HuffPo Columnist Tries to Link Darwin to Hitler

Since its inception, the Huffington Post’s business model has been one based on providing decent political reporting and serving as a liberal news aggregate of content assembled from around the internet.

But in addition to its main news page, it has also built its success on the idea that it will let just about anyone write for them as long as they’re willing to do it for free. In exchange for all this unpaid content, columnists are largely free to write about whatever it is they like. Consequently, Huffington Post’s living pages have long been filled with various anti-science sentiments and new age woo, from vitamin cures to the “science of distant healing.” Most egregiously, it has provided a place for Jenny McCarthy and others to peddle ongoing claims about there being a link between autism and vaccine shots. Of course, such claims are patently false. There has not been one single scientifically linked case of vaccines to autism. Meanwhile, the sad reality is this fostering of parental anti-vaccine fears by McCarthy and others may have led to the deaths of hundreds of children.

So, it’s not really a surprise that Huffington Post isn’t exactly known for its scientific integrity.

However, Huffington Post took the anti-science sentiments to a whole new level last week when it published a piece by David Klinghoffer on The Dark Side of Darwin. In his piece, Klinghoffer recites the tired lie that Hitler was inspired by Darwin’s theory of evolution to force the sterilization of 400,000 people he judged inferior in the quest for racial purity. Klinghoffer, by the way, is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, an organization which has been trying to insert religion into public school science classrooms under the guise of intelligent design and anti-evolution lesson plans. In 2005, federal judge John E. Jones ruled intelligent design in public schools unconstitutional in that it was merely relabeled creationism. 

Klinghoffer wrote in his column:

While barbarism has been going on for as long as there have been human beings, there was something different about the 20th century. The world had never seen anything quite like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot. And it was not only a matter of the technology available to them. Treating people as vermin to be exterminated was a new thing under the sun. Eugenics programs in United States and later Germany were warm-up acts for the mass slaughters that were to come.  

Hitler’s ideas, Dr. (David) Berlinski (another senior Discovery fellow) carefully notes, “came from many different sources but no honest account will omit Darwin.” A reading of Mein Kampf makes that clear. Certainly, Berlinski says, the men who formulated Nazi ideology “weren’t reading the Gospels.”

Well, actually, that’s not exactly the case, but I’ll get back to that.

Another Huffington Post writer and science blogger of the Primate Diaries Eric Michael Johnson responded to Klinghoffer’s recycled misrepresentation of history with a column of his own, pointing out that there is no link between Hitler and Darwin, despite intelligent design/creationist attempts to say otherwise. And he chastised the Huffington Post for giving Klinghoffer a forum for his lies. He wrote originally:

Creationists do a poor service to the memory of Holocaust victims by using their deaths in a politically motivated attack against science. David Klinghoffer and his fellow creationists should be ashamed of themselves, and the decision by Huffington Post to give a platform to an organization pushing a tactic rejected by a US federal court judge as “breathtaking inanity” should be strongly criticized. 

Editors at the Huffington Post, perhaps a bit sensitive at being criticized for their anti-science views by name, changed the wording to read:

Creationists do a poor service to the memory of Holocaust victims by using their deaths in a politically motivated attack against science. David Klinghoffer, his fellow creationists, and those who give them a platform should be ashamed of themselves for pushing and allowing a tactic rejected by a US federal court judge as “breathtaking inanity” should be strongly criticized.

Science bloggers have picked up the story in the past day and have been blasting Huffington Post’s word changes. See here, here and here.

So getting back to an earlier thought, just what did Hitler have to say about Charles Darwin in his work Mein Kampf?

Fortunately, the Gutenberg Project of Australia has the entire text of Mein Kampf on line, so we are free to check Klinghoffer’s claims for ourselves. (Hat tip to commenter at Pharyngula for this.) A quick search of Mein Kampf reveals not one reference to Darwin. It has one reference to natural selection, but only in the context that the revolutionary movement must not grow too fast:

An organization inspired by a veritable revolutionary idea will attract into the body of its membership only the most active of those believers who have been won for it by its propaganda. It is in this activity on the part of the membership body, guaranteed by the process of natural selection, that we are to seek the prerequisite conditions for the continuation of an active and spirited propaganda and also the victorious struggle for the success of the idea on which the movement is based.

Hitler does make two references to evolution in terms of breeding and natural selection. However, he misrepresents the theory in terms of environmental adaptation and in his mystical belief in an evolutionary higher stage of being:

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 a case all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.

While there is little to back up claims of Darwin’s influence, there are numerous references to God throughout the book. For instance, Hitler writes regarding the need to prevent the propagation of the “defective:” 

If for reasons of indolence or cowardice this fight is not fought to a finish we may imagine what conditions will be like 500 years hence. Little of God’s image will be left in human nature, except to mock the Creator.

Hitler said this of the Jews:

Their very existence is an incarnate denial of the beauty of God’s image in His creation.

And, just for good measure, this is what he said about Jesus:  

The Founder of Christianity made no secret indeed of His estimation of the Jewish people. When He found it necessary He drove those enemies of the human race out of the Temple of God; because then, as always, they used religion as a means of advancing their commercial interests. But at that time Christ was nailed to the Cross for his attitude towards the Jews; whereas our modern Christians enter into party politics and when elections are being held they debase themselves to beg for Jewish votes.

Finally, Hitler says this about his cause:

And so, internally armed with faith in the goodness of God and the impenetrable stupidity of the electorate, the struggle for what is called ‘the reconstruction of the REICH’ can now begin.

laurilebo@gmail.com'

Lauri Lebo is the author of The Devil in Dover: Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America, a book about the 2005 First Amendment trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover in which intelligent design was ruled creationism.