Darwin and Hitler: In Their Own Words [Excerpts]
As David Berlinski recently noted, “the thesis that there is a connection between Darwin and Hitler is widely considered a profanation.” But striking an indignant pose -- feathers in full ruffle -- is not an answer to such a serious charge, especially when the words of both Darwin and Hitler speak otherwise.
Those defending Darwin cannot have read his Descent of Man, wherein he applies the principles of natural selection to human beings -- a thing he prudently avoided in his earlier Origin of Species. In the Descent, the eugenic and racial inferences are clearly and startlingly drawn by Darwin himself.
Darwin understood the eugenic implications of his own theory, and warned his readers against imminent evolutionary backsliding. “It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.” Insert a few terms like “Aryan” or “Jew” and that could be in any Nazi screed.
“If … various checks … do not prevent the reckless, the vicious and otherwise inferior members of society from increasing at a quicker rate than the better class of men, the nation will retrograde, as has occurred too often in the history of the world. We must remember that progress is no invariable rule.”
And the racial thing? Evolution is driven by competition, and competition brings extinction. Darwin notes, matter-of-factly in the Descent, that one tribe extinguishing another is the very engine of human evolution. In his words, “extinction follows chiefly from the competition of tribe with tribe, race with race,” allowing the victorious tribe or race to pass on their superior endowments.
Now for Adolf. I suspect that, just as a lot of folks haven’t read Darwin’s execrable Descent of Man, so also they feel free to enter the debate without having read Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
It is inaccurate to blame the entire of Hitler’s evil on anti-Semitism precisely because his anti-Semitism was part of a larger biological vision. “National Socialism is nothing but applied biology,” said the deputy Party leader of the Nazis, Rudolf Hess.
As Hitler made clear in Mein Kampf, the fundamental political category is biological. Consequently, “the highest aim of human existence is not the maintenance of a State or Government but rather the conservation of the race.” This aim accords with Hitler’s larger Darwinian view of the cosmos, wherein the “fundamental law of necessity” reigning “throughout the realm of Nature” is that “existence is subject to the law of eternal struggle and strife….where the strong are always the masters of the weak and where those subject to such laws must obey them or be destroyed.” Survival of the fittest.
According to Hitler, the Jews threatened the superior race with degradation, but so did the “mongrels and negroids,” the Slavs, the Gypsies, the handicapped, the retarded, and all the other inferior biological misfits.
All this doesn’t mean that Darwinism was the sole cause of Hitler’s barbarism. But it does make clear that Darwinism must shoulder its share of the moral burden, because the connection is undeniable.