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Darwinism leads to anti-Semitism? Or, the commonality of denialist tactics

Well, I’m here in sunny San Diego and about to head on over to the convention center to check out the day’s festivities and to make sure to check out a friend’s poster this morning. (If anyone reading this is attending AACR, you might recognize me by the Plexiglass box full of multi-colored blinking lights and the bad attitude who will have a propensity to whip out a laptop and blog if he finds interesting science to blog about.) The flight sucked, as usual. I was stuck in the middle seat, and the guy on one side of me looked like a bodybuilder and was suitably wide. It occurred to me that muscular people are sometimes worse than fat people for purposes of crowding into your space in such situations because muscle is not squishy like fat.

While perusing my e-mail and a few blogs last night, though, I came across a little discovery that, given my interest in the Holocaust and Holocaust denial, really irritates me. As you may recall, one central theme of the new Ben Stein “intelligent design” propaganda hit piece Expelled! is that “Darwinism” led to the Holocaust (among other atrocities, such as Stalin, etc.). Never mind that, even if that were so (and it’s not–one could just as easily blame Louis Pasteur or Robert Koch using Stein’s “logic”); never mind that eugenics relied more on the concept of animal breeding than natural selection and that social Darwinism was a twisted interpretation of Darwin’s theory. It doesn’t matter. To the idiots Ben Stein and producer Mark Mathis, “Darwinism”=Holocaust, and they try to drive that point home with particularly foul images of Stein showing up at Dachau (at least it looked like Dachau to me on the trailer for the move, a camp which, by the way, was not a death camp for Jews but a standard-issue concentration camp for political opponents, Jews, captured Soviet soldiers, and anyone else who opposed the regime. True, lots of people died there, but extermination of Jews was not the purpose of Dachau. These idiots can’t even get their history right. There were also images of the Krema; so maybe Stein visited Auschwitz, too.)

Now, John Lynch points out one of the “brave” critics of evolution who is apparently interviewed in the film, Maciej Giertych, Professor of Dendrology, right-wing member of the League of Polish Families, member of the European Parliament, and signatory of the DI’s “Dissent from Darwinism” statement, happens to be a raving anti-Semite. Naturally, this is yet another indication that you don’t have to be a “Darwinist” to be an old-fashioned bigot and anti-Semite.

Of course, there are lots of similarities between the rhetorical tactics of Holocaust deniers and of anti-evolutionists like Ben Stein. I realize that saying this offends because of the despicable anti-Semitism and Hitler-worship that is almost always found underlying Holocaust denial, but but that doesn’t make it less true. We’re talking tactics here, and, although I’m usually loathe to use this comparison because it’s so inflammatory, it’s hard not to, given how often Mathis and Stein use the argumentum ad Nazium gambit against the dreaded “Darwinism.” For example, compare these statements:

“We accept that microevolution occurs but do not accept macroevolution.”

And:

“Sure, lots of Jews died, but it was as a result of the war and starvation, not a plan to exterminate them.”

The point is that both Holocaust deniers and evolution deniers “accept” a watered down version of the science or history they despise. ID proponents “accept” microevolution. Holocaust deniers “accept” a “micro-Holocaust of maybe a few hundred thousand Jews, while denying that there was a systematic program to exterminate the Jews of Europe.

In fact, there are many other similarities, and Sergey Romanov over at Holocaust Controversies listed them nearly two years ago. They include calling the evolution or the Holocaust a “religion” (Holocaustianity,” for example); the “show me, step by step” gambit, after which scientists or historians actually showing creationists or Holocaust deniers “step by step” how evolution or the Holocaust happen produces no admission or an arrogant dismissal; the “no empirical evidence” tactic; and, of course, the “cry persecution” tactic, a better example of which than Expelled! is hard to find.

Of course, these tactics are not just common to Holocaust deniers and creationists. Rather they are general tactics used to some degree or other by all forms of denialists, including HIV/AIDS denialists, anthropogenic global warming denialists, or scientific medicine denialists (a.k.a. “alties“). It should be emphasized once again that I’m talking about logical fallacies and disingenuous tactics, not beliefs. None of this means that these other denialists are like Holocaust deniers, other than in the sorts of logical fallacies they like to invoke. Although I wax and wane on mentioning this clear parallel, mainly because it allows the denialist whose logical fallacies are being compared to those used by Holocaust deniers to become righteously indignant at the perception that he is being compared to a Nazi, Ben Stein and Mark Mathis have opened this particular can of worms in a big way, and this point about the commonality of denialist tactics needs to be driven home.

For more, read John Lynch’s article and Sergey’s article.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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