History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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The German tragedy and the Xtian right’s confusion over modernity

March 31st, 2015 · No Comments

You might think that the culture that allowed Nazism had been fully examined already, but M. D. Aeschliman, the distinguished American critic living in Switzerland, describes in the new St. Austin Review (edited by Joseph Pearce) the ways that Germany from the Enlightenment onward developed a truculent secularism that encouraged the National Socialists. See “Dissociation of Sensibility: The German Tragedy Revisited.”

The most intriguing insight in this thorough essay is Aeschliman’s observation that Goethe set the scene in the 18th Century with his praise of art and science as substitutes for religion. Unmoored from faith, the devotees of “Kulture” and science (overwhelmingly materialistic and Darwinian) in the 19th and 20th centuries were ready allies of the anti-Semites and others who influenced Hitler. Aeschliman gives considerable credit to Dr. Richard Weikart (Discovery Institute Fellow and professor at Cal State Stanislaus) and his scholarship on the topic.


The work of Weikart, although controversial and not fully satisfactory, is one of the few, if not sole, study from the religious right critiquing social darwinism and its influence on nazism. Scientists protest this, but the argument isn’t exactly speculation: you may quote the proposition into the claim of indirect influence without much trouble.

But this line of thinking is too often as here used to claim that the the onset of ‘secularism’ itself, with Goethe no less now a culprit, is the source of nazism. That makes no sense. Rightwing Xtians have their own history to answer for, and the idea it is guided by divinity away from evil seems a bit thin these days as we watch these superidiots graft Ayn Rand onto Xtian doctrine.
Note the point: rightwing Protestant Xtianity is all too often an abortion of religion. Critics of Darwin have scored a coup of sorts, but the larger perspective of Xtian theology is highly flawed as an instrument of social analysis. That modernity turned away from god and germans in that state produced nazism is not a viable thesis.
Conservative Xtians are afraid of the modern world, but the shoe is often on the other foot in this context: it is secular modernity that is rescuing Xtianity from oblivion.
It is important to note, and challenge conservative critics of modernity, that the core of Hitler’s ‘philosophy’ was itself an antimodernist viewpoint.

Germany suffered a tragedy whose causes are still obscure. But they can’t be sourced in the early modern (despite the antisemitism of Luther) and they don’t correspond to the reality of the German transition to modernity: Despite nearly sinking beneath the waves in the virulence of the Reformation, Germany emerged slowly from the Thirty Years War to produce probably the largest contribution to the foundations of modernity. Check out Peter Watson’s The German Genius. Germany produced a staggering number of innovations in the period of the late Enlightenment onward.

It doesn’t help to analyze a phenomenon this complicated with fourth rate Xtian doctrines of the Bible Belt.
However the essay cited is worth studying: http://www.staustinreview.com/uploads/issues/March_April_2015_AESCHLIMAN.pdf

Despite the obvious influence of Darwin and Nietzsche there is no easy way to analyze the rise of Nazism. It just goes off the meter and fails to register its own causality. Students of occultism we should note have long been on the scent here and there is a huge ‘crackpot’ literature on the subject of nazism and the occult. We cannot arrive at a scientific understanding here using such a perspective but the suspicion is strong that figures like Hitler were drones or Manchurian candidates of some kind.
We have noted over at The Gurdjieff Con the various candidates for this kind of occult fascism. In any case the reactionary right developed very rapidly in the nineteenth century, and the question of antisemitism arises with it, and then goes off the meter. One clear aspect of that was paranoia by Germans at the sudden onset of Jewish domination during the Weimar period. Americans have suffered something similar, in fact far worse. but they haven’t turned into Nazis. But the jewish domination effect was one factor in the mix, to be sure. But the larger demonic extravagance of the nazi period remains mysterious. Especially after the massive influence of the German early modernity. So, in any case, nitpicking Goethe here is completely off the mark. The quotation about aesthetic snobbery and the replacement of religion with art/science is hardly the explanation of anything. Such sentiments are so common that to demonize them as feats of the antichrist is almost childish.
These are views of those who think modernity is evil because because Xtianity began to wane, and it doesn’t wash. Modern civilization as a whole has been on the whole far more compassionate and intelligent about nature than Xtianity. The critique doesn’t hold.

To reiterate the point: the aesthetic snobbery and its ‘religion’ that looked down on religion as such has had some bad moments but the sentiment is so frequent that we are forced to see its half-truth.

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