Saturday, August 25, 2012

Darwin and Haeckel 1.

Charles Darwin wrote a letter to Ernst Haeckel on the 9th of March, 1864 in which he said,

Dear & Respected Sir

You must permit me to thank you sincerely for the present of your paper & for the Stettin Newspaper. I am delighted that so distinguished a Naturalist should confirm & expound my views, and I can clearly see that you are one of the few who clearly understand Natural Selection.

I feel sure that you do good service by boldly expressing how far you agree with me.

Many men in this country elsewhere really go nearly or quite as far as I do on the modification of Species, but are afraid openly to express such views. I have been particularly struck & interested by your remarks on the individual variability of Sapphirina. This sentence will be remembered by me & quoted hereafter.

With sincere respect I remain dear Sir | yours very faithfully | Charles Darwin

In this early letter to Ernst Haeckel, Charles Darwin confirmed that Ernst Haeckel understood him, "one of the few who clearly understands Natural Selection".  It endorses his "boldly expressing how far you agree with me".  He also indicated that Darwinists, five years after On the Origin of Species were already deriving conclusions from it that they were hesitant to make public.

Many men in this country elsewhere really go nearly or quite as far as I do on the modification of Species, but are afraid openly to express such views.

That letter is one in a long correspondence between Haeckel and Darwin,  The Darwin Correspondence Project apparently holds 96, most of which it has not transcribed, many of those are held in the original at Haeckel Haus,.   The earliest collection of Darwin letters published was "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin" by his son,  Francis Darwin (another of the Darwin children involved with eugenics).  In volume 2,  he warmly testifies to the closeness of his father with Ernst Haeckel.

The earliest letter which I have seen from my father to Professor Haeckel, was written in 1865, and from that time forward they corresponded (though not, I think, with any regularity) up to the end of my father's life. His friendship with Haeckel was not nearly growth of correspondence, as was the case with some others, for instance, Fritz Muller. Haeckel paid more than one visit to Down, and these were thoroughly enjoyed by my father. The following letter will serve to show the strong feeling of regard which he entertained for his correspondent—a feeling which I have often heard him emphatically express, and which was warmly returned. The book referred to is Haeckel's 'Generelle Morphologie,' published in 1866, a copy of which my father received from the author in January 1867.

From this we have his son's evidence that the correspondence with Haeckel lasted the rest of Charles Darwin's life, though perhaps not frequent.  It's possible that there were letters Francis Darwin didn't have when he put together the book.

Francis Darwin said that Darwin and Haeckel's relationship was far more than a mere correspondence, that Darwin hosted Haeckel at his home more than once,  and that he heard him "emphatically experess- "warm feeling of regard"  for Haeckel, "which was warmly returned".  Obviously, Francis Darwin was witness to conversations between his father and Ernst Haeckel.  That is something that no one denying a connection between Darwin and Haeckel can overcome  They never heard the man, never mind lived with him and heard him privately, off the record.   We also learn that Haeckel gave him a copy of "Generelle Morphologie".  The record shows that Charles Darwin was very familiar with Ernst Haeckel's writing up till the time he died.   Of course, Darwin couldn't know what Haeckel wrote after his death but he is known to have read Haeckel through his own words, reaction, commentary and enthusiastic citations.

Francis Darwin consults Thomas Huxley to provide a description of "Generelle Morphologie":

Mr. Huxley, writing in 1869, paid a high tribute to Professor Haeckel as the Coryphaeus of the Darwinian movement in Germany. Of his 'Generelle Morphologie,' "an attempt to work out the practical application" of the doctrine of Evolution to their final results, he says that it has the "force and suggestiveness, and... systematising power of Oken without his extravagance." Professor Huxley also testifies to the value of Haeckel's 'Schopfungs-Geschichte' as an exposition of the 'Generelle Morphologie' "for an educated public."

 Francis Darwin continues about a later letter:

In the following letter my father alludes to the somewhat fierce manner in which Professor Haeckel fought the battle of 'Darwinismus,' and on this subject Dr. Krause has some good remarks (page 162). He asks whether much that happened in the heat of the conflict might not well have been otherwise, and adds that Haeckel himself is the last man to deny this. Nevertheless he thinks that even these things may have worked well for the cause of Evolution, inasmuch as Haeckel "concentrated on himself by his 'Ursprung des Menschen-Geschlechts,' his 'Generelle Morphologie,' and 'Schopfungs-Geschichte,' all the hatred and bitterness which Evolution excited in certain quarters," so that, "in a surprisingly short time it became the fashion in Germany that Haeckel alone should be abused, while Darwin was held up as the ideal of forethought and moderation."]

Despite what is currently believed by some, Haeckel, as early as  "Generelle Morphologie" established himself as the leading representative of Darwinism in Germany, with the approval of Darwin and his foremost English representative.  As Francis Darwin put it:

Mr. Huxley, writing in 1869, paid a high tribute to Professor Haeckel as the Coryphaeus of the Darwinian movement in Germany. Of his 'Generelle Morphologie,' "an attempt to work out the practical application" of the doctrine of Evolution to their final results, he says that it has the "force and suggestiveness, and... systematising power of Oken without his extravagance." Professor Huxley also testifies to the value of Haeckel's 'Schopfungs-Geschichte' as an exposition of the 'Generelle Morphologie' "for an educated public."

Again, in his 'Evolution in Biology' (An article in the 'Encyclopaedia Britannica,' 9th edition, reprinted in 'Science and Culture,' 1881, page 298.), Mr. Huxley wrote: "Whatever hesitation may, not unfrequently, be felt by less daring minds, in following Haeckel in many of his speculations, his attempt to systematise the doctrine of Evolution, and to exhibit its influence as the central thought of modern biology, cannot fail to have a far-reaching influence on the progress of science."

Haeckel could hardly have concluded that he was getting Darwin wrong, between Darwin's confirmation and approval of his aggressive interpretation and Thomas Huxley appointing him the "Coryphaeus [chorus leader] of the Darwinian movement in Germany."  He retained that status for the rest of his life. Charles Darwin never declared him as having gone off the tracks in any document I've seen.

In the letters that follow,  Darwin expresses some reservations about the case Haeckel made for Darwinism, though it's clear that was due to the possibility that it would incite opposition instead of with the scientific validity of what Haeckel said:

Dear Häckel

Your letter of the 18th has given me great pleasure, for you have received what I said in the most kind & cordial manner.  You have in part taken what I said much stronger than I had intended. It never occurred to me for a moment to doubt that your work with the whole subject so admirably & clearly arranged, as well as fortified by so many new facts & arguments, wd not advance our common object in the highest degree.—

All that I think is that you will excite anger & that anger so completely blinds every one that your arguments wd. have no chance of influencing those who are already opposed to our views. Moreover I do not at all like that you towards whom I feel so much friendship shd unnecessarily make enemies, & there is pain & vexation enough in the world without more being caused. But I repeat that I can feel no doubt that your work will greatly advance our subject, & I heartily wish it cd be translated into English for my own sake &that of others. With respect to what you say about my advancing too strongly objections against my own views, some of my English friends think that I have erred on this side; but truth compelled me to write what I did, & I am inclined to think it was good policy.

The belief in the descent theory is slowly spreading in England, even amongst those who can give no reason for their belief. No body of men were at first so much opposed to my views as the members of the London entomolog. Soc; but now I am assured that with the exception of 2 or 3 old men all the members concur with me to a certain extent.  It has been a great disappointment to me that I have never recd your long letter written to me from the Canary I.s. I am rejoiced to hear that your tour which seems to have been a most interesting one has done yr health much good.  I am working away at my new book, but make very slow progress &the work tries my health, which is much the same as when you were here.

Victor Carus is going to translate it, but whether it is worth translation I am rather doubtful

I am very glad to hear that there is some chance of your visiting England this autumn & all in this house will be delighted to see you here.

Believe me my dear Häckel | yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin

Darwin's early expressed reservations of Haeckel's exposition of Darwinism weren't scientific ones:

"It never occurred to me for a moment to doubt that your work with the whole subject so admirably & clearly arranged, as well as fortified by so many new facts & arguments, wd not advance our common object in the highest degree."

Darwin's reservations are explicitly political, the fear of motivating opposition:

"All that I think is that you will excite anger & that anger so completely blinds every one that your arguments wd. have no chance of influencing those who are already opposed to our views. Moreover I do not at all like that you towards whom I feel so much friendship shd unnecessarily make enemies, & there is pain & vexation enough in the world without more being caused." 

Apparently Haeckel had chided Darwin for responding to his critics seriously.  Darwin says that he was doing so as "good policy".

"With respect to what you say about my advancing too strongly objections against my own views, some of my English friends think that I have erred on this side; but truth compelled me to write what I did, & I am inclined to think it was good policy."

He's afraid that if too much of the meaning of Darwinism is revealed, it will excite opposition in the period during which it was gaining ground in England and elsewhere.   So a letter with which his champions try to distance Darwin from Haeckel shows that his hesitations at Haeckel's exposition of Darwinism were political, not scientific.

In the letter Darwin refers to a previous visit Haeckel made to him and he eagerly anticipates an upcoming visit.

Another letter ofNovember 19, 1868 from which I have seen one phrase extracted from to distance Darwin from Haeckel is another instance of "quote mining" to support a eugenics-free Darwin.  But a reading of more of what Darwin said shows  when he says "Your boldness, however, sometimes makes me tremble, "  he wasn't talking about Haeckel's more troubling writing.  Darwin was troubled about Haeckel's book because because he was going past where there was current fossil evidence to support his contentions.

Your chapters on the affinities and genealogy of the animal kingdom strike me as admirable and full of original thought. Your boldness, however, sometimes makes me tremble, but as Huxley remarked, some one must be bold enough to make a beginning in drawing up tables of descent. Although you fully admit the imperfection of the geological record, yet Huxley agreed with me in thinking that you are sometimes rather rash in venturing to say at what periods the several groups first appeared. I have this advantage over you, that I remember how wonderfully different any statement on this subject made 20 years ago, would have been to what would now be the case, and I expect the next 20 years will make quite as great a difference. Reflect on the monocotyledonous plant just discovered in the PRIMORDIAL formation in Sweden.

Considering other things that Darwin and Huxley could have trembled about, that doesn't seem worth the effort.

I will be dealing with the strong ties between Darwin and Haeckel this week because this is such a crucial issue in the dispute.  As anyone who looks at the record can see, Darwin's own words and acts, citation and promoting Haeckel's books and his encouragement of what Haeckel was doing,  that connection is clear and undeniable to anyone who doesn't resort to misrepresenting the case or avoiding looking at the evidence.  And Haeckel in 1868 was already saying things that Darwin wanted kept quiet to avoid bad publicity for Darwinism, without objecting to the scientific nature of what Haeckel was saying.  I will go into that in future posts.

Note:  As to the matter of how much of Haeckel Darwin understood in the original German, Francis Darwin excerpts this letter to August Weismann in which Darwin demonstrates he could read technical papers in German, albeit, "so slowly".

January 12, 1877.

... I read German so slowly, and have had lately to read several other papers, so that I have as yet finished only half of your first essay and two-thirds of your second. They have excited my interest and admiration in the highest degree, and whichever I think of last, seems to me the most valuable. I never expected to see the coloured marks on caterpillars so well explained; and the case of the ocelli delights me especially...

While less known to those fighting the Darwin wars,  August Weismann is also an important figure tying Darwin to German eugenics at the beginning of its horrific development and in English speaking countries.  As with George Darwin, I have not concentrated on Weismann and other figures in this controversy yet though I may get around to that in the future.   I will point out that if you do a google search of these, looking for online, primary material, you will find that creationists have looked at those sources already and they use them in their polemics against evolutionary science.   That record has always been out there, it has never been as available in the original documents as it is today, it is not going away.   Scientists who want to protect evolutionary science from political attacks will have to deal with that record and face that the Darwin so many of them grew up with is half of the story at best, a near complete fabrication, most commonly.

Unlike the problem of writing about Schallmeyer for an English speaking audience, that so little of his writing is easily available in English translation,the question of Darwin's relationship with Haeckel is well documented in English, both by what Darwin and others close to him wrote in English and in translations of Haeckel that were made during Darwin's lifetime and which he would have known to have read or mentioned.  The champions of the eugenics-free Darwin will grasp onto any straw to avoid the conclusions forced by that record.  Which doesn't,  in any way, change the record or that it's available to be read and understood and it always will be.

Below is a blog post that I wrote after a couple of weeks of intense flaming and misrepresentation of the serial essay I wrote in 2008.   I had  reposted it in order on my other blog after it appeared in serial form at Echidne of the Snakes, where the flaming took place.

The most controversial part was "Early Selections" in which I criticized and began to analyze Darwin's very explicit statement of the premise of eugenics.  That criticism included posts on at least one other blog which misrepresented what I wrote so obviously that it was clear the author hadn't even really read that post, and certainly hadn't read all of them.  It was my first experience of just how dishonest the advocacy for the phony post-War, eugenics  free, Darwin was.   He never lived, he is a fictitious character created to shield the real Darwin from the facts of what he wrote and did.   He was created in the post-war period when  his obvious racism, ethnic bigotry, sexism, eugenics and, yes, Social Darwinism, should have been being admitted and removed from science.  I already knew that when I wrote the essay.  But since it was to be posted on a blog I was writing for on as a guest, I was reluctant to go as far in exposing that as I could have.  That reluctance doesn't apply to my own blogs.  The purpose of these posts is to document that Charles Darwin was, in fact, the inspiration of eugenics, that he approved it as soon as he read the early manifestations of it from Galton, Greg, Haeckel, Fick and others.  Not only did he approve it but in he gave it publicity by filling The Descent of Man with eugenics assertions and arguments, knowingly.  He was, by far, more famous than any of the actual inventors of eugenics or any of its early figures,  Charles Darwin was the inspiration and also its foremost proponent in its earliest period.

The well known, dishonest "aid" paragraph that is used, almost always in truncated form, by those who want to distance him from the horrible things he said throughout the book was obviously put there by Darwin as a means of denying what he was stating in what he clearly meant to be taken as solid science in the rest of the book.  As I've read more into this, one other thing that is clear, Charles Darwin was quite experienced in that kind of politics by the 1870s.   He constantly let other people fight his battles for him,  Huxley, most famously.  The decades after the introduction of natural selection was a struggle to get the idea adopted in science,  it didn't have the absolute place it gained after the 1930s, though it had been adopted by many, from the beginning.   During Darwin's later years he was still campaigning for the adoption of natural selection as well as doing some work in less wide reaching areas that, I'd guess, might turn out to be more durable than natural selection will turn out to be.  Darwin was engaged in the encouragement of eugenics as it was forming, publicizing the idea, lending his greater fame to its inventor and its early proponents,  giving it one of its most succinct articulations in the paragraph for which the "aid" paragraph provides rather transparently insincere deniability.   I will fully analyze that in another post.  The problem isn't that it's hard to make this case, the problem is there is so much confirmation of it.   And that those who have constructed and want to maintain the eugenics free Darwin have thrown up so much obfuscation that has to be answered and debunked.

The most controversial issue of all, Darwin's obvious inspiration of Ernst Haeckel is yet to be dealt with in this series.  I will be doing that this week.  Again, the issue isn't that it's hard to make that association, the problem is that there is so much relevant information to choose from.   And it's indisputable for anyone who looks at the documentary record.  Charles Darwin made that association, himself, during his lifetime, with letters to and visits from Haeckel,  private encouragement and glowing, public  endorsement of books which already had rather devloped versions of the ideas that would make Ernst Haeckel a source of some of the most infamous ideas and, it is indisputable, acts,  in the history of science.   The Descent of Man, the road map I relied on to find evidence in this case, makes Darwin's endorsement of Haeckel clear.  That is coming in posts beginning next week.

Anyway, here, in slightly expanded form, is that post from 2008.

Dissing an Idol and Feeling Better For It

The furor over the essay posted below produced some good points to consider and a lot of silly fun over at Echidne’s blog. I did get too much of the latter by citing Thomas Huxley and Richard Dawkins to refute the instantly arrived at piece of erudition from the Wiki Rangers and Knights of Sagan that “only creationists use the word ‘Darwinism”. Though even that obvious refutation didn’t matter. You wonder at the phenomenon of people who won’t read or think but who frequent blogs that deal with somewhat complicated ideas.

The most ridiculous, though, didn’t come from the post-adolescent Sciblog wannabees but one Word Search able scholar who went into paroxysms of indignation over the use of the word “cull” to describe what Darwin lamented mightn’t happen in ‘civilised’ countries due to the level of charity available to people in the work houses of Victorian England. I got the feeling that the guy didn’t know the word before reading it in the essay. Come to think of it, he probably doesn’t understand the New Poor Law or have the skills to find out what the reference to work houses means so this will probably set him off again.

Darwin used a metaphor to describe the unchecked breeding of the “weaker members” of the human species and the bad results it would have for future generations. He said:

Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

He introduced the idea that it was stupid to allow certain people to have children after lamenting that they would survive to child bearing age. By comparing people to farm animals in this context he was clearly lamenting that people wouldn’t be treated like animals in a commercial breeding operation.

Let me stop here to ask, isn’t that outrageous enough in itself? Not even animals in the wild, but comparing human beings to animals in a commercial breeding operation? Where else have we seen that idea not only posed by carried out?

Darwin’s Defender didn’t seem to realize that animals selected as not to be bred are not kept as pets on a farm but are marked for early slaughter.  Something that would have been known to the squire Darwin, who was a landowner who enjoyed income from tenant farmers and who had observed breeding operations in his research.  I’ll point out that this is entirely in keeping with the earlier part of the paragraph where Darwin laments that human beings will survive long enough to breed.

The mechanism to prevent this happening in the human population, the one he approves of, the one he heartily approves of among the ‘savages’ is through the deaths of the “weaker members”. That the gentleman's son, Charles Darwin, would leave the culling to the 'savages' signifies absolutely nothing.

By the time Darwin wrote The Descent of Man, where the passage comes from, he was a very experienced writer who was used to having his language dissected by both those hostile to science and by scientists. To think he didn’t mean what he wrote is the kind of double-talk you get from idol worshipers, ironically, it is tantamount to saying he was ga-ga when he wrote it. I think he knew what he was writing and that it is clear he knew what happens to animals on the farm, he cited exactly the practices of commercial animal breeding in his work and would have known about its enormous usefulness to his great idea, which isn’t evolution but natural selection. The subsequent and dishonest assertion of his humanity does nothing to dissuade me that he knew the horrible conclusions that had to come from believing what he had just written.

I won’t write down to the level of people who don’t read what they comment on or who won’t look up references they don’t understand. It’s a waste of the time of those readers who do read and do the bother of thinking about what is on the screen in front of them instead of automatically looking to their database of skimpy, pre-fabricated, cliches and prejudices in order to fit in ideas that don’t match any field they’ve got in their heads. Writing down is an insult to people who deserve respect and it’s my experience that the ones who choose to be idiots aren’t going to change no matter how hard you try to explain what you’ve already written.

I will also not hold back because “creationists” might find useful material in what I point out. If it’s there, they’ve got the resources to find it . If the proponents of Darwinism are so worried about ‘science’ that they think covering up the truth will protect it, they care more about their ideology than they do about science. I have no obligation to join in with their cover up efforts.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The People

This is the third and last part of the serial essay I first posted in 2008.   I dedicated it to Marilynne Robinson and I still do, after reading her later novels and essays.   I don't know of a better living writer of the English language or a living intellectual who has addressed important ideas with more integrity and moral erudition. 

The People are the foundation and the ultimate authority of democracy. Democracy assumes that The People will rule themselves better than despots or elites or even “a government of wise men”. Democracy assumes that The People will act more wisely, more justly, more fairly than other authorities. Most of all, including all of these benefits, democracy assumes that the collective actions of The People will be more beneficially effective in the real world than any other form of government.

In order for democracy to be preferable to any other known form of government it has to pass a fairly low test, it must produce a better life than undemocratic governments. The history of the world provides conclusive evidence that The People could hardly do worse than the alternative.

There are several fundamental prerequisites for democracy to exist, The People must be assumed to have political equality, they must have a sufficient grasp of the truth to make the right decisions, and they have to have a sense of fairness, honesty and decency. It must be taken as given that The People possess the inherent rights to govern their lives and their polity. In order for democracy to really exist, these have to be more than assumed, they have to be made real. Without these prerequisites, democracy is a sham.

But the exercise of rights, though they might be said to be unalienable, cannot be exercised outside of a context which will permit it. Democracy is notably rare in the world, it is gained with enormous difficulty and it is difficult to keep. Would be rulers are always endangering it and elites actively despise it even as they appropriate its words as tools of deception. In the modern world one of the dangers to democracy is the propaganda power of mass media and in the United States that media is owned and controlled by the economic elite. We have the example of the media here perverting the concept of democracy to the point where it is to be held as unremarkable that George W. Bush - brought to office by Supreme Court ruling, approving a clearly corrupted election in a state ruled by his brother - claims the right to impose democracy, by unprovoked invasion, on a foreign country. When words become slogans without any coherent substance, the truth can’t be told. We are at a crisis which is destroying democracy and which endangers the entire biosphere.

An even greater danger to Western democracy is the loss of confidence by The People in our own ability to govern, when we doubt our actions can be beneficially effective. That is seen in low voter participation rates, the cynicism with which government and politics is regarded and the ever lower regard in which The People are led to hold ourselves. An apathetic, demoralized, jaded population is set up for subjugation.


I began with a section about the immense dimensions of EVOLUTION. In the arguments that ensued no one disputed the contention that it was effectively infinite when compared with the capacity of the human population to deal with even those data which could be obtained. Less noticed, since it was unremarked, was the contention that the enormous duration and numbers of EVOLUTION would allow it being known through only as a minute part of the whole. I mentioned that this limit in what was knowable might apply to mechanisms governing the processes of EVOLUTION which the human study of it might devise or even discover. I am going to state that as probable, if not a given.

The “Interlude” mentions, very nontechnically, the Hegelian dialectic, a form of allegedly scientific determinism which has had at least a nominal effect in many countries. It has never been very influential in the United States. Those countries which followed Marx, more in the breach than in the observance, can be said to have followed that form of determinism. I’ll leave it to you to consider the largest of those countries, China, and the results for both The People of China and the Environment in which they will have to try to survive. I will also leave you to consider what it might have to teach about the probability of elites saving the planet.

This “Interlude” was originally meant to be published at the beginning of what became the discussion of Darwinism, but was broken off in a futile attempt at concision. The subject wasn’t specifically Darwinism or the dialectic but political theories which do not start with the assumptions necessary for democracy, but in various forms of determinism, biological, historical, and others. All of these theories begin by aspiring to the objective reliability and prestige of science. Some are more scientific, others take the prestige but make do without the objective reliability. The social sciences are replete with examples.

Darwin, resting on the reality of EVOLUTION, was certainly an important figure in science, no one can deny that just as no serious person can deny EVOLUTION. But from before the publication of The Origins of Species, as that book was incubating, Darwinism was more than just an attempted explanation of EVOLUTION.

We love our pet ideas and in the competitive struggle for attention and professional recognition the promotion of them can outstrip the fact that they are all contingent. The competitive pressures in university departments, the ruthless need for scholars to defend their goods, the need of the would be intellectual descendants of those holding a department or, in the worst cases, entire fields, often lead to the use of less than objective means to render competitors extinct. The desire of elite scholars and their intellectual heirs to promote their ideas to the point of invincibility is, perhaps, a result of scarce resources. I don’t know if it has ever been studied in those terms. It isn’t any surprise that such loudly touted ideas have the potential to leave a cultural legacy that can outlive the position they hold in intellectual life. Freudian psychology is a definite example of that. Such ideas have a life outside of science, They aren’t required to adhere to the requirements of science in the wider culture, though they never give up the pretense to have remained faithful to its exigencies.

It is mentioned in an earlier section that the position of natural selection, like all of the contingencies of science, is open and, in spite of enormous resistance, active. But that isn’t my fight. There is another aspect of natural selection that I believe is more important for democracy and, through it, the survival of the species.

Part Two, analyzed a specimen of thinking which became influential in the general culture. I think any honest observer of evolutionary science and the enormously varied cultural descendants of it would admit that is true. While quotes from other people could have been used, this one encompasses enormous political implications. Since the political implications of this kind of idea are the subject of this essay, that one is entirely fit for the purpose. An idea of science that steps into the mechanics of politics has made itself the proper subject of political analysis. I will finish the analysis begun in Part Two.

Whatever else this application of natural selection* to human populations asserts, it unmistakably holds that not even democratically chosen actions will reliably produce effective beneficial results overriding natural selection.

Darwin clearly didn’t think they would in this case. After Malthus, he warned of dire consequences that were practically certain to result if what he identifies as the “weak members” of the human species happened to leave descendants. He all but guarantees that if they live to reproduce, disaster for the entire population will result. Inequality is assumed as a given, it is assumed to be an intrinsic part of the operation of natural selection, even in its assumed govenance of the political lives of reasoning humans.

Darwin identifies the mechanism of the disaster, the failure of natural selection, and he identifies the cause of the failure, charitable aid and medical care which will allow survival to the point where children are born to these “weak members” . I am sorry if it is difficult to face that analysis but it is inescapable, that is what Darwin said would happen. Unsupported by corroborating data, he confidently expressed that the attempt to take effective beneficial action on behalf of these People would lead to tragic consequences. And notice, he assumes its intended effect, relief to the Wretched of the Earth, would be achieved. Its success was the problem.

After giving his dire forecast in steely, in what I must believe he felt to be, ‘manly’ language of dispassionate science, Darwin looked aside meekly and said that the aid must be given. This subsequent assertion, less vivid in language, that we must give that unwise aid though it lead to disaster, frankly, is irrational unless he pits the interests of the “weaker members” against the good of the rest and opts for the “weaker” ones. You might even say that he opts for them in spite of the good of themselves, since they will also experience the degenerating human population, front row seats, most probably. And in the paragraph, even as he is striking these moral postures, he is continually undermining them. **

That soft insistence on taking cross-starred moral responsibility is not one that all contenders for his mantle would feel it was necessary to observe, despite its having been made by Darwin himself. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of the world would know that the demure assertion of moral responsibility would be forgotten while concentrating on the crisis it was clearly stated would result from it. Darwin witnessed the so-called reforms of the New Poor Law. That “reform” slashed aid to the poor, making the lives of the poor of under them even more miserable than before. Yet he condemned it as a too charitable hindrance to natural selection. Like the present “reforms” in the United States, forcing “competition” onto the weakest members of society, producing cohersive misery was its intended result. It is a bitter irony that the party embracing creationism and opposing EVOLUTION, has made this feature of Darwinian-Malthusian morality the dogma and law of the United States.

Though Darwin’s assumption of inequality is corrosive and the callousness infectious, the assumption of the uselessness of reason in the face of natural selection is fatal to democracy. The assumption of the futility of human intelligence to overcome an entirely theoretical “natural force” is the original sin against democracy that virtually every deterministic theory holds. It is in their application to human politics and society that the intended subjects of them have a fully justified skepticism of such theories.

It is one of the strangest features of the writings of many who assert the rational, scientific precision of their thinking, that they discount the effectiveness of human reason to change reality for the better or for humans to govern their lives by reasoning. You wonder how they could put their faith in reason or expect anyone else to care about it, if that is true. As I demonstrated, they tend to hold themselves outside and above the very laws they assert. You wonder how they account for their faith in science if reason is so impotent and it’s application has such notable exceptions.

I think it is because they are trying to force tools that can’t do the job. When Darwin and the rest try to apply science to the effectively infinite complexity of human thoughts and actions, both individual and, especially, collectively, to say they cut corners is one of the greatest understatements made in the history of language.

EVOLUTION is measured in billions of years, the universe of human thought and action is equally measured in the billions, no two People alike, everyone, now and in the past, more than just a variation, changing and dynamic over years of each individual life. The details and infinite variety of behavior, communal interactions, the infinite capacity of human beings to act well or badly, honestly or deceitfully, with hidden motives or little self-reflection, but most of all on the basis of reason and experience, precludes science from ever knowing more than a small fraction of an effectively infinite universe of human life. It is illogical and unreasonable to believe that science can make general laws about it.

Science cannot exist where there is no physical evidence which can be observed, quantified and analyzed. The temptation in scholarship is always to look for the grand unified theory of whatever. In the pursuit of a science of human behavior, of political and economic science, those grand theories have come and they’ve gone. In between, their pretenses of objective reliability are necessary for the professional prestige and funding of these efforts but that is seldom achieved except in studying a small part of the whole. Before they fade from science, they gain currency and have effects that often outlive their reputable lives in science.

Science absolutely depends on the observation of the physical universe, the physical universe is what it was made to study, it can’t study anything else. That is why assertions of intelligent design, even if it was true, have absolutely no place in a science classroom. You would think that religious believers would take it as an act of desecration to assert that science could perceive God who we are told you cannot see and live. If it is an act of blasphemy to put God to the test of statistical analysis, though, isn’t my subject here.

That those trying to subject human beings to the rule of science do not find free will or much in the way of the human rights which are the essential prerequisites for democracy to exist, is a confirmation of the nature of science. In their folly, due to their professional and personal arrogance, they assume and pretend that since they can’t find them they aren’t there. They aren’t alone in doing that, it is the habit of elites of all kinds to deny them, certainly to those less elite than they are. But anyone who seeks after these rights or, most often, the falsification of them, with science in order to make their name as the discoverer of a primary law of the universe is a fool. Unfortunately, their status can make fools of us all.

In The Trial of Socrates, I. F. Stone points out that despite the condescending derision with which the sandal maker is treated by those earliest scholarly enemies of democracy, Socrates and Plato, at least he could make a pair of shoes while Socrates and the entire subsequent 2,500 years of the history of philosophy couldn’t find even one Universal. Not so the world of scholarship has taken all that much notice of the fact.

* With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit*, with an overwhelming present evil. We must therefore bear the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind*; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely that the weaker and inferior members of society do not marry so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage*, though this is more to be hoped for than expected. The Descent of Man

UPDATE 2012:  Notice that in the first paragraph of the two, Darwin, at no point softens or hedges his "scientific" discourse, laying out, baldly and undeniably, the premise of eugenics.  In the "aid which we feel impelled" paragraph, always grasped onto by those denying Darwin's role in eugenics, notice that Darwin ascribes the desire to give aid to feelings, not reason or science.  The implication of that can only be that the grounds for eugenics have the reliability of hard science while the impulse to give charity is merely a notion, a habit which is a relic of our past, followed against the better judgement of "hard reason".  And the price of that is  a virtual guarantee that what he laid out in the previous paragraph will be the result.   The possibility that will be avoided is "more to be hoped for than expected". 

Over and over again he undercuts his "case" for aid. I have underlined those revealing passages.  I am certain that Darwin consciously gave himself a mechanism of plausible deniability that he'd just said what he said in the second paragraph, that is what the passage has been used to do since WWII.  I am under no obligation to go on with his ruse as I've read the rest of the book and he continues to promote eugenics concepts for pretty much the rest of it, a few lesser escape clauses, more or less.  The points that could be made about this paragraph in reference to other things that Darwin said in The Descent of Man are numerous and they don't count in Darwin's favor.  I'll note one in relation to another passage I've analyzed in this series. 

Note this section:  " but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely that the weaker and inferior members of society do not marry so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage", that statement is directly contradicted by the quote of W. R. Greg addressed in another of these posts.  In it Darwin uses Greg to assert that the degenerate Irish "multiplies like rabbits" unlike the virtuous Scot who "marries late and passes his best years in struggle and in celibacy, marries late, and leaves few behind him".  Darwin obviously agreed with Greg that in a dozen generations, given equal numbers of "Celts" and "Saxons (?)" at the start, the degenerate would greatly dominate in numbers, five to one!,  but not in, power property or intelligence, in that case the ratio is in favor of the "Saxons".    Darwin obviously was using Greg to speak for himself, using that passage, curiously elided by Darwin, to assert the case he made in the first of the two paragraphs above. 

And that is hardly the only case in the book where the Darwin of  "science" directly debunks the Darwin of the "aid which we feel impelled to give".   I will be analyzing these two paragraphs again in relationship to other passages in the book at some time in the future.  I will include them with these posts on a blog that presents them and future posts on this subject in a permanent order. 

** Please notice the final note of pessimism and the discouraging, conditional reservations throughout Darwin’s would-be humanitarian demurral.

I would like to thank my sister-in-law who discussed the scope included in EVOLUTION with me. NB. My sister-in-law died three years after this was first posted.

I would also like to thank Marilynne Robinson whose essays provided the missing idea in a piece I’ve been thinking over for a long time.

Applied Science: Interlude Scherzando and Early Selections

This is the second section of the serial essay I first posted in 2008. It deals with the passage of The Descent of Man in which Charles Darwin explicitly lays out the premise of eugenics, that natural selection eliminates "weaker members" of the population, that "civilization" inhibits natural selection, that the "weaker members" have children who are inferior and that leads to a down turn in the quality of the species.   Darwin explicitly identifies who he is talking about, a list of those whose continued existence is a danger to the human species. After the Second World War it is a list that anyone with a knowledge of history should find profoundly disturbing.   As Tom Blaney said about that passage in his rather sympathetic, if unsparing study of the Darwin family and eugenics, from Charles Darwin to his grandson, Charles Galton Darwin: With such words, he provided the reasoning that under pined eugenics, particularly that which we will come to describe as “negative” eugenics.
The Chief Sea Lion's Inheritance:  Eugenics and the Darwins  Tom Blaney

Living on the left you may eventually come across a very rare species, the principled, Hegelian cheap-skate. The few I’ve met have been Marxists, though I’ve read about other varieties, even anarchist skin flints. This scruple against giving alms or charity avoids corrupting the destitute into complaisance by making life too easy for them. You might ask what separates the leftist tight wad from those who make up a far larger percentage of the right? The ones who we justly think of as selfish swine? As usual, it’s different because it’s a matter of science. “Science” is supposed to settle all questions of motivation, isn’t it? You see, in addition to affording the poor the moral benefits of the strenuous life, whether or not they like it, depriving them the price of a sandwich is a means to force them to shake off their torpor and do their part in pushing the dialectic ever onward, back and forth, until the glorious day of its arrival at its scientifically determined destiny.

One example, who could be named but who may still be alive and, one imagines, might be litigious, was a fixture of the New York left of earlier decades. He was a noticeably comfortable psychotherapist who on at least one occasion said that he had held to the principle against charity since learning it as a red-diaper baby. And, being what he turned out to be, I’d guess he still holds to it. In less charitable moments one suspects that his subsequent drift from Marxism to neo-conservatism in the great migration of the late 60s and 70s was due to his realizing he wasn’t quite the figure in the left that he had believed himself to be. Though, thinking it over perhaps the former Marxist was doing his part to move history onward. No doubt, if this is true, he is just awaiting the word, printed in some small magazine with a plain cover and chaste type face, that the dialectic over Manhattan is on the move again. Propitiation sufficed. And, if he hasn’t since died, he will end his days as a neo-com.

None of the devotees of principled stinginess who I’ve observed, though, have undertaken self-improvement and applied their principle to themselves, voluntarily making their own lot more desperately miserable in order to rouse themselves from the coffee house table or book shop stall to the barricades and a more active part in the workings of history.

As we see, some principles of science are easier to put into practical effect than others.

Early Selections
Part Two  

Note:  The paragraph after the one analyzed here, the often relied on "assistance" paragraph,  is discussed in Part Three and it will be examined in more detail in a planned post in the Darwin-Eugenics series.  I should note that there are several things I said, unrelated to Charles Darwin, that I would not say today.  Beginning with the concept of  "a belief neutral democracy".  In the past four years I've come to see that democracy is absolutely and completely dependent on beliefs that are moral in nature.  Equality, fairness, justice, inherent rights, the belief that those are as real as a table or chair or an organic molecule, is a mandatory prerequisite for democracy to exist, and they are all moral contentions.  Though it is necessary for democratic governments to be nonsectarian, without those metaphysical, moral holdings, democracy won't exist, where a belief in those erodes, democracy will die. 

Due to habits formed in the defense of the wall of separation and public school science against creationism it can be difficult for a leftist to read Marilynne Robinson’s essay, “Darwinism”. It is also uncomfortable for someone on the left to talk about Darwin’s language as she does because many will immediately assume you are a creationist, or accuse you of some other form of apostasy by stealth. This is guaranteed to happen no matter how explicitly you endorse EVOLUTION or a belief neutral, democratic government.*

But you can’t have integrity unless you say what you mean. You also can’t be a decent person if you don’t believe and act as if people are not objects, abstractions, mere ideas or actors in your dearly loved fantasy scenarios playing out what you take to be the grand forces of the universe.

In her essay, Robinson is unsporting enough to read Darwin and others and to believe that they mean what they have written. Asserting that someone didn’t really mean what he continually and lucidly writes should mean that he isn’t to be trusted. But in polite society you are expected to pretend it doesn’t in cases such as this. You are also to concentrate on the demurral appended as an obligatory afterthought and ignore the bulk of what is clearly proposed

As an example, among the quotes she dares to take directly from Darwin and others, I’ll concentrate on this one.

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed. The Descent of Man

Darwin regretted that the lower orders will be saved from necessary pruning by our sentimentality. That is as clear as the words he wrote. He was afraid that the level of charity current in mid 19th century, the time of Dickens’ England, was too much charity due to its impeding natural selection. Not that Darwin means to subject himself to natural selection. One assumes that the Darwins and the mostly well off families of his followers didn’t gave up the practice of vaccination or seeking medical care themselves. I’ve looked and can’t find evidence that early Darwinists refused medical care as a matter of principle, if you know of any I will revise. Thus these advocates of the benefits of universal human culling allowed sentiment to overtake their responsibility as members of the rational class, to husband their own stock to a higher state through the death of the underbred.** Perhaps this is something more noticeable for people who have reason to suspect they or, as in my case my great-great grandparents, were included in Darwin’s underclass. Perhaps your ancestors in the 1870s were also among those referred to above.

It is especially interesting to think about this passage due to Charles Darwin’s history of hypochondria - which seems to have begun before his marriage and his decisive reading of Malthus - his history of seeking treatments, cures and just about anything available to, how did he put it, have medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of Charles Darwin to the last moment. Was not such an unfit specimen as Darwin clearly judged himself to be, and he did apprentice as a doctor, marked as one for whom nature should be allowed to take its course?

Some sources say that he worried that his malady was heritable. Charles Darwin was the last person in the world to have missed that possibility. Wasn’t he an example of the worst kind who should be discouraged, at the very least, from breeding? Eventually he produced ten children, two of whom died in childhood, one a famously beloved daughter. You wonder if he thought about his own daughter’s death when he wrote this.

If you think it’s harsh of me to bring up his daughter’s death, do you think it was harsh of him and his admirers to meditate dispassionately on the benefits of untold other peoples’ children being weeded out of the breeding stock by small pox, other diseases, violence and starvation? Does it being called ‘science’ make that noble and good, or at least all right? Does it being “science” preclude further consideration of these matters?

How does this clear warning of dire consequences stemming from the vaccination of the lower orders differ in kind from the Imams in Nigeria advising people not to have their children vaccinated for polio several years ago? That is a real question and there is an answer. The difference is that the Nigerian Imams were afraid of the vaccine being tainted. There had been a drug test in Nigeria several years before which, they believed , had killed eleven children and disabled 200. ***They were also concerned that HIV might be spread through contamination during the immunization program. The clerics and government officials in Nigeria acted through ignorance and paranoia, perhaps, but their crime, for which they were roundly condemned, was an ill informed and ignorant attempt to protect children, not a tacit approval of their culling for racial hygiene. Does anyone reading this doubt that Darwin would have classed these children among the ‘savages’.

Saying that Darwin wasn’t actually advocating that many people die is dishonest. Does anyone really believe that with the thinnest of alibis for cover, he didn’t endorse the idea of allowing people to go unvaccinated, untreated, unfed and allowing a huge number of them to die of disease, starvation or in a horrific, violent struggle for food? He was informed enough about the governmental and economic practices of his time to know that his suggestions could easily have been put into effect with the slightest encouragement, almost by accident.

And he had seen the people he believed it was a folly to save on his travels and at home. Here is his list, “the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick .... [the alleged beneficiary of] poor-laws ... the weak members of civilised societies” all of these should be allowed to undergo what he approves of as the brutal culling found among “savages”. Does this list contain no actual people? Do you really believe that? With the benefit of reading this after witnessing the brutality of the self-professed, scientific regimes of the twentieth century the list should seem all too familiar to us. The word “selection”, also.

The effect of the Darwinists’ casual dismissal of the lives of people in marshaling opposition to the fact of EVOLUTION isn’t considered nearly often enough. Anyone who doesn’t believe that is a part of the opposition to the study of EVOLUTION is deluding themselves. The links between Darwin and those who overcame sentiment to put his ideas into practice are real and the opponents of evolutionary science know about them. Look at their websites if you think this isn’t true. Darwin shouldn’t remain the public face of evolutionary science.

Maybe less noticeable at first reading is that there is no supporting data given, at least in the edition I’ve got, to demonstrate his contention that vaccinating for small pox actually has the degrading effect he suspects. It’s a speculation based on his supreme theory, which isn’t evolution but the origin of species by natural selection. Darwin predicts dire consequences in vaccinated populations. I’ve not been able to find science from his time or up to today which supports his contention that it has this degrading effect. You wonder if the WHO shouldn’t suspend their efforts if such evidence existed. You also wonder what contemporary advocates of mass vaccination would make of this passage.

It is impossible to read Darwin and his circle and not be reminded of these things, once you have gotten over the habit of ignoring what’s right there in front of you. That was the greatest effect of reading Robinson’s essay, it is a slap to wake up and admit what is there to be seen. I’m sure she knew it would be misunderstood and misrepresented, yet she wrote it and her bravery deserves to be noticed.

Robinson points out ironies in her essay, none greater than the fact that the Darwinists and those who agitate for creationism effectively share the same economic morality. Looking at Republican social policy of the past thirty years, you see a practical attempt to remove any barriers to brutal selection forces. Only it’s called ‘competition’.

My question is how can the very basis of the left’s agenda survive the idea that our reason and morality don’t matter or that it is incompatible with what’s purported to be scientific truth. Equality, justice, democracy, a decent, peaceful life in a habitable environment. If the left really comes to believe that biology is destiny, that free will and good will are illusions or impotent, that the market of natural selection is the inevitable law that governs human lives, our agenda is wrong.

I don’t think it is. I think that the history of the past century proves it isn’t and that there is no realistic alternative to it. Too many of us have been duped through public relations into accepting fundamentally anti-democratic ideas that are based in the assumptions made by self-interested people with an agenda basically at odds with our ideals. I believe that the depressing, dispiriting effect of falling for various species of biological determinism leads to impotent cynicism. Those ideas have been given the test of time. They produce a nightmare.

That is the subject of the third part of this series.

* “Darwinism” is from the collection of essays, The Death of Adam ISBN 0-312-42532-5
Many, especially the throng of devout blog Darwinists who have never read him, might be surprised that Robinson concentrates first and foremost on the economic origins of Darwinism. They should go look at him and see that for him reading Malthus was his breakthrough event, literally everything springs from that moral atrocity. Malthus isn’t simply an implication or a starting point in the line of biological determinism stemming from Darwin he permeates it. Malthus is the seed, Darwin sowed it and it grew.

** You might want to contrast the content and tone with this passage, not much farther on into the book.

Man accumulates property and bequeaths it to his children, so that the children of the rich have an advantage over the poor in the race for success, independently of bodily or mental superiority. On the other hand, the children of parents who are short-lived, and are therefore on an average deficient in health and vigour, come into their property sooner than other children, and will be likely to marry earlier, and leave a larger number of offspring to inherit their inferior constitutions. But the inheritance of property by itself is very far from an evil; for without the accumulation of capital the arts could not progress; and it is chiefly through their power that the civilised races have extended, and are now everywhere extending their range, so as to take the place of the lower races. Nor does the moderate accumulation of wealth interfere with the process of selection. When a poor man becomes moderately rich, his children enter trades or professions in which there is struggle enough, so that the able in body and mind succeed best. The presence of a body of well-instructed men, who have not to labour for their daily bread, is important to a degree which cannot be over-estimated; as all high intellectual work is carried on by them, and on such work, material progress of all kinds mainly depends, not to mention other and higher advantages. No doubt wealth when very great tends to convert men into useless drones, but their number is never large ; and some degree of elimination here occurs, for we daily see rich men, who happen to be fools or profligate, squandering away their wealth. The Descent of Man.

“But the inheritance of property by itself is very far from an evil.... Nor does the moderate accumulation of wealth interfere with the process of selection.” One suspects Darwin’s “moderate accumulation of wealth” which was not yet insalubrious included the wealth of the Darwin -Wedgewood families. Why, since he refuses to consider the possibility that humans’ capacity for reason, moral reflection and self-denial might exempt us from the brutal forces of natural selection, does he seem to think that membership in his notably brutal economic elite should render its members immune?

You also wonder why Darwin didn’t include the laws against stealing in the list of unfortunate curbs on the workings of natural selection. If you doubt that the laws protecting private property are one of the greatest inhibition of the weeding out of the unfit, imagine what would have happened in Darwin’s Britain if it was suddenly legal for the masses of the poor to take from those worthless drones bred to the aristocracy. The resultant struggle might have saved Darwin the embarrassment of explaining how he neglected to discourage their vaccination.

*** “The Pfizer drug test in 1996 is still on our minds. To a large extent, it shaped and strengthened my view on polio and other immunisation campaigns," said Mr bin Uthman. At the time, the US company had used an untested drug on children to fight an epidemic of bacterial meningitis in the Kano area. Lawsuits have since been lodged against Pfizer in the United States and in Nigeria, alleging that the drug trial was illegal and that it killed 11 children and left 200 others disabled.

N.B I’d thought of writing a post about the politics of Darwinism within science, having followed a few of the vicious fights over even minor attempts to introduce additional mechanisms of evolution for consideration (no, ‘intelligent design’ wasn't even considered) but it would have gotten way too long. One of the things found while researching that topic was this abstract by Susannah Varmuza of the University of Toronto. This says it better than I can.

Evolution is an idea that inspires huge emotional responses, in part because it speaks to our very identities. The religious overtones associated with debates about evolution are not restricted to those between evolutionary biologists and creationists (the inspiration for the quote above). Among evolutionary biologists, there is an aura of deification of Darwin that tends to stifle discourse on ideas that are construed by the mainstream to be anti-Darwinian, perhaps, as pointed out by Gould (1981), to counteract the political machinations of the creationist movement. Over the decades, attempts by non-traditionalists to introduce new thinking into the study of evolution have met with either stony silence or rancorous derision. Goldschmidt, Gould, and proponents of Lamarckian inheritance can still raise hackles, even posthumously (‘Goldschmidt is a bum!’ echoed around the lecture theatre at a recent scientific meeting, 44 years after his death. 

You should read the entire thing if you’re interested in evolution and genetics. I’ve got the feeling the epigenetics might help open up a lot of new areas into the effectively infinite reality of EVOLUTION. But they will have to stop pretending that Darwin can't be questioned first.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Another Note on George Darwin's 1870s Eugenics Activity

As mentioned in an earlier post in this series, the first life line thrown to the eugenics-free Charles Darwin is the fact that Francis Galton hadn't gotten around to naming his new "science" "eugenics" until 1883, the year after Charles Darwin died.   And as mentioned in a note yesterday,  George Darwin, Charles' son, was one of the earliest to take up eugenics - as can be seen in Charles Darwin's letter to Galton, it was George who read "Hereditary Genius"  first and enthusiastically recommended it to his father.

I came across this  answer to the claim that Charles Darwin couldn't have inspired eugenics because of it didn't have a name by the time he died,  made by a source whose authority to say what he did is about as solid as possible.

Francis Darwin, the son of Charles Darwin and the brother of George Darwin, wrote a memoir of his brother when his scientific papers were collected and published after George's death.   It's clear that Francis Darwin saw no problem in identifying his brother's article "On Beneficial Restriction to Liberty of Marriage"  as a "eugenic article" despite it having been published a decade before Galton coined the word "eugenics".

In spite of unwellness he [George Darwin] began in 1872-3 to write on various subjects. He sent to Macmillan's Magazine an entertaining article,  "Development in Dress," where the various survivals in modern costume were recorded and discussed from the stand-point of evolution. In 1873 he wrote  "On benefical restriction to liberty of marriage," a eugenic article for which he was attacked with gross un-fairness and bitterness by the late St George Mivart. He was defended by Huxley, and Charles Darwin formally ceased all intercourse with Mivart.

Francis Darwin:   BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS [of George Howard Darwin] From Scientific Papers of George Howard Darwin vol. Five

Development in Dress discussed form the standpoint of evolution?  How far out on a limb were the Darwins  prepared to go with the old man's ideas?   It sounds like it might have be in the running as the first "Just So" story of the evo-psy kind in history.

St. George Mivart, an early convert to Darwinism, is an interesting case.   As a professor and a Darwinian, he attended lectures  on Darwinism given by Thomas Huxley and came away more skeptical than he had been when he started.

As to 'natural selection', I accepted it completely and in fact my doubts & difficulties were first excited by attending Prof. Huxley's lectures at the School of Mines.*

Some of the things he was skeptical of were probably due to the problems that many other competent biologists had with Darwinism.  Natural selection in the 1860s and 70s was hardly a complete theory.  It didn't achieve its modern form until the 1930s with the Mendelian synthesis.   Mivart held it wasn't legitimately a theory but a hypothesis at the time of the dust up.   No doubt Charles Darwin was stung by having a fairly well known convert turn to a skeptic.

The incident of Mivert's criticism of George Darwin's article, which argued, among other things, that marriages should be dissolved if one of the couple was declared insane,  seems to have caused Charles Darwin to set his bulldog on Mivart, later to take his own revenge.

Darwin's revisions to the Origin eventually compromised it, so keen was he to respond to critics. Not only did he defend, he attacked. It is hard to know which to admire more, the skill with which he and his band of disciples went about preparing the ground for the Origin (shrewdly distributing advance copies to potential opponents, for example) or the zeal with which they all, after publication, set about savaging (not always fairly) the critics. Although we are familiar with Huxley's role as Darwin's bulldog, Darwin was quite capable of being his own rottweiler. When a paper by his son Francis was rejected by the Royal Society, Darwin ruthlessly counterattacked in Nature. In 1873, St. George Mivart got into a spat with Darwin's son George over a sort of proto-eugenics. Darwin nearly went to court on behalf of George (who was in the wrong) and later blackballed Mivart for membership in the Athenaeum.

Keith Thomson: American Scientist, Jan.-Feb., 2003

But whether or not Mivart was unjust in his criticism doesn't concern me here. What is important is that Charles Darwin was aware of his son, George, publicly advocating eugenics in the form of nullifying marriages.  Something that was pretty shocking for 1870s Britain.  And young George apparently didn't think that once recovered, the formerly insane should be able to resume the abolished marriage.  He compared it to someone being retired not being able to get his job back.  That's a seriously coercive proposal,  I'd say.  And, obviously, what George said in the article was all right by his father who, on most matters like that, is as prim as a Victorian.

And, the reason I am posting this,  his own brother, Francis, said, using the "E word",  the proposal his father had no problem with and supported was "eugenics".

*  Adrian Desmond, Archetypes and Ancestors: Palaeontology in Victorian London, 1850-1875, p. 137.

His discussion of how St. George Mivart fell from grace to be attacked by the Darwin inner circle is an antidote to the pious version of Darwin most people are familiar with from sources like the BBC and PBS.  I will note that Mivart wasn't exactly innocent in the brawl, getting in a few punches, himself.  Mivart was certainly wrong about many aspects of evolution, as was everyone else during that period,  including Charles Darwin.   They were all, Darwinist and anti-Darwinist, going far, far past the point supported by evidence.  Desmond doesn't seem to mention the George Darwin incident, concentrating on Mivart's publications and the machinations of Huxley's younger associates who were, obviously, trying to bend Darwinism in ideological directions even in that period.

EVOLUTION, Evolution, Ideology and the Continuation of Life

Note: This is the first part of a serial essay I first posted in January 2008. I am posting it here over the next four days while I continue writing the Darwin-eugenics series.  The original posting of it created a firestorm of criticism after the third part was up, a condemnation of Darwin's biological determinism as it undermines democracy. Most of the flack that post got was false, most of it nearly identical to the criticism of anyone who dares to criticize Charles Darwin, almost all of it completely uninformed by the Darwin record.  I may post parts of the new series as they are finished.  

I used the upper case EVOLUTION to designate the actual history of life on Earth and evolution to designate the scientific study the actual reality of EVOLUTION.  I've kept it because that is an important distinction for the purpose of the essay and in real life.  The real fact of life is infinitely more important than the academic study of it.  Which is something that is often forgotten.

Dedicated to the memory of my sister-in-law, MDL PhD, the research biologist who read this over before I posted it and who discussed some of the points in it with me 

Part one

EVOLUTION is long. Really, really long. It encompasses the entire duration of life on the planet Earth. Most commonly that is thought today to be a period of more than three billion years. That’s a number we are all familiar with hearing but getting your mind around what even one billion - 1,000,000,000 - years really consists of is impossible. What could a billion years mean to a person? What would the first, the last and all of the varied unknown and unrecorded days, seasons, years and ages in between years one and one billion mean. They are incomprehensible in their vast duration and compass of possible experience in terms of even the longest human life span. We have no frame of reference.

And not only is EVOLUTION (upper case) long, it is also large in numbers, encompassing, literally, all of the lives of all of the organisms that have ever existed. All of the organisms which have reproduced or been produced. That number is of many magnitudes larger than even the incomprehensible billions of years already mentioned. Consider, just as a sample of the complications, the known time periods between generations of living species of rodents, and of one-celled organisms. Consider the number of fertile eggs some species of plants, insects and mollusks produce in one reproductive cycle. Each of the surviving, reproducing individuals was and is a variation, many have the possibility of having an effect on future generations. Leaving the entirely relevant question of individuals aside, imagining even the number of what we might classify as species, each comprising subspecies, varieties, and other sub groupings is incomprehensible.

Now it’s necessary to make a distinction between EVOLUTION, the actual fact of life in both its ancient and contemporary diversity and numbers, and the human science of evolution (lower case), which attempts to study the mechanisms and artifacts of all those lives and to understand many different aspects of them, including the attempts to make general assertions about them. Let’s allow the conventional beginning of the science of evolution as the publication date of The Origin of Species, 1859. In that case, evolution as a formal, scientific, study has been going on for about a hundred fifty years.

Immediately we have come on something remarkable, the difference between the billions of years that EVOLUTION has been operating and the mere one hundred fifty years that it has been studied to date. The fraction which would represent the part of EVOLUTION which is taken up by the human study of it looks something like 150 over 3,000,000,000+. A hundred-fifty years outstrips the conscious experience of most human beings by about twice, but it would appear to be like the briefest noticeable moment when opposed to the time that EVOLUTION has been continually in process*.

As a way of beginning the approximation of how complete a picture our science of evolution can give us today , other factors, of equal and even greater importance than the number of years, species, and individuals, have to be considered. While the numbers yielded by these aren’t known we can know that whatever it is would tax our imagination so as to be incomprehensible even before multiplication of factors to be considered begins. It is far from the end of it.

The individual physical aspects of the bodies and lives of all individuals which could impinge on the processes of EVOLUTION, those which we know about, those which we will never know about due to the fact that their traces are lost for all time. The physical record available to us represents an infinitesimally small number of the physical variations that must have had some impact on the species and individuals alive today. Many of the examples available to us may or may not be representative of whatever species we might assign them to, if we were able to. Added into that the impacts of climate, pathology, nutrition, and those entirely unavailable variables, behavior and chance happening, which would properly enter into the study, the data available to study might be seen as nugatory. We can be certain that the information we have available or will ever have available is inadequate to present even a general picture of EVOLUTION, our study must, therefore, be limited to only a small part of it.

If, by some miracle, the reproduction by a single strand of life continued unbroken over more than three billion years it would produce astonishing physical variation if only as a matter of chance mutation over time. To say ‘by some miracle’ is not accurate, though, because that is literally the case of every single organism alive as you read this. It has been a single unbroken strand from the beginning of evolution that has produced each of us, no two alike. And that is entirely too simple, because we are at the ends of intertwining stands through innumerable exchanges of genetic material among different organisms, all of them subject to the possibility of mutation. Reproduction by the numbers we are considering clearly produces variety of results, in ways and almost certainly by means which we can not begin to imagine. It would be literally miraculous if it hadn’t. One thing that it is essential to keep in mind, at every moment in that three billion years there was a living being that was the offspring of living beings and which produced living beings all living in an environment that allowed them to survive.

This experiment could lead us to an important conclusion, while EVOLUTION is a fact supported by the relevant science, the belief that we know more than a tiny part of that phenomenon is absurd. EVOLUTION, in terms of human capacity, is effectively of infinite complexity**. It is almost certain that much many more facts will be known if the study continues, maybe many times more than what we have now. I would propose that it is certain we can’t even suspect enormous parts of even what will be knowable.

But this daunting picture doesn’t mean that what we do know is unimportant. A mathematician once pointed out that given the infinity of topics that could possibly be taken up to study in mathematics, the question of interest becomes a matter of greatest importance. And as we have seen the possibilities surrounding EVOLUTION are equally taxing of the attention of the human species.

What do those who study evolution want from it? What uses can it be put to, what uses is it put to? To what extent do people who hope to make a profession out of the study of evolution allow their personal interests to effect their ideally objective science? Do they hope to get a certain job with people of a certain ideology? It could be the hope of professional acceptance that might shade what is concluded. It might even be that the science itself, what has been published to date and what is currently fashionable skews consideration. Does the professional study of evolution limit the science itself ? Do those engaged in it find what they are looking for and miss other things?***

And, by all means, we have to limit the consideration to those who accept that EVOLUTION is a fact and who do not try to impose an agenda which cannot be evaluated with the legitimate tools and methods of science. To do that removes someone from serious, scientific, consideration.

I have said that the science of evolution is important but it isn’t the most important thing in life. Life has gotten along for billions of years without our science, as shown in the fourth paragraph above. Somehow its having done so without the custodial care of human science almost leads to a feeling of anxiety. And yet it happened unobserved and unremarked by us.****

There is a consideration made much more interesting than evolution by necessity, today. We are in the midst of a mass extinction event caused by human activity. It endangers a huge part of the diversity of the biosphere, shutting off the lines of huge numbers of species, entire biotas are in danger of extinction. It is entirely possible that the products of science, technology, economics, politics and other human activities could kill us all.

EVOLUTION compared to the human study, evolution, is infinitely more important. Preservation of the thing studied is more important than the study of it. Our most important tool to preserve the biosphere, the only link between the entire past of life and the entirety of what life there is in the future, is politics. Politics is one of the greatest tools we have to correct human actions that endanger us all. The political success of environmental protection and species preservation is far more important than protecting any dearly cherished ideology of humans. Capitalism, communism, socialism, physics, chemistry, evolutionary biology, Darwinism - which, many of you will be surprised to realize, isn’t the same thing as evolution -, creationism, etc. None of these are as important as saving the planet, none of them would have the possibility of existing without the life of the planet being saved.

Even these cherished ideologies and theories which our educations falsely lead us to believe are paramount, are entirely dependent for their existence on the future of EVOLUTION. Whatever they can lend to that effort is necessary, whatever preserves the life of the planet is necessary, whatever endangers it must be rejected. This includes whatever these ideologies, sciences, fads, etc. do which results in preventing political change that is necessary to save the environment. Environmental science, in so far as it is used to preserve the basis of life is the most important science we have ever devised. It is the science that deserves our greatest concern and effort. It is the key to our survival.

* We could also consider the number of researchers in evolution and its allied fields and wonder how that number could compare with the range of what is included with Evolution.

** The opponents of evolution and those who deny EVOLUTION aren’t stupid. They are quite able to read and figure out the weak spots in the man made theories about it. Not being honest about those weaknesses, pretending that the fact of EVOLUTION stands or falls on the basis of current ideologies within evolution plays into their hands.

*** Maybe it is right to look at the body of professionals who make their living in evolutionary science as being the product of selection pressures, or of adaptation to their profession’s environment. While EVOLUTION is a fact supported by an amazing amount of science it is large enough and unknown enough to produce different ideas. Perhaps a different species of evolutionist would dominate the field if the cultural environment and, especially, those with the ability to fund it hadn’t favored a particular point of view. Being a casual witness to just the death match over the rather modest idea of “spandrels”, in the 90s its clear there was a struggle for survival and reproduction. How could they object to these questions being raised about their profession?

**** It is undeniable that EVOLUTION would have fared better in species diversity and, most likely, in the possibility of its continuing at all, if humans and our culture, hadn’t evolved. Though they are not entirely to blame, science and technology are some of the primary causes of the destruction of the environment. They have accelerated the process of destroying the environment through magnifying the powers of human despoilers and they have provided chemicals and mechanisms not found by those without science and technology. They have done this at a rate many times faster than they have generated the knowledge needed to preserve the planet. To deny that is as irresponsible as it is ridiculous. To allow that fact to go unsaid precludes possibilities of reform and we need reform in the behavior that results from science. Science is almost as important as politics in the struggle to save the planet.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How Much Did Darwin Really Believe In Natural Selection

Darwin and W. R. Greg
Sometimes considered the co-founder of eugenics

If you read Charles Darwin's book,  "The Descent of Man", you will read one assertion after another about natural selection in the human population,  speculations and purported data taken from contemporary people around the world with some historical references.   Those references are taken from many men, I believe all of them were men, of varying scientific credentials.   Some of the references Darwin makes can be found online or in a good university library.   Those I've looked up are of wildly variable character,  some had an impressive looking facade of mathematical tables and calculations and exhibits,  Galton and Haeckel,  some seem to be more like what would be considered gossip, today.  I strongly suspect that a lot of the data wouldn't stand up to current standards of validation but that's for other people to argue.  In some of his contentions,  Charles Darwin doesn't seem to have any real evidence at all.  One infamous passage* that is often cited by those who lay the charge of eugenics against Charles Darwin seems to be an assertion of natural selection to produce an artificial narrative as a substitute for evidence of natural selection, which, completes the circle with the assumption that the artificial evidence constitutes support for natural selection.   I will be dealing specifically with the complex of paragraphs that paragraph is part of later .  It is followed by another passage with its own history of polemical use.

I'm going to ask a simple question about another passage that has gotten some but less attention for what it might indicate about a place where Darwin contradicts that infamous passage directly.   Not only that passage but the contention of his book that natural selection is relevant to human societies and that the struggle  of natural selection, resulting in the deaths of the "weaker members" of a society, would leave the survivors in "a vigorous state of health."   Here is the passage:

A most important obstacle in civilised countries to an increase in the number of men of a superior class has been strongly insisted on by Mr. Greg and Mr. Galton (19. 'Fraser's Magazine,' Sept. 1868, p. 353. 'Macmillan's Magazine,' Aug. 1865, p. 318. The Rev. F.W. Farrar ('Fraser's Magazine,' Aug. 1870, p. 264) takes a different view.), namely, the fact that the very poor and reckless, who are often degraded by vice, almost invariably marry early, whilst the careful and frugal, who are generally otherwise virtuous, marry late in life, so that they may be able to support themselves and their children in comfort. Those who marry early produce within a given period not only a greater number of generations, but, as shewn by Dr. Duncan (20. 'On the Laws of the Fertility of Women,' in 'Transactions of the Royal Society,' Edinburgh, vol. xxiv. p. 287; now published separately under the title of 'Fecundity, Fertility, and Sterility,' 1871. See, also, Mr. Galton, 'Hereditary Genius,' pp. 352-357, for observations to the above effect.), they produce many more children. The children, moreover, that are borne by mothers during the prime of life are heavier and larger, and therefore probably more vigorous, than those born at other periods. Thus the reckless, degraded, and often vicious members of society, tend to increase at a quicker rate than the provident and generally virtuous members. Or as Mr. Greg puts the case: "The careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman multiplies like rabbits: the frugal, foreseeing, self-respecting, ambitious Scot, stern in his morality, spiritual in his faith, sagacious and disciplined in his intelligence, passes his best years in struggle and in celibacy, marries late, and leaves few behind him. Given a land originally peopled by a thousand Saxons and a thousand Celts—and in a dozen generations five-sixths of the population would be Celts, but five- sixths of the property, of the power, of the intellect, would belong to the one-sixth of Saxons that remained. In the eternal 'struggle for existence,' it would be the inferior and LESS favoured race that had prevailed—and prevailed by virtue not of its good qualities but of its faults."

The entire paragraph sets up the passage I've underlined.  Leaving aside W. R. Greg's rather questionable qualifications [though some credit him with Galton as the co-inventor of eugenics] and noting his obvious bigotry against the Irish, a common prejudice that Darwin would seem to share as he doesn't seem to notice it,  Darwin seems to have forgotten the huge percentage of the Irish population who died in the potato famine of the 1840s, during his life.  We know he knew about the famine because he discussed it in letters as it happened, he was involved with research into blight free potatoes.  I don't know if he knew about the other potato famine of 1782,  or the even worse one, a century before the worst of all, in the  1740s.  Each likewise, reduced what Darwin, as a disciple of Malthus, no doubt, saw as a surplus of the population.  In letters Darwin mentions ancient Celts in several places so you'd think he'd have a slight interest in more recent events in Ireland.  Given that Darwin seems to look for every chance to see natural selection, even in all the wrong places, you wonder how he could have missed the chance to see his claim to fame in action, during his lifetime.  The Irish population had been repeatedly culled by famine in the century and a half before Darwin wrote "The Descent of Man".

The obvious question is why Darwin believed Greg that the surviving population was "careless, squalid, unaspiring" instead of more vigorous than the Scots who hadn't, likewise, been subjected to Darwinian struggle for life in such a horrifically dramatic way?

In the book, Darwin is constantly assuring us of the benefits for the population of having lots of people die off, preferably in childhood, weeding out the "weaker members" before they can "propagate their kind", leaving a more vigorous "race".  But he doesn't seem to believe that was the case in the one real life example that was nearest in time and location to him.  Clearly, part of that is Darwin's massive bigotry, freely on display throughout the book,  but I think it's also a matter of class hatred.  The Irish were a permanent underclass under British rule,  Irish aspiration was a danger to the British common received POV.  Not to mention the wealth and investments of many British families Darwin knew.   Perhaps it was wishful thinking on Darwin's part, believing that characterization of the "Irishman".

I will say, outright, that I think there is a lot more wishful thinking in Darwin than leads to good science.  In fact, in this book that was so useful to eugenicists, most of his assertions betray his class bias, his Anglo-Saxon privilege,  his racism and bigotry and his male supremacy.   But, it being Darwin, you're supposed to overlook those and the effect it obviously has on his second major SCIENTIFIC BOOK dealing with evolution.   You are supposed to excuse his disabilities in objective thought due to him "being a man of his time".   But what in most cases of hero worship is merely historically dishonest,  when it's science, which is supposed to be a very reliable source of knowledge about the world and when that world is the one Darwin addresses in The Descent of Man,  that excuse is inadequate. In this case it was extremely dangerous.  If scientists want to enjoy the enhanced credibility and repute that comes with the belief that they have taken the greatest possible trouble to produce real science of the greatest possible reliability, they don't get to use the excuse that their insertion of their own self-interest and their prejudice into the work has an excuse.

Whatever the reason for it, Darwin  missed the contradiction between his prediction of what would happen in a population that had undergone a devastating struggle for life and the population nearest to him that had undergone that culling.  As well, he missed the extreme bigotry of Greg that he parrots to, unwittingly,  undermine his proto-eugenic assertions.   That should force an inquiry into the rest of Darwin's book and the rest of his record to see how much of it is a product of his time, his social class and other avenues of bias and a distortion of reality.   A distortion that is directly responsible for the crime of eugenics.   You can look at what the eugenicists were saying about it if you don't believe that.

Addendum:  John Wilkins did the service of posting the essay of W. R Greg which Darwin took that passage from.  With Wilkins commentary.  You can see in the comments that I was engaged in researching Darwin back then.  I don't know why there is text in the original as given by Wilkins which is not present in The Descent of Man.  I would propose that Darwin might have been sanitizing it a bit, making it slightly more palatable.  Also, Darwin took it from a longer paragraph.  Was Charles Darwin guilty of "quote mining"?   It makes you wonder what a careful inspection of other quotes in the book would show in that line.

‘The careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman, fed on potatoes,  living in a pig-stye, doting on a superstition, multiplies like rabbits or ephemera:  the frugal, foreseeing, self-respecting, ambitious Scot, stern in his morality, spiritual in his faith, sagacious and disciplined in his intelligence, passes his best years in struggle and in celibacy, marries late, and leaves few behind him. Given a land originally peopled by a thousand Saxons and a thousand Celts,and in a dozen generations, five sixths of the population would be Celts, but five sixths of the property, of the power, of the intellect, would belong to the one sixth of Saxons that remained. In the eternal ‘struggle for existence,’ it would be the inferior and less favoured race that had prevailed,and prevailed by virtue not of its qualities but of its faults, by reason not of its stronger vitality but of its weaker reticence and its narrower brain. "

Greg's comment "fed on potatoes" is a cruel and despicable thing to say about two decades after the famine ended.  It is impossible to think that Greg and his readers were unaware of what it meant in that context.  Especially considering it was largely because the Anglo-Saxons left them little choice because they exported grain, fish and meat from Ireland for the profit of the English and Scottish landowners and to keep the price of food in England lower than it would have been.  And they did in huge quantities during the famine of the 1840s.  During the famine of 1782, the ports had been closed to prevent exporting food.  Clearly the government during Darwin's time, enlightened by Malthus and the current scientific thinking decided to not take a chance at preserving the surplus population of  the "carelessness, squalid, unaspiring" race.

I have every confidence that is the reason that Darwin sanitized that particular phrase out of the quote as he published it.  Such is the quality of the "science" Darwin relied on in the book.

I have hitherto only considered the advancement of man from a semi-human condition to that of the modern savage. But some remarks on the action of natural selection on civilised nations may be worth adding. This subject has been ably discussed by Mr. W.R. Greg (9. 'Fraser's Magazine,' Sept. 1868, p. 353. This article seems to have struck many persons, and has given rise to two remarkable essays and a rejoinder in the 'Spectator,' Oct. 3rd and 17th, 1868. It has also been discussed in the 'Quarterly Journal of Science,' 1869, p. 152, and by Mr. Lawson Tait in the 'Dublin Quarterly Journal of Medical Science,' Feb. 1869, and by Mr. E. Ray Lankester in his 'Comparative Longevity,' 1870, p. 128. Similar views appeared previously in the 'Australasian,' July 13, 1867. I have borrowed ideas from several of these writers.), and previously by Mr. Wallace and Mr. Galton. (10. For Mr. Wallace, see 'Anthropological Review,' as before cited. Mr. Galton in 'Macmillan's Magazine,' Aug. 1865, p. 318; also his great work, 'Hereditary Genius,' 1870.) Most of my remarks are taken from these three authors.  With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.  

The passage in bold is what is usually taken from the longer paragraph.  You will notice that both Galton and W. R. Greg are cited as authorities in this.

UPDATE:  When I get the chance I am hoping to follow up on Darwin's position on the Home Rule for Ireland issue that was so important during this period.  A number of British scientists were quite vocal in opposing home rule, many of them in terms that are obviously in line with Greg's bigotry.   Darwin clearly shared Greg's view of the Irish people or he'd have seen the problems this example poses for his assertions in the book.   Darwin, though, exposes himself as massively bigoted in the book.