Chapman’s News & Ideas John West Wins Documentary Award

A documentary film on The Biology of the Second Reich, directed by Discovery Senior Fellow John West (aided by Jens Jorgenson, and based largely on the research of Dr. Richard Weichart, scholar of German history and also a Discovery fellow) has won the “Best Short Documentary Award” of the Los Angeles Film Festival of Hollywood.

You can watch a video version of the film on YouTube for free.

Biology of the Second Reich

Most people now know the story of the Third Reich’s misuse of biology leading up to–and during–World War II. But few are aware that the Germans had prepared the way with a pernicious Darwinism before World War I that may be said to have begun with the writings of German biologist Ernst Haeckel. In the late 19th Century Haeckel was all too ready to admire the racism found in Darwin’s less known book, The Descent of Man. The next step for the German Empire was to apply these theories to the eradication of “inferior” people in Germany and to races in Africa that the Germans governed.

Facing the historic roots of biology’s misuse in Germany is important in order to show how eugenics (derived from Darwinism) had the enthusiastic approval of many scientists and, indeed, was regarded at the time as an unquestionable consensus. Eugenics has come back to us in new guises today; for example, in forms of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Dr. West’s is a well-deserved honor for a timely and well-made film. We all take satisfaction and pride in his achievement.

Other documentary winners are found here.

It may be worth mentioning that Ernst Haeckel also was responsible for an erroneous–and fabricated–embryological study that supposedly proved Darwin’s theory. “Haeckel’s embryos”, and some drawings based on them, were still in use in a number of biology textbooks in America and elsewhere, even after Jonathan Wells wrote the expose, Icons of Evolution in 2002. When I took biology fifty years ago at Harvard College they certainly were regarded as representing the unassailable “consensus” of science.