Darwinism, Morality and Violence

Is mass murder the corollary of belief in materialistic evolution? Dennis Sewell thinks it is. In a controversial article at the Times Online, the former broadcaster at the BBC and contributing editor of The Spectator argues that there is a demonstrable link between Darwin’s theory and the recent spate of high-school killings by teenagers in the US and Europe. While many celebrate the life and impact of Charles Darwin this year, Sewell contends that a darker edge to the man and his theory must be reconsidered:

In America, where Darwin’s writings on morality and race have come under particularly intense critical scrutiny because of the enduring creationist debate, he has been accused of fostering moral nihilism and scientific racism, and even of promoting an ethic that found its ultimate expression in the Holocaust. Most startling of all, a connection has now been drawn between Darwin’s theories and a rash of school shootings.

Looking at the Columbine High School Massacre, where two senior students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and 1 teacher in 1999, Sewell suggests that little attention has been paid to their motivation behind the act. Enamoured by Charles Darwin’s ideas, both Harris and Klebold saw their actions as the implementation of natural selection, the British journalist argues. He quotes one of the attorney’s for the families of six of the students killed at Columbine, Barry Arrington:

“I read through every single page of Eric Harris’s journals; I listened to all of the audio tapes and watched the videotapes… It became evident to me that Harris consciously saw his actions as logically arising from what he had learnt about evolution. Darwinism served as his personal intellectual rationale for what he did. There cannot be the slightest doubt that Harris was a worshipper of Darwin and saw himself as acting on Darwinian principles.”

Neither Harris and Klebold were alone in seeing their violence as the outcome and implementation of Darwinism. Sewell discusses other school killings or planned killings and suggests an emerging pattern that cannot be easily dismissed. In describing the social culture that sustains and accumulates around these groups, Sewell refers to one visitor of a Natural Selection Army website who also went on a rampage:

On November 7, 2007, in Tuusula, Finland, Auvinen forced his head teacher to kneel down in front of him before he shot her with his pistol. He slaughtered a further seven victims before turning the gun on himself. Some of the Jokela high school students afterwards described the way Auvinen prowled through the building pointing his gun at people’s heads. Sometimes he would squeeze the trigger and kill them; sometimes, after looking long and hard through the sights, he would suddenly turn away and let his terrified target go free. One witness said he seemed to be choosing his victims at random, but in fact he was making a very deliberate selection. He was trying to weed out the “unfit”.

. . .Auvinen left a special plea for his motivation to be taken seriously and for the world not merely to write him off as a psychopath, or to blame cult movies, computer games, television or heavy metal music, before concluding: “No mercy for the scum of the Earth! Humanity is overrated. It’s time to put natural selection and survival of the fittest back on track.

Even if psychotic teenagers saw their murderous acts of violence as the direct and necessary consequence of materialistic evolution, is it fair to saddle the theory itself with these horrible consequences? Sewell acknowledges that many homicidial groups have identified with philosophers and their writings but yet argues that there are two distinct reasons why Darwinism appeals to the disturbed adolescent mind and justifies these acts:

1.The loss of objective meaning: Sewell suggests that within materialistic evolution is embedded the notion “that human existence has no ultimate purpose or special significance.”

2. The eradication of an objective moral order: “Darwin also taught that morality has no essential authority, but is something that itself evolved — a set of sentiments or intuitions that developed from adaptive responses to environmental pressures tens of thousands of years ago. This does not merely explain the origin of morals, it totally explains them away. Whether an individual opts to obey a particular ethical precept, or to regard it as a redundant evolutionary carry-over, thus becomes a matter of personal choice. Cheerleaders celebrating Darwin’s 200th birthday in colleges across America last February sang “Randomness is good enough for me, If there’s no design it means I’m free” — lines from a song by the band Scientific Gospel. Clearly they see evolution as something that emancipates them from the strict sexual morality insisted upon by their parents. But wackos such as Harris and Auvinen can just as readily interpret it as a licence to kill.”

Sewell says that evolutionary scientists today “describe ethics as merely an illusion produced by genes. From a Darwinian perspective, there is nothing objectively wrong with shooting your classmates; it’s just that most of us have an inherited tendency to kid ourselves that it’s wrong — and that’s something that helps our species in the longer run by keeping playground massacres to an acceptable minimum.”

But materialistic evolution not only justifies these acts of violence by destroying any objective purpose or norm in which to live our life by – Darwinism also encourages both the “toxic doctrine of racial superiority” and eugenics (the practice of improving the quality of the human race by deliberate selection of parents and their offspring). Both with Darwin himself (who wrote in the Descent of Man, if we “do not prevent the reckless, the vicious and otherwise inferior members of society from increasing at a quicker rate than the better class of men, the nation will retrograde, as has too often occurred in the history of the world.”) and in history, Sewell catalogues this embarrassing relationship. He concludes finally:

“The debate between Darwin’s bulldogs and religious fundamentalists over the truth of evolution and the existence of God has become a sterile one. There are, however, many interesting questions about how Darwin’s views chime with our values of liberal democracy and human rights, or the simple lessons of right and wrong that most of us teach our children. But our society cannot begin to address these issues while we are fed only a bowdlerised account of Darwin’s work. The more sinister implications of the world-view that has come to be called “Darwinism” — and the interpretation the teenage nihilists put on it — are as much part of the Darwin story as the theory of evolutions.”

For a fuller discussion of the impact of Darwin on politics and culture, Sewell’s book comes out this month:

Darwin

The Political Gene: How Darwin’s Ideas Changed Politics (Picador, 2009) by Dennis Sewell

35 replies
  1. Simon
    Simon says:

    Isn’t this argument just as ridiculous as the argument that religion causes violence?

    Ideas can have dangerous implications if interpreted in particular ways. Just like a cricket bat can be used to hit a six and win a game, or to bludgeon someone in the head with.

    Specifically, the argument drawing a causal relationship between teenage violence this year and Darwin’s ideas seems beyond ridiculous, and entirely unsupported. You may at best for example find correlations between what those teenagers read and wrote in terms of violent ideas and their behaviour…but causality? It would be poor form to even speculate that.

    Also, and in particular reference to Darwin’s ideas, their possible interpretations being “good or bad” has no bearing on the validity of the ideas. Moreover, a poor understanding of any complex idea is likely to lead to trouble if one acts based on the ignorance.

  2. Rob
    Rob says:

    Simon wrote:

    It would be poor form to even speculate that.

    But you seem to be in great form Simon, speculating that there is no causality.

    As one who grew up with a Darwinian worldview, I can personally say that I related well to the thoughts of these young men.

    It seems incredible to me that people like yourself can believe that ideas such as Darwinism could be interpreted differently. If there is no objective morality and no meaning to life, then why not eat, drink and be merry. Hell, even two millennia people understood this simple fact. (Heard of the “schoolies” in OZ? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schoolies_week)

    Let’s make a prediction — given the Darwinian worldview that so permeates our society, I predict things are going to get much worse before they get any better. What is your prediction Simon?

  3. Simon
    Simon says:

    Rob, I meant “poor form” from a epidemiological research POV. And yeah “to even speculate” is too strong. Just makin’ a point that to imply causation here is ridiculous. Proving causation in highly controlled settings is hard enough, let alone complex situations like this.

    I think any speculation on “things getting better or worse” from me would be pretty pointless. What things are you talking about? And from who’s point of view?

    And what is this “Darwinian world view” you speak of? That makes little sense. I guess you mean something like the concepts of evolution being applied to social policy. I think this is typically a bad idea and leads to horrible things like eugenics. All of this of course has no bearing on evolution as a scientific fact in the natural world.

  4. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    Darwinism served as his personal intellectual rationale for what he did

    So these kids think that they themselves are also unfit and that the world should be rid of them? That’s the necessary conclusion if Darwinism is to blame – they killed themselves didn’t they? This killings-Darwinism link doesn’t go far at all does it!!

  5. Gary
    Gary says:

    Rob said:

    As one who grew up with a Darwinian worldview, I can personally say that I related well to the thoughts of these young men.

    Hi Rob, can you let me know your exact location, I’m just about to ring the police so they can have a quiet word with you, remain calm, nothing to worry about :)

    If there is no objective morality and no meaning to life, then why not eat, drink and be merry.

    Because that’s not how society (or reality) works. You’re either being facetious or extremely ignorant, I can’t decide which. Where do you get your morality from, your bible? Rob, I’m ex-Catholic – I’ve read the Bible. The moral zeitgeist moves all the time.

    So you think there is no “meaning to life”? I have lots of meaning in my life. It just so happens not include the need to believe in your god nor any other god – your point, please?

    Even Dawkins has said he would not like to live in a society which revoloved around pure Darwinian concepts, way too cruel.

  6. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    The Other Simon said
    So these kids think that they themselves are also unfit and that the world should be rid of them? That’s the necessary conclusion if Darwinism is to blame

    That is not a necessary conclusion at all Other Simon. If we are going to leave their stated motivations and stab wildly in the dark (which is what you seem to have done), may I suggest another alternative: They were cognitively aware of the social penalty for intentional murder and decided it was better to just end their life rather then suffer the consequences from society.

    It would not be inappropriate to add the description ”cowards” to their own stated motivation of Darwinism. It seems strange to me that you are denying them the right to state why they themselves carried out their actions. This is not something that us “deluded souls” have invented. Just reporting the facts.

  7. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    @ Jason. Thanks for the read. I thought it was well put together. And I really liked the sentence on the effect Darwinism has on morality. So concise yet encompassing:

    Jason wrote
    This does not merely explain the origin of morals, it totally explains them away.

  8. Simon
    Simon says:

    The theory of evolution, or ‘Darwinism’ whatever that really means, doesn’t explain away morality any more than it explains away cognitive thought, sexual reproduction, cancer or any other biologically-based mechanism related to us humans.

  9. Bob
    Bob says:

    Hi Simon,

    When the population is taught the theory of evolution as ‘fact’ (1) rather than as a scientific theory, then it does explain away the morality of many in this generation.

    I mean, what do you expect? It becomes a modern religion. Suddenly scientists also become philosophers preaching the gospel of evolution.

    Just the other day on Tyra show, they had several self-confessed vampires on the show. They said that vampires are some kind of new evolution of humans.

    1. ACLU successfully sued a school (I think the court awarded 2 Million dollars!) for this label on science books: “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.”

  10. ropata
    ropata says:

    Wikipedia has an informative and balanced perspective: Social effect of evolutionary theory
    Darwin himself addressed eugenic concepts and denounced them as “evil” in his book, The Descent of Man:
    Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless; it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.

    Richard Dawkins’ book, The Selfish Gene, has a chapter, “Nice guys finish first”, which attempts to explain the role of altruism and cooperation in evolution and how social animals not only cannot survive without such traits, but how evolution will create them. Dawkins explains that when an animal sacrifices itself or uses its resources for the survival of other members of the same species, its genes, present on the other animals, survive. For example, if a mother dies to save three of its pups, one and a half copies (on average) of its genes will survive, because there is a 50% chance of a particular gene being present in its offspring. Dawkins also made a documentary of the same name. According to the documentary, Dawkins added that chapter as a way of overcoming modern day misinterpretations of the concept of “survival of the fittest”.

  11. Glenn
    Glenn says:

    Ropata, I don’t really think it’s much of a rebuttal to the argument in question to note, for example, that Darwin (or anyone embracing Darwinism) rejects eugenics. Sure, he thought that eugenics was contrary to the “noblest part of our nature,” but that just shows that he was probably a nice guy.

    The question is whether or not eugneics fits naturally into Darwinism. It may be, of course, that Darwin’s concern for moral nobility was not grounded in his belief in, well, Darwinism, but in something else. Perhaps he was just in love with the idea of being nice to people, unwilling to follow Darwinism to its cold conclusion. Perhaps, perhaps not, but his own self conscious rejection of eugenics tells us little.

    If I’m informed correctly, Leonard, Charles Darwin’s son, certainly believed that his father’s ideas lend credibility to eugenics. Leonard was chairman of the British Eugenics Society between 1911-1928, and in his work on the need for eugenic reform, claimed that his views depended on his father’s findings.

  12. ropata
    ropata says:

    Glenn,
    People can be selfish violent cretins, and use “Survival of the fittest” as a justification for their behaviour. It’s camouflage. Jason neglected to distinguish the science of “darwinian” evolution from the philosophy of social darwinism, an altogether different field (sociology — and inferior IMHO).

    Science does not equal philosophy, despite attempts by some to make it so. Marx also admired Darwin.. but does that make Darwin responsible for the Soviet Union?

    I don’t think Darwin holds sole responsibility for the nihilism and rank materialism that pervades our culture either. The whole Enlightenment thing and the reforming of European power structures enabled the rise of a new political and economic elite. The vaunted freedoms of Voltaire et al have enabled western society to pursue sublime and profane, the latter much preferred by the masses. School shootings are a symptom of a deep festering wound in the western soul, but it’s cuase by forces larger than Darwinism alone

  13. Simon
    Simon says:

    Bob,

    First, a scientific theory is different from the general populace’s view of “a theory”. Check the wikipedia page or something, or search for a good explanation of a scientific theory. It’s been explained countless times.

    Second, the scientific theory of evolution can be argued to be a fact given all the evidence for it. Now of course defining what is and isn’t a fact is subjective, and there are arguments for and against this. But regardless, one can still quite easily make the assertion that it is a fact as well supported as other scientific theories we come to think of as “facts”.

    Specifically in the US, the scientific groups have had to take a hard line on this due to creationists trying to use gaps and loopholes to introduce creationism/ID. They need to make clear the strength of this scientific theory, and resolve the public issues with the word “theory” in general.

    Third, popular notions of evolutionary ideas have no bearing on the validity of evolution as a theory/fact of the natural world. Now, that doesn’t mean that there are no issues here, or that those who write about evolution have no responsibility for miss-uses of the ideas.

    Like I’ve said before above I think, any idea can be applied in negative ways – especially complex and emotionally-laden ones. The social impacts of evolutionary theory are very important to discuss and work through. They are all interpretation-based and hence need to openly discussed in order to avoid problems typical when things are kept secret/taboo.

    Lastly, ropata makes some excellent points distinguishing science and philosophy.

  14. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    Jonathan,

    I’m just using the concluson quoted from Sewell. And if “Darwinism served as his personal intellectual rationale for what he did”, and what he did was kill himself then he must have considered himself unfit.

    Certainly, you can protest and claim the act of suicide is not part of the Darwinistic justification, but then I can claim that the allusions to Darwin are no more a cause for their actions than the music they listened to. Most probably they are both latched-onto expressions of their inner states.

    Always conspicuously absent from these ‘investigations’ are which victims the perpetrators actually murdered. Did they really only kill those in wheelchairs; the ugly; the weak? I doubt it, because I never see this line argued.

    And I am quite comfortable that we are far better off today – thanks to the Age of Enlightenment (of which Darwinism is a product) – than we have ever been before:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ramBFRt1Uzk

  15. ropata
    ropata says:

    Moral evil is ultimately not caused by Darwinist or Enlightenment philosophy, it’s a spiritual disease, for which each person is directly morally responsible, and a symptom the fallen, sinful state of humanity itself. Erroneous philosophies are just another symptom of this malaise. The ultimate cure is the Gospel, not some misguided culture war on evolution.

  16. Rob
    Rob says:

    Gary wrote:

    Hi Rob, can you let me know your exact location, I’m just about to ring the police so they can have a quiet word with you, remain calm, nothing to worry about :)

    Yeah, this was playing on my mind to be quite honest. The CIB are probably wire-tapping my house as we write :-)

    Then Gary wrote:

    …Where do you get your morality from, your bible? Rob, I’m ex-Catholic – I’ve read the Bible. The moral zeitgeist moves all the time.

    Yes, the Bible. As an ex-atheist, I once got it from Darwinism. I once thought like these killers.

    Then Gary wrote:

    So you think there is no “meaning to life”? I have lots of meaning in my life. It just so happens not include the need to believe in your god nor any other god – your point, please?

    I’m sure you have meaning, but that meaning is no bigger than the neurons between your ears :-) I mean that seriously.

    I find it odd that you cannot see that life is ultimately meaningless if atheism is true. I mean, whether you die now or in 100 years really makes no odds in the big scheme of things. You are just a complex arrangement of atoms and molecules dancing to your chance-produced DNA in a world that will soon experience heat death and an enormous graveyard of dead stars. Hardly a romantic notion imo :-)

    Have a read of Ecclesiastes — beautiful poetry + 20th century existential philosophy + the offer of true meaning.

  17. Glenn
    Glenn says:

    Roapata – Am,en, science is not philosophy. It is painful to see the repetitive phenomenon of people with some familiarity in empirical science thinking that they now have the right to dogmatise over epistemology, ethics, or some other philosophical issue.

    But I digress. It’s true that social Darwinism is not itself evolutionary biology in the Darwinian sense, but I think it’s clear that there’s a case to be made that it is an intellectually fair application of scientific Darwinism.

    And you’re definitely correct to deny that “Darwin holds sole responsibility for the nihilism and rank materialism that pervades our culture.” He certainly doesn’t. Philosophical naturalism is to blame for this, and Darwinism and naturalism are not necessarily wedded, even though they are usually seen together.

  18. Gary
    Gary says:

    Rob –

    You keep quoting Bible passages to me, as I mentioned earlier, I’m ex-Catholic so I’ve read the Bible.

    So you get your morality from the Bible? Really. How interesting. Even the Old Testament?

    Do you kill homosexuals?

    Leviticus 20:13

    “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

    What about murder? Deuteronomy 22:23-28 and Judges 21:10-24

    And what about the New Testament? Matthew 18:6

    “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

    Rob, the Bible is a book of its times, written over 3,000 years ago in some parts (OT). Written by people (men) who knew nothing of the world.

    Out of interest, what languange do you read your Bible in?

  19. ropata
    ropata says:

    Gary, it is strange how many atheists think they are bible experts. Perhaps you are unaware that for Christians the Bible is a book of inspiration and hope, and biblical theology has been built from centuries of painstaking scholarship.

    Your proof-texts use a hostile interpretive framework quite alien to the authors, and insinuate meaning that is in direct conflict to the Gospel of love. Those verses do not exist in a vacuum.

  20. Gary
    Gary says:

    ropata said:

    Gary, it is strange how many atheists think they are bible experts.

    Did I mention I am ex-Catholic? (Baptised; Holy Communion; Confirmation; Christian Brothers High School). So I’ve been reading/studying the Bible for over 34 years.

    Your point?

  21. Simon
    Simon says:

    Rob,

    Yes, the Bible. As an ex-atheist, I once got it from Darwinism. I once thought like these killers.

    I’m not being snarky here…but if you’re being genuine in your text then it seems you’d benefit from some professional help.

  22. Simon
    Simon says:

    ropata,

    You have to see though that if one takes interpretation too far, the actual textual content of the book looses any significance. Then one must ask, what is the point of the book? Interpretations blow the words around like leafs in a wind…but the leafs are still there.

    So in relation to morality, if someone comes along and picks up one of these leafs, then you can’t just dismiss it as “but you must see the whole picture!” Any individual part, especially if relatively extreme in its content, must still have significance to the whole. Otherwise, what valid and useful meaning can one possibly get from the whole?

  23. Andrew W
    Andrew W says:

    I’ve decided that Evil can be best defined as when the ignorant and arrogant have power, in these examples the ignorance of misunderstanding Darwinism, their own arrogance, and power they get from guns, and it’s this definition that makes me so happy that in the modern West, church and state are separate.

  24. ropata
    ropata says:

    Yes Andrew I quite agree. The worst evil in history was perpetrated by godless governments. The headlong pursuit of Money Sex and Power seems to be the default religion of our ‘enlightened’ culture. It would be horrible if the rich and powerful started interfering with the churches and established a self-aggrandizing state religion. Unaccountable trans-national corporations, with politicians in their pocket, continue to cause untold misery around the world.

    Only a deluded fool would think of the churches as a force for evil.

  25. ropata
    ropata says:

    Simon, I think Rob’s point is that God is in the business of restoring hearts and minds from moral darkness associated with unbelief.

    Also taking verses out of context for the purposes of a smear campaign is NOT a valid method of bible interpretation: the great theme is the redemption of humanity and relationship with God. Sin is not the story, it is the blight upon the story.

  26. Andrew W
    Andrew W says:

    That’s the cool thing about it ropata, with the separation of power, and the secular nature of Western nations, the church just doesn’t have the power to become a force for evil. Sadly that hasn’t prevented officers within the church using their own power to exploit church members for power trips, and it hasn’t prevented other church officers concealing crimes committed by members from the state justice system for the purpose of preserving the churches reputation, but such incidents are relatively minor compared to the potential Evil of the church having the powers of the state.

  27. ropata
    ropata says:

    In other news, people continue committing crimes and exploiting each other… the Church is not exempt from human nature. At least it has a vision and purpose to bless humanity rather than the explicit profit and power motives of other systems.

    Of course, unjust atheistic regimes like to regulate churches because they promote independent thought, questioning of immoral power structures, freedom from the fear of death, and a voice for the poor and marginalized.

    You seem to have formed your opinion of Christianity from sensationalist pulp media rather than historical evidence of its beneficial effect on humanity. 2 billion people recognize the value of Christian faith, and benefit from it. Overall, your negative attitude is unjustified.

  28. phatbat
    phatbat says:

    I cannot believe there are still people who fall for this Darwin being responsible for acts of violence against fellow humans nonsense.

    It was Darwin’s theory that discovered we are all the same, and the discovery of DNA has established we are all part of one race. You don’t need the theory of evolution to inform you that if you kill someone then they die. The TOE also doesn’t tell you who should die, in fact it doesn’t say anyone should do anything or should die.

    Is Newton responsible for people who die by getting thrown out of windows?

    Do you guys still not understand that you can’t get an ought from an is?

  29. Bob
    Bob says:

    Darwin’s son was the head of the British Eugenics Education Society. Darwin’s cousin, Galton, developed the concept that through controlled breeding we could improve the stock of the human race.

    Galton founded the Galton Laboratory of National Eugenics in Great Britain.

    Galton saw evolution in religious terms, as a new faith for mankind, to be exercised through the practice of eugenics: “The chief result of these Inquiries has been to elicit the religious significance of the doctrine of evolution. It suggests an alteration in our mental attitude, and imposes a new moral duty. The new mental attitude is one of a greater sense of moral freedom, responsibility, and opportunity; the new duty which is supposed to be exercised concurrently with, and not in opposition to the old ones upon which the social fabric depends, is an endeavor to further evolution, especially that of the human race.”

    Charles P. Davenport, one of Galton’s disciples, defended the Nazi pledge to exterminate the Jews, and endorsed the “‘infinitely superior’ weapon of capital punishment against Nordic and non-Nordic race polluters whose inferior genes threatened the purity of the Aryan racial gene pools of the Third Reich.”.

    In 1916 Davenport sought to establish Eugenics as a religion during an address at the Battle Creek Michigan Sanitarium, titled “Eugenics as a Religion.”

  30. Bob
    Bob says:

    phatbat,

    “It was Darwin’s theory that discovered we are all the same”

    Huh? Darwin suggested in his books that some human beings are subhuman/subspecies.

  31. phatbat
    phatbat says:

    Bob,

    ”Huh? Darwin suggested in his books that some human beings are subhuman/subspecies.“

    I don’t think he said that mate. Have you got a link to the quote you are talking about?

    Here is a quote from Darwin though:

    As man advances in civilisation, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shews us how long it is, before we look at them as our fellow-creatures. Sympathy beyond the confines of man, that is, humanity to the lower animals, seems to be one of the latest moral acquisitions. It is apparently unfelt by savages, except towards their pets. How little the old Romans knew of it is shewn by their abhorrent gladiatorial exhibitions. The very idea of humanity, as far as I could observe, was new to most of the Gauchos of the Pampas. This virtue, one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they are extended to all sentient beings. As soon as this virtue is honoured and practised by some few men, it spreads through instruction and example to the young, and eventually becomes incorporated in public opinion.

    The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognise that we ought to control our thoughts, and “not even in inmost thought to think again the sins that made the past so pleasant to us.” Whatever makes any bad action familiar to the mind, renders its performance by so much the easier. As Marcus Aurelius long ago said, “Such as are thy habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of thy mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts.”

    And another:

    ”It is often attempted to palliate slavery by comparing the state of slaves with our poorer countrymen: if the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin; but how this bears on slavery, I cannot see; as well might the use of the thumb-screw be defended in one land, by showing that men in another land suffered from some dreadful disease. Those who look tenderly at the slave owner, and with a cold heart at the slave, never seem to put themselves into the position of the latter; what a cheerless prospect, with not even a hope of change! picture to yourself the chance, ever hanging over you, of your wife and your little children — those objects which nature urges even the slave to call his own — being torn from you and sold like beasts to the first bidder! And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that his Will be done on earth! It makes one’s blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty”

    And here’s Darwin demonstrating a minority but morally progressive opinion for his day:

    ”I was told before leaving England that after living in slave countries all my opinions would be altered; the only alteration I am aware of is forming a much higher estimate of the negro character. It is impossible to see a negro and not feel kindly towards him; such cheerful, open, honest expressions and such fine muscular bodies. I never saw any of the diminutive Portuguese, with their murderous countenances, without almost wishing for Brazil to follow the example of Haiti; and, considering the enormous healthy-looking black population, it will be wonderful if, at some future day, it does not take place.”

    Darwin was a passionate abolitionist who showed that there were no significant difference between the races. Anyone of the time would often refer to the “savage races” because that was just the name for them at the time. Hitler never mentioned Darwin once in his writings and even if he had it doesn’t change the fact that he displayed his inspirations for his actions many times. Eugenics didn’t start in the last century, it has been going on for thousands of years starting with the Indian Caste system and Sparta (which Hitler mentioned):

    ”Sparta must be regarded as the first folkish state. The exposure of the sick, weak, deformed children, in short their destruction, was more decent and in truth a thousand times more humane than the wretched insanity of our day which preserves the most pathological subject.

    And here are some excerpts from a speech by Dr. Gerhard Wagner – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerhard_Wagner_(Nazi_physician) at the Nuremberg Nazi Party Rally in 1936:

    ” We can only say to these learned critics that our genetic and racial thinking stems in the end not from our scientific, but rather from our National Socialist convictions, and that it was not learned scientists, but rather our Führer Adolf Hitler, and he alone, who made genetic and racial thinking the center of our National Socialist worldview and the foundation of the rebuilding of our people’s state. The doctrines of blood and race are not first of all an important and interesting piece of biological science to us, but rather above all else a political-ideological attitude that fundamentally determines our attitudes to things and to the questions of life.

    You’ll love these next 2:

    ” Finally, a word to those who reject our racial policy as “unchristian.” God has chosen to create humanity in the form of various races, as he has done in all of the rest of nature. Those who ignore race and its laws are not acting in a Christian manner, but rather we claim to be following the will of God, who has created the various racial types of this world so that each may maintain the greatest possible racial purity that will enable to develop its particular strengths.“

    And

    To those who claim that we act in an unchristian way, sinning against the will of God, we reply that we are convinced that we are acting consistent with the will of the creator when we prevent unhealthy life from being propagated, saving children and their children from new and enormous misery. The creator himself established the laws of life, which harshly and brutally let all that is unworthy of life to perish to make room for the strong and healthy to whom the future belongs. This is necessary for the preservation and development of all that lives on this earth.

    From a Nazi educational book called Faith and Action http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/glauben.htm:

    You carry in your blood the holy inheritance of your fathers and forefathers. You do not know those who have vanished in endless ranks into the darkness of the past. But they all live in you and walk in your blood upon the earth that consumed them in battle and toil and in which their bodies have long decayed. Your blood is therefore something holy. … But if your blood has traits that will make your children unhappy and burdens to the state, then you have the heroic duty to be the last. The blood is the carrier of life. You carry in it the secret of creation itself. Your blood is holy, for in it God’s will lives.

    And

    Race means to be able to think in a certain way. He who has courage, loyalty and honor, the mark of the German, has the race that should rule in Germany, even if he does not have the physical characteristics of the “Nordic” race. The unity of the noble and a noble body is the goal to which we strive. But we despise those whose noble body carries an ignoble soul. … But the Nordic race must dominate in Germany and shape the soul of each German. It must win out in the breast of each individual. Today our ideal is not the artist or the citizen, but the hero. Our highest treasure is the soul that we have been given. He who mixes his blood with that of foreign inferior races ruins the blood and soul that have been given to him to pass on impurity to his children. He makes his children impure and miserable, and commits the greatest crime that he as a National Socialist can commit.

    You see they were obsessed with the distinction and sanctity of the races which Darwin had protested against and shown was an illusion due to common descent.

    There is little doubt that Darwin, although a man of his time, with the vocabulary to match, he was in a small minority of very morally progressive men in his time.

  32. Simon
    Simon says:

    Bob,

    Have you read On The Origin completely? Might pay too, and Darwin’s other words of the time. He was beyond careful and thoughtful on these topics of social application.

    Either way, it does not matter. The ideas of social Darwinism back then and now have zero to do with the validity of evolution as a scientific theory or fact. This seems to be what you’re insinuating.

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