Darwinist Hero

Another public school student makes the headlines:

Nine shot dead including principal in school massacre predicted in YouTube video 

Of course he made a video. How else could he become a pop culture star?

So, what were his motivations? Christian fanaticism? No, I don’t think so:

Going only by the username Sturmgeist89, he calls himself a “social darwinist”. “I am prepared to fight and die for my cause,” read a posting by a user of the same name.

“I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit, disgraces of human race and failures of natural selection.”

“Sturmgeist” means storm spirit in German.

The videos have now been removed from the website. Media said the gunman had repeatedly expressed his admiration for Hitler and Stalin.

Hitler and Stalin? Weren’t they those great Christian heroes? Where in the world do mass murderers get the idea that Hitler and Stalin promoted social Darwinism? You don’t think it has anything to do with that “master race” stuff that Hitler received indirectly from Galton, do you? Maybe Stalin is somehow connected with Marxism, a famous theory of sociocultural evolution that, in the late nineteenth century, explicitly relied on Darwinism for scientific justification?

No, it’s probably because of propaganda from the Flying Theocracy Monster.

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7 thoughts on “Darwinist Hero

  1. Where does any crazy person get his/her crazy ideas? If one could provide a link between any of these mass murderers and a systematic study of Darwin’s theory, it would be the first time any such link had ever been found.

    Darwin pointed out — quite contrary to “social Darwinism,” which he detested — that it was better to let nature do the culling, unless one were breeding fancy pigeons. Humans, of course, are not fancy pigeons.

    Where do they get their ideas? Both Hitler and Stalin were as ignorant of Darwin as any of the shooters. Stalin banned Darwin from being taught.

    Trying to lay blame where it does not rest is one way to delay effective action to prevent such killings in the future.

  2. 1.
    Can anyone prove how a person’s psychology is determined? No, despite the best efforts, no one can. So, we are left with a person’s own statements of belief, which cannot serve to identify causes, but merely preferences.

    However, if we accept the Dawkins Hypothesis of the cultural transmission of ideas, a person’s stated preferences are indicative of either their childhood indoctrination or their carefully considered adult choice. (This person was apparently on the cusp of adulthood, so it could go either way.) Moreover, per Dawkins, the irrational, extremist wackos are enabled by the moderate, humane representatives of an ideology, who provide rationalizations and cultural cover.

    I don’t know what you mean by a link between a mass murderer and a “systematic study of Darwin’s theory.” Are you questioning whether mass murderers have systematically studied Darwin, or whether someone who has can establish a link between Darwin and a mass murderer?

    2.
    I accept the assertion that Darwin was only referring to selection by nature itself. It is quite baffling to see people make spurious connections between the activity of a natural process and activity guided by human effort and will.

    Whether “natural” selective pressures work on human populations to differentiate them, I cannot say; although even if I thought so, it would be imprudent to say as much, considering the fate of Mr. Watson.

    3.
    It is well known that Hitler was rather ignorant, or even dull-witted. He was only interested in science insofar as it had some practical application, whether in developing weapons, infrastructure, medicine, consumer goods, propaganda tools, or racial purity. Evolutionary science apparently offered no practical applications.

    Stalin, on the other hand, was considered quite a scholar. (I am embarrassed to note that he was also a fastidious editor. Perhaps there is a connection there…) I don’t know if science was an area he was familiar with, but again, I think he was focused on practical applications, of which evolutionary science provided none. Moreover, social Darwinism had bad connotations for the average Russian, since it traditionally placed Slavs just above Africans and below the Irish.

    4.
    I don’t personally subscribe to the deterministic hypotheses prevalent among the general public. Most people do not even have a firm grasp on complex ideas like natural selection, and to the extent they do have some understanding, it probably does not provide their motivation for action. People absorb some things from their culture, they check their feelings, they make their choices, and then maybe they look around for a clever-sounding rationalization.

    Nevertheless, in the history of ideas, there is a path from Darwin to Hitler and from Darwin to Stalin, and hoping for it to go away won’t make it so. It isn’t what some people claim it is, however; it isn’t like a slow chemical reaction with clear-cut causes and predictable effects. It’s more like a Dawkins meme. Also, Darwin cannot be “blamed”; that’s a denial of the free will of each person.

  3. Evolution provides benefits in two key areas that Hitler and Stalin should have paid attention, but didn’t.

    Ashley Montagu documented in his 1959 book Human Genetics that the Nazi’s failure to use blood banks contributed to additional deaths among soldiers alone of somewhere between 10,000 and 50,000 on the low end. Blood was not banked for transfusions, and so many soldiers on the Nazi side died from “shock.” On the Allied side, however, blood was readily available, and many soldiers who would have died in previous conflicts, were patched up to be sent back into the fray, or sent home. Especially after D-Day, when troops to replenish the front ranks were at a premium on both sides, the use of blood to transfuse could be said to have provided the winning margin for the Allies.

    Why did Hitler not use blood banks? He was convinced that heritage was carried in blood, not in genes. He was afraid that Jewish blood would taint his racial purity in the ranks and in leadership. Refusing to adopt a Darwinian view of the world, Hitler instead adopted an old Biblical view that even the Christians and Jews had rejected. When a few scientists protested, they were silenced. Anyone with a good understanding of evolution could have seen the problem, but those German scientists who did see the problem kept quiet after the first round of silencings. Failure to adhere to a Darwinian view hampered the Nazis — fortunately for the Allies.

    In the Soviet Union, Stalin found Darwin too bourgeois. Instead he stood with Trofim Lysenko, who advocated wild stuff that bordered on Lamarkism, but only barely. Lysenko ordered that seed wheat be frozen, in order to make the plants hardy for growing through cold weather, to provide another crop every year. This failed, of course, and millions starved to death. The Darwinians among Russian scientists protested, but they were dismissed from their posts, shunned by professional societies, closed out of their labs, given demotions in research institutions, and a few were jailed, and a few were murdered. The Soviets rejected Darwin in every form they could find.

    It’s incredible lack of knowledge about history that would lead anyone to claim that Stalin, who was one of the great enemies of Darwin and Darwinian theory, favored Darwin instead.

    Beware Santayana’s warning: Those who don’t know history are condemned to repeat it! Creationists, including IDists, have been advocating Stalin’s views on evolution for 30 years now. It would be just as disastrous now as then.

    In any case, Darwinian theory has a multitude of practical applications. Hubris and plain stupidity led Hitler and Stalin to reject some of those practical applications, and millions died as a result. Let us not repeat that history.

  4. You have at your command a wealth of historical facts, as befits a teacher. However, as always, I don’t understand how you distinguish between Darwinian theory of natural selection and genetic science. You need to patiently explain how you think they are different, and then use appropriate terms.

    As I said, the connection is memelike, not causal; and because it is indirect, the choice of the subject (i.e., Hitler, Stalin, etc.) is based on what is at hand for him (i.e., a Darwinian scientist or a text on social Darwinism), rather than an affinity for Darwin himself.

    You seem to be saying that creationists promote some Lamarckian ideas. I haven’t seen that, and it seems like it would be a tacit admission of certain evolutionary principles that Lamarckianism has in common with Darwinism, and therefore self-defeating.

    However, I have noticed that current research is turning more toward investigation of gene expression, as opposed to strictly DNA encoding, to explain the development of certain traits. Whenever I see that, I think that they should include some explanation of how their theory differs from Lamarckianism.

    Your admonitions at the end could be stated more clearly. Are you suggesting that if only we adhere to Darwinian principles, we can avoid the kinds of situations that led Hitler and Stalin to attain power and implement their disastrous policies of political repression, genocide, and war?

  5. Pingback: Darwin for Dummies « Brainbiter

  6. Not quite on-topic, but the concept of memes is one I find fascinating. The underlying and transmittable, almost viral, assumptions shaping movements, actions, etc. Evolution has become a meme in many ways. Recently I was having a discussion with a group of college students at a gallery displaying some of my paintings. Without exception, their reasoning assumed evolution as truth, free will as absolute, and morality as non-absolute. Out of that, they were trying to pick who would be worth disposing of. They were pro-abortion, pro-infanticide and pro-euthanasia. Plus they felt that limiting the world’s population through purges was a good idea, based on a higher ‘quality of life’ and the fact that they considered some lives (their own, of course), to be of higher value than others.

    Scary.

  7. Oh, I think it is precisely to the point. It is foolish to say that Darwin “caused” Pekka-Eric Auvinen to shoot people; yet this is precisely what many commenters online have said. Rather, I look at it from a rhetorical standpoint and ask why Auvinen chose to use the social Darwinism meme to focus his identity.

    Wasn’t there something in the writings of Pasteur, Faraday, or Mach that could just as easily have inspired him to commit mass murder? I mean, Pasteur thoughtlessly exterminated millions of bacteria, I’m sure. What if we were to apply Faraday’s principles of electromagnetic induction to society–would that lead us to conclude that unseen social forces could cause someone to move counter to the general current of normal ethical behavior? In the early twentieth century, Mach’s philosophy of science was very contentious and led some to charge that he was undermining all objectivity; couldn’t that have led Auvinen to conclude that since “other people” are really just his immaterial sense-impressions, it’s OK to kill them?

    I’m being silly here, but we have to address the claims of the Darwinists that the connection between Darwin and Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Harris & Klebold, or Auvinen is either purely coincidental or the result of a devious 148-year-long disinformation campaign by creationists. Darwin, they say, was just a humble scientist; therefore, anyone using him to justify mass murder is stupid and the connection is imaginary. That point of view is myopic and completely ignores the stated motivations of the individuals who have committed mass murders. Of course, someone could also do a memetic inquiry into religiously inspired mass murder; but Dawkins did that in The God Delusion.

    Free will, of course, cannot be absolute, because free action would also have to be absolute. People who consider free will to be absolute and morality to be mutable and optional are not living in a world where they can grow intellectually or spiritually; they are living in a sterile, homogenized world where freedom is meaningless and life is irrelevant.

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