Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Weikart update: I am confused

Yesterday I wrote a post, Richard Weikart and Darwinism, in which I critisized one of Richard Weikart's online articles, thinking that the article was representative for Weikart. Later yesterday I read Weikart's online response to critics of his book From Darwin to Hitler. And now I am confused. In the latter article Weikart writes:
Concerning the first charge (that I claim that every form of Darwinism led to Nazism), I stated quite clearly in the introduction: "Obviously, Darwin was no Hitler. The contrast between the personal lives and dispositions of these two men could hardly be greater. Darwin eschewed politics, retreating to his country home in Down for solitude to conduct biological research and to write. Hitler as a demagogue lived and breathed politics, stirring the passions of crowds through frenzied speeches. Politically Darwin was a typical English liberal, supporting laissez-faire economics and opposing slavery. Like most of his contemporaries, Darwin considered non-European races inferior to Europeans, but he never embraced Aryan racism or rabid anti-Semitism, central features of Hitler's political philosophy."
Ok, so now we know. But that still leaves us puzzled about, what 'Darwinism' is. Weikart continues:
I specifically denied that Darwinist thinkers are proto-Nazi. I also explained in my introduction: "The opposing view&emdash;that Hitler hijacked Darwinism&emdash;has significant supporting arguments, for many scholars have pointed out that Darwinism did not lead to any one particular political philosophy or practice. Social Democrats with impeccable Marxist credentials were enthusiastic about Darwinism and even considered it a corroboration of their own worldview. After reading Darwin’s Origin of Species, Karl Marx wrote to Friedrich Engels, 'Although developed in a coarse English manner, this is the book that contains the foundation in natural history for our view.' Furthermore, many pacifists, feminists, birth control advocates, and homosexual rights activists&emdash;some of whom were persecuted and even killed by the Nazis&emdash;were enthusiastic Darwinists and used Darwinian arguments to support their political and social agendas. Eugenics discourse was commonplace all across the political spectrum, causing the historian Atina Grossmann to convincingly argue that the path from eugenics and sex reform to Nazism was 'a convoluted and highly contested route.' Nazism was not predetermined in Darwinism or eugenics, not even in racist forms of eugenics."
It gets curiouser and curiouser, doesn't it? What is 'Darwinism'? The Nazis were Darwinists, because they were against for instance homosexuals, who in turn were Darwinists themselves. Is there anybody who isn't a Darwinist? A few sentences later, Weikart writes:
No, all Darwinism didn't lead to Nazism, and I of all people know this quite well. If my critics skipped the introduction of my book, they could also have learned my views in the conclusion, where I stated: "It would be foolish to blame Darwinism for the Holocaust, as though Darwinism leads logically to the Holocaust. No, Darwinism by itself did not produce Hitler's worldview, and many Darwinists drew quite different conclusions from Darwinism for ethics and social thought than did Hitler."
Ok, so I will assume that Weikart disagrees with "Darwin's Deadly Legacy", because everybody back then were Darwinists, even the Jews presumably. In the next paragraph, Weikart writes:
Concerning the second charge (that Nazism depends entirely on Darwinian thought), I specifically confronted this issue in my book, too, stating: "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."
But where is all this in Weikart's Discovery Institute article? Of course, you cannot write as detailed in an article as in a whole book. Yet, the article could certainly have spent a sentence or two on this just for sake of those of us (like me) that don't have time to read the constant stream of books from DI Fellows and their friends. A couple of sentences later:
In a class I teach at my university on the Nazi era, I discuss many factors shaping Nazi ideology: nationalism, the effects of World War I, economic problems, Christian antisemitism, etc.
This is, what the Darwinistic masses have been crying for, isn't it? But why is nothing of all this in the Discovery Institute article? Continuing, Weikart writes:
I do not believe that Nazism has one cause, and in my book I overtly reject a monocausal explanation. The reason I only discussed the role of social Darwinism and evolutionary ethics in the shaping of Nazi ideology should be obvious. My book is not primarily about Nazism. It is about evolutionary ethics. I never claimed that Darwinism or evolutionary ethics is the only cause of Nazi ideology, and I specifically denied that interpretation.
Well, well, well. So From Darwin to Hitler is about evolutionary ethics, and from the above, we can conclude that such a thing doesn't really exist. Any ethics can apparently be combined with evolution. That's, what most of us evolutionists say: no ethics can be derived from the theory of evolution just as no ethics can be derived from Newton's theory of gravity. But the Nazis weren't evolutionists. They didn't want to create a new species, but to recreate the original Germanic ("Aryan") race by weeding out the inferior genes that had come in with Jews and other "inferior" races. In the next paragraph we find these nuggets:
The reviewer in German Studies Review wrote: "This does not mean, Weikart insists, that Darwinism should be blamed for the Holocaust." In Science and Theology News the reviewer wrote: "Darwin’s ideas are not directly responsible for the Holocaust, Weikart claims, because the principles of evolution do not necessarily lead to Hitler’s destructive philosophy."
By the ever burning fires of hell, what is the whole shebang then about? Weikart agrees with just about anyone else outside of Coral Ridge Ministries, so how did he even get involved in Darwin's Deadly Legacy? The last paragraph begins thus:
What I demonstrated in detail in my book is that many leading Darwinists themselves argued overtly that Darwinism did indeed undermine the sanctity-of-life ethic, and they overtly appealed to Darwinism when they promoted infanticide, euthanasia, racial extermination, etc. I specifically noted that not all Darwinists took this position, but those who did were leading Darwinian biologists, medical professors, psychiatrists, etc. They were not some fringe group of ignorant fanatics; they were mainstream Darwinists.
But this still doesn't tell us, what 'Darwinism' is, does it? Anyway, if it hadn't been 'Darwinism', it would have been 'Christianism' or 'something-else-ism'. Politicians simply don't correlate their ideas with scientific theories - they make sure that scientific theories correlate with their ideas, if they can get away with it. And the paragraph ends thus:
They were not some fringe group of ignorant fanatics; they were mainstream Darwinists. Also, I did not simply show that leading Darwinists supported eugenics, infanticide, euthanasia, and racial extermination; I showed that they appealed overtly to Darwinism to justify their position. So, it is not Weikart who is reading Darwinism into the record. Darwinists themselves made these arguments. Therefore, critics of the position that Darwinism devalues human life should not attack me, but rather should attack those Darwinists I exposed in my work.
But what is 'Darwinism'? This is the crucial question we need answered. And wouldn't this people have referred to something else, if something else was in fashion? Is there something unique to Darwinists that make them worse than anybody else across the entire human history? A peek at Respectful Insolence John Wilkins on eugenics and Darwin is recommended. Also Pat Hayes (Red State Rabble) has some interesting posts about Weikart, such as this: Richard Weikart: Workin’ in a Quote Mine.

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A Christian in Satanist clothes