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The Strange Case of Little Green Footballs III

As I mentioned in previous posts in this brief series, the ID-bashing blog Little Green Footballs has done important work in sensitizing us to the sympathies expressed in parts of the Muslim world for Hitler and Nazism. One of the most sickening videos I've ever seen was noted recently on LGF. It was of a smiling, youngish Egyptian cleric in front of a slick TV backdrop, praising the Nazis for slaughtering Jews and saying he only hoped it would be Muslims who do this work, blessed by Allah, next time around. On an inset screen, the cleric nodded and gestured approvingly to old black-and-white newsreels from the death camps, of Jewish corpses being bulldozed, or pulled out of ovens as smoking skeletons.

LGF author Charles Johnson is troubled by the weakness of Western leaders who don't want to see what we are up against in the war on terror, who shrink from a strong and confident stance in dealing with challenges from the Muslim world. However, Johnson never makes the connection between the Darwinism he defends and the sapping of Western confidence that he laments.

This may seem surprising to those who are familiar with the history of 19th-century colonialism. Darwinian theory fueled an arrogant contempt for other nations that seems the very opposite of liberal guilt and weakness. It was not some sort of "crude" distortion of Darwin's thought but a straightforward application of it that led to the biologization of foreign policy in the age of imperialism.

Typical of this school of thought is an influential 1896 essay in the London Saturday Review by P. Charles Michael, "A Biological View of Our Foreign Policy." Charles H. Harvey wrote The Biology of British Politics in 1904. Karl Pearson, professor of eugenics at London University and a leading theorist on England's national destiny, wrote: "History shows me one way, and one way only, in which a high state of civilization has been produced, namely, the struggle of race with race, and the survival of the physically and mentally fitter race." The stuff is straight out of Darwin.

Consider King Leopold II (1835-1909) of Belgium, responsible for the enslavement and murder of millions in Belgian Congo. The horror crystallized in the phrase from Conrad's Heart of Darkness, "Exterminate all the brutes," scrawled by the character Kurtz across a manuscript during his time as chief of an ivory-harvesting station far up the Congo River, is just a brief encapsulation of the ethics implied by Darwin's theory, echoing Darwin's own language. He was fond of the word "exterminate."

As literary scholars have argued, Conrad knew from personal experience what happened in the Congo and why. The savagery of the European powers in their race to carve up Africa, the "merry dance of death and trade," was fueled by "scientific" racism of the kind that was inspired by Darwin.

Sounds pretty self-assertive. But the toxic fusion of nationalism and racism was discredited by the Nazis. Since then, no one who's not demented wants to go near it.

The problem for the increasingly secularized West is that in our age of Darwin, the older, far more wholesome rationale for national self-assertion and self-defense is also looked at askance. Americans once understood there was something very special indeed about our country, something worth defending and otherwise sacrificing for. That something has to do with ideals of ordered freedom ultimately rooted in Western religious values.

I'm working on a review now for the Weekly Standard of a fascinating new book, Joshua A. Berman's Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought (Oxford U. Press). Professor Berman finds the source of Western-style political egalitarianism in the Pentateuch. Conservatives have argued similarly. In The Roots of American Order, Russell Kirk traces America's line of inheritance from "Mount Sinai to Massachusetts Bay," showing how "the American moral order could not have come into existence at all, had it not been for the legacy left by Israel."

Or as Whittaker Chambers put it in Witness, "Political freedom, as the Western world has known it, is only a political reading of the Bible."

A disenchanted world of the kind that Darwin helped to bequeath to us is inclined to regard this spiritual heritage as bogus, and so along with it a critical piece of what people used to find most dear about America. In a Darwinian age, a crucial plank underlying America's spiritual identity is snapped in half. Having rightly rejected Darwinian racism as the basis of nationalism, we are also increasingly bereft of healthier alternatives.

Our country's moral order derives, of course, from other sources too, independent of the Bible. But without a spiritual heritage, our identity as a nation would be substantially crippled. That may be why versions of patriotism denatured by the subtraction of this faith element often seem kind of lame and uninspiring.

So it goes, too, in the rest of the Western world. It's no wonder that the most highly secularized nations--those in Western Europe--also have the hardest time explaining why they have a right to defend their own historically Christian cultures from the fundamentalist Muslim culture that--and here we return to LGF--blogger Charles Johnson regards with understandable anxiety and dismay.

Yet if Johnson and like-minded conservatives had their way on the evolution issue, basically banishing challenges to Darwinism from public life, they might well succeed only in hastening the very fate--the West's increasing capitulation to terror--that they otherwise so earnestly and effectively warn us against.