and angry.

On August 4, 1944, the German Army in the Netherlands raided the warehouse where Anne Frank’s family hid from the Nazis since 1942.  As you know, Anne died in a concentration camp shortly after — only her father survived from her immediate family.

History students will recognize that this was nearly two months after D-Day, the Invasion of Normandy that set off the events leading to liberation of Europe from Nazi rule and the collapse of Hitler’s grand visions of conquest.  How could Nazi minions not know their time was limited, and oppression ultimately futile?

Germany surrendered in May 1945.  In nine months, the Frank family would not need to hide.  Anne died in March 1945, less than eight weeks before the surrender of Germany.

More:

Photos from the liberation of Amsterdam, which occurred on May 6, 1945:


One Boy Scout’s story: Kazimierz Piechowski, “I escaped from Auschwitz”

April 14, 2011

Good reading:  An article by Homa Kahleeli in The Guardian from Tuesday, April 12, 2011:

I escaped from Auschwitz

Kazimierz Piechowski is one of just 144 prisoners to have broken out of the notorious Nazi camp and survive. Today aged 91, he tells his extraordinary story

Kazimierz Piechowski, Boy Scout who escaped Auschwitz - Guardian photo

Guardian caption: "Kazimierz Piechowski in 2011. 'We just planned that I would play the role of an SS officer so well that the guards would believe me.' Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the Guardian"


Quote of the moment: Martin Niemöller, “. . . I did not speak out . . .”

February 26, 2010

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

— Pastor Martin Niemöller

Martin Niemoller on a postage stamp, painted by Gerd Aretz in 1992 - Wikipedia

German theologian and Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemöller on a postage stamp, painted by Gerd Aretz in 1992 – Wikipedia

It’s spring, and school curricula turn to the Holocaust, in English, in world history, and in U.S. history.

Martin Niemöller’s poem registers powerfully for most people — often people do not remember exactly who said it.  I have seen it attributed to Deitrich Bonhoeffer (who worked with Niemöller in opposing some Nazi programs), Albert Einstein, Reinhold Niebuhr, Albert Schweitzer, Elie Wiesel, and an “anonymous inmate in a concentration camp.”

Niemöller and his actions generate controversy — did he ever act forcefully enough?  Did his actions atone for his earlier inactions?  Could anything ever atone for not having seen through Hitler and opposing Naziism from the start?  For those discussion reasons, I think it’s important to keep the poem attributed to Niemöller.  The facts of his life, his times, and his creation of this poem, go beyond anything anyone could make up.  The real story sheds light.

Resources:

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Creationist: Murdering Jews may be preferable to lying to prevent the murder

November 14, 2009

I’m cutting the monster a lot of slack with the headline.

P. Z. Myers publicized the e-mail exchange involving Bodie Hodge, a minor deity at the anti-science, creationist organization Answers in Genesis (AiG).  Myers was nice to the guy, contrary to the usual creationist cartoon of Myers as somehow immoral for being a non-worshipper of gods.  Well, he was nicer than I would have been.  But Myers expects Christians to exhibit no sense of shame, no common sense, and twisted morality.  I expect bettter of them.

A reader posed that age-old question to Hodge:  Is the Christian rule against lying so strong that a Christian should tell Nazi troops where Jewish families are hiding?  Hodge weasels later by saying he hopes he never has to make such a choice, and that he really doesn’t know how he’d act in that situation.  But this comes only after he says that telling  a lie to Nazis to save Jews will get one burned in hell.  And then he goes on to note it’s better to be in good with God than to act morally.

In other words, better to become an accomplice in the murder of Jews than to stand up against murderers.

I don’t get how these charlatans of religion, reason to such a point.

What would Jesus do?  We know.  When the crowd was threatening to stone to death a woman guilty of adultery and she sought refuge with Jesus, Jesus stood up to the mob and saved her life.  Just execution of Biblical law or shelter the accused, Jesus stood against the murder, even murder sanctioned by the religious rules of the community.

We also know that scripture endorses deception from time to time.  You know these AiG clowns are charlatans when they say stupid stuff like this.  Hodge tries to explain away another case of deception by inventing a scenario not found in scripture in which the lie doesn’t get told.

He’s forgotten the story of Jacob and Esau, and how Jacob and his mother conpsired to deceive Isaac in order to steal away Esau’s birthright (Esau and Jacob were twins, by the way).  Jacob got away with the deed, was then blessed by God.  He took a new name:  Israel.  He lived on to be the seed of Judaism, the religion Jesus followed and the foundation of Christianity.

To AiG, it appears that scripture is just a dusty old book, except when they can twist it to support their bigotry.  Here’s irony for you:  The story of Jacob is in Genesis.  You know, as in “Answers in Genesis.”  They don’t even know their own namesake book!

Here in America, as a nation we overcame that morality-or-religion problem with Huck Finn.  The ill-educated young teen, an absentee to grammar, faces the moral decision as he floats down the Mississippi with Jim, an escaped slave who has saved Huck’s life and is in other ways a very good friend.  Huck notes that the preachers are all agreed that Huck’s moral duty is to turn Jim in as an escaped slave, to condemn Jim to a continued life of slavery, should Jim survive the lashing.  Huck Finn puts the dilemma squarely:  Whether to obey God and turn in Jim to the authorities, or to burn in hell and let Jim live the life of a free man.  Huck agonizes, but decides:  He’ll burn in hell rather than give away his friend.

Myers wrote:

As a non-Bible believing amoral godless atheist, my first thought was that this is trivial: you lie your pants off. The ‘crime’ of telling a lie pales into insignificance against the crime of enabling the death of fellow human beings.

According to Bodie Hodge of AiG, though, I’m wrong. The good Christian should reject lies, Satan’s tools, in all circumstances, and should immediately ‘fess up the location of the Jews. He backs it up with Bible quotes, too.

If we love God, we should obey Him (John 14:15). To love God first means to obey Him first–before looking at our neighbor. So, is the greater good trusting God when He says not to lie or trusting in our fallible, sinful minds about the uncertain future?

Consider this carefully. In the situation of a Nazi beating on the door, we have assumed a lie would save a life, but really we don’t know. So, one would be opting to lie and disobey God without the certainty of saving a life–keeping in mind that all are ultimately condemned to die physically. Besides, whether one lied or not may not have stopped the Nazi solders from searching the house anyway.

As Christians, we need to keep in mind that Jesus Christ reigns. All authority has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18), and He sits on the throne of God at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33; Hebrews 8:1). Nothing can happen without His say. Even Satan could not touch Peter without Christ’s approval (Luke 22:31). Regardless, if one were to lie or not, Jesus Christ is in control of timing every person’s life and able to discern our motives. It is not for us to worry over what might become, but rather to place our faith and obedience in Christ and to let Him do the reigning. For we do not know the future, whereas God has been telling the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).

Gosh. I never thought of it that way. So…all those Christians who sheltered Jews during WWII are actually burning in hell right now for their sinful wickedness? That is so counterintuitive, it must be true!

One more time we should side with morality, and against creationist distortions of Christianity and morality.

With all the learning they get at that reeking cesspool the creationism museum, you’d think they could demonstrate the moral fiber of a tobacco-chewing, food-stealing, school-cutting runaway teen, Huckleberry Finn.

Full AiG post below the fold (I expect them to strike it down when they rethink; let all Christians pray to God they do rethink).

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The Wrong Stuff, on purpose: Weikart misquotes Darwin

May 10, 2008

Richard Weikart is an arm of the Discovery Institute’s disinformation brigade. A couple of years ago he published a book attempting to link Darwin to the Holocaust in a blame-sharing arrangement. This book and some of its arguments appear to be the foundation of the text used to write the script for the mockumentary movie “Expelled!” featuring Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein.

Which is to say, the basis for the movie is dubious. Weikart’s scholarship creating links between Darwin, science and Hitler is quite creative. It is also based on arguments created from Darwin’s writings that mislead the innocent about evolution, science and history, or which get Darwin and evolution exactly wrong.

Michael Ruse published an op-ed in a Florida paper in February — a piece which is no longer available there (anybody got a copy? Nebraska Citizens for Science preserved a copy) — and Weikart responded, restating his creative claims. Alas for the truth, Weikart’s canards are still available at the Discovery Institute website, putting an interesting twist on Twain’s old line: The truth will go to bed at night while a falsehood will travel twice around the world as the truth kicks off its slippers.

Looking for Ruse’s piece, I found Weikart’s response here and here. I composed a quick response pointing out the problems, which I would like to posit here for the record — partly because I doubt Darwiniana gets much traffic, partly because the censor-happy folks at Discovery Institute don’t allow free discussion at their site, and partly so I can control it to make sure it’s not butchered as Weikart butchers Darwin’s text.

At Darwiniana I said:

Weikart’s strip quoting of Darwin is most disappointing. [Weikart wrote:]

Darwin claimed in chapter two of The Descent of Man that there were great differences in moral disposition and intellect between the “highest races” and the “lowest savages.” Later in Descent he declared, “At 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.” Racial inegalitarianism was built into Darwin’s analysis from the start.

Darwin argued the differences in intellect and manners between the “highest” of men and the “lowest” of men did NOT change the fact that we are are all related — legally, Darwin’s argument would evidence a claim absolutely the opposite of what Weikart claims. Here are Darwin’s words from Chapter II of Descent of Man, as Darwin wrote them, without Weikart’s creative editing:

Nor is the difference slight in moral disposition between a barbarian, such as the man described by the old navigator Byron, who dashed his child on the rocks for dropping a basket of sea-urchins, and a Howard or Clarkson; and in intellect, between a savage who uses hardly any abstract terms, and a Newton or Shakespeare. Differences of this kind between the highest men of the highest races and the lowest savages, are connected by the finest gradations. Therefore it is possible that they might pass and be developed into each other. [emphasis added]

That’s not inegalitarianism at all — Darwin’s saying they are the same species, related closer than the poets allow. If we stick to the evidence, and [do] not wander off into poetic philosophy, we must acknowledge that Darwin’s own egalitarian spirit shows here in the science, too. It would be an odd kettle of fish indeed that a crabby guy like Hitler, who shared the antiscience bias of Weikart’s organization, would suddenly accept the science of a hated Englishman that ran contrary to his other philosophies. Who makes the error here, Hitler or Weikart? If they both think Darwin endorsed racism, they both do — but there is not an iota of evidence that Hitler based his patent racism on science, let alone the science of an Englishman.

As to the second quote, Weikart leaves the context out, and the context is everything. Darwin is not arguing that “savages” (the 19th century word for “aboriginals”) were less human, nor that they are a different species. He was arguing that in some future time there would appear creationists like Dr. Weikart’s colleagues at the Discovery Institute who will deny evolution because, once Europeans and others with guns conduct an unholy genocide (which Darwin writes against in the next chapter), and once humans wipe out chimpanzees, orangs and gorillas, the other great apes, the creationists can [then] dishonestly look around, blink their eyes and say, “Where are the links? There cannot be evolution between (Animal X) and humans!”

Darwin wrote:

At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked (18. ‘Anthropological Review,’ April 1867, p. 236.), will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, [emphasis added] and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.

In the end, Darwin wrote against genocide, against racism, and in favor of the higher thinking abilities of all dark-skinned people. He wrote in favor of Christian morality. Darwin himself remained a faithful, tithing Christian to the end of his life.

Such a man, and such amazing science, deserve accurate history, not the fantastic, cowardly and scurrilous inventions Dr. Weikart has given them. We should rise to be “man in a more civilized state” as Darwin had hoped.

Update, July 24, 2008, nota bene:  To anyone venturing here from the Blogcatalog discussion on intelligent design: Get over to the site of Donald Johanson’s Institute for Human Origins, and especially look at the presentation “On Becoming Human.”  Also check out the Evolution Gateway site at Berkeley, especially this page which explains what evolution is, and this page which offers some introduction for what the evidence for evolution really is.  One quick answer to a question someone asked there:  Between H. erectus and modern humans, H. sapiens, in the time sequence we have fossils of H. heidelbergensis and H. neanderthalensis.  It’s pretty clear that Neandertal is not ancestral to modern humans, but instead lived alongside modern humans for 50,000 years or so from the Middle East through Southern Europe.  To the question of actual transitional fossils, you’d need to hit the paleontology journals — there are a lot.  You may also benefit from taking a look at the articles at this special Nature site.


Call for help: Real story behind the Holocaust?

May 4, 2008

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?

There are a lot of Christians who should know better who have been misled by this claptrap. Will you help me make a brief against Weikart’s claims?

Comments are open. Please chime in.


Dangers of creationism: Synapse shutdown

May 3, 2008

One of the ultimate defenses of creationism, once you’ve demonstrated that there is no science and no good theology in it, is the creationist claim “it doesn’t hurt anyone.”

Well, yes, it does. Over the years I’ve noticed that creationism appears to suck the intelligence right out of otherwise smart or educated people. I also note that it tends to make otherwise good and honest people defend academic debauchery and dishonesty.

It’s as if claiming to be creationist hogs all the available RAM in their brains and forces a near-total synapse shutdown.

Cases in point: Creationists are scrambling to the defense of the mockumentary movie “Expelled!” in which Ben Stein trots out almost every creationist canard known to Hollywood in defending some of the greater misdeeds of the intelligent design hoaxers. Otherwise sane, good people, claiming to be Christian, make atrocious defenses of the movie.

I cannot make this up: Go see Mere Orthodoxy and Thinking Christian. Bad enough they defend the movie — but to defend it because, they claim, Darwin and Hitler were brothers in thought? Because evolution urges immoral behavior? I stepped in something over at Thinking Christian, and when I called it to the attention of Tom Gilson in the comments, he deleted the comment. (I’ve reposted, but I wager he’ll delete that one, too, while letting other comments of mine stand; he’s got no answer to any of my complaints.)

The stupid goes past 11, proudly, defiantly. The Constitution specifically protects the right of people to believe any fool claptrap they choose. These defenses of a silly movie come awfully close to abuse of the privilege.

Other useful things:

Update: Holy mother of ostriches! Tom Gilson at “Thinking Christian” has a nifty device that bans people from viewing his blog. Paranoia sticks its head into a whole new depth of sand!  Here’s a truism:  Creationists who like to claim Darwin was the cause of Stalin and Hitler, which is by itself an extremely insulting and repugnant claim, almost never fail to resort to Stalinist and Hitlerian tactics when their claims are questioned.  Call it Darrell’s Law of Evolution History Revisionism.


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