In parts one and two of this series on eugenics from Darwin to Hitler I noted this: Although Darwin personally was opposed to slavery (or England engaging in genocide), his theory of moral evolution cound not properly ground his own abolitionist and humanitarian outlook. Now in part three we shall examine the Darwinian content of Hitler's worldview in Hitler's own words. You will find some of these quotations in the documentary I recommend earlier: What Hath Darwin Wrought? (see the study guide that comes with this documentary). Compare these thoughts of Hitler with my earlier posts in which I surveyed Darwin's eugenic-friendly ideology in his own words. You will find the parallels remarkable. This whole Darwin to Hitler series and other related blogs are available here (look for the blogs in late November and early December 2012).
Hitler in his own words: Note the Darwinian ideology on display.
“A stronger race will supplant the weaker, since the drive for life in its final form will decimate every ridiculous fetter of the so-called ‘humaneness’ of individuals, in order to make place for the true ‘humaneness of nature,’ which destroys the weak to make place for the strong.”
—Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Chapter IV.
“If reproduction as such is limited and the number of births decreased, then the natural struggle for existence, which only allows the strongest and healthiest to survive, will be replaced by the obvious desire to save at any cost even the weakest and sickest; thereby a progeny is produced, which must become ever more miserable.”
—Adolf Hiter, Mein Kampf, Chapter IV.
“In this world, the laws of natural selection apply. Nature has given the stronger and healthier the right to live. Woe betides anyone who is weak and cannot stand his ground! He cannot expect pity from anyone.” —Hitler Speech, clip from German documentary “Hitler’s Children,” part 4 (War), starting at 12:32, available at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=- 5298238941550391341#.
“We are all beings of nature, which—inasmuch as we can see it—only know one harsh law, the law that gives the right of life to the stronger and takes the life of the weaker. We humans cannot exempt ourselves from this law. ... On this earth we observe the unswerving struggle of living organisms with each other. One animal lives, in that it kills the other.” —Adolf Hitler, speech to army officers, 1942, quoted in Richard Weikart, Hitler’s Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), p. 4.
“The preservation and propagation, the evolution and elevating of life occurs through the struggle for existence, which every plant, every animal, every species and every genus is subjected. Even humans and the human races are subject to this struggle; it decides their value and their right to exist.”—Rassenpolitik (Berlin, no date), SS pamphlet approved by both Hitler and Himmler.
Now, let us recall some more of Darwin in his own words so you can connect the dots.
“Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely the production of the higher animals, directly follows.”
—Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species (London, 1859), p. 490.
“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.”
—Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (London, 1871), Part I, Chapter VI, p. 201.
See my earlier posts for more of Darwin in his own words: More eugnics-friendly talk.
One of the leading historians of science on this topic, Richard Weikart, writes in his article Darwin and the Nazis:
As I show in meticulous detail in my book, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany, the Nazis’ devaluing of human life derived from Darwinian ideology (this does not mean that all Nazi ideology came from Darwinism). There were six features of Darwinian theory that have contributed to the devaluing of human life (then and now):
1. 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.
2. Darwin denied that humans had an immaterial soul. He and other Darwinists believed that all aspects of the human psyche, including reason, morality, aesthetics, and even religion, originated through completely natural processes.
3. Darwin and other Darwinists recognized that if morality was the product of mindless evolution, then there is no objective, fixed morality and thus no objective human rights. Darwin stated in his Autobiography that one “can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones.”
4. Since evolution requires variation, Darwin and other early Darwinists believed in human inequality. Haeckel emphasized inequality to such as extent that he even classified human races as twelve distinct species and claimed that the lowest humans were closer to primates than to the highest humans.
5. Darwin and most Darwinists believe that humans are locked in an ineluctable struggle for existence. Darwin claimed in The Descent of Man that because of this struggle, “[a]t 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.”
6. Darwinism overturned the Judeo-Christian view of death as an enemy, construing it instead as a beneficial engine of progress. Darwin remarked in The Origin of Species, “Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.”
These six ideas were promoted by many prominent Darwinian biologists and Darwinian-inspired social thinkers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. All six were enthusiastically embraced by Hitler and many other leading Nazis. Hitler thought that killing “inferior” humans would bring about evolutionary progress. Most historians who specialize in the Nazi era recognize the Darwinian underpinnings of many aspects of Hitler’s ideology.
Read more about Darwin and Hitler here.