Just back in June, Michael Ruse argued against the tired argument that Darwin was somehow responsible for Hitler and the atrocities of the Holocaust. And now we must defend Newton. He is responsible, after all, for bombs dropping and bullets speeding. Not really, but it follows the same logic.
A Discovery Institute fellow has once again lambasted Charles for events which occurred after his death. See “The Dark Side of Darwinism” by David Klinghoffer for The Huffington Post on July 2, which reads, in part:
Darwin elaborated a picture of how the world works, how creatures war with each other for survival thus selecting out the fittest specimens and advancing the species. In this portrait of animal life, man is no exception. Any animal that strives to preserve the weak, as man does, is committing racial suicide. “Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind,” Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man, a policy “highly injurious to the race of man.”
Hitler did nothing more than translate the competition of species into obsessively racial terms. John West reminds us that while it’s true that Darwin himself was by all accounts a kind and gentle man, he was “better than his [own] principles.” The outline of a campaign of extermination — of whatever groups might be deemed unfit — is right there in the notorious fifth chapter of the Descent. Darwin assured readers that human sympathy would prevent such a horror, but his own concept of morality was itself an evolutionary one. Moral ideas evolved along with the species. There is nothing transcendentally compelling about our “sympathy.”
Darwinism was itself a major agent of dispelling sympathetic sentiments. Evolutionary thinking inspired modern scientific racism. For Darwin, evolution explained the phenomenon — so he saw it — of racial inferiority. Some races were farther up the evolutionary tree than others. Thus, in his view, Africans were just a step above gorillas.
In the hands of American racists, such observations came to justify not only eugenics but ugly restrictive immigration legislation like the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act, authored by a congressman from Washington State, Albert Johnson. He was inspired by the bestselling eugenics advocate of the time, Madison Grant, whose influential book The Passing of the Great Race sold more than a million and a half copies. The Johnson-Reed law, which excluded Asians from immigrating to the United States, was one of the irritants in U.S.-Japanese relations that led ultimately to the Pacific side of World War II.
“Ideas have consequences” — that is the often repeated mantra of this meaty documentary. Which is, come to think of it, another fact of history that tends to get lost, or suppressed, in discussions of Darwinism.
A picture of how the world works carries implications about how the world should work, must work. If morality is stitched into the fabric of reality rather than being merely a useful fiction, then here is no observation about reality that has no moral consequences. That much the victims of moral Darwinism, over the past century and a half, have found out to their sorrow.
Again, the application of a particular science – good or bad – does not say anything about whether said science is correct/true/proven/confirmed/what have you. Many blogs have responded to this beaten and ludicrous claim, so here are some links:
The Sensuous Curmudgeon: Klinghoffer Disgorges a Creationist Gusher (7/3/10)
The Sensuous Curmudgeon: Hitler, Darwin, and … Winston Churchill? (7/5/10)
PZ: Huffpo. Creationist. Nazis. Mix together and flush. (7/5/10)
The Primate Diaries: Darwin and Hitler, Again? (7/6/10)
The Primate Diaries: Responding to Discovery Institute at Huffington Post (7/6/10) & Eric was censored!
Thoughts in a Haystack: Shameless Assholes (7/7/10)
Please be patient, I am evolving as fast as I can!: Klinghoffer . . . again! (7/7/10)
Robert J. Richards, an historian of biology and Darwin scholar, addresses the claim: Darwin –> Haeckel –> Hitler in his book The Tragic Sense of Life: Ernst Haeckel and the Struggle over Evolutionary Thought, and he has several papers/chapters on the same topic available on his website (here, here, here, and here). A review of the book went up on Skeptic and Richards responded to the “hyperbolically misleading review.”
Back to Klinghoffer. He urges Steve Newton of the NCSE, who wrote a piece for HuffPo a few days before where he stated “David Klinghoffer… has tried to link Darwin to Dr. Mengele, H.P. Lovecraft, Chairman Mao, and Charles Manson,” to check out a new documentary titled What Hath Darwin Wrought? – a film produced by none other than the Discovery Institute. Unbelievable! Essentially: “Hi, my name is David, I am with the Discovery Institute. You don’t accept my argument, so let me give you another opinion. It’s also from the Discovery Institute. Trust me, we have no biased agenda.”