Jefferson vs. Hitler

Expelled and the Nazi–Evolution Connection

Dr. David DeWitt examines the Darwinism–Nazism connection examined in Ben Stein’s new film Expelled.

The new movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, starring Ben Stein, was released in theaters on April 18. The documentary chronicles the mistreatment a number of individuals received because they dared to question Darwinism. It further explores the link between evolutionary theory and the atrocities of the Holocaust.

No doubt one of the most moving scenes in the film occurs when Ben Stein (a well-known social commentator, former presidential speechwriter, economist, comedian, and actor), visits Hadamar in Germany. Hadamar was a psychiatric hospital where thousands of people were killed in gas chambers or by lethal injection because they had disabilities or mental problems. Stein (who is Jewish) walks through a room that was supposed to be a shower—but instead was a gas chamber where thousands met their demise. Thinking about these horrific deaths and the connection to evolution brought tears to my eyes.

I had heard comments about the film and the way it portrayed the Nazism–evolution link before it was released to the general public, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Most of the negative comments were from evolutionists who bitterly complained about the film’s portrayal of evolution’s link to the Holocaust, claiming it was over the top and inappropriate. I paid close attention to this part of the movie and felt the film did a good job. For one, those on screen were careful to say that not all who espouse evolution would do the horrible things the Nazis did. Moreover, Stein spoke to Richard Weikart, who has documented the connection in his book From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany.

Connecting evolution to racism and eugenics are not new.

Connecting evolution to racism and eugenics are not new. Indeed, Answers in Genesis has been discussing this link for a number of years, most recently with Ken Ham and Charles Ware’s book Darwin’s Plantation: Evolution’s Racist Roots. But is connecting Darwin and the Nazis fair, or is it a fallacious cheap shot, as evolutionists claim?

To answer this question, I would like to describe a trip to Washington, D.C., that I took with students from my class on origins. We visited the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, where we were introduced to “great grandma Morgie,” the “oldest mammal ancestor.” We were invited to the “Mammal Family Reunion” where we could “meet our relatives.” We were also informed that humans were the result of “time, genes, and a little luck.”

But after this adventure, we went to the Jefferson Memorial where we read on the wall:

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Another quote from Jefferson on the wall reads:

God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?1

Jefferson correctly reasoned that the only firm basis for the rights to life and liberty that we hold so dear is the firm conviction that they are inalienable rights that come from the Creator. Without the acknowledgement of a Creator, there is no unshakable basis for human value, liberty, and dignity. While Jefferson’s religious beliefs—and, ironically inconsistent with this, his views on slavery—were different from that of many Christians today, nonetheless, the principle—that human value rests on acknowledgment of the Creator—is true.

For comparison, we can consider the words of Ernst Mayr, a prominent evolutionist:

Curiously, I cannot pinpoint the age at which I became an evolutionist. I received all of my education in Germany, where evolution was not really controversial. In the gymnasium (equivalent to a U.S. high school), my biology teacher took evolution for granted. So, I am quite certain, did my parents—who, to interest their three teenage sons, subscribed to a popular natural history journal that accepted evolution as a fact. Indeed, in Germany at that time there was no Protestant fundamentalism. And after I had entered university, no one raised any questions about evolution, either in my medical curriculum or in my preparations for the Ph.D. Those who were unable to adopt creation as a plausible solution for biological diversity concluded that evolution was the only rational explanation for the living world.2

Mayr describes for us the situation in Germany in the early 1900s when he was growing up. Evolution had been widely accepted, and no one seriously questioned it. The stage was set for Hitler and the Holocaust decades before it took place. Given the “fact” of evolution, if there are individuals that are more fit than others, it would stand to reason that certain races might be more fit than others.

It is important to point out that the acceptance of evolutionary theory does not automatically engender reprehensible atrocities like the Holocaust. However, it does provide a possible foundation. Hitler and the Nazis would not have been able to promote their aberrant views so easily without the fertile ground for their acceptance already in place.

Evolutionists typically counter the charge that Darwinism paved the way for tragedies like the Holocaust with three arguments:3

  1. Since three vastly different socio-political philosophies (Nazism, communism, and laissez-faire capitalism) are all supposed to be based on natural selection as social Darwinism, it must be that they do not follow directly from the theory of evolution.
  2. Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Andrew Carnegie based their philosophies on a misunderstanding of evolution and simply twisted it to support their own ends.
  3. Even the Bible has been twisted to support excesses like witch hunts and the Crusades.

If we want to understand how such different men and different philosophies could ultimately be based on the same principles of evolution, we need to identify what they have in common. In each case, man is viewed as a means to an end. There is no intrinsic value and worth derived from being created in the image of God. Therefore, although each of these philosophies comes from a different angle, the end goal is the same. While it is true that the Bible has been twisted, the fact is that it was twisted. Social Darwinism is not a perversion of the principles of Darwinian evolution. On the contrary, it is taking them to their natural, logical conclusion. Further, if there were no connection to evolution then why is it called social Darwinism? If man is the product of random chance—warmed-over pond scum after a few billion years—then what difference does it make what happens? Man is but a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow, and ultimately nobody cares. From such philosophies, the only thing that really matters is passing on genes to the next generation.

When Richard Dawkins and other atheistic evolutionists insist that they value human life, they are being inconsistent. On the one hand, they claim that human life has value, but on the other, they dogmatically assert that we are an accident—the lucky result of random mutations over millions of years. According to this view, there is no intrinsic value to human life, which is barely a blip on the radar screen of the universe. Moreover, there is no basis for any type of morality. Those like Dawkins who deny the existence of God actually borrow their concept of right and wrong from theism because they have no basis for morality in their own view.

When Francis Collins, Ken Miller and others claim to believe in God and yet advocate strongly for evolution, they play into the hands of people like Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education. In the film, Eugenie emphasizes those religious traditions who have no problem whatsoever with evolution. But she has no patience for those who would deny evolution. In one recent interview with NPR, she suggested that the only role in science for those who believe in creation would be that of a test-tube washer.4 But creationists have frequently explained why molecules-to-man evolution is incompatible with the teachings of the Bible.5

Genesis shows us that men and women are created in the image of God and have intrinsic value that cannot be taken away. What happens when people fail to acknowledge God as Creator and do not glorify Him as such? Paul tells us in Romans 1:18–23 that they give up a lot.

Dr. David A. DeWitt is director of the Center for Creation Studies and a professor of biology at Liberty University. He is also the author of the new book Unraveling the Origins Controversy.


  1. The words on the monument are actually a paraphrase. The original quote is, “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?” From Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, 1794.
  2. Ernst Mayr, “80 years of Watching the Evolutionary Scenery,” Science 305:46–47, 2004.
  3. William Thwaites, “Would We All Behave Like Animals? A Conversation,” National Center for Science Education, December 7, 2000.
  4. Creationist Says Lab Fired Him for His Beliefs, All Things Considered, January 6, 2008.
  5. David A. DeWitt, “Why I Rejected Theistic Evolution,” January 12, 2004.


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