the creationist quest to slime darwin

October 6, 2009

Have you ever heard a creationist talk about undeniable evidence of something and wondered if “undeniable” is code for an argument that was refuted by anyone who had even the slightest bit or relevant education and a few minutes to debunk it, but it’s being repeated anyway just because it sounds so irresistibly damning? This is usually the case when purveyors of anti-evolutionary screeds go after Charles Darwin in their disdain for the notion that living things are in constant flux, changing and diversifying on their own. Sliming the naturalist is a right of passage for creationists who eagerly blame his work on everything from eugenics, to the Holocaust, to the food poisoning they got last week after eating at a seedy restaurant infamous for sanitary violations.

charlie darwin

Last month, professional spouts of anti-scientific inanity Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron announced their big plan to distribute a grossly vandalized version of the Origin of the Species which has been branded with some fifty pages worth of their ridiculous ramblings. You can get a taste for the kind of nonsense they try to peddle in the promotional video for the project where Cameron plays the victim card and blames evil evolutionists on an imaginary campaign against Christianity. Apparently, unbeknownst to those of us who actually live in the real world, scientists and secularists are throwing people in jail for praying in public and the First Amendment has suddenly been altered to ban any and all expressions of Christianity across the land. Oh and very importantly, there would never be a Second World War without Darwin’s work since he and Hitler were undeniably fused at the ideological hip. And by undeniably, he means because he heard it from Ray and if Ray said it, it just has to be true. Despite the fact that Ray couldn’t find a clue if it bit him on the groin and held on for dear life.

The supposed connection between Darwin and Hitler is essentially the creationist manifestation of Goodwin’s Law which states that the longer a debate drags on, the greater the probability that someone will invoke Hitler or Nazi Germany to tar his opponent. The unspoken addendum to this law states that whoever does so, tends to immediately destroy his own credibility unless the topic at hand is actually Nazi Germany or someone has been spouting quotes from Mein Kampf and the observation is warranted. From a historical point, claims that Darwin’s work had any effect on the superstitious and ritualistic Nazi movement obsessed with symbols and their manglings of esoteric Occult rites are unequivocally wrong as noted by NCSE’s Steve Newton, an expert on the subject. But of course the claims keeps being repeated because calling Darwin a Nazi is just too much of a pleasure to those who hate the man and the scientific investigations he helped start.

Note that the century and a half of work it took to advance the theory to its modern state and move it from a pop science book about natural selection into the halls of academia, is totally lost on those who go after Darwin to disparage evolution. Also forgotten is the fact that he’s not the be all, end all of the theory and even when he’s shown to be wrong about certain things we know today, or doesn’t uphold our modern sensibilities, somehow overcoming the issue of being born two centuries prior in a very different culture than we have today, it doesn’t invalidate the massive body of evidence collected in favor of the theory he helped bring into the public eye. You can’t disprove gravity by arguing that Newton didn’t know what causes it and it took Einstein to realize that it’s a manifestation of a distortion in the fabric of space and time. Gravity will still be there. Things will still fall down when you drop them. Likewise, you can’t disprove evolution by trying to sling every imaginable insult at Darwin because that won’t stop living things from changing and diversifying.

[ illustration from a t-shirt and comic strip by Aaron Diatz ]

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  • Pete
  • Animus

    Wow. Nice slime aimed at the creationists. Whatever happened to objectivity? Believe it or not, Nazi Germany did embrace evolution, and because of it discarded their ideas on a human being’s worth, over time. Just because someone exaggerates something out of proportion, like you did here, does not mean that there is not a small nugget of truth in their argument.

  • Jim

    “Just because someone exaggerates something out of proportion, like you did here, does not mean that there is not a small nugget of truth in their argument.”

    Maybe you should re-read the article. The “argument” was that Darwin’s supposed connection with Nazism would invalidate his theory of evolution. In fact, yes, there is not a small nugget of truth in that argument. Scientific theories don’t get decided on the character of their makers, nor on the fact they are misunderstood and abused by others.

  • @ Animus:
    I suppose you missed the entire second paragraph where Greg talks about the distribution of a heavily altered version of Origin of Species? In what way do you consider this sliming creationists? I consider it highly unethical, myself, and I’m not about to give anyone a free ride on the issue when they try to claim they’re not really unethical because they’re religious, donchaknow…

    As for claiming that Nazi Germany embraced evolution, you’re pretty much doing the same thing. Darwin’s theory was about natural selection – can you find the key word in there? Are you forgetting that we knew about the mutability of species for several thousand years before Darwin came along, since we’d been breeding horses, dogs, roses, and so on throughout that time? Nazi Germany’s campaign of genocide actually was claimed to directly counteract the natural selection that had produced the very “species” [hint: there’s really only one] that existed in Europe at that time.

    And if you believe that stated rationale, of course, you really don’t understand history. Nazi Germany was more about gaining control of Europe by eliminating potential rebellious factions, as well as exploiting peoples’ base tendencies towards prejudice. Put very simply, “Hey, you’ve done nothing at all, yet you’re still superior! Come, brother, let’s go claim our birthright!” The supposed “Aryan” line had vanished many centuries before, something that evolutionary theory (much expanded since Darwin’s time) actually made quite clear.

    To claim that Darwin had anything to do with the Nazi party is the same as claiming that Ibn al-Nafis is responsible for all stabbing crimes, because he discovered the function of blood circulation. Adding to a body of knowledge has nothing whatsoever to do with how it might later be abused. If you’re really into the idea of objectivity, you should probably try to stop making excuses for the abusers themselves.

  • Greg Fish

    “Believe it or not, Nazi Germany did embrace evolution, and because of it discarded their ideas on a human being’s worth, over time.”

    Animus, honestly now, did you actually click the link to read my interview with Steve Newton? Because if you had, you would’ve found that most Nazis lacked any sort of serious education and when it came to matters of biology, had absolutely no clue what they were talking about. After the modern synthesis which combined genetics and natural selection into a comprehensive theory, these nitwits still thought that heredity was transmitted by blood.

    In fact, before major battles, Nazi soldiers would touch a relic called the Blutfahne, or the Blood Flag, which was thought by Hitler and the SS to carry the spirit and bravery of National Socialist rebels killed during the Beer Hall Putch. By touching the flag, the soldiers were thought to have been absorbing the nobility of the “martyrs.” To put it mildly, this ain’t exactly science.

    Furthermore, Hitler’s favorite book and his self-admitted inspiration for the terrifying eugenics programs, The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century by Houston Stewart Chamberlain, fiercely rejects evolution. In Mein Kampf, he goes on and on about the divine nature of his mission rather than ever mention anything even close to evolution or Darwin.

    The Nazis discarded the worth of human beings who didn’t meet their ideals for what an idea human should be like because they were uneducated bozos and hateful bigots. According to the theory of evolution, concepts like racism, tribalism and ethnic segregation hobble the process by denying the free exchange of genetic material. If you want to find a scientific body of work which values every human life and presents compelling arguments against all forms of bigotry and isolationism, you can’t find a better one than evolution.

    If anything, evolution is a lot like the hippie slogan of making love rather than war. The more humans there are and the more of us mate with no regard for our ethnicity and creed, the faster the process and the higher our chances of survival as a species. Just try to tell me there’s anything Nazi about that. I dare you.

    “Yes hear about it all the time including here…”

    Pete, that was a whole lot of noise but the whole “too complex” argument is useless junk which proves absolutely nothing. For all the pontifications in the blog post to which you linked, there’s not a shred of fact or evidence for anything other than the lack of the author’s scientific education.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    … the superstitious and ritualistic Nazi movement obsessed with symbols and their manglings of esoteric Occult rites …

    Most of which, fwiw, was an obsession of Heinrich Himmler, for which he was roundly ridiculed by other Nazi leaders – including Hitler.

    Oh, and – Animus – whoever told you what you just parroted was lying to you, &/or had been lied to by others. Everything else those sources told you was probably crap, too.