HITLER AND DARWINISM
Galton and Ploetz as a link between Darwin and Hitler, by Andrew Sibley, author of 'Restoring the Ethics of Creation' (picture below left)
Darwinists often claim that there is no link of importance between Hitler’s fascism and Darwinism, but claim instead that Hitler’s fascism was motivated by time spent in Catholic Vienna, and by the influence of Luther on German thought. However, the evidence does reveal a link from Darwin to Hitler, especially through Darwin ’s cousin Francis Galton and the German eugenicist Alfred Ploetz.
Hitler used religious language in Mein Kampf (my struggle) where Hitler claims for instance that he is acting within the will of the ‘Almighty Creator.’ [i] Although such use is different to that understood by orthodox Christianity. Hitler skillfully used Christian language to blind so many to his very un-Christian cause and together with a group called The German Christians (Deutsche Christen) forced protestant Christians into the unified, politically controlled Protestant Reich Church . However, a number of German protestant scholars were not taken in by the rhetoric and actions of Hitler. For instance Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Miemoller and Karl Barth and others of the Confessing Church (Bekennende Kirche) signed the Barmen Declaration, in 1934and rejected Hitler’s fascism and the compromise of the Protestant Reich Church. It became increasingly apparent that Hitler in fact hated Christianity, claiming that he wished to abolish it:-
‘I do insist on the certainty that sooner or later—once we hold power—Christianity will be overcome and the German church, without a Pope and without the Bible, and Luther, if he could be with us, would give us his blessing.’ [ii]
One notable scientist to acknowledge Hitler’s acceptance of Darwinism was Sir Arthur Keith. In his book Evolution and Ethics he comments:-
‘The leader of Germany is an evolutionist not only in theory, but, as millions know to their cost, in the rigor of its practice. For him the national “front” of Europe is also the evolutionary “front”; he regards himself, and is regarded, as the incarnation of the will of Germany, the purpose of that will being to guide the evolutionary destiny of its people.’ [iii]
To understand Hitler it is necessary to look beyond the surface rhetoric, and note that Hitler was in fact pantheistic in his thinking having links with the occult Thule Society. For the pantheist, god and nature were one and the same. This belief can be seen in much enlightenment philosophy, for instance in Spinoza’s work, and also in the philosophy of Darwin ’s German supporter and acquaintance, the monist Ernst Haeckel. This pantheism can also be seen in Hitler’s comments where nature is said to possess creative power:-
‘No more than Nature desires the mating of weaker with stronger individuals, even less does she desire the blending of a higher with a lower race, since, if she did, her whole work of higher breeding, over perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, might be ruined with one blow…When man attempts to rebel against the iron logic of Nature, he comes into struggle with the principles to which he himself owes his existence as a man. …No, there is only one holiest human right, and this right is at the same time the holiest obligation…to see to it that the blood is preserved pure and, to create the possibility of a nobler development of these beings. …and finally to put an end to the constant and continuous original sin of racial poisoning, and to give to the Almighty Creator beings such as He Himself created.’ [iv]
In other words, for Hitler, the ‘Iron logic of Nature’ was a principle that had given rise to mankind, and therefore provided a holy obligation that must be obeyed. As such mankind could only work with the process of natural selection by the racial cleansing of society. For Hitler, nature, through the process of evolution was one and the same as ‘Almighty God,’ because he believed nature had creative power over herself.
There are likely a number of links from Darwinism to Hitler’s fascism and ideas do not exist in a vacuum of thought, but within a wide social and cultural milieu. Ideas are also often caught up in a general zeitgeist, (spirit of the times), although perhaps the most notable human link can be traced through Charles Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton. It was Galton who developed eugenics and claimed in a letter to Darwin following publication of Darwin ’s Origins book that:-
‘I have laid it down in the full enjoyment of a feeling that one rarely experiences after boyish days, of having been initiated into an entirely new province of knowledge, which, nevertheless, connects itself with other things in a thousand ways.’ [v]
Later Galton (picture left) would write that Origins turned him towards atheism, commenting that:-
‘Its effect was to demolish a multitude of dogmatic barriers by a single stroke, and arouse a spirit of rebellion against all ancient authorities whose positive and unauthenticated statements were contradicted by modern science.’ [vi]
Darwin responded in kind by praising Galton’s book Heredity Genius, commenting that he found it interesting and original and found himself being partly converted to Galton’s idea that there was a genetic difference between the intellect of different classes of people, although Darwin’s response was typically equivocal.
'You have made a convert of an opponent in one sense, for I have always maintained that, excepting fools, men did not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work; and I still think this is an eminently important difference.’ [vii]
Weikart has also argued that in his latter life Charles Darwin increasingly entertained thoughts of social Darwinism, [viii] seemingly influenced by the direction Galton was taking evolutionary theory.