Evolution and the Holocaust

Question from James:
Hey thanks for reading this. If evolution is survival of the fittest then why was Hitler considered evil? If he could overcome the Jews then Germans must be better then Jews. In fact racism shouldn’t be a bad thing if you truly believe your race is better. Also why does it matter is animals go extinct? I get cows and animals we use, but who cares about obscure fish and bugs?

Answer by SmartLX:
Your initial question about Hitler is like asking, “If the atomic number of boron is 5, why did two different actors play Darrin on Bewitched?” The first part is true and so is the second, but the two are unrelated.

Evolution is an explanation of what has happened, over the entire history of life on earth, to change it from a single population of similar single-celled organisms to the vast complexity and diversity we see today. “Survival of the fittest” is still an apt simplification, because at all times those organisms which are more fit for survival and procreation are the ones that pass on the most genes. Some kill members of their own species to get along, some don’t have to. Even Darwin thought it was pretty brutal, writing that “nature is red in tooth and claw,” but human morality is difficult or impossible to apply to non-human animals. They’re just doing what their instincts tell them.

Evil on the other hand is a label we apply to actions and people who go against our morals and ethics. Hitler’s genocide violates the morality of such a huge majority of us that society as a whole can label him evil without fear of being challenged. That the act was intended to benefit Hitler’s chosen race does not make it good or ambiguous just because this sounds vaguely evolutionary, because there is no morality to evolution. Evolution is just what happened, take it or leave it, and our morals as applied to Hitler come from other sources.

The Holocaust comparison fails on other levels. Here are two.
– Despite the claims of Nazi propaganda which tried to dehumanise the Jews, the Holocaust boils down to a single species attacking itself en masse, which isn’t good for any population. So does any act of ethnic cleansing, which is why racism is unsupportable by evolutionary theory. If anything the Holocaust could be seen as an act of “social Darwinism“, which borrows the terminology of evolution but has little in common with it.
– The six million Jews were murdered in an act of artificial selection, not natural selection. Evolution has no will and no goals, but Hitler decided those Jews should die. This deliberate culling has far more in common with techniques that have been used in animal breeding for centuries, long before Darwin.

Moving on, we actually don’t care very much about fish and bugs, do we? The former we catch live, kill painfully and eat with relish, and the latter we crush on our forearms without a second thought. Fish and insects are alien to us, so it’s hard to empathise with them – especially the insects, as we can’t really look them in the eyes. Once you get to mammals like cows and pigs, we’re still happy to eat them but we start to care whether they are treated humanely on the farm and in the abbatoir. We perceive cats, dogs, apes and monkeys as so like us in behaviour and attitude that most of us wouldn’t even consider killing one, let alone eating it. This empathy is where we get the urge to protect animals and treat them well, rather than some platitude about them all being “God’s creatures”, but there is a sliding scale of how strongly it applies.

That wasn’t really your point though. If you want an evolutionary rationale of why we should prevent obscure species from going extinct, animals that wipe out other animals or plants completely usually do themselves a terrible disservice in terms of survival. They deprive themselves of a food source, or a crucial nutrient is lost which leaves them susceptible to disease, or they allow a new poisonous species to flourish, or they put themselves at war with some other animal that was dependent on the late species. All of the above might apply to us, but additionally human science and medicine might have all sorts of uses for species of any type. Finally, although we can’t muster much empathy for alien-like species while they suck our blood or whatever, the fact that they’re just trying to survive too does engender a broad sense of solidarity with all living things.

18 thoughts on “Evolution and the Holocaust”

  1. James – SmartLX answered it very well, much better than I could. Good thing too, because reading moronic questions like that would have made me call you an antagonizing troll….

  2. If you had done your homework, you would realize that James asked a valid question. I wrote a research paper on this last year. The connection between Darwinian evolution and Hitler is hard to deny. Darwin wasn’t necessarily racist, but anybody who has read The Decent of Man would be appalled by the many racist claims he makes. Because of evolution, Hitler had the perfect excuse to murder people with mental illnesses and those of a different race. It wasn’t Darwin’s intention, but his work provided the perfect way to justify racism.

    I realize that evolution is supposed to be descriptive, not prescriptive—that is, it explains what did happen not what should happen. But that is irrelevant. If humans evolved from apes, then there are some races that are less-human (and more-ape) than others. Killing someone of a “lesser” race would be tantamount to killing an animal. Evolutionists don’t like to admit this, but evolution legitimizes racism.

    1. I’m glad you get the distinction between descriptive and perscriptive. I guarantee you that this piece will be read by people who have not.

      Yes, Darwin was racist by today’s standards, and not very anti-racist even in his own time, but he’s been quote-mined to sound far worse. He opposed eugenics, he opposed slavery, and he acknowledged that other races were no less human than white men. He thought they were inferior in some ways (a result as much of their environment as of their intrinsic qualities), and he didn’t like to be around them, but he realised that his feelings were despite the scientific fact that they were of the same species.

      Regardless, the connection between Darwinian evolution and Hitler is actually quite easy to deny once you learn that Darwin’s books were banned (even burned) by the Nazi regime, and it appears that Hitler didn’t mention Darwinian evolution even once. Nazi propaganda portraying Jews as less than human was directly counter to evolutionary theory, not supported by it. Instead they embraced eugenics, an idea popularised by Darwin’s half-cousin Francis Galton after he completely missed the point of the first two chapters of The Origin of Species – and again, an idea rejected by Darwin himself.

      You fail to take your reasoning in the second paragraph to its logical conclusion when trying to project how “evolutionists” ought to see issues of race. No race is less human or more ape than any other, because all humans are still 100% apes. Even without the genetics, our morphology is entirely consistent with the ape “superfamily” Hominoidea. There are features unique to us of course, but we still tick all the boxes. Killing any human is killing an ape, but since we’re apes that makes it no less significant to us. If you don’t buy that, then we are at the very least all animals, and the same argument applies at that level. Whatever we are, we care about our own and different human races aren’t different enough to justify different treatment.

      As I customarily say when discussing this issue but neglected to in this particular piece, none of this changes the fact that evolution is a scientific fact and should be taught as such, like any other. If racists use it to rationalise their crimes, which I’m sure some do somewhere, this rationale is not accepted by society or the courts (even entirely secular courts) and they are punished just the same. I emphasise that it is probably used as rationalisation; I doubt very much that Darwinism has actually served as a source of racism. Like religious apologetic to the devout, it would be something they look up for reassurance after their opinion is already formed. Even then they’d have to be incredibly selective.

      1. It is true, that Darwin did not embrace racism or eugenics (he was an abolitionist). However, this may be hard to believe after reading The Origin of Species and especially, the Descent of Man. Much of what Darwin writes sounds like it has been ripped straight out of a eugenics guidebook (I am goint to “quote-mine” Darwin now). In addition to strengthening racial accusations, he also greatly affected the eugenics movement. Darwin himself says in The Decent of Man:
        “With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated… We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution, would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed” . This is horrifying! Now, every person who practicises racism and eugenics, has a “scientific” basis for their claims… this includes Hitler who writes: “Every crossing between two breeds which are not quite equal results in a product which holds an intermediate place between the levels of the two parents. This means that the offspring will indeed be superior to the parent which stands in the biologically lower order of being, but not so high as the higher parent. For this reason it must eventually succumb in any struggle against the higher species. Such mating contradicts the will of Nature towards the selective improvements of life in general. The favourable preliminary to this improvement is not to mate individuals of higher and lower orders of being but rather to allow the complete triumph of the higher order. The stronger must dominate and not mate with the weaker, which would signify the sacrifice of its own higher nature… if such a law did not direct the process of evolution (this word might also be translated from German to mean “development”) then the higher development of organic life would not be conceivable at all”.Darwin was the one who made that very same idea acceptable to the scientific community. Those words sound as if they were uttered by Darwin himself, yet there are still those who try to argue against the connection between Darwin and Hitler. Although Hitler didn’t believe in all of Darwin’s ideas, he obviously agreed that natural selection could improve the human race, and thanks to Darwin, he had science to “prove” it. The rest is history.Under the guise of improving the gene pool and causing humans to evolve into a “higher form”, millions of innocent people were killed. From an evolutionary point of view, the cruelty of Hitler’s atrocities (or they could also be called natural selection), aren’t really cruel at all. Those who feel otherwise are, as Darwin would say, experiencing “care wrongly directed.”

        How is the Holocaust “artificial selection”? Is it artificial selection when the slowest antelpe gets devoured by a lion? Is it artificial selection when those with a weak immune system die due to illness? Is it artificial selection when the weakest animals die because the stronger animals have eaten all of the food? I realize why you would like to avoid calling the Holocaust “natural selection”. However, the Holocaust was simply organisms killing other organisms; in other words, natural selection.

        Is evolution really a scientific fact? Actually it is a theory, and theories have been wrong in the past. Do you really believe that there is a zero percent chance of darwinian evolution being wrong?

        1. You have read the paragraph that immediately follows your Darwin quote, right? The one where he turns around and says to actually apply animal breeding principles to humans and cull the weak would be “a certain and great present evil” and completely against our good nature? Gary has quoted it too, but still you say Hitler got what he needed from Darwin.

          Firstly, there’s no evidence besides quote comparisons like yours that Hitler even read Darwin, let alone mentioned him. Secondly, Darwin presents the idea and immediately condemns it. Can Richard Dawkins be accused of promoting religious apologetic because he quotes the most popular arguments for God in The God Delusion in order to tear them down? Thirdly, nothing in your Hitler quote contains an idea unique to or even popularised by Darwin. These concepts of interbreeding and animal competition are ancient farmers’ and botanists’ knowledge, used by Darwin only as a jumping-off point to propose that nature can effect the same and greater changes in animals than a dedicated human breeder.

          The Holocaust was artificial selection because it was done deliberately to influence the relative populations and fortunes of different groups. Natural selection might drive animals or plants to kill one another, even massacre one another, but only for immediate physical goals like protecting living space or securing food sources, and only because the other species is literally in the way at that moment. It all works on instinct, and not even that when brainless plants are involved. It is never a decision, only a reaction, and the consequences are never anticipated. Orders are not given, remorse is never felt. An act of artificial selection is a choice you have to live with. Hitler apparently could, but many of his soldiers couldn’t.

          Evolution is indeed a theory, but it’s a scientific theory which means more than the hypothesis you make it out to be. It’s “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on knowledge that has been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation.” It is also a fact, as much as any other scientific fact is, due to the amount of evidence that has been accumulated; we’re as sure about it as we are about gravity, or germs. No, it’s not absolutely 100% certain, but nothing really is when you get philosophical about it. What’s important is that there are a great many ways in which evolution could be disproved at any given time (the famous example of rabbits found in the pre-Cambrian era) and yet it has not been, after over a century. This justifies great confidence in it, enough to behave as if it is true without the need for unobtainable certainty. Alternatives to it, from Lamarckian evolution to young-earth creationism to intelligent design, have never reached the status of a scientific theory (hypotheses all, and poorly supported), so calling it a theory even derisively still puts it above the competition.

  3. Hi Jordan, a comments re your last post: You quoted Darwin as writing:

    “With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated… We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution, would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed” .

    First, let me praise you for quoting this paragraph (almost) verbatim. This is rare. Generally, this paragraph is touted by creationists who leave two whole sentences out, giving the passage a completely different meaning. But why does this paragraph horrify you? All Darwin is doing is pointing out that individuals who would not have survived in previous years might have a better chance of survival nowadays. What’s wrong with that? And why are you ignoring the paragraph immediately following in which Darwin makes crystal clear his contempt for eugenics? :

    “The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. 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”.

    Contrary to what you are claiming, Darwin actually wrote that the practice of eugenics would result in “deterioration in the noblest part of our nature” and be “an overwhelmingly present evil”. It’s very easy to quote mine, but be aware that you will eventually be caught out.

    1. Hi Gary,
      You claim that I quoted Darwin almost verbatim. What did I quote wrong? I didn’t copy and past that quote from a creationist website, I got it straight from The Descent of Man. But if I misquoted it I would love to get it right next time.

      I think you must have missed my point. I made it clear that Darwin did not support eugenics. However, his writings provided the justification that Hitler needed. That was my point.

      1. The first sentence should read:
        “With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health.

        “However, his writings provided the justification that Hitler needed.”

        They’re not his writings though, are they? By using the term ‘writings’ you are attempting to portray Darwin’s work as mere opinion. But its not opinion. Darwin’s scientific work is actually very exacting and meticulous and he has been shown to have been essentially correct (look at his prediction that the earliest hominids would be found in Africa!). His books are essentially like giant scientific papers, with background discussion, reports of his data collection and findings in the field, and discussion of where his conclusions might possibly be wrong.
        Ask yourself this question: why don’t you see anyone ideologically link Isaac Newton (or even the Wright brothers) with Hitler because the Luftwaffe and the Italian airforce so effectively targeted a wholly civilian population when they bombed the Basque town of Guernica in 1937? (the Wright Brothers gave them the scientific means to do so, of that there is no doubt). Or any other aerial bombing campaigns deliberately targeting civilians? Has anyone ideologically linked Antoine Lavoisier with Hitler because the Nazis decided to use the chemical agent Zyklon-B in their death camps rather than some non-chemical means of mass murder? Mendelian genetics directly informed the scientific basis for eugenics policies worldwide, far more than anything Darwin ever published, yet we witness none of the vindictiveness aimed at Darwin targeted also at Gregor Mendel. Outside of the fundamentalist Christian community who would even consider it reasonable for a scientist to be deemed responsible when, after their death, a politician exploits their research findings to serve a political agenda? Taken to its logical extreme, how come we never hear Christian fundamentalists denigrate classical music? After all, the Nazis promoted it tirelessly and employed it to great effect in their propaganda films and mass rallies.

        What is it about Darwin that Christian fundamentalists hate so much? He simply discovered the existence of a mechanism that explains the diversity of the species currently observed on our planet. What offends people’s sensibilities is the fact that we now know that a deity might be a sufficient, but is not a necessary condition for natural selection to have effect. However, as Isaac Asimov wrote:

        “So the universe is not quite as you thought it was? You’d better rearrange your beliefs then. Because you certainly can’t rearrange the universe.”

        That’s why some people go to ludicrous lengths to paint Darwin and his scientific findings as dangerous: they are unable to rearrange their beliefs to fit reality.

  4. “Is evolution really a scientific fact? Actually it is a theory”

    Jordan, do you wash your hands after going to the toilet? Why? What’s the point? The notion that germs spread disease is only a theory. Do you leap off tall buildings? Why not? The explanation for why you travel downwards is only a theory. That’s because a scientific theory is:

    “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on knowledge that has been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation”.

    In other words, a theory is a massive collection of facts, put together in a coherent way to make an explanatory whole e.g., germ theory of disease, theory of gravity, atomic theory, evolutionary theory.

    “Do you really believe that there is a zero percent chance of darwinian evolution being wrong?”

    I can tell you (almost certainly) live in the USA. It’s the only developed country where any more than a handful of people doubt the theory. Currently, there are about 1000 peer reviewed research papers published per week that deal with some aspect of evolution (worldwide: Science Citation Index). Really, what’s the likelihood they’ve all got it wrong?

    I don’t think people realise the profound effect it would have if Darwinian evolution was shown to be wrong. You can’t just remove one aspect of science and it have no effect on the rest of science. The techniques used to investigate evolution are shared by e.g., criminal forensics and genetics, archaeology, nuclear power plants. The conclusions made would bring into question huge swathes of agricultural research and medical research, astrophysics, the petrochemical industry etc etc.

    It’s just not gonna happen. Believe me.

    1. The idea that germs cause diseases can be observed, tested, and repeated. Molecules to man Evolution cannot be observed, tested, or repeated. Sure, most scientist believe it, but the best alternative to evolution is God. If you refuse to accept God, then evolution is pretty much your only option. Your argument is a simple appeal to majority. The majority of people used to believe that the earth was the center of the solar system. This idea was pivotal to the understanding of astronomy—but it was still wrong.

      It makes me wonder when people claim that molecules to man evolution is a fact. It must take a lot of faith to believe something that has never been observed, tested, or repeated.

      1. Molecules to man is not biological evolution. You are confusing two completely separate branches of science. Abiogenesis is the field of chemistry which describes the formation of self-replicating molecules (i.e., the most primitive form of what we might loosely call life). Evolutionary theory is a field of biology. It has nothing to say about the formation of life. Never has. It deals solely with the mechanism by which life diversifies.

  5. Jordan wrote:

    “Although Hitler didn’t believe in all of Darwin’s ideas, he obviously agreed that natural selection could improve the human race, and thanks to Darwin, he had science to “prove” it.”

    How on earth does natural selection improve anything? It merely allows those individual organisms that are best adapted to the environment they happen to find themselves in at a specific time, more likely to reproduce. That’s it. The alleles get shifted around and around and around and very, very slowly, new species emerge. That’s all. Natural selection doesn’t ‘select’ for anything. All we are able to do, only ever in retrospect, is identify those traits that have been ‘selected’ against. There’s no way of telling in advance what they might be. Natural selection operates automatically and needs no conscious agent. It is a blind mechanical process, having no inherent teleological design, purpose, intent or destiny. It exploits any DNA, regardless of where it comes from.

    What Hitler attempted to do was the exact opposite. He was, in effect acting as a deity might. He had purpose and intent. He tried to plan and design the characteristics of future generations of people in order to determine their destiny, i.e., to return God’s favoured ‘race’, the Aryans to the level of genetic purity God intended. In order to do that he tried to genetically isolate the Aryans by only having them breed with each other and to rid the world of the ‘contaminants’ they faced. This is not natural selection; he was artificially selecting for the future.

    If Hitler really understood natural selection as a means to ‘improve’ (whatever that means) he would surely have had the German people mix genes with as diverse a range of people as possible.

    1. You write, “How on earth does natural selection improve anything?”
      Seriously? I think one of us misunderstands “natural selection.” If it is me, please educate me. I would like to understand. How is it not an improvement when bacteria become resistant to antibiotics? As far as I can tell, the changed bacteria are improved. How is it not an improvement when the first life form evolved into a more complex life-form?

      1. You’re just being anthropocentric. You are looking at specific aspects of life-forms and cherry picking those that look good from a human perspective. If you take human opinion out of the equation, who decides what is an improvement? Nature? Natural selection?

        “How is it not an improvement when bacteria become resistant to antibiotics?”

        How is it an improvement? Sure, it appears to be an improvement in our eyes, because it has potentially serious repercussions for us. But we aren’t the centre of the universe. The universe doesn’t hold us in any special favour. In the grand scheme of things it’s no more than a strain of bacteria in a particular place at a particular time that includes individuals that have successfully adapted their genetic structure to some environmental exigency. Happens all the time. Completely unnoticed usually. If natural selection is such a great improver, how come over 99% of the species that have ever existed on this planet are now extinct? How come the genome of every species is packed with dysfunctional genes, some of which, if re-activated, would have a definite advantage for the survival of that species? e.g., GULO in humans.

        1. Hi Gary, thanks for putting up with me.
          Wow, “anthropocentric” is a good word, I had to look it up to see what it meant. You are right, I was writing from a human perspective. From your worldview “Improvements” are nothing more than concepts devised by humans for use by humans. You are being consistent and I commend you for it. To be fair, there are many other conceptual ideas that cease to be relevant without humans or (more specifically), a consciousness in the equation.

          Since we have agreed to avoid being anthropocentric, what are we to do with things like morality? “We aren’t the center of the universe. The universe doesn’t hold us in some special favor.” In the grand scheme of things, the Holocaust was nothing more than matter and chemical reactions… It was neither good nor bad. In reality, it is no different than an unknown star exploding or a tree getting struck by lightning.

          1. Since I can’t be anthropocentric, I would much appreciate it if you aren’t either. That way it will be fair.

          2. “In the grand scheme of things, the Holocaust was nothing more than matter and chemical reactions… It was neither good nor bad.”

            I completely agree. And I think that is the difference between theistic and secular approaches to reality. Christians, for example, see themselves as the centre of the universe. God’s special creation, made in his image and he cares individually for each one of us, in a personal relationship. Its a completely unrealistic view of the physical reality we all share and owes more to our psychological make-up and readiness to believe in mythology than any objective appraisal. That’s why, for example, the only ‘proofs of God’ are logical (and their isn’t a single premise that can’t be questioned empirically or logically) none are data-driven, because there is no data (as well as the fact that here need to be so many ‘proofs’, whereas single mathematical proofs are sufficient). In contrast, atheists see themselves as belonging to a particular species that finds itself, at this period in time, the dominant one on an insignificant planet orbiting a small, not particularly interesting star located near the edge of one of hundreds of billions of galaxies. Do I like the way it is? Not particularly. It’s just the way it is. I live with it. Similarly with morality. Christians see morality as fixed, emanating from God. But for this to be acceptable to everyone, they need to demonstrate that this is the case, in some way. They can’t. They simply continue asserting it without evidence. And when you ask for evidence they give you a syllogism, or some personal anecdote. You say we should agree not to be anthropocentric, but that doesn’t apply when we discuss morality. There’s no evidence at all that morality emanates from anywhere except human brains.
            Secular approaches tend to view morality as a process, something that, as a species, we could possibly get better at over time, for the benefit of the species as a whole.
            So the Holocaust was a bad thing in the eyes of most human beings simply because, as a species, we have evolved a sense of empathy (coupled with an ability to think rationally) for our fellow human beings (though there is obviously some within group variation, just as there is with any trait) and we now consider, as a species, that our sense of empathy and rationality and consensus should be paramount when we reason about morality. This was not always the case. For example, many societies have shifted toward a less retributive and more consequentialist, or outcome-based, judicial system because religiosity in those places has markedly declined in general. Compare, for example, attitudes to justice and social organisation in the Bible or religiously driven medieval Europe (i.e., based on morality perceived as having been given to us by God; for example, nowhere in the Bible is slavery banned outright, it is merely regulated) with those of the modern secular European Convention on Human Rights (which bans slavery outright, no exceptions), or the European Union in which membership is contingent on the illegality of slavery and capital punishment for all crimes, among other things (i.e., more empathy based). Who but the most fundamentalist of theists would consider modern European secular approaches to justice and morality to be less thoughtful, less kind, less moral, than those practiced centuries ago by religious authorities? We no longer burn witches, because we have empirical evidence that witchcraft is bunkum, but the Bible still tells us to kill witches. We now know that epilepsy is not caused by demon possession, so we treat epileptics using science, but that’s contrary to what the Bible tells us causes it. We no longer consider polygenism to be correct, because Darwin showed us that all human beings belong to a single species. We have, quite reasonably, changed our moral outlook on these matters as we have become better informed. Other animals, most notably some other primates, have also evolved some degree of empathy and empathic behaviour, even toward those they are not genetically related to, can be observed. I would highly recommend the Dutch researcher Frans de Waal’ s work on this facet of evolution and behaviour. We can even change people’s ability to be empathetic simply by altering their neurochemistry, there’s nothing supernatural about it.

            Hitler morality wasn’t based on rationality, empiricism, reason and empathy (he actually stated this, as did many of his colleagues), it was based on overtly religious notions of repairing the mess humans had made of God’s creation. It’s interesting to consider the attitudes of fundamentalist Christians about the Holocaust because many are quite prepared, publicly, to defend genocide; they see nothing wrong with it at all, it’s a perfectly acceptable mode of behaviour – provided it has been sanctioned by God (such as the God-commanded genocide in the Old Testament, or the Crusades or the Inquisition). The problem many of them have with Hitler is not that he killed people, it’s that they are not convinced he had authority from God to act as he did. On the other hand, there were a number of prominent Christian theologians such as Gustav Adolf Deissmann, Gerhard Kittel, Emanuel Hirsch, Paul Althaus, and Ludwig Muller who all supported Hitler – on the very basis that he was upholding God’s objective morality.

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