Saturday, May 05, 2007


Bruce Chapman, the Discovery Institute, and "Social Undesirables"

Thursday was a red letter day for intelligent design beliefniks.

At a debate between Republican presidential candidates, Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, and Tom Tancredo hustled votes from Christian fundamentalists by holding up their hands to say they don't believe in evolution.

The same day, in a debate with fellow conservatives Larry Arnhart and John Derbyshire at the American Enterprise Institute, Discovery fellows John West and George Gilder added flesh to the bones of their new intelligent design strategy linking Darwin and evolution to Hitler and the Nazis.

The notion that “the whole universe contains no intelligence,” Mr. Gilder said at Thursday’s conference, is perpetuated by “Darwinian storm troopers.”

“Both Nazism and communism were inspired by Darwinism,” he continued. “Why conservatives should toady to these storm troopers is beyond me.”

Gilder's linking of Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution to Hitler, the Nazis, and communism echoes charges made in a series of speeches by West in recent days and in a flurry of posts on Discovery's Evolution News and Views blog and William Dembski's Uncommon Descent among others.

"It won’t do any good for Darwinists to huff and puff about West’s linkage of Darwinism and the eugenics movement that sterilized scores of thousands of Americans deemed unfit in the early decades of the last century," writes Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute, "the concurrent rise of the abortion movement and the extermination of hundreds of thousands of supposed social undesirables by the Nazis in Germany."

What is interesting about Discovery's new campaign to link Darwin to Hitler is not simply that it is false -- which it is -- but that Hitler's first steps down the road toward the extermination of Jews, Gypsies, and other "social undesirables" are now being copied by Discovery and its allies on the Christian right.

Like today's Christian right, Hitler too, was all about values.

"Hitler, days after he took power in 1933, imposed a ban on all homosexual and lesbian organizations," writes Chris Hedges, a former New York Times foreign correspondent and author of The Christian Right and the Rise of American Fascism. "He ordered raids on places where homosexuals gathered culminating with the ransacking of the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin. Thousands of volumes from the Institute's library were tossed into a bonfire."

(Books that contained the "false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism" were also consigned to the flames by the Nazis, as Nick Matzke, of the National Center for Science Education has ably demonstrated.)

"Homosexuals would also be the first 'deviants' singled out by the Christian Right," Hedges was told by his ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School, Dr. James Luther Adams, who was in Germany in 1935 and 1936 and worked with the underground anti-Nazi church, known as The Confessing Church, led by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

While Chapman and Discovery do not yet have Hitler's political power, they've already made their intentions unmistakeably clear.

As we reported Thursday, the Discovery Institute is financed in large part by a Christian Reconstructionist named Howard Ahmanson. Ahmanson inherited 300 million from his father, some reports suggest that he may be worth as much as a billion dollars today.

Ahmanson and his father had a difficult, distant relationship. After years of searching, the younger Ahmanson found a mentor and father figure in Rousas Rushdoony, the intellectual founder of Christian Reconstructionism. Just as Muslim fundamentalists such as Osama bin Laden want governments to enforce Sharia law, Christian Reconstructionists want them to enforce biblical law.

Rushdoony was an anti-Semite and a racist apologist for American slavery. He advocated stoning as a punishment for capital crimes -- homosexuality being one of those crimes.

According to the Bible, when Jesus said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," no one stepped forward. The Christian Reconstructionists, however, are eager to get on with the job.

When Rushdoony died in 2001, Ahmanson and his wife were at his side. It is sometimes said that Ahmanson eventually rejected Rushdoony's views on stoning, but a statement he made as recently as 2004 is less than convincing:

"I think what upsets people is that Rushdoony seemed to think--and I'm not sure about this--that a godly society would stone people for the same thing that people in ancient Israel were stoned…. I no longer consider that essential."

"It would still be a little hard to say that if one stumbled on a country that was doing that, that it is inherently immoral, to stone people for these things," he added. "But I don't think it's at all a necessity."

It's nice to know Ahmanson no longer considers stoning "essential," but he's still an easy touch for anything anti-gay.

Ahmanson, according to Max Blumenthal who wrote a profile of him for Salon, is a "key financier of the Christian right with a penchant for anti-gay campaigns.

Already underwriting Discovery for millions, Ahmanson was the natural go-to guy when Discovery's president, Bruce Chapman, wanted to engineer a split between moderates and conservatives in the Episcopal Church. To do this, Chapman knew, fundraising would be a "critical topic."

To pry money out of Ahmanson for his Episcopal Church project, as Blumenthal tells it, Chapman knew they would have to appeal to his most deeply held prejudices. So, Chapman and others concocted a smear campaign against the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop, the Rt. Rev. Eugene Robinson.

They falsely accused Robinson of "sexual harassment and administering a bisexual pornography Web site," which according to Blumenthal prompted "three wealthy dioceses to split with the Episcopal Church and join the Anglican Council's renegade network."

In each case, Chapman, and Discovery's, attacks employ the same methodology perfected by Hitler and other totalitarians: Rather than fight on the battleground of ideas, they smear science by falsely linking it, cynically, to Hitler and the Holocaust. Unable to oppose Robinson's investiture on the merits, they slander an honorable and open gay man with a false charge of sexual harassment and operating a porn site on the web.

Rushdoony, Ahmanson, Chapman, West, Gilder and the rest of the Discovery crew don't link Darwin and evolution to Hitler and the Nazis out of any concern about the extermination of "social undesirables." That would be too much like liberal guilt. In reality, like the Nazis, they despise homosexuals, Jews, Muslims, black people, immigrants, and the poor.

Hitler's early scapegoating of gays paved the way for the Holocaust. Like any bully, he picked the weakest victims first, dividing his opposition and intimidating those who opposed him. Discovery, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Christian Reconstructionism, scapegoats Darwin and evolution -- both just stand-ins for science, democracy, and an open, secular society -- and gays for the same reason.


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