Exposing PseudoAstronomy

July 9, 2010

If Darwin Is Responsible for the Holocaust, Newton Is Responsible for Bombs


Introduction

Well, my class is over, at least one student is complaining about their final grade, and I’m diving back in to trying to get back to work and play. And blogging — yeah, that too.

I hadn’t thought of a good quick post topic to write about lately until I saw someone else’s post tonight about the Discovery Institute yet again reviving the canard that Darwin is responsible for the Holocaust. But the blogger raised an interesting point that I hadn’t thought about before, so I decided to do my own quick post on it.

Darwin and the Holocaust

If any of you are unfortunate enough to have watched that Ben Stein docudrama piece of G-rated-term-inserted that came out a year or so ago, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” then you know that a common claim of the Intelligent Design movement — indeed, any “anti-Darwin” or “-Evolution” movement – is that the idea of human evolution from a more “primitive” creature is directly linked to and the cause of lots of atrocities such as Hitler’s holocaust, Stalin’s holocaust, forced sterilization, eugenics, and so on.

This isn’t a straw man here — if you’re not aware of these claims, then I invite you to read any of the following:

Any of those will do. And now, let’s be clear: Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809, the same day and year as Abraham Lincoln. Conjures up an immediate feeling of “cool” and “he must be great” due to that simple association with Lincoln, right? Contrast that with: Darwinism led to Hitler! Gasp! Shudder! Instead of that warm, fuzzy feeling your gut is now reeling in contempt for the man. Hence why comparison with or association with or even just mentioning Hitler these days is almost in and of itself a logical fallacy (poisoning the well or ad hominem).

Anyway, my purpose here is to present what the ID folks and some Christians are doing in order to attack the formalizer of evolutionary theory and the theory itself, trying to link it with culturally distasteful concepts, happenings, and people. Let’s also be clear: Darwin died in 1882, fully a half century before the Nazi holocaust.

Does This Make Sense?

The purpose of this blog is not at all about evolution. But rather astronomy with some physics and geology thrown in. Hence the connection to the above: Claiming that Darwin was the cause of Hitler’s holocaust, or eugenics, or whatever is the same as saying that Isaac Newton is responsible for bombs. Or for missiles. Yes, dear reader, it’s the same thing. It doesn’t matter that projectile weapons had been in use for, oh, maybe 100,000 years before Newton was born. Or that missiles weren’t created until maybe 300 years after Newton died. Doesn’t matter. It’s the exact same logic that the Intelligent Design folks use to say Darwin was responsible for the holocaust.

Why? Because Newton formulated gravity. Without understanding how gravity works and being able to predict how objects will behave when forces are applied, then we can’t understand how bombs or missiles work. The entire idea behind “The Rocket Equation” (the bane of undergrad physics) wouldn’t have been possible without the gravitational theory Newton formulated or the calculus he is generally credited with creating. (“The Rocket Equation” is a differential equation that describes the motion of a rocket as mass is lost because in a rocket, the fuel is a significant fraction of the initial mass.)

The Bottom Line

Does that mean, from an actual objective view, that Newton really is responsible for missiles? Or is Archimedes responsible for battleships (after all, he’s generally credited with figuring out buoyancy)? Of course not. These men developed ideas of science that could predict how things would behave in the future and explain how things behaved in the past.

Similarly, Charles Darwin formulated the theory of evolution to describe the scientific theory that all creatures are descended from a common ancestor. This theory describes how things behaved in the past, and it is used to predict how things will behave or discoveries that will be made in the future.

So, Darwin Isn’t Responsible for the Holocaust?

No, he’s not. A scientific theory in itself does not have any sense of morality attached to it. It just is. It is neither good nor bad. People can use it and abuse it for good or bad things. Just as Newton’s theory of gravity describes how a missile launched from Iran can strike Israel, it also describes how Apollo 11 landed on the moon and returned safely with its crew. Using a theory to do something that is considered good or bad by the majority says nothing about that theory’s origin, nor should the blame or credit be given, necessarily, to that theory’s formulator.

Science is built upon the shoulders of giants, and if Darwin hadn’t formulated evolution when he did, someone else would have shortly thereafter. Similarly for Relativity — if Einstein hadn’t formulated it when he did, someone else would have very soon after, for the pieces were already out there, they just needed someone to put them together in a new way.

Final Thoughts

If you’re still not understanding this, let’s think of it a different way. Let’s use Christianity. Many Christians, I’m sure, are wonderful people who believe that Christianity stands for helping the sick, feeding the homeless, keeping children off the streets and occupied with productive things, and so on and so forth. Those are the tangible things – I’m ignoring the more spiritual for purposes of this argument.

So under this idea, priests will go to hospitals and sit with people who need to just have someone there with them. Churches will organize groups to work at a soup kitchen, etc.

But, using the exact same philosophy, using Christianity as a justification, the Crusades were launched from Europe, killing tens of thousands. The Inquisition destroyed livelihoods and lives throughout Europe a few centuries later. Literal witch hunts killed dozens in America, but tens of thousands across much of England and some of Europe only a century or two after that.

People will give Jesus credit for the ideas of Christianity and why they are volunteering in a school for underprivileged children, or running a daycare in the church basement. Do they also give Jesus credit for killing hundreds of thousands of people because of everything else people have done supposedly in his name?

Think about that next time you hear someone say that Darwin is responsible for Hitler.

8 Comments »

  1. This is one of the most infuriating arguments forwarded by creationists because it demonstrates the creationist’s complete ignorance not of Darwin’s writings, but of the historical and cultural context in which Darwin lived and wrote.

    The fact is, Darwin’s finding of common ancestry was far more objectionable to his contemporaries than his notion of “survival of the fittest” (which could, in a perverse way, be shoehorned in to fit the idea of anglo-Christian superiority). The prevailing theory of Darwin’s time, and Hitler’s as well, was that the different races of man were entirely different species, never meant to interbreed, and arranged in some kind of celestial hierarchy of moral fitness. This premise was widely held to be true both among the “common volk” of Hitler’s time and by religious and political leaders, including (ironically enough) Lincoln himself.

    Similarly, the notion of a master race of Aryans will never be found in Darwin’s writings, but can instead be found in very explicitly in the writings of a French aristocrat and pseudo-philosopher Arthur de Gobineau.

    However, creationists will never be accused of giving too close a reading of Darwin or of accurately representing what he wrote.

    Comment by MrMarkAZ — July 9, 2010 @ 10:57 am | Reply

  2. Anti-semitism have existed long before Darwin formulated his theory of evolution. In fact, the New Testament is rife with anti-jewish sentiment.

    Comment by jmc — July 9, 2010 @ 1:17 pm | Reply

  3. It is common for belief systms to adopt scientific and philosophical works to support their case. Hitler believed in something called “the fifth root race” which are supposed to be the most advanced and the ‘purist’ form of an ‘alien’ race which cross bred with the degnerate human race. “and the giants took daughters for wives”. He used Nietzsche’s Superman to support his case (incorrectly) and not Darwin. He would have claimed that degenerate humans were decended from apes and the fifth root race were not.

    What is neteresting about this process of evidence and support for a belief is that the conclusions come first and then the ‘evidence’ is added. This does suggest that people do not conclude from evidence, they conclude for ‘some other reason’ and then search for supporting evidence. So what process do they use to come to their conclusions first?

    Comment by Mick — July 10, 2010 @ 4:51 am | Reply

    • I agree, and it’s something that I forgot to explicitly state in the post: These are cases where people already have their idea and then either they or historians, philosophers, or some nut job will later search for a philosophy that they can attach to claim justification.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — July 10, 2010 @ 10:31 am | Reply

      • This is also the issue with many climate change skeptics. Many come from an anti-environmentalist or other ideological viewpoint and start from the premise that climate change is hogwash. Their belief is so strong that they view an email with the phrase “hide the decline” as evidence.

        Comment by ND — July 10, 2010 @ 11:00 am

  4. From the Ralph Manheim translation of Mein Kampf (1998, Houghton Mifflin Co, ISBN: 0-395-92503-7):

    “And in this it must remain aware that we, as guardians of the highest humanity on this earth, are bound by the highest obligation, and the more it strives to bring the German people to racial awareness so that, in addition to breeding dogs, horses, and cats, they will have mercy on their own blood, the more it will be able to meet this obligation.“ [pg 646]

    Hitler compares his program of racial purification not to Darwin, but to ANIMAL BREEDING, which predates Darwin’s *natural selection* by thousands of years.

    Comment by W.T. Bridgman — July 12, 2010 @ 7:13 pm | Reply

  5. I once asked a child “Why is the sky blue” and the child said “because God made it blue”. I was quite surprised by the answer. I had been expecting the child to say he didn’t know, then I would show him how knowledgeable I was by describing the effect of the atmosphere on sunlight and gain a few street points.
    Given his answer, I was stumped. His answer was a “show stopping answer”. I had nothing to say. However I did feel sorry for him. He might keep his opinion and never have the pleasure of knowing the beauty of the natural explanation and the fact that on other planets, for example, mars, the sky is a different color. How much better it is to know the real answer. The real answer is sometimes very useful.
    As everybody knows, in past times people thought disease was caused by evil spirits and/or punishment by the gods. If everybody kept this notion then we would not have modern medicine. What would be the point of trying to find the cause of say TB, if we already know the cause. We would be begging the gods to cure us, but still have TB. Invoking the help of gods does not solve the problem. In fact it diverts us from solving the problem.
    Do you go to Church or some other place of worship? Does the building have a lightning conductor? Why? Because Ben Franklin wanted to investigate lightning and did some experiments. As a result of the experiments, he developed an idea and subsequently invented the lightning conductor. But he didn’t have it easy. He was warned not to interfere with God’s will and it was many years and much damage before his idea was universally accepted. Imagine if he had accepted the religious cause and not bothered to look for the natural cause. If we accept a supernatural cause for something, then we have to accept a supernatural solution, such as petitionary prayers or prayers of supplication, which, I think you will agree, wouldn’t stop lightning hitting your Church.
    The best way to find the cause or solution, is not to give the show stopping answer, but to investigate, experiment, gather data, develop a natural theory, then based on that, predict some result that can be tested, then test it and then get somebody else to do the same test, then compare results, then do it again until there is very little doubt that we have learned something new. But don’t stop. Maybe we only have an approximate answer (such as Newton’s laws of gravity). Keep looking. Improve our instruments and techniques. When we have more and different data, think of a better answer (such as Einstein’s General Relativity).
    Even then, keep looking. Never stop. Keep the show going!
    Researchers are currently trying to find ways of preventing and treating cancer. They have made much progress and learned a great deal. They know there is much to be done. They try many different methods. Some are hopeless. Some are promising. They don’t expect to get any help from the gods, but instead use scientific methods such as double blind experiments. When such methods are used to test, say Crystal Homeopathy, it is found that the results are no better than you would expect from chance alone. Yet you can buy books on the subject and even obtain qualifications in this useless fakery. When ever I hear of such things, I smell money.
    The idea behind the “Who Designed the Designer?” question has this force: if you just say for any phenomena, “God did it”, you think you have found the end point in the chain of reasoning, but you know nothing of any use and it stops you from further investigation, so by saying “Who designed God”, the questioner is making a very important point, namely: we must not stop looking, because we might discover something new. Something really useful. Was Galileo wrong to question the “truth”? How about Louis Pasteur or Edward Jenner or any one of the many thousands of brave pioneers who were laughed at, often criticized, sometimes tortured, even burned and who have helped to give us our modern understanding about the world. Incidentally, some people were burned for publishing and reading the Bible in English!
    If you still believe “God is the answer” then why bother going to the doctor when you are ill? Even the pope has a doctor, a bodyguard and a bullet proof car. Has he lost his faith? Does he think Darwin was right? Surprisingly, Yes he does! Why, because the great Catholic Church has been wrong so many times, they now employ scientists to check claims, to try to avoid further embarrassing mistakes. The Church even has its own observatory. I bet that would make Galileo happy! Even the Jehovah Witnesses have stopped predicting the final date of the “end times” because they have been wrong so many times, although many still believe the end will be in their lifetime. I own a book that predicts the date is 1914 and another 1975. Have you read about the “Great Disappointment” of 1844? Similar hopes and fears were common leading up to 1666 and even 2000. All based on what? Ancient myths of pre-scientific desert dwellers.
    History shows quite clearly that the search for natural causes is much more fruitful than just giving the show stopping answer. “God” is a show stopping answer and quite useless.
    Scientists are spending billions of dollars, right now, investigation the structure of sub-atomic particles. They may be wasting the money. Perhaps they should give it to the poor as Jesus suggested. But maybe, just maybe, they will discover something really useful that will help us all.

    I can understand why preachers preach. It’s their “job”.
    If you ask a preacher “How can I can be saved”, they say things like: you must believe Jesus is the Son of God and is your savior. Repent of your sins before you die etc.
    They will tell you God loves you, but you better love him back or you will burn in Hell for ever!
    They might say you should love your enemies and sell all that you have and give to the poor (less likely).
    Then ask, “What about attending Church? Is that important?
    I think you know the answer to that question!
    Yes, God loves you, but he also needs money!

    Comment by mark6336 — July 21, 2012 @ 4:46 pm | Reply

  6. […] this can really be “summarized” by my post on my Exposing PseudoAstronomy blog, “If Darwin Is Responsible for the Holocaust, Newton Is Responsible for Bombs.” To quote the relevant […]

    Pingback by Millions Dead Because of Evolution | WND Watch — October 4, 2013 @ 4:01 am | Reply


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