America’s evolutionists: Hitler’s inspiration?
While the horrors of Germany’s Nazi past are well known, it is a well-kept secret that similar programs were also prevalent in some Allied countries. The award-winning investigative journalist Edwin Black has documented America’s huge selective breeding and forced sterilization program in his book War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race.1
Eugenics is the attempt to breed a better human race by applying evolutionary principles. Its founder was Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton (1822–1911). These ideas were picked up in the USA by Charles Davenport (1866–1944), who founded the Eugenics Record Office in 1910, headed by his right-hand man, Harry Laughlin (1880–1943).
Eventually, eugenics would gain the support of such notables as President Woodrow Wilson, the Rockefeller Foundation, Margaret Sanger (founder of the abortionist organization Planned Parenthood) and influential Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. It was bankrolled by some of the richest people in America, including the Carnegie Institution, Rockefeller Foundation and the Harriman railroad fortune. The major textbook, Hunter’s Civic Biology, blatantly taught white racial supremacy and eugenics. This was the one that the ACLU (the misnamed American Civil Liberties Union), in the infamous Scopes Trial of 1925, defended the ‘right’ to teach!
The shocking results of the eugenics program included laws against so-called mixed-race marriages in 27 states, human breeding programs, forced sterilization of over 60,000 US citizens and even euthanasia. Eugenics was even allowed by the Supreme Court, which had once declared slaves to be non-persons and now denies humanity to unborn babies.
Ideas and funding from American eugenicists also inspired German eugenics research, which culminated in Josef Mengele’s horrific experiments on inmates at the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz. But here, Mr Black overstates the case for Nazi dependence on American eugenicists, because he overlooks the ‘common ancestry’ from Darwinian evolution. German Darwinists, starting from Ernst Haeckel, the notorious forger of embryo diagrams,2 had attacked the Judeo-Christian ethic of sanctity of life and replaced it with moral relativism (so popular among liberals today), except for the ‘absolute’ of the primacy of evolutionary fitness. This is thoroughly documented in the book From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany,3 by Richard Weikart, Professor of Modern European History at California State University, Stanislaus [Ed. note: see subsequently published review, The Darwinian roots of the Nazi tree].
While the horrors of the Holocaust largely discredited eugenics, Mr Black warns that it was merely rebadged as ‘human genetics’ and ‘genetic counselling’, and that its ideas are still widespread. He is a political liberal, so he unfortunately fails to realize that the same pseudo-science of evolution that spawned both American and German eugenics is the one entrenched in the media and educational systems today.
- Four Walls Eight Windows, New York/London, 2003. Return to text.
- See Q&A: Embryonic Recapitulation. Return to text.
- Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2004. Return to text.
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