During the weekend of August 26-27, 2006, Americans were given another opportunity to see “Crackpot Christianity” in action. All they had to do was tune in to The Coral Ridge Hour and watch its presentation of Darwin’s Deadly Legacy. I watched it Saturday evening and was respectively amused and appalled by the show’s infantilism and dishonesty. Although it would not persuade any educated American, the show’s dishonesty implies a staggering contempt for its intended audience — the untaught.
Knowing the audience, I expected such buffoonery and mendacity. As I demonstrated in an earlier article (Part 1), the overwhelming majority of America’s Christians know next to nothing about the origins and actual composition — let alone the myriad contradictions — of the holy book they ostensibly revere. Why would they know anything more about the evolutionary biology so many of them despise?
In addition, I already had read the asinine assertion made by the program’s foremost crackpot Christian, Dr. D. James Kennedy: “To put it simply, no Darwin, no Hitler.” It prompted an immediate response from Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League: “This is an outrageous and shoddy attempt by D. James Kennedy to trivialize the horrors of the Holocaust…Trivializing the Holocaust comes from either ignorance at best or, at worst, a mendacious attempt to score political points in the culture war on the backs of six million Jewish victims and other who died at the hands of the Nazis.”
Moreover, Mr. Foxman noted: “It must be remembered that D. James Kennedy is a leader among a distinct group of ‘Christian Supremacists’ who seek to “reclaim America for Christ” and turn the U.S. into a Christian nation guided by their strange notions of biblical law.” In other words, a crackpot Christian.
But, when Mr. Foxman observed, “Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan to exterminate the Jewish people,” he didn’t know he was making a point that already had been conceded by one of the show’s few serious scholars, Richard Weikart. Mr. Foxman didn’t know, because Professor Weikart’s concession doesn’t appear in Kennedy’s sixty-minute propaganda piece, but in Weikart’s own book From Darwin to Hitler.
Granted, Professor Weikart “became convinced that there were significant historical connections between Darwinism and Hitler’s ideology” [From Darwin to Hitler, p. x]. But he refused to make “the absurd claim that Darwinism of logical necessity leads (directly or indirectly) to Nazism.” [Ibid. p. 9]
Moreover, in the concluding chapter of his book, Weikart notes: “It would be foolish to blame Darwinism for the Holocaust, as though Darwinism leads logically to the Holocaust. No, Darwinism by itself did not produce Hitler’s worldview, and many Darwinists drew quite different conclusions from Darwinism for ethics and social thought than did Hitler.” [Ibid, p. 232]
Unfortunately, the dishonesty of Darwin’s Deadly Legacy extends far beyond that fact that the show’s one serious historian, unbeknownst to the audience, actually disputes Kennedy’s crackpot assertion: “No Darwin, No Hitler.” The show also quotes Darwin out of context, takes cheap shots at Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, misrepresents the court’s ruling in “Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al.” and turns to one of its “historians” to inform us that the “Nazis loved science.”
Worse, after showing pictures of the Nazi death camps, viewers hear that Darwin’s ideas made the whole thing possible. Moreover, the show informs its viewers that the wicked theory of evolution played a major role in the shootings a Columbine High School. Worse still, it then notes — presumably with the intention of insinuating a connection — that there have been dozens of school shootings since Columbine. Even if such innuendo had substance, such crimes would pale in significance when compared with the murderous history of Christianity.
The show also trots out two legitimate scientists who claim to have found holes in the theory of evolution. One supports microevolution, but discounts macroevolution. The other supports Intelligent Design, notwithstanding the fact that his “own department’s website disowns his bizarre ideas.” [Jerry Coyne, "Coultergeist,"The New Republic].
Unfortunately, the show fails to acknowledge that these two scientists are members of a small minority. It also fails to acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of America’s scientists find the theory of evolution convincing, because it works.
Works? Yes, as Jared Diamond has observed: “Without evolution, one has no chance of understanding the living world around us, human uniqueness, genetic diseases and their possible cures, and genetically engineered crops and their possible dangers.” [Ernst Mayr, What Evolution Is, pp. ix-x] Or, as the highly esteemed Ernst Mayr observed: “Evolution is the most important concept in biology. There is not a single Why? question in biology that can be answered adequately without a consideration of evolution.” [Ibid, xiii]
Dr. Kennedy’s failure to disclose the minority position of the show’s two scientists was hardly an accident. He needed to deceive viewers in order to assure them that that the theory of evolution is “crumbling.”
Unfortunately, none of these distortions in Darwin’s Deadly Legacy so clearly demonstrate the contempt with which these crackpot Christians view their audience as does the very appearance of Ann Coulter. Having Ann Coulter appear in a show devoted to evolution is like going to the Governor’s Ball and finding a turd in the punch bowl. It’s simply outrageous.
Because I’ve already done my time in purgatory by reviewing one of Ms. Coulter’s books for the San Francisco Chronicle, suffice it to say that, except for the 2 million or so pathetic and witless kool-aid drinkers who mindlessly adore her, Darwin’s Deadly Legacy would have gained greater mass credibility, had its producers decided to ask Bozo the Clown to pontificate on evolution.
(Note: For an exquisite critique of Coulter’s profound ignorance of biology, I strongly urge the reader to turn to Professor Jerry Coyne’s precious essay “Coultergeist”.)
But, before closing the book on Dr. Kennedy’s dreadfully dishonest diversion, a few words about how Hitler actually came to power appear to be in order. For they help to explain what Dr. Kennedy and Ann Coulter really are up to.
Readers of the renowned historian Fritz Stern know that one of the historic developments that “had a special bearing on the vulnerability of Germans to National Socialism” was the “silent secularization” of German evangelical Protestantism. [Stern, Dreams and Delusions, p. 135]
According to Professor Stern, throughout the nineteenth century, “the awe once reserved for the worship of the divine came to be associated with this world’s institutions and practices.” Thus, “the Protestant ministry became the king’s spiritual guard; it exalted king, nation, Volk…God was the guarantor of the nation’s ever-growing power and importance. God had given Germany its victory in 1871 and Church and Monarch routinely implored and expected divine blessings on a Germanic Christian State.” [Ibid, p. 137]
Consequently, German Protestants were devastated by their country’s defeat in World War I. And, to add insult to their post-war personal hardships, evangelical Protestants had to endure the despicably weak democratic liberalism of the Weimar Republic, which made a point of separating church and state. [Ibid, p140]
For Germany’s Nazis, as for Dr. Kennedy and especially Ms. Coulter today, “liberalism was the chief enemy.” [Stern, The Politics of Cultural Despair, p. 295] And like Dr. Kennedy and Ms. Coulter today, the Nazis emphasized its “cultural rottenness and political irresponsibility.” [Ibid, p. 292]
According to Stern, beyond their mutual disdain for liberalism, “There were many reason why Protestants in particular were disproportionately drawn to Hitler, but we know from individual witnesses that his pseudo-religious, chiliastic promises attracted them far more than any other part of his rhetoric.” [Stern, Dreams and Delusions, p. 145] So much, then, for Darwin’s Deadly Legacy.
Finally, readers of Dr. Gregory A. Boyd’s book, The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church, might see parallels between Hitler’s appeal to secularized German Protestants and the appeal of Dr. Kennedy and Ms. Coulter to evangelical Protestants in America today.
According to Dr. Boyd, the senior pastor of the Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, “For some evangelicals, the kingdom of God is largely about, if not centered on, ‘taking America back for God,’ voting for the Christian candidate, outlawing abortion, outlawing gay marriage, winning the culture war, defending political freedom at home and abroad, keeping the phrase ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance, fighting for prayer in the public schools and at public events, and fighting to display the Ten Commandments in government buildings.” [p. 11]
Yet, in Boyd’s view, “this perspective is misguided” because the “fusing together [of] the kingdom of God with this or any other version of the kingdom of the world is idolatrous.” Or as Stern might call it, “silent secularization.” Moreover, Pastor Boyd believes that “this fusion is having serious negative consequences for Christ’s church and for the advancement of God’s kingdom.” [Ibid]
You might keep both Professor Stern’s and Pastor Boyd’s warnings in mind the next time a scapegoating Christian Supremacist teams up with a horse-faced intellectual slut to advance their crackpot Christianity and obnoxious conservatism.