Bananaman Ray Comfort is distributing his own abridged version of copies of On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection to college campuses. I’m sure there are some interesting edits in chapter 6 (“Difficulties of Theory”) where Darwin tries to anticipate objections and deal with them. Guess which of those two will be included in Comfort’s version of Origin? He even wrote an introduction, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at the cover. His name is suspiciously absent, for some strange reason. But it’s 50 pages! And it’s online as a .pdf file, but I’m not going to bother looking it up and linking to it because fuck that guy.
Of course, he goes on about how evolution led to the Nazi Holocaust. That’s not just bad history and shameless opportunism, it’s actually Holocaust denial because Comfort is denying the actual truth of the history of the Holocaust. The standard creationist objection when they present an Argument ad Hitlerum is that Hitler accepted evolution, thought that it should be incorporated politically, and the next thing you know it’s Jews-In-The-Ovens time.
The first problem is that even if it were true, this doesn’t actually prove evolution wrong. It just means that people can misuse it via the naturalistic fallacy in order to reinforce their own political beliefs. In order to accept that though, you have to ignore the fact that we are unique among species (as far as we know) in that we can actually distinguish between What Is and What Ought To Be. Just because the natural world is a cruel and heartless place where selective pressures mold species in particular ways at particular times, it does not follow that we ought to institute such policies in our governments. If we did, we would also set up huge molten rock reservoirs and unexpectedly unleash them on populations at random, because hey, that’s what nature does, right?
The second problem, the major one, is that the premise isn’t even true. Hitler, like Ray Comfort, was an evolution denying creationist. Like everyone else, including all of his fellow creationists, Hitler knew that artificial selection (breeding) could create different breeds in a specific way, but he denied that this could be done in what Comfort and his fellow creationists would call “across kinds of animals.” “Kind” is a biblical term for some vague, undefined classification of organisms. Although I don’t think Hitler actually referred to “kinds” of animals, he clearly understood the concept.
“The fox remains always a fox, the goose remains a goose, and the tiger will retain the character of a tiger.”
Mein Kampf, vol. i, ch. xi
“For it was by the Will of God that men were made of a certain bodily shape, were given their natures and their faculties.”
Mein Kampf, vol. ii, ch. x
“From where do we get the right to believe, that from the very beginning Man was not what he is today? Looking at Nature tells us, that in the realm of plants and animals changes and developments happen. But nowhere inside a kind shows such a development as the breadth of the jump , as Man must supposedly have made, if he has developed from an ape-like state to what he is today.”
Tischgesprache im Fuhrerhauptquartier
Talk like that could appear on the walls of Ken Ham’s creationist “museum” and nobody would even blink. Besides, which position makes it easier to believe that you’re qualified to best know who lives and who dies – that there’s a purpose to life which is given to us by a deity that holds certain peoples in esteem and others in contempt, or that we’re the product of an imperfect and unguided process taking place over billions of years?
The suggestion I’ve been hearing lately has been to get kids in colleges to request this book from their university, remove the pseudoscientific proselytizing in the 50 page intro and give it to other students, or the local library. But that’s going to make it a little lopsided, so maybe pick up a copy of Michael Shermer’s book on Alfred Russell Wallace and stick it in there to balance it. With all the hoopla over this being the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin, Wallace could use some props, too.