Thursday, November 23, 2006

Dawkins: Nazi Eugenics "May Not Be Bad"?

By Rick Pearcey

The headline at LifeSite is stunning: "Anti-Religious Extremist Dawkins Advocates Eugenics." Moreover, says the kicker, Dawkins "says Nazi regime’s genocidal project 'may not be bad'."

The report begins: "A leading international anti-religion crusader and supporter of Darwinian theory, Dr. Richard Dawkins, has said that the pseudo-science of eugenics that drove the Nazi regime’s genocidal project 'may not be bad.'

"Since the end of the second world war," LifeSite reports, "the name of eugenics, the social philosophy that the human species or particular races ought to be improved by selective breeding or other forms of genetic manipulation, is one that conjures instant images of the Nazi death camps and 'racial hygiene' programs."

Now comes Dawkins: "In a letter to the editor of Scotland’s Sunday Herald, Dawkins argues that the time has come to lay this spectre to rest. Dawkins writes that though no one wants to be seen to be in agreement with Hitler on any particular, 'if you can breed cattle for milk yield, horses for running speed, and dogs for herding skill, why on Earth should it be impossible to breed humans for mathematical, musical or athletic ability?'”

People are outraged, as one might expect. But it's hard to disagree with Dawkins, if one accepts Darwinian presuppositions.

Evolutionary theory asserts an unbroken line of continuity between life and nonlife, from the empty void of nothingness, to the impersonal particle, to the unconscious amoeba, to the cute little monkey, to the magnificent artist decorating the Sistine Chapel.

In such a framework, there seems no logical or moral barrier to the breeding of human beings for particular kinds of purposes, whether that breeding is imposed by a secular state or promoted by the free market. If the Darwinian view is correct, then what evolutionists regard as our true creator -- the cosmos -- has produced a form of existence (humanity) which over time has come to possess the power to manipulate human reproduction.

That same cosmos, however, is silent regarding the morality of reproductive manipulation and control. The impersonal universe is indifferent to such concerns. In this view, there is no Heaven above, no Hell below, and the particles care not about peace on Earth.

Let us consider where this line of thinking would lead us, if we are to take it seriously as a reality-oriented truth-claim about life in this world. If it is agreeable in principle to breed humans for "mathematical, musical, or athletic ability," then what possible ethical objection could there be to breeding blacks for speed, Jews for herding, whites for swimming, and women for yielding milk?

The rocks do not cry when a baby dies. Electrons do not pause at half-time for a moment of silence. Venus does not remember where it was when JFK died.

If that’s all there is to existence -- variations on the theme of cold rocks and impervious particles –- then, in the impersonal Darwinian universe, what really is the spectre? "Hitler" isn't the spectre. We are, that is, humanity, those who wonder and question.

Yes, conceptually speaking, Hitler is at one with the ethically insensate cosmos, for he believed in the rule of power in the struggle for survival of the strong over the weak.

No, subjecting human reproduction to the eugenic machine in the struggle for survival isn’t the problem: We are. We resist. We question and slow things down. We ghosts of humanity are cogs in the machine.

So the question is: Who are we to stand in the way of progress? The Darwinists want to know. Who are we to question? The Darwinists want to know. And who are we to think we’re special, not exhaustively identified with nature? The secular priests know what to do: Let doubters be cast out as alienated misfits unreconciled to science.

But we revolt. We shake our fists against the indifferent, empty sky. And that is good. We accept the aspirations of meaning and worth and goodness that animate our lives. Our heartache in the face of worldviews too small tells us the sky may not be as empty as some presuppositions require.

There are voices other than those typified by Mr. Dawkins, who is driven to excess by the impress of his view of life. They are rebellious voices who ask questions first and trust later.

I have heard there are people abroad in the land, wild people. They think the science and the evidence and their humanity point in a direction shockingly different from Darwin. There is talk about a strange worldview founded upon a Creator who endows every single human being, every race, every color, with certain inalienable rights. Add a little water and sunlight, it is said, plus determination, and this worldview yields an amazing bounty of human freedom, creativity, beauty, and love.

Hope abounds. Sadly, some may not be able to endure the night without Darwin to console their emptiness. On the other hand, the shadowy world of eugenics and death camps seems less likely to last without Darwin's hand to block the light and justify the darkness.

Orthodox atheists may not like it, but the shouts of the evolutionary priesthood may signal the demise of a great secular dream. Besides, the alternative looks pretty good: There's something appealing about holding science up without casting humanity down.

Note: The entire LifeSite story is here.
Rick Pearcey is editor and publisher of The Pearcey Report.


Holopupenko said...

Hi Nancy:
     Good thoughts - thanks. I've also commented on Mr. Dawkins here (, linking him to the thinking of Peter Singer.

david said...

If my memory is right, foxnews this Saturday at 1pm, Brit Hume has a special on the subject.

Jerri Lynn Ward, J.D. said...

I am SO glad you started a blog!

Anonymous said...

According to Richard Dawkins' blog ( - currently down so I can't give you a detailed link), Dawkins never sent a letter to the Sunday Herald. What is quoted is actually an extract from a book, where the subject being discussed is moral problems. The title "eugenics may not be bad" is chosen by a mischevious editor, not by Dawkins.

If you read the extract in question (, Dawkins says:

"Or why it is acceptable to train fast runners and high jumpers but not to breed them. I can think of some answers, and they are good ones, which would probably end up persuading me." (emphasis mine)

i.e. He can think of arguments that would persuade him that a human breeding programme is a bad idea.