Nevertheless, the comments on Uncommon Descent, probably not surprisingly given the intended audience of the blog, tried to support the imagined connection between Darwin’s theory of natural selection and the Holocaust. One comment disturbed me especially: Comment #9 claims that the movie Conspiracy, which reconstructs the Wannsee Conference of 1942, showed that “it was the logical explanation of pure, Darwinian natural selection that was used to quell their concerns, and even cause some of them to feel as if they were part of something monumental and wondrous.” That seemed rather odd to me. Although I had read a lot about this conference, read Hannah Arendt’s unsettling book about the second most important person at that meeting, Adolf Eichmann, I had never heard that Darwin’s ideas played a role in industrializing the mass murder of Jews in Germany. I figured that the only way to find out was to watch the movie.
The movie showed dissent and discomfort. What “quelled concerns,” though, was not any mention of Darwin but rather Reinhard Heydrich’s conversations with the dissenters. In his charming way, he made it very clear that anybody who would not give his consent would be in trouble, with the implied threat of death always hanging over people too critical. This conference clearly established the power of the SS, which was the primary arm of the Nazis that executed the mass murder plan. Darwin was mentioned at the very end, after all the participants had agreed, very few still reluctantly, to the industrialized mass murder, in Heydrich’s concluding comments: “history will honor us for having the will and the vision to advance the human race to greater purity in a space of time so short Charles Darwin would be astonished.” Natural selection was not even mentioned, let alone used to convince anybody. And there were some people who left the meeting still rather disturbed. In fact, one of the opposing voices – Dr. Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger – testified at Nuremberg that he was ashamed about the crimes committed by the Third Reich.
I find it rather disturbing how history and even the documentation of that history (if we can call an HBO movie that) is twisted to serve the purpose of the ID/creationist movement. What the Nazis committed were crimes against humanity, not outgrowths of the theory of natural selection. That theory is descriptive, no prescriptive: It describes – rather well – what has happened (evolution); it does not say that we should go out and murder people. Nor was it used by the mass murderers to justify their actions. Blaming Darwin for the Holocaust is twisting history to further an anti-science agenda. And we ultimately avoid understanding the motives of the Nazis and disrespect the memory of those murdered by them.