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Nazis, Evolution, Atheism - what's the deal?

Critics of the atheist movement occasionally claim that eugenics relies on evolution, and then go on to claim that Darwin is somehow responsible for the holocaust. What evidence is there to support these assertions, if any?

Posted: September 9th 2010

Mike the Infidel www

The vast majority of WW2-era Germans were Catholics. There is no way to blame their actions (or their inaction as the case may be) on atheism.

Whether evolution can be tied to the holocaust is, by the way, entirely irrelevant. Even if it were the case that evolution were to blame, that does absolutely nothing to disprove it. That a theory is dangerous does not make it false.

Posted: September 13th 2010

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brian thomson www

Darwin was describing evolution through natural selection, while selective breeding (of animals or people) is unnatural selection. I recently listened to a podcast about the work of Ernst Haeckel , a naturalist who became highly influential in German science, largely due to his support for recapitulation theory (“ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” – which it doesn’t, by the way). He was a skilled artist who published many beautiful drawings of microorganisms in particular, but he had, shall we say, controversial views on race and evolution, was an anti-Semite, and didn’t care who knew it.

Was Hitler aware of Haeckel’s views? It’s difficult to say for sure, but since Haeckel lived and worked in Germany up until the 1920s, it’s not too much of a stretch. An article at The Panda’s Thumb investigates this possibility. Whether or not Hiltler read Haeckel, both perverted Darwin’s views to the point they were almost unrecognisable: Darwin was describing what was happening naturally, not making any suggestion that people should be bred like animals – unnaturally.

Posted: September 10th 2010

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Eric_PK

We have a movement now? Where do I get my membership card?

Honestly, that’s really funny. I don’t know of any exact numbers, but from what I can tell, all the organized atheist/freethought groups are a) not very big and b) not very organized.

At least in the US, many atheists have a theist upbringing, which means they tend to view with suspicion that sort of organization.

As for your question, Eugenics is just a fancy name for selective breeding of humans. Selective breeding has been going on for millenia in animal, so you don’t need evolution for eugenics. It is true that some advocates for eugenics tried to couch their statements in evolutionary terms to make them seem more scientific, but in the end eugenics just comes down to a group thinking that they have the right to decide how relatively valuable different humans are. Which is hardly a new thing.

So, to answer your question, “no”, there is no evidence to support these assertions.

Posted: September 10th 2010

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Blaise www

Eugenics doesn’t rely on evolution, is subverts evolution through artificial breeding programs. To suggest otherwise reflects a failure to understand either eugenics or evolution.

As for the Nazis, Hitler was an admitted Catholic, and it was from there that he derived his hatred of Jews. While the Nazi philosophy was nominally atheistic, it was suffused with christian dogma and mysticism. They really did send teams of archaeologists around the world looking for holy relics to give them magical powers. That wasn’t just made up for “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. So no, the holocaust happened in spite of the Nazis’ supposed atheism, not because of it.

Posted: September 10th 2010

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