"Darwin's Deadly Legacy"
Alonzo Fyfe printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Aug 23, 2006 at 07:07:31 AM EST
A video that will be broadcast the weekend of August 26/27 on several stations (mostly Christian broadcast stations) aims to blame evolution for the Holocaust -- to draw a cultural connection from Darwin to Hitler.

This post aims at examining the logic of that implication and, in particular, at what the attempt to make such a connection says about the moral character of those who would try to make it.

God is for Suckers carried a posting today on a video called "Darwin's Deadly Legacy" this weekend that draws the conclusion that Darwin personally and evolutionary theory in general were responsible for the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust.

The article has caused me to wonder whether a video should be produced drawing a link between Christianity and the dim-witted, hypocritical, hate-mongering bigots that would produce and distribute a video such as this, and those who may find it convincing.

I do not advocate name-calling. However, it is not name-calling for a prosecuting attorney to stand up and say to the court, "I intend to prove that the accused is a murderer." A morally-charged proposition can, in fact, be made the conclusion of a logical argument - it can be proved - in the same way that one may be proved to be a murderer or a rapist.

That is my intention in this post.

Opening Statement

Ladies and gentilemen of the jury, in order to prove that those who produced, distribute, and stand to be convinced by the arguments that will be presented in this video are dim-witted, hypocritical, hate-mongering bigots, I wish to start with a reductio ad absurdum of the validity of the argument that lies at the core of the inference that the accused seeks to draw between Darwin and Hitler. This reduction will show that not only is the inference invalid, but that it would have been seen as such by morally responsible people. From this we can infer that those who failed to see the obvious inference are not morally responsible. More importantly, we can ask, "What sort of person would overlook or ignore such an obvious point?" The answer will be those most likely to commit this error are dim-witted, hypocritical, hate-mongering bigots. Thus, my accusation would have been proved.

Step 1: The Reductio

A reductio ad absurdum argument begins with premises that the individual one is arguing against cannot easily accept, and draws from them an absurd conclusion, using an argument that has exactly the same form as the argument being criticized.

Allow me to demonstrate:

Clearly, the words in the Bible, and even the words of Jesus Christ, have been used by people from time to time to commit great evil. Christian Europe endorsed and expanded the institution of chattel slavery http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_slav1.htm , culminating in the slave trade in the 1800s that lead to America's Civil War. the institutions and For example, it was a substantially Christian culture laid the foundation for the institution practice of chattel slavery. Darwin's theory of evolution had not been invented yet and cannot be blamed for this institution. In fact, Darwin's theory of evolution is co-incidental with the abolition of chattel slavery, not with its creation.

The defense of chattel slavery largely came from biblical sources. The Bible did not condemn slavery. In fact, it contained many passages concerning the proper treatment of slaves -- none of them being a commandment to end the practice of slavery. Many Biblical stories has God commanding one group of people or another to take slaves. To cap it all off, there is the oft-quoted passage, particularly relevant to the defense of chattel slavery, whereby God decided to punish Ham by giving him dark skin and declaring that he and all of his descendents are to serve as slaves to whites.

Considering these facts, we can ask whether those who produced, distribute, and stand to be convinced by this video would be convinced by the argument that, because of this history, Christianity itself is responsible for slavery. We can ask if they would accept the conclusion that Christians today share in the guilt of chattel slavery and that Christianity itself (and all those who would call themselves Christian) is to be condemned on the streets, in the schools, and in the public square.

It clearly does not follow from the fact that, in the past, some Christians have found a defense of slavery in the Bible that all Christians are to be condemned. It is particularly absurd to blame those Christians who found reason to condemn slavery that they, too, are to be blamed for its defense.

More importantly, those same Christians who produced, distributed, and stand to be convinced by this video would be among the first to condemn any who tried to saddle all Christians with the guilt of slavery, simply because some Christians used the bible to defend slavery.

This argument reduces to absurdity the argument that because some evil people couch their evil in terms of a particular belief, that the belief itself (and all of those who hold to that belief) are to be condemned. The argument is as absurd when the belief in question is Darwinism as it is when the belief in question is Christianity. In neither case does this argument make it legitimate to condemn those who hold that belief on the streets, in the schools, and in the public square.

Of course, there are atheists who have used the inference I spoke of above to condemn all Christians. They have argued, "Because some people have used religion as a basis for doing evil, all religion must be condemned." Because this argument commits the same fallacy, my argument here justifies saying that those atheists are also dim-witted, hypocritical, hate-mongering bigots.

Step 2: The Obviousness

The readiness with which we can expect the bulk of those who produce, distribute, and stand to be convinced by the video Darwin's Deadly Legacy to leap to denying the implication from the biblical defense of slavery to the condemnation of Christianity and all Christians suggests that the point that I am making is not some obscure and deeply buried argument. It is on the surface of the consciousness of all of those who can call it up on a moment's notice to defend Christianity. They intimately understand and accept the idea that a good and decent person will not infer the hatred of all of those who adopt a particular belief from the fact that some who adopt that belief do great evil.

Step 3: Moral Character

The last step then is to ask, "What type of people are these who find it so easy to ignore such basic principles of common sense and fundamental justice?"

In all cases, a person's intentional actions aim to fulfill the more and the stronger of their desires, given their beliefs. Every intentional action gives us evidence that we can use to deduce an individual's beliefs, along with his more and stronger desires.

In fact, this is how proof of intent works in a court of law. The prosecution provides evidence that shows beyond a reasonable doubt that only a particular intent best explains and predicts the behavior of the accused.

I have shown that the bulk of those who produced, distribute, and stand to be convinced by this argument accept the common-sense principle that all of the holders of a belief cannot be condemned because some of them have used it to defend evil institutions. They cannot claim to be unfamiliar with this principle because, if they were, they would not use it so easily in their own defense.

I have also shown that the bulk of those who produced, distribute, and stand to be convinced by this video accept the common-sense principle of justice that it is wrong to condemn a person for acts that he personally never participated in or endorsed. So, we cannot blame the fact that those who produced, distribute, and stand to be convinced by this video that they lack the ability to understand the wrongness of their actions.

The most obvious intent of Darwin's Deadly Legacy is to impugn the character of any person who believes in evolution.

Technically, we can deduce that an agent has a desire that `P' if the best way to explain and predict his behavior is by saying that his choices attempt to make or keep the proposition `P' true. For those who produced, distribute, and are inclined to be convinced by the video Darwin's Deadly Legacy, the best way to explain and predict their behavior is that they seek to create a situation in which there is general and widespread hatred of those who believe in evolution. One may want to suggest that their interest is in preventing another holocaust, but we must recall that we need a theory that explains their acceptance of failed logic for thinking that evolutionists are responsible for the holocaust. Why did they make this mistaken inference? The best explanation for the mistake is that they wish to see evolutionists as objects of hatred.

In other words, those who produced, distribute, and are inclined to be convinced by this video are those who like the idea that evolutionists are "like Hitler" so much that they are willing to grasp and hold on to any excuse that suggests that they can see evolutionists as "like Hitler." They are attempting to get people to reject evolution, not because the evidence suggests that evolution is a poor theory, but because the reader must either reject evolution or risk being accused of being "like Hitler".

Step 4: Hypocrisy

From Step 3, the charge of hypocrisy can easily be proved applicable.

We are speaking about people who would condemn anybody who dared to argue from the premise, "Some Christians do evil" to the conclusion "Christians (and Christianity) are evil."

At the same time, these people find it perfectly acceptable to argue from the premise, "Some Darwinists do evil" to the conclusion "Evolutionists are evil."

A hypocrite is defined as somebody who demands that others live by a set of moral principles (and condemns those who fail to do so), while at the same time refusing to live by those same moral principles.

Clearly, those responsible for producing and distributing, and who are inclined to be convinced by this video are hypocrites, in that they insist that others follow a moral principle that they, themselves, willingly violate.

Step 5: Dim Witted

In order to make a case for Darwin's Deadly Legacy, an individual needs to provide evidence that these evils are somehow entailed by Darwinian theory. If, instead, people get from Darwinism to eugenics or a holocaust by means of a logical or factual mistake, then the fault does not rest with Darwinism. It rests with those guilty of making this logical or factual mistake.

Any who did infer some type of social Darwinism, eugenics, or genocide on the basis of Darwinian evolution would, in fact, be guilty of a logical mistake. There is nothing in Darwinian theory that entails or implies any moral principle - any more than Newtonian theories of motion or Einsteinian theories of relativity entails or implies any set of moral principles. Any who claim to see such an inference is seeing something that does not exist.

Scholars have known for nearly 300 years that any inference from a set of 'is' statements (which is what scientific theories are) to 'ought' conclusions is logically invalid (or, at best, requires an explanation). If somebody actually asserts that such an inference exists, they are making a mistake. The problem rests with their inability to understand basic logic, not with Darwinian theory.

Whenever anybody makes this kind of mistake, we have reason to ask (and to seek to explain) why they made that mistake of all of the various mistakes they could have made. If a person makes a logical mistake supporting a particular conclusion, it is not unreasonable to believe that they made the mistake because they want the desire to be true, and they are just looking for excuses (or rationalizations) for what they want to believe.

If the Nazis drew any type of moral implications from Hitler then this was a case of rationalization. They wanted a way to rationalize their hatred, and they made invalid inferences to do so. If they could not draw their invalid inferences from Darwinism, they would have drawn them from someplace else. After all, they are looking for (irrational) inferences used to support an attitude of hate. They are not looking for inferences that actually make sense. If Darwinism had not been available, they would have found their excuse someplace else (e.g., in the Bible - like those who murdered Jews had been doing for over a thousand years).

In short, if Hitler and his kind drew inferences from Darwinism to support the holocaust, it is not because those inferences are valid (they are not). It is because Hitler and his kind were dim-witted, hypocritical, hate-mongering bigots. Using invalid inferences to support their hate is what dim-witted, hypocritical, hate-mongering bigots do.


When we look at the people responsible for producing and distributing Darwin's Deadly Legacy we see a group of people seeking to promote hate (a.k.a., 'hate-mongering'), eager to accept invalid arguments purely because those invalid arguments are useful in supporting and feeding their hatred.

These producers and distributors depend on a violation of a fundamental principle of justice -- that no person shall be accused of wrongdoing by accidentally sharing a trait with those who are guilty of some evil. Thus, those who are responsible for producing and distributing this video are guilty of being bigots.

The people who produced and distribute this video not only violate a basic principle of justice in doing so; they violate a principle of justice that they insist that others uphold. They would instantly object if somebody were to come to them and say, "Some Christians do evil; therefore, all of Christianity is evil" (e.g., some Christians defended slavery; therefore, Christianity should be abolished). Yet, they freely violate principles that they insist that others live by. Because of this, they are guilty of the moral crime of hypocrisy.

Finally, they make their argument in clear contradiction of the basic principles of logic that any intellectually responsible clear-thinking person can easily recognize, allowing us to charge them with being dim-witted.

By the way, I am not using the term `dim-witted' in a purely descriptive sense. I am using it in a morally derogatory sense to refer to somebody who refuses to live by basic standards of intellectual responsibility - those who are `dim-witted' not by chance, but by choice.

Ladies and gentlemen, on the basis of this evidence, I conclude that you have no choice but to conclude that the accused - those who produced and distribute and who stand to be convinced by the video Darwin's Deadly Legacy are dim-witted, hypocritical, hate-mongering bigots, and ought to be regarded like any other dim-witted, hypocritical, hate-mongering bigots.

They are not the only ones. Some atheists (those who hold "some religious people do evil deeds; therefore, all of religion must be abolished) are also dim-witted, hypocritical, hate-mongering bigots. Of course, the Nazis were dim-witted, hypocritical, hate-mongering bigots. No dim-witted, hypocritical, hate-mongering bigot can defend his actions by saying, "But I am not the only one."

One conclusion that I want to put some emphasis on is that we are doing no good by promoting hatred against others on the basis of their being theist or atheist. We should be directing moral contempt on those who are dim-witted, hypocritical, hate-mongering bigots regardless of their religious stripes. The fewer dim-witted, hypocritical, hate-mongering bigots we have, the better the world will become.

This is an ironic fact- the Eugenics movement was at its strongest, and STILL EXISTS in the USA.

I've personally heard the same sorts of people (fundamentalists) who are trying to connect Darwin to Hitler support Eugenics- in the sterilization of "the poor" (read as any minority).

Indeed, I believe that it can be argued that fundamentalism is a form of Social Darwinism- an idea rejected by Darwin himself and REAL scientists since the idea was first proposed.

by ArchaeoBob on Wed Aug 23, 2006 at 07:05:42 PM EST

...and Platonic Reasoning to expose the underhanded tactics used by these self-avowed "moral" thinkers. I believe there is also something in the Bible about "bearing false witness." As with the stealth tactics of Christian Fundamentalists and the Christian Coalition taking over public school boards in order to inflict an unpopular agenda on communities, these "Moral Values" leaders illustrate a profound lack of ethics.

Of course, I am not assuming that since these Christians are liars and hypocrites, that ALL Christians are liars and hypocrites. True humanistic ethics rejects any such generalizations. And since we are  all human, I invite all to openly share these values.

by joelp on Wed Aug 23, 2006 at 07:43:30 PM EST

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