©1995-1998 Theodore D. Hall, Ph.D, Leading Edge International Research Group
In the conclusion of his remarkable book The Nazi Doctors--Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, Robert Jay Lifton writes of a visit to Auschwitz: "I went to the camp a few years ago and was shown the many exhibits maintained there, exhibits that leave nothing to be added concerning the evil human beings can do to other human beings. But the one that left the most profound impression on me was the simplest of all: a room full of shoes, mostly baby shoes."
Genocidal campaigns are not new. They occurred before the Holocaust; and they are occurring at this moment.What distinguishes the Nazi "race purification" extermination program from other genocidal campaigns is its "scientific" character. At a mass meeting in 1934, Nazi Deputy Party Leader Rudolf Hess stated, "National Socialism is nothing but applied biology." "The entire Nazi regime was built," Lifton writes, "on a biomedical vision that required the kind of racial purification that would progress from sterilization to extensive killing." As early as the publication of Mein Kampf (1924-26), Lifton indicates, "Hitler had declared the sacred racial mission of the German people to be 'assembling and preserving the most valuable stocks of basic racial elements [and] . . . . slowly and severely raising them to a dominant position.' . . ."
Where did the "biomedical vision" of Hitler and his party originate? The primary sources were: Darwinian biology and evolutionary theory; Social Darwinism, the evangelistic dissemination of Darwinism; and a pseudo-science called "eugenics." In the first several decades of the twentieth century, eugenics was considered by many as humanity's best hope for the future. It played the role now played by "genetic engineering." It was applied Darwinism. The following outlines, briefly, the nature of these related sources:
Today, our orthodox theory of biology and evolution is "neo-Darwinism." Neo-Darwinism combines what is called "classical Darwinism" with modern genetics. Classical Darwinism dates from 1859, the year in which English naturalist Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, subtitled (note carefully) The Preservation of the Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Despite the fact key premises underlying Darwin's theory were unproven scientifically, the theory was embraced by numerous scientists and intellectuals as if it was gospel -- the Gospel of Science. In a relatively short time, the Origin replaced the Bible as western civilization's preferred authoritative text on the subject of the nature of life on Earth. In 1871, Darwin published the even more controversial The Descent of Man.
The major premises of Darwinism may be summarized as follows:
(1) The first premise, the concept of the evolutionary transformation of one species into others, was derived from the "Transformism" of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who founded evolutionary science in 1809 with the publication of Philosophie Zoologique. In his History of Creation (1873), evolutionist Ernst Haeckel writes, "To him [Lamarck] will always belong the immortal glory of having for the first time worked out the Theory of Descent, as an independent scientific theory of the first order, and as the philosophical foundation for the whole science of Biology." Indeed, the very term "biology" was coined by Lamarck.
Darwin became acquainted with the work of Lamarck through his friend and mentor, the eminent geologist Charles Lyell. Volume II of Lyell's Principles of Geology, which contains a long exposition of the Lamarck theory, was received by Darwin in South America in 1832, in the first of his five years engagement as ship's naturalist on the H.M.S. Beagle.
(2) The second premise of Darwin's theory is that "natural selection" is the cause of divergence in species, i.e., the origin of species. The first published mention of the idea of Nature-as-selector is in Rousseau's "Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men" (1755). In a discussion of the conditions of life in ancient Sparta, Rousseau writes, "Nature used them precisely as did the law of Sparta the children of her citizens. She rendered strong and robust those with a good constitution and destroyed all the others."
A more immediate source was the evolutionary theory of English naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who committed to paper a theory of evolution by natural selection prior to the completion of Darwin's work. In June of 1858, Wallace submitted to Darwin an unpublished work titled "On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type." Shortly thereafter, Darwin wrote to Lyell, "Your words have come true with a vengeance -- that I should be [could be] forestalled. You said this when I explained to you here very briefly my view on Natural Selection depending on the struggle for existence. I never saw a more striking coincidence; if Wallace had my M.S. written out in 1842, he could not have made a better short abstract! Even his terms now stand as heads of my chapters . . . . "
Had Wallace simply published his manuscript, he would have had priority with regard to the concept of evolution by natural selection. Instead, priority went to Darwin. The questionable means by which priority was conferred on Darwin are discussed in a fascinating book by Arnold Brackman titled A Delicate Arrangement. Darwin's understanding of natural selection derived from his work with breeding. The breeding of plants and animals Darwin called "artificial selection;" the breeding that occurs in "the wild" he called "natural selection." Early in the Origin, Darwin defines natural selection in these (anthropomorphic) terms: "Natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing . . . . every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good; silently and insensibly working . . . . at the improvement of each organic being . . . ." In effect, Darwinism replaces the traditional belief that order in nature is the result of a divine presence (God) with the idea it is the result of a natural presence (Natural Selection).
(3) The third premise in Darwinism is that the drive behind evolution is the sexual-reproductive instinct. Given the tremendous influence of this drive, life is an incessant struggle for existence:
"A struggle for existence inevitably follows from the high rate at which all organic beings tend to increase. Every being . . . must suffer destruction . . . otherwise, on the principle of geometrical increase, its numbers would quickly become so inordinately great that no country could support the product. Hence, as more individuals are produced than can possibly survive, there must in every case be a struggle for existence, either one individual with another of the same species, or with the individuals of distinct species, or with the physical conditions of life. . . ." The basic premise ("the high rate at which all organic beings tend to increase") and the "principle of geometrical increase" are, as Darwin indicates, "the doctrine of Malthus applied with manifold force to the whole animal and vegetable kingdom. . . . "
The Malthus in question is the Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), famous "pessimist" and author of one of the most influential essays in modern times -- the "Principle of Population" (1798). In this essay, Malthus argues that because "all animated life [tends] to increase beyond the nourishment prepared for it," there can never be real progress or happiness for mankind. Give man a little more bread than usual, he'll breed more than usual, wiping out his little gains. Populations increase by geometrical progression, Malthus asserted, while the means of subsistence increase by only mathematic progression. Thus man is doomed to procreate himself into destitution. Malthus, one of the founders of the "dismal science" of economics, painted visions of a future filled, inescapably, with starving and diseased multitudes.
Before Malthus and his nightmarish visions, the rulers of Europe looked upon large populations as assets; after the "Principle of Population," they began to view the same populations as liabilities, potentially disastrous liabilities. The revolution in America and the abortive revolution in France had made it very clear that masses can be lethal to the ruling classes, and Malthus provided just the perspective the rulers of Europe were looking for. The masses are totally unprincipled. Populations must be strictly controlled. In 1789, the first year of the French Revolution, the European country with the largest population was France. The statistics were on the wall, and the rulers of Europe were not slow in reading them.
In the opening half of the nineteenth century, throughout Europe, members of the ruling classes gathered to discuss the newly discovered "Population problem" and to devise ways of implementing the Malthusian mandate, to increase the mortality rate of the poor: "Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague. In the country we should build our villages near stagnant pools, and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy and unwholesome situations," and so forth and so on.
The Reverend Malthus, who took the understandable precaution of publishing his "Population" essay anonymously (in 1798), is the prototype of the Nazi-style social theorist. "Malthusianism," as it was called, found adherents throughout Europe, but few of these dared to express their opinions outside the private chambers of fellow believers. By the end of the century, however, the Malthusians were out of the closet.
In Germany, "racial scientists" openly advocated the killing of unwanted members and segments of the population. One of these scientists, Adolf Jost, "issued an early call for direct medical killing in a book published in 1895 . . . The Right To Death (Das Recht auf den Tod)." Jost argued that for the sake of the health of the social organism, the state must take responsibility for the death of individuals. Adolf Jost was a mentor to Adolf Hitler, who agreed 100 percent. "The state must see to it that only the healthy beget children," Hitler said. "The state must act as the guardian of a millennial future. . . . It must put the most modern medical means in the service of this knowledge. It must declare unfit for propagation all who are in any way visibly sick or who have inherited a disease and can therefore pass it on."
Between the first decade of the nineteenth century and the last, what was it that occurred that made Malthusianism "respectable?" Darwinism. Specifically: Darwin's adoption of the "Malthus doctrine" as his third premise. In the third premise is a foundation of the Third Reich. In effect, if not intent, Darwinism is Malthusianism, re-presented in the guise of true science. Under the banner of Darwinism, "The Only True & Sacred Biology & Evolution," the Malthusians and their masters were able to wreak havoc in our civilization. Among their legacies are the ravages of the imperialists in the late nineteenth century, the lethal socialisms that have plagued our century, the world wars, holocaust after holocaust, and very possibly one or more of the serious diseases which now afflict humanity.
In Palo Alto, early 1994, I attended a lecture on evolution by a distinguished Stanford professor. The professor began his lecture with the bald statement, "Today, the science of evolution is synonymous with Darwinism." The professor paused, smiled. There were no challenges from the audience, and so he continued, repeating the "truisms" of Darwinism, truisms that are not true but only seem so because they've been repeated so often. Unlike any other scientific theory I know of, Darwinism has survived refutation after refutation. In 1971, Norman Macbeth, a Harvard-trained lawyer who made the study of Darwinian theory his avocation for many years, published quite a good critique of Darwinism -- Darwin Retried. One of Macbeth's major concluding points, which is well documented, is that most Darwinists have little confidence in their own theory. The eminent Karl Popper calls the book "an excellent and fair, though unsympathetic retrial of Darwin." (What "sympathy" has to do with science I do not know.) It is 1995, almost twenty-five years later. Darwinism is still our orthodox biology.
In 1986, Australian scientist Michael Denton published Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, a thoroughgoing critique of Darwinism which concludes that the much-celebrated theory is "the great cosmogenic myth of the twentieth century." "One might have expected," Denton writes, "that a theory of such cardinal importance, a theory that literally changed the world, would have been something more than metaphysics, something more than a myth." Practically in the same breath, Denton remarks that "Darwinism remains . . the only truly scientific theory of evolution."
Denton's confusion is understandable. It is difficult to believe that a theory with so little merit could have become so profoundly entrenched in our science -- and in the conventional wisdom. Isn't science supposed to free us from myth? Darwinism may remain the teflon orthodoxy for another twenty-five years. That should not dissuade us from the vital work of critique. So far, we've analyzed Darwinism into its three basic premises. How valid (strong) are those premises?
(1) The strength of Darwinism is in the first premise, the Lamarckian premise of the evolutionary transformation of one species into others. Lacking sufficient data, Lamarck viewed the evolutionary line as strictly linear. Species A produces B, B produces C, C produces D, and so on. In 1855, Alfred Wallace re-articulated the premise,
arguing that the evolutionary line may be branched, i.e., Species A may produce C as well as B, B may produce D, E and F, etc. Further, Wallace argued, evolutionary steps are not necessarily "progressive" (more and more perfect), as Lamarck had maintained.
The Wallace articulation came to be known as "the Sarawak Law." Every species has come into existence coincident both in time and space with a pre-existing closely allied species. The long and short of it is: When the Lamarck-Wallace premise fell into Darwin's hands, it was in good shape scientifically. It was, and is, a valid premise, supported by much evidence.
(2) Darwin's second premise, that natural selection is the cause of divergence in species, is what is called an "empty generalization." It sounds good, but it tells us nothing. If I were to tell you that the cause of divergence in species was the "environment," would you find that an adequate explanation? No, of course not. "You must be more specific," you would say. "What is it, specifically, in the environment that causes divergence?" "Natural selection" is no more specific than "environment."
It is not difficult to understand why so many scientists have accepted the premise of natural selection uncritically. It does seem to be an explanation more in the scientific direction than "Zeus," for instance, of "Jehova." Nevertheless, natural selection is simply a "false scent" that takes us nowhere, except deeper and deeper into the woods. Darwin himself was uneasy with the term. In the sixth and last edition of the Origin, he says that survival of the fittest is a "more accurate" expression of what he had previously called natural selection. Interestingly, the phrase "survival of the fittest" was coined not by Darwin, but by philosopher-evolutionist Herbert Spencer some seven or eight years before the publication of the Origin. By 1872, the phrase had become the common catchword (slogan) for Darwinism. Darwin laid claim to it ("selected" it, we should say), preferring it over the meaningless natural selection.
Further, the concept of natural selection was tied too closely to Alfred Wallace, the talented young evolutionist who had been totally eclipsed by Darwin. (When the famous theory of evolution was first presented, it was called the "Darwin-Wallace" theory. A correct title would have been the "Wallace-Darwin" theory.) The phrase "survival of the fittest" was the product of one of Darwin's most ardent apostles. Mr. Spencer was quite delighted Darwin adopted the phrase.
(3) Darwin's third premise -- the so-called "Malthus doctrine" -- has no scientific validity, and it never did. In the modern jargon of critique, we would call the Malthus doctrine an example of "reductive, or simplistic, sexual determinism." (Sigmund Freud is whipped routinely by contemporary commentators for having fallen into the trap of sexual determinism.) The idea that "all animated life" is governed exclusively by the sexual-reproductive drive was suggested to Malthus by early eighteenth century reports regarding goats that had been released by buccaneers on certain of the Galapagos islands circa the 1670s. The reports indicated that the goats had multiplied to the point that scarcely a bit of vegetation was left.
Malthus read the reports and concluded that human beings, if left to their own devices, would do the same thing. They would reproduce themselves right out of house and home, to the point the entire population would be left without a can of beans. This conclusion is the pseudo-scientific basis of the "Malthus doctrine" that Darwin so enthusiastically embraced, and amplified -- by his declaration that it "applied . . . to the whole animal and vegetable kingdom."
Any form of reductive determinism is the intellectual equivalent of a tar pit. Malthus was trapped in his own tar. In later life, he endeavored to correct the erroneous doctrine, but by then, it was too late. The doctrine had become a part of our common stock of "true ideas about the way things are." Thus it is that Darwin writes with such certainty, that "There is no exception to the rule, that every organic being naturally increases at so high a rate, that if not destroyed [Italics mine], the earth would soon be covered by the progeny of a single pair . . . ."
"Even slow-breeding man has doubled in twenty-five years," Darwin continues, "and at this rate, in a few thousand years, there would literally not be standing room for his progeny." This "Malthus-Darwin doctrine," let us call it, was the basis for much hysteria in the ruling classes of the last century. The Malthus-Darwin doctrine clearly suggested that the human population of the planet had become a problem. "If not destroyed," to use Darwin's phrase, this population would soon leave the planet as barren as the goat-infested Galapagos islands. The Malthus-Darwin doctrine had no scientific basis whatsoever; it was based on the erroneous reasoning of Malthus. Darwin should have known better. Perhaps he did. Whatever the case, the doctrine was a big hit with the rulers of the last century, a strong incitement -- sanctioned by science -- to over-run the planet before others did so.
Suddenly, the nations of Europe found themselves with "surplus populations." The Age of Imperialism was born, as nation after nation entered the race to acquire foreign lands and foreign countries, not because of greed, but because of national survival. The nations that would survive into the future would be those in possession of vast tracts of land for the dumping of surplus population. In a very short time, all of Africa was carved up by the European nations. Aboriginal peoples of that continent who objected to slavery were slaughtered. Many great tribes -- tribes that for thousands of years had existed in balance with their environment -- were eradicated in the "African Holocaust."
Imperialistic competition for "empire" (i.e., colonies throughout the world) was probably the principal reason for World War I. In 1901, Arthur Dix, the editor of two Berlin journals, writes, "A timorous people, which knows not how to use its elbows, may of course put a stop to the increase in its population -- it might find things too narrow at home. The superfluity of population might find no economic existence. A people happy in its future, however, knows nothing of an artificial limitation; its only care can be to find room on the globe for a livelihood for other members of its own race."
In Britain as Germany's Vassal (1912), German Social Darwinist (and retired general) F. Von Bernhardi writes, "In the interest of the world's civilization it is our duty to enlarge Germany's colonial empire. Thus alone can we politically, or at least nationally, unite the Germans throughout the world, for only then will they recognize that German civilization is the most necessary factor in human progress. We must endeavor to acquire new territories throughout the world by all means in our power, because we must preserve to Germany the millions of Germans who will be born in the future, and we must provide for them food and employment. They ought to be enabled to live under a German sky, and to lead a German life." Given such attitudes -- not only in Germany, but throughout Europe -- war became inevitable. It was inevitable for another reason as well:
War was viewed by Bernhardi and his many Social Darwinist colleagues in Europe as "an indispensable regulator" of populations. "If it were not for war," Bernhardi writes, "we should probably find that inferior and degenerate races would overcome healthy and youthful ones by their wealth and their numbers. The generative importance of war lies in this, that it causes selection, and thus war becomes a biological necessity."
The German word for "colonies around the world in which to dump surplus populations" was "Lebensraum" -- living space. For the Germans, the loss of the First World War meant, among other dire things, the loss of their lebensraum. The punitive reparations demanded by the victors was a serious matter; far more serious was the fact that Germany was physically contracted and stripped of her colonies. This contraction of Germany was, from the point of view of the Darwinists in that country, a death sentence. With the empire-building option blocked (momentarily at least), German social planners began to focus more exclusively on internal options for guaranteeing the survival of the German race.
In 1923, Fritz Lenz, a Germany physician-geneticist who became a leading ideologue in the Nazi racial purification program, complained bitterly that Germany under the Weimar Constitution was falling far behind America in the all-important field of eugenics, the science of improving the race by means of "selection" of degenerate individuals and groups for sterilization: "Lenz complained that provisions in the Weimar Constitution (prohibiting the infliction of bodily alterations on human beings) prevented widespread use of vasectomy techniques; that Germany had nothing to match the eugenics research institutions in England and the United States (for instance, that at Cold Spring Harbor, New York, led by Charles B. Davenport and funded by the Carnegie Institution in Washington and by Mary Harriman)." Mary Harriman was the widow of the railroad tycoon E. H. Harriman. Both E. H. Harriman and Andrew Carnegie had been great admirers of Herbert Spencer, who was the chief conduit in America for Darwinian dogma.
In historical context, "eugenics" may be defined as applied Darwinism. The founder of eugenics is Francis Galton, a cousin of Darwin's and the author of several highly influential books on heredity, including Hereditary Genius (1869), Inquiries into Human Faculties (1883), and National Inheritance (1889). Not long after Galton published the last-named book, a group of so-called "racial scientists" became quite active in Germany. (Also influential in the formation of the group was German Social Darwinist Ernst Haeckel, who declared that the various races may be defined as separate species.) One of these scientists was Adolf Jost, previously cited as the author of The Right to Death (1895). The main thesis of this book is that the final solution to the population problem is state control over human reproduction. The book is couched in the rhetoric of (Darwinian) natural rights. The state has a natural right and a sacred responsibility to kill individuals in order to keep the nation, the social organism, alive and healthy.
Later advocates of state-medical killing, such as law professor Karl Binding of the University of Leipzig and Alfred Hoche, professor of psychiatry at the University of Freiburg, would stress the therapeutic value of destroying "life unworthy of life." The destruction of such life is "purely a healing treatment." Between the world wars, sterilization became the most preferred tool for the control of population. The fact the Weimar Constitution did not allow sterilization was no small matter; Social Darwinistic scientists and their followers saw it as a dire threat to the nation. "If the power to fight for one's own health is no longer present," Hitler wrote, "the right to live in this world of struggle ends."
To understand why sterilization was such an important issue for the Social Darwinists, we need not look far. "In civilized man," Ernst Mayr (America's dean of Darwinism) writes, "the two components of selective value, adaptive superiority and reproductive success, no longer coincide. The individuals with above-average genetic endowments do not necessarily make an above-average contribution to the gene pool of the next generation." Indeed, Mayr continues, "shiftless, improvident individuals who have a child every year are certain to add more genes to the gene pool of the next generation than those who carefully plan the size of their families. Natural selection has no answer to this predicament. [Italics mine} The separation [in] the modern society of mere reproductive success from genuine adaptedness poses a serious problem for man's future."
In other words: When humans are in the state of nature, their numbers (and their quality as biological organisms) are effectively controlled by natural selection. In the struggle for existence, the fittest usually win, and the weakest usually lose. The winners get to pass on their winning genes; the losers get to skulk away and die. When man becomes "civilized," however, the game changes. The weak are no longer destroyed. Indeed, the weak are protected by unnatural do-gooder religions and philosophies. They are given advantages they have not earned. They have nothing to do in life but reproduce, and reproduce they do -- "a child every year," according to Mayr. While those who are unworthy of life proliferate right and left, the genuinely superior find themselves more and more restricted, more and more disadvantaged in the evolutionary struggle.
Thus it is Mayr issues his dark prognosis . . . this situation "poses a serious problem for man's future." Mayr's view is essentially a contemporary re-statement of the old eugenics propaganda. When Hitler and his Nazis commenced their programs of sterilization and extermination, they were operating on the firm conviction that for the sake of the German people and the future of man, National Socialism must take over where Natural Selection left off. In Darwinism -- both classical and neo-Darwinism -- natural selection is the only ordering principle in nature. If the principle of natural selection is thwarted by misguided man, what is the inevitable result? Disorder, degeneracy, and destruction.
In a great many ways, the Nazi movement was a crusade against what they perceived as degeneracy, a crusade in the name of the new god . . . Science. The legacy of the Malthus-Darwin
doctrine is sad indeed. The mandate it gave our rulers was, "Control population and progress . . . or perish." From this mandate arose two political strategies that were to
make the twentieth century the most cruel and barbaric on record. One of these strategies was strictly Malthusian: "Do nothing for the masses except that which accelerates their
destruction." This was called "laissez-faire" . . . don't interfere. The other strategy saw in totalitarianism, the complete control of society by the state, the only
satisfactory answer to the population problem. Most of the "socialisms" of our century fall in this category.