The Science Insider is reporting that an anti-evolution group will be hosting what they’re calling an “Origin Summit” on the campus of Michigan State University this weekend, in part in response to ongoing research being conducted at the University that further substantiates the theory of evolution. According to the website of the Oklahoma-based Christian group behind the event, the symposium will include eight workshops, one of which will focus on how evolutionary theory informed the worldview of Adolf Hitler. That session, in case you’re interested, will be run by Dr. Gerald Bergman, who, depending on which source you choose to believe, is either a distinguished academic or a raving lunatic who has only published in the likes of the Creation Research Society Quarterly since being denied tenure at Bowling Green State University in ’79 and fired the year after… Given that Bergman has said publicly that Darwin’s main goal was not to increase human understanding relative to the origin of life, but to “murder” God, my sense is that the latter is probably a more accurate reflection, but I’ll let you be the judge.
I’d had plans to tell you about my recent near death experience in Georgia tonight, but instead I find myself frantically flipping back and forth between Bergman’s Facebook page, where he discusses his upcoming book, “Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview,” and the court case he brought against Bowling Green for wrongful termination. And now I’m wondering if there’s any way I might be able to get to MSU this weekend to see for myself just how far Bergman is willing to go to demonize our old friend Darwin.
Here, by way of background, is a clip from the Science Insider.
…News of the event caught MSU’s scientific community largely by surprise. Creation Summit secured a room at the university’s business school through a student religious group, but the student group did not learn about the details of the program—or the sometimes provocative talk titles—until later, says MSU zoologist Fred Dyer. The talk titles led Dyer to suspect that the student group was not involved in planning the conference, he says, prompting him to look into its origins.
Creation Summit sought to hold the event at MSU because “four of our Board members live there in Michigan,” wrote Mike Smith, the group’s executive director, in an e-mail to Science Insider. “We hope to have conferences on campuses throughout the country, but ya gotta start somewhere.”
Creation Summit is “not overtly evangelistic,” Smith wrote. But “we hope to pave the way for evangelism (for the other campus ministries) by presenting the scientific evidence for intelligent design. Once students realize they’re created beings, and not the product of natural selection, they’re much more open to the Gospel, to the message of God’s love & forgiveness.”
MSU has a prominent community of evolutionary biologists. In addition to Lenski, it is the home campus of biologist Robert Pennock, who provided high-profile testimony in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, a 2005 federal court case that produced a ruling against the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. MSU is also the lead partner in the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, a multiuniversity effort funded by the National Science Foundation that pursues a wide range of evolution-related research and education efforts.
Some leaders of MSU’s evolutionary biology community are urging their colleagues to simply ignore the event, predicting that any engagement and debate will be fruitless. “In my opinion, this event will be just another forgettable blip in the long history of antiscience, antievolution screeds,” Lenski says…
For what it’s worth, I don’t deny that Hitler was likely influenced by Darwin. That, of course, isn’t the same as saying that Darwin is somehow complicit in the killing of millions Hitler saw as inferior, as Bergman is suggesting. For those interested in delving deeper on the subject, I’d suggest Dan McMillan’s recent piece at Salon.com, pulled from his book How Could This Happen: Explaining the Holocaust. As McMillan says, “The evolution theorist couldn’t have known that people like Hitler would exploit his ideas in such horrifying ways.” But that, I suspect, was probably already obvious to all of us capable of rational thought.
While the provocateur in me appreciates Bergman’s attempt to popularize the phrase “Nazi Darwinian Worldview” in hopes of furthering his political objectives, it just doesn’t stand up to even the slightest scrutiny. I mean, I get where he’s coming from. I get that he’d like to suggest that mass-extermination, school shootings and the like are what you’re sure to get if you question the infallible word of God as conveyed through the Bible, but there isn’t really any evidence of that. Sure, Hitler may have deluded himself that what he was doing wasn’t evil based upon his understanding of Darwin’s theories, but that doesn’t mean that Darwin is responsible for the extermination of millions any more than the Beatles are responsible for the crimes of the Manson Family or J.D. Salinger for the murder of John Lennon. Millions and millions of people accept the fact that life evolved on this planet, and they’ve done so without calling for the extermination of religious minorities. Not just that, but many of them actually profess to be deeply religious. Take, for example, Pope Francis, who just made his feelings on evolution known this past weekend when he said, When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so.” This isn’t about good versus evil. This is about truth versus fear. And Gerald Bergman is on the wrong side of history.
One last thing… As our friend Doug Skinner just reminded me, “Hitler never mentioned Darwin. He did, however, call Henry Ford his ‘inspiration’.”