Friday, July 5, 2013

Paul Popenoe: When Eugenics Dared To Speak HIS Name

Note:  I had not known before the other day that James Dobson of Focus on the Family had been an assistant to the infamous eugenicist Paul Popenoe in his post-war years, when he abandoned his previous career as the revelations of the Nazis war crimes had made eugenics anathema.  After the war Popenoe was also associated with the Republican media hack, Art Linkletter.   I had been working on this post before reading that and intend to see if I can find out more about it, it seems best to start with it.

As I pointed out in one of the early posts in this series, even if Charles Darwin had never encouraged Francis Galton and Ernst Haeckel in their early eugenics and ideological efforts, even if he had never cited them or so much as mentioned them in one of his major scientific books, endorsing their eugenics  assertions and even some of their most terrible ideas, he would be proven to have inspired them merely by Galton's and Haeckel's declarations that Charles Darwin and his natural selection was what inspired them to develop the ideas they did from it.  And both were absolutely unambiguous on that point, as I've pointed out here.   The eugenics of Leonard Darwin is even less plausibly separated from his father's inspiration due to Leonard Darwin's several declarations to that effect.  And we have, especially a the beginning, one eugenicist after another, even the most extreme of them, even those who may have felt Darwin was a bit old fashioned by the 1920s and 30s.  Virtually every big name in eugenics attributed their science to Darwin.  Eugenics, resting on natural selection, can only be separated from it by lies and cover up or by extreme illogic or ignorance.  All of those are the basis of the post-WWII Darwin myth.

Paul Popenoe was a major figure in American Eugenics, when it was an active program in many parts of the United States.   In 1918, several years after Vernon Kellogg published his warning about the dangers of German neo-Darwinism, which I noted earlier this week,  Popenoe was the editor of the journal of the American Genetic Association in Washington, DC.   He wrote an early college text book with Professor Roswell Hill Johnson of the University of Pittsburg, called Applied Eugenics.   Applied, as in putting it into effect.  Comparing the book to those of Darwin, Haeckel, and even the early ones of Galton it constructs an impressive looking edifice of data, statistics, graphs, tables and even one rather dubiously included demonstration of would be physics of the kind that would warm the coldest of scientific hearts.  I wouldn't be at all surprised of the likes of Dr. Perkins took it as an inspiration to their applied eugenics.  Later Popenoe got the funding to start a group which he gave the pleasant sounding name, The Human Betterment Foundation, fitting it into the up and going California eugenics program, cited by the Nazis as one of the most successful, in terms of numbers of victims sterilized anywhere in the world.

As tempting as it is to go into that, it isn't the theme of this series, which is the specifically the Darwinian inspiration of eugenics and Haeckel's monist system, which, from the beginning, explicitly contained assertions towards its active application to people and human societies.  Popenoe and Johnson made it impossible to deny that their eugenics was founded in Charles Darwin and natural selection.  Their language, in 1918, three years after Kellogg gave his warning, as the appalling record of American Eugenics was being built, fifteen years before the Nazis took power and put their eugenics laws into place, is chilling.

The lethal factor is the one which Darwin himself most emphasized. Obviously a race will be steadily improved, if the worst stock in it is cut off before it has a chance to reproduce, and if the best stock survives to perpetuate its kind. "This preservation of favourable individual differences and variations, and the destruction of those which are injurious, I have called natural selection, or the survival of the fittest," Darwin wrote; and he went on to show that the principal checks on increase were overcrowding, the difficulty of obtaining food, destruction by enemies, and the lethal effects of climate. These causes may be conveniently divided as in the above diagram, into sustentative and non-sustentative. The sustentative factor has acquired particular prominence in the human species, since Malthus wrote his essay on population—that essay which both Darwin and Wallace confess was the starting point of their discovery of natural selection.

This was the kind of thing that students were being taught in classes in eugenics SCIENCE, in the name of Darwin.

Again, they make it absolutely clear where they got their inspiration:

The science of eugenics is the natural result of the spread and acceptance of organic evolution, following the publication of Darwin's work on The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, in 1859. It took a generation for his ideas to win the day; but then they revolutionized the intellectual life of the civilized world. Man came to realize that the course of nature is regular; that the observed sequences of events can be described in formulas which are called natural laws; he learned that he could achieve great results in plant and animal breeding by working in harmony with these laws. Then the question logically arose, "Is not man himself subject to these same laws?[Pg 148] Can he not use his knowledge of them to improve his own species, as he has been more or less consciously improving the plants and animals that were of most value to him, for many centuries?"

The evolutionist* answered both these questions affirmatively. However great may be the superiority of his mind, man is first of all an animal, subject to the natural laws that govern other animals. He can learn to comply with these laws; he can, therefore, take an active share in furthering the process of evolution toward a higher life.

... It is really on Darwin's work that the modern science of eugenics is based, and it owes its beginning to Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton. 

It is the easiest thing to see where the active eugenicists got their inspiration because, before the crimes of the Nazis were revealed, before those were even committed, eugenicists were openly making that attribution, hitching their science to the star that Charles Darwin was, finding exactly the same passages in Darwin's writing, the same ideas contained in his books that I'm using to do exactly what they were doing,  showing the cords that bind Charles Darwin and eugenics, even the extreme eugenics of figures such as Pearson and the PR based career of Paul Popenoe (he'd worked as a newspaperman after he dropped out of college) had their basis in natural selection and Charles Darwin's own words.

That the post-war construction of the false, eugenics-free, Haeckel-free Charles Darwin could be achieved when anyone who reads The Descent of Man could not possibly escape his words, repeated over and over again, in Darwin's second most substantial book on evolution, raises the most serious questions about the competence and integrity of the intellectual culture that achieved that obvious lie.  In my experience, it was constructed largely through television and radio programs, from the BBC, PBS,  and other esteemed organs of the media.  It was constructed in popular science books, some of it from real scientists and others who work at prestigious universities.  Anyone who was supposed to be responsible for fact-checking of those allegedly educational programs, books and journalism clearly didn't do that.  Anyone who had could not have failed to see they were lying.  Anyone today who mouths the denials that Darwin is as closely associated as could be with eugenics and Haeckel is either exposing their ignorance or their dishonesty.  In the case of science bloggers, scientists, science writers and other academics, they are exposing themselves of professional frauds, either spreading lies out of ignorance or, if known, just plain lying, often for the clearest of ideological reasons.  That the opponents of evolution have read Darwin, Galton, Haeckel etc. and they've found what they need to expose the case only means that they've done their research.  Repeating the accusations of "quote mining" over and over again, doesn't change what those authors said, it doesn't and will not overcome that record, it only fools those too ignorant or irresponsible to have not done what they could do as easily as picking up The Descent of Man and reading what their demi-god said, in his own words, of looking at his endorsements and following up his citations.

The Darwin Cult is a major failure of scholarship in the post-war period.  The culture of this period deserves to have it, its falseness, its clear, ideological motivation, its invasion into what is supposed to be as clear of ideology and non-factual assertions as science is presented to be, considered as symbolic of our cultural decadence and decline.  It's something that should be disturbing to anyone who cares about intellectual and scientific integrity. You don't outgrow that requirement by virtue of your post-graduate education and high scienceyness anymore than you do adding and subtracting.  Perhaps it's not emphasized enough outside of the humanities.  Maybe the lapses in scientific review which have produced a large numbers of major scientific scandals is related.  Scientific review is, after all, the same intellectual act, on which its claim of reliability rests. Checking sources is one of the requirements of scholarship.  It's something we were told to do in grammar school.

*Not, "the evolutionist", not all evolutionists, not everyone who accepted the fact of evolution.   Alfred Russell Wallace rejected eugenics, calling it a meddlesome and intrusive scientific priestcraft.  Other evolutionists rejected it, though, in the period before the Second World War,  they may have been in the minority.  One of the major factors in preventing the adoption of eugenics laws in many countries was the predominance of Catholicism but the Catholic church didn't reject evolution, as early a figure as Cardinal Newman took a measured view of Darwin's book, though some theologians who wrote on the topic ran into some trouble with the Vatican and local bishops, those were often due to their theological, not scientific content.   And there were figures such as Franz Boas who made some of the most substantial scientific arguments against eugenics in the period before the war.

Update:   This connects Applied Eugenics directly to Nazi the theoretical and applied eugenics as it was beginning.  It notes the importance of the book for the most influential German works on eugenics by Baur, Fischer and Lenz. Of that Popenoe, himself said, in a pretty shocking article:

Probably his [Hitler's] earlier thinking was colored by Nietzsche, but he studied the subject more thoroughly during his years in prison, following the abortive revolutionary movement of 1923. Here, it is said, he came into possession of the two-volume text on heredity and eugenics, by E. Baur, E. Fischer, and F. Lenz, which is the best-known statement of eugenics in the German language, and evidently studied it to good purpose. In his book, Mein Kampf, most of which was written during these prison years, and which outlines most of the policies since adopted by the Nazis as a political party, he bases his hopes of national regeneration solidly on the application of biological principles to human society. "He who is not sound and worthy in body and mind, should not perpetuate his handicaps in the bodies of his children," Hitler declares in this book. "The state must take care that only he who is sound shall be a parent. "To prevent defective persons from producing equally defective offspring, is an act dictated by the clearest light of reason. Its carrying out is the most human act of mankind. It would prevent the unmerited suffering of millions of persons, and above all would, in the end, result in a steady increase in human welfare." That he has no illusions about producing immediate and miraculous results, but is taking the long time view, is evidenced by his remark that "If for only 600 years the reproduction of the physically defective and mentally diseased were prevented, not only would mankind be freed from an unmeasurable misery, but it would reach a vigor which today is hardly dreamed of. "In an age when races are poisoning themselves," he concludes, "any state which devotes itself to the care of its best racial elements must some day dominate the earth." He recognizes, however, that negative measures are not enough to safeguard the racial values of a people. 

This was written in 1934, before Popenoe and other eugenicists felt any need to conceal the ties between what they were doing and Hitler.   The section following was, I am certain, meant to calm any worries people may have had that Hitler was going to do just what he had said he was going to.  You get a lot of that with eugenics, both before, during and after they wracked up their record of crime and depravity.  Considering the emphasis on crime and harm to other people committed by various populations designated as "unfit"  in their propaganda, that is ironic.

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