Puck's Criticism of Richard Weikart's Book on Racism

Regnery isn’t an academic press; it’s a right-wing press. Odd that you can’t tell the difference. Also, did you read the Wiki that @Dan_Eastwood posted above? It seems quite damning.


That’s an idiotically partisan remark; as if something has to be left-wing to be academic! It reveals a deep political-cultural bias on your part. But then, that bias is widely shared among the regular commenters here, so it’s no surprise. As a point of fact, I own and have read a number of good academic works by Regnery, including useful editions of some of the classics of political philosophy.

And people who really want to learn about a subject don’t learn it from Wikis; they learn it from reading books. And people who are properly educated don’t condemn books and authors they haven’t read – which happens all too often around here. And they don’t condemn books and authors by association – another bad habit found very frequently among science-trained atheists who post on internet blog sites.

This thread is going nowhere; there’s nothing here but expressions of hatred for Weikart for being associated with Discovery. I’m not sticking around to read several people, none of whom (except perhaps for Puck) have ever read a book by Weikart all the way through, savaging Weikart even though their knowledge of his arguments and date is entirely from hearsay or at most from very brief snippets. A discussion of a book among people ignorant of the book’s contents is a complete waste of time.

It was From Darwin to Hitler – Weikart’s first book on his Darwin-Hitler thesis, so thus arguably the most significant, that received DI funding.

As you note, “Weikart’s work is controversial and criticized by his fellow academics”, and this criticism was particularly prominent for this first book. The form of the criticism is familiar:

Numerous reviews have accused Weikart of selectively viewing his rich primary material, ignoring political, social, psychological, and economic factors that may have played key roles in the post-Darwinian development of Nazi eugenics and racism.[1]

Such “selective” or cherry-picking usage has been a criticism of creationists from George McCready Price through to Stephen Meyer. It would not seem too far to say that (on the Darwin-Hitler issue at least) Weikart is a bad historian because he is, methodologically, a Creationist Historian.

This selectivity is quite startling on some points. FDtH, unlike Hitler in Mein Kampf (who praises him in the same breath as fellow antisemite Richard Wagner), makes no mention of Martin Luther. This tends to support your contention of “causally ignor[ing] a thousand years of European antisemitism”.

Weikart appears to take any commonality in ideas or language of any thinker between the publication of Origin of Species and the rise on Nazism, as linking the two, even if the thinkers views are largely antithetical to Darwin’s and/or expressing views that predate Darwin.

I think the following essay of Weikart’s may prove informative in understanding his worldview:

Weikart clearly wishes to blame these three for the ills of the modern world, and this presupposition predates his deeper immersion in academic historical scholarship:

As a Christian undergraduate in the 1970s, I was drawn to the study of modern European intellectual history in part by the realization that much modern thought had debased humanity, as Frankl suggested. My concerns were originally stimulated by reading C. S. Lewis, especially The Abolition of Man , and several of Francis Schaeffer’s works, but they were reinforced by courses I took in intellectual history and the history of philosophy. In my own private studies, I was dismayed by the vision of humanity sketched out in B. F. Skinner’s Beyond Freedom and Dignity , which it seemed to me would lead to dystopias, such as the fictional ones in 1984 and Brave New World or the real one described by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his novels and in The Gulag Archipelago .

Weikart is not the first creationist that I’ve seen blame such figures (and I’ve sometimes seen Freud added to the mix) for all modern ills. This runs into two problems. First, however towering these figures may seem, especially in retrospect, there were a myriad of other, potentially influential, views that owe no allegiance to them. Secondly, it requires ignoring major conflicts between their views and those they are supposed to have influenced.

In the case of Darwin’s supposed influence of Nazism, you need to confront the fact that Nazi views on ‘racial purity’ are antithetical to Darwinian concepts like common descent and the value of genetic diversity. You also need to confront the fact that the Nazis rejected a materialistic worldview, and thus were hostile to such materialistic explanations as Darwinian evolution.

Yes, both Nazism and Darwinian evolution contain within them some notion about “fitness” or similar. However the Darwinian notion is heavily contingent (to particular environment), pragmatic (whatever works, no matter how ugly) and empirical. The Nazi notion was romantic and a priori – a blonde blue-eyed Aryan is the answer to every question.

I cannot help but think that Weikart has set out to find any evidence, not matter how spurious, to support his presupposition, and in doing so has debased historical scholarship in the service of Christian apologetics.


No, they do not, any more than Newton’s ideas provide grist for certain lines of argument justifying dropping people off cliffs.

Feel free to actually provide such a line of argument if you wish to continue to claim otherwise.

Certain racists and anti-semites seize on Darwin’s work to attempt to justify their pre-existing ideas, just as they seize on the bible and the book or Mormon and IQ test results and unemployment figures and police statistics and Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Nobel prizes and Lord of the rings and anything else they encounter. That doesn’t mean their arguments actually justify anything.


No, that reveals a serious lapse in your logic, a false dichotomy. Actual academic presses are neither right nor left.

Note that you haven’t read the book in question but still manage to have a favorable view and rush to defend the author. What in that Wiki do you think is false?

There’s a lot more in the Wiki, but of course you won’t read even that. And so you flounce.


You were making a claim regarding something he “would never argue.” That would include in the book under discussion. In order to know your claim was true, you would have to have read the book, or at least know in some detail what he says in it.


I did not defend the author, not in the sense of defending his particular arguments or conclusions. I said he was a trained, published European historian (which he is, unlike any of his critics posting here, I might add), and I criticized those who held an opinion about the quality of argument of the author based on his associations or based on negatives reviews or based on summary articles like Wikis. If you haven’t read an author, you should just shut up and offer no opinion at all. But many people here can’t manage that kind of intellectual caution. They feel impelled to offer opinions.

You’re the one who implied the false dichotomy: right-wing vs. academic. Don’t try to twist out of it to put me in the wrong. A work can be very right-wing and very academic at the same time. A press which published only right-wing works could still, in principle, publish also only good academic works. Similarly, a press which published only left-wing works could still, in principle, publish also only good academic works. You worded things in a deliberately polemical way. If you had integrity, you’d confess to this, and move on.

By the way, is Regnery’s edition of Marx’s Das Kapital a “right-wing” work?

There might be more in the Wiki. When I said “nothing here” I was at that point referring to the statements offered here by the commenters based on their own reasoning from Weikart’s biography, Discovery connections, etc. Nothing there but ad hominem argumentation, speculation, etc. In other words, bog-standard stuff from science-trained internet commenters on sites focused on origins issues.

By that reasoning, you’d have to have read everything ever written by the post-Ph.D. John Harshman before you could safely say that the post-Ph.D. Harshman would never have argued that whales were a type of fish because they lived in the water. Or that you’d have to have read everything ever written by Albert Einstein before you could safely say that he would never have written that mathematics had no place in natural science. Silly reasoning.

I am implying that Weikart’s opinions and his role at the DI are not independent events. I’m reasonable sure that Weikart has never expressed his understanding of the deep roots of European racism on the DI blog or it’s published materials. I believe that this constitutes lying by omission, and I attack this abuse of scholarship. I would be willing to retract this statement and apologize to Dr. Weikart if shown that he has not minimized the deep roots of racism in his writings. However, my currect state of knowledge is that he has worked fairly hard to gain this reputation.

I do not tolerate intolerance, and so feel that moderate skepticism (at least) of Weikart’s writings is warranted, even prior to reading them. I do not understand why anyone would rush to Weikart’s defense without knowing what they are defending.


I could certainly hold that as a more than reasonable prediction. but strictly speaking I could not state it as a fact based on my personal knowledge, especially since your claim also involved predicting everything Weikart might write in the future.

As it turns out, your analogy in particularly inapt since it would appear greater familiarity with Weikart’s writing makes it quite likely that he would have expressed exactly the thoughts of which you believe him to be incapable. Huh.

Oh, it is quite likely that “Eddie” knows exactly what he is defending. Don’t sell him short.


I suggest that, before writing, you ponder whether “provide grist for certain lines of argument justifying” necessarily means the same as “justify”. The emphasize was on “provide grist”, and the sense was that some people use that “grist” to make arguments justifying X. If you read the posts of others charitably, you would give them the benefit of the doubt before declaring they are utterly wrong.

Yes, they use it for grist. That was my point. I agree with your statement. And so, based on every excerpt I’ve seen of his work, does Weikart. Yet people here jump to attack him, based on nothing more than such excerpts, plus snippets from negative reviews of Weikart (minus Weikart’s rejoinders to those reviews), plus his association with Discovery. Sheer prejudice – which is nothing new here.

He doesn’t completely ignore it but he certainly makes the most astonishing claims for the impact of “Darwinism,” saying, for example:

“In philosophical terms, Darwinism was a necessary, but not a sufficient, cause for Nazi ideology.”


“Darwinism by itself did not produce the Holocaust, but without Darwinism, especially in its social Darwinist and eugenics permutations, neither Hitler nor his Nazi followers would have had the necessary scientific underpinnings to convince themselves and their collaborators that one of the world’s greatest atrocities was really morally praiseworthy.”

Now, he’s a master equivocator and he has a bizarre style wherein he tends to say something, then unsay it, then say it again. He tends to go back and qualify statements after the fact, in ways which make it difficult to understand why he made the original statement in the first place. One who reads the book gets the feeling of Gaslighting, in the original Bergmanian sense, with Charles Boyer shouting “Darwin equals Hitler” one moment and then insisting he never really said that.

It’s been a number of years since I read his book, and I’m not entirely sure I finished reading it as it was pretty awful. I see him as one of the best and guiltiest originators of the tactics behind the toxic “woke” philosophy on our college campuses. He’s very good at inventing a kind of implicit racism in evolutionary biology that isn’t actually there, and buttressing that claim of implicit racism by the oddest assortment of quotes and personalities, greatly aided by the loose expression “social Darwinism” which, of course, has nothing to do with evolution in any proper sense. If I had a dead white man I’d like to slander, he’s someone I’d hire for the work. But I’m always surprised when people who supposedly deplore that “wokeness” phenomenon defend him. You couldn’t get more “woke” than From Darwin to Hitler without drinking ten gallons of fair-trade coffee with vegan creamer, and the effluent is about as pungent either way. The only difference is not in the method or the credibility, but in the objective.


A minor quibble: AFAICT Richard Weikart is not a European historian, he is an American historian whose specialty is Europe.

1 Like

I see you have de-flounced. Nothing seems worthy of reply except this bit:

I have argued that whales are a type of fish, though not because they live in the water. They’re a type of fish because they belong to Sarcopterygii, Osteichthyes, and Craniata.


Which are simply indefensible claims. Sufficient philosophical and scientific underpinning is provided by the practices of horticulture and animal husbandry, which predate history.


I suggest you ponder whether “arguments justifying X” is the same as “arguments to justify X”.

1 Like

Also from medicine and bacteriology which, unlike evolution, the Nazis actually did refer to in their proclamations.


Here is an essay in response to Weikart by Robert J. Richards, Professor of the History of Science and Medicine at the University of Chicago.

For my part, the reasons for the rise on Nazi Germany are diverse, complicated, layered, and often contradictory. Histories of that period are complicated by the fact that you cannot say Hitler crossed the street without touching some nerve and inviting blowback, so any degree of nuance tends to be lost to some caricaturized narrative. The Nazi’s were certainly fixated on race and believed in a hierarchy of race, running around with their calipers measuring skulls and such. For the most part, I expect they just started with their conception of Aryan as the master race and grabbed slogans to support that wherever available. It was of no consequence that evolution is not teleological. What mattered is that people had the notion that survival of the fittest was progressive, and that Germany’s rightful place was at the apex.

The regular Nazi torch bearer may not have been very particular about the details. My sense is that what really propelled the rise of Hitler had more to do with post great war economic collapse and reaction to policies in Bolshevik Russia involving state seizure of industrial and agricultural assets, and resulting in mass starvation in Ukraine. This presented a very real existential threat to ordinary Germans, and tilted the body politic to the worst demons of nature.


I would note that such hierarchies predate Darwin and that, not uncommonly, they featured Jews near the top of the pile.

I don’t understand why. A person doesn’t have to express all his knowledge in all settings. The Discovery material is largely there to highlight his latest publications regarding the specific contribution of Darwinian thought to racism, Nazism, the eugenics movement, etc. Obviously that contribution will focus on 19th and 20th century developments. His columns on Discovery aren’t intended as chronological histories of European racism in general or European anti-Semitism in particular.

That he understands the deep roots of European anti-Semitism is clear from the following:

“Jews in Germany and elsewhere in Europe endured centuries of hostility and persecution from the Christian majority – including stereotyping, discrimination, and pogroms.” (“Social Darwinism and Anti-Semitic Ideology”, in Jewish Tradition and the Challenge of Darwinism, eds. Cantor and Swetlitz, 95.)

I haven’t rushed to his defense. I haven’t said one word about whether his evidence for a connection between Darwinian thought and Nazi ideology is good or bad. I “rushed” only to challenge people who were objecting to Weikart either without ever having read his books (apparently most people here) or who read one of his books (and perhaps not even all of that – see Puck’s comment above) but have not shown which statements in the book are erroneous. This is my standard complaint around here, that people criticize the positions of authors they have not read and know only by rumor or hearsay, or that they say someone is wrong without giving evidence or argument.

As if so often the case, my objection here is about intellectual, dialogical, and critical procedure.

If someone has read Weikart and wants to take his books apart, showing they are riddled with errors, that’s fine with me. But what we have on this page is arguments of guilt by association, repetitions of criticisms of other people, and so on, not original responses to the arguments of Weikart.

Well, this is topic for another column. I suggest you start a new topic, and that in your piece you explain, among other things, your apparently idiosyncratic usage of the word “fish,” and address the question whether the land-dwelling ancestors of whales were also Sarcopterygii, Osteichthyes, and Craniata. I’ve never read any biologist who thinks that fur-bearing, warm-blooded, live-bearing mammals belong to the class Osteichthyes, but I’m sure that if you think this, you must have some reason for thinking so. I look forward to your new column.