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Darwin and Hitler

Dr. Hector Avalos refers to the following two part essay in chapter 14, Atheism Was Not the Cause of the Holocaust, footnote 65, which originally was published at Debunking Christianity as "Avalos Contra Weikart." Consider this a bonus chapter.

Part I

One of the main goals of Intelligent Design creationists is to undermine the theory of evolution by arguing that it can have catastrophic human consequences. This, of course, involves a fallacious logical argument from consequences. Whether a theory has good or bad consequences is irrelevant to whether that theory is true.

But, this logical fallacy has not deterred Intelligent Design creationists who use it to instill fear of evolution in the public. One of the latest attempts in this fear-mongering effort is the pro-Intelligent Design propaganda film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which paints Darwinism as the main, or only, factor in the Nazi Holocaust.

In Expelled, David Berlinski, a Fellow of the Discovery Institute, the pro-Intelligent Design headquarters, makes the claim that Darwinism was “necessary” to produce the Holocaust. The movie says nothing about the long history of Christian anti-Judaism, and it tries to erase any thought that Hitler was using the Bible or religion for some of his rationales.

The film is heavily dependent on the work Dr. Richard Weikart, who wrote a book called From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany (New York: Palgrave, 2004 = FDTH). Dr. Weikart, a Fellow at Discovery Institute, is a trained historian, specializing in modern German history.

Compared to Berlinski, Weikart has a more nuanced, though somewhat contradictory position. On the one hand, he vehemently rejects the idea that Darwinism was a necessary cause of the Holocaust (FDTH, p. 9). On the other hand, he ends his book with this remark:
Darwinism by itself did not produce the Holocaust, but without Darwinism, especially in its social Darwinist and eugenics permutations, neither Hitler nor his Nazi followers would have the necessary scientific underpinnings to convince themselves and their collaborators that one of the world’s greatest atrocities was really morally praiseworthy, Darwinism—or at least some naturalistic interpretations of Darwinism—succeeded in turning morality on its head.
So, it does appear as though Weikart also is saying that Darwinism was “necessary” in some ways, and not just a factor. As we shall see, his idea that Nazi leaders needed “scientific underpinnings” to convince masses of Germans to participate in the Holocaust is itself a most questionable claim. Moreover, his own words even have caused other supporters of his thesis to misunderstand him—see here.

On May 19, 2008, I and Dr. Weikart participated in a one-on-one debate, broadcast on WHO-Radio in Des Moines, Iowa, on the question: “Was Darwinism MORE important than Christian anti-Judaism in explaining Nazi ideology.”

He had earlier rejected a proposal to debate the question: “Is Darwinism necessary to explain the Nazi Holocaust?” That question would have been more compatible with the message of Expelled, as expressed by the voice of Dr. Berlinski. But, alas, the Discovery Institute must have realized that this was an indefensible position.

Since Dr. Weikart agreed to show that Darwinism was more important than Christian anti-Judaism in explaining Nazi ideology, he could not rest content with just showing that Darwinism had influence. He had to erase 1900 years of Christian anti-Judaism in order to put the main blame on Darwinism. But he did try. So, here is the first of a two-part critique of his position organized as follows:

Part I addresses the general problems with Dr. Weikart’s method.

Part II, address the seven specific reasons Weikart provides for concluding that Darwinism was more important than Christian anti-Judaism in explaining Nazi ideology.

Dr. Weikart’s reasons, and other comments on our debate, are provided at Evolution News and Views.



Dr. Weikart begins with a very restrictive definition of “Darwinism,” which he had to amend repeatedly to make his point. This is how he defined Darwinism on p. 9 of FDTH.
When I use the term Darwinism in this study, I mean the theory of evolution through natural selection as advanced by Darwin in The Origin of Species.
I never understood why he restricted his definition to just The Origin of Species (1859), especially as that book says really nothing about human evolution or racial struggle.

Consequently, Dr. Weikart has to keep redefining “Darwinism” to include other works of Darwin. This flaw is all the more important because he has criticized other recognized historians for not adhering to their definitions. Thus, in a review of a book (Materialismus: Enstehung und Wirkung in den Wissenschaften des 19. Jahrhunderts, 1998) by Annette Wittkau-Horgby, Dr. Weikart remarks, “Wittkau-Horgby thus does not adhere to the definition of materialism she starts with...” (German Studies Review 24 [2001]:610).

To avoid constantly moving the definitional goal post for Darwinism, Weikart could have defined Darwinism more broadly, and said “...as advanced by Darwin in his works.” Since misinterpretations of Darwin still count as “Darwinism,” then he actually should say: “...as advanced by Darwin in his books and in various interpretations of his work, whether those interpretations are right or wrong.”

His willingness to count misrepresentations of Darwin as Darwinism, however, is not consistently applied when it comes to other writings that the Nazis misrepresented. Thus, when one shows that the Bible was used by the Nazis, then Weikart might say that this does not count as biblical influence since it is a misrepresentation or a permutation of the Bible. For example, in his review of Richard Steigmann-Gall’s The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity (German Studies Review 21:1 [2004] 175), he remarks:
Many German pantheists used religious—even Christian--terminology, but they often redefined it.
So, when Nazi writers use pantheistic terminology, then they are pantheists, but when they use Christian terminology, then they are not really Christians,but pantheists.

In Weikart’s logic, redefining Christian terms absolves writers from being called Christian, but redefining Darwin will still brand you a Darwinist. Surely, this inconsistency is tendentious and serves to deflect responsibility from Christian thought and theology.

But the problems with definitions do not end there. Dr. Weikart’s entire programme is based on a dichotomy between belief in evolution and belief in a creator. In this dichotomy, evolution = godless and morally relative materialism that devalues life, while belief in a creator = a belief in ethical absolutes and a higher value on human life.

To make this dichotomy work, he uses overgeneralized definitions of “the Judeo-Christian” tradition, and “Darwinism” as opposites. This certainly does not work if he defines Darwinism as he initially does (i.e., only as advanced in The Origin of Species). Weikart’s approach also overlooks the diversity of “Judeo-Christianity,” which can manifest opposing positions on almost everything from the “sanctity of life” to eugenics.


I have called Hitler a creationist because of a number of statements he made in Mein Kampf (Ralph Manheim, translator; [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971], p. 562), where he explicitly acknowledges a creator. For example,
For God’s will gave men their form, their essence and their abilities. Anyone who destroys His work is declaring war on the Lord’s creation, the divine will.
So, my definition of “creationism” formed another of Dr. Weikart’s main complaints about that debate. As he phrases it:
Does Avalos really not understand the distinction between theistic evolutionism and creationism? Does he really not understand that Collins and other theistic evolutionists are not considered creationists by most people’s definition of the term? Does Avalos think he can just make up his own definitions during a debate?
Curiously, Expelled does not highlight theistic evolutionists, and so it gives the misleading impression that there are only two camps: Intelligent Design advocates and Atheist Darwinists.

Weikart apparently cannot stomach the fact that Hitler was a creationist because this would completely undermine his thesis that belief in a creator is superior to belief in atheistic evolution in terms of its ethical consequences and the valuation of human life.

From the very start, the “Intelligent Design” movement has tried to redefine creationism, and mostly for legal reasons. The connection between Creationism and Intelligent Design is explicitly denied by, among others, John G. West (“Intelligent Design and Creationism Just Aren’t the Same”) on the Discovery Institute website.

But, creationism is just how ID was defined by Judge John E. Jones in his now famous Dover decision (2005), which signaled a major defeat for Intelligent Design. Thus, it is no surprise that Weikart attempts to deny that Hitler was a creationist as well.

For Weikart and many other ID proponents, “creationism” means the belief in creation as advanced in the Bible. And this is where his Ph.D. in German history is not as helpful because this issue requires expertise in religious studies and theology, which are part of my training.

In addition, I have experience in the lexicography of religious and biblical terms, and you can find my entries in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, among other reference works. I know that words have histories, and can change in meaning. “Creationism” may commonly refer only to biblical creationism, but it need not be the only acceptable or even the best usage.

Scholars and scientists argue for new definitions all of the time. That is why you find dozens of books with titles such as Redefining Christianity: Understanding the Purpose Driven Life Movement (2006) by Bob DeWaay or Redefining Southern Culture: Mind and Identity in the Modern South (1999) by James C. Cobb. In arguing for any particular definition as superior, the main criteria are applicability and consistency.

In any case, Dr. Weikart seems blissfully unaware that “creationism” has a long history in theological literature. One of the earliest usages of “creationism” was to mark a distinction between those who believed that persons had their soul individually created and those who believed in traducianism, which holds that souls were transferred from parent to child. This fact is already provided by The Oxford English Dictionary.

If one looks at the Lutheran Cyclopedia (Erwin Lueker, ed., [St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1975] p. 210), it bears only one definition under the term “creationism” and this is “the theory that every human soul is created by a special divine act. This view is rejected by traducianism.” So, as late as 1975, some religious scholars still did not use that term for the opposite of evolutionary theory.

If one consults The Oxford English Dictionary, one learns that the most general definition for “creationism” is “[a] system or theory of creation.” Theistic evolution would fit that, since its theory holds that the creator used evolution as an instrument.

When Darwin’s theory first became widely debated, evolutionism was contrasted with “special creationism” or “direct creationism” just as often, or even more often, than with “creationism” alone. One can see this contrast in the work of Asa Gray (1810-1888) the influential Harvard botanist and author of Science and Religion: Two Lectures Delivered at the Theological School of Yale (New York: Charles Scribener’s Sons, 1880).

Gray understood the contrast was between mediate creationism (e.g., Darwinism) and immediate or direct creationism (p. 68). Direct or special creationism holds that each “kind” or “species” was created directly by God, at least in the very first generation. Mediate creationism holds that God could use instruments like evolution to accomplish his purposes.

Gray thought that Darwinism could adopt theistic or atheistic forms. It did make God unnecessary for most of the world’s history because, once God established the laws, he just let the universe run and let it create things on its own (i.e., deism). According to Gray (Two Lectures, p. 78), “Darwin postulates one creative act and a probability of more and so is in principle at one with Wallace and with Dana who insist on more.”

For Gray, there is not a great difference between theistic evolution and Darwinism, and he remarks “So the difference between pure Darwinism and the more theistically expressed evolution is not so great as it seemed” (pp. 80-81). And then, Gray argues for the proper contrast (p. 89):
It must be reasonably clear to all who have taken pains to understand the matter that the true issue as regards design is not between Darwinism and direct Creationism, but between design and fortuity, between any intention or intellectual cause and no intention nor predictable first cause.
So, for Gray, Darwinism best contrasts here with “direct creationism,” not creationism per se, because Darwinism could be seen as a form of “mediate creationism.”

The idea that “creationists” should apply only to those that promote a biblical view of creation certainly fails historically and theologically. Historically, there are plenty of theologians who have thought that evolution was perfectly compatible with, and deducible from, scripture. Thus, the famous Baptist theologian, Augustus Hopkins Strong, states in his Systematic Theology (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1907] p. 466):
Evolution does not make the idea of a Creator superfluous, because evolution is only the method of God. It is perfectly consistent with a Scriptural doctrine of Creation...
And then there were also continual creationists such as Martin Luther (Lectures on Genesis 1-5 in Luther’s Works, Volume 1, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan [St. Louis, Mo: Concordia Publishing House, 1958], p. 54), who believed that ponds were creating new fish all the time because “the water is commanded to bring forth fish” (Genesis 1:20). We could add Young Earth Creationists and Old Earth Creationists to the types of Creationism we have seen over the last hundred years or so.

Given the diversity of “creationist” thought, I do argue that we should classify all those who believe in a creator as “creationists.” Then, we can divide “creationism” into the different types of creationists that exist, and these would include Intelligent Design creationists, theistic evolutionists, and Young Earth Creationists.

Indeed, there is no logical reason why theistic evolution cannot also be defined as “evolutionist creationism.” This is especially the case because modern biblical scholarship has largely overturned the idea that “creation” in Genesis 1:1-3 means “creation out of nothing” (creatio ex nihilo). The biblical god(s) (Elohim) can use instruments and materials already present to form the world. Thus, using evolution is no less “creative” than Yahweh/Elohim using clay or water to form other entities.

Perhaps some writers avoid a term such as “evolutionary creationism” for political reasons, and not because of any sort of semantic logical problem. Seeing all who believe in a creator as creationists also makes sense from an atheistic viewpoint. If there be such a thing as the New Atheism, it would hold even theistic evolution as partially a faith-based claim.

Although I usually do not bestow much authority upon Wikipedia, its article on “creationism” also includes “theistic evolution” under “major creationist views.” (last
accessed on May 22, 2008).

More importantly, an anthology of Christian views on this issue (J. P. Moreland and John M. Reynolds, eds., Three Views on Creation and Evolution: Young Earth Creationism, Old Earth (Progressive Creationism), and Theistic Evolution [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999) contains a plea by Howard J. Van Till that his view (Theistic evolution) be known as “the fully gifted creation perspective” (p. 161). Thus, Van Till also sees theistic evolution as a creation position, or at least he did before he moved further away from his Calvinist roots. He actually complains that the editors of the book changed his preferred definition (p. 161, author’s note).

Dr. Weikart’s objection to my use of “creationism” is puzzling, given the wide latitude he gives himself in defining “Darwinism.” As mentioned, first he told us that “Darwinism” is that position advanced in only one book, The Origin of Species, but yet he also uses other works by Darwin.

Worse yet, soon it becomes clear that even what he calls “permutations” of Darwin’s theory count as “Darwinism.” So, even if Darwin never espoused eugenics or exterminating groups of Jews, eugenics and extermination of human beings is part of Darwinism for Weikart.

On the other hand, my definition of “creationism” is applicable and consistent (the definition applies to everyone who believes in a creator).


Dr. Weikart tells us that terminology is also important in deciphering whether an idea comes from Darwin or not. According to one blog post on The ID Report , he states:
Just this morning I was reading an SS booklet entitled _Rassenpolitik_ (Racial Policy), which is overtly Darwinian. It overtly discusses the struggle for existence, natural selection, and it even discusses mutations as the source of variation. It also uses the term Hoeherentwicklung (higher evolution) constantly.
He suggests that “Höherentwicklung” is a sure sign of Darwinism. In fact, he seemingly wants to translate all occurrences of “Entwicklung” in Mein Kampf as “evolution” in opposition to Ralph Manheim, whose standard English edition often has “development” instead.

It is true that “Entwicklung” is used to describe evolution in German, even though the German word “Evolution” is also found. However, it would be misleading to say that “Höherentwicklung” is necessarily Darwinian. In fact, this very phrase has been used to describe the work of an earlier Germanocentric philosopher named Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803), who wrote a work called Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (“Ideas for the Philosophy of the History of Mankind,” 1787-1791). This work is described as follows:
“...in denen er seine Vorstellung von einem Prozeß der stufenweisen Höherentwicklung der Menschheit darlegt...”
My translation:
...in which he [Herder] outlines his introduction to the stepwise process of the higher development of mankind.

Herder has been directly linked to Nazi policies. Thus, the prominent philosopher of history, R. G. Collingwood (The Idea of History [New York: Oxford, 1946], p. 92 ) said: “Once Herder’s theory of race is accepted, there is no escaping the Nazi marriage laws.”

Indeed, Weikart continually misses the fact that progress and the development of higher or better human beings is a very Christian notion. Observe how Thomas Boston (1676-1732), the Scottish Presbyterian theologian, describes the doctrine of regeneration (“The Nature of Regeneration,” in R.A. Torrey, et al., eds. The Fundamentals [Reprint: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998] Volume 3, p. 132; see also 2 Corinthians 5:17):
But in regeneration, nature itself is changed, and we become partakers of the Divine nature...Everything that generates, generates its like; the child bears the image of the parent; and they that are born of God bear God’s image. Man aspiring to be as God, made himself like the devil. In his natural state he resembles the devil, as a child doth his father. “Ye are of your father the devil” (John 8:44).
Boston wanted what Hitler wanted, but the methods differed. Boston believed in solely supernatural means, while Hitler thought God was commanding him to use technological means. But the goal of forming a better man, and seeing some men as corrupt children of the devil (the very phrase used by Jesus to describe the Jews and posted on Nazi road signs) have similarities that should not be overlooked. Eventually, Christians did use violence when they thought Jews were not converting and becoming the new creatures Christians wanted them to be.


Although Weikart acknowledged that Luther’s anti-Judaism was contemptible, he denies that Luther’s seven-point plan is similar to that of Nazi policy. In order to understand this point, let’s quickly summarize Luther’s seven-point plan, which is found in Martin Luther, On the Jews and Their Lies (translated by Martin H. Bertram in Luther’s Works: The Christian in Society IV, edited by Franklin Sherman [55 volumes; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971], pp. 268-272):
First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, blaspheming of his son and of his Christians....

Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed...

Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.

Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb...

Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews.

Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasures of silver and gold be taken from them for safekeeping...

Seventh, I recommend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen. 3 [:19]).
Every single point in Luther’s plan was implemented by Nazi policy. For example, during Kristallnacht, the horrific anti-Jewish rampage of 1938, Jewish synagogues, businesses and homes were burned or ransacked, just as Luther’s first and second points direct. Moreover, whether by coincidence or not, Kristallnacht spanned Luther’s birthday on November 10. Hitler said he was doing the work of the Lord, and Luther said he was motivated by Christ.

Jewish literature was burned by the Nazis just as is stated in Luther’s third point. Rabbis were certainly forbidden to teach, as directed by Luther’s fourth point. The arrests and shipment of Jews to concentration camps certainly would be consistent with Luther’s fifth point.

Jewish property, including works of art, was confiscated by the Nazis, thus paralleling Luther’s sixth point. Luther’s seventh point had a correspondence in Nazi labor camps, with their infamous “Arbeit macht frei” (“work liberates”) slogan. So, if every single one of Luther’s directives was carried out by the Nazi plan how are these two plans not similar?

In fact, Weikart disagrees even with a Lutheran Luther scholar. Consider what the editorial note by Franklin Sherman (or perhaps it should be attributed to the translator, Martin H. Bertram—my apologies for misspelling his name in previous citations of his work), states:
It is impossible to publish Luther's treatise today, however, without noting how similar his proposals were to the actions of the Nationalist Socialist regime in Germany in the 1930's and 1940's.
And when one looks at how Hitler viewed Luther and Darwin, there is a great distinction. In Mein Kampf (Manheim edition, p. 213), Hitler said:
Beside Frederick the Great stands Martin Luther as well as Richard Wagner.
In contrast, and even by Dr. Weikart’s admission, Hitler never mentioned Darwin by name in his works. This means that, for Hitler, Luther was important enough to mention as a hero, while Darwin was not even important enough to mention at all. This alone is evidence that, for Hitler, Luther was more important than Darwin.

So, why does Weikart insist that there is a difference between the plans of Luther and the Nazis, when even Luther scholars see the similarities? First, Weikart probably knows that his ambiguous and constantly redefined “Darwinism” cannot even compare with the specific directives found in Luther’s plan. Nothing in The Origin of Species directs anyone to mistreat Jews in any manner.

But Dr. Weikart does attempt to paint some differences. One of them is that Luther’s plan was religious, while Hitler’s was not. But this is not true at all. Hitler said that he thought he was doing the will of God (Mein Kampf, p. 65; Manheim edition).
Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator; by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.
As mentioned, this parallels Luther’s statement, immediately after the first point of his plan, which said that the directive was to be carried out in honor of Christ.

Weikart also says that Luther wanted to convert Jews and Hitler did not. Yet, this is not really a crucial difference nor an accurate one. Not insisting on conversions certainly would not make Hitler’s plan less religious; it would just mean that his religious reasons were different. Some Luther scholars, in fact, theorize that it is precisely because Luther had given up the idea that the Jews could be converted that he proposed his plan (see Sherman, ed., Luther’s Works, The Christian in Society IV, p. 125). Throughout Christian history, it was precisely when Jews were seen as too stubborn to ever see the truth that violence was used against them.

Weikart also believes that Hitler’s plan was different because Jews had been racialized by the late nineteenth century. That is to say, it was no longer the religion of the Jews that was important in anti-Judaism, but their race.

This, too, is false. By the sixteenth century, there were statutes oncerning “blood purity” (limpieza de sangre” in Spain that had an exact verbal correspondence to Hitler’s “Reinhaltung des Blutes” [“cleansing/ purity of blood”]). Indeed, the materialization of Jewish blood had begun long ago, as it was already a biblical notion. For example, Ezra 9:2 (RSV) prohibits mixing of “holy seed” with other nations because of moral contamination.

Yet another difference, claims Weikart, is that Jews were seen as flawed in moral character by Hitler, and that is something that reflects Darwinian influence rather than Christian anti-Judaism. As he phrases it, “[t]he evolution of moral traits – Hitler believed that Jews had evolved bad moral traits, while Aryans had evolved good moral traits.”

Yet, the fact that genealogy and moral character could be linked is already found in the Bible. It is no surprise, for example, that “lying” is a continuous moral flaw ascribed to Jews from the New Testament onward. Here are some examples which show how often the German word Lüge (lies) reappears:

A. John 8:44 (RSV): “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Luther’s German translation has Lüge for “lies” in John 8:44.

This passage was posted on Nazi road signs, something that shows how the Bible, rather than Darwin’s books, were used to influence public opinion.

B. Luther’s tract, “On the Jews and their Lies”/German:

Von den Jüden und ihren Lügen.

C. Hitler: “Mein Kampf gegen Lüge...”

Yes, most people do not realize that the original title of Mein Kampf was longer and included “lies” as in “My Struggle against Lies...” One only has to read a few pages to see that Hitler thought Jews had perpetrated one of the biggest lies of all.

Given that lying is ascribed to Jews from the New Testament to Mein Kampf, one need not invoke Darwinism to explain why Jews were thought to have this particular moral flaw. Darwin’s Origin of Species certainly says nothing about this stereotype of Jews.

Here is a chart to help Dr. Weikart understand my point (Click to enlarge):


In his comments about our debate on Evolution News and Views, Dr. Weikart says:
I will leave it to listeners to decide who won the debate, but I left the debate doubting that Avalos knows much about German history, which was the major field of my Ph.D.
I do acknowledge Dr. Weikart’s credentials in modern German history. My objection has been to his dismissal of pre-modern history of Christian anti-Judaism. I have conducted research in Berlin and Wittenberg, and I am no stranger to the use of German sources and archives.

More importantly, I object to him not telling readers about the problems in the sources he uses to document Hitler’s thoughts. One example of the latter is his use of Hitler’s Table Talk, which supposedly bears a record of Hitler’s private conversations.

Four major versions of Table Talk exist (Carrier, “Troubling Finds,” p. 563; see below), here named after the main editors or translators: Henry Picker (German, 1951, 1963, 1976), François Genoud (French translation only, 1952), H. R. Trevor-Roper (English, 1953, 1973, 2000), and Werner Jochmann (German, 1980). These are usually organized internally by the date in which Hitler held a conversation.

The problems with Table Talk have been studied by Richard Carrier (“Hitler’s Table Talk: Troubling Finds”) in German Studies Review (26/3 [2003]: 561-576), a respected periodical for which Dr. Weikart has written numerous times. First, let me mention three problems with this source that trouble me:
1) There are no extant manuscripts from Hitler’s own hand of this source. What we have are reputed copies which often have been filtered through Martin Bormann, Hitler’s adjutant and a known anti-Catholic ideologue. The fact that versions agree sufficiently to propose a common source does not really prove that this common source was Hitler himself, and more evidence is needed to decide if this is the case or not.
2) The versions are sometimes discrepant. Some passages are missing from the edition of Trevor-Roper relative to the edition of Picker. So it is difficult to tell what comes from Hitler and what comes from the editors.
3) Trevor-Roper authenticated the Hitler Diaries, despite the fact that they later proved to be forgeries. Genoud is also a questionable character who may have been involved in forgery.
But even if we suppose that any versions of Table Talk offer accurate representations of Hitler’s thoughts, one can find passages in the work to refute many of Dr. Weikart’s claims. For example, in his list of Darwinist influences on Nazi ideology, Weikart includes this one ("Darwin and the Nazis", American Spectator, April 16, 2008:
Darwin argued that humans were not qualitatively different from animals. The leading Darwinist in Germany, Ernst Haeckel, attacked the “anthropocentric” view that humans are unique and special.
Yet, in Picker’s German edition (p. 114) of Table Talk, we find this statement (February 27, 1942):
Das, was der Mensch vor dem Tier voraushat, der vielleicht wunderbarste Beweis für die Überlegenheit des Menschen ist, dass er begriffen hat, dass es eine Schöpferkraft geben muss!
My translation:
The advantage mankind has over the beast, perhaps the most wonderful evidence of the superiority of mankind, is that he has understood that there must exist a creative power.
This sentence is omitted by the Trevor-Roper English edition.

Yet, Hitler’s view on the privileged position of human understanding actually sounds a lot like what is said by Intelligent Design proponents such as Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, author of The Privileged Planet (2004). Dr. Gonzalez believes that the human ability to observe and understand the universe, as the product of a designer, is one of humanity’s greatest gifts.


Dr. Weikart’s entire method is fundamentally flawed. Its main flaw is holding to arbitrary and inconsistent definitions of Darwinism. If permutations or misinterpretations of Darwin’s books count as “Darwinism,” then permutations and misinterpretations of the Bible or Christianity should count as biblical and Christian influence in Nazi ideology. If we are consistent in this manner, then there is no question that Christian anti-Judaism and the Bible influenced Nazi ideologues and everyday Germans to carry out the Holocaust much more than Darwin’s books or ideas.

Dr. Weikart may be an expert in modern German history, but he is quite ill-read in theological and Christian literature and history. He does not seem to even realize the diversity of the use of “creationism” among theistic evolutionists, past or present. His claims about “Höherentwicklung” show very little research into the German lexicography of that word. The general concept of creating a higher being certainly predates Darwinism.

Much of what he believes to be inspired by Darwin actually turns out to be held by self-described Christians, even if it is also Darwinist. Indeed, Dr. Weikart seemingly cannot even envision that Pseudoscientific versions of Darwinism and racialized versions of Christianity were not opposed to each other, but walked hand in hand, in Nazi Germany.

More importantly, an unfamiliarity with the longer and broader history of Christianity, biblical exegesis, and theology often leads Dr. Weikart to think that concepts such as eugenics and the struggle between the races are new or non-Christian, when they are old and/or part of biblical and Christian traditions.


Part II

Now I will concentrate on Dr. Weikart’s seven reasons for arguing that Darwinism was more important than Christian anti-Judaism in explaining Nazi ideology.

In order to understand my critique, it is necessary to keep in mind that, for Dr. Weikart, there is a dichotomy at work, which is roughly as follows:
1. Darwinism = atheistic materialism, which devalues life and sees death as a good part of producing better species.
2. Judeo-Christianity = a theistic moral system which emphasizes moral absolutes and the sanctity of life.
It is important to repeat how Dr. Weikart describes these seven reasons:
In the course of the debate Avalos showed little understanding of German history or Nazi ideology. He never addressed the major aspects of Nazi ideology that were heavily influenced by Darwinism, but on which Christian anti-Judaism had no influence. I listed seven such features of Nazi ideology...
Notice that he has made a very sweeping and generalizing claim by saying that “Christian anti-Judaism had no influence” on the seven aspects of Nazism he is about to detail. Since “no influence” = zero influence, then all I have to show is that there was more than zero influence to falsify his claim.

More importantly, Dr. Weikart has to show that these seven reasons are indeed Darwinist in the sense he defined it (“the theory of evolution through natural selection as advanced by Darwin in The Origin of Species”). I can show, however, that at least some of the concepts and practices he attributes to Darwinism are found in none of Darwin’s works, and have a very long pre-Darwinian history. So, let’s examine each of these reasons one by one.

1. Nazi eugenics policies, which led to the compulsory sterilization of 200,000 disabled people, forced abortions for disabled, and in 1939 killing the disabled (about 200,000 disabled people were murdered).

First, Dr. Weikart seems to believe that eugenics and compulsive sterilization are something new, and inspired by Darwin.

The term “eugenics” may be recent, but the concept is not. The fact that a concept can predate a current name for that concept is acknowledged by Dr. Weikart himself. In a review published in the German Studies Review (24, no. 3 [2001] p. 665), Dr.Weikart criticizes the dating of the concept of “the sanctity of life” by Udo Benzenhöfer (Der Gute Tod?Euthanasie und Sterbehilfe in Geschichte und Gegenwart [Munich: C. H. Beck, 1999]). Weikart remarks (p. 665):
I find it odd that Benzenhöfer argues that the concept of ‘the sanctity of human life’ was not present until it emerged in the late nineteenth century. The fact that the term was not used previously does not mean that the concept was new.
The same applies to eugenics, which usually comes in two forms:

A. positive eugenics seeks to enhance the good traits of a group;
B. negative eugenics seeks to eliminate the bad traits from a group.

In either form, the concept of eugenics is as old as the Bible. So let’s examine the ancient history of each type more carefully.


The existence of positive eugenics in ancient religions is acknowledged by most of the earliest purveyors of modern eugenics. In his famous 1901 Huxley Memorial Lecture (published in Man 132 [1901] pp. 162-63), Sir Francis Galton, the father of modern eugenics, used ancient Jewish and Hindu marriage dowry policies as examples of eugenic practices:
The means that are available consist of dowries where a moderate sum is important help in emergencies, healthy homes, pressure of public opinion, honour, and the introduction of religious motives, which are very effective as in causing Hindoo girls and most Jewesses to marry young. The span of a generation would thereby be shortened which is the equivalent of increasing the fertility of one that was unshortened.
Observe how Galton indicates that religion was a very effective motivator for eugenics.

Rabbi Max Reichler, one of the authors of Jewish Eugenics and Other Essays (New York: Bloch Publishing, 1916, pp. 7-8) tells us:
To be sure eugenics as a science could hardly have existed among ancient Jews; but many eugenic rules were certainly incorporated in the large collection of Biblical and Rabbinical laws. Indeed there are clear indications of a conscious effort to utilize all influences that might improve the inborn qualities of the Jewish races, and to guard against any practice that might vitiate the purity of the race or ‘impair the racial qualities of future generations’ either physically, mentally, or morally...The very founder of the Jewish race, the patriarch Abraham, recognized the importance of certain inherited qualities, and insisted that the wife of his ‘only beloved son’ should not come from ‘the daughters of the Canaanites,’ but from the seed of a superior stock.
Rabbi Reichler, of course, is quoting Genesis 24:1, which encourages endogamy, and discourages marriages with outsiders. This is part of a concept that we can find from the Bible to the Nazi Nuremberg laws. Rabbi Reichler, also observes:
The aim of eugenics is to encourage the reproduction of the good and ‘blessed’ human protoplasm and the elimination of the impure and ‘cursed’ human protoplasm. According to Francis Galton, it is to ‘check the birthrate of the unfit, and to further the productivity of the fit by early marriages and the rearing of healthful children.’ The Rabbis may or may not have had such a definite purpose in mind, but their Halachic legislation and Haggadic observations naturally tended to bring about the same results. Early marriages were praised as most desirable.
However, we do know that some of the biblical marriage laws were explicitly said to be for the purpose of improving a positive trait. In Ezra 9:11-12, for instance, we have this stated purpose for marriage laws:
[11] which thou didst command by thy servants the prophets, saying, `The land which you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land unclean with the pollutions of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations which have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness.
[12] Therefore give not your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever.'
Notice that one reason given for this is “that you may be strong.” which is exactly the idea of positive eugenics insofar as it encourages the enhancement of a good trait (“strength”).

In the Jewish Talmud (Bekoroth 45b), we also find this instruction:
A very dark-complexioned man should not marry an equally very dark-complexioned woman, lest their offspring may be pitch-black.
Clearly, marriage on the basis of color, and to avoid certain colorations, was already practiced, at least in concept, long before Darwin.

One of the most organized eugenic experiments was in the infamous Oneida (New York) community in the late nineteenth century. In addition to liberal sexual practices, this utopian religious community developed what it called stirpiculture, which is another form of positive eugenics. See further, M. L. Holbrook, Stirpiculture Or the Improvement of Offspring Through Wiser Generation (New York: M. L. Holbrook, 1897).

And perhaps his focus on modern German history has made Dr. Weikart forget that German eugenics is as old as the Roman empire. At that time, Tacitus (ca. 56-117 CE), the celebrated Roman historian, made these remarks concerning the Germans (Germania 3.4, Loeb edition):
Personally I associate myself with the opinions of those who hold that in the peoples of Germany there has been given to the world a race unmixed by intermarriage with other races, a peculiar people, and pure, like no one but themselves, whence it comes that their physique is identical: fierce blue eyes, red hair, tall frames; powerful only spasmodically, not correspondingly tolerant of labour and hard work, and by no means habituated to bearing thirst and heat; to cold and hunger, thanks to the climate and the soil, they are accustomed.
So, even Tacitus is conscious that endogamy has been practiced to enhance or preserve certain hereditary features of the German tribes.


What about negative eugenics? Dr. Weikart conveniently ignores the fact that devaluing disabled people is already in the Bible. Killing or exiling the disabled is also found in the Bible, once we realize that “disabled” can refer to someone that holds any trait, physical or mental, that is cause for devaluation.

Nor was there a uniform “Judeo-Christian” treatment of the disabled. Indeed, Dr. Weikart seems very ill-read in the field of Disability Studies, in which I have published widely (e.g., Hector Avalos, Sarah Melcher, and Jeremy Schipper, eds., This Abled Body: Rethinking Disabilities in Biblical Studies [Atlanta: Scholars Press, 2007]).

While there are indeed passages that encourage us to help the disabled, there were plenty of other passages that encouraged the exile and devaluation of disabled persons. Blindness, for example, could be seen as a result of sin or as a curse from God (Deuteronomy 28:29).

A very cruel policy applied to persons afflicted with what is often translated as “leprosy,” which probably encompassed a wide variety of chronic skin conditions (Leviticus 13:44-45 RSV):
[43] Then the priest shall examine him, and if the diseased swelling is reddish-white on his bald head or on his bald forehead, like the appearance of leprosy in the skin of the body,
[44] he is a leprous man, he is unclean; the priest must pronounce him unclean; his disease is on his head.
[45] "The leper who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry, `Unclean, unclean.'
[46] He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp.
These lepers are left to fend for themselves, as was the case with the lepers in 2 Kings 7:
[1] But Eli'sha said, "Hear the word of the LORD: thus says the LORD, Tomorrow about this time a measure of fine meal shall be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Sama'ria."
[2] Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God, "If the LORD himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?" But he said, "You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it."
[3] Now there were four men who were lepers at the entrance to the gate; and they said to one another, "Why do we sit here till we die?
[4] If we say, `Let us enter the city,' the famine is in the city, and we shall die there; and if we sit here, we die also. So now come, let us go over to the camp of the Syrians; if they spare our lives we shall live, and if they kill us we shall but die."
This could be seen as passive negative eugenics. That is to say, the lepers are exiled, and seemingly have no communal support. They are expected to die or fend for themselves, and they are certainly not to reproduce.

In the Dead Sea Scrolls we find even stricter prohibitions against the blind and the lame, who were not even allowed to enter Jerusalem. The blind were seen as impure, and not of equal value to the healthy. There is no provision to care for them. Likewise, priests with certain deformities were not treated equally, but were barred from the priesthood (Leviticus 21:17-23).

On the scale of rigidity, the next step up might be sterilization. Here again, the Nazis are not the first to do this. God strikes undesirable people with barrenness or childlessness, as the case with Abimelech, the king of Gerar, who nearly slept with Sarah, Abraham’s wife and sister in Genesis 20:17-18 (RSV):
[17] Then Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abim'elech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children.
[18] For the LORD had closed all the wombs of the house of Abim'elech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife.
So, preventing undesirable people from having children is at least conceptually present in the Bible even if one does not believe in this sort of supernatural sterilization.

In modern times, many forced sterilization laws were promoted by Christian ministers, as is well documented by Christine Rosen in her book, Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the American Eugenics Movement (New York:Oxford University Press, 2004).

Also ignored by Weikart is that the Pre-Nazi and Nazi eugenicists often pointed to America as their model for the implementation of forced sterilization. For example, note this statement by a German eugenicists, known as Feilchenfeld, (quoted in Stefan Kühl, The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, The Nazi Connection, and German National Socialism [New York: Oxford University Press, 1994] p. 13):
The forceful and decisive North American does not consider the traditional moral code and does not consider the individual in order to implement what he thinks is right. After he recognizes the importance of heredity in determining mental and physical traits for the entire population, he does not hesitate to proceed from theoretical reflection to energetic practical action and to enact legislation which will lead to the ennoblement of the race.
The perceived success of eugenics in the United States is already touted in Austria by 1913, in the book titled Die Rassenhygiene in den Vereinigten Staaten von Nordamerika (“Racial Hygiene in the United States of North America”) published by Geza von Hoffman, an Austrian government official who had lived in California.

In 1927, the U.S. Supreme Court case known as Buck v. Bell allowed the forced sterilization of a woman (Carrie Buck) who was deemed to be mentally retarded. Buck had a record of prostitution and “immorality,” concepts that were influenced by biblical criteria. Indeed, many American states had sterilization laws before Nazi Germany was even established.


Throughout his book, Weikart promotes the myth that Christian civilization held to what he calls “the sanctity of life.” He contrasts this with Darwinists who devalue the life of those thought to be unfit. This devaluation took the form of euthanasia of the disabled or those judged to be useless in Nazi Germany (not to mention the more brutal Holocaust).

Yet, there was the outright killing of people that were thought to be unfit in the Bible. The entire reason that Canaanites were killed is that they were thought to have immoral qualities, as a group, that required their being killed.

Being born into the Canaanite group was sufficient justification for extermination, and so this really differs very little from the Nazi policy of killing persons by virtue of being born Jews. Insofar as genealogy is biological, then Canaanites were being killed for biological reasons (i.e., because their genealogy alone conferred undesirable features upon them).

Dr. Weikart tells us that Hitler killed Jews because he thought they had evolved immoral qualities. Yet, the idea of killing people for having inborn (or developed) moral deficiencies was part of biblical genocide programs, as well, (at least conceptually). These are the specific and general classes of people that were to be killed or sterilized:

Considering the fact that homosexuals might be stoned or burned to death under biblical law, Nazi euthanasia practices seem merciful by comparison.

Perhaps more importantly, Dr. Weikart seems to overlook the various subterfuges and theological devices often allowed the killing of the unborn, the disabled and the unwanted in European Christian societies.

Dr. Weikart is certainly incorrect to suggest that abortion has been uniformly prohibited by “Judeo-Christianity.” The fact is that even the Hebrew Bible does not see the abortion of a fetus as equivalent to killing of an adult. The famous passage in Exodus 21:22-23 clearly indicates that the accidental killing of a fetus incurs only a monetary penalty, whereas the accidental killing of an adult can incur a death penalty.

Despite attempts to mitigate the implications of this text (e.g., the NIV has an untenable translation that speaks of a premature birth rather than outright death of a fetus), even some conservative exegetes grant the power of this text to differentiate between the value of the unborn and the born (see Robert N. Congdon, “Exodus 21:22-25 and the Abortion Debate,” Bibliotheca Sacra 146 [April-June, 1989], pp. 132-147). As is well-known even traditional Jewish law allowed for abortion in some cases.

In Catholic thought, there has not been a uniform abortion policy either. The doctrine of ensoulment, especially as outlined by St. Thomas Aquinas, did not deem that a child had been “ensouled” (“quickened” as indicated by the feeling of movement in the pregnant woman) until at least 40 days for a boy (90 days for a girl) into a pregnancy. Already by 1211, Pope Innocent III, in a decree titled Sicut ex, made a distinction between abortions performed before ensoulment and those performed afterwards.

Outright excommunication for abortion, at any time in the pregnancy, was not codified universally until 1588 in a papal canon titled Effraenatam issued by Pope Sixtus V. Yet, in 1591 Pope Gregory XIV rescinded the universality of Effraenatam, and again made a distinction between abortion before and after ensoulment. This situation was not really fully reversed until 1869, during the time of Pope Pius IX.

And perhaps Dr. Weikart does not regard the tens of thousands of accused witches who were killed in Christian countries as cases of killing the disabled. Yet, by reading the records of the trials of those killed, it becomes clear that many of these people were probably mentally ill, had epilepsy, or other types of nervous system conditions that better explains why they reported the experiences they had. See further, Erik Midelfort, A History of Madness in Sixteenth Century Germany (Stanford, 1999).

Christian witch hunters did not call it “killing the disabled” but that is exactly what it would be once we realize that mental illness is a disability. In fact, what pre-Nazi Christians did to witches was much worse, as many old and sick persons were often made to endure torture in order to elicit confessions about their demoniac experiences.

And, of course, eugenicists did not see themselves as being cruel to people. Rather, eugenics was an act of love. As Galton phrased it, “Eugenic belief extends the function of philanthropy to future generations” (Eugenics as a Factor in Religion, p. 70).

The reasons the Nazis gave are really not much different from the ones given by Dr. Gleason Archer, the famed Christian creationist apologist, for the extermination of the Canaanites (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982], 121):
Just as the wise surgeon removes dangerous cancer from his patient’s body by use of the scalpel, so God employed the Israelites to remove such dangerous malignancies from human society.
Archer demonstrates what we have argued all along: There never was such thing as the ‘sanctity of life” if that means “ALL life” in Judeo-Christianity. Rather, it was always about the sanctity of some lives. The value of a life was always qualified by a myriad of features.

Natural selection is essential to Dr. Weikart’s own definition of “Darwinism.” But, Galton, while certainly influenced by Darwinism, sees his programme as opposed to natural selection. Observe how Galton describes his agenda (“Eugenics: Its Definition, Scope and Aims,” American Journal of Sociology 10 [July 1904] p. 5):
What nature does blindly, slowly, and ruthlessly, man may do providently, quickly, and kindly.
In other words, Galton’s goal is to defy natural selection, which he views as cruel and random. Galton wants to inject mercy and more rational methods in controlling the final product. This is definitely NOT NATURAL SELECTION.

Galton presciently also warned against the excesses in the use of eugenics (“Eugenics: Its Definition...,” p. 6):
Overzeal leading to hasty action would do harm, by holding out expectations of a near golden age, which will certainly be falsified and cause the science to be discredited.
If Galton is just extending Darwinism, then the Nazis certainly violated this warning.

And even if eugenics were a part of Darwin’s personal thought, we can show that Hitler quotes the Bible, not Darwin, for his rationales. One example is this statement from Mein Kampf concerning race mixing (Manheim edition, p. 249):
...it is one of those concerning which it is said with such terrible justice that the sins of the fathers are avenged down to the tenth generation...Blood sin and desecration of the race are the original sin in this world...
But whence does Hitler get the notion that blood desecration is a sin down to the tenth generation? It is not from any of Darwin’s works. Rather, it is from Deuteronomy 23:2-3 (RSV):
No bastard shall enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD. [3]"No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none belonging to them shall enter the assembly of the LORD for ever.
So, Hitler realizes that the Bible has much more authority with his readers than anything Darwin wrote.

In sum, Dr. Weikart’s dichotomy between Darwinism and Judeo-Christianity is false. Darwin never advocated any sort of policy to exterminate the disabled in On the Origin of Species. Darwin was describing natural selection, not advocating any particular artificial selection policy, which was more the case with Galton. Moreover, the most extreme measures of negative eugenics were already being used in the Bible. And the Bible was certainly a more familiar book to average Germans than anything Darwin wrote.

2. The drive for population expansion (Darwin claimed in Descent of Man that the birthrate should not be limited, because a higher birthrate was advantageous for evolution). Hitler often expressed the same view.

The drive for population expansion is not Darwinian per se. This has been a goal of all empires. This was a goal of God’s commandment Genesis 1:26—“be fruitful and multiply.”

Yet, this claim concerning the drive for population expansion raises another problem with Dr. Weikart’s definitions of Darwinism. As long as Darwin held an idea, then Weikart labels it as “Darwinist.” It does not matter if the idea existed before Darwin. His rationale is as follows:
If X holds an idea, then we can call it X’s idea.
This is fine as long as one is consistent, but Weikart is not. For example, by this logic we also can say that population expansion is also Mosaic, since Moses is said to have held that idea (and assuming the conservative Christian position that Moses wrote the Pentateuch). Yet, the drive for population expansion is not called “biblical” or “Mosaic” by Weikart.

3. The need for living space (this was one cause of World War II, not just a minor feature). Hitler often expressed the need for living space in evolutionary terms.

Dr. Weikart does not tell us what it means to express the need for living space “in evolutionary terms.” Living space is already seen as a scarce resource that causes strife in the Bible, as in Genesis 13:6-7 (RSV):
[6] so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together,
[7] and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's cattle and the herdsmen of Lot's cattle. At that time the Canaanites and the Per'izzites dwelt in the land.
The biblical author expects Abraham to generate a large population, and then he links that population explosion to the need for more territory:
[5] And he brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your descendants be."...
[18] On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphra'tes,
[19] the land of the Ken'ites, the Ken'izzites, the Kad'monites,
[20] the Hittites, the Per'izzites, the Reph'aim,
[21] the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Gir'gashites and the Jeb'usites."
Of course, the biblical narratives later detail the killing of the Canaanites and the taking of their land. So how was Nazi expansionist policy different from what any other ancient empire did, or from what the United States did at the time of its Manifest Destiny expansion?

4. Racial inequality – Darwin and Haeckel argued for human inequality on the basis of Darwinian evolution.

Since Hitler never quotes Darwin’s works, then it is not clear that racial inequality was argued on the basis of Darwinism by all Nazi ideologues.

And since Dr. Weikart seems to equate racial inequality with “human inequality,” then it is quite clear that this did not begin with Darwin, nor is it particularly Darwinian.

Throughout, Christian history we already have a division into at least two classes of people (Christian and non-Christian; saved and damned, etc.). Many other factors could yield different groupings that had different rights and privileges in Christian society.

Arthur de Gobineau (1816-1882), one of the most influential of the Pre-Nazi racial theorists, was working within a self-described Christian worldview. In his infamous book, The Inequality of the Human Races (Translation of Adrian Collins; New York: Howard Fertig, 1999), Gobineau said (p. 3):
The wisdom of the ancient yields little that throws light on our subject, except one fundamental axiom, the recognition of the finger of God in the conduct of this world; to this firm and ultimate principle we must adhere, accepting it in the full sense in which it is understood by the Catholic Church.
For Gobineau, common descent from Adam mattered very little because there were so many other factors that God had deployed in natural law in order to create inequality.

Inequality for the Jews was repeatedly codified by Christian societies. For example, in 1555 Pope Paul IV issued his document titled, Cum nimis absurdum. It established the Jewish Ghetto in Rome, the only area in the city where Jews were allowed to live. In other words it established the segregation of Jews, which is only a step away from complete removal, which is what the Nazis eventually tried to do in concentration camps.

The first sentence of Pope Paul IV’s edict states that one reason for segregating the Jews is that their “guilt has consigned them to perpetual servitude.” It goes on to say that the Jews “should recognize through experience that they have been made slaves while Christians have been made free through Jesus.” The Latin and English text of this edict may be found in Kenneth R. Stow, Catholic Thought and Papal Jewry, 1555-1593 (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1977), pp. 291-98.

In other words, Jewish inequality is a structural part of this Christian social system. So you don’t need Darwinism to create this type of anti-Jewish inequality, and Darwin does not say anything of the sort.

Indeed, the Jews were thought to be inherently unequal to Christians from the New Testament onward. In John 8:44, Jesus says that Jews are children of the Devil, not children of God. Such anti-Judaism is acknowledged by David Klinghoffer, a fellow member of the Discovery Institute. Klinghoffer said (Why the Jews Rejected Jesus [New York: Doubleday, 2005], p. 89):
The extreme hostility of the Gospels toward pharisaic teachings thus falls into place. So, as we’ll see does that of Paul toward Judaism as a whole.
Debra Hicks Strickland (Saracens, Demons, and Jews: Making Monsters in Medieval Art [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003]) has studied in painful detail how Christian artists had been portraying Jews as bestial and non-human for hundreds of years prior to Darwin. This alone powerfully refutes Dr. Weikart’s contention that presumed common descent from Adam avoided dehumanizing groups of people.

In sum, is absurd to think that Darwin’s On the Origin of Species better explains the anti-Judaism you see in Nazi Germany, when you have explicit and clear statements about Jewish subordination to Christians for hundreds of years before Darwin ever lived.

5. Anti-Marxism – The leading German Darwinist Haeckel argued that Darwinism disproved Marxism.

This reason cannot be part of the seven features of Nazism that Dr. Weikart says were influenced by Darwinism. Nowhere in On The Origin of Species do we find the notion that natural selection disproved Marxism. Haeckel may have thought that, but what Haeckel and Darwin thought cannot be conflated in this manner. Thus, the supposed disproof of Marxism cannot be labeled as a Darwinist idea proper.

6. History as a racial struggle for existence.

This idea is not particularly Darwinian either. Weikart (From Darwin to Hitler, p. 186) has repeatedly used the following quote from The Descent of Man to support this contention:
At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.
But this quote is taken out of context. The proper context is a lament for this extinction, and not an endorsement of it. This lament is clearer if one reads further, and where Darwin states: “But there is no lament in any writer of that period over the perishing barbarians” (The Descent of Man [Modern Library edition], p 543).

Indeed, Dr. Weikart would do well to consult Patrick Brantlinger, Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Extinction of Primitive Races 1800-1930 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003), which details the pre-Darwinian history of the extinction trope.

More importantly, Weikart attributes to Darwin what has been part of a metanarrative in European history for at least 2,000 years. Enmity between groups is part of biblical tradition. Jesus already calls the Jews the sons of Satan, which dooms Jews to perpetual enmity with Christians.

In the so-called War Scroll, which is part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we find a detailed description of a cosmic struggle between the sons of Darkness and the Sons of Light. These groups had reflexes in real people and groups, and its narrative is very similar to that of the Book of Revelation.

Prior to Darwin, many Christian historians already were portraying great events as part of a metanarrative of conflict between ethnic or racial groups. For example, Augustine Thierry’s famous tome, The Conquest of England (1825) painted that conquest as part of a struggle between the Anglo-Saxon and Norman races.

Pre-Darwinian American metanarratives were not much different. The Book of Mormon had, as part of its metanarrative, the struggle between the darker Lamanites and the lighter-skinned Nephites.

George Fitzhugh, the American pro-slavery advocate, had a racial struggle framed in a survival-of-the-fittest matrix already in 1854 when he said (Antebellum Writings of George Fitzhugh...(1854; Reprint Putnam &Sons, 1960], p. 61):
Members of Congress of the Young American party, boast that the Anglo-Saxon race is manifestly destined to eat out all other races, as the wire-grass destroys and takes the place of other grasses.
And contrary to Weikart’s claim that Christianity’s spiritual orientation resisted such racialist ideas, Robert Knox, the famous Scottish racialist writer, says (Robert Knox, The Races of Men, [Philadelphia: Lea & Blancard, 1850], pp. 38-39):
Now whether the earth be over-populated or not, one thing is certain---the strong will always grasp at the property and lands of the weak. I have been assured that this is compatible with the highest moral and even Christian feeling.
Indeed, John Campbell, a pro-slavery Christian writer, saw racial struggle as an essential part of the history of mankind and he quotes Knox for part of his 1851 essay, “Negro-Mania,” (in E. N. Elliott, Cotton is King and Pro-Slavery Arguments... [Augusta, GA: Pritchard, Abbott and Loomis, 1860], p. 520):
The antagonism of races is working itself out in every instance where two races are put in collision by the quicker or slower extinction of the inferior and feebler race...Knox has shown us everywhere the white blood treading down and exterminating the darker races. “The Saxon (he remarks) will not mingle with any dark race, nor will he allow him to hold an acre of land in the country occupied by him”...There is no denying the fact that the Saxon—call him by what name you will—has a perfect horror for his darker brethren.
Clearly, Dr. Weikart is working with profoundly naïve and simplistic views of “Judeo-Christian” ethics. Dr. Weikart cannot continue to ignore the fact that this view of history as a racial struggle is much more indebted to Christian and biblical history than to Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

7. The evolution of moral traits – Hitler believed that Jews had evolved bad moral traits, while Aryans had evolved good moral traits.

Does Dr. Weikart really believe that this reason shows “no influence from Christian anti-Judaism?” Dr. Weikart does not provide any specific moral traits that Jews have supposedly evolved. Nor does Dr. Weikart tell us what “evolved” traits mean.

But, certainly, most of the immoral traits ascribed to Jews by Hitler in Mein Kampf (e.g., lying, control of money supply, politics, stubbornness, lack of territorial rootedness) had been ascribed to them for hundreds of years, starting with passages such as John 8:44, where Jews are already pegged as children of the Devil and as liars.


Contrary to Dr. Weikart’s claims, none of the seven major aspects of Nazism he has identified can be attributed to Darwinism as he has initially defined it: “the theory of evolution through natural selection as advanced by Darwin in The Origin of Species.”

Some Nazi policies may, indeed, have received Darwinian interpretations, but Dr. Weikart attributes to Darwin what clearly has a longer Christian history (e.g., Jews are condemned to inequality in Christian societies) or generalized history (e.g., territorial ambitions have been part of history for millennia). Such features have nothing or little to do with anything Darwin advocated in The Origin of Species, or in any of his other well-known works.

Dr. Weikart’s dichotomy between Darwinian materialism and spirit-centered Judeo-Christian ethics certainly cannot withstand scrutiny. There was no such thing as “the sanctity of life” in Judeo-Christian societies, if that means all lives were regarded as equally deserving of the same privilege to life. For example, the “sanctity of life” for homosexuals was no more guaranteed in some parts of the Bible than it was in Nazi policy.

The valuation of the immaterial part of persons may itself have contributed to the devaluation of human bodies in Christians societies, something evident in the practice and glorification of martyrdom.

Numerous exceptions, qualifications, and theological rationales could allow abortion or the killing of what we would now recognize as disabled persons in Christian societies.

Jews, in particular, were seen as unequal to Christians, and Jews were routinely killed or exiled for not being Christian. So how does the inequality of Jews in Nazi Germany differ from the inequality that Jews had experienced for at least 2000 years in Christian societies?

The survival-of-the-fittest idea was not only not uniquely Darwinian, but it was a routine part of American socio-religious and government policy toward indigenous populations. Many Nazis specifically referred to American practices, rather than to Darwin per se, to draw their inspiration.

To explain Nazi Germany one needs to focus on the sort of moral authority that would have motivated average Germans who carried out these policies. Clearly, the Bible and Christian history would have more authority than Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, which Weikart makes the centerpiece of his formal definition of Darwinism.