Monday, May 19, 2008

Avalos vs. Weikart from Des Moines, IA

This radio debate stands out in a few ways from those that I’m used to hearing.  It centers upon a highly unusual question, that is, whether Darwinian or Christian ideology more influence on the ideology of Nazism.  Moreover, the debate mostly cenetered around questions of history and personal ideology rather than scientific or philosophical arguments.  

Weikart leads with a number of points at which scientific or pseudo-scientific theories were incorporated into the Nazi theories about race.  He fails to address the obvious problem of the is/ought gap between scientific truths and moral imperatives and in this failure he falls (ironically enough) into more-or-less the same fallacious thinking that embraced by those he reviles: inferring that the scientific truths of Darwinism somehow imply the moral imperatives of “Social Darwinism” or enforced eugenics.  This problem is never resolved in this debate, nor even much addressed so far as I could tell.

Avalos comes out swinging a giant brickbat, composed  of Christian writings which resembled the Nazi agenda so strongly as to be downright disturbing in their prescience.  Here is the complete passage as quoted from an earlier English translation than that generally used today.  After quoting Luther at some length, Avalos challenges Weikart to find anything remotely resembling an SS to-do list from the writings of Charles Darwin.

They go back and forth for awhile, each pointing out particular way in which the other guy’s ideological forebears influenced Nazi ideology and propaganda.  Neither debater clearly gains the advantage, but it struck me that Weikart always had to make a couple of weak inferences to get From Darwin to Hitler while Avalos drew a fairly bold and straight line from Lutheran dogma to 20th century German anti-Semitism.  

All told, it was not a bad listen, and doubly so considering it originated in terrestrial radio.


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