Creationists = Holocaust Deniers?

I love how Dawkins pushes the bounds of polite discourse.

The argument isn’t altogether misplaced or as specious as it may first seem because the supposed “logic” in both cases follows a similar train of thought down a path of willfully dispelling established facts and incontrovertible evidence; preferring instead a pleasing narrative supporting ideological conjecture. (Complete video here.)

31 Comments

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31 responses to “Creationists = Holocaust Deniers?

  1. Ti-Guy

    Dawkins is blaming Islam and multiculturalism for the rise of Creationism?

    I’d like to see the evidence for that.

  2. sassy

    blaming Islam and multiculturalism could it be meant as some peoples reaction to Islam / multiculturalism?

    Who knows how Creationists think? Not me that’s for sure

  3. The argument isn’t altogether misplaced or as specious as it may first seem…

    I find that it is, actually, as the theory and practice of racist assembly-line slaughter that Holocaust deniers implicitly (and often explicitly) endorse has not the slightest historical or theoretical equivalent in the realm of activist Creationism–the odd bunch of anti-Darwinian militants occasionally making themselves nuisances to American school-boards notwithstanding.

    Australian Aborigines believe the world was created during a “Dreamtime”, when the earth was set upon the back of a giant turtle. Would Dawkins have us believe that an Aboriginal father who hands this charming legend down to his children is the ethical echo of David Irving?

    Really–is it no longer possible, for fuck’s sakes, to expound powerfully upon the idiocy of something like the ID movement without invoking Nazis or neo-Nazis? Did we not have that kind of fallacious nonsense thrashed out of our systems by attentive and responsible English teachers during our stints in our high-school’s Debating Club (into which I, for one, was press-ganged for three dreary years)?

    I generally refrain from Nazi or neo-Nazi analogies. When they do occur, it is only because my target is transparently racist, imperialist, homicidal and/or genocidal. The American federal executive comes to mind.

    Dawkins is blaming Islam and multiculturalism for the rise of Creationism?

    Mais, bien sur! Every earthly unpleasantness is due to things that Cartesian Utilitarian Positivists don’t like. Got a problem with that, you hedge-schooled, clod-hopping Papist wretch?

  4. Your el0quence never fails to enchant me.

  5. I’d like to see the evidence for that.

    It’s not actually that hard to find. There is an “unholy alliance” (so to speak) between fundamentalists of both the Christian and Islamic faiths, at least when it comes to this issue where their ignorance intersects with common cause, apparently. What the heck is the name of that Turkish fellow that’s disseminating Creationist rubbish all over the place these days? Hang on… have to go Google it.

    Ah yes, here we go — Adnan Oktar (aka Harun Yahya)… The guy is a veritable factory of pseudo-scientific clap-trap. I’ve heard that it’s not that difficult to get one of his immense, glossy, copiously illustrated books on the subject that are absolutely hilarious (but do look marvelous — and did I mention they’re free?).

  6. I think the issue SF is talking about has to do with the suggestion that creationism is inherently akin to holocaust denial. Creationism=believes in an alternate, misguided explanation how the human race and world (and universe) came into being. Holocaust denial=not believing the suffering and slaughter of several million human beings. Are delusional claims about “science” the same as real-life crimes against humanity? Sure, they could be connected in a technical sense (maybe a great topic for an undergraduate research paper) but the magnitude is not the same, and it’s dangerous to suggest something like that–even implicitly.

    When you bring up “common cause” alliances between Muslim and Christian fundies where ever their interests intersect, you are also describing what Dawkins does by lumping in creationism and holocaust denial. Just because there is a structural similarity (ie not believing scientific evidence) does not mean they are the same in the slightest. With that logic, we could lump people who believe in astrology with holocaust deniers, too. Where creationists wish to propagate a pseudo-scientific view of the evolution of the human race (is there anything inherently murderous about it, really?), holocaust deniers usually wish to rehabilitate one of the most murderous regimes in human history and encourage hostility towards the victimized ethnic group.

    This is either hysterical intellectual dishonesty for the sake of convenience or a true stretch of the imagination.

  7. I wasn’t at all attempting to make an absolute equivalency between the two strains of thought and if it came across that way, my bad. I was more just suggesting that the logical underpinnings of the two notions shared a lot in common in terms of their misguided reasoning, rejection of contradictory evidence, faith-based lunacy, etc.

    But again… I wasn’t at all intentionally comparing the practical outcomes or potentiality of the two ideologies involved. Creationism (and all Biblical literalism, for that matter) is just completely silly and intensely annoying more than anything else (although it can certainly be a somewhat bothersome hindrance to proper science in some places), whereas denial of the Holocaust is the tip of a rancid, poisonous school of thought that effectively encourages some misguided sympathy for Fascist ideology with all of its attendant and well-documented horrors… state-sponsored racism, harebrained eugenics programs, and other crackpot schemes that inevitably always end up with unfortunate results — selective repression, mind-control, depraved propaganda… ultimately, the systemic death of millions, and so on.

  8. I get the comparison. Technically true. Though, doesn’t it make you wonder why he would choose holocaust denial to compare to creationism when there are plenty of other forms of charlatanry out there?

    Nazism is the ultimate boogie man to make your opponents look like monsters, and it’s an easy, automatic jump in the mind from holocaust denier to Nazi. And though the results of the two forms can be different–and would be–as you suggest, it’s implied by juxtaposing the two that they are somehow the same. Maybe Dawkins didn’t do it on purpose, perfectly possible. But it doesn’t take a genius to connect the dots. Even a delusional Jesus lover like myself can figure that one out.

  9. Ryan — With that logic, we could lump people who believe in astrology with holocaust deniers, too.

    Well, yes we could, actually. And while that’s not exactly the sort of thing he was suggesting, I don’t know if Dawkins is all that far off the mark here.

    What he seems to be saying, at least as I take in the gist of his message, is that irrational patterns of thought all share a common thread.

    Now, that’s not of course to say that one thing (such as Astrology) necessarily leads to another (such as denying that Holocaust existed) or that the two notions in question are interrelated at all in the sense of direct causality, it’s more just pointing out that such emotional, unscientific, fundamentally irrational thinking can end up producing quite unfortunate (and lethal) results.

    To use your example of Astrology, would it not be fair to suggest that someone who placed faith in such nonsense might be more susceptible to other crazy ideas that made some kind of ostensible sense and perhaps pandered to their sensibilities and prejudices…? I suspect it would.

  10. Ryan — Yes, I’d have to agree that the Godwin invocation of Nazism is always a bit of a damp squib these days, but it was kind of a nice twist seeing it directed back at those who most frequently invoke it to demonize atheists, liberals and free-thinkers. So in that sense, I have to give props to Dawkins for being somewhat humorously perverse in this regard, while at the same time admittedly cringing a little at deployment of this hackneyed device.

  11. Point taken re: “irrational thought.” And yes, it’s clear that there probably isn’t a direct line.

    Though doesn’t linking the two (holocaust denial, creationism) pander to the sensibilities and prejudices of Dawkins’ audience as well, then? The problem here isn’t the comparison–it’s the presentation. Folks that already have a bias against creationism or creationists (rightly or wrongly deserved, correct or incorrect) could easily jump on this. And I’ll bet they have. Unless they are all cool, clear-thinking rational actors as Dawkins allegedly is.

  12. There is that element of pandering that’s a bit cringe-worthy, I’ll admit. It does cater to those who are adamantly opposed to religion of any sort for whatever reason, and are readily available to pile on with hostile, frequently quite angry invective vis-à-vis religion.

    I’m more somewhat mildly opposed to it on principle, simply by virtue of my abject lack of belief and inherent skepticism, but still weirdly respectful of its contentious moral benefits… And the highly artful and deeply charming aspects of its propaganda, of course.

    I just wish that religion would aim itself in a more inclusive and broadly philosophical direction. Unfortunately, there’s the vexing paradox that can’t be denied; that by doing so, eventually, it would effectively work itself out of viable existence.

  13. Ti-Guy

    There is an “unholy alliance” (so to speak) between fundamentalists of both the Christian and Islamic faiths, at least when it comes to this issue where their ignorance intersects with common cause, apparently.

    And I would like to see just how much they’ve been able to influence the science curriculum in Western European schools. I know Ontario has stood up to them resolutely, despite their constant nagging and pestering.

    As credible and knowledgeable as Dawkins is, he does have the unfortunate tendency to spout off on matters of which he is entirely ignorant (Listen to what a few anthropologists have to say about his theories on the value of faith, religion and myth). I suspect he’s only thinking of Britain, where American evangelical fundamentalism has made inroads. And of course, the British have only recently tried to tackle ethnic diversity at home.

  14. Ti-Guy — As credible and knowledgeable as Dawkins is, he does have the unfortunate tendency to spout off on matters of which he is entirely ignorant

    This is actually a common criticism of Dawkins — that he’s speaking outside of the realm of his expertise… (i.e., his understanding of theology is utterly superficial, and so on). Well, I reject that notion completely out of hand, because I think it’s important that ideas aren’t simply “stovepiped” down narrow channels of inquisition.

  15. Navvy — Oh fuck, we’re doomed.

  16. Wasn’t it right-wing whacko Kirk Cameron who published a reprint of “Origin of Species” and made a similar claim that because the Nazis had somehow embraced social Darwinism, anyone who believed in evolution was a crypto-Nazi?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/22/kirk-camerons-origin-of-s_n_294349.html

    From my liberal/sceptical Protestant perspective both the anti-theist and fundamentalist crowd are cut from the same cloth. The core belief may be different but they are wrapped in exactly the same paper (and both are as equally unpleasant to be around.)

  17. Ti-Guy

    Well, I reject that notion completely out of hand, because I think it’s important that ideas aren’t simply “stovepiped” down narrow channels of inquisition.

    I’m not sure I understand this. You reject the criticism that Dawkins is speaking outside his realm of expertise? Or you’re opposed to people being excluded from a discussion of a topic about which they have no expertise?

    In any case, I’m not opposed to Dawkins comparing evolution denial with Holocaust denial in the way Sir Francis is, because I know Dawkins is mounting a propaganda campaign against the Creationists. More power to him. But Sir Francis does make the point that people engage in all kinds of different ways of knowing and to reject anything outside strict materialism is to ignore the way the World operates, has operated and likely will operate for the foreseeable future. That, curiously, is rather anti-science in itself.

  18. Dan — Yes, it’s easy to make that comparison (hope I don’t fall into the same crowd — as I’ve said, I just don’t happen to be a “believer” for various reasons and have no genuine “faith” in a higher being, and hence am, by definition, an atheist), but there is a certain degree of emotional, irrational zealotry that’s shared by extremists on both sides of the fence when it comes to the matter of religion.

    I still have great sympathy for the better, more noble sentiments and higher aspirations of the New Testament, and other religions, for that matter, that follow along similar lines — most of which I just regard as philosophical tracts attempting to come to grips with the puzzling concept of sentient existence. But what completely irks me is the insanely arrogant presumption that they [insert name of religion here] have seized upon the “true path” or the “one way” or whatever the heck they choose to call it, which is ridiculous… because we cannot ever truly know what that might be. The “Golden Rule” is a rather good place to start, but beyond that… well, things start to get quite complicated.

  19. No. You most certainly do not fall into the anti-theist crowd I have in mind. Neither do many of the atheist friends I have. I think we’re fully capable of disagreeing without being disagreeable and recognizing our own limitations when it comes to discernment of how the universe works.

  20. …would it not be fair to suggest that someone who placed faith in [astrology] might be more susceptible to other crazy ideas…?

    …like the notion that, just because someone’s a Scorpio, he’s bound to be passionately argumentative, attracted to life’s dark side, and subject to emotional extremes. Which is just silly… 😉

  21. Ti-Guy — First of all, I’m not sure that I attach much value to someone with an “expertise” in Theology anymore so than I would to someone who was “expert” in reading the mysterious entrails of slaughtered animals as a reliable portent of future events.

    …people engage in all kinds of different ways of knowing and to reject anything outside strict materialism is to ignore the way the World operates, has operated and likely will operate for the foreseeable future. That, curiously, is rather anti-science in itself.

    Well, facts of the matter would seem to indicate that “strict materialism” is actually the way the world operates in real terms. That is the objective, scientific view of things. I know that’s a bit drab view of things at times and perhaps lacking in creative imagination (or magical thinking), but it’s quite simply the way things operate. Which can be kind of amazing in itself…

    I’m somewhat puzzled why you’d openly embrace “different ways of knowing” other than to be contrarian or perhaps out of some nagging sense of ambivalence about secular humanism.

  22. SF — LOL You cheeky bastard! 🙂

  23. Dan — I think the more reasonable folks amongst us can quite amicably agree to disagree on many of these contentious issues…which is what brings us into middle of the spectrum of political thought — and might allow us to find some way out of the highly polarized state of affairs that divides people one from the other and creates an environment of hostile enmity and pointless opposition.

  24. Ti-Guy

    First of all, I’m not sure that I attach much value to someone with an “expertise” in Theology anymore so than I would to someone who was “expert” in reading the mysterious entrails of slaughtered animals as a reliable portent of future events.

    It’s not just theology that’s in play here. Religious history, anthropology, sociology all establish avenues of inquiry that shed light on this complicated matter, for which Dawkins evinces very little expertise…or interest, for that matter.

    I’m somewhat puzzled why you’d openly embrace “different ways of knowing” other than to be contrarian or perhaps out of some nagging sense of ambivalence about secular humanism.

    This has nothing to do with my own personal beliefs. I’m interested in how others manage to construct their understanding of the World in order to communicate to them something they are likely to value, need to know and would be receptive to learning more about. And whether that offends the sensibilities of the strict materialists, different ways of knowing are in fact, fundamental to human intelligence.

    I’m not ambivalent about secular humanism at all. I was in fact surprised to learn a while back in discussion on Point of Inquiry that atheists have to periodically make the case for secular humanism as a moral framework to counter the nihilism that other atheists can either succumb to or indeed insist is all there is. Most religious liberals tend to live their lives in the here and now in ways that are pretty indistinguishable from secular humanists anyway.

  25. I would certainly agree that religious liberals and secular humanists share much common philosophical ground on these matters.

    And I really don’t want to come across as an apologist for Dawkins, but he’s already made a pretty good case for the anthropological nature of ev0lution in many of his books that doesn’t need to be reiterated here.

    Fact of the matter is that evolution is a completely amoral, purposeless and rather neutral, incremental, existential process — this notion of inexorable gradualism however drives the wingnuts quite mad with fury, as they’re desperate to immediately impose their kooky moral beliefs and artificially constructed, Broze-Age, Sky God driven ideology on everything.

  26. Ti-Guy

    this notion of inexorable gradualism however drives the wingnuts quite mad with fury

    I think it terrifies them. And this fear is co-opted by snake-oil salesmen of all kinds to keep them from understanding what is the real source of that fear…either ignorance or the fear of the unknown, or, in the US and in many Muslim countries, an economic and social order that requires a high degree of insecurity and fierce competitiveness to preserve the degree of privilege their elites (the same snake-oil salesmen) are accustomed to.

    I don’t think this is conspiratorial, necessarily. Just how those places work.

  27. We all fear the unknown — the extinction of our being and such. And rightly so — after all, it is somewhat scary. What happens after we die? Well, who really knows? Fact: Nobody! My guess is nothing short of becoming worm-food, but whole theologies suggest to us we should believe otherwise.

    How we explore this mental challenge is quite different. Some approach it with absolute certainty in mind (essentially short-circuiting the whole question by just proffering up an easy answer, pleasing fairy-tail mythology or some predetermined conclusion advanced with absolute certitude) while others deal with it in a more open-ended way that’s fraught with a nebulous and skeptical sense of doubt about everything. The latter is actually a far more difficult position to be in — even though it’s frequently categorized as one of moral lassitude and degeneracy…

    I’d imagine it would be so easy to be a “believer” — that would actually take a great load of thinking off and make life quite a bit easier in many respects. But wouldn’t there always be a nagging doubt? Some weird Socratic ghost constantly bugging you with a logical dialectic that prevented you from simply falling blindly in love with articles of faith…

  28. Brian in Calgary

    And I really don’t want to come across as an apologist for Dawkins

    redtory – I am glad this is your attitude about Dawkins. Many of his harshest critics are fellow athiests, particularly Michael Ruse. He has stated more than once, “The God Delusion makes me embaressed to be an athiest.”

  29. I’m not so much embarrassed as amused by his position

    My conception of atheism is far less radical than that of Dawkins, Hitchens and others who seek to profit from their non-belief and somehow possibly “convert” people to their side of the equation in a way that’s kind of “evangelical” in its own sense.

    Whatever. Quite frankly, I don’t care that much. I’m happy to point out the nuttery of fanatics, but at the same time, I’ll freely admit to enjoying the traditional rituals and mental sanctuary that religion can offer.

    I’m not terribly doctrinaire about it.

    And yes, there’s more than a bit of cognitive dissonance involved there…

  30. False Prophet

    It’s an analogy. It’s going to be imprecise.

    But it’s not a bad analogy. Holocaust denial is ahistorical–its reasoning starts on a foundation taken on faith (“The Holocaust didn’t happen/wasn’t as bad as they say/wasn’t Hitler’s fault”) and then cherry-picks the evidence or exploits the miniscule gaps in it. No, we don’t have a Nazi memo reading “kill 11 million+ people, at least half of them Jews, signed Adolph Hitler” and such a document probably doesn’t exist. But to trace the evidence from Mein Kampf and Hitler’s speeches to Alfred Rosenberg’s writings, to the Wannsee Conference, to the camps and trials–it’s as damning as it can be.

    The creationist line of reasoning is along similar lines, so the point of the analogy works: creationism/ID has as much place in science class as Holocaust denial does in history class; i.e. none at all.

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