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324 pages
May 2004
Palgrave Macmillan

From Darwin to Hitler : Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany

by Richard Weikart

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Richard Weikart’s From Darwin To Hitler chronicles how Darwin’s theories devolved into the policies and ethics of Nazi Germany.

An associate professor of Modern European History at California State University, Stanislaus, Richard Weikart wastes no words on asides. Endorsed by professors from Hamilton College, Yale, Cambridge, and Prince Edward Island Universities, this scholarly work is not for the faint of heart. The Introduction alone has nearly six full pages of notes. Broken down into four parts: Laying New Foundations for Ethics; Devaluing Human Life; Eliminating “Inferior Ones”; and Impacts Hitler’s Ethic; Weikart documents the tangents of Darwinian theory which were not inevitable but necessary precursors to Nazism.

Consider this passage: “While denying that humans have any innate conception of laws or rights, Hellwald insisted that they have aggressive instincts driving them—together with the Malthusian population imbalance—inevitably toward war and racial conflict. The Spaniards’ brutal massacre of American Indians was an example of this struggle for existence, and ‘this conquest itself has been an inexpressible blessing.’ He also asserted that the British were foolish to end slavery, which would only result in ‘the extinction of Negroes,’ who can survive in slavery, but cannot compete with the white races in free competition. In a later book he blamed the American Indians—whom he called beasts of prey—for fighting a war of destruction against the ‘more civilized’ white race. Hellwald made it sound as though the whites were merely defending themselves against wild beasts when they annihilated the Indians.”

The deeply troubling subject matter of this book coupled with the objectivity of a scholar requires a Herculean effort from laymen to digest. All told it took three weeks for me to read the 233 pages of text (312 pages including indexes and notes). This book is an excellent resource for university and college courses. For laymen who are willing to devote substantial amounts of time to contemplating the material, this is a powerful treatise on the nature of evolutionary theory. – Suzanne Rae Deschidn, Christian Book

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Book Jacket:

From Darwin to Hitler elucidates the revolutionary impact Darwinism had on ethics and morality. Weikart demonstrates that many leading Darwinian biologists and social thinkers in Germany believed that Darwinism overturned traditional Judeo-Christian and Enlightenment ethics, especially the view that human life is sacred. Many of these thinkers supported moral relativism, yet simultaneously exalted evolutionary "fitness" (especially intelligence and health) as the highest arbiter of morality.

Darwinism played a key role in the rise not only of eugenics, but also euthanasia, infanticide, abortion, and racial extermination. This thinking had its biggest impact on Germany, since Hitler built his view of ethics on Darwinian principles, not on nihilism as popularly believed.