Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Lives and Deaths of Millions of People: Darwin and Haeckel 2

This last naturalist, besides his great work, 'Generelle Morphologie' (1866), has recently (1868, with a second edition in 1870), published his 'Naturliche Schopfungsgeschichte,' in which he fully discusses the genealogy of man. If this work had appeared before my essay had been written, I should probably never have completed it. Almost all the conclusions at which I have arrived I find confirmed by this naturalist, whose knowledge on many points is much fuller than mine. Wherever I have added any fact or view from Prof. Haeckel's writings, I give his authority in the text; other statements I leave as they originally stood in my manuscript, occasionally giving in the foot-notes references to his works, as a confirmation of the more doubtful or interesting points. 

Charles Darwin:  Introduction,  The Descent of Man

While arguing about the role Charles Darwin played in the beginning of eugenics in both English speaking countries and Germany,  I was accused of cribbing from creationists.  My answer to that is there is no better road map to the sources proving my case than the citations of Charles Darwin in The Descent of Man with confirmatory material found in the letters and elsewhere.  Almost everything I've used here, other than the material his sons provided, is either directly taken from Charles Darwin or other works he cited as reliable science.

There can be no plainer declaration made by Charles Darwin than that he was in agreement with what Ernst Haeckel said than this:

Almost all the conclusions at which I have arrived I find confirmed by this naturalist, whose knowledge on many points is much fuller than mine.

Haeckel confirmed Darwin's conclusions in the Naturliche Schopfungsgeschichte, and Darwin granted him superior knowledge on many points.

Darwin went much farther than that in his endorsement of what Haeckel said in his book, Darwin said if he hadn't been far into writing The Descent of Man when Haeckel's book was published, he'd have abandoned his own, second major book on the topic of evolution.   That is a pretty strong endorsement from the biggest name in evolution in the 1870s and rather shocking considering what Haeckel said in the book, which is saturated by some of the most racist assertions purported to be science, which I've ever read, endorsements of frequent and widespread infanticide, the murder of a list of named groups deemed to be inferior, of warnings of the danger to the human population of the unchecked breeding of them and especially the risk to those populations he explicitly lists as the crowing glory of the human species.  Just about every assertion that makes Haeckel so controversial was present in his writing cited by Darwin, quite a bit of it fully developed, in this book.

Yet Darwin gave Haeckel's Naturliche Schopfungsgeschichte the highest praise and recommendation  of any book he cited.  I can't recall Darwin praising any other book in higher terms.  If anyone takes Haeckel as speaking for Darwin in that book, they can justify that assumption from that endorsement.  If Darwin wanted to distance himself from Haeckel's book, he would have chosen different words.  By what he said, Darwin owns it.

[Note:  I  will be using the translation of Naturliche Sschopfungsgeschichte, "The History of Creation", translated by E. Ray Lankester , first published in 1876.  Most of the  material relevant to this discussion is contained in chapters 22 and 23, about the origin of human beings.  Haeckel's division of people into races and ranking those supposed races by ascending rank from lowest to highest, largely based on skin color and ethnicity.  I will refer to the book as "The History of Creation" that name instead of the German from here on, though in his book Darwin always used the German title.  It is certain that Darwin knew this translation.]*

By the time Darwin wrote The Descent of Man,  even what would become infamous as Haeckel's  weird materialistic "mysticism", his brand of monism is there, fully developed.    And he attributes that to Charles Darwin in his first chapter, calling  the "triumph" of  "monism" "the highest and most general merit of the Theory of Descent, as reformed by Darwin."

This final triumph of the monistic conception of nature constitutes the highest and most general merit of the Theory of Descent, as reformed by Darwin.

Any assertion that Darwin wouldn't have noticed that sentence, early in the book, is not credible. Nor is it credible that he could have misunderstood what Haeckel meant by it.  Later in the book, Haeckel went into considerable detail  about what this monism he attributes to Darwin is and what it means in human life.  Which is important but other than to point out that Haeckel's ideas that would be  expressed for the rest of his life and which have made his name infamous were present in the book Darwin endorsed, I will not go into it in this post, though the idea included Haeckel's depraved version of the "struggle for life" and the desirability of what he deemed the superior parts of the human species subdued those he deemed lesser.  That was one of the major planks in his monist ideology.  When monism is what is being asserted, no conclusion reached can possibly not be included as part of it.  Monism is a universal ideological position which rejects the possibility of anything existing which is proposed to be external to it.

The political effect of that situation today is explosive.   Direct quotes from Charles Darwin might be able to slightly mitigate his responsibility for promoting Haeckel and the book in which he said these things and the ideas contained in it, I have yet to find such quotes.  And to have sufficient strength to exonerate Darwin of being Haeckel's inspiration, of encouraging him that he was representing Darwin's ideas, of the public SCIENTIFIC promotion of what Haeckel said.   Only the repudiation of Haeckel in as serious and public a venue would suffice.  Private declarations would not be enough to do that.   His supporters' thousand and one excuses can never overcome this, at least not if the facts of the evidence are at issue instead of mythological smoke screens.  Since his endorsement was in his second most substantial book purporting to be science,  I don't think anything short of a similarly grave repudiation of that endorsement suffices to get him off the hook for having made it.

Instead, I will cite a few of the statements directly related to Darwin's endorsement of what Haeckel says about "the genealogy of man" and issues related to The Descent of Man in this and other posts.   Note that in the translation of the book,  the word "species" is frequently used to mean what is commonly referred to as "race" today.   This can be a little confusing to a modern reader but I will give the text as Lankester translated it.

The Caucasian, or Mediterranean man (Homo Mediterraneus), has from time immemorial been placed at the head of all races of men, as the most highly developed and perfect. It is generally called the Caucasian race, but as among all the varieties of the species, the Caucasian branch is the least important, we prefer the much more suitable appellation proposed by Friedrich Müller, namely, that of Mediterranean, or Midland men. For the most important varieties of this species, which are moreover the most eminent actors in what is called “Universal History,” first rose to a flourishing condition on the shores of the Mediterranean. For the most important varieties of this species, which are moreover the most eminent actors in what is called “Universal History,” first rose to a flourishing condition on the shores of the Mediterranean. The former area of the distribution of this species is expressed by the name of “Indo-Atlantic” species, whereas at present it is spread over the whole earth, and is overcoming most of the other species in the struggle for existence. In bodily as well as in mental qualities, no other human species can equal the Mediterranean. This species alone (with the exception of the Mongolian) has had an actual history; it alone has attained to that degree of civilization which seems to raise man above the rest of nature. 
Haeckel History of Creation

Given his endorsement of the book, it's not unfair to compare this with Darwin's statements about "Caucasians", especially in relation with other racial groups in The Descent of Man.  But,  to save time, here is more of what Haeckel said, mixing his racial hierarchy with assumptions of natural selection:

Within the tropical regions, Negroes, Kaffres, and Nubians, as also the Malays and Dravidas, are in some measure protected against the encroachments of the Indo-Germanic tribes by their being better adapted for a hot climate; the case of the arctic tribes of the polar regions is similar. But the other races, 325 which as it is are very much diminished in number, will sooner or later completely succumb in the struggle for existence to the superiority of the Mediterranean races. The American and Australian tribes are even now fast approaching their complete extinction, and the same may be said of the Papuans and Hottentots.  
Haeckel  History of Creation

Reading those passages, it's impossible not to remember one of the most infamous passages in The Descent of Man:

The great break in the organic chain between man and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any extinct or living species, has often been advanced as a grave objection to the belief that man is descended from some lower form; but this objection will not appear of much weight to those who, from general reasons, believe in the general principle of evolution. Breaks often occur in all parts of the series, some being wide, sharp and defined, others less so in various degrees; as between the orang and its nearest allies—between the Tarsius and the other Lemuridae—between the elephant, and in a more striking manner between the Ornithorhynchus or Echidna, and all other mammals. But these breaks depend merely on the number of related forms which have become extinct. At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked (18. 'Anthropological Review,' April 1867, p. 236.), will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.

Some of Darwin's defenders will be quick to eagerly read that to mean that Darwin is looking forward to an inconvenient gap in the fossil record being filled by the extinction of "the savage races" and the "antropomorphous apes", and not merely that, " The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla."   Which doesn't exactly cohere with what Darwin said but, then, few of these salvage operations of the pure and innocent Darwin do.

Whether or not there's much of a difference between whether Darwin's hope is hoped for because it will add weight to natural selection or because he favors the anticipated further demarcation between species he and probably most other scientists already held were absolutely separated, might be a question worth considering. In either one he eagerly anticipated the extinction of  "savage races" which would benefit "the civilised races of man" who will be the one doing the exterminating.   That certainly sounds familiar to anyone with an education today, it describes the premise of Nazi racism and "racial hygiene".  There is no other way to say it.  Darwin frequently hides behind a general term "savage," only infrequently identifying what people he actually meant, but there can be little doubt that those seldom were white, Northern Europeans.  He ranked them by class instead of by race.

Getting back to the dodge mentioned in the preceeding paragraph, If one is better than the other, it's not by much.  Especially as Darwin presents all of the extinctions as a scientifically determined outcome, not to be avoided.   I've been unable to find Schaaffhausen's article so I don't know if it addressed that situation or if he merely merely talked about the future extinction of the great apes, as it would seem from where Darwin places the citation.   If including entire races into this extinction prophesy was Darwin's doing seems to be a question in need of an answer. As is the similarity between Darwin's  prediction and Haeckel's   [N.B. see yesterday's post, I may have found it.  If I did that blows the lid off of Darwin's assertions and the effort to try to mitigate the true evil of what he said.]

In other places Darwin presents the extinction of entire races of humans with stunning easiness.   A section of Chapter Seven is named "On the extinction of races".   The account of the genocide by the English of the Tasmanians is among the most horrifyingly repulsive examples of this, Haeckel explicitly lists Australians as among the most primitive, ape like of humans and Darwin doesn't seem to take their mass murder as an especially serious matter:

When Tasmania was first colonised the natives were roughly estimated by some at 7000 and by others at 20,000. Their number was soon greatly reduced, chiefly by fighting with the English and with each other. After the famous hunt by all the colonists, when the remaining natives delivered themselves up to the government, they consisted only of 120 individuals (37. All the statements here given are taken from 'The Last of the Tasmanians,' by J. Bonwick, 1870.), who were in 1832 transported to Flinders Island. This island, situated between Tasmania and Australia, is forty miles long, and from twelve to eighteen miles broad: it seems healthy, and the natives were well treated. Nevertheless, they suffered greatly in health. In 1834 they consisted (Bonwick, p. 250) of forty-seven adult males, forty-eight adult females, and sixteen children, or in all of 111 souls. In 1835 only one hundred were left. As they continued rapidly to decrease, and as they themselves thought that they should not perish so quickly elsewhere, they were removed in 1847 to Oyster Cove in the southern part of Tasmania. They then consisted (Dec. 20th, 1847) of fourteen men, twenty-two women and ten children. (38. This is the statement of the Governor of Tasmania, Sir W. Denison, 'Varieties of Vice-Regal Life,' 1870, vol. i. p. 67.) But the change of site did no good. Disease and death still pursued them, and in 1864 one man (who died in 1869), and three elderly women alone survived. The infertility of the women is even a more remarkable fact than the liability of all to ill-health and death. At the time when only nine women were left at Oyster Cove, they told Mr. Bonwick (p. 386), that only two had ever borne children: and these two had together produced only three children!

With respect to the cause of this extraordinary state of things, Dr. Story remarks that death followed the attempts to civilise the natives. "If left to themselves to roam as they were wont and undisturbed, they would have reared more children, and there would have been less mortality." Another careful observer of the natives, Mr. Davis, remarks, "The births have been few and the deaths numerous. This may have been in a great measure owing to their change of living and food; but more so to their banishment from the mainland of Van Diemen's Land, and consequent depression of spirits" (Bonwick, pp. 388, 390).

Note the transition from the extermination of an entire population by intentional murder "the famous hunt**" to the genocide being presented as if it was a description of the natural decline of a rare species. "As they continued rapidly to decrease, and as they themselves thought that they should not perish so quickly elsewhere, they were removed in 1847 to Oyster Cove in the southern part of Tasmania".   It is a passage that it would be hard to top for depravity with anything I've read by Haeckel.  If it is different in tone or content from Haeckel it is a difference too subtle for me to see.   Darwin goes on to report on the Maoris and other existing human populations in the region as dispassionately.   Where I'd expect most people to note the effects of invasion, murder, enslavement, intentional genocide, the theft of lands and the displacements to uninhabitable regions - until something valuable is discovered there as well,  Darwin sees all of that as the action of nature, determined, inevitable.   As Darwin begins that section:

"When civilised nations come into contact with barbarians the struggle is short, except where a deadly climate gives its aid to the native race."  

One or two instances of such statements would be enough to forever damage the reputation of any other figure in history and Darwin said such things far more often than that.  Only with Darwin, he is continually excused from his own words and his own publication record, even in what he presented as science, which is held up as the most serious and controlled of all possible expressions of thought.

Given the seriousness of these issues, the lives and deaths of people, individually and in the millions,  given the fact that making Darwin the trademark, the brand name and the figure head of evolutionary science, it will have to eventually face that record which will never go away.  The impunity given him by the post-war cover up of his own words will not hold.  If political liberals leave the truth about Darwin to conservatives, we will pay a price for repeating the obvious lie that he was innocent.  If evolutionary science continues to cave to the ideologues who mount the false front for Charles Darwin, it too will suffer for it.  I believe it already has.   Charles Darwin's record, which I have always looked at from the foundation of my accepting the fact  of evolution, will always be there.  Its meaning is as clear as his own famously lucid writing.  His full endorsement of Haeckel's worst ideas is absolute fact, far clearer fact than that with which supports the fact of evolution, far more than supports his theory of natural selection.   There is no reasonable denial he meant what he said and no ambiguity in it. No room for honestly saying he didn't say what he clearly did.

Any group which Darwin identified as "savages," any group targeted in passages he wrote or endorsed from Haeckel and other writers, have a continuing interest in condemning them all.  That will not go away, we will not die out as they obviously hoped.  We will be here to witness to the things said about us, our ancestors and our children.  When it's someone expressing your inherent inferiority, your irretrievably degenerate state, giving scientific reasons for your receiving second rate treatment, and even eagerly anticipating your extinction, you have every right to notice it and reject what is said.

What Darwin, Haeckel and others said in the 19th century had real effects in the world, the link between them and the political and legal expression of what they said is as clear as those who endorsed what they said as they put their scientific claims into applied use.  In some cases, just as Darwin and Haeckel called for.

*  Lankester was a naturalist, a  long time member of Darwin's circle, a correspondent during that period, someone Darwin lobbied to get into the Linnean Society during the time Lankester was translating and publishing his translation, and  a close associate of Thomas Huxley.   I'm certain that translation would have been known to and certainly read by Darwin, who clearly read the material he cited from the German original.  As a close associate of Darwin as Lankester was, if there was anything questionable mentioning Darwin in Haeckel's book,  I am certain he would have drawn Darwin's attention to it, seeking confirmation of the accuracy of his translation.

Most of the  material relevant to this discussion is contained in chapters 22 and 23, about origin of human beings, Haeckel's division of people into races and ranking those supposed races by ascending rank from lowest to highest, largely based on skin color and ethnicity.

**  Why not even "the infamous "hunt"?   The admirers of Charles Darwin are always presenting him as a great humanitarian but, other than a few instances that could fall into the category of noblesse oblige,  he seems remarkably callous and indifferent to human suffering and death in the majority of the population.   Contrast his tone in those passages to his at times gushy concern for the work of Haeckel, Galton and other professional associates.   The answer to why he doesn't criticize  Haeckel for his excesses would lie in those passages in which he calmly, coolly, contemplates the alleged benefits of countless people dying as children and where he talks about things like that with studied indifference.

I'm not pretending I don't see what's on the page right in front of me.

Note:  It is a general assumption in literary and intellectual analysis that when an author repeats ideas and expressions of an author they've read, they got what they said from the original author.  Scholars studying such things generally honor the person who originated the idea and honor the original author on that point.  When other people repeat those ideas from books and authors they are known to have read, even without citation, they are assumed to be influenced by the things they read. Only, when it comes to Darwin and, now, Haeckel and those who read them, that obvious intellectual chain of origination is required to be denied. 

There is a recently begun campaign to rehabilitate the reputation of Ernst Haeckel.  I suspect it is a mop up operation of those who want to falsify the record of Charles Darwin.   Darwin made it impossible to pretend that he disapproved of what Haeckel was saying up into the early 1880s and by then Haeckel had said much of what associates him with Nazism, saying what many of the most infamous Nazis said more than a half century before they said it.  The more I look at Haeckel's influence, through his students, such as Alfred Ploetz, who were directly involved in Nazi eugenics and through many of the intellectuals who supported and, in many cases joined the Nazi party, he can only be deNazified by willfully lying about the actual history of where they got those ideas which led to laws and policies and the murders of millions of people.  Many of those people also read Darwin - it is absurd to believe that they could not have been influenced by Haeckel - second only to Darwin in Germany on these subjects - and not have been influenced by the man he credits as the founder of his monistic system.  They could not have avoided reading Haeckel's continual citation of Charles Darwin to support his contentions and Darwin's support of what Haeckel said, right up till the end of his life.  Haeckel continually noted the open and private support of Darwin for his own ideas.  Those contentions he was making into the 20th century were largely present in books which Darwin had cited publicly and praised privately in the existing letters he sent to Haeckel, in Haeckel's reports of private conversations with Darwin and in Darwin's public citations of him.   The rehabilitation of Haeckel depends on lying about what he said, repeatedly, in his books beginning in the 1860s, before Nazis said the same things,  just as the rehabilitation of Darwin depended on separating him from his own words, pretending his own citations and endorsements don't exist.  And also in defending him from the testimony of his own family and colleagues who knew him better than anyone else then and everyone else now. 

The University of Chicago historian Robert J. Richards seems to be the central figure in the Haeckel rehabilitation effort, which is being championed by the pro Darwin industry as well. 

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