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Creation 19(4):22–23, September 1997

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The lies of Lynchburg

How U.S. evolutionists taught the Nazis.


Francis Galton
Charles Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton inspired the sterilization program that took place in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The chilling revelations of a recent [1993] television documentary1 expose the disturbing consequences of evolutionary ways of thinking. Beginning in the 1920s, many thousands of people in the United States were sterilized against their will and without their consent, to prevent ‘undesirable breeding’. Over 8,000 of these procedures took place at a major centre to which such ‘undesirables’ were sent, in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The victims included some with various degrees of mental retardation; many were simply there because they had been abandoned as a result of broken homes or had suffered some other social misfortune. Some had been honours students at school. They were lied to routinely, being told that it was something ‘for their own good’ or ‘for their health’. Those older ones who discovered the purpose behind the operations realised that they would not be able to leave the institution unless they underwent the procedure.

The documentary stated that the entire effort was based upon the notion of eugenics. The eugenics movement was started by Sir Francis Galton (a cousin of Charles Darwin), who wanted to encourage ‘survival of the fittest’ within human society. The ‘humane’ way to do this was by compulsory sterilization of those deemed ‘unfit’. The idea seduced ‘social reformers from the right and the left’—among them George Bernard Shaw, and Winston Churchill.

The Lynchburg doctor who was responsible for most of the sterilizations in his own town was convinced that what he was doing was for the ‘scientific good’ of society. As a dedicated Darwinian, notions of absolute right and wrong were old-fashioned obstacles to the greater good of the ‘herd’. Needing a legal cover for his actions in the face of the human rights meant to be guaranteed in the (creation-based) U.S. Constitution, he became enamoured with model legislation prepared by a leading U.S. evolutionary biologist, Dr Harry Laughlin.

Laughlin’s law called for compulsory sterilization of not only the ‘feeble-minded’, but also the blind, drug addicts, sufferers from TB and syphilis, epileptics,2 paupers, the deaf and the homeless. Since these people were, it was claimed, obviously the victims of ‘bad genes’, the law was overtly aimed at maintaining the ‘racial purity of the white race’ by preventing the further ‘breeding’ of those whose offspring would ‘drag down’ this race.

What was needed was a test case, a ‘patsy’ to ensure that the law would not be declared unconstitutional. In a blatant set-up which made the ACLU’s manipulation3 of the famous Scopes trial look positively mild, a young lady was chosen who had been targeted for sterilization because there had allegedly been ‘three generations of feeble-mindedness’ in her family. Her lawyer challenged the Laughlin law all the way to the Supreme Court. However, far from being her champion, he was in reality one of those heavily involved in the formulation of these eugenics policies!

 It was acceptable for the state to compel the sterilization of those who were deemed ‘socially inadequate’.

Unfortunately also for the young lady, the presiding judge of the Supreme Court hearing this case in 1924 was Oliver Wendell Holmes4, an influential Darwinist5 who laid the legislative foundation for many of the advances of secular humanism in the United States. Not surprisingly, Holmes declared the law constitutional. It was acceptable for the state to compel the sterilization of those who were deemed ‘socially inadequate’. The forced sterilization of this innocent victim went ahead; subsequent investigation has revealed that the entire story of the ‘feeble-minded generations’ in her family was a fabrication.

After the Supreme Court decision, eugenics became a major plank of social policy in many American states.

As soon as Hitler (who campaigned on a platform of naked evolutionism—the survival of the fittest race) came to power in 1933, eugenics laws became one of his first acts. Not only was the Nazi program of forced sterilization for the ‘unfit’ lauded in the U.S.—it was actually modelled after the law framed by Laughlin, who was awarded an honorary doctorate by Hitler’s government. As the Nazis moved on to the euthanasia-murder of entire wards full of mental patients, ‘scientific’ admiration for their ‘racial hygiene’ policies was unabated. One U.S. evolutionist actually stated, ‘The Germans are beating us at our own game’.1

Once it was seen as ‘moral’ to take active steps to ‘purify the German race’, it was just a short, logical step from there to the even greater horrors of the Holocaust.6 

After World War II, the horrified reactions of a stunned U.S. public to the unimaginable atrocities done in the name of evolutionary ‘racial hygiene’ forced eugenics practices to go underground. The names of the practice changed, but it continued, right down past 1970. All in all, a grand total of some 70,000 people suffered involuntary sterilization.

It was the efforts of a Jenny Crockett, then with the ACLU (which, ironically, has a track record of mostly siding with evolutionary thinking) which brought this scandal to light, in the face of government attempts to keep the lid on. Eventually, a mumbled apology and some offer of ‘mental health counselling’ was all that was available for these many people whose lives had been destroyed by the assumptions of evolutionism.

The church overall must bear its share of the responsibility for being so ‘bluffed’ by the ‘scientific’ claims of evolutionists (which have since changed, and will keep on changing) that it failed to take a strong stand on the true history of man and the world. Instead, as now, it by and large preferred to either ignore the issue or maintain an uneasy compromise—or worse.7 The Lord Jesus said to believers: ‘You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. ’ (Matthew 5:13–14).

We cannot just blame ‘society’ for the evils which flow naturally from the false root of evolutionism if we are unprepared to be salt and light, and to take a stand for biblical reality.

First posted on homepage: 8 December 2010
Re-posted on homepage: 1 March 2023

References and notes

  1. The Lynchburg Story, produced by Bruce Eadie, made by Worldview Pictures in association with Discovery Networks and Channel Four, 1993. This story is based on information contained therein. Return to text.
  2. Ironically, Laughlin in later life developed epilepsy himself, and was shunned by his evolutionary eugenicist colleagues as part of the very so-called ‘white trash’ he was trying to stop from breeding. Return to text.
  3. The ACLU = the American Civil Liberties Union, usually a champion of left-wing, pro-humanist causes. In the famous Scopes ‘monkey trial’ of 1925, it deliberately sought to challenge a Tennessee law prohibiting the teaching of evolution by finding someone who would (falsely) confess to teaching it, relying on the ensuing publicity to win public sympathy for the evolutionary cause. See David Menton, Inherit the Wind: An Historical Analysis, Creation 19(1):35–38, December 1996. Return to text.
  4. Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841–1935), a distinguished U.S. Supreme Court justice who approved compulsory sterilization. His evolution-based humanistic beliefs left an indelible stamp on America’s laws, contributing greatly to today’s relentless secularization. Return to text.
  5. Law professor Phillip Johnson calls Holmes a ‘convinced Darwinist who profoundly understood the philosophical implications of Darwinism’ and who therefore ‘found it difficult to take morality seriously.’ Johnson documents how this influential jurist urged future lawyers to ‘put aside all notions of morality and approach law as … basically the science of state coercion.’ Reason in the Balance, InterVarsity Press, pp. 139–143, 1995. Return to text.
  6. It is now almost common knowledge among WWII historians that the machinery of mass extermination later used in concentration camps, including the notorious Zyklon-B gas, was actually developed by respected members of the German medical/psychiatric/biological establishment for such ‘eugenic’ purposes. Return to text.
  7. Even the renowned defender of biblical inerrancy, the late B.B. Warfield, was at the same time a supporter of Darwinian evolution. Return to text.

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