Old Fossil Takes On Darwin

The old fossil is Pat Buchanan, who has published a freakishly antiquated diatribe against Darwin. It's extremely old school — he uses arguments straight out of 1960s era "scientific creationism", trying to tar Darwin with guilt by association with Karl Marx and Adolf Hitler. He is apparently inspired by a "splendid little book," The End of Darwinism: And How a Flawed and Disastrous Theory Was Stolen and Sold, by a creationist crank named Eugene G. Windchy. You can get an idea of Windchy's level of scholarship by this quote:

That Darwinism has proven "disastrous theory" is indisputable.

"Karl Marx loved Darwinism," writes Windchy. "To him, survival of the fittest as the source of progress justified violence in bringing about social and political change, in other words, the revolution."

"Darwin suits my purpose," Marx wrote.

John Lynch has rebutted this claim; I rather doubt that Marx could love someone as bourgeois as Darwin, a prosperous landowner and investor, a fellow who thought his greatest success in life was his talent as a businessman, and I can be fairly confident that any affection would not have been returned. And please, don't even mention the false claim that Marx wanted to dedicate Das Kapital to Darwin.

It's not enough to link Darwin to Marx; Windchy also has to turn Hitler into a committed Darwinist. You'd think he'd stop to marvel at the idea that Darwin could have inspired two such antagonistic philosophies, but Windchy and Buchanan aren't quite that thoughtful.

Darwin suited Adolf Hitler's purposes, too.

"Although born to a Catholic family Hitler become a hard-eyed Darwinist who saw life as a constant struggle between the strong and the weak. His Darwinism was so extreme that he thought it would have been better for the world if the Muslims had won the eighth century battle of Tours, which stopped the Arabs' advance into France. Had the Christians lost, (Hitler) reasoned, Germanic people would have acquired a more warlike creed and, because of their natural superiority, would have become the leaders of an Islamic empire."

Charles Darwin also suited the purpose of the eugenicists and Herbert Spencer, who preached a survival-of-the-fittest social Darwinism to robber baron industrialists exploiting 19th-century immigrants.

For being a "hard-eyed Darwinist", Hitler certainly seems to have failed to make much use of the theory. Read Mein Kampf and you will find nothing about Darwin or evolution, but you will find much about God. And don't his strange notions about an Aryan Islamic empire simply mark Hitler as a crazy crackpot, and say nothing at all about Darwin?

They do make some outrageous accusations against Darwin: he was a thief and a liar who stole his whole theory from Wallace.

Darwin, he demonstrates, stole his theory from Alfred Wallace, who had sent him a "completed formal paper on evolution by natural selection."

"All my originality ... will be smashed," wailed Darwin when he got Wallace's manuscript.

Unfortunately for their thesis, Darwin's writings are preserved to an amazing degree — the history of his idea can be traced almost to the day. We know that he was putting together an outline of his theory within a few years of returning from the voyage of the Beagle; we have an early draft of his thesis written in 1842, well before the contact with Wallace; we have his correspondence where he bounced these ideas off his colleagues. He didn't steal his theory at all, but had it well formulated before Wallace wrote his fateful letter, triggering him to finally publish.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card


Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.