by Coel Hellier
1: Introduction2: Nazi Racial Theory (de Gobineau)3: Houston Stewart Chamberlain 4: Hans Gnther 5: Hitler and Mein Kampf 6: Creationist denial 7: Religion in the Third Reich 8: Christian Denial 9: Conclusion
Among those who dislike Darwins explanation of human beings as the product of evolution a common accusation is that Darwinian thinking has led to horrors such as the Nazi holocaust. For example the American religious commentator Ann Coulter writes: From Marx to Hitler, the men responsible for the greatest mass murders of the twentieth century were avid Darwinists (which is wrong on all the others, not just Hitler). So widespread is the claim that even many who accept that Darwinian evolution has been established as true, well beyond any reasonable doubt, also believe that Darwinian ideas were misused to justify Nazi atrocities. For example the British political commentator Andrew Marr writes that Darwinism was used to justify the Nazi holocaust.
Are these claims correct? Remarkably, for a claim so widely accepted, no they arent. Indeed, the Nazi ideology underpinning the extermination of the Jews was opposed to and incompatible with Darwinism, instead being a religious and creationist doctrine.
Even such a staunch Darwinian as Richard Dawkins fails to appreciate how anti-Darwin the Nazis were, hugely underplaying the differences. These differences are best illustrated by the schematics in Figure 1. On the left is the Darwinian evolutionary tree showing the origin of man out of monkey-like ancestors. In the middle is a schematic of the family tree of todays dogs. The domestic dog, as with other domesticated and farmed species, is partially the product of Darwinian natural selection and partially the product of human artificial selection to produce desired outcomes. Dawkins is correct to make a distinction between artificial selection something weve known about since the invention of farming and natural selection, Darwins idea explaining the evolution of species over geological timescales.
Fig. 1: The `branching’ pattern of descent produced by Darwinian natural selection and by artificial selection contrasts with Nazi racial ideology of separate creation of distinct races, and the sinfulness of “contaminating” the “God’s handiwork” Aryan race by allowing inter-breeding with “lesser” races.
Dawkins writes, in response to Ben Steins propaganda film Expelled
Hitler didnt apply NATURAL selection to humans.  Hitler tried to apply ARTIFICIAL selection to humans, and there is nothing specifically Darwinian about artificial selection. It has been familiar to farmers, gardeners, horse trainers, dog breeders, pigeon fanciers and many others for centuries, even millennia.
The suggestion here is that Hitler wanted to use farming techniques to artificially select desired traits and so produce a master race. This would indeed be an ideology that had some similarities to Darwinism. However, while Professor Dawkins can be excused for never having looked into Nazi ideology, abhorrent and unscientific as it is, this misunderstands Nazi racial doctrine and what they were trying to achieve. In fact, Nazi racial ideology was radically different, being based on a creationist vision that was totally incompatible with and opposed to Darwinian evolution.
The panel on the right of Fig. 1 illustrates Nazi racial doctrine. They believed that the different human races were distinct and separate, created as God wanted them, and they regarded these permanent racial characteristics as all important to human culture and destiny. Further, they believed that allowing racial inter-mixing had led to the downfall of civilizations, and was a sin against Gods creation. Thus they considered it of overwhelming importance to preserve their own Nordic/Aryan race, which they regarded as superior and created in Gods own image, by preventing inter-breeding with inferior races which they regarded as literally sub-human, being separate creations.
Flag of the Nazi Deutsche Christen
So, yes, the Nazis wanted to use selective breeding, but not to create a master race, but to preserve an Aryan master race, preserving the primordial Aryan characteristics which they believed were the highest image of God.
This ideology shares one thing with Darwinism, namely the possibility of using selective breeding to achieve a desired end, a possibility mankind had known about since the invention of farming, about 12,000 yrs ago. But in all other respects it is profoundly anti-Darwinian. Whereas in Darwinian evolution all mankind evolved out of a common monkey-like ancestor, with all human races sharing a common origin in the recent past, in Nazi ideology the different human races were distinct and separate creations.
In other words, the Nazis, like many creationists today, accepted what creationists call micro-evolution, the operation of natural selection within a species; but, like other creationists, they totally rejected macro-evolution, the evolution of one species into another.
While the mutability of species, with new species evolving out of distant ancestors, is the central theme of Darwinism, the Nazis found that idea anathema, and placed a heavy emphasis on racial purity and the distinctiveness and separateness of different species. Further, the Nazis found abhorrent the materialist notion that man might be just like other animals, and, from their religious and moralistic perspective, they insisted that man had a spiritual soul.
That is why leading Nazi ideologues wrote books explicitly rejecting Darwinism, and why they banned Darwinian works from public libraries. The truth is that nothing in Nazi ideology derives from Darwin the slight overlap is only in areas known about long pre-Darwin. Nor are there any quotes of leading Nazis looking to Darwin or pointing to Darwin as justification if there were the creationists would likely have found them by now. In short, the association of Nazi doctrine with Darwinism is an outright fabrication by those who wish to discredit Darwinism and the scientific account of the origin of man.
The Nazis racial theory is straightforwardly traced back to the writings of Arthur de Gobineau (18161882), a French aristocrat, novelist and diplomat. His work on the Inequality of the Human Races was published in 18531855 (before Darwins Origin of Species), and was translated into English in 1856, and into German in 1897, by Ludwig Schemann, a leading proponent of Nazi theory.
Arthur de Gobineau
De Gobineaus central argument is that humans races are distinct and unequal, and he argues against the unitarian idea that all men are descended from a common origin. In Chapter 11, headed Racial differences are permanent, he writes:
I conclude, from this refutation of the only arguments brought forward by the Unitarians, that the permanence of racial types is beyond dispute; it is so strong and indestructible that the most complete change of environment has no power to overthrow it, so long as no crossing takes place.
By crossing de Gobineau means inter-racial breeding. He argues that inter-racial mixing causes degeneracy, with the blood of the superior races being polluted by that of inferior races.
Much of the book is concerned with the fall of civilizations, asking why the great civilizations of the past fell. He argues that it resulted from the degeneration caused by inter-racial mixing:
And when I have shown by examples that great peoples, at the moment of their death, have only a very small and insignificant share in the blood of the founders, into whose inheritance they come, I shall thereby have explained clearly enough how it is possible for civilizations to fall .
In Chapter 1 de Gobineau, a Catholic Christian, wrote:
The fall of civilizations is the most striking, and, at the same time, the most obscure, of all the phenomena of history. The wisdom of the ancients yields little that throws light on our subject, except one fundamental axiom, the recognition of the finger of God in the conduct of this world; to this firm and ultimate principle we must adhere, accepting it in the full sense in which it is understood by the Catholic Church. It is certain that no civilisation falls to the ground unless God wills it .
This laid the seeds of an idea that would be echoed in Mein Kampf, that the fall of civilizations was God-ordained as a punishment for racial inter-mixing, that God wanted his separately created races to be kept separate, and that allowing racial inter-mixing was counter to Gods will.
de Gobineau admits that one counter-argument which I confess, gives me more concern is that It is said that Genesis does not admit of a multiple origin for our species. He argues that:
We must, of course, acknowledge that Adam is the ancestor of the *white* race. The scriptures are evidently meant to be so understood, for the generations deriving from him are certainly white,
there is nothing to show that, in the view of the first compilers of the Adamite genealogies, those outside the white race were counted as part of the species at all. Not a word is said about the yellow races, and it is only an arbitrary interpretation of the text that makes us regard the patriarch Ham as black.
Thus de Gobineau is arguing that the Mankind created by God in the Garden of Eden was the White race, and that the other races, who could be regarded as sub-human, had had separate creations. This idea has cropped up periodically in Christian thought, for example in the Dutch Reformed Church as a justification of apartheid, and explains puzzles such as why the Mark of Cain was needed to protect Cain if there were no other peoples.
Houston Stewart Chamberlain (18551927) was one of the intellectual founders of Nazism. His The Foundations Of The Nineteenth Century sold a quarter of a million copies by 1938. On Chamberlains 70th birthday, the Nazi party newspaper dedicated five columns to him, describing The Foundations as the gospel of the Nazi movement. This books ideas of Aryan supremacy and a struggle against Jewish influence became the intellectual justification of Nazism, being carried in all public libraries and included in school curricula. Rosenberg described himself as electrified by reading this book, which he regarded as the inspiration for his own Myth Of The Twentieth Century.
Hitler visited Chamberlain several times between 1923 and 1926, and attended his funeral in 1927. In 1923 Chamberlain wrote to Hitler saying:
Most respected and dear Hitler That Germany, in the hour of her greatest need, brings forth a Hitler that is proof of her vitality I can now go untroubled to sleep May God protect you!.
Houston Stewart Chamberlain
Chamberlain was a Christian, devoting chapters of his Foundations to his version of Christianity. He believed that much of Church doctrine was a distortion of Christs teaching, writing that:
the whole superstructure of the Christian Churches has hitherto been outside of the personality of Christ
we need a regeneration that shall be specifically religious: we need to tear away the foreign rags and tatters that still hang upon our Christianity as the trappings of slavish hypocrisy: we need the creative power to construct out of the words and the spectacle of the crucified Son of Man a perfect religion fitting the truth of our nature .
In the introduction to Foundations Chamberlain writes of Darwinism as A manifestly unsound system. He explicitly advocates a dualistic and spiritual vision of man, rejecting monism (the idea that humans are simply physical material) and saying that Darwinism and so-called `scientific monism, materialism were shallow and therefore injurious systems  which have nevertheless in the nineteenth century produced so much confusion of thought.
He then says that as a result of such errors theists become in the twinkling of an eye atheists, a strikingly common thing in the case of Jews .
Chamberlain continued that for us (Teutons) God is always in the background. He contrasts this with a Jewish scholar in whom he had occasion to observe the genesis and obstinacy of the apparently opposite atheistical conception, and remarked that:
It is absolutely impossible ever to bring home to such a man what we Teutons understand by Godhead, religion, morality. Here lies the hard insoluble kernel of the `Jewish problem. And this is the reason why an impartial man, without a trace of contempt for the in many respects worthy and excellent Jews, can and must regard the presence of a large number of them in our midst as a danger not to be under-estimated.
This association of atheism with Jews was later echoed by Hitler in Mein Kampf, and was widespread at the time. As one example, Cardinal Hlond, Primate of Poland, issued a pastoral letter in 1936 to be read in all Catholic churches saying:
It is a fact that Jews are waging war against the Catholic church, that they are steeped in free-thinking, and constitute the vanguard of atheism, the Bolshevik movement, and revolutionary activity. It is a fact that Jews have a corruptive influence on morals  from a religious and ethical point of view, Jewish youth are having a negative influence on the Catholic youth in our schools.
Although Chamberlain did some work in botany, he described himself in his book The Aryan Worldview (1905) as someone who has no scientific knowledge. Nevertheless, as with many Christians, he had deep antipathy to Darwinism, which he saw as materialist and soul-less. In his major work Immanuel Kant (1905) he attacked Darwinism at length.
In the section Plato he defended ideas of a Platonic essence, such that different races were of different essence, and totally rejected Darwins ideas of races and species as malleable, and evolving into different species. Here are some quotes:
A characteristic symptom of our modern intellectual disease is the increasing tendency to relegate things to ever remoter and remoter origins. Thus, for instance, man was said to be descended from the ape; the anatomical impossibility of this is established to-day by a thousand reasons
the nonsensical dogmas of the theorisers on natural selection and descent may once and for all be rejected.
That is how anti-science and phantasticism have invaded our times. And how did this happen? It was the inevitable consequence of wishing to understand nature from the process of growth instead of from its Being, [The Being here being the constant Platonic essence, in contrast to changeable Darwinian growth.]
Constancy, not only of single species without any change from the oldest palaeozoic strata until to-day but, as I have just shown, constancy of precisely the same structural conditions down to every detail that is the great fundamental fact, the fact of all facts, which pure conception gives us in regard to life. Life is form, constant form.
And he gets quite disparaging about Darwin: These few remarks only serve to show what a want of reflection disfigures the fundamental thoughts of Darwin and his followers.
And lauds a Darwin critic: This testimony of a professional man rich in knowledge and prudent in judgement, deserves attention at a time when the Darwinian craze works such mischief 
Further, Chamberlain is totally dismissive of the Darwinian idea that man could ascend from a bestial past and that natural selection, in its blind choice, is forsooth to transfigure us into an exalted being.
This passage is worth quoting more fully, since the usual accusation is that the Nazis took from Darwin an idea of using selective breeding to create a master race. Chamberlain, the foremost intellectual founder of Nazism, totally and explicitly rejects this, instead wanting to preserve the past:
Darwin specially recommends his theory for our acceptance in that it also promises to mankind that all corporal and mental endowments will tend to progress in the direction towards perfection. I, on the contrary, should have thought that we might have contented ourselves with the gifts of a Plato, a Descartes, a Leonardo, a Goethe, a Kant how far better this than that we, fooled by delusions out of a bestial past that is no past should with outstretched greedy hands, without cease or rest, clutch at a phantastic future in which natural selection, in its blind choice, is forsooth to transfigure us into an exalted being, the like of which is beyond the imagination of the great and holy and sublime men of the present generation!
Thus, to Chamberlain, Nazi theory was not about using selective breeding to perfect a master race, Nazi ideology was that the Aryans were already a master race, and had always been, since an original creation by God. And that the Aryan master race was now threatened by interbreeding with lesser races of human, which it was their duty to prevent. This theme was later to make up a large swathe of Mein Kampf.
This is a complete rejection of the Darwinian idea of humans having a common origin and having evolved from apes. Indeed Chamberlain is quite disparaging about Darwinism, calling it an English sickness:
If we might not say that this craze [Darwinism] is only the last belated straggler of romanticism and Hegelism in alliance with flat English utilitarianism, and that a hundred years will not have passed before it will be judged as men to-day judge alchemy, if we did not see around us an energetic shaking off of this English sickness, as the Zoologist Friedrich Dreyer called it in a happy phrase, we might abandon all hope of a future for Science and culture.
Alfred Rosenberg was another leading Nazi, and a major proponent of Nazi ideology, who also explicitly opposed and criticised Darwinism. In his Myth Of The Twentieth Century he writes:
The liberal epoch brought enormous desolation in the church domain. This was precipitated by its many pseudoscientific beliefs such as evolution.  The tragic thing about the spiritual history of the last hundred years is that the churches have made the liberal materialistic outlook their own.  Thus the Darwinian era was able to create enormous confusion.
The above sections have shown how Nazi racial ideology originated prior to Darwin, in the form of de Gobineau, and from ideologues such as Chamberlain who explicitly opposed and rejected Darwinism. Lets now turn to Nazi ideologues during the Third Reich era, of whom Hans Gnther is a prominent example.
Hans Gnther (18911968), known as the Race Pope (Rassenpapst) was the leading Third Reich exponent of Nazi racial ideology. His Short Ethnology of the German People was published in 1929, selling 270,000 copies. He was appointed to a chair in racial theory at Jena in 1931, and joined the Nazi party in 1932, being lauded and decorated by Hitler.
Gnthers major work was The Racial Elements of European History (English translation, 1927). Gnther drew heavily on de Gobineau and Chamberlain, writing (Chapter 12):
The French Count Arthur Gobineau (1816-82), was the first to point out in his work, Essai sur linegalite des races humaines (1853-5), the importance of the Nordic race for the life of the peoples. Count Gobineau, too, was the first to see that, through the mixture of the Nordic with other races, the way was being prepared for what to-day (with Spengler) is called the Fall of the West. it is thanks to Schemann [and] his translation of the Essay on the Inequality of Human Races, which appeared 1898-1901, that Gobineaus name and the foundations he traced for the Nordic ideal have not fallen into forgetfulness. The very great importance of Gobineaus work in the history of the culture of our day is shown by Schemann in his book, Gobineaus Rassenwerk (1910).
About the same time, too, in 1899, appeared the work which for the first time brought the racial ideal, and particularly the Nordic ideal, into the consciousness of a very wide circle through the enthusiasm, and also the opposition, which it aroused: this work was The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, by H. S. Chamberlain
Since the works of Gobineau and Chamberlain appeared, many investigators, in the realms of natural and social science, have devoted themselves eagerly to bringing light into racial questions, so that to-day not only the core of the theory both of Gobineau and of Chamberlain stands secure, but also much new territory has been won for an ideal of the Nordic race. A new standpoint in history, the racial historical standpoint, is shaping itself. Following the terms used by Gobineau and Chamberlain, we come here and there upon more or less clear conceptions of the need for keeping the Germanic blood pure, or (following Lapouge) of keeping the Aryan blood pure.
Thus we have the leading Third Reich race ideologue explicitly attributing his ideas to pre-Darwin and anti-Darwin writers. It is true, though, that Gnther then goes on to mention selection and Darwin, saying: the influence of the conception of selection only really begins to show itself after the foundations of modern biology were laid by Darwins Origin of Species in 1859. The conception of selection was bound to have an effect on the view taken of the destiny of the peoples. Darwins cousin, Francis Galton (18221911), the father of eugenics, was the first to see this.
However, it is clear that from Darwin he is taking only a mechanism, namely selection, whereas it is from Gobineau and Chamberlain that he is taking motivation. He continues: Through researches such as these [Darwin, Galton, Mendel] Gobineaus teachings received a deeper meaning, and found fresh support from all these sources, from the sciences of heredity, eugenics, and race: the Nordic movement was born. And Gobineaus central thesis was the anti-Darwinian idea of separately created and permanent racial types, and the idea that allowing racial mixing would destroy the Aryan/Nordic superior race.
After a lengthy lead-up reviewing the origins of Nazi doctrine, lets now turn to Mein Kampf (19251926). This was the book that sold 10 million copies, it was this book above all that was read by the German populace, being the single most influential statement of Nazi doctrine. If a people were willing to support or silently acquiesce to the removal and elimination of the Jews from German society, it was above all the justification presented in Mein Kampf building on a thousand years of Christian antipathy towards Jews that mattered.
Mein Kampf does not mention Darwin even once. Where atheism is mentioned (twice) it is pejorative, associating atheism with Jews and Marxism (namely: They even enter into political intrigues with the atheistic Jewish parties against the interests of their own Christian nation and atheistic Marxist newspapers ). Instead, Mein Kampf presents a religious, creationist and moralistic argument for removing Jews from German society. That is the major theme of the book, running through it repeatedly.
Hitler ends Chapter 2 with:
And so I believe to-day that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator. In standing guard against the Jew I am defending the handiwork of the Lord.
In line with the above Nazi thinkers, Hitler believed that mankind did not have a common origin, but consisted of several distinct and separately created races. The Aryan race was the superior race, with other races such as Jews and Slavs being literally sub-human. Hitler believed that the Aryans had enjoyed a golden past, and that Germanys current troubles were the result of allowing racial inter-mixing, which was destroying the master race, leading to a degeneration of society. Thus it was morally necessary to prevent racial inter-mixing, if necessary by a final solution to the Jewish problem.
Hitler spends much time criticising the churches for opposing each other rather than the Jews:
Catholics and Protestants are fighting with one another to their hearts content, while the enemy [Jews] of Aryan humanity and all Christendom is laughing up his sleeve. Look at the ravages from which our people are suffering daily as a result of being contaminated with Jewish blood.
Think further of how the process of racial decomposition is debasing and in some cases even destroying the fundamental Aryan qualities of our German people.
This pestilential adulteration of the blood, of which hundreds of thousands of our people take no account, is being systematically practised by the Jew to-day.
Systematically [Jews] corrupt our innocent fair-haired girls and thus destroy something which can no longer be replaced in this world.
Note the can no longer be replaced. Hitlers conception was of an original creation of the Aryan race by God, and that any change from there is degeneration. This is creationist and the opposite of idea of creating a master race by selective breeding.
The two Christian denominations look on with indifference at the profanation and destruction of a noble and unique creature who was given to the world as a gift of Gods grace.
So to Hitler the Aryan was a noble and unique creature who was given to the world as a gift of Gods grace, an ideal that was being corrupted.
Everybody who has the right kind of feeling for his country is solemnly bound, each within his own denomination, to see to it that he is not constantly talking about the Will of God merely from the lips but that in actual fact he fulfils the Will of God and does not allow Gods handiwork to be debased.
So to Hitler the Aryan race was Gods handiwork and the Will of God was that it be preserved.
For it was by the Will of God that men were made of a certain bodily shape, were given their natures and their faculties. Whoever destroys His work wages war against Gods Creation and Gods Will.
So the Aryans are Gods Creation and whoever allows racial inter-mixing destroys His work and wages war on Gods Will.
Over against all this, the VOLKISCH concept of the world recognises that the primordial racial elements are of the greatest significance for mankind.
The primordial racial elements refers to the distinct races as separately created by God. This is the complete opposite of any Darwinian evolutionary account.
In principle, the State is looked upon only as a means to an end and this end is the conservation of the racial characteristics of mankind.
Conservation of what already exists, of a created Aryan race, not the Darwinian idea of an evolving man.
But, on the other hand, [the Volkish principle] denies that an ethical ideal has the right to prevail if it endangers the existence of a race that is the standard-bearer of a higher ethical ideal.
Excusing what might be seen as unethical (oppressing Jews) by appeal to a higher ethical ideal of preserving Gods creation as God intended.
Nazi racial ideology was religious, creationist and …