jottings from tertius

views of the world from my worldview window

"If there was no God, there would be no atheists." G.K. Chesterton


Tektonics Apologetics Ministry
The Adarwinist reader
Bede's Library: the Alliance of Faith and Reason
A Christian Thinktank
Doxa:Christian theology and apologetics
He Lives
Mike Gene Teleologic
Errant Skeptics Research Institute
Stephen Jones' CreationEvolutionDesign
Touchstone: a journal of mere Christianity: mere comments
The Secularist Critique: Deconstructing secularism I Wasn't Born Again Yesterday
imago veritatis by Alan Myatt
Solid Rock Ministries
The Internet Monk: a webjournal by Michael Spencer
The Sydney Line: the website of Keith Windschuttle
Miranda Devine's writings in the Sydney Morning Herald
David Horowitz frontpage magazine
Thoughts of a 21st century Christian Philosopher
Steven Lovell's philosophical themes from C.S.Lewis
Peter S. Williams Christian philosophy and apologetics
Shandon L. Guthrie
Clayton Cramer's Blog
Andrew Bolt columns
Ann Coulter columns


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Blogarama - The Blog Directory

Blogroll Me!

"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

"I blog, therefore I am." Anon

Monday, January 03, 2005

When Science becomes Religion

How Evil Works

Anne Applebaum reviews The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia By Richard Overy

It is often said, for example, that both regimes [Nazi Germany; Soviet Russia] rejected traditional religion, and offered forms of "truth" as a replacement. But by looking at what the regimes actually did and said, Overy establishes that their quasi-religious sense of certainty was not at all mystical. It was grounded, rather, in their parallel obsessions with science. "I am a fool for technology," said Hitler, whose regime at one point employed three hundred thousand engineers. "Technology in the period of reconstruction decides everything," said Stalin, who himself launched the cult of the proletarian-engineer.

This faith in science was about more than economics. Both societies also believed that science could be used to create perfect human beings, and ultimately a perfect society. In Nazi Germany, this faith in science manifested itself in an elaborate form of forced Darwinism. One of the illustrations in Overy's learned volume is a chart showing the likely offspring of two different breeds of cattle. It comes from a book on Mendelian genetics, published in Germany in 1936, which warned that cross-breeding produced genetic variation in cattle, and "brings the danger of internal disharmony" among humans too. To avoid this internal disharmony, and to ensure a powerful society, the Germans would have to eliminate impure elements. Infamously, the Nazi obsession with genetics ultimately led to mass murder, first of the mentally ill, then of the Jews, as well as Gypsies, homosexuals, and Slavs.

But the widespread belief in the efficacy of racial science also affected non-Jewish Germans in unexpectedly profound ways. Nazi Germany transformed the institution of marriage, for example, into another form of service to the state. Women who qualified as "good breeders" received rewards. When war reduced the supply of men, they received even higher praise for producing children out of wedlock. The Darwinian obsession also affected the German occupation of other countries. In 1940, Himmler established a "German Racial Register" in an attempt to define which other Europeans might qualify as ethnically German. Eventually the register would contain the measurements, the photographs, and the medical records of 1.5 million people, all gathered with the aim of identifying and isolating the people who had the greatest potential for Germanization, and expelling or murdering the rest.

Curiously, the Soviet Union's parallel obsession with human perfectibility began from precisely the opposite intellectual conclusion. Stalin explicitly rejected Darwinism as early as 1906, when he wrote a pamphlet arguing instead for the theories of Lamarck, who insisted that acquired human traits, even physical characteristics, could be passed down from parents to children. In the 1930s, Stalin championed the cause of the Soviet pseudo-scientist Lysenko, whose faked experiments supported Lamarck's theses. Homo Sovieticus, he concluded, was to be created through education and propaganda, not through breeding.

As in Germany, this doctrine subtly informed the Soviet Union's persecution of its enemies, and the daily lives of its "good" citizens as well...

The science itself was very different in Soviet and Nazi society, in other words, but its function was essentially the same. The supposed neutrality and incontrovertibility of scientific doctrine gave both regimes a good part of their intellectual legitimacy. Science, or rather pseudoscience, gave people a moral justification for behavior that had formerly been unthinkable. German concentration-camp guards, convinced that their Jewish prisoners were biologically inferior humans, had few qualms about murdering them. Soviet concentration-camp guards, convinced that their political prisoners were flawed humans who had to be re-educated through hard labor, saw nothing wrong with mistreating them, even if they died in the process.

2:17:00 pm