Saturday, March 29, 2008

Godwin's Darwin

AUTHOR: Allen MacNeill

SOURCE: Original essay

COMMENTARY: That's up to you...

There has recently been a huge controversy generated around the upcoming movie, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed", featuring Ben Stein. Rather than rehash most of this, I recommend that those who are not yet "up to speed" check out the related posts at The Panda's Thumb.

Ben Stein (a former speech writer for Richard Nixon) interviewed many evolutionary biologists for this film, including Will Provine and me. As the various threads at The Panda's Thumb indicate, he did so under patently false pretenses. Then, when some of the interviews contradicted the particular propaganda point he was trying to make, those "inconvenient" interviews were cut from the film (see here).

But that's not what I want to talk about in this blog. Ben Stein has been quoted repeatedly as saying that the underlying message in "Expelled" is "No Darwin, no Hitler". Yes, this is a particularly egregious example of Godwin's Law, but it is cited so often by creationists and ID supporters that I have prepared the following refutation (including citations, most of which I found here) Enjoy!

While Hitler uses the word "evolution" in Mein Kampf, it is clear that he is not referring to Darwin's theory. Indeed, he never mentions Darwin at all. In fact, a look at his writings reveals his sentiments on the subject to be those of an orthodox creationist.

Like a creationist, Hitler asserts fixity of kinds:

"The fox remains always a fox, the goose remains a goose, and the tiger will retain the character of a tiger." - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. ii, ch. xi.

Like a creationist, Hitler claims that God made man:

"For it was by the Will of God that men were made of a certain bodily shape, were given their natures and their faculties." - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. ii, ch. x.

Like a creationist, Hitler affirms that humans existed "from the very beginning", and could not have evolved from apes:

"From where do we get the right to believe, that from the very beginning Man was not what he is today? Looking at Nature tells us, that in the realm of plants and animals changes and developments happen. But nowhere inside a kind shows such a development as the breadth of the jump , as Man must supposedly have made, if he has developed from an ape-like state to what he is today." - Adolf Hitler, Hitler's Tabletalk (Tischgesprache im Fuhrerhauptquartier).

Like a creationist, Hitler believes that man was made in God's image, and in the expulsion from Eden:

"Whoever would dare to raise a profane hand against that highest image of God among His creatures would sin against the bountiful Creator of this marvel and would collaborate in the expulsion from Paradise." - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol ii, ch. i.

Like a creationist, Hitler believes that:

"God ... sent [us] into this world with the commission to struggle for our daily bread." - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol ii, ch. xiv.

Like a creationist, Hitler claims Jesus as his inspiration:

"My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them." - Adolf Hitler, speech, April 12 1922, published in My New Order.

Like a creationist, Hitler despises secular schooling:

"Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith . . . we need believing people." - Adolf Hitler, Speech, April 26, 1933.

Hitler even goes so far as to claim that Creationism is what sets humans apart from the animals:

"The most marvelous proof of the superiority of Man, which puts man ahead of the animals, is the fact that he understands that there must be a Creator." - Adolf Hitler, Hitler's Tabletalk (Tischgesprache im Fuhrerhauptquartier).

Hitler does not mention evolution explicitly anywhere in Mein Kampf. However, after declaring the fixity of the fox, goose, and tiger, as quoted above, he goes on to talk of differences within species:

"[T]he various degrees of structural strength and active power, in the intelligence, efficiency, endurance, etc., with which the individual specimens are endowed." Mein Kampf, vol. ii, ch. xi.

So, like a creationist, there is some evolution he is prepared to concede -- evolution within species, or "microevolution", to which people like Phillip Johnson and Michael Behe have no objection. It is on the basis of the one part of evolutionary theory which creationists accept that Hitler tried to find a scientific basis for his racism and his program of eugenics.

Ergo, Hitler did not base his eugenic and genocidal policies on evolutionary theory, but rather on views that are very similar to those held by most creationists and many ID supporters.

Comments, criticisms, and suggestions are warmly welcomed!


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At 3/29/2008 12:39:00 PM, Blogger normdoering said...

I tried to deal with those Hitler was an atheist and a Darwinist claims here:
If Hitler was an atheist...
If Hitler was a Darwinist...

There's some more data there to back up your view.

At 3/29/2008 01:00:00 PM, Blogger oplopanax said...

Good post. I heard/read somewhere that "Hitler's Tabletalk" was an inauthentic postwar source, however. I Am Not An Expert, mind you...

At 3/29/2008 01:14:00 PM, Blogger Allen MacNeill said...

There is some question of how many of the quotes in Hitler's Table Talk are authentic. You can trace this controversy by googling Tischgespräche im Führerhauptquartier (the title of the book in German).

In general, the controversy centers on how close to Hitler's actual words the transcripts are in Hitler's Table Talk. Some of the quotes show Hitler as having much more logical coherence and rhetorical style than Hitler is known to have exhibited at other times.

However, that said, the consensus is that Hitler's Table Talk is probably as accurate as one could expect, given its second-hand (and, in some cases, third-hand) nature.

At 3/29/2008 01:48:00 PM, Blogger Rich Hughes said...

Great Stuff, Allen. Its a shame that serial denialist, Davecot decided to put you on moderation for using Hitler's own words. There is of course the biblical tradition of genocide...

At 3/29/2008 09:12:00 PM, Blogger monado said...

Very nice! I'll be linking to this.

At 3/30/2008 12:43:00 PM, Anonymous Maya said...

Mr. MacNeill,

Now that you've been banned from Uncommon Descent (welcome to the club), perhaps you'd like to offer the regulars there the opportunity to continue the discussion in an uncensored, neutral venue. When I was banned I invited DaveScot to continue at, but the big bad marine was too scared of a little girl to take me up on the offer. Maybe you'll have better luck.


At 4/02/2008 06:41:00 PM, Anonymous Salvador T. Cordova said...


First off, I had nothing to do with any adminstrative issues regarding you at UD. I learned the hard way to stay out of moderation decisions at UD....

I have, and will always remain a very great fan of yours.

I think your essay is very very good. I would argue however that Darwin (under pressure) in later versions of Darwin's Origins also argued for a creator [whether his doing so was sincere is another story.]

One can be a creationist and argue for survival of the fittest. E. Blyth, the father of natural selection theory, was a creationist.

Finally, are you sure Will Provine will not be in the movie? I learned through the Expelled circles that he disclosed his illness to them and his intent to euthanize himself. I do not know if those comments by Will will be shown in the movie...

I'm deeply sorry to hear this. He (along with you) are among the most honorable gentleman I've known.

You're a better man than I Allen...

many regards,

At 4/03/2008 03:32:00 PM, Anonymous Allen MacNeill said...


I read with interest your comments on Fisher's Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection at uncommon Descent. I have been pointing out for years that Fisher's mathematical theory of natural selection is self-limiting. That is, natural selection eliminates the raw material that is absolutely necessary for its operation: variation within (and between) populations.

This problem is similar to the one posed by Fleeming Jenkin to Darwin's original theory (in the Origin of Species. That is, Jenkin pointed out that if inheritance were blended (as was the predominant theory at the time), sexual recombination would have the effect of eliminating variation and therefore depriving natural selection of its necessary raw material.

Both Darwin and Fisher proposed the same solution to this problem: "continuous variation", which is illustrated mathematically by the normal distribution of variable traits within populations. Darwin provided no rigorous explanation of where such variation came from, supplying instead massive examples of such variation (especially among domesticated plants and animals, especially pigeons). Fisher developed an entire self-consistent theory by which continuous variation could become "embedded" within a population.

However, Fisher's theory was still vulnerable to the effects of natural selection, which tends to reduce variation (and even eliminate it in small populations). Sewall Wright's theory of genetic drift was his attempt to solve this problem, proposing that in small populations natural selection can be overwhelmed by purely random changes as the result of what could most precisely be called "sampling error."

All of these problems ultimately stemmed from the over-emphasis on the primacy of genetic specification of phenotypes. The idea that all evolutionary change could ultimately be reduced to changes in allele frequencies in populations was fundamental to the mathematical theories of evolution propounded by the founders of evolutionary theory (especially the founders of the neo-darwinian "modern evolutionary synthesis").

As I have pointed out before, much of the mathematical underpinning of ID theory (especially John Sanford's "genetic entropy" and William Dembski's "complex specified information") suffers from precisely the same problem. That is, they also assume that all significant evolutionary change happens at the level of genes (or even nucleotide sequences).

However, as I have recently pointed out (see, the most important factor in evolution is not variation in the genetic code, but rather variation in the phenotypes in populations. There are now many known mechanisms by which phenotypic variation can be generated without genetic variation, and vice versa. Ergo, both the “modern evolutionary synthesis” and the mathematical arguments for ID must both be either heavily modified or rejected outright.

At 4/03/2008 09:14:00 PM, Blogger Allen MacNeill said...

As to Will Provine's appearance in the upcoming movie, "Expelled", I was present at his interview with Mark Mathis (and was interviewed by Mathis right after Will). Both Will and I went into some detail about how we both invite creationists and ID supporters to make presentations in our evolution courses at Cornell. My own comments were almost entirely limited to that subject.

It was these comments that were cut out of the final version of the film, as they directly contradicted the premise upon which the film was based. Will's comments on his conversion to atheism were included, however, as they reinforce a common belief of creationists and ID supporters: that the theory of evolution leads directly and inevitably to atheism (this was not the case with me, BTW).

At 4/03/2008 10:17:00 PM, Blogger Allen MacNeill said...

For Sal Cordova (I don't know how to respond to your email any other way):

Hi, Sal:

> First off, I had nothing to do
> with any adminstrative issues
> regarding you at UD. I learned
> the hard way to stay out of
> moderation decisions at UD....

No problem; I'm not really very broken up over it.

> I have, and will always remain a
> very great fan of yours.

Thank you, Sal; I appreciate it, and reciprocate the sentiment.

> I think your essay is very very
> good. I would argue however that
> Darwin (under pressure) in later
> versions of Darwin's Origins also
> argued for a creator [whether his
> doing so was sincere is another
> story.]

It's pretty clear from his autobiography and correspondence that he modified the final paragraph of the Origin in later editions mostly on account of his wife, Emma, who was a devout Christian and worried constantly about his disposition in the afterlife. He was a very loving husband (and father) and hated controversy, and so modified the final paragraph by inserting the phrase "by the Creator" so as to take some of the sting out of it.

However, it is clear from his private correspondence (and from parts of his autobiography that were expurgated by his family after his death) that Darwin himself was a confirmed agnostic (he preferred Huxley's term on philosophical grounds, and avoided describing himself as an atheist).

> One can be a creationist and
> argue for survival of the
> fittest. E. Blyth, the father
> of natural selection theory, was
> a creationist.

Agreed. However, Blyth only believed in (and promoted) what is now known as "stabilizing selection," whereas Darwin was most committed to what is now known as "directional selection." These two have diametrically opposed outcomes. The former results in no net change in the mean traits of a population, whereas the latter results in a significant shift in the mean value of one or more of the traits in a population.

> Finally, are you sure Will
> Provine will not be in the movie?
> I learned through the Expelled
> circles that he disclosed his
> illness to them and his intent to
> euthanize himself. I do not know
> if those comments by Will will be
> shown in the movie...

I have posted a reply to this at my blog (see above). Will very cheerfully discloses his illness to his classes every year. Indeed, before he had his tumor removed, he suffered from bouts of aphasia during lecture, and warned students that he would sometimes stop talking for extended periods of time. This happened repeatedly during lecture, and so he would boot up his PowerPoints (with lots of animated gifs and music), which would carry on for him until his ability to speak returned, or the lecture ended (whichever came first). Since having the tumor removed, his bouts of aphasia have stopped, but his cheerful announcements of his infirmities and coming demise have not, and never fail to inspire a scattering of applause from his students.

> I'm deeply sorry to hear this.

Will is, of course, only planning on euthanizing himself if his brain tumor (now in remission) returns and is incurable. He plans to do this to spare his family and friends the agony of watching him die over an extended period of time (not to mention sparing his family the extra, and in his mind pointless, expense).

> He (along with you) are among
> the most honorable gentleman
> I've known.

Thank you, again, Sal; we try.

> You're a better man than I
> Allen...

Again, I try. Specifically, I imagine the effects of my words and actions on my family (especially my children), my friends (such as Hannah Maxson and Will Provine), on the members of my Friends Meeting (, my colleagues, and my students, and then try to act accordingly. And most of all, I try to see "that of God in every person" – what George Fox asserted was the heart and soul of Friends' testimony. When I am successful (and I admit this is sometimes quite difficult), I can generally avoid demonizing my opponents, and instead treat them as fellow seekers after the truth about That Which Is.

> many regards,
> Salvador

As always,

At 4/04/2008 12:57:00 PM, Blogger kendenny said...

Great article. I emailed Ben Stein a link to it. I don't expect him to reply.

At 4/04/2008 10:07:00 PM, Blogger NP said...

Good article, Dr. MacNeill. I'm sure DaveScot was itching to find any excuse to ban you from Uncommon Descent, as you always manage to make qualified and in depth responses to their strawmen and misinformation about what evolutionary theory entails. You're one of my heroes!

Ken Denny, how did you get a hold of Ben Stein's email address?

At 4/05/2008 09:48:00 AM, Blogger John Wilkins said...

A passing note: I prove Darwin's role in the origin of antisemitic murder here.

Of course, there's a bit of historical revisionism needed.

At 4/07/2008 08:27:00 PM, Blogger steveh said...

Over at Hollyword Jesus, Greg Wright appears to accuse you of fabricating outrageous, erm, fabrications (*).

"HJ: Instead, this is what he [Allen McNeil] wanted to talk about:

'AllenMcNeil: Ben Stein has been quoted repeatedly as saying that the underlying message in “Expelled” is “No Darwin, no Hitler”.'

HJ: Problem: Stein hasn’t said that.

HJ: What has been quoted repeatedly is the statement that “Stein has been quoted repeatedly” as saying that. But Stein has not, in fact, said that, nor has the film"

SH:I guess he's just trying to be balanced in a "I admitted that Stein and Co. were maybe a little dishonest so I should claim the same of everyone who disagrees with them" sort of way - I left a comment, but I'm sure others could do better. (*) I'm sure a better word will leap into my brain after I press "Publish"

At 4/09/2008 10:17:00 PM, Blogger Allen MacNeill said...

I don’t know if anyone is still watching this thread, but Premise Media has just been slapped with a “cease and desist” letter from XVIVO, the group at Harvard that produced the video clips from which the still images at the top of this thread were taken. They are alleging copyright infringement (not to mention blatant plagiarism). The full text of the letter from XVIVO’s lawyers can be read at:

The letter makes it clear that if the offending video clips are not removed from the film and all promotional materials by the opening date, immediate legal action will be taken to stop the release of the film.

I’m curious; isn’t there a commandment about stealing in there somewhere? Anyone? Anyone? Buehler?

At 4/10/2008 05:29:00 PM, Blogger J. Smith said...

Great job presenting a more accurate understanding of Hitler's viewpoint. He is more of a creationist. Brings a quote from Albert Camus to mind..."The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding."

At 4/18/2008 03:45:00 AM, Anonymous shawn barr said...

I heard somewhere that the first person to say "hitler" in an argument loses. :-)

Whichever side a person is on.

Just a thought.

At 4/20/2008 12:19:00 AM, Blogger monado said...

Yes, Shawn, it's called Godwin's Law, hence the name of this post.

At 6/17/2009 10:10:00 AM, Blogger Rich Hughes said...


“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.”

(“Hitler's Speeches”, edited by Professor N. H. Baynes (Oxford, 1942), page 369).

At 9/15/2009 03:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On another note, The third version of Marx's (he didnt write it, but was chosen to be the name for it) Communist manifesto was dedicated to Charles Darwin. Survival of the fittest means the interbreeding "elites" with all the wealth and power should rule the "profane". Which if you havent noticed is how it has worked since the beginning of the "history" they have given us.

At 3/15/2012 09:49:00 PM, Blogger Diogenes said...

These creatards and their imaginary history.

This creatard promotes the myth that Marx dedicated "The Communist Manifesto" to Darwin. The first edition came out 9 years before Origin of Species.

This creationist myth was based on a twisted version of a fact: the boyfriend of Marx's daughter asked to dedicate his book to Darwin. Not Marx himself.

At 4/13/2012 02:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for these explicitly anti-evolution quotes from Mein Kampf. However, the important thing to remember about Hitler is that he embraced several contradictory positions simultaneously.He claimed he was both a socialist, and yet insisted that the great industrial empires should remain intact. He said he was a catholic, yet embraced Nietzsche and sponsored Rosenberg's program to create a new form of Paganism. It's very easy to cherry pick quotes from him to support almost any possible position. That's why Godwin's law works.


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