Anders Breivik’s Social Darwinism and Mass Murder

Gerald Bergman, PhD Northwest State College, Archbold, Ohio.

On Fri­day July 22, 2011 Nor­we­gian Anders Brei­vik went on a kil­ling ram­page in Oslo, Nor­way, kil­ling 77 people and inju­ring many more. It was the worst ter­ro­rist attack in modern Nor­we­gian his­tory and one of the worst in modern Euro­pean his­tory (Ray­ner, et al., 2011). The bom­bing of Oslo govern­ment buil­dings resulted in 8 deaths, and the mass shoo­ting at a Wor­kers’ Youth League of the Labor Party on the island of Utøya resulted in kil­ling 69 people, mostly teena­gers, and inju­ring at least 96 other persons.

Brei­vik was born on February 13, 1979, the son of Wen­che Behring, a nurse, and Jens David Brei­vik, a Civil Eco­nomist. He was an intel­li­gent, sen­si­tive phy­si­cally strong young man who since ado­le­scence spent much time weight trai­ning, and using ana­bo­lic ste­roids to improve his phy­sic. In his early twen­ties he under­went cos­me­tic sur­gery to look more like what he jud­ged to be Aryan. Brei­vik wor­ked as a custo­mer ser­vice repre­sen­ta­tive wor­king with people from all nations and reportedly had good rela­tions with his custo­mers except he seemed to be easily irri­tated by those of Middle Eas­tern or South Asian ori­gin (Slack, 2011).

His Ter­ro­rist Killings

To explain his ter­ro­rist actions he pro­du­ced a 1518 page 77,724 word docu­ment tit­led 2083 Euro­pean Decla­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence. One rea­son he gave for his kil­ling spree was because “Mar­riage is not a “con­spi­racy to oppress women”, it’s the rea­son why we’re here. …. Accor­ding to strict, atheist Dar­wi­nism, the pur­pose of life is to repro­duce” (p. 350)

Soon after the event the estab­lish­ment media, inclu­ding the Aust­ra­lian Broad­cas­ting Cor­po­ra­tion and the Cana­dian Broad­cas­ting Cor­po­ra­tion, clai­med that the influ­ence of fun­da­men­ta­list Chris­tia­nity and various right-wing groups explai­ned Breivik’s ideo­logy and actions (Sar­fati, 2011). One typi­cal head­line read Nor­we­gian Kil­ler is Con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian Fun­da­men­ta­list (Ano­ny­mous, 2011). Alt­hough, as is true of many per­sons, he had both right-wing and left views, his detai­led paper made his views very clear — and they had not­hing to do with Chris­tian fundamentalism.

The media almost totally ignored his viru­lent scien­ti­fic fun­da­men­ta­lism and Social Dar­wi­nism, inclu­ding his far-ranging pro­po­sal to revive Dar­wi­nian euge­nics inspi­red by the wri­tings of Prin­ceton Uni­ver­sity evo­lu­tio­nary bio­lo­gist Dr. Lee Sil­ver. They also ignored his agno­s­ti­cism, such as his “if there is a God” pro­viso when pon­de­ring his destiny after death (2011, p. 1345).
Brei­vik detai­led in his docu­ment that he was an una­po­lo­ge­tic champion of modern bio­logy and the scien­ti­fic evo­lu­tio­nary world­view. Breivik’s vision of “a perfect Europe” involved Social Dar­wi­nism, which he iden­ti­fied with “logic” and “ratio­na­list thought,” opi­ning that apply­ing “natio­nal Dar­wi­nism” should be at the core of our society (p. 1386). He does not believe that science should be left in pri­vate hands, but instead that it requi­red lavish and per­ma­nent govern­ment sup­port. He argued that fully 20 per­cent of all govern­ment spen­ding must be devoted to scien­ti­fic rese­arch (pp. 1188, 1386) and that science fun­ding is even more impor­tant than aid to the poor: “Wel­fare expen­di­ture should not take pre­ce­dent over the 20% fixed sum dedi­cated to science/technology, rese­arch and devel­op­ment” (p. 1195).

Brei­vik also stressed that science trumps reli­gion: “As for the Church and science, it is essen­tial that science takes an undis­puted pre­ce­dence over bibli­cal teachings” (p. 1403). Brei­vik listed Darwin’s Ori­gin of Spec­ies as one of the more “impor­tant” books that he has ever read (p. 1407). He lamen­ted that
Social-Darwinism was the norm before the 1950. Back then, it was allowed to say what we feel. Now, how­e­ver, we have to dis­guise our pre­fe­ren­ces to avoid the hor­rible con­se­quen­ces of being labe­led as a gen­eti­cal pre­fe­ren­ti­a­list (p. 1227).

Social Dar­wi­nism was never far below the sur­face in his exten­sive social policy discus­sions. It was even foun­da­tio­nal to the solu­tion of glo­bal eco­logy and over­po­pu­la­tion pro­blems. He argued that “radi­cal poli­cies will have to be imple­men­ted” to reduce the human popu­la­tion by, he con­clu­ded, more than half, or down to 3.8 bil­lion people (p. 1202). Furt­her­more, if “second and third world countries” are unable to curb their popu­la­tion growth, “nature will cor­rect their suici­dal tenden­cies” because they will be “unable to feed their popu­la­tions” as Dar­win stressed. Brei­vik belie­ves that Western countries should not inter­fere even if mass star­va­tion results: “If star­va­tion threa­tens the countries who have fai­led to follow our [popu­la­tion con­trol] guid­e­li­nes we should not sup­port them by … send[ing] any form of aid” (p. 1202). Indeed, “aid to 3rd world countries must stop imme­dia­tely as it is the pri­mary cause of over­po­pu­la­tion” (p. 1203).

The most bla­tant example of Breivik’s radi­cal Social Dar­wi­nism is his endor­se­ment of “repro­gen­etics,” a form of “posi­tive” euge­nics that enab­les humans to con­trol their evo­lu­tion to pro­duce bet­ter humans through euge­nics. Brei­vik even argued that the “never-ending col­lective pur­suit for scien­ti­fic evo­lu­tion and perfec­tion should become the bench­mark and essence of our exist­ence” (p. 1199, emp­ha­sis added).
Breivik’s avo­ca­tion of the “com­mer­cia­liza­tion and state/media encourage­ment of repro­gen­etics favo­ring the Nor­dic geno­type” was simi­lar to the Lebens­born pro­gram that the Nazis used in an attempt to breed superior Ary­ans. Spec­i­fi­cally, he advo­cated the use of “large scale sur­ro­gacy faci­lities as a secondary repro­duc­tion option for countries to com­pen­sate for non-sustainable fer­ti­lity rates. The donors of eggs and sperm will then exclu­sively carry the Nor­dic geno­ty­pes” (p. 1192). He explai­ned that the Nazis had the pro­per social Dar­wi­nist goals, but unfor­tu­nately they destroyed the repu­ta­tion of “euge­nics” by com­bi­ning it to … mass exter­mi­na­tion. But seeking bio­lo­gical perfec­tion is still a logical con­cept … We just have to make sure that we offer it as a volun­tary option to eve­ryone or at least start by lega­li­zing it …. This must be a non-coercive form of bio­lo­gical improve­ment which will be pre­do­mi­nantly moti­vated by … the desire to create the best … child­ren (p. 1200).

Brei­vik laments that the Nazi abu­ses have made imple­men­ting euge­nics more dif­fi­cult today:

We all remem­ber the hor­rors from WW2 where the Empire of Japan com­mit­ted atrocities against the Chinese by large scale mas­sac­res and by using them as human test sub­jects … Nazi Ger­many and other countries did the same thing in a smal­ler degree … Unfor­tu­nately, the hor­rors of WW2 created a stigma associa­ted with all future rese­arch and advan­ces in … impro­ving humans bio­lo­gically by rem­oving nega­tive here­di­tary factors (pp. 1189-1190).

Noting the social stigma of euge­nics, Ber­wick wri­tes that, unfor­tu­nately, euge­nics and repro­gen­etics are now “extremely poli­ti­cally incor­rect to discuss” because of “the ‘nega­tive euge­nics pro­grams’ of Nazi Ger­many,” namely
ste­ri­liza­tion and … expe­ri­men­ta­tion of human test sub­jects are factors used at that time … Many Euro­pean countries used to for­ce­fully ste­ri­lize Gypsies/Rom up to aprox 1972 to pre­vent them from bre­e­ding because they used to be con­side­red “sub-human” etc. These pro­grams are today referred to as “nega­tive euge­nics” due to these and other factors (p. 1190).

Brei­vik con­clu­ded that

we need to get over this taboo as soon as pos­sible because it is esti­mated that the Nor­dic geno­ty­pes will be extinct com­pletely wit­hin 200 years. This is mainly due to intermar­riage between Nor­dics and non-Nordics. Mul­ti­cul­tura­list doc­tri­nes have speeded this “indi­rect exter­mi­na­tion process” up furt­her in many Western Euro­pean countries so the extinc­tion might hap­pen soo­ner (p. 1190).

He added that the most effec­tive way to pre­vent this is “by intro­du­cing nega­tive euge­nics pro­grams com­bined with eth­nic segre­ga­tion somewhat simi­lar to some poli­cies of the Third Reich” (p. 1190). He pre­dicts that those who sup­port repro­gen­etics will

seize power wit­hin 30-70 years. And when we do we should refrain from com­mit­ting
the same mis­ta­kes of the past. Poli­ti­cal cor­rect indi­vi­duals will say: “Who cares if blonde people with blue eyes are extinct? We are all going to be dark skin­ned in the future any­way.” Wrong. … we have no inten­tion to allow … the indi­genous peop­les of Europe to be indi­rectly exter­mi­nated. The hypocri­ti­cal thing is that the same indi­vi­duals sta­ting this are likely to sup­port … the pre­ser­va­tion of rare spec­ies in the ani­mal king­dom (p. 1191).

Breivik’s obses­ses about pre­ser­ving the “Nor­dic” race, which he belie­ves pos­sess “rare cha­rac­te­ri­s­tics that have been acqui­red through an evo­lu­tio­nary process which has taken more than 1 mil­lion years” to evolve this race (p. 1158). Breivik’s major con­cern is that modern libe­ral atti­tu­des toward “race-mixing” are lead­ing people of Nor­dic ancestry to act “unna­tu­rally” and undo what a mil­lion years of evo­lu­tion has pro­du­ced. In this con­clu­sion he echoes the ideas of lead­ing early twen­tieth cen­tury Dar­wi­nian euge­nists inclu­ding Madi­son Grant, whom Brei­vik cited favo­rably in his mani­festo (pp. 1152-1153).

In his book Pas­sing of the Great Race (1918), Grant denoun­ced the Ame­ri­can “mel­ting pot” ideal because its ine­vi­table result was inter-racial mar­riage that he belie­ved, as did the Nazis, resulted in dege­ne­ra­tion of the “superior” race. Grant wrote “The result of the mix­ture of two races, in the long run, gives us a race rever­ting to the more ancient, gene­ra­lized and lower type” (1918, p. 16). Grant was espec­ially con­cerned about the degra­da­tion of the “Nor­dic races” because he belie­ved that Nor­dics were natu­rally the “rulers, orga­nizers and aristocrats.” He repeatedly cited the impor­tance of evo­lu­tion for his theory of his 1918 tome.

He Relies on Modern Darwinists

Breivik’s call for a euge­nics revo­lu­tion was not inspi­red by his own pri­vate ideas but, instead, they spring largely from lead­ing main­stream Dar­wi­nists, past and pre­sent. His Social Dar­wi­nism was a clear part of the mix that cau­sed his mur­derous ram­page.
Alt­hough con­tem­po­rary scien­tists now dis­tance them­sel­ves from Madi­son Grant’s racism, he was once highly respec­ted by the scien­ti­fic com­mu­nity. His many honors include board mem­ber of the pre­sti­gious Ame­ri­can Museum of Natu­ral His­tory in New York, and chair­man of the New York Zoo­lo­gical Society. Grant’s book, The Pas­sing of the Great Race, went through mul­tiple editions, each with a lau­da­tory pre­face by The Ame­ri­can Museum of Natu­ral His­tory pre­si­dent (from 1908 to 1933) and Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity zoo­lo­gist, Henry Fai­r­field Osborn.

Brei­vik drew not only on early Dar­wi­nian thin­kers but his “repro­gen­etics” pro­po­sal comes from a modern respec­ted evo­lu­tio­nary bio­lo­gist, Lee Sil­ver, a Prin­ceton Pro­fes­sor and Fel­low of the Ame­ri­can Associa­tion for the Advan­ce­ment of Science. It was Sil­ver who coined the term “repro­gen­etics,” and his 1997 book, Rema­king Eden: How Gen­etic Engi­neer­ing and Clo­ning Will Trans­form the Ame­ri­can Family, is pro­mi­nently featu­red in Breivik’s mani­festo.
Repro­gen­etics mer­ges exis­ting repro­duc­tive and gen­etic tech­no­lo­gies, all of which Sil­ver pre­dicts will become less costly, more avai­lable, and increas­ingly power­ful. Silver’s goal is for parents to be able to select the gen­etic cha­rac­te­ri­s­tics of their off­spring, which he pre­dicts will trig­ger major social chan­ges, inclu­ding redu­cing gen­etic dise­a­ses and the bre­e­ding of superior humans.

Euge­nics, the “science” of impro­ving the gene pool, became infa­mous for the bru­tal poli­cies that its sup­por­ters prac­ticed in the 20th cen­tury. The major dif­fe­ren­ces between repro­gen­etics and euge­nics is that euge­nics pro­grams were com­pulsory, impo­sed by govern­ments attemp­ting to achieve some idea­li­s­tic, uto­pian goal.
Unlike Brei­vik, Sil­ver does not advo­cate using gen­etic means to pre­serve the “Nor­dic” race, but does argue that repro­gen­etics will achieve superior human beings by allowing humans to con­trol their evo­lu­tion. Alt­hough Sil­ver is con­cerned that whole­sale gen­etic engi­neer­ing could lead to a chasm between those who can afford gen­etic enhan­ce­ments and those who can­not, Sil­ver attempts to dis­miss what he per­ce­i­ves to be the major objec­tions to his new euge­nics. In his pro­lo­gue, Sil­ver explo­res
the ethi­cal argu­ments that have been raised against the use of this tech­no­logy. In most instan­ces, I will attri­bute oppo­sition to con­scious or subcon­scious fears of tre­ad­ing in “God’s domain.” Indeed, I will argue that nearly all of the objec­tions raised by bio­ethi­cists and others ring hol­low (Sil­ver, 1997, p. 13).

In his “The Desig­ner Child” chap­ter Sil­ver sounds very much like the euge­nists of a cen­tury past, argu­ing that tech­no­logy has now given us the power to direct our own evo­lu­tion and we must seize that power, opi­ning “While sel­fish genes do, indeed, con­trol all other forms of life, mas­ter and slave have switched positions in human beings, who now have the power not only to con­trol but to create new genes for them­sel­ves” (Sil­ver, 1997, p. 277).
In his epi­lo­gue, Sil­ver offers a uto­pian vision of the future directed by intel­li­gence that would make some ear­lier euge­nists envious. Wri­ting a hypot­he­ti­cal his­tory of repro­gen­etics from some future date, Sil­ver details how humans have uti­lized gen­etic engi­neer­ing to evolve them­sel­ves into God-like crea­tu­res, wri­ting the “cri­ti­cal tur­ning point in the evo­lu­tion of life in the uni­verse” was when scien­tists “made huge advan­ces in furt­her under­stan­ding the human mind, and they created more sop­hi­s­ti­cated repro­gen­etic tech­no­lo­gies, which they then used to enhance … the next gene­ra­tion” (Sil­ver, 1997 p. 293).

By this means, Sil­ver con­clu­ded, each gene­ra­tion will achieve quan­tum leaps of evo­lu­tion, a con­clu­sion that resulted as our tech­no­lo­gical power con­ti­nued to rise up to a point that there exists

a spec­ial group of men­tal beings. Alt­hough these beings can trace their ancestry back directly to homo sapi­ens, they are as dif­fe­rent from humans as humans are from the pri­mi­tive worms with tiny brains that first craw­led along the earth’s sur­face (Sil­ver, 1997, p. 293).

Pro­fes­sor Sil­ver not only served as a major intel­lec­tual men­tor to Breivik’s chil­ling demands for a new euge­nics, but Brei­vik embraced whole­sale both Silver’s repro­gen­etics pro­gram and his scien­ti­fic uto­pia­nism, again docu­ment­ing the fact that ideas cle­arly have con­se­quen­ces.
Brei­vik openly condemned Norway’s policy that con­tri­buted to inter-racial mar­riage, wri­ting that the “Mul­ti­cul­tural Inqui­sition may not threa­ten to kill you, but it does threa­ten to kill your career, and that goes a long way in achie­ving the same result” (2011, 526-527).
When advo­ca­ting euge­nics to jus­tify his ideas, Brei­vik noted that the Swedish govern­ment “applied Ger­man race laws from 1937 onwards” and “any Swede who wan­ted to marry an Aryan Ger­man was for­ced to sign an affir­ma­tion sta­ting that none of the German’s grand­pa­rents were Jewish” (2011, p. 638). Furt­her­more, in 1937 despite the evi­dence that Sweden “applied Nazi race laws, party mem­bers still get away with denoun­cing cri­tics of their immi­gra­tion poli­cies as neo-Nazis, racists or Fascists” (2011, 638). He con­clu­ded that Sweden

pro­moted the idea of posi­tive euge­nics and for­ced ste­ri­liza­tion pro­grams against those with “weak genes.” This star­ted in Sweden even before Nazi Ger­many, and it con­ti­nued lon­ger…. As Adolf Hit­ler stated in 1927: “We are Socia­lists, ene­mies, mor­tal ene­mies of the pre­sent capi­ta­list eco­no­mic sys­tem (2011, p. 638).

Racism at the Core of His Ideology

Breivik’s major con­cern, as was Hitler’s, was the puta­tive “rapid extinc­tion of the Nor­dic geno­ty­pes” (p. 1188). An example he cited is the data that showed the pre­va­lence of blue eyes among European-Americans living in the Uni­ted Sta­tes which “have become increas­ingly rare among Ame­ri­can child­ren” (p. 1188). Berwick’s con­cern about inter-marriage was due to its euge­nic implications:

A cen­tury ago, 80 per­cent of people mar­ried wit­hin their eth­nic group. Blue eyes were rou­tinely passed down, espec­ially among people of Western and Northern Euro­pean ancestry. About half of Ame­ri­cans born at the turn of the 20th cen­tury had blue eyes … By mid-century that num­ber had drop­ped to a third. Today only about one 1 of every 6 Ame­ri­cans has blue eyes (p. 1188).

The rese­ar­chers assu­med that blue eyes may be related to increased life expectancy, but it turned

out it has more to do with mar­riage pat­terns. A cen­tury ago, 80 per­cent of people mar­ried wit­hin their eth­nic group … As intermar­riage between eth­nic groups became the norm, blue eyes began to dis­appear, replaced by brown (p. 1188).

The pro­blem, Blei­vik argued, was cau­sed by the immi­gra­tion of various “non­whi­tes into the Uni­ted Sta­tes, espec­ially from Latin Ame­rica and Asia, haste­ned the dis­appea­rance [of blue eyes]” (p. 1189). He added that in the past “euge­ni­cists used the dis­appea­rance of blue eyes as a ral­ly­ing cry to sup­port immi­gra­tion rest­ric­tions” (p. 1189).
Brei­vik con­clu­ded that saving huma­nity requi­res the appli­ca­tion of euge­nics and his mur­derous ram­page would pub­li­cize his con­cerns as spelled out in his mani­festo. In this lat­ter goal he was success­ful. He also was success­ful in showing that Dar­wi­nian euge­nics is still alive and well in the world.


Anders Behring Brei­vik was a young Nor­we­gian who became ena­mo­red with social Dar­wi­nism and his modern discip­les, such as Prin­ceton Uni­ver­sity Evo­lu­tio­nist Lee Sil­ver. He, as far as we know, on his own set off a power­ful home made bomb in 2011 in Oslo Nor­way and a short time later mur­de­red 69 young per­sons at a Youth league meeting. His goal was to bring atten­tion to his belief that modern Dar­wi­nian euge­nics could create a uto­pia and eli­mi­nate many of the major pro­blems of the world. His 78 thou­sand word mani­festo made clear in detail his moti­ves and goals for his ter­ro­rists attack on his own people.

This event illust­ra­tes the fact that euge­nic ideas are still alive and influ­en­tial in some areas of society and are, likewise, still very destruc­tive. It also illust­ra­tes that rejec­tion of the Bibli­cal doc­trine of crea­tion of all human beings may lead to social Dar­wi­nism, racism and euge­nics. The ulti­mate means Brei­vik used to rea­lize his ideas are extreme, and his men­tal state is uncer­tain. And this indi­ca­tes that per­so­nal featu­res also are impor­tant factors, in addition to the con­tent of his ideo­lo­gical convictions.

Ano­ny­mous. 2011. Nor­we­gian Kil­ler is Con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian Fun­da­men­ta­list. Atheism Forum.

Grant, Madi­son. 1918. The Pas­sing of the Great Race, Or, the Racial Basis of Euro­pean His­tory. New York. Char­les Scribner’s Sons.

Osborn, Henry Fai­r­field. 1918. Intro­duc­tion to Grant pp. vii-ix.

Ray­ner, Gor­don, Dun­can Gard­ham and John Bing­ham. 2011. “Hunt for Bri­tons lin­ked to Nor­way kil­ler Anders Behring Brei­vik.” The Tele­graph, Lon­don. Sep­tem­ber, 23.

Sar­fati, Jonat­han. 2011. “Nor­way Ter­ro­rist: More Media Men­dacity.” August. HYPERLINK “”

Slack, Chris 2011. “Anders Brei­vik ‘was on Nor­we­gian secret ser­vice watch­list after buy­ing che­mical haul from Polish retai­ler.” Lon­don: Mai­lOn­line. July, 26.

Sil­ver, Lee M. 1997. Rema­king Eden: Clo­ning and Beyond in a Brave New World. New York: Avon Books.

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