Darwinism and Social Darwinism

Really? The term “Darwinism” is what you find objectionable in the quotes from Egnor?

I find it deeply misinformed.

Social Darwinism was a thing that is legitimately connected to the holocaust. However, scientists today reject Social Darwinism. Even atheists should thank God for this.

Yes, it is objectionable to connect modern day scientists to Social Darwinism, as he does (“still demands”). More than anything else, it demonstrates his ignorance of modern day evolutionary theory.

No. Social Darwinism could be legitimately connected to Hitler’s Aryan eugenic breeding program, although it’s difficult to do so because Darwin’s works were banned, and Haeckel was commonly referenced instead.

The Holocaust was not linked by the Nazis to Darwin or evolution, but to Koch and Pasteur and the elimination of germs and disease.

How do you figure?

The discovery of the Jewish virus is one of the greatest revolutions that has taken place in the world. The battle in which we are engaged today is of the same sort as the battle waged, during the last century, by Pasteur and Koch. How many diseases have their origin in the Jewish virus! We shall regain our health only by eliminating the Jew

While it’s possible (but unlikely) that the above is apocryphal, there aren’t any comparable references to Darwin in Hitler’s recorded speeches or discussions.

I don’t think even that is true. But anyway, social Darwinism isn’t the same thing as Darwinism, and it was never part of evolutionary theory, so “modern day” is not relevant. Use of the term “Darwinism” is the most trivial part of Egnor’s bile.

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Is this some sort of sick joke?


There is a playful joke there. I’m glad science had moved on from eugenics.

I’m pretty sure I have heard that before, I’m sure it’s true. I would assume it was a rhetorical device though

Well there’s this.

Many historians recognize that Hitler was a social Darwinist, and some even portray social Darwinism as a central element of Nazi ideology.

In his writings and speeches Hitler regularly invoked Darwinian concepts, such as evolution (Entwicklung), higher evolution (Höherentwicklung), struggle for existence (Existenzkampf or Daseinskampf), struggle for life (Lebenskampf), and selection (Auslese). In a 1937 speech he not only expressed belief in human evolution, but also endorsed Haeckel’s theory that each organism in its embryological development repeats earlier stages of evolutionary history.


Yes, that’s an excellent demonstration of how not even the most fervent anti-evolutionists can find any actual mentions of Darwin, only claimed connections via Haeckel backed by dubious translations and deliberate omissions of the direct mentions of Pasteur and Koch.

Would you also assume that any invocations of evolution or Darwinism were also rhetorical devices?

I would look at how they were used. What Jonathan seems to be talking about is a frequent usage of language suggestive that Hitler had absorbed and perhaps been influenced by some of Darwin’s basic concepts. You’ve mentioned other usages in a speech on a single occasion, which line up with frequent Nazi propaganda tropes about Jews. I’m listening if you have more evidence. It doesn’t seem improbable in general that Hitler kept up with major scientific advances.

‘I feel I am like Robert Koch in politics. He discovered the bacillus and thereby ushered medical science onto new paths. I discovered the Jew as the bacillus and the fermenting agent of all social decomposition

This is one of the greatest revolutions there has ever been in the world. The Jew will be identified! The same fight that Pasteur and Koch had to fight must be led by us today. Innumerable sicknesses have their origin in one bacillus: the Jew! We will get well when we eliminate the Jew..”

Also see here.

The Nazis referred explicitly to the holocaust as removing a virus, cf Koch, not as anything related to evolution or Darwin.

Interesting. But typical of Nazi propaganda. Jews were constantly associated with uncleanliness and disease and would have been even if no one had discovered the germ. It has the feeling of something convenient Hitler latched on to. It seems to me that germ theory is pretty straightforward stuff. There are very small animals, previously unseen until we developed the needed technology, that make us sick. Darwinism was not on the same plane of ideas. And I’ll say this. Hitler would have hated Jews if he had never heard of Darwin, without a doubt. It’s more interesting that he had absorbed such ideas though. Might such ideas have moved him more closely towards the idea of actually destroying the Jewish people? Maybe. I don’t see germ theory in the same light.

Mentions of Darwin are not necessary for there to be a “connection” to social darwinism.

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Exactly. They might as well claim that Social Newtonism demands that we throw people off of tall buildings so they can fall, per Newton’s theory. Apparently, some people fail to understand the difference between descriptions and prescriptions.


True. But that’s a negative inference, with no evidence behind it*, whereas the mentions of Koch and Pasteur are positive evidence of a connection to immunology.

*For the holocaust, anyway, as opposed to the Nazi eugenics programs. As an aside, Hitler was indirectly responsible for Abba.

I’ve also found this book chapter (was Hitler a Darwinian?) helpful in unmasking or debunking some common myths that pervade parts of Christianity (thanks to Discovery Institute works like those of Richard Wiekart)-

It is particularly helpful with many references as well of explicit Nazi rejections of Darwin and Haeckel, both of whose books were on one of their banned books lists.

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Firstly, although Weikart is an anti-evolutionist most historians agree with the connection between Hitler and the Nazis, and social Darwinism (though obviously not with Weikart’s broader “Darwinian evolution caused the Holocaust” agenda). I think you’re overly concerned with separating Hitler from biological evolution.

I don’t think most historians constitute “anti-evolutionists”. I don’t think the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is run by anti-evolutionists either.

The Nazis also adopted the social Darwinist take on Darwinian evolutionary theory regarding the “survival of the fittest.” For the Nazis, survival of a race depended upon its ability to reproduce and multiply, its accumulation of land to support and feed that expanding population, and its vigilance in maintaining the purity of its gene pool, thus preserving the unique “racial” characteristics with which “nature” had equipped it for success in the struggle to survive.

To define a race, the social Darwinists affixed stereotypes, both positive and negative, of ethnic group appearance, behavior, and culture. These stereotypes were allegedly unchangeable and rooted in biological inheritance. They remained unchanged over time and were immune to changes in environment, intellectual development, or socialization. For the Nazis, assimilation of a member of one race into another culture or ethnic group was impossible because the original inherited traits could not change: they could only degenerate through so-called race-mixing.

Secondly, as Joshua has pointed out, references to Darwin are not necessary in order to establish a connection to social Darwinism. The fact that Darwin’s theories of evolution, inter-species struggle, a hierarchy of organisms (including a hierarchy among humans), are found in both Hitler’s writings and in Nazi propaganda and teaching materials (social Darwinism being taught by the state). Hitler’s justification for racism was his view that species should not intermingle lest they be weakened.

If Nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such a case all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.

That is explicitly the basis of his racism, not an anti-bacterial agenda. The Nazis’ designation of people like the Jews as untermenschen wasn’t about identifying them as bacteria, it was explicitly about identifying them as a lower order of human, literally a sub-human animal. This was predicated on social Darwinism, not concern with bacteria.

It’s not a negative inference since the language of social Darwinism pervades Hitler’s statements and Nazi propaganda. Next to that, a mere two references by Hitler to Koch and Pasteur pale in comparison. It’s clear that the references to Koch and Pasteur are being used as an extended metaphor of something Hitler was motivated to do on other grounds (social Darwinism).

That’s addressing the issue of the Nazis and Darwinian evolution, not the Nazis and social Darwinism. The anti-evolutionist creationists are wrong to say “The Nazis were motivated by social Darwinism, therefore they were motivated by Darwninian evolution”, but I think saying “The Nazis weren’t motivated by Darwinian evolution, therefore they weren’t motivated by social Darwinism” is equally wrong.