Hitler and Evolution

The first line of the ISU Daily article Avalos: ‘Expelled’ wrong on Holocaust sums up the lecture that Dr. Avalos presented on Hitler and Evolution on Wednesday April 23.

An ISU professor gave a failing grade to the pro-intelligent-design film “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.”

Avalos: ‘Expelled’ wrong on Holocaust

Hitler a creationist, Nazis’ banned books list included Darwin

By Thomas Grundmeier

Published: Wednesday, April 23, 2008 2:00 AM CDT
CORRECTION added 1 p.m. Wednesday.

An ISU professor gave a failing grade to the pro-intelligent-design film “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.”

Hector Avalos, professor of philosophy and rel igious studies, presented a lecture Tuesday night in response to the Ben Stein documentary released last week – specifically, a statement made in the movie that Darwinism was “necessary” for the Holocaust to occur. The lecture was hosted by the ISU Atheist and Agnostic Society.

Avalos’ first point was that the term “Darwinism,” as used in the film, is an “outdated and simplistic description of evolutionary theory today.”

“Evolutionary theory has progressed far beyond what Darwin has done,” he said.

Avalos said all he had to do to disprove that particular assertion was show that major elements of the Holocaust already existed before the advent of Darwinism, which he said occurred in 1859, the year “The Origin of Species” was first published.

Avalos said there is a long history of anti-Jewish violence perpetrated by Christians, citing the First Crusade, the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290 and the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492.

Martin Luther’s seven-point plan was one example cited by Avalos of anti-Semitism from a Christian scholar. In the plan, Luther outlines his ideas of burning Jewish synagogues and schools, destroying Jewish homes and taking away religious texts.

“Did Luther need Darwinism for that seven-point plan?” Avalos said. “No, you have the Nazi plan already in 1543.”

A portion of Luther’s text, Avalos said, comes from a passage in the New Testament, which was also used on road signs in Nazi Germany.

“Some Christian and Jewish scholars can agree that the New Testament contains anti-Jewish passages that should be removed or re-interpreted,” he said.

Avalos said Adolf Hitler was a creationist who used biblical and theological rationales in his policies. He quoted a portion of “Mein Kampf” in which Hitler writes “I believe I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.”

The Nazis were opposed to Darwin’s writings, Avalos said, because the books were placed on a banned book list in 1935.

“It doesn’t say, you know, ‘we love it.’ They’re banning it,” he said.

In the movie, Stein reads a quote by Darwin that seems to advocate eugenics. Avalos admitted the quote sounds bad, but only because the following paragraph is omitted, he said, in which Darwin states that ignoring sympathy would deteriorate “the noblest part of our nature.”

“In other words, sympathy can also evolve and be a good part of natural selection,” Avalos said.

“In leaving out the very next paragraph, most people who go to the movie [who] haven’t read ‘The Descent of Man,’ haven’t read ‘The Origin of Species,’ haven’t read ‘Mein Kampf’ are going to be easily bamboozled by this.”

Avalos said “Expelled” ignores the extermination of American Indians carried out by European colonists after 1492.

“If you read Columbus’ works, it’s based on biblical [works] – no Darwin there.”

Avalos received a smattering of applause after his lecture, but not all in attendance agreed with the professor.

“I thought it was kind of ironic when he quoted the Bible, he would only used one little quote,” said Mike Reeder, senior in earth science. “When he quoted Darwinism, he made sure we got a lot of the, you know, more-to-its. And anyone with half a brain knows that you can’t just read one or two lines from any book and expect to know the whole concept of what that line means.”

Reeder said Avalos missed the point of the film by focusing on Darwinism and Nazis.

“I think the major point of the movie was the fact that in this country, in our major universities, there are people being identified and sorted out and gotten rid of just because of their beliefs. I wouldn’t even say that all of them had that belief, it’s just, hey, it’s an interesting theory – just like evolution, it’s an interesting theory – you know, theories were made to be studied. Any of ’em,” he said.

Anastasia Bodnar, president of the ISU Atheists and Agnostics Society and graduate student in interdepartmental genetics, said that even though it sounds like a cliché, the lecture was put on “for the children.” She said some private schools have been offered prizes for having the highest attendance at the movie’s premiere.

“What’s going to happen when this generation of children grows up, and we’re looking for them to make the future of our society – to become scientists, to become doctors, or to become anything, politicians, lawyers, whatever. Where are going to be in 20 or 30 years when these kids are grown up and this is all they know?”

She said future generations need to realize that atheists and Christians who are secure in their beliefs don’t have to be at odds.

“I have many Christian friends who are getting degrees – Ph.D.s – in genetics,” Bodnar said. “These guys are evolutionists – they must be to do the science they’re doing. They’re also very secure in their faith, and I just think that’s great, I think that’s beautiful, that they’re able to have both those things.”

Copyright © 2009 – Iowa State Daily
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