XFiles Friday: Taking sides

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 7)

Mainstream scientists are working in many fields to improve our lives by finding practical applications for evolutionary theory, such as finding ways of increasing crop yields and disease resistance, developing new antibiotics, understanding genetic disorders, and so on. With so many highly-trained, experienced, and successful scientists to choose from, who do Geisler and Turek turn to as their preferred authority on the practical application of evolutionary theory? A biologist? A medical researcher? Someone who is, at the very least, a scientist?

Adolf Hitler used Darwin’s theory as philosophical justification for the Holocaust. In his 1924 book Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”), he wrote:

If nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such cases all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.

But such a preservation goes hand-in-hand with the inexorable law that it is the strongest and the best who must triumph and that they have the right to endure. He who would live must fight. He who does not wish to fight in this world, where permanent struggle is the law of life, has not the right to exist.

That’s right: with all the most brilliant minds of the past two centuries to choose from, Geisler and Turek choose Adolph Hitler, a non-scientist, as their preferred authority on the true meaning and application of evolutionary theory.

Now, there are several problems with this, one of which is obvious even to Geisler and Turek.

Hitler, like other Darwinists, illegitimately personifies nature by attributing will to it (i.e. “nature does not wish“).

Hitler, in short, treats nature as though intelligent design were somehow involved. And that’s just one of the ways in which he distorts evolutionary theory. Hitler also commits the Rapist’s Fallacy, confusing observation with some kind of personal imperative. Christians believe that God created mankind as male and female; the mere observation of a difference in sexes, however, does not mean that every time a man sees a woman, God is commanding him to have sex with her. Likewise, Darwin observed that gene frequencies vary across generations, depending on how much a given gene helps or hinders reproductive success, but this (as many evolutionists have pointed out) is hardly a divine decree that men ought to deliberately wipe out those they believe to be inferior.

Notice, too, that Hitler’s views were based on the popular misconception of “survival of the fittest,” a distorted version of evolution that Geisler and Turek themselves dismissed on page 140 as a mere tautology. It was not evolutionary theory, but a distortion of evolutionary theory, which Hitler appealed to as supporting his planned genocide, just as he appealed to Christian ideas, Lutheran anti-semitism, and the germ theory of disease.

Yet Geisler and Turek, and Ben Stein and crew, choose not to listen to the authority of men and women who have studied evolution and taken the time to understand what it means. No, creationists like Geisler, Turek and Stein prefer to listen to the authority of Adolph Hitler, as THE “Darwinist” who truly understood how it ought to be applied. Ignoring and even opposing what evolutionists themselves explain about evolutionary theory, creationists welcome Adolph Hitler with open arms, and declare him to be their ultimate, authoritative leader as far as interpreting how to put evolutionary principles into practice.

It’s a strange situation. Why, of all people, would Adoph Hitler be the creationists’ preferred authority? What is it about creationists and Hitler that creates this strange affinity between their worldviews? Several things.

First of all, Hitler’s goal, like the creationists’, has less to do with trying to improve his understanding of science, and a lot more to do with building political power and exercising control. People naturally resist being controlled, but Hitler realized (perhaps subconsciously) that you can distract their attention by raising up some unpopular minority as scapegoats: Jews and gays in the case of the Nazis, “Darwinists” and atheists in the case of the creationists. So Hitler and the creationists have similar goals (acquiring political control) and similar strategies (making scapegoats out of unpopular minorities).

They also share a similar lazy and simplistic view of science. Rather than taking the trouble to actually study the theory and learn what it is really saying, they take the easy way out, and uncritically adopt whatever garbled version seems to be the most popular. This is not only the easiest road, it’s also the most political, since you’re upholding an idea that has already won popular approval. Hitler understood this almost instinctively, as I think creationists do as well.

Hitler knew the value of appealing to people’s fears, and fanned their suspicions with various insinuations attributing all sorts of underhanded things to the Jews, just like Ben Stein’s movie insinuates that “Darwinists” are engaged in similar anti-social conspiracies. The latter is an easy prejudice to encourage, since people are naturally mistrustful when in the presence of a topic that, through their lack of education, experience, or intellect, is simply over their heads. If you have no idea what someone is talking about, how can you know whether or not they’re getting it right, or even trying to? Especially when their conclusions sound like they’re contradicting your most cherished beliefs! People are uneasy with their own ignorance, and it takes very little fanning from a Hitler (or a Stein) to ignite that uneasiness into a full-blown, hostile suspicion.

Of course, Hitler knew the value of flattery, and his arguments in defense of the Holocaust always carried along with them the implicit or explicit notion that the non-Jews were inherently superior, not just physically but morally as well. Geisler and Turek likewise sneak in subtle flattery of their readers, via their repeated implications that “Darwinists” are sociopathic racists, who find rape perfectly normal and natural, and who kill babies just because they can. You, dear reader, are so morally superior to those evil Darwinists that you couldn’t possibly want to support them in any way, or so Geisler and Turek smugly insinuate.

But before Geisler and Turek (and Ben Stein and company) get too settled in on their supposed moral high ground, they ought to consider this: it’s not evolutionists who are promoting those perverted and immoral ideas. They may talk about them, and study them, and even learn about them, but if you want to find a large segment of the general public who is actually promoting the idea that evolution justifies these kinds of behaviors, you need to look at the creationists. It’s not Carl Sagan’s Cosmos that claims genocide is a logical consequence of evolution, it’s Ben Stein’s Expelled. It’s not the scientific community that condones racism (as the recent Watson affair demonstrated), it’s creationists who insist that believing in genetics ought to make racists of us all.

And that’s important because evolution really is true. New species really do arise by a process of descent with variation from common ancestors. They even have a chart showing this in the Creationist Museum. If you’re going to argue against evolution on the grounds that “IF evolution THEN racism” or “IF evolution THEN genocide,” you must bear in mind that the “if” part has become a SINCE. And that’s why real evolutionists are careful to say no more about what evolution implies than is scientifically justified. Evolution is a DEscription of how things do work, not a PREscription for how things should work. Creationists who try to make evolutionary fact the basis for immoral behaviors are only working to destroy the very values they claim to uphold.

And that, for some reason, is far less surprising than it should be.

One Response to “XFiles Friday: Taking sides”

  1. mrrage Says:

    Geisler and Turek are further proof that the is-ought fallacy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is-ought_problem) is alive and kicking.


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