“Those who ignore history, are condemned to repeat it.”
Paul Gosselin (May - 2021)
I recently finished reading Daniel Chirot’s book Modern Tyrants (1994) which analyses factors that make totalitarian regimes and dictatorships tick. This is a VERY sobering read. I have a lot of respect for the amount historical research that Chirot put into this document. Anyone with interest in political science or 20th century history should give it a go. And I think it useful to add that a number of factors that Chirot sees as contributing to the rise of totalitarian regimes are also in play in the West under the Covid crisis...
Chirot spends quite a lot of time on the two major totalitarian regimes of the 20th century, that is Nazi Germany and Communism under Stalin. Some may have heard of the philosopher Francis Schaeffer’s favourite expression “Ideas have consequences”? Well, Chirot seems to think along the same lines and devotes a number of pages to look at ideological factors that contribute to the development of totalitarian regimes. To underscore this, he even has a chapter entitled “In the Beginning was the Word”... Just for clarification, no, Chirot is NOT a Bible Thumper...
But as Chirot analyses Nazi and Communist ideologies, he is not shy about pointing out the contribution of the Evolutionary origins myth to these ideologies (1994: 412):
The presence and widespread acceptance of utopian theories of society that demand perfection, and believe that it is possible to obtain it, are also a good predictor of tyranny. Most of the twentieth-century's tyrannical ideologies, beginning with Europe's, have been based on popularized science and a misplaced faith that it was possible to engineer the ideal society. But it was not just a matter of idealism carried to excess. The specific content of these theories, their neo-Darwinian belief that history consists of struggles to the death between competing classes or races, was necessary in order to transform them into such deadly instruments of tyranny.
And as we continue reading Chirot gets a bit more specific about how Evolutionism contributes to totalitarian ideologies (1994: 413):
Yet, for all the bloodshed in the past, most of it due to the famine and disease that resulted from wars, there are no cases of deliberate mass slaughter for ideological reasons on the scale of what the twentieth century has witnessed. A neo-Darwinian sense of history as a struggle to the death has spread well beyond those intellectuals who think of themselves as being in the Western scientific tradition. The idea that various categories of people races, classes, ethnicities, religions are the equivalent of species of organisms fighting for survival, and therefore justified in taking the most extreme measures, has become widespread. Thus, even though it adopts the position that it is only reviving an old tradition, the fundamentalist version of Islam, when it achieves power, is a type of modern utopian totalitarianism.
So the key evolutionary contribution to Nazi and Communist ideologies were the concepts of “Fight for Survival” and “Survival of the Fittest”. Writing shortly after World War II Sir Arthur Keith (an evolutionist), underscored an issue about Nazism that many Western elites would prefer left swept under the carpet (1947: 27-28):
The German Fuhrer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist; he has consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution... To see evolutionary measures and tribal morality being applied vigorously to the affairs of a great modern nation, we must turn again to Germany of 1942. We see Hitler devoutly convinced that evolution produces the only real basis for a national policy... The means he adopted to secure the destiny of his race and people were organized slaughter, which has drenched Europe in blood... Such conduct is highly immoral as measured by every scale of ethics, yet Germany justifies it; it is consonant with tribal or evolutionary morality. Germany has reverted to the tribal past, and is demonstrating to the world, in their naked ferocity, the methods of evolution.
But of course Chirot being an Enlightenment devotee, can NOT go so far as to seriously criticise Darwin, much less REJECT him... As a result Chirot blandly notes (1994: 427):
Carl Degler has shown that Darwinian thinking has made a very strong comeback in American social thought. This does not mean that Darwinism is either wrong or that in its scientific content it is conductive to tyranny. After all it would be foolish to blame Charles Darwin for Nazism...
Like so many Western intellectuals who have bought into the dominant materialistic origins myth, Chirot shies away from the evidence of a DIRECT causal link between 20th century atrocities and Darwin’s theory. Of course Chirot would NOT want anyone using his material and logically connecting the dots from the Holocaust or the Gulag back to Darwin... Even if that is where much of the evidence points... Perhaps this is a situation confirming a quip made long ago by CS Lewis in one of his Narnia novels: "Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed." (Magician's Nephew)
So Chirot uses a vague version of the old canard that the Nazis (or Communists) “abused Darwin’s theory”, but then (as is usually the case) quickly forgetting to clearly state what such a claim really means. In my view, the loophole that Chirot (and many others) attempts to use here to a priori exclude any link between Darwin’s theory and 20th century atrocities is invalid and must be rejected.
Oddly enough, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Russian novelist, Nobel Prize winner and Gulag survivor, after many years of reflection on the horrors and millions of deaths produced by 60 years of communism in Russia, in his Templeton address made a revealing comment regarding the gut-wrenching WHY? question (1983):
More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened. Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.
While I think Solzhenitsyn provides us with an important clue, it is missing the point to say that the early 20th Russian elites (followed by Communist politicians) had simply "forgotten God". It is a good starting point, but there is more to this issue. In effect, the Bolsheviks did everything in their power to remove God from the equation (that is from their understanding of the human condition), by eliminating as much as they could of Judeo-Christian influence in the URSS. In the West the story is much the same (though so far avoiding most of the open brutality). Nietzsche's famous statement “God is Dead!” sums it up rather well. But, the critical point Solzhenitsyn misses is that once God is cut out of the equation, then Man is Dead too, that is as Man made in the image of God loses any intrinsic value. Which leads to Lenin’s cold-blooded quip, “To make omelettes, you have to break a few eggs...” To moderns and postmoderns Man is just a mess of molecules, nothing more...
So if 20th century Russians had front row seats to see what the communist elites would do, in the West we now have front row seats to see what postmodern elites of this generation will do with all the power they now have. And it should be kept in mind that the postmodern elites currently in power in the West are just as devout believers in the materialistic origins myth as the Nazis or Communists ever were... While the “Fight for Survival” and “Survival of the Fittest” concepts have been exposed in the naked and brutal light of history and have fallen out of favour, the theory of evolution itself is, if anything, more widely believed by those in power. As a result, among postmodern elites, the old view of Man having value because he was made in God’s image is dead. It is no coincidence that abortion and euthanasia are so popular with postmodern elites and are relentlessly pushed forward by so many Western governments. They seem to have no hesitation at all to grasp at god-like powers of life and death over the populations of the nations they lead... A second Holocaust could be in the making...
In the context of a discussion on vivisection the Oxford scholar C. S. Lewis made the following observations which are more relevant today than when they were written (1947: 227):
Once the old Christian idea of a total difference in kind between man and beast has been abandoned, then no argument for experiments on animals can be found which is not also an argument for experiments in inferior men. If we cut up beasts simply because they cannot prevent us and because we are backing our own side in the struggle for existence, it is only logical to cut up imbeciles, criminals, enemies, or capitalists for the same reasons. Indeed, experiments on men have already begun. We all hear that Nazi scientists have done them. We all suspect that our own scientists may begin to do so, in secret, at any moment.
A clear indication that postmoderns despise Man, is the antispecist school of thought (again deeply rooted in evolutionary thinking) which rejects the idea that Man is something special, something worthy of respect. This fundamental Judeo-Christian concept is immediately established in the first chapter of Genesis which states "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Gen 1: 26). This is the imago dei concept. This concept leads to the view that individual humans, whatever their state, physical or intellectual abilities have intrinsic value. Reflecting on this matter, CS Lewis observed (Lewis in Green & Hooper 1979: 204):
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations - these are mortal… But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit… Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object present to your senses.
But of course because modern and postmodern elites have rejected Genesis, the imago dei concept is rejected as well. As a result man is viewed strictly from a utilitarian perspective... If individual humans are not productive (however you define that...), then he/she is just a (dispensable) useless eater. Such views are now mainstream and today we have university professors such Peter Singer (professor of bioethics at Princeton University) teaching such things. In Singer’s view, claiming that the human species has a higher value than other animals is in effect a form of racism. Singer notes, for example (1979/2011: 101):
Hence, we should reject the doctrine that killing a member of our species is always more significant than killing a member of another species. Some members of other species are persons, some members of our own species are not.... So it seems that killing a chimpanzee is, other things being equal, worse than the killing of a human being who, because of a profound intellectual disability, is not and never can be a person.
And while we’re considering
alarming trends, it should be noted that
anti-Semitism is making a clear comeback in the “civilized
West”, just like the 1930s...
 - I’ve provided evidence to this effect in my Flight From the Absolute, volume 2, chapter V, section “An Origins Myth Adrift”
 - At the height of the Cold War, a group of Russian believers sent this open letter to Alexy, Patriarch of Moscow, regarding the Orthodox Church’s collaboration with the Communist regime (in Martin 1973: 72)
The objective of the Soviet regime is not the subjection or even the enslavement of the Church, but its complete and definitive elimination. Militant atheism is the very basis of Soviet ideology. Therefore, the subjection of the Church is only a transitional stage on the way to its extermination. Every Russian believer, in the light of his faith, is fully aware of this situation of the Church. [translated from the French]
The logic here is easily understood. Looking at this situation from the perspective of the adversary of Christianity, if one can't yet eliminate and eradicate Christianity then the next best thing is to corrupt it. This has it's uses as a corrupt Christianity inevitably discredits itself and destroys itself... When the corruption has gone far enough, at a certain point it becomes pointless to attack it. The thought may occur to the adversary of Christianity that is actually less work to corrupt Christian churches than to completely eliminate them, not counting the fact that corrupt Christian churches then become excellent targets for jokes and amusement.
 - And to postmodern ecological activists, Man is a parasite on the environment, nothing more, as opposed to an integral and key part of it...
 - And in his novel, That Hideous Strength, Lewis offers this thought regarding the consequences of the rejection of the imago dei concept (1946/65 : 197)
It is the beginning of what is really a new species – the Chosen Heads who never die. They will call it the next step in evolution. And henceforeward, all the creatures that you and I call human are mere candidates for admission to the new species or else its slaves – perhaps it's food.
Though for the most part with a hypocritical mask, that is in a political form,
such as the BDS movement... The BDS movement is just a metamorphosis of the old Jew hatred, the same old anti-Semitism, but
with a cheap makeover...
- (1973) Lettre d'un groupe de croyants envoyée de l'Union Soviétique par le truchement du Samizdat. pp. 65-82 Drawn from André Martin (1973) Soljenitsyne le Croyant. Éd. Albatros Paris 204 p.
Chirot, Daniel (1994) Modern Tyrants: The Power and Prevalence of Evil in Our Age. Princeton University Press xvi - 496 p.
Gosselin, Paul (2013) Flight From the Absolute: Cynical Observations on the Postmodern West. Volume II. Samizdat Québec xiii - 566 p.
Green, R. L. & Hooper, Walter (1979) C. S. Lewis: A Biography. Collins Fount London
Keith, Sir Arthur (1947) Evolution and Ethics. G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York (archived Ebook)
Lewis, C. S. (1947/2002) God in the Dock. (Walter Hooper ed.). Eerdmans Grand Rapids MI 347 p.
Lewis, C. S. (1946/1965) That Hideous Strength. Collier/MacMillan New York 382 p. (Ebook)
Mostert, Mark P. (2002) Useless Eaters: Disability as Genocidal Marker in Nazi Germany. (The Journal of Special Education - November 1, 2002)
Singer, Peter (1979/2011) Practical Ethics. Cambridge University Press Cambridge 352 p.
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr (1983)
“Godlessness: the First Step to the Gulag”. Templeton Prize Lecture,
10 May 1983