Synopses & Reviews
In tracing the history of Darwinandrsquo;s accomplishment and the trajectory of evolutionary theory during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most scholars agree that Darwin introduced blind mechanism into biology, thus banishing moral values from the understanding of nature. According to the standard interpretation, the principle of survival of the fittest has rendered human behavior, including moral behavior, ultimately selfish. Few doubt that Darwinian theory, especially as construed by the masterandrsquo;s German disciple, Ernst Haeckel, inspired Hitler and led to Nazi atrocities.and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;In this collection of essays, Robert J. Richards argues that this orthodox view is wrongheaded. A close historical examination reveals that Darwin, in more traditional fashion, constructed nature with a moral spine and provided it with a goal: man as a moral creature. The book takes up many other topicsandmdash;including the character of Darwinandrsquo;s chief principles of natural selection and divergence, his dispute with Alfred Russel Wallace over manandrsquo;s big brain, the role of language in human development, his relationship to Herbert Spencer, how much his views had in common with Haeckelandrsquo;s, and the general problem of progress in evolution. Moreover, Richards takes a forceful stand on the timely issue of whether Darwin is to blame for Hitlerandrsquo;s atrocities. Was Hitler a Darwinian?
is intellectual history at its boldest.
“There have been many attempts to provide the key to Hitler's world of ideas but Richard Weikart has succeeded in revealing what must be the central element in any understanding of Hitler's world view. The terrible paradox at the heart of the Third Reich, that biological utopia could only be created by intense physical suffering and violence, now has a proper explanation. What seemed to others bizarrely immoral appeared to Hitler an honorable duty.”--Richard Overy, Professor of History, University of Exeter, UK
and#8220;Scholarly and wide-ranging.and#8221;
and#8220;An illuminating look at what makes Darwinian theory so slippery, and so magnetic, even to those of us outside the sciences.and#8221;
andldquo;These essays display the impressive range of Robert J. Richardsandrsquo;s abilities as an intellectual historian and historian of science, as they explore the disparate sources of Darwinian thought in romanticism, theology, ethics, aesthetics, and linguistics. They dispel the notion that Darwin saw the world as purposeless, amoral, and red in tooth and claw, and they bring out the complexity and nuance of Darwinandrsquo;s accounts of the origins of mind, morals, language, emotions, and humanity. It becomes clear, even before we get to the title essay, that Darwin was an unlikely fountainhead for Nazi ideology, and, for that matter, a poor figurehead for other -isms sometimes connected to him, from social Darwinism, to neo-Darwinism, to atheism and materialism. Richards also gives us an unusually sympathetic treatment of Ernst Haeckel, defends him against oft-repeated accusations of fraud, and reveals a strong affinity between his Darwinism and Darwinandrsquo;s own.andrdquo;
and#8220;This collection of essays by Robert J. Richards, todayand#8217;s preeminent historian of evolutionary theory, shows the scholarship and intellectual daring we have come to expect from this author.and#160;Knowledgeable and sympathetic toward Charles Darwin, Richards also shows great empathy for Darwinand#8217;s contemporaries, from supporters like Ernst Haeckel to rivals like Richard Owen and Herbert Spencer. Witty and engaging on the surface, Richardsand#8217;s authoritative dismissal of the hypothesis that the roots of Nazi thinking are to be found in the fertile soil of the Origin of Species proves that the volume is held together by a deep moral seriousness and the conviction that the past really matters to the present.and#8221;
"Richards considers Darwin's theory of natural selection in relation to moral purpose and moves from there to Darwin's principle of divergence and the crucial problem of transmutation of species. Subsequent chapters provide a thoughtful, fresh review of Haeckel's alleged fraud with regard to vertebrate embryos and developmental stages. Herbert Spencer's notion of social Darwinism and the cogent arguments from earlier chapters are brought to bear on the question that occupies the latter part of the book: addressing whether or not Hitler was inspired by Darwinian doctrine to justify his view of race and the preservation of Aryan character. The author brings compelling logic and considerable insight to this question as well as knowledge about who did influence Hitler's thinking. . . . Recommended."
In this fascinating follow-up to From Darwin to Hitler, Richard Weikart helps unlock the mystery of Hitlers evil by vividly demonstrating that the infamous dictators immorality flowed from a seemingly coherent ethic. Hitler was inspired by evolutionary theory to pursue the utopian project of biologically improving the human race, and this ethic underlay or influenced almost every major feature of Nazi policy: eugenics, euthanasia, racism, population expansion, offensive warfare, and racial extermination. This groundbreaking study provides truly fresh insights into one of the darkest chapters of the twentieth century as well as the field of evolutionary studies.
In this book, Weikart helps unlock the mystery of Hitler's evil by vividly demonstrating the surprising conclusion that Hitler's immorality flowed from a coherent ethic. Hitler was inspired by evolutionary ethics to pursue the utopian project of biologically improving the human race. This ethic underlay or influenced almost every major feature of Nazi policy: eugenics (i.e., measures to improve human heredity, including compulsory sterilization), euthanasia, racism, population expansion, offensive warfare, and racial extermination.
About the Author
Robert J. Richards
is the Morris Fishbein Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Science and Medicine; professor in the Departments of History, Philosophy, and Psychology and in the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science; and director of the Fishbein Center for the History of Science and Medicine, all at the University of Chicago. He is the author of numerous books, including, most recently, The Tragic Sense of Life
, also published by the University of Chicago Press. He lives in Chicago.
Table of Contents
1 and#149; Introduction
2 and#149; Darwinand#8217;s Theory of Natural Selection and Its Moral Purpose
Appendix 1 The Logic of Darwinand#8217;s Long Argument
Appendix 2 The Historical Ontology and Location of Scientific Theories
3 and#149; Darwinand#8217;s Principle of Divergence: Why Fodor Was Almost Right
4 and#149; Darwinand#8217;s Romantic Quest: Mind, Morals, and Emotions
Appendix Assessment of Darwinand#8217;s Moral Theory
5 and#149; The Relation of Spencerand#8217;s Evolutionary Theory to Darwinand#8217;s
6 and#149; Ernst Haeckeland#8217;s Scientific and Artistic Struggles
7 and#149; Haeckeland#8217;s Embryos: Fraud Not Proven
8 and#149; The Linguistic Creation of Man: August Schleicher and the Missing Link in Darwinian Theory
9 and#149; Was Hitler a Darwinian?