Darwin begat Hitler

25 02 2006


How could the atrocities of Nazi Germany ever have happened? Darwinism helped set the stage.

Sixty years after World War II ended, it’s still hard to look at the horrors that state committed without wondering how anyone could be so cruel. Yet appalling as such evils are, they’re also comfortingly remote: We can deplore them without imagining that they have any relationship to our own culture.

But should we be so sure? Maybe not. Not when well over a million children each year fall victims to abortionists, a.k.a. “doctors.”

Much as we’d like to think we’re light years away from the Nazi Germans of several generations ago, we have disturbing parallels. And one reason may be that we have some of the same ideas circulating among the same social classes—including intellectuals in general and the members of the medical profession in particular.

A pair of recently published books offer insight. The first is From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and Racism in Germany (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, 312 pages) by Richard Weikart, a historian at California State University-Stanislaus. Weikart, a careful scholar, sees lots of evidence that Darwinism played a large role in producing a Germany where such crimes could be committed.

The trouble started with the main ideas of evolution. Darwin and most Darwinists denied the existence of an immortal soul—”a central tenet,” Weikart notes, “of the Judeo-Christian worldview that undergirded the sanctity of human life.” They thought morality varied with time and circumstances, existing solely to promote the survival of the race. They stressed the inequality of different species, which led them to stress racial inequalities among people as well. And they saw death as not just normal but, in a real way, good. In their view, “the death of multitudes of less fit organisms is beneficial and fosters progress,” Weikart says.

What did people do with these ideas? For one, there was moral relativism. As one evolutionist put it, “What is virtue here and now may have been vice formerly and at another spot.” For another, there was a heavy emphasis on eugenics, fixated on promoting the fit people over the unfit.

Influential Darwinists routinely said things like “the right of the stronger is a natural law.” They advocated abortion, euthanasia and suicide; they stated that people with mental limitations were closer to apes than men, and should be killed or sterilized. At one time these statements might have been shocking, but hearing them for decades on end took a toll. Eventually, for a key segment of the populace, nothing was unthinkable.

Weikart delves into how Hitler and Co. came to thrive in this sort of culture, and finally to rule it, toward the end of his book. So, too, does another book, Doctors from Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans by Vivien Spitz (Sentient Publications, 2005, 319 pages).
Spitz was a mere 22 years old when she became a court reporter at the Nuremberg trials, and she had to spend months recording all the hideous details. Naturally, it left a lasting impression on her, and at points she can’t help expressing her shock and outrage. But the book is most powerful when she doesn’t do so—when she simply relays the testimony and lets the awful facts speak for themselves.

And what testimony. Just listen to the matter-of-fact descriptions of the “experiments”:

  • Freezing Experiments. “Victims were placed in a tank of ice water for up to three hours, or kept naked outdoors for hours at below freezing temperatures during which numerous victims died.”
  • Malaria Experiments. “Over one thousand involuntary subjects were infected … many of whom died, while others suffered severe pain and permanent disability.”
  • Lost (Mustard) Gas Experiments. “Wounds were deliberately inflicted on victims and then infected with poisonous gas … some victims died and others suffered intense pain and injury.”
  • Bone, Muscle and Nerve Regeneration and Bone Transplantation Experiments. “Sections of bones, muscles, and nerves were removed from the victims, resulting in intense agony, mutilation, permanent disability, and death.”

The people conducting the experiments were doctors—whose mission is always to heal, never to harm. How could they let themselves do this sort of thing?

The answer: for a cause. It was a twisted patriotism—devotion to their government, their military, their race. Indeed, as Spitz notes, some of the doctors on trial defiantly defended their actions. Karl Brandt cited his “devotion to the community”; Oskar Schroeder, “the service of my beloved Fatherland”; Gerhard Rose, “the good of humanity”. One way or another, they were bound to tell themselves, and the world, that they were justified—even, in their warped minds, noble.

That’s how evil works, of course. It always has an excuse. The abortionist, wielding sharp-edged tools and suction pumps, tells himself he’s “serving women’s needs.” The assisted-suicide doctor, readying his needle full of poison, tells himself he’s “stopping suffering.” The cloners, breeding designer people only to kill most of them, will tell themselves they’re “improving the quality of life.” And all of them will say they’re acting for “the good of humanity.” The anti-war activist, rallying for peace, tell themselves they are “keeping America safe.”

Whatever the differences between America of today and Germany of yesterday, we have this in common: The substitution of a corrupt secular moral code, in place of the only true code, and of Him Who gave it.

But there’s a court whose judgment is more final than Nuremberg’s. May our people repent before they get there.

Linked with: Stop The ACLU, Oblogatory Anecdotes, Argghhh! , Is It Just Me?

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