Robert Richards
University of Chicago
Several scholars and many religiously conservative thinkers have recently charged that Hitler’s ideas about race and racial struggle derived from the theories of Charles Darwin (1809-1882), either directly or through intermediate sources. So, for example, the historian Richard Weikart, in his book From Darwin to Hitler , maintains: “No matter how crooked the road was from Darwin to Hitler, clearly Darwinism and eugenics smoothed the path for Nazi ideology, especially for the Nazi stress on expansion, war, racial struggle, and racial extermination.” In a subsequent book, Hitler’s Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress, Weikart argues that Darwin’s “evolutionary ethics drove him [Hitler] to engage in behavior that the rest of us consider abominable.” Other critics have also attempted to forge a strong link between Darwin’s theory and Hitler’s biological notions. In the 2008 film “Expelled,” a documentary defense of Intelligent Design, the Princeton trained philosopher David Berlinski, in conversation with Weikart, confidently asserts: “If you open Mein Kampf and read it, especially if you can read it in German, the correspondence between Darwinian ideas and Nazi ideas just leaps from the page.” John Gray, former professor at the London School of Economics, does allow that Hitler’s Darwinism was “vulgar.” Hannah Arendt also appears to have endorsed the connection when she declared: “Underlying the Nazis’ belief in race laws as the expression of the law of nature in man, is Darwin’s idea of man as the product of a natural development which does not necessarily stop with the present species of human being.” Put “Darwin” and “Hitler” in a search engine and several million hits will be returned, most from religiously and politically conservative websites, articles, and books
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DOI 10.7208/chicago/9780226059099.001.0001
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