Thursday, January 25, 2007

John West's Final Response

John West has written his final response to me, which can be found here.

He hasn't added anything that can't be found in his book. But I would like to make a few points.

I have said that blaming Darwin for the eugenics programs of the Social Darwinists is like claiming that "Christianity was responsible for Hitler's anti-Semitism because Martin Luther's anti-Semitism was often cited by the Nazis." West's response is to say that "The Luther comparison is inapt. Martin Luther was not the founder of Christianity, and so any claims he may have made are not necessarily authoritative interpretations of the Christian tradition. But Charles Darwin was most certainly the founder of his own theory." But that's exactly my point. Just as so-called Christians have distorted the teachings of Jesus, so have so-called Darwinians distorted the teachings of Darwin.

Now, of course, West would say that these are not distortions because Darwin provided "a logical rationale for eugenics." But to support this, West has to selectively quote Darwin. He quotes Darwin's remark about how allowing the weak members of society to breed must be "highly injurious to the race of man." Yet he does not quote the immediately following passage where Darwin says that supporting the helpless expresses sympathy, which is "the noblest part of our nature."

Nor does West acknowledge Richard Weikart's admission that the title of his book--From Darwin to Hitler--is inaccurate, because there is no direct connection "from Darwin to Hitler." Of course, Hitler and others were able to use vaguely Darwinian language to rhetorically justify their morally abhorrent policies, just as Luther was able to quote from the New Testament to justify his anti-Semitism. But in both cases, we can see that such rhetoric is deceptive.

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