Was Hitler a Darwinian?: Disputed Questions in the History of Evolutionary Theory

Was Hitler a Darwinian?: Disputed Questions in the History of Evolutionary Theory

Robert J. Richards

Language: English

Pages: 280

ISBN: 022605893X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In tracing the history of Darwin’s accomplishment and the trajectory of evolutionary theory during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most scholars agree that Darwin introduced blind mechanism into biology, thus banishing moral values from the understanding of nature. According to the standard interpretation, the principle of survival of the fittest has rendered human behavior, including moral behavior, ultimately selfish. Few doubt that Darwinian theory, especially as construed by the master’s German disciple, Ernst Haeckel, inspired Hitler and led to Nazi atrocities.

In this collection of essays, Robert J. Richards argues that this orthodox view is wrongheaded. A close historical examination reveals that Darwin, in more traditional fashion, constructed nature with a moral spine and provided it with a goal: man as a moral creature. The book takes up many other topics—including the character of Darwin’s chief principles of natural selection and divergence, his dispute with Alfred Russel Wallace over man’s big brain, the role of language in human development, his relationship to Herbert Spencer, how much his views had in common with Haeckel’s, and the general problem of progress in evolution. Moreover, Richards takes a forceful stand on the timely issue of whether Darwin is to blame for Hitler’s atrocities. Was Hitler a Darwinian? is intellectual history at its boldest.

Biology and Anatomy & Physiology Helps: The Chemistry of Life

Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping (3rd Edition)

Cambrian Ocean World: Ancient Sea Life of North America (Life of the Past)

The Biology of Thought: A Neuronal Mechanism in the Generation of Thought - A New Molecular Model

Charles Darwin: A Celebration of His Life and Work


















natural selection as producing moral creatures; he conceived of natural selection itself as a moral and intelligent agent. The model of an intelligent and moral selector, which Darwin cultivated in his earlier essays, makes an appearance in the Big Species Book. In the chapter “On Natural Selection,” he contrasted man’s selection with nature’s. The human selector did not allow “each being to struggle for life”; he rather protected animals “from all enemies.” Further, man judged animals only on

106–29 and 547–76. Three other books that offer comprehensive surveys of the empirical evidence are Richard Alexander, The Biolog  y of Moral Systems (New York: Aldine De Gruyter, 1987); Lewis Petrinovich, Human Evolution, Reproduction, and Morality (New York: Plenum, 1995); and Leonard Katz, ed., Evolutionary Origins of Morality (Thorverton, UK: Imprint Academic, 2002). Darwin’s Romantic Quest  113 Thomas Henry Huxley raised the telling difficulty in his lecture “Evolution and Ethics” (1893).

“will be looked at as by . Ernst Haeckel, as quoted by his disciple Wilhelm Bölsche, in Ernst Haeckel: Ein Lebensbild (Berlin: Georg Bondi, 1909), 179. . Ernst Mayr, The Growth of Biological Thought (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), 386. . Alexander Bain to Herbert Spencer (17 November 1863), MS 791, no. 67, Athenaeum Collection of Spencer’s Correspondence, University of London Library. F i g u r e 5 . 2   Charles Darwin in 1875. Photo by Julia Margaret Cameron. (Courtesy of the

Spencer’s prediction of sexual frugality thus tempered Parson Malthus’s screed against the possibility of social improvement because of overpopulation. Though Darwin wrote a complimentary letter to Spencer on receiving a copy of the essay on population, 10. [Herbert Spencer], “A Theory of Population, Deduced from the General Law of Animal Fertility,” Westminster and Foreign Quarterly Review 57 (1852): 500. 124  Chapter Five he thought that the principles of reproduction Spencer advanced were

contemporary advocates of Intelligent Design have used to rejuvenate sclerotic Scientific Creationism; they seem to hope this infusion of monkey glands will unleash a new powerful refutation of Darwinian evolutionary theory.) Darwin himself answered this kind of objection—and Spencer specifically—when he spelled out, in his Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, how natural selection might operate to produce coadaptations. He reminded his readers that artificial selection could

Download sample