It was from an obsessive Darwin-defender that I learned of the Anti-Defamation League's attack on the theatrical documentary Expelled, for "misappropriat[ing] the Holocaust." This guy is constantly emailing me. He warned that the ADL had just "issued a terse press release today condemning the equation of ‘Darwinism' with Nazism in Expelled. How can you call yourself a religious Jew and still believe in such Fundamentalist Protestant Christian nonsense like Intelligent Design?"
I thanked my email correspondent for a good laugh. The idea that, having defended Expelled's thesis concerning Hitler's intellectual debt to Charles Darwin, I would now feel chastised and repentant because of a statement from the ADL, an organization for which I have not a feather's weight of respect! This was rich stuff.
Just to be clear, however: Expelled doesn't equate Darwinism and Hitler. That basic point was also missed by Professor Sahotra Sarkar, who published a confused attack piece on me here on Jewcy. Sarkar attributed to me the view, "If you believe in the theory of evolution, you are an anti-Semite" — something that, obviously, I would have to be a fool to write or believe.
Dealing primarily with the academic suppression of Darwin-doubting scientists on campuses around the country, Expelled only spends about 10 minutes on the Hitler-Darwin connection. But it draws upon a solid, mainstream body of scholarship by the chief Hitler biographers and others.
Undeterred, the ADL wailed that "Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan to exterminate the Jewish people and Darwin and evolutionary theory cannot explain Hitler's genocidal madness."
Much the same view has been propounded elsewhere. Once again here at Jewcy, Jay Michaelson seemed to argue that all science is by definition value-neutral: "Last I checked, Hitler also made use of automobiles. Indeed, he based a lot of ideas on militarism and machines; does that mean technology is morally wrong? Should you turn off your computer right now?"
No, Jay, there are obvious differences between Darwinian theory and auto and computer technology. Most important, the latter make no claims to answering ultimate questions, like how life originated, from which ethical corollaries are naturally drawn.
Auto and computer technology are also proved reliable every day by our experience. But no one has ever reported seeing a species originate in the manner described in Darwin's Origin of Species – not now, not in the fossil record, not ever.
More interesting than these observations is the hypocrisy of the ADL's outburst: "Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan."
It's funny how when the subject of conversation is Darwinism, then Hitler needed no one particular inspiration. But when the conversation shifts from Darwinism to – oh, I don't know – Christianity? Ah, then suddenly the genealogy of Nazism becomes eminently traceable.
One of the ADL's main fundraising technique has long been to scare Jews by demonizing Christianity. The group accordingly isn't shy about tracing the genealogy of the Holocaust back to the New Testament. In an essay on the 40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, for example, Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, director of interfaith affairs wrote:
"The anti-Judaism that begins in the New Testament was transformed through the admixture of political, economic and sociological prejudice into the anti-Semitism of modernity. This reached its ugly and inhuman nadir during World War II with Hitler's Final Solution for the Jewish people."
Blaming the earliest Christian writings for setting off a chain of influences resulting in the Holocaust evokes little outrage in the liberal Jewish community. Visitors to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, for instance, are greeted by a film, Anti-Semitism, purporting to uncover the "religious root of this phenomenon, the pervasive anti-Jewish teachings that evolved from overly literal readings and misreadings of New Testament texts."
Yet when Hitler successfully sold his ideology of hate to the German people in his bestselling tract Mein Kampf, he phrased his argument not in Christian terms but in biological, Darwinian ones.
Ignoring Hitler's evolutionary rhetoric, of course, some commentators brandish a famous quote from the same book — "by defending myself against the Jews, I am fighting for the work of the Lord." They don't realize that Hitler was referring not to the God of the Bible but to Nature and her iron laws, as his preceding sentence clearly indicates.
In a curious irony, the modern paperback edition of Mein Kampf, available in any Barnes & Noble, includes an Introduction by – guess who? None other than the ADL's national director, Abraham Foxman. Did he, I wonder, even read the book?
David Klinghoffer is a senior fellow in the Discovery Institute’s program in Religion, Liberty & Public Life. His new book, Shattered Tablets: Why We Ignore the Ten Commandments at Our Peril (Doubleday), was published in August.