October 2, 2007 | David F. Coppedge

When Myth Turns Genocidal, Who’s to Blame?

Aryan mythology was the subject of a book review by Michael Witzel (Harvard linguist) in Science last week.1  He was reviewing Stefan Arvidsson’s book Aryan Idols about the mischief done in the quasi-scientific, quasi-historical investigation of the alleged noble race behind the primitive Indo-European language.
    The atrocities of Nazi Germany can be traced to 19th-century myths about a purebred race of noble people who settled the German fatherland in an idyllic past: “Concurrently, during this period of European dominance, Darwinism and ‘race science’ emerged and a new myth took form: a European or even Nordic Aryan race of noble warriors had conquered western and southern Eurasia.”  The myths were confused with science: “Race studies and eugenics emerged as ‘sciences’ in many countries.”
    So far, this sounds in agreement with Richard Weikart’s treatise From Darwin to Hitler (02/03/2005, 04/07/2005).  Witzel agrees that the co-option of unknowable mythologies for political ends in the name of Darwinian progress had disastrous consequences, resulting in the Nazi attempts to exterminate those labeled non-Aryan.  Even after World War II, Witzel notes, Aryan fantasies continued with other players.
    It seems strange, therefore, that at the end of this book review, Witzel turned his guns on a mix of strange bedfellows, some of whom had nothing to do with Aryan myths and were staunch opponents of Nazism, the creationists: “We also need the engagement of scholars willing to take public stands–whether in the battles over creationism or in the recent attempts by Hindu nationalists and fundamentalists (in both India and California) to rewrite Indian history in a mythological fashion,” he stated.  “Aryan fantasies have indicated the inherent dangers most clearly, and here lies one of the enduring merits of Arvidsson’s book: it indicates how we can actually learn from history.”


1.  Michael Witzel, “History of Science: Myths and Consequences,” Science, 8 September 2007: Vol. 317. no. 5846, pp. 1868-1869, DOI: 10.1126/science.1141619.

If anybody can explain how Witzel got here from there, please explain.  In short, he said, Hitler was bad, so fight the creationists.  Good grief, Hitler was a social Darwinist, not a creationist!  Creationists like those at ICR or AIG have absolutely nothing to do with Aryan myths, nor are they in any way mixed up with nationalist groups in India or native-American groups in California trying to rewrite history according to their racist, ethnic myths.
    Creationists hate Nazi ideology.  They go out of their way to denounce racism.  They believe we are all one blood, all descendents of the same original human family, and all equally accountable to our Creator.  They love and promote science.  They love all people, and want to win them to Christ.  How on Earth can Witzel lump them with Aryan nationalists as dangerous?  How can he apply the cussword “fundamentalists” to respectable believers in the Bible who wish to end the bloodthirsty nationalism, share the good news of Jesus, build churches and medical centers and bring education and science to poor people, and simultaneously apply the label to machinegun-toting Hindus who burn churches and kill Christians in India?  These could not be more polar opposites.
    This is the kind of outrageous characterization that the editors of Science publish with impunity, never providing space for rebuttal.  Remembering that certain self-righteous scholars of another era attributed the works of Jesus to the devil, the only one who has not learned from history here is this misguided prof from Hahvahd.  Maybe he would rather live in one of the idyllic scientific utopias inspired by Father Charlie (see 11/30/2005).

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