Weikart Responds to Avalos - Evolution News & Views

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Weikart Responds to Avalos

Iowa State atheist professor of religion Hector Avalos (yes, the same Professor Avalos who harassed Guillermo Gonzalez about astrobiology) seems to now consider himself an expert in modern European History as well.

Avalos recently challenged (see: "Creationists for Geoncide") the work of California State University, Stanislaus professor of history Richard Weikart. Weikart is author of the acclaimed From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and Racism in Germany.

Weikart recently responded to Avalos's charges in a comment left at Panda's Thumb. I've pasted it below for wider distribution:

I don't come to Panda's Thumb very often, but a friend told me about Hector Avalos's essay about my book, so I couldn't resist reading it. What I find remarkable about it is that he ignores the historical context about which I am writing in my book. My book is about the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and shifts in thinking that occurred during the period of approximately 1859-1914. Avalos hardly ever says anything about what Christianity was like during that period. His claims about what the Bible allegedly teaches--for instance child sacrifice--strains credulity, and I doubt that very many (maybe zero) Christians in the nineteenth century were using the Bible to defend child sacrifice. Since even according to his own view, the later parts of the Old Testament reject child sacrifice and it is clear that Christianity rejected child sacrifice from the start, what does this have to do with the shift in the nineteenth century I am discussing?

It is clear that Avalos is more interested in attacking the Bible as an allegedly immoral book, rather than trying to discover what happened in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to make infanticide, euthanasia, and genocide intellectually acceptable to leading scholars (the ones I discuss were generally anti-Christian, a point Avalos apparently doesn't like too much).

What were the prevailing views of Christians during that time? Sure, some Christians were (and still are) racist--some atheists were and are racist, too. But what was the prevailing current of thought? I find it interesting that during that time many Darwinists themselves lamented that Christianity supported egalitarianism, while--they asserted--Darwinism proved human inequality. Of course, there are many examples Avalos could bring up to show that not all Christians were egalitarian in the nineteenth century.

I also never claim in my book that Darwinism produced racism. I specifically remind my readers that racism predated Darwin. However, even Stephen Jay Gould admitted that racism increased significantly after and because of the advent of Darwinian theory. My book explains why that is so.

I never claimed in my book, either, that Darwinism was the sole culprit for genocide or racism or any other human evil. Evil has been around much longer than Darwinism.

However, Dr. Avalos sidesteps a key issue in my book: under the influence of Christianity for centuries infanticide and killing the disabled were forbidden by all European societies. Darwinian-inspired thinkers of the late nineteenth century began to endorse infanticide and involuntary euthanasia. The famous Darwinist Ernst Haeckel was the first to promote killing the disabled in Germany--and he based it on his Darwinian worldview. Ian Dowbiggin, Nick Kemp, Udo Benzenhoefer, Hans Walter Schmuhl, and other scholars have all shown the importance of Darwinism in fostering the euthanasia movement, not only in Germany, but also in the United States and Britain.

These are apparently unpalatable truths for Dr. Avalos.

I will not likely be looking back at this website, since I'm going to the University of Leeds to the "Darwinism after Darwin" conference, where I will discuss my book with some of its critics. Fire away, but know that my lack of response is simply because I'm gone.

You will be happy to know, however, that I am currently preparing some more grist for your mill, since I'm on leave this coming academic year to write a book entitled "Hitler's Ethic," where I will prove that evolutionary ethics was a central part of Hitler's worldview. Stay tuned.