Friday, May 2, 2008

Darwinism, Eugenics, Methodists, and The Nazis.

The Methodist Church, on April the 28th, 2008 adopted the following resolution: Methodist Conference 2008

This resolution is a repentence of the Methodist Church's historical involvement in the support of Eugenics in the early part of the 20th century. Within the resolution, the connection between Darwinian evolution and the Nazi program is considered. The full resolution is here: An Apology for Support of Eugenics

This is a quote from the resolution, explaining the history of the connection between Charles Darwin and the theory of Eugenics as it would come to be considered applicable to humans:


"Eugenics, the belief that certain “genetic” traits are good and others bad, is associated in the public mind mostly with the extreme eugenics policies of Adolf Hitler, which ultimately led to the Holocaust. The study of eugenics did not begin with Hitler or his German scientists, but rather was first promoted by Sir Francis Galton, in England. Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, who expanded on Darwin’s theories and applied them to the human population. In an article entitled "Hereditary Character and Talent" (published in two parts in MacMillan's Magazine, vol. 11, November 1864 and April 1865, pp. 157-166, 318-327), Galton expressed his frustration that no one was breeding a better human: “If a twentieth part of the cost and pains were spent in measures for the improvement of the human race that is spent on the improvement of the breed of horses and cattle, what a galaxy of genius might we not create! We might introduce prophets and high priests of civilization into the world, as surely as we can propagate idiots by mating cretins. Men and women of the present day are, to those we might hope to bring into existence, what the pariah dogs of the streets of an Eastern town are to our own highly-bred varieties.” Galton in the same article described Africans and Native Americans in derogatory terms making it clear which racial group he thought was superior. Francis Galton, the founder of the Eugenics Society, spoke hopefully about persuading people with desirable genes to marry and have large families. Galton's successor at the helm of the Eugenics Society was Major Leonard Darwin (1850-1943), a son of Charles Darwin. Leonard Darwin, who ran the Eugenics Society until 1928, made the transition from positive to negative eugenics, and promoted plans for lowering the birthrate of the unfit."


The Methodist Church sympathized with the Darwinian pretension that certain humans were superior to others. According to the resolution, the church participated in “Fitter Family Contests” which were promoted by the American Eugenics Society. The following is worth noting from the resolution.


"Methodist bishops endorsed one of the first books circulated to the US churches promoting eugenics. Unlike the battles over evolution and creationism, both conservative and progressive church leaders endorsed eugenics. The liberal Rev. Harry F. Ward, professor of Christian ethics and a founder of the Methodist Federation for Social Service, writing in Eugenics, the magazine of the American Eugenic Society, said that Christianity and Eugenics were compatible because both pursued the “challenge of removing the causes that produce the weak. Conservative Rev. Clarence True Wilson, the General Secretary of the Methodist Episcopal Board of Temperance, Prohibition and Public Morals, and the man chosen to debate Clarence Darrow after William Jennings Bryan’s death, believed that only the white Aryan race was the descendent of the lost tribes of Israel. Methodists were active on the planning committees of the Race Betterment Conferences held in 1914, and 1915. In the 1910s, Methodist Churches hosted forums in their churches to discuss eugenics. In the 1920s, many Methodist preachers submitted their eugenics sermons to contests hosted by the American Eugenics Society. By 1927, when the American Eugenics Society formed its Committee on the Cooperation with Clergymen, Bishop Francis McConnell, President of the Methodist Federation for Social Service served on the committee. In 1936, he would chair the roundtable discussion on Religion and Eugenics at the American Eugenics Society Meeting. The laity of the church also took up the cause of eugenics. In 1929, the Methodist Review published the sermon “Eugenics: A Lay Sermon” by George Huntington Donaldson. In the sermon, Donaldson argues, “the strongest and the best are selected for the task of propagating the likeness of God and carrying on his work of improving the race.”

"In 1933, Hitler’s Nazi government used Laughlin’s Model Law as the basis for their sterilization law that led to the sterilization of some 350,000 people. State sponsored Eugenics reached an abhorrent extreme in the Nazi extermination programs of the 1930s and 1940s. Initially directed at people with similar health or social problems as were targeted by the U.S. sterilization laws, these were eventually expanded to cover entire populations—Jews, Gypsies, Poles—judged by the Nazi regime to represent “worthless lives” (lebensunwerte Leben)."


In particular, the Nazis used Harry Laughlin's model, which "provided for the sterilization of 'feeble minded, insane, criminalistic, epileptic, diseased, blind, deaf, deformed, and dependent” including “orphans, ne’er do wells, tramps, homeless, and paupers.'” You can read all about Harry at the Pickler Memorial Library's online page at Truman State University.
As Dr. David Berlinski remarked in Ben Stein's movie "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" Darwinism was not a sufficient condition, but was a necessary condition for the Nazi program. There seems to have been a significant number of people affected by Darwinian Eugenics (as it was applied to humans) in this time period, otherwise intelligent people, in both America and Europe. So why are we afraid to include the Nazis in this group of folks who were influenced? Why are we afraid to say that they acted accordingly with the logic they thought they embraced? No doubt Hitler was diobolical, but it is usually when people think they are doing something justified, something "right" that they can be the most diabolical. Did Darwinian pretensions alone, taken in isolation, lead to the Nazi phenomenon? I doubt it. But, it certainly seems to have been a formidable weapon in their arsenal. And Darwinian Eugenics seems to have been a weapon that they inherited, not one that they had to invent.
Here is the apology of the Methodist Church, as stated in the resolution.

"The United Methodist General Conference formally apologizes for Methodist leaders and Methodist bodies who in the past supported eugenics as sound science and sound theology. We lament the ways eugenics was used to justify the sterilization of persons deemed less worthy. We lament that Methodist support of eugenics policies was used to keep persons of different races from marrying and forming legally recognized families. We are especially grieved that the politics of eugenics led to the extermination of millions of people by the Nazi government and continues today as “ethnic cleansing” around the world."

16 comments:

Smokey said...

Baloney. Hitler himself rejected common descent in Mein Kampf. Hitler was a creationist who accepted what creationists call "microevolution" within a species.

DaveScot said...

Baloney is right.

The Nuremberg Laws included anti-miscegenation laws (no interbreeding between whites and blacks, and whites & native indians) that date back to at least colonial America in 1660's and persisted as the law of the land until the 1960's.

Darwin had nothing to do with those laws as their origin predates his birth by well over 100 years.

thinktwice said...

Martin Luther wrote a book titled
"On the Jews and their Lies" in 1460 which utterly condemned Jews and promoted violence towards them, and their property. This influenced Germanic attitudes towards Jews for centuries, up to the Nazis.

Henry Ford wrote "The Problem of the International Jew." Hitler consideres this a major influence in Mein Kampf.

US capitalists (banks, law, manufacturing) strongly supported Hitler from the early 1920's into WWII.

These were REAL supportedrs of the Nazis.

Darwin was never mentioned in Mein Kampf...

Jon Saboe said...

The movie Conspiracy (Kenneth Branagh) covers the events of the Wannsee conference of SS commanders and government ministers in 1942.

During this meeting, the Final Solution was unveiled, amid varying degrees of reservation from the attendees. This movie is an un-sensational film based on the transcripts, minutes, and other documentary evidence, yet it is chilling in the calm, pleasant way in which the fates of six million lives were decided.

The reason I bring this up, is that when the "solution" to European Jewry was slowly revealed, many attendees were quite concerned, some even horrified. And it was the logical explanation of pure, Darwinian natural selection that was used to quell their concerns, and even cause some of them to feel as if they were part of something monumental and wondrous.

In the end, the decision was unanimous, and it was pure Natural Selection applied to the human species – and the vision of a glorious new humanity – that brought about the consensus.

"Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1859, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory." Stephen Jay Gould, 'Ontogeny and Phylogeny', Belknap-Harvard Press, pp. 27-128

Smokey said...

" And it was the logical explanation of pure, Darwinian natural selection that was used to quell their concerns,..."

The "final solution" wasn't natural selection, much less pure and Darwinian. It was artificial selection that would make the species weaker, not stronger.

"In the end, the decision was unanimous, and it was pure Natural Selection applied to the human species –..."

No, it was artificial selection. Are you illiterate?"

"... and the vision of a glorious new humanity..."

But not a new species, so there wasn't anything Darwinian about it. Creationists accept artificial selection to bring about changes within a species, and Hitler rejected common descent. IOW, Hitler was firmly within YOUR camp.

Jon Saboe said...

My Bad.

Of course, when used by breeders, and those trying to 'design' and improve a species, it IS "Artificial Selection".

The principle still stands.

Smokey said, "It was artificial selection that would make the species weaker, not stronger."

This makes no sense, since Hitler claimed he was creating a "Master Race".

Like any good breeder, he was using Artificial Selection to improve a species.

Scott said...

The idea of "artificial selection" is ludicrous. Since Darwinism proposes that man's brain and intelligence naturally evolved, his intellect and ingenuity is no different than any other selective advantage. The Nazi's understood this logical extension of Darwinism.

I remind everyone of the infamous Wansee Conference...Under proper guidance, in the course of the final solution the Jews are to be allocated for appropriate labor in the East. Able-bodied Jews, separated according to sex, will be taken in large work columns to these areas for work on roads, in the course of which action doubtless a large portion will be eliminated by natural causes.

The possible final remnant will, since it will undoubtedly consist of the most resistant portion, have to be treated accordingly, because it is the product of natural selection and would, if released, act as a the seed of a new Jewish revival (see the experience of history.)


It is quite clear that "...eliminated by natural causes," refers to death by a combination of hard labor and starvation.

Smokey said...

Jon wrote:
"Of course, when used by breeders, and those trying to 'design' and improve a species, it IS "Artificial Selection". The principle still stands."

Your conclusion is in tatters because your premise is false. Artificial selection was practiced and understood for thousands of years before Darwin, so any attempt to attribute artificial selection to him is utterly false.

"This makes no sense, since Hitler claimed he was creating a "Master Race"."

News flash, Jon--Hitler was wrong not only on the morality, but on the science.

"Like any good breeder, he was using Artificial Selection to improve a species."

Breeders don't use artificial selection to improve a species, they use it to get what they want. It was well-known in Hitler's time that inbreeding did not improve a species.

scott said...
"The idea of "artificial selection" is ludicrous. Since Darwinism proposes that man's brain and intelligence naturally evolved, his intellect and ingenuity is no different than any other selective advantage. The Nazi's understood this logical extension of Darwinism."

You've got it completely backwards. Darwin's innovation was that he looked at artificial selection applied within a species and hypothesized that the environment selected over the long term to create new species (Hitler explicitly rejected common descent).

"I remind everyone of the infamous Wansee Conference..."

Why? Did it say anything about natural selection or Darwin? Do you agree with Hitler that common descent is wrong, or do you agree with Darwin?

MikeTreat said...

The point is that those that believed in eugenics felt that they were helping *natural* selection along. Admittedly, they were actually participating in artificial selection--but it was Darwin's idea of natural selection that was the genesis of the idea. That's simply a fact. Granted, someone like Hitler could have and perhaps would have found the will to commit genocide without the support of eugenics -- but the FACT is that he DID use eugenics, in part, to justify and rationalize his diabolic acts. Whether or not Darwin himself would have agreed with Hitler or participated in kind is irrelevant. What matters is that literally applying Darwin's idea of natural selection to the human race does provide a moral framework for ridding the world of those deemed "unfit." That's why it was so important for "Expelled" to point this out. The main point of "Expelled" was to provide visibility to ongoing, systematic abuse of academic freedoms in the biological sciences. In "big science", you simply can't raise an objection to the idea that all of life arose through strictly undirected, natural mechanisms. You are required to toe the philosophical line of materialism. The fact that Darwin's idea can (and DID) serve as a basis (albeit one of many) for Hitler's atrocities is proof that NO idea should be immune from dissent. As pointed out in "Expelled", support for neo-Darwinism doesn't doom you to be a supporter of eugenics or genocide. However, the fact that support for neo-Darwinism WAS a pre-requisite for eugenics in the late 1800's and early to mid 1900's is an unquestionable fact. Also, it matters not that Hitler didn't support all aspects of Darwinism. What matters is that he used part of it to justify his craziness. It's not any more complicated than that.

edbradburn said...

To: MikeTreat

Your point seems to be that the Nazis misrepresented and abused the theories worked on by Darwin to suit their nefarious ends.

My point would be: this (even if demonstrably true, which I would contest) reflects badly on the Nazis, not on Darwin.

Or would you blame Leonardo da Vinci, Newton, Galileo or Euler for the deaths in the Second World War? Many of those deaths resulted from the "misuse" of ballistics against e.g. innocent civilians.

To paraphrase your text, "someone like Hitler could have and perhaps would have found the will to commit genocide without the support of ballistics -- but the FACT is that he DID use ballistics, in part."

Fact: Hitler and the Nazis were some pretty despicable forms of humanity. I would lay the blame for their deliberate misinterpretation, and misrepresentation of the facts in many areas - whether matters philosophical, religious or scientific - at their feet, and not try and retrofit the blame onto innocent individuals who were already dead by the time Hitler was born.

MikeTreat said...

To: edbradburn

I'm not blaming Darwin for what the Nazi's did -- anymore than Darwinists should blame ID for those that would misuse it (creationists that are attempting to inject religion into public schools, for example). The point isn't that a belief in natural selection and survival of the fittest requires that you support eugenics, forced abortions, sterilizations, and racial genocide. Of course not! The point is that you CAN very easily get there -- and the Nazi's clearly did. Given that, it is: 1) appropriate to point it out and 2) necessary that dissension from the materialist view of origins be possible without fear of loss of livelihood, reputation, etc. That's why "Expelled" is important. If you can't dissent from it, you have removed one of the tools that may be necessary to combat the next idiot that wants to misuse it.

I guess I no longer understand what exactly is being debated. The Nazi's did use the concepts of survival of the fittest and natural selection to, in part, rationalize their programs. That's a fact. That doesn't mean Darwin was a bad guy. It just means that his ideas may have had unintended consequences. Well, intended or not, the consequences should be pointed out rather than being swept under the rug -- lest the same mistakes be repeated.

Smokey said...

Mike wrote:
"The point is that you CAN very easily get there -- and the Nazi's clearly did."

Get where from where, though? Do you realize that "survival of the fittest" is not Darwinian? If you disagree, explain sexual selection in terms of survival. Start with male salmon.

"Given that, it is: 1) appropriate to point it out and 2) necessary that dissension from the materialist view of origins be possible without fear of loss of livelihood, reputation, etc."

Evolution isn't about the origin of life.

"That's why "Expelled" is important."

It's a pack of lies.

"If you can't dissent from it, you have removed one of the tools that may be necessary to combat the next idiot that wants to misuse it."

I just did. Hitler rejected common descent. His position was closer to the filmmakers' position than it was to Darwin's.

"I guess I no longer understand what exactly is being debated."

I'll say!

"The Nazi's did use the concepts of survival of the fittest and natural selection to, in part, rationalize their programs."

1) "Survival of the fittest" was not from Darwin. It doesn't explain the Darwinian concept of sexual selection.

2) They were trying artificial selection within a species, a concept that existed for millenia, not natural selection creating new species.

"That's a fact."

The facts you are missing are Darwin's actual ideas.

"That doesn't mean Darwin was a bad guy. It just means that his ideas may have had unintended consequences."

No, they weren't following Darwin's ideas.

"Well, intended or not, the consequences should be pointed out rather than being swept under the rug -- lest the same mistakes be repeated."

No one's sweeping but you.

Smokey said...

Mike wrote:
"Admittedly, they were actually participating in artificial selection--but it was Darwin's idea of natural selection that was the genesis of the idea. That's simply a fact."

That's simply backwards. Darwin had two Big Ideas:

1) the idea of natural selection, which was an extension of understanding artificial selection.

2) the idea of common descent, which Hitler explicitly rejected.

Those are the simple facts.

Scientific Integrity said...

Thank you everyone for your arguments. The Nazis did use the tenets of proper Darwinian evolution in their program. Darwin in the Origin of Species discussed the almost moral imperative of artificial selection of his pigeons, and that only a careless breeder would allow any unfit pigeons to breed with his best. This applied to humans, which is where Darwin took it, and so did his cousin, is what we see in Nazi Germany taken to its logical end.
It is consistent Darwinian pronciples put into practical practice by a certain group of people, called the Nazis.
No doubt the Nazis used all sorts of weapons, but Darwinism was one of them, and it was a formidable one.

Krondan said...

Those who doubt there is a causal connection connecting Darwin, his family, Darwinism, and Darwinians to eugenics and hence Ploetz, Rudin, and the Nazis, should read this: Darwinism-Eugenics

Scott said...

Smokey wrote: "Why? Did [the Wansee Conference] say anything about natural selection or Darwin? Do you agree with Hitler that common descent is wrong, or do you agree with Darwin?"

Apparently you read right over the mention of natural selection. Allow me to repost it for you:

...Under proper guidance, in the course of the final solution the Jews are to be allocated for appropriate labor in the East. Able-bodied Jews, separated according to sex, will be taken in large work columns to these areas for work on roads, in the course of which action doubtless a large portion will be eliminated by natural causes.

The possible final remnant will, since it will undoubtedly consist of the most resistant portion, have to be treated accordingly, because it is the product of natural selection and would, if released, act as a the seed of a new Jewish revival (see the experience of history.)

It is quite clear that "...eliminated by natural causes," refers to death by a combination of hard labor and starvation imposed by the Nazis. Concerning common descent, I see evidence for certain lines of descent, but we will never be able to know if common descent is indeed universal.