by T.D. Hall, Ph.D.
In the conclusion of his remarkable book
The Nazi Doctors-Medical Killing and the Psychology of
Genocide (1986), Robert Jay Lifton writes of a visit
"I went to the camp a few years ago and was
shown the many exhibits maintained there, exhibits that leave nothing to
be added concerning the evil human beings can do to other human beings.
But the one that left the most profound impression on me was the
simplest of all: a room full of shoes, mostly baby shoes."
Genocidal campaigns are not new. They occurred
the Holocaust; and they are occurring at
this moment. What distinguishes the Nazi "race purification" extermination
program from other genocidal campaigns is its "scientific" character.
At a mass meeting in 1934, Nazi Deputy Party
Leader Rudolf Hess stated,
"National Socialism is nothing but applied
"The entire Nazi regime was built," Lifton
writes, "on a biomedical vision that required the kind of racial
purification that would progress from sterilization to extensive
As early as the publication of Mein Kampf
(1924-26), Lifton indicates,
"Hitler had declared the sacred racial
mission of the German people to be 'assembling and preserving the most
valuable stocks of basic racial elements [and]... slowly and severely
raising them to a dominant position'..."
Where did the "biomedical vision" of Hitler and
his party originate?
The primary sources were:
Darwinian biology and evolutionary
Social Darwinism, the evangelistic
dissemination of Darwinism
A pseudo-science called "eugenics"
In the first several decades of the twentieth
century, eugenics was considered by many as humanity's best hope for the
future. It played the role now played by "genetic engineering." It was
Darwinism. The following outlines, briefly,
the nature of these related sources:
Today, our orthodox theory of biology and evolution is "neo-Darwinism."
Neo-Darwinism combines what is called "classical Darwinism" with modern
genetics. Classical Darwinism dates from 1859, the year in which English
naturalist Charles Darwin published
On The Origin of Species
by Means of Natural Selection,
subtitled (note carefully)...The Preservation of the Favored Races in the
Struggle for Life.
Despite the fact key premises underlying
Darwin's theory were unproven scientifically, the theory was embraced by
numerous scientists and intellectuals as if it was gospel - the Gospel of
Science. In a relatively short time, the Origin replaced the Bible
as western civilization's preferred authoritative text on the subject of the
nature of life on Earth.
In 1871, Darwin published the even more
The Descent of Man.
The major premises of
The major premises of Darwinism may be summarized as follows:
The first premise, the concept of the
evolutionary transformation of one species into others, was derived
from the "Transformism" of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who founded
evolutionary science in 1809 with the publication of Philosophie
In his History of Creation
(1873), evolutionist Ernst Haeckel writes,
"To him [Lamarck] will always belong
the immortal glory of having for the first time worked out the
Theory of Descent, as an independent scientific theory of the
first order, and as the philosophical foundation for the whole
science of Biology."
Indeed, the very term "biology" was
coined by Lamarck.
Darwin became acquainted with the work of Lamarck through his friend
and mentor, the eminent geologist Charles Lyell. Volume II of
Lyell's Principles of Geology, which contains a long
exposition of the Lamarck theory, was received by Darwin in South
America in 1832, in the first of his five years engagement as ship's
naturalist on the H.M.S. Beagle.
The second premise of Darwin's theory is
that "natural selection" is the cause of divergence in species,
i.e., the origin of species. The first published mention of the idea
of Nature-as-selector is in Rousseau's "Discourse
on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men"
In a discussion of the conditions of
life in ancient Sparta, Rousseau writes,
A more immediate source was the
evolutionary theory of English naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace,
who committed to paper a theory of evolution by natural selection
prior to the completion of Darwin's work. In June of 1858, Wallace
submitted to Darwin an unpublished work titled "On
the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original
Shortly thereafter, Darwin wrote to
"Your words have come true with a
vengeance - that I should be [could be] forestalled. You said
this when I explained to you here very briefly my view on
Natural Selection depending on the struggle for existence. I
never saw a more striking coincidence; if Wallace had my M.S.
written out in 1842, he could not have made a better short
abstract! Even his terms now stand as heads of my chapters..."
Had Wallace simply published his
manuscript, he would have had priority with regard to the concept of
evolution by natural selection. Instead, priority went to Darwin.
The questionable means by which priority
was conferred on Darwin are discussed in a fascinating book by
Arnold Brackman titled
A Delicate Arrangement.
Darwin's understanding of natural selection derived from his work
with breeding. The breeding of plants and animals Darwin called
"artificial selection;" the breeding that occurs in "the wild" he
called "natural selection."
Early in the Origin, Darwin
defines natural selection in these (anthropomorphic) terms:
"Natural selection is daily and
hourly scrutinizing... every variation, even the slightest;
rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that
is good; silently and insensibly working... at the improvement
of each organic being..."
In effect, Darwinism replaces the
traditional belief that order in nature is the result of a divine
presence (God) with the idea it is the result of a natural presence
The third premise in Darwinism is that
the drive behind evolution is the sexual-reproductive instinct.
Given the tremendous influence of this drive, life is an incessant
struggle for existence:
"A struggle for existence inevitably
follows from the high rate at which all organic beings tend to
increase. Every being... must suffer destruction... otherwise,
on the principle of geometrical increase, its numbers would
quickly become so inordinately great that no country could
support the product.
Hence, as more individuals are
produced than can possibly survive, there must in every case be
a struggle for existence, either one individual with another of
the same species, or with the individuals of distinct species,
or with the physical conditions of life..."
The basic premise ("the high rate at
which all organic beings tend to increase") and the "principle of
geometrical increase" are, as Darwin indicates,
The Malthus in question is the
Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), famous "pessimist"
and author of one of the most influential essays in modern times -
of Population" (1798). In this essay, Malthus argues
that because "all animated life [tends] to increase beyond the
nourishment prepared for it," there can never be real progress or
happiness for mankind.
Give man a little more bread than usual,
he'll breed more than usual, wiping out his little gains.
Populations increase by geometrical progression, Malthus asserted,
while the means of subsistence increase by only mathematic
progression. Thus man is doomed to procreate himself into
destitution. Malthus, one of the founders of the "dismal science" of
economics, painted visions of a future filled, inescapably, with
starving and diseased multitudes.
Before Malthus and his nightmarish visions, the rulers of Europe
looked upon large populations as assets; after the "Principle of
Population," they began to view the same populations as liabilities,
potentially disastrous liabilities.
The revolution in America and the
abortive revolution in France had made it very clear that masses can
be lethal to the ruling classes, and Malthus provided just the
perspective the rulers of Europe were looking for. The masses are
totally unprincipled. Populations must be strictly controlled.
In 1789, the first year of the French
Revolution, the European country with the largest population was
France. The statistics were on the wall, and the rulers of Europe
were not slow in reading them.
In the opening half of the nineteenth century, throughout Europe,
members of the ruling classes gathered to discuss the newly
discovered "Population problem" and to devise ways of implementing
the Malthusian mandate, to increase the mortality rate of the poor:
"Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should
encourage contrary habits.
In our towns we should make the streets
narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of
the plague. In the country we should build our villages near
stagnant pools, and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy
and unwholesome situations," and so forth and so on.
The Reverend Malthus, who took the understandable precaution of
publishing his "Population" essay anonymously (in 1798), is the
prototype of the Nazi-style social theorist. "Malthusianism," as it
was called, found adherents throughout Europe, but few of these
dared to express their opinions outside the private chambers of
fellow believers. By the end of the century, however, the
Malthusians were out of the closet.
In Germany, "racial scientists" openly advocated the killing of
unwanted members and segments of the population.
One of these scientists, Adolf Jost,
Jost argued that for the sake of the
health of the social organism, the state must take responsibility
for the death of individuals.
Adolf Jost was a mentor to Adolf Hitler,
who agreed 100 percent.
"The state must see to it that only
the healthy beget children," Hitler said. "The state must act as
the guardian of a millennial future.... It must put the most
modern medical means in the service of this knowledge. It must
declare unfit for propagation all who are in any way visibly
sick or who have inherited a disease and can therefore pass it
Between the first decade of the
nineteenth century and the last, what was it that occurred that made
Malthusianism "respectable?" Darwinism. Specifically: Darwin's
adoption of the "Malthus doctrine" as his third premise.
In the third premise is a foundation of
the Third Reich. In effect, if not intent, Darwinism is
Malthusianism, re-presented in the guise of true science. Under the
banner of Darwinism, "The Only True & Sacred Biology & Evolution,"
the Malthusians and their masters were able to wreak havoc in our
Among their legacies are the ravages of
the imperialists in the late nineteenth century, the lethal
socialisms that have plagued our century, the world wars, holocaust
after holocaust, and very possibly one or more of the serious
diseases which now afflict humanity.
In Palo Alto, early 1994, I attended a lecture on evolution by a
distinguished Stanford professor. The professor began his lecture with the
"Today, the science of evolution is
synonymous with Darwinism."
The professor paused, smiled.
There were no challenges from the audience, and
so he continued, repeating the "truisms" of Darwinism, truisms that are not
true but only seem so because they've been repeated so often. Unlike any
other scientific theory I know of, Darwinism has survived refutation after
refutation. In 1971, Norman Macbeth, a Harvard-trained lawyer who made the
study of Darwinian theory his avocation for many years, published quite a
good critique of Darwinism - Darwin Retried.
One of Macbeth's major concluding points, which
is well documented, is that most Darwinists have little confidence in their
own theory. The eminent Karl Popper calls the book "an excellent and fair,
though unsympathetic retrial of Darwin." (What "sympathy" has to do with
science I do not know.) It is 1995, almost twenty-five years later.
Darwinism is still our orthodox biology.
In 1986, Australian scientist Michael Denton published
Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, a
thoroughgoing critique of Darwinism which concludes that the much-celebrated
theory is "the great cosmogonic myth of the twentieth century."
"One might have expected," Denton writes,
"that a theory of such cardinal importance, a theory that literally
changed the world, would have been something more than metaphysics,
something more than a myth."
Practically in the same breath, Denton remarks
"Darwinism remains... the only truly
scientific theory of evolution."
Denton's confusion is understandable. It is
difficult to believe that a theory with so little merit could have become so
profoundly entrenched in our science - and in the conventional wisdom. Isn't
science supposed to free us from myth? Darwinism may remain the teflon
orthodoxy for another twenty-five years. That should not dissuade us from
the vital work of critique.
So far, we've analyzed Darwinism into its three basic premises.
How valid (strong) are those premises?
The strength of Darwinism is in the
first premise, the Lamarckian premise of the evolutionary
transformation of one species into others. Lacking sufficient data,
Lamarck viewed the evolutionary line as strictly linear. Species A
produces B, B produces C, C produces D, and so on. In 1855, Alfred
Wallace re-articulated the premise,
arguing that the evolutionary line may be branched, i.e., Species A
may produce C as well as B, B may produce D, E and F, etc. Further,
Wallace argued, evolutionary steps are not necessarily "progressive"
(more and more perfect), as Lamarck had maintained.
The Wallace articulation came to be known as "the Sarawak Law."
Every species has come into existence coincident both in time and
space with a pre-existing closely allied species. The long and short
of it is: When the Lamarck-Wallace premise fell into Darwin's hands,
it was in good shape scientifically.
It was, and is, a valid premise,
supported by much evidence.
Darwin's second premise, that natural
selection is the cause of divergence in species, is what is called
an "empty generalization." It sounds good, but it tells us nothing.
If I were to tell you that the cause of divergence in species was
the "environment," would you find that an adequate explanation? No,
of course not. "You must be more specific," you would say. "What is
it, specifically, in the environment that causes divergence?"
"Natural selection" is no more specific than "environment."
It is not difficult to understand why so many scientists have
accepted the premise of natural selection uncritically. It does seem
to be an explanation more in the scientific direction than "Zeus,"
for instance, of "Jehova." Nevertheless, natural selection is simply
a "false scent" that takes us nowhere, except deeper and deeper into
Darwin himself was uneasy with the term.
In the sixth and last edition of the Origin, he says that survival
of the fittest is a "more accurate" expression of what he had
previously called natural selection. Interestingly, the phrase
"survival of the fittest" was coined not by Darwin, but by
philosopher-evolutionist Herbert Spencer some seven or eight years
before the publication of the Origin. By 1872, the phrase had become
the common catchword (slogan) for Darwinism.
Darwin laid claim to it ("selected" it,
we should say), preferring it over the meaningless natural
Further, the concept of natural selection was tied too closely to
Alfred Wallace, the talented young evolutionist who had been totally
eclipsed by Darwin. (When the famous theory of evolution was first
presented, it was called the "Darwin-Wallace" theory. A correct
title would have been the "Wallace-Darwin" theory.) The phrase
"survival of the fittest" was the product of one of Darwin's most
Mr. Spencer was quite delighted Darwin
adopted the phrase.
Darwin's third premise - the so-called
"Malthus doctrine" - has no scientific validity, and it never did.
In the modern jargon of critique, we would call the Malthus doctrine
an example of "reductive, or simplistic, sexual determinism."
(Sigmund Freud is whipped routinely by contemporary commentators for
having fallen into the trap of sexual determinism.)
The idea that "all animated life" is
governed exclusively by the sexual-reproductive drive was suggested
to Malthus by early eighteenth century reports regarding goats that
had been released by buccaneers on certain of the Galapagos islands
circa the 1670s.
The reports indicated that the goats had
multiplied to the point that scarcely a bit of vegetation was left.
Malthus read the reports and concluded that
human beings, if left to their own devices, would do the same thing. They
would reproduce themselves right out of house and home, to the point the
entire population would be left without a can of beans. This conclusion is
the pseudo-scientific basis of the "Malthus doctrine" that Darwin so
enthusiastically embraced, and amplified - by his declaration that it
"applied... to the whole animal and vegetable kingdom."
Any form of reductive determinism is the intellectual equivalent of a tar
pit. Malthus was trapped in his own tar. In later life, he endeavored to
correct the erroneous doctrine, but by then, it was too late. The doctrine
had become a part of our common stock of "true ideas about the way things
Thus it is that Darwin writes with such
"There is no exception to the rule, that
every organic being naturally increases at so high a rate, that if not
destroyed, the earth would soon be covered by the progeny of a single
"Even slow-breeding man has doubled in twenty-five years," Darwin
continues, "and at this rate, in a few thousand years, there would
literally not be standing room for his progeny."
This "Malthus-Darwin doctrine," let us call it,
was the basis for much hysteria in the ruling classes of the last century.
The Malthus-Darwin doctrine clearly suggested that the human population of
the planet had become a problem.
"If not destroyed," to use Darwin's
phrase, this population would soon leave the planet as barren as the
goat-infested Galapagos islands.
The Malthus-Darwin doctrine had no scientific
basis whatsoever; it was based on the erroneous reasoning of Malthus. Darwin
should have known better. Perhaps he did. Whatever the case, the doctrine
was a big hit with the rulers of the last century, a strong incitement -
sanctioned by science - to over-run the planet before others did so.
Suddenly, the nations of Europe found themselves with "surplus populations."
The Age of Imperialism was born, as nation after
nation entered the race to acquire foreign lands and foreign countries, not
because of greed, but because of national survival. The nations that would
survive into the future would be those in possession of vast tracts of land
for the dumping of surplus population. In a very short time, all of Africa
was carved up by the European nations.
Aboriginal peoples of that continent who
objected to slavery were slaughtered. Many great tribes - tribes that for
thousands of years had existed in balance with their environment - were
eradicated in the "African Holocaust."
Imperialistic competition for "empire" (i.e., colonies throughout the world)
was probably the principal reason for World War I.
In 1901, Arthur Dix, the editor of two
Berlin journals, writes,
"A timorous people, which knows not how to
use its elbows, may of course put a stop to the increase in its
population - it might find things too narrow at home. The superfluity of
population might find no economic existence. A people happy in its
future, however, knows nothing of an artificial limitation; its only
care can be to find room on the globe for a livelihood for other members
of its own race."
Britain as Germany's Vassal (1912),
German Social Darwinist (and retired general) F. Von Bernhardi
"In the interest of the world's civilization
it is our duty to enlarge Germany's colonial empire. Thus alone can we
politically, or at least nationally, unite the Germans throughout the
world, for only then will they recognize that German civilization is the
most necessary factor in human progress.
We must endeavor to acquire new territories
throughout the world by all means in our power, because we must preserve
to Germany the millions of Germans who will be born in the future, and
we must provide for them food and employment. They ought to be enabled
to live under a German sky, and to lead a German life."
Given such attitudes - not only in Germany, but
throughout Europe - war became inevitable. It was inevitable for another
reason as well.
War was viewed by Bernhardi and his many
Social Darwinist colleagues in Europe as "an indispensable regulator" of
"If it were not for war," Bernhardi writes,
"we should probably find that inferior and degenerate races would
overcome healthy and youthful ones by their wealth and their numbers.
The generative importance of war lies in this, that it causes selection,
and thus war becomes a biological necessity."
The German word for "colonies around the world
in which to dump surplus populations" was "Lebensraum" - living
For the Germans, the loss of the First World War
meant, among other dire things, the loss of their lebensraum. The punitive
reparations demanded by the victors was a serious matter; far more serious
was the fact that Germany was physically contracted and stripped of her
colonies. This contraction of Germany was, from the point of view of the
Darwinists in that country, a death sentence.
With the empire-building option blocked
(momentarily at least), German social planners began to focus more
exclusively on internal options for guaranteeing the survival of the German
In 1923, Fritz Lenz, a Germany physician-geneticist who became a
leading ideologue in the Nazi racial purification program, complained
bitterly that Germany under the Weimar Constitution was falling far
behind America in the all-important field of eugenics, the science of
improving the race by means of "selection" of degenerate individuals and
groups for sterilization:
"Lenz complained that provisions in the
Weimar Constitution (prohibiting the infliction of bodily alterations on
human beings) prevented widespread use of vasectomy techniques; that
Germany had nothing to match the eugenics research institutions in
England and the United States (for instance, that at Cold Spring Harbor,
New York, led by Charles B. Davenport and funded by the Carnegie
Institution in Washington and by Mary Harriman)."
Mary Harriman was the widow of the
railroad tycoon E. H. Harriman. Both E. H. Harriman and Andrew
Carnegie had been great admirers of Herbert Spencer, who was the chief
conduit in America for Darwinian dogma.
In historical context, "eugenics" may be defined as applied Darwinism. The
founder of eugenics is Francis Galton, a cousin of Darwin's
and the author of several highly influential books on heredity, including
Hereditary Genius (1869), Inquiries into Human Faculties (1883),
and National Inheritance (1889).
Not long after Galton published the last-named
book, a group of so-called "racial scientists" became quite active in
Germany. (Also influential in the formation of the group was German Social
Darwinist Ernst Haeckel, who declared that the various races may be defined
as separate species.)
One of these scientists was Adolf Jost,
previously cited as the author of The Right to Death (1895). The main
thesis of this book is that the final solution to the population problem is
state control over human reproduction. The book is couched in the rhetoric
of (Darwinian) natural rights. The state has a natural right and a sacred
responsibility to kill individuals in order to keep the nation, the social
organism, alive and healthy.
Later advocates of state-medical killing, such as law professor Karl
Binding of the University of Leipzig and Alfred Hoche, professor
of psychiatry at the University of Freiburg, would stress the therapeutic
value of destroying "life unworthy of life." The destruction of such life is
"purely a healing treatment." Between the world wars, sterilization became
the most preferred tool for the control of population.
The fact the Weimar Constitution did not
allow sterilization was no small matter; Social Darwinistic scientists and
their followers saw it as a dire threat to the nation.
"If the power to fight for one's own health
is no longer present," Hitler wrote, "the right to live in this world of
To understand why sterilization was such an
important issue for the Social Darwinists, we need not look far.
"In civilized man," Ernst Mayr
(America's dean of Darwinism) writes, "the two components of selective
value, adaptive superiority and reproductive success, no longer
coincide. The individuals with above-average genetic endowments do not
necessarily make an above-average contribution to the gene pool of the
Indeed, Mayr continues,
"shiftless, improvident individuals who have
a child every year are certain to add more genes to the gene pool of the
next generation than those who carefully plan the size of their
families. Natural selection has no answer to this predicament. [Italics
mine} The separation [in] the modern society of mere reproductive
success from genuine adaptedness poses a serious problem for man's
In other words: When humans are in the state of
nature, their numbers (and their quality as biological organisms) are
effectively controlled by natural selection. In the struggle for existence,
the fittest usually win, and the weakest usually lose.
The winners get to pass on their winning genes;
the losers get to skulk away and die. When man becomes "civilized," however,
the game changes. The weak are no longer destroyed. Indeed, the weak are
protected by unnatural do-gooder religions and philosophies. They are given
advantages they have not earned. They have nothing to do in life but
reproduce, and reproduce they do - "a child every year," according to Mayr.
While those who are unworthy of life proliferate
right and left, the genuinely superior find themselves more and more
restricted, more and more disadvantaged in the evolutionary struggle.
Thus it is Mayr issues his dark prognosis... this situation "poses a serious
problem for man's future."
Mayr's view is essentially a contemporary
re-statement of the old eugenics propaganda. When Hitler and his Nazis
commenced their programs of sterilization and extermination, they were
operating on the firm conviction that for the sake of the German people and
the future of man, National Socialism must take over where Natural Selection
In Darwinism - both classical and neo-Darwinism
- natural selection is the only ordering principle in nature. If the
principle of natural selection is thwarted by misguided man, what is the
inevitable result? Disorder, degeneracy, and destruction.
In a great many ways, the Nazi movement was a crusade against what they
perceived as degeneracy, a crusade in the name of the new god... Science.
The legacy of the Malthus-Darwin doctrine is sad indeed.
The mandate it gave our rulers was,
"Control population and progress... or
From this mandate arose two political
strategies that were to make the twentieth century the most cruel and
barbaric on record.
One of these strategies was strictly
Malthusian: "Do nothing for the masses except that which accelerates
their destruction." This was called "laissez-faire"... don't
The other strategy saw in
totalitarianism, the complete control of society by the state, the
only satisfactory answer to the population problem. Most of the
"socialisms" of our century fall in this category.