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Hitler was neither an atheist nor a reasonably informed evolutionist

Aargh. After reading this screed, which pretty much explains why I hate when Koreans ask me what my religion is (not even whether I have one, but which one I have), I was looking up the answer to whether Hitler actually was an atheist or not. It’s one of those things that niggles at one, having run across some quotations that are attributed to that evil man as believing that Providence, or The Creator, was on his side and had given him a special mission—why we humans give our trust to anyone who proclaims such things is beyond me, in this day and age.

But anyway, it led me to this site, where, among other things, the author claims that being opposed to Christianity is, you know, basically equivalent to atheism. One wonders if the Hindoos, the Black Africanes with their Strainge Cultes, and the ancients of Mysterious Cathay are also basically atheists too, in the mind of Cliff Soon.

(Yes, I’m being snarky and it may be that Mr. Soon is a nonWesterner… his name sounds particularly East Asian to me, in fact. But his thinking sounds faulty in that it posits a single binary: Christian, and atheist. Even if Hitler was some kind of neo-pagan, sceming for the destruction of the Church and a return to older Teutonic religion in a new totalitarian form, it doesn’t make him an atheist. Far from it. Hell, I would even begin to suggest that Kierkegaard’s iconoclastic condemnations of Christendom would “prove”, to Soon’s satisfaction, that the man was not Christian, since he declared that the Evangelical Lutheran faith—the state Church of his Denmark—ought to be disbanded… though of course, in the case of both Hitler and Kierkegaard, the crucial question, the question that differentiates a man of deep and abiding faith from a raging psychopath, is what they sought to do in the name of disbanding their churches, and what they wished to replace those churches with.

But that, of course, is a side issue. The crucial point for me is when Soon goes off on Eugenics.

This is some of the most pig-ignorant claptrap I’ve regularly encountered when I talk about science and evolution with fanatics (which I tend not to do anymore, as a result).

regularly encountered, I say, because one hears it so very often. Whenever Christians want to criticize either atheism or evolutionary science, they always come back around to eugenics.

Eugenics is nowhere near mainstream evolutionary thought. It’s not even close. Eugenics was, yes, a social movement based on racist, sexist, inhumane values. The fact that some idiots grossly created it by misinterpreting Darwin in support of their bigotries is not at all damning of scientific evolution, because in fact most of the ideas central to eugenics make no sense within evolutionary science. Blaming eugenics on the study of evolution is like blaming the Crusades on the nature of Christian theology. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The “eu” in “eugenics” means “good”, which is the first hint that it’s not really a scientifically sound movement: after all, in evolutionary theory, there is no absoutely good gene, or bad gene. There are genes which cause someone to be “selected against”, of course, but no genes that invite extermination.

When some creature is “selected against”, it simply means that in terms of its genetic makeup, the natural environmental “deck” is stacked against its surviving long enough to reproduce successfully.

That’s all it means. It does not suggest that we ought to do anything about this, such as to kill dogs born with three legs, or white-skinned people born to black families in Africa.

White people born in Africa. (An albino, or, hell, say, a white-skinned blue-eyed blond-haired child.) Their skin is pale, they’re likely to burn a lot, and suffer. They’re also likely to stand out as different, and be penalized for that difference (a seemingly universal human trait).

An Africanist eugenics would claim that white skin is a “lower”-quality trait, and might call for the killing of the white-skinned child.

That’s the problem with the notion that eugenics is science, that it is part of evolutionary theory. It’s absolutely not. The interpretation would change as you transplanted it from culture to culture… and given the still-widespread racist thinking around the world, it’s not such a difficult job to imagine. In fact, in forbidding inter-racial marriage as is done in so many families in conservative cultures worldwide, a form of primitive eugenics is being practiced even today. Such families wish to make sure that offspring retain their mythologized racial heritage intact, untainted.

Meanwhile, the person who actually understands Darwin’s work, and all that came afterwards, knows that subjective evaluations of genes are a touchy thing. Sickle-cell anemia isn’t so fun, but with it comes a whole lot of (useful!) malaria resistance. Likewise, the tendency to retain a lot of body-fat makes dating difficult and fashion a heartbreaker, but also makes it much more likely for one’s descendants to be able to store enough fat to better survive a serious famine situation, where skinny people die of starvation.

In the evolutionist’s eyes, whether one is an Aryan or a Jew has scant little importance, unless by being one or the other racially, one has a greater tendency to this or that gene linked to a debilitating illness or (presently or potentially) useful trait.

Again, this usefulness must be understood in context; true evolutionists don’t think in terms of short-term, in terms of history or human cultures. Those are flashes-in-the-pan, and have relatively little to do with the interface between genome and environment (except in the generally ugly cases when humans directly intervene, one race against another, episodes that are—though unarguably of historical relevance— evolutionarily speaking not generally of interest, and so brief in the fossil record that they matter very little—we don’t consider the ancestors of modern Southeast Asians, who chased out the earlier “Negrito” inhabitants of those areas, as proto-Nazis, though they did undoubtedly kill and harm many people and conquered their land). Nor do ideas like race (though different gene pools may have differing concentrations of these or those genes, which may be of this or that advantage). You see, it’s not science that calls for exterminations: it’s cultures, it’s groups of humans that need or want land, that need or want somewhere to expand out to, that want or think they need control of their breeding lines. Such ostensible needs and wants stretch much farther back than even science, and it’s insane to pin it on evolutionary theory or eugenics. Eugenics flows from racism, not from science.

Eugenics, really, is just plain, old-fashioned racism dressed up in a little ill-fitting science, trying to pass itself off as anything other than utter bullshit. And it fails miserably, to anyone who knows anything about science. The fact that some people equate it with evolution only demonstrates how ignorant they are with regard both science and history. What they do is give victory to the eugenicists, who counted on the ignorance of the masses to confuse eugenics for real science. And a sad, hollow victory the faithful deliver unto them.

Atheists are not Nazis. Nazis weren’t evolutionists. Evolutionists are not geneticists. Do your goddamned homework.

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