"Modifying Science to Fit Ideology": 5 Ways the Nazis Used Pseudoscience to Support Fascism

“Modifying Science to Fit Ideology”: 5 Ways the Nazis Used Pseudoscience to Support Fascism

NOTAzism is perhaps the most reprehensible ideology humans have ever subscribed to. Its adherents sparked World War II and staged the Holocaust, which resulted in the deaths of 73 million people.

With hindsight, it’s almost hard to believe that such a heinous belief system could appeal to much of the populace of mid-20th-century Germany, and yet it happened. Economic instability, powerful propaganda, scapegoating of Jews with other members of society, and political violence all played a role.

Scholars have also noted that pseudoscience—a set of beliefs or practices that appears scientific but does not conform to fact or the scientific method—contributed strongly to Nazism. Proponents didn’t want their “big” political party to be crippled by evidence, so they shaped the science to fit their ideology and agenda, rather than the other way around. This led to some very strange anti-science beliefs, some more inherent in Nazism than others.

Overall, Nazi leaders found that advocacy of these ideas, especially supernatural ideas, resonated remarkably with voters. In his highly documented 2017 book, Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third ReichStetson University historian Eric Kurlander pointed out that political opponents of Nazism could not compete with “the Nazis’ emotional appeal to nationalism and folk revival, grounded in the Germans’ “desire for myth.” “.

Hitler, a ruthless and opportunistic politician, did not personally subscribe to some of the more goofy pseudoscientific beliefs, unlike other prominent party leaders like Heinrich Himmler and Rudolf Hess, but he promoted them anyway, believing that it was c was to his advantage. “His rhetoric was steeped in borderline scientific argument, invocation of mythology and emotional appeals,” Stetson said in an interview with Jacobin.

Here are five pseudosciences touted by the Nazis:

1. Eugenics

Undeniably the most pernicious pseudoscience pushed by the Nazis, eugenics applies “Darwinian concepts of evolution to problems in human society”, blaming certain “genetically ill” people for societal deficiencies. The Nazis used the notion of societal health and racial purity to justify the killing of anyone they saw as a liability or threat, including Jews, gays, blacks, Poles, and many others.

2. Hollow Earth Hypothesis

Although not prominent in Nazi thought at large, it has been reported that many “intellectuals” in the upper echelons of the Nazi Party entertained the concave Hollow Earth hypothesis, the idea that humans live on the hull interior of a hollow Earth. So everything we see in the sky is actually at the center of our hollow planet. The Germans called the idea hollow world theory.

Credit: Joshua Cesa

3. Biodynamics

A precursor to modern organic farming, biodynamic farming was invented in 1924 by Austrian-born occultist Rudolf Steiner. As Peter Staudenmaier, associate professor of history at Marquette University, has described it: “The approach is based on a holistic view of the farm or garden as an integrated organism comprising soil, plants, animals and various cosmic forces, with sowing and harvesting done. according to astrological principles. Biodynamic growers reject monoculture and forgo artificial fertilizers and pesticides, relying instead on manure, compost and a variety of homeopathic preparations to channel etheric and astral energies from the earth and other celestial bodies.

Proponents of biodynamics frequently referred to their agricultural approach as a natural and superior method for growing healthy food suitable for an Aryan race, and sought institutional support from Nazi officials to make biodynamic agriculture a tenet of Nazism. Biodynamics never officially became a party principle, but it attracted widespread support among many Nazi factions. As Staudenmaier wrote, “However, inadvertently and inconsistently, between 1933 and 1945, the organic ideals of natural cultivation and regeneration, of healing from the ravages of materialism and of redeeming the earth and its inhabitants, converged with deeply regressive political realities”.

4. Nazi anthropology

Key to Nazism was the idea that Germans were descended from an ancient superior “Aryan” race, which had been responsible for most major developments in human history such as agriculture, art and writing . Most scholars around the world rejected this far-fetched hypothesis, so the Nazis employed dozens of scholars to venture on numerous archaeological and anthropological expeditions around the world to render evidence of Aryan settlements and achievements. . During these explorations, “scientists” either crudely interpreted the results or simply fabricated data to fit Aryan ideology.

5. World Ice Theory

Invented after a wild dream by Austrian engineer Hanns Hörbiger, the world ice theory, or Welteislehre, states that ice is the basic substance of all cosmic processes, constituting the moons, planets and stars. Although patently absurd, Horgiber popularized his idea convincingly among the people of Austria and Germany in the early 1900s. When the Nazis came to power, they adopted Welteislehre as an alternative to “Jewish” physics. , in particular to Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Ross Pomeroy studied zoology and biological aspects of conversation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was a zookeeper. Ross is now an editor at Real Clear Science. Follow Ross on Twitter @SteRoPo

A version of this article originally appeared on Real Clear Science and is used here with permission. Check out Real Clear Science on Twitter @RCScience

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