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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Expelled: Did Darwin really lead to Hitler? Better question: Did the suggestion lead to free publicity?

Bioethicist Arthur Caplan is convinced that Expelled isn't only bad, it's "immoral." and that principal character Ben Stein is guilty of "Holocaust denial." Forthat matter, Dave Springer over at Uncommon Descent has been pretty upset about it too.

Actually, it is a historical fact that the Nazis were very much influenced by Darwin. That doesn't mean Darwin or anyone else agreed with the Nazis. But people who go ballistic when his profound influence on the Nazis is discussed are just not facing reality - just as they were unable to face reality about the Finnish school shooter who was motivated by Darwinism.

Historian of Germany Richard Weikart's April 8, 2008 article in American Spectator offers:
As I show in meticulous detail in my book, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany, the Nazis' devaluing of human life derived from Darwinian ideology (this does not mean that all Nazi ideology came from Darwinism). There were six features of Darwinian theory that have contributed to the devaluing of human life (then and now):

1. Darwin argued that humans were not qualitatively different from animals. The leading Darwinist in Germany, Ernst Haeckel, attacked the "anthropocentric" view that humans are unique and special.

2. Darwin denied that humans had an immaterial soul. He and other Darwinists believed that all aspects of the human psyche, including reason, morality, aesthetics, and even religion, originated through completely natural processes. ...

Weikart recently defended his view against Darwinist philosopher Michael Ruse as well, in a debate at Stanford.

Here is my own view for what it is worth: I think the Holocaust link was a marketing ploy on the part of the producers. A film like Expelled risks being a flop d'estime, as Malcolm Muggeridge liked to say. Another worthy documentary. Yawn.

Okay, so how to avoid the death sentence of mere worthiness? Well, first, didn't some of the same marketers work on The Passion of the Christ? Some Anti-Defamation League people, among others, saw early rough cuts and spread the word that the film was anti-Semitic.

Well, after that, the lib-left commentariat guaranteed that EVERYONE knew about The Passion. Tsk. Tsk. How awful that those Christians would do this! And isn't that just like them too? You could hear the pundits gloat miles off.

And, every bit as helpful for the Passion film, lots of yer-grannies and Christianettes, male and female, obsessed in print about the film's alleged anti-Semitism.

Instant critics, many of whom had never been invited to see a cut, trotted out all kinds of alleged problems, like "We are told that Jesus speaks Latin with Pontius Pilate? Shouldn't the two speak Aramaic or Koine?" (Many are critics, few are screenwriters.)

The buzz continued until the opening, and of course the Passion was a huge success. IMDB says it had more pre-ticket sales than any other film in history. The anti-Semitism accusation, having got people's attention, faded into the ka-CHING of the box office. (Viewers saw that the Jewish leaders don't come off well in the film, but the Romans are the real creeps.)

Curiously, it later came out (2006) that Mel Gibson did have anti-Semitic tendencies (at least when tested over the limit for alcohol). Obviously, his film's critics didn't know that in 2003. Had they known, their revelations would have had a devastating impact. But years later, that all just sank out of sight. Timing isn't everything, but it's 50% of marketing.

So now, back to Arthur Caplan: I recall Caplan defending the firing of people who doubt Darwinian evolution years ago. So if he thought the film was good, he would keep quiet about it, wouldn't he? And silence from the commentariat has killed more non-materialist projects than any attacks have ever done.

So wouldn't the Expelled marketers use a surefire ploy like "Darwin leads to Hitler" to get Caplan talking about Expelled? Sure Caplan thinks it's all lies, but what else is new? No one thought he'd like it. The goal wasn't to get him to like it, but to get him to talk about it.

If he keeps it up long enough, he will earn what they didn't have to pay him.

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