I was struck, while watching the documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed“, with Ben Stein’s point that Nazism was directly influenced by Darwin’s evolutionary theories– which (no doubt displaying my very spotty knowledge) was a novel thought to me. I’ve done some surfing on the web this evening, and have found some further information on the subject, and a lot of rather knee-jerk negative responses to the claim as put forward in the film. It merits much further study, to be sure, and I’ve printed off an article to get myself started.
I hadn’t given it much further thought after watching the film, until I came across the same link in a totally unexpected place. Last night, on a whim, I decided to delve a little way into the writings of Charlotte Mason on education. I printed off the intruduction of volume 6 (what better place to start?!), and was rather surprised to find, three pages in, a lengthy reference to pre-Nazi Germany (this was written soon after WWI, which is obviously very fresh in the minds of Mason and her audience) and Darwin!
“…Much thoughtful care has been spent in ascertaining the causes of the German break-down in character and conduct; the war scourge was symptomatic and the symptoms have been duly traced to their cause in the thoughts the people have been taught to think during three or four generations. We have heard much about Nietzsche, Treitschke, Bernhardi and the rest; but Professor Muirhead did us good service in carrying the investigation further back. Darwin’s theories of natural selection, the survival of the fittest, the struggle for existence, struck root in Germany in fitting soil; and the ideas of the superman, the super state, the right of might to repudiate treaties, to eliminate feebler powers, to recognize no law but expediency––all this appears to come as naturally out of Darwinism as a chicken comes out of an egg…. There is a tendency in human nature to elect the obligations of natural law in preference to those of spiritual law; to take its code of ethics from science, and, following this tendency, the Germans found in their reading of Darwin sanction for manifestations of brutality…. Darwin himself protests against the struggle for existence being the most potent agency where the higher part of man’s nature is concerned, and he no more thought of giving a materialistic tendency to modern education than Locke thought of teaching principles which should bring about the French Revolution; but men’s thoughts are more potent than they know, and these two Englishmen may be credited with influencing powerfully two world-wide movements. In Germany, “prepared by a quarter of a century of materialistic thought,” the teaching of Darwin was accepted as offering emancipation from various moral restraints. Ernst Haeckel, his distinguished follower, finds in the law of natural selection sanction for Germany’s lawless action, and also, that pregnant doctrine of the superman….”
Do I hear an echo?