As I anticipated, there were some who weren’t happy with my comparison of abortion supporters to Hitler in Sunday’s post. It’s true that comparisons to Hitler are so common they are almost cliché; it’s become the go-to accusation when someone holds a position contrary to one’s own. So, is this abortion-Hitler connection an ad hominem attack, or is this a legitimate comparison?
My claim was that Hitler’s Darwinist beliefs provided the rationale for his killing of 9 million people (over half of whom were Jewish) and that this is the logical extension of the same type of thinking that justifies abortion by claiming that pre-born children are not persons. Let’s see if this turns out to be true.
In Descent of Man, Darwin began to apply his theory of natural selection to human beings. He believed it was possible for the human race to “degenerate”. With domesticated animals, people control which traits continue through selective breeding; could this be done with humans? “Excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.” What are the implications of this line of reasoning?
“If various checks do not prevent the reckless, the vicious and otherwise inferior members of society from increasing at a quicker rate than the better class of men, the nation will retrograde, as has occurred too often in the history of the world. We must remember that progress is no invariable rule.”
To be fair to Darwin, he never advocated killing anyone. He did, however, believe that some humans were “inferior” while others were “better”, and introduced the idea of Man being able to control his own “evolution” through selective breeding; if lesser men were allowed to reproduce, it would lead to the retrograde of human development, rather than progress.
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche took this a step further. If Darwin’s theory was true, then it followed that men (little more than “barbarians” and “beasts” to Nietzsche) had thrived and risen to the top of the food chain the same way that other beasts thrive: by the strong willing themselves to power and destroying the weak. In Beyond Good and Evil, while outlining his philosophy for the elevation of a “noble caste” over the “barbarian caste”, Nietzsche writes:
“The essential characteristic of a good and healthy aristocracy… is that it accepts with a good conscience the sacrifice of untold human beings who, for its sake, must be reduced and lowered to incomplete human beings, to slaves, to instruments. Their fundamental faith simply has to be that society must not exist for society’s sake but only as the foundation and scaffolding on which a choice type of being is able to raise itself to its higher task and to a higher state of being.” (emphasis mine)
This led to Nietzsche’s concept of the “übermensch”, the “over-man”, introduced in his book Also Sprach Zarathustra (which, incidentally, inspired Richard Strauss’ tone poem of the same name, a dramatic musical picture of the rise of a super-man; it was made famous in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey). Reflecting upon what this meant for humanity, Nietzsche famously pronounced that “God is dead”, and therefore correctly predicted that the 20th century would become the bloodiest century in history. After all, the only thing preventing the strong from exterminating the weak was a lingering sense of morality based on the (to him) foolish notion of a transcendent Creator. Now that men had realized the “truth” about their origin, the ascent of the übermensch was sure to come, leaving the blood of the weak in its wake… which, according to Nietzsche, must be accepted with a good conscience.
Nietzsche prophesied that in order to revive Europe to prosperity, the continent must “acquire one will by means of a new caste that would rule Europe“. Enter Hitler.
Frustrated with Germany’s impoverished condition following the Great War, Hitler and members of his National Socialist (Nazi) Party were motivated by the concept of the übermensch to see this ruling caste (or in their terms, “Master Race”) return Germany, Europe, and the world to the path of progress. Their political philosophy flowed naturally from their understanding of Darwin, Nietzsche, and others. In the words of Hitler’s Deputy in the Nazi Party, Rudolf Hess: “National Socialism is nothing but applied biology.”
Once they came to power, the Nazis simply carried out their biological duty as the strongest members of the human race. They began to systematically eliminate the weak and undesirable: the elderly, the physically and mentally handicapped, homosexuals, gypsies, Jews, and anyone else they deemed to be “untermensch” (sub-human). This was not cruel bloodlust or simple anti-Semitism; it was, according to the philosophical worldview that grew out of the work of Darwin and Nietzsche, the morally virtuous act of those who sought the greatest benefit for the human race.
“For in a world which would be composed of mongrels and negroids all ideals of human beauty and nobility and all hopes of an idealized future for our humanity would be lost for ever.” ~ From Hitler’s Mein Kampf
Evolutionary/modernist thought allowed Hitler and others to classify — in good conscience — some members of the human race as inferior and disposable. This is not conjecture; it is history. The question, then, is whether it follows that abortion advocates do the same.
Today, it is politically incorrect to label someone as “sub-human” or “inferior”. Instead, scientists and philosophers (so often the same thing) have developed something called “personhood theory”. This theory posits that there are members of Homo sapiens who, while biologically human, are not “persons”. Notice that almost no one says anymore that a fetus is not human or not alive; the lingo is almost always that a fetus is not a person. It is an indisputable scientific FACT that pre-born children are 100% human and 100% alive.
For a recent example of how this lingo is used, check out this article published Tuesday. Notice two things. First, the author’s use of the term “anti-choice”, a term I addressed in the blog post that prompted this one. Second, and more importantly, his claim that “science clearly shows that personhood does not [begin at conception].” Really? Does science “clearly” show this? Is it an empirical FACT that some forms of human life are not persons? No. Science cannot show this because demonstrating “personhood” does not fall under the realm of science but of philosophy.
The truth of the matter is that “personhood theory” is just the latest manifestation of the philosophical idea that some human beings have the “right” to decide which human lives are better and which are inferior. Without an objective understanding of human life’s value being based on God’s creation of it in His own image, the determination of the value of an individual life will always come from subjective human criteria. And, as Nietzsche knew, this will always take the form of natural selection: the strong being advantaged at the expense of the weak. Who is weaker than an unborn life?
Furthermore, what is to keep “personhood theory” from being extended from the debate over abortion into other avenues of determining the worth of a human life? Indeed, this is already happening. How else can one explain things like assisted suicide, or the Terri Schiavo case?
Abortion advocates have — whether consciously or not — bought into the exact same philosophical worldview that allowed Hitler to consider certain forms of human life as disposable. They have accepted with a good conscience the sacrifice of untold human beings. Nietzsche would be proud.
So, is it fair to compare abortion to the Holocaust? Based on the evidence, I believe that it is.
On second thought, though, maybe this comparison is a little weak. Since Roe v. Wade in 1973, more than FIFTY MILLION abortions have been performed in the United States alone, and these account for only 3% of abortions worldwide (many of which are funded by our country). Hitler never dreamed of killing so many.