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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Finnish school shooter: Social Darwinism's role in mass murder

Note: If you were linked to this story, be sure to see Update 1, Update 2, and Update 3 below.

I just got done rejecting a large number of comments from people who claim to enjoy this blog but nonetheless consider the report last evening of the Darwinist sympathies of the Finnish school shooter to be in poor taste.

(I suppose the Finns didn’t know they were supposed to suppress that part of the story, so that it would only be discovered thirty years from now by a gutsy researcher ... )

First, it’s rubbish that anyone who enjoys this blog was upset. This blog has published many more pungent stories and I urge anyone who doubts that to investigate the archives. While you’re there, have a look at the way in which scholar Richard Weikart found himself the target of similar attacks for his careful study of social Darwinism in From Darwin to Hitler.

Second, if people honestly think that the boy’s social Darwinism played no role in his shooting spree, I assume that they also think that toxic religious beliefs play no role in Middle Eastern-directed suicide bombings.

I disagree in both cases. Beliefs have consequences.

While we are here, I think that - while individual atheists can be highly moral - materialist atheist creeds in the twentieth century were demonstrably more likely to exterminate vast numbers of people than any traditional orientations.

There are several good reasons for that, but the most obvious is this one: The materialist atheist does not believe that there is any underlying mind, meaning or purpose in the universe. In principle, then, it is not true that humans are of more significance than tent caterpillars. And if they are a problem, the materialist atheist who is in power need not have any compunction in dealing with them in the same way as a gardener deals with tent caterpillars. He faces no judgment if he is wrong. He will someday be a corpse just like the ones he surrounds himself with.

Yes, of course, an atheist may choose to behave differently from that, as most do - except that materialist atheists do not in fact believe in free will. So they aren't choosing to behave differently - they are merely happening not to behave that way. Not much on which to build a society.

And I'm supposed to take their "offended" posture seriously?

Someone mentioned Ann Coulter to me recently, and I happen to have her book Godless out of the library. Those of you who get off on being offended will really appreciate this:
The path between Darwinism and Nazism may not be ineluctable, but it is more ineluctable than the evolutionary path from monkey to man. Darwin's theory overturned every aspect of Biblical morality. Instead of honor thy mother and father, the Darwinian ethic was honor thy children. Instead of enshrining moral values, the Darwinian ethic enshrined biological instincts. Instead of transcendent moral values, the Darwinian ethic said all morals are relative. Instead of sanctifying life, the Darwinian ethic sanctified death.

So it should not be surprising that eugenicists, racists, and assorted psychopaths always gravitate to Darwinism. From the most evil dictators to today's antismoking crusaders, sexual profligates, and animal rights nuts, Darwinism has infected the whole culture. And yet small schoolchildren who know that George Washington had slaves are never told of the centrality of Darwin's theory to Nazism, eugenics, abortion, infanticide, "racial hygiene" societies, genocide, and the Soviet gulags. (p. 269)

Apparently, they don't need to be told about it, actually. Young Pekka Eric Auvinen only needed to embrace the ideology.

(I wonder if news authorities will be pressured to remove any references to Auvinen's views from the story, to avoid "confusing" people about Darwinism. That happens a lot here in Canada with fanatical Islamists, who allegedly represent a broad spectrum of society. That is about as true as Darwinism is, as you will see from reading the linked story.)

Coulter goes on to say,
In his magnificent book From Darwin to Hitler, Richard Weikart documents the proliferation of eugenics organizations in Germany around 1900, all of which asserted their "scientific imprimatur by claiming harmony wit the laws of evolution." Darwin's theory was quickly and widely accepted among German biologists, a fact Darwin noted with approval, telling a friend, "The support which I receive from Germany is my chief ground for hoping that our views will ultimately prevail." Darwinism provided the lingo for "scientific" racism at the onset of the twentieth century. Not only were all eugenicists Darwinists, but nearly all Darwinists were scientific racists.

I never thought social Darwinism made sense, being more in Stephen Jay Gould's anti-social Darwininst Mismeasure of Man camp myself. But most Darwinists thought it did make sense, and that is very well documented. And, come to think of it,for much of his life Gould was an indifferently loyal Darwinist.

Update 1:

Barry Arrington, the lawyer for the families of six of the students killed at Columbine responds to the combox below:

As the attorney for the families of six of the students killed at Columbine, I read through every single page of Eric Harris’ jounals; I listened to all of the audio tapes and watched the videotapes, including the infamous “basement tapes.” There cannot be the slightest doubt that Harris was a worshiper of Darwin and saw himself as acting on Darwinian principles. For example, he wrote: “YOU KNOW WHAT I LOVE??? Natural SELECTION! It’s the best thing that ever happened to the Earth. Getting rid of all the stupid and weak organisms . . . but it’s all natural! YES!”

Elsewhere he wrote: “NATURAL SELECTION. Kill the retards.” I could multiply examples, but you get the picture.

Here, Arrington reflections on the ethical agonies of questioning the parents of Eric Harris.

Sorry, fanatical Darwinists. You must eat this one or back off. And don't bother bugging the University of Toronto either. They know I am teaching an adult night school course and they DON'T care.

Update 2. The Finnish school shooter's video has been removed from the Internet. A source tells me
The Finland school shooter's video has been removed from the internet. It is understandable that few media now want to cite his ideology at length. Here website here still has a long citation of the boy's statement. His strong ideological roots in Darwinism are more obvious than you will learn from the mass media.
Here is a still-working link for what are said to be Auvinen's views.

Go here for story updates.

Here is a still-working link for what are said to be his views.
Go here, here, here or here (German) for other copies/believed authentic items so far not purged.

Update 3

A friend sends a video clip of Dawkins making the point that a fanatical faith can cause people to become violent.

Dawkins said [01:14 - 02:17]:

“If you teach children or teach people, that there is a virtue in faith. If you teach people that it's OK to believe something in the absence of evidence. Maybe even it's more virtuous to believe something if there's no evidence than if there is and that's certainly part of the message that gets across.

And that's what is told by the moderate, decent, middle of the road, religious teachers. If you believe that, then if you have any tendency toward extremism at all, there is really nothing to stop you pushing your extreme views to the logical conclusion which is to kill people. Why would you not if you've been persuaded that this is what Allah wants you to do or Jehovah wants you to do? And you really really really truly believe it and you've been talked to really really truly believe it by those moderate teachers, then why wouldn't you blow people up, blow yourself up, etc.”

So, here we have a case of someone killing in name of Natural Selection!

(My friend hat tips Telic Thoughts.)

Final reflections on this topic:

This tragedy has provoked an enormous outburst of protest from Darwinists on account of my noting that the shooter's motive was social Darwinism. On the rare occasions when a shooter's motive has been anti-abortion advocacy ( Rudolph) or fundamentalist madness ( Yates), I have NEVER been excoriated by an anti-abortionist or fundamentalist for openly discussing that fact. Indeed, these types of cases were openly discussed among Christian journalists at a number of gatherings in which I participated over the last decade, with conspicuously little defensiveness. We had long accepted that some forms of anti-abortion advocacy and fundamentalism are toxic.

So this storm of comments has been a real eye-opener for me (and I probably rejected more than I accepted, so readers never saw all the somniferous posturing I did). The storm suggests that - despite claims - Darwinists have never dealt with the legacy of social Darwinism in an emotionally healthy enough way to just put it all behind them. Now that may be because the actual worldview of Darwinism necessitates social Darwinism. Or it may be because no one has said, "let's just do it." Or someone has said that, but the troops didn't get it. It's not really my problem though.

I have now shut off comments to this post. That is principally for reasons of time management. I wanted to provide a resource on this subject, and have done so. Conspiracy theorists are welcome to invent additional reasons for my actions if preferring to spend my time on more productive areas seems unbelievable.

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