Hitler, Evolution and the Historical Context


In his post the other day, "Did Hitler Use the Term 'Evolution' in Mein Kampf?," Richard Weikart nailed the case shut on that subject. Of course, the larger and more significant issue isn't whether Hitler used the word "evolution" in Mein Kampf but whether he and the leadership of the National Socialists embraced Darwinian ideas and translated them into policies drawn from those concepts. Weikart makes a convincing case for that in his books (see From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany and Hitler's Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress).

While the Nazis clearly could have developed their racist and genocidal program without evolution, Darwinian theory allowed a framework and easy fit into which they could cast it as both scientific and even inexorable. For all of Adrian Desmond and James Moore's claims about Darwin's anti-slavery stance, even they must admit that it was mediated through an overarching conviction that racial hierarchies were an inherent part of the evolutionary process. In their earlier biography they tellingly confess,

"Social Darwinism" is often taken to be something extraneous, an ugly concretion added to the pure Darwinian corpus after the event, tarnishing Darwin's image. But his notebooks make plain that competition, free trade, imperialism, racial extermination, and sexual inequality were written into the equation from the start -- "Darwinism" was always intended to explain human society.

Desmond and Moore elaborate in Darwin's Sacred Cause, as Weikart earlier pointed out here at ENV:

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