Ben Stein's Expelled: Was Darwinism a Necessary Condition for the Holocaust?
December 1, 2008
In my previous column, I noted the Stalinist tendencies of the leftists that are so entrenched in the academic world. The fact is that the academic left has never been concerned about truth when truth is incompatible with their political objectives. This is the fundamental message of my book, The Culture of Critique where I trace the involvement of Jewish intellectual activists in producing a leftist academic culture that promoted specifically Jewish goals, including lessening the political power and cultural influence of European-derived peoples and the eradication of anti-Semitism.
Chief among the bogeymen of these Jewish intellectuals is Darwinism. The war against Darwinism is a major theme of The Culture of Critique, and it persists as a constant drumbeat in our culture—from the cultural Marxists who are in charge of socializing our college students to a great many examples in popular culture.
Consider Ben Stein's film Expelled. Stein depicts Darwinism as a stifling orthodoxy that suppresses free inquiry into how things got this way. And in particular, the triumph of Darwinism has meant that the theory of intelligent design has been banished from the realm of reasonable discourse in the academic world.
Of course, intelligent design is not a reasonable alternative at all, but a highly motivated effort to legitimize a religious world view in the sciences. But why would Ben Stein produce a movie that panders to religious conservatives? It would doubtless be pretty hard to find anyone in the Jewish intelligentsia who in the privacy of their innermost thoughts believes in God.
Indeed, it's fair to
say that the mainstream Jewish community regards Christian religious sentiment
with fear and loathing. For example, Elliott
Abrams, whose title in the Bush Administration (Deputy
National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy) sounds like a neocon
wet dream, acknowledges
that the mainstream Jewish community “clings to what is at bottom a dark vision
of America, as a land permeated with anti-Semitism and always on the verge of
anti-Semitic outbursts.” According to Abrams, because of this vision, Jews have
taken the lead in secularizing
The deep structure of Expelled can be inferred from another
comment by Elliott Abrams. Abrams thinks
that a strong role for Christianity in
In this century we have seen two gigantic experiments at postreligious societies where the traditional restraints of religion and morality were entirely removed: Communism and Nazism. In both cases Jews became the special targets, but there was evil enough even without the scourge of anti-Semitism. For when the transcendental inhibition against evil is removed, when society becomes so purely secular that the restraints imposed by God on man are truly eradicated, minorities are but the earliest victims.
I think Abrams and Stein are on the same page. I make this inference because in his film promoting intelligent design Stein argues that Darwinism was a necessary condition for the Holocaust. In making a movie that attempts to legitimize “Creation Science” in the academic world, Stein is thinking not so much about intellectual honesty or the relative adequacy of Darwinism and Creation Science in producing testable hypotheses and mountains of supporting evidence. He is asking an age-old question: “Is it good for the Jews?” If Darwinism is not good for the Jews, then so much the worse for Darwinism.
In mounting a war on Darwinism or at least attempting to control it, Stein is entirely within the mainstream of Jewish opinion, at least for the last 100 years or so. The triumph of the Boasian school of anthropology over Darwinism in the early years of the 20th century was a watershed event in intellectual history of the West — in effect more or less obliterating what had been a thriving Darwinian intellectual milieu. This era of Darwinian domination of the social sciences included several well-known Jewish racial Zionists, such as Arthur Ruppin, who were motivated by the fear that Diaspora Judaism would lose its biological uniqueness as a result of pressures for intermarriage and assimilation.
Among the Zionists, the racialists won the day. Ruppin’s ideas
on the necessity of preserving Jewish racial purity have had a prominent place
in the Jabotinsky wing of Zionism, including especially the Likud party in
Israel and its leaders—people like Ariel Sharon, Menachem Begin, and Yitzhak
Shamir. (Here’s a photo of
But it was the Boasians who won the day in the academic establishment of the West. Whereas Jewish intellectuals played a bit part in the wider movement of racial Darwinism, the Boasian revolution which triumphed in academic anthropology in the West was overwhelmingly a Jewish intellectual movement.
And besides the Boasians, a great many Jewish social scientists of the period were
also attracted to
a thriving cult of Lamarckism
— the view that evolution works via the inheritance of acquired characteristics
rather than Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Indeed, Lamarckism became
ideology in the
Both theories combated racialist theories of Judaism that depicted it as having a biological uniqueness. (Actually, Boas’s approach is more an anti-theory because it cast doubt on general theories of human culture common among Darwinian anthropologists of the period, emphasizing instead the vast diversity and chaotic minutiae of human cultures, as well as the relativism of standards of cultural evaluation.) For example, based on skull measurements and IQ testing, racial scientists, including some racial Zionists, concluded that Jews had evolved to have higher IQ, but this was often linked with a tendency toward psychopathology—the “nervous Jew.”
The Boasians and the Lamarckians countered with the view that Jewish traits had resulted from historical conditions. As historian Mitchell B. Hart notes, “the positions taken by Jewish researchers [i.e., the Zionist racialists, the Lamarckians, and the Boasians] were driven in large measure by ideological commitments and political goals.” Three different groups of Jewish social scientists, three different ideological agendas stemming from their different views on how social science can best serve Jewish interests.
Boas’s famous study
purporting to show that skull shape changed as a result of immigration from
While Boas never stated explicitly that he had based any
conclusions on anything but the data themselves, it is obvious that he had a
personal agenda in the displacement of the eugenics movement in the
This view certainly
dovetails with my
research. Boas can now be officially grouped with his
student and protégé Margaret
Mead as using social science to further a leftist,
anti-Darwinian political agenda.
scientific fraud have also dogged Larmarckism. Lamarckism was a pillar of the
intellectual left in the West during the 1920s but declined rapidly after its
major scientific proponent, Paul
Kammerer, committed suicide shortly after an article
appearing in the prestigious British journal Nature accused him of scientific fraud.
Kammerer, who was half Jewish on his mother’s side, was a staunch socialist. He
that Lamarckian inheritance offered hope for humanity through education, and he
became a hero among committed Socialists and Communists. Despite Kammerer’s disgrace, Lamarckism lived
on in the
who was also a political radical, continued to accept Lamarckism up until his
death in 1942 — long after it had been discredited by accusations of scientific
fraud. The moral seems to be that people who use science to advance their
political agendas are unlikely to reject politically attractive theories for
trivial reasons like lack of evidence and a history of cooked data. Isn’t that
how science is supposed to operate? Not surprisingly, that other
pseudoscientific charlatan, Sigmund Freud, also continued believing in
Lamarckism long after it had been scientifically discredited.
Ben Stein’s brief for
intelligent design is therefore in the long line of movements, beginning with
Boas and Lamarck, that have attempted to undercut
But we still must ask
what to make of Ben Stein’s claim that Darwinism was a necessary condition for
the Holocaust. John Derbyshire characterizes the charge as a “blood
libel on our civilization” which indeed it is. Nevertheless, such a claim should not be
taken lightly. For example, it is common among historians to hold views similar
to Michael Hart’s statement
that “it is impossible to understand the Holocaust without comprehending the
degree to which racial science and a medicalized racial ideology occupied
central positions in Nazi thought and policy.”
By the same token, I
suppose, one could argue that the Palestinian
catastrophe is the result of the triumph of the racial
Zionists and their Likudnik descendents in
And one could
certainly note that genocides occurred long before World War II and they have
continued to occur without any specific Darwinian ideology. Indeed, as noted
above, Elliott Abrams places Communism in the same category as Nazism when it
comes to the ill effects of removing a religious world view. In April, 2008, the
Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko
petitioned the Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe to recognize the 1932–1933 Ukrainian famine as an act of
genocide—a genocide carried out by an avowedly Marxist government at a time when
Jews formed an
elite within the Soviet Union. (See also Charles Dodgson's
comments in TOO on Jewish involvement in the
Ukrainian genocide as a blind spot in Jewish memory. Abrams is an example of a
Jewish writer who deplores the discrimination against Jews that occurred after
World War II in the USSR, but is silent on the pre-World War II period when Jews
a hostile elite
in the Soviet Union and
Stalin's willing executioners.) Indeed, it has been estimated
governments murdered over 90,000,000 people in the
20th century, including 25,000,000 in the
And genocides have
been carried out under religious ideologies as well. Christiane Amanpour’s
God’s Warriors series certainly shows that religious ideology can
motivate the most extreme of fanaticisms, from Jihad to much of the
Ben Stein is wrong.
There is no reason at all to suppose that adopting a religious world view
immunizes against genocide. Perhaps he and Elliott Abrams are simply expressing
their belief that present forms of Christianity would not lead to a Holocaust
even if they achieved a great deal more power over public policy. This was the
view of neocon guru Leo
Strauss who is
quite possibly the inspiration for both Abrams and Stein. They could be right
about that, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.
But let’s not be
From a Darwinian
perspective, the end result is no different. The genetic structure of the
population has changed.
We all have an
implicit understanding of human sexual politics. What
And it could be argued
that adopting an explicitly Darwinian perspective would actually lead to less
genocide. For example, by understanding that ethnonational aspirations are a
normal consequence of our evolutionary psychology, we could at least build
societies that, unlike the
So three cheers for
Kevin MacDonald is a professor of psychology at California State University–Long Beach.
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