Saturday, June 3, 2017

Don't Exaggerate What I Said, While His Was A Major Role In Producing Nazism, Darwin Wasn't Solely Responsible

I never said that Darwin had sole responsibility for producing the Nazi's genocides, I noted that the Nazis, themselves, argued for not only the desirability for murdering the disabled, Jews, Poles and other ethnic minorities in Germany and in those countries the invaded, they argued that it was necessary both to prevent the deterioration of the German people and a hindrance for their continued evolution to a higher state because natural selection was a law of nature.  I have pointed out that Rudolph Hess, one of the earliest members of Hitler's inner circle, one of the men to whom Hitler dictated Mein Kampf in Landesburg prison had explicitly said that National Socialism, Nazism, was "applied biology".*   The biological and scientific nature of their claims couldn't be more obvious in both their theoretical declarations and their actions in murdering millions outright and many more in war, which was always, from the start, presented as both a "struggle for existence" and a means of determining who was fit to win existence in the future in exactly the ways that Darwin laid out in The Descent of Man and in letters even before Hitler or most of those who would become Nazis were born.

On a popular level, in their propaganda, such as that propaganda movie I linked to a couple of weeks ago, Das Erbe (The Inheritance), their explanations of their eugenics which led, seamlessly in their telling, into claims of superiority and increasing "fitness" under Nazism ere entirely Darwinian, beginning with the stag beetles**, and continuing through, for example,  the claims about the relationship of the number of seeds in sunflowers and eggs laid by fishes as related to the "struggle for existence"***  many of them obviously taken directly from Darwin's writing.

I think the role that British and other intellectuals played in creating the conditions that produced Nazism and fascism are too little known or considered.  It is known that Thomas Carlyle and his "great man" theory of history, especially his biography of Fredrick the Great had a huge effect on Goebbels and Hitler.   I recall reading somewhere that Goebbels was reading it to Hitler in the bunker as motivation to keep the war going.  Carlyle's hatred of democracy was certainly influential in proto-Nazi German thinkers such as Nietzsche - though Nietzsche, understanding that both morality and materialism can't be true criticized Carlyle for both his idealism and his moral assertions.   Carlyle, in his book on "Chartism" is a hodge podge of stuff, but among other things he contemplated was the possible "necessity" of exterminating the Irish.   He also shared the typical British elite hatred of the poor, he favored enslaving the entire population of the underclass and was an opponent of abolishing slavery, in general.

He is notable for his part in defending the brutal, murderous governor of Jamaica when, in putting down a rebellion, he slaughtered many black people, though, as I recall, it was mostly the execution of a mixed-blood politician who aroused the most British outrage.  In that his committee to raise money for a legal defense of the governor was opposed by one composed of liberals, including Darwin, Herbert Spencer and Thomas Huxley [proving that when you say "liberal" when referring to Brits, you can mean someone who would fit, easily into today's Republican party].  Checking the date of that I see the date 1865 which is also the year that Huxley wrote his article Emancipation Black and White in which he said that now that the superior whites had been "relieved" of their burden of black slaves they would find it necessary and desirable to kill them because their economic utility to them had vanished.  It was six years later that Darwin made his own statements about "civilised man" inevitably murdering all of many races, some named, in their eventual domination of the Earth.   The habit of double-speak and hypocrisy, mixing total homicidal and racist depravity (sold as science) and a facade of "liberal" morality were rampant in British intellectual life as it was elsewhere.  While I think it can be found in most places where English was spoken, it was certainly not confined to any one language.  Neither were the ideas.  Much of the worst of it was translated into German and, typical of German intellectuals, it was assimilated far faster more fully than German scholarship was into English.  Though there was certainly cross fertilization, especially of ideas and claims which were most congenial to the wealthy who, largely, dominated the intellectual scene everywhere before the rise of public schooling and public universities.

That's one of the reasons that public schooling is under active attack here, in the United States, by billionaires and millionaires.  They don't want anything like an educated class to impinge on their privileges.  There's a reason for that and it's not one that starts with equality and democracy as its motive.

*  While the idea is certainly one that Darwin asserted in The Descent of Man and in letters, such as the one to G. A. Gaskell,  Hess probably got the Nazi doctrine of Lebesraum through one of his teachers, Karl Haushofer who, though married to a woman who was partly Jewish, held many proto-Nazi ideas and, especially through Hess, played a strange game of footsie with the Nazis (perhaps to protect his wife and son - who was later executed for resistance activities).   I haven't read Haushofer and don't know to what extent he might have gotten some support for his thinking from Darwin but,as a late 19th and early 20th century German intellectual, it's next to impossible that he was unfamiliar with him and his thinking.

**  How low in the scale of nature the law of battle descends I know not; male alligators have been described as fighting, bellowing, and whirling round, like Indians in a war-dance, for the possession of the females; male salmons have been observed fighting all day long; male stag-beetles sometimes bear wounds from the huge mandibles of other males; the males of certain hymenopterous insects have been frequently seen by that inimitable observer M. Fabre, fighting for a particular female who sits by, an apparently unconcerned beholder of the struggle, and then retires with the conqueror. The war is, perhaps, severest between the males of polygamous animals, and these seem oftenest provided with special weapons. The males of carnivorous animals are already well armed; though to them and to others, special means of defence may be given through means of sexual selection, as the mane of the lion, and the hooked jaw to the male salmon; for the shield may be as important for victory as the sword or spear.

Origin of Species 6th edition.

***  Not surprisingly, arguments made by Darwin in the section on "The Struggle for Exitence" in On the Origin of Species, in its various editions.  It's an idea that was found in his earlier manuscript of what would be published as On The Origin of Species.

65/Finally I must allude to an opinion, which I have repeatedly seen advanced, but probably without deliberation;—namely that the numbers of any species depend on the number of its eggs or seed, & consequently not on a struggle for existence at some period of its life or its parents' lives./65 v/This belief has^probably arisen from the larger animals, which can seldom be supported in very great numbers in any country, producing few young; but most of them can protect their young; nor is this relation invariable, as we see in the Crocodile, & amongst Birds in the ostrich./65/The number of the eggs is no doubt one element in the result but by no means one of the most important. How many rare fish there are existing in very scanty numbers,' yet annually producing thousands of ova! Years ago‐I was struck with this in finding a large sea‐slug (Doris) at the Falkland Isld , very rare & yet on calculating the number of the eggs of one individual, I found six hundred thousand. The Condor lays only two eggs & yet in parts it is quite as common, (for I have seen between twenty & thirty take flight from one cliff) as the American Rhea, which lays between twenty & forty eggs & even more: but we need not go so far, the Kitty‐wren, (Sylvia troglodytes) lays on an average just twice as many eggs as the other British wrens or Sylviadae, yet we see no corresponding relation in numbers.

Virtually every example used by the Nazis as their argument for eugenics in Das Erbe, which first turned into a blatant though tacitly cited reason to eliminate the disabled can be found in either Darwin's Origin of Species or in The Descent of Man, both of which had already thoroughly influenced two generations of German intellectuals and, through them, more generally.  Not only scientists but, perhaps even more, those in the literary and artistic world as well as journalists.  It's notable that in the movie made as eugenics education for a popular audience, , what Darwin, Haeckel and others said explicitly, the biological desirability and necessity of eliminating the disabled, is only hinted at for the wider public.  The idea of the desirability and scientific necessity of the extermination of "lesser races" by their "superiors" is not touched on in the movie but it was certainly asserted by Darwin and Haeckel, as I've proved any number of times in these posts on this subject.

The movie was made, as I recall in 1935, as they were accustoming  the German People to their way of thinking and instilling those habits of thought, not blatantly telling them what their plans were.  Even as they were carrying out the earliest part of their genocides, the T-4 program, they kept it under cover as best they could, as even William Shirer noted in his Berlin Diary, it was leaking out even during the early part of the War, before America entered it.

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