Saturday, July 6, 2013

Infanticide Darwin and Haeckel 4

Some of the most jarring parts of The Descent of Man are those where Darwin goes just to the edge of openly advocating the murders of children or their death from neglect and deprivation. More than that, he repeatedly steps on that line in the book.  Darwin never crosses it to directly and openly advocate infanticide but he knew by that time that his foremost representative in Germany did cross it.   Since Darwin gave his highest praise to Ernst Haeckel and, especially,  The History of Creation in his citations,  he would be aware of what Haeckel had said in the book.  Here is part of it:

It appears of interest here to remark that not only natural selection, but also artificial selection exercises its influence in many ways in universal history. A remarkable instance of artificial selection in man, on a great scale, is furnished by the ancient Spartans, among whom, in obedience to a special law, all newly-born children were subject to a careful examination and selection. All those that were weak, sickly, or affected with any bodily infirmity, were killed. Only the perfectly healthy and strong children were allowed to live, and they alone afterwards propagated the race. By this means, the Spartan race was not only continually preserved in excellent strength and vigour, but the perfection of their bodies increased with every generation. No doubt the Spartans owed their rare degree of masculine strength and rough heroic valour (for which they are eminent in ancient history) in a great measure to this artificial selection.

I'll begin by pointing out that there is no scientific evidence presented to support the idea that the Spartan aristocracy were physically superior to those who don't kill children deemed to be "weakly, sickly,...."  That would be because there was no scientific evidence that was true.  The Spartans were long dead and everything Haeckel knew about them was from classical literature which, even in the best of their historical writing, is more like gossip than science.   And even that shows that the Spartans were not an invincible, superior race of men but a brutal military dictatorship that were dedicated to war and slavery.  That is a far more obvious reason for their position in classical lore than their belief in the beneficial effects of infanticide.  And even in Haeckel's day it was known that cities which had fallen to the Spartans also practiced infanticide, more informally and, it would be easy to imagine, at times, even more often.   I'd  like to go on about a conclusion that he could have made about infanticide and brutal dictatorships but that's for another post.  For now, Haeckel wanting to claim Spartan infanticide as evidence to validate natural selection was based on anything but science or even logically thinking about the literature.

Haeckel goes on attributing a similar position to the "Redskins" even in the 1860s when he was writing it:

Many tribes also among the Red Indians of North America (who at present are succumbing in the struggle for life to the superior numbers of the white intruders, in spite of a most heroic and courageous resistance) owe their rare degree of bodily strength and warlike bravery to a similar careful selection of the newly-born children. Among them, also, all children that are weak or affected with any infirmity are immediately killed, and only the perfectly strong individuals remain in life, and propagate the race. That the race becomes greatly strengthened, in the course of very many generations, by this artificial selection cannot in itself be doubted, and is sufficiently proved by many well known facts.

Haeckel isn't as careful to give citations as Darwin was in The Descent of Man so I don't know what he based this on. I would be interested to know how he came by his "many well known facts" and what they are.  I have a suspicion that some of  those "facts" are, as Darwin's assertions about the dysgenic effect of mass vaccination against small pox, invented out of nothing but a desire to support the Darwinian conception of natural selection.  My guess would be that they are more based in sensational and racist lore than in fact.  I would wonder what  historians specializing in those groups today would say about it.

Having established an artificial substitute for scientific data to support his contention Haeckel goes on for quite a while in this vein until he arrives at this:

If any one were to venture the proposal, after the examples of the Spartans and Redskins, to kill, immediately upon their birth, all miserable, crippled children to whom with certainty a sickly life could be prophesied, instead of keeping them in life injurious to them and to the race, our so-called “humane civilization” would utter a cry of indignation. But the same “humane civilization” thinks it quite as it should be, and accepts without a murmur, that at the outbreak of every war (and in the present state of civilized life, and in the continual development of standing armies, wars must naturally become more frequent) hundreds and thousands of the finest men, full of youthful vigour, are sacrificed in the hazardous game of battles. The same “humane civilization” at present praises the abolition of capital punishment as a “liberal measure!” And yet capital punishment for incorrigible and degraded criminals is not only just, but also a benefit to the better portion of mankind; the same benefit is done by destroying luxuriant weeds, for the prosperity of a well cultivated garden. As by a careful rooting out of weeds, light, air, and ground is gained for good and useful plants, in like manner, by the indiscriminate destruction of all incorrigible criminals, not only would the struggle for life among the better portion of mankind be made easier, but also an advantageous artificial process of selection would be set in practice, since the possibility of transmitting their injurious qualities by inheritance would be taken from those degenerate outcasts.

Just in case anyone wonders how Haeckel came to his infamous reputation in German History, this is a good beginning.   And, of course, there is no data to support his contention that all of these ills are the product of biological inheritance, other than a few of the disabilities that are, in fact, inherited.  How much of the scientific support of natural selection at the time was based on actual science and how much of it was based on lore treated with hunches might give some insight into the contemporary, informed skepticism of it that Darwin and Haeckel faced.**

As presented by the post-war Darwin PR, the early opposition to Darwinism was entirely based in peoples' queasiness about being related to apes.  But it is forgotten that much of early advocacy of infanticide, capital punishment and similar developments in the name of Darwinism, founded on the concept of natural selection, were responsible for much of the opposition to evolution.  Scientists advocating murder is far from a mere side issue.  Haeckel whined about anticipated objection to his call for murdering children in the first sentence of that last paragraph.

You're left to wonder how the Darwin, commonly presented to us as a great humanitarian, would react to his "chorus leader" in Germany openly advocating infanticide.  What he said in the Descent of Man - a book he said he wouldn't have written if it hadn't been well underway by the time The History of Creation had been published -  hardly called Haeckel's advocacy of infanticide into question.  In fact, he echoed it right up to the point of endorsing it,  even, oddly, placing that into a discussion of sexual selection:

No race or body of men has been so completely subjugated by other men, as that certain individuals should be preserved, and thus unconsciously selected, from somehow excelling in utility to their masters. Nor have certain male and female individuals been intentionally picked out and matched, except in the well-known case of the Prussian grenadiers; and in this case man obeyed, as might have been expected, the law of methodical selection; for it is asserted that many tall men were reared in the villages inhabited by the grenadiers and their tall wives. In Sparta, also, a form of selection was followed, for it was enacted that all children should be examined shortly after birth; the well-formed and vigorous being preserved, the others left to perish. (13. Mitford's 'History of Greece,' vol. i. p. 282. It appears also from a passage in Xenophon's 'Memorabilia,' B. ii. 4 (to which my attention has been called by the Rev. J.N. Hoare), that it was a well recognised principle with the Greeks, that men ought to select their wives with a view to the health and vigour of their children. The Grecian poet, Theognis, who lived 550 B.C., clearly saw how important selection, if carefully applied, would be for the improvement of mankind. He saw, likewise, that wealth often checks the proper action of sexual selection. 

And that's hardly the only mention of allegedly hygenic infanticide in the book.  Just casually, I counted  about ten other assertions of the idea from numerous, named ethnic groups around the world, and probably missed more in the book.   As so often with Darwin, there is massive and leading advocacy for an idea countered with a brief assertion of the ideas wickedness.  And he does in a word or phrase in a handful of them.   Here, though, is how he deals with the opposition that this kind of advocacy provoked:

 It may be well first to premise that I do not wish to maintain that any strictly social animal, if its intellectual faculties were to become as active and as highly developed as in man, would acquire exactly the same moral sense as ours. In the same manner as various animals have some sense of beauty, though they admire widely-different objects, so they might have a sense of right and wrong, though led by it to follow widely different lines of conduct. If, for instance, to take an extreme case, men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering. (6. Mr. H. Sidgwick remarks, in an able discussion on this subject (the 'Academy,' June 15, 1872, p. 231), "a superior bee, we may feel sure, would aspire to a milder solution of the population question." Judging, however, from the habits of many or most savages, man solves the problem by female infanticide, polyandry and promiscuous intercourse; therefore it may well be doubted whether it would be by a milder method. Miss Cobbe, in commenting ('Darwinism in Morals,' 'Theological Review,' April 1872, pp. 188-191) on the same illustration, says, the PRINCIPLES of social duty would be thus reversed; and by this, I presume, she means that the fulfilment of a social duty would tend to the injury of individuals; but she overlooks the fact, which she would doubtless admit, that the instincts of the bee have been acquired for the good of the community. She goes so far as to say that if the theory of ethics advocated in this chapter were ever generally accepted, "I cannot but believe that in the hour of their triumph would be sounded the knell of the virtue of mankind!" It is to be hoped that the belief in the permanence of virtue on this earth is not held by many persons on so weak a tenure.) Nevertheless, the bee, or any other social animal, would gain in our supposed case, as it appears to me, some feeling of right or wrong, or a conscience. For each individual would have an inward sense of possessing certain stronger or more enduring instincts, and others less strong or enduring; so that there would often be a struggle as to which impulse should be followed; and satisfaction, dissatisfaction, or even misery would be felt, as past impressions were compared during their incessant passage through the mind. In this case an inward monitor would tell the animal that it would have been better to have followed the one impulse rather than the other. The one course ought to have been followed, and the other ought not; the one would have been right and the other wrong; but to these terms I shall recur. 

It is amazing how after reading Haeckel's advocacy of infanticide in History of Creation and in a book where Darwin goes on and on about the hygenic virtues of infanticide, his answer to "Miss Cobbe" is:

It is to be hoped that the belief in the permanence of virtue on this earth is not held by many persons on so weak a tenure.

Darwin is seldom accused of cynicism but if that isn't a cynical, condescending answer to Miss Cobbe calling depravity depraved,  then it is a word that has lost its meaning.   In the same paragraph, and in a book in which he, over and over again, presents things such as infanticide as racial hygiene and things like vaccination and aid to the poor and the disabled as catastrophically dysgenic,that sentence is placed there for cover should anyone so presumptuous as "Miss Cobbe" point out what effect the book, if taken seriously, AS SCIENCE, would have.    Of course, history proved that Miss Cobbe's prediction was a bit more accurate than would justify Darwin's condescension.

I could point out many other problems with Darwin in that paragraph, especially Darwin's clear intention of trying to make moral objections to what he said seem ridiculous by mixing them up with absurd fantasies about bees, but I will go on to look at this idea as Haeckel went with it.

So, in the Descent of Man, Darwin's answer to Haeckel's The History of Creation, there was confirmation of his contentions about infanticide's beneficial effects, with many more examples asserted,  And there are a few easily dismissed mentions that it was a wicked thing, for the Miss Cobbes of the world.  What was Haeckel to think but that Darwin had validated his idea by his nonexistent scientific opposition to it*?   Here is a later assertion of infanticide, extended by Haeckel.   If the passage seems to be an extremely disturbing premonition of events in the next forty years of German history to you,  it should.

In our day the number of lunatics in civilized countries is, on the average, five-sixths per thousand. If the total population of Europe is put at three hundred and ninety to four hundred millions, we have at least two million lunatics among them, and of these more than two hundred thousand are incurable. What an enormous mass of suffering these figures indicate for the invalids themselves, and what a vast amount of trouble and sorrow for their families, what a huge private and public expenditure! How much of this pain and expense could be spared if people could make up their minds to free the incurable from their indescribable torments by a dose of morphia! 

Naturally this act of kindness should not be left to the discretion of an individual physician, but be determined by a commission of competent and conscientious medical men. So, in the case of other incurables and great sufferers (from cancer, for instance), the "redemption from evil” should only be accomplished by a dose of some painless and rapid poison when they have expressed a deliberate wish (to be afterward juridically proved) for this, and under the control of an authoritative commission. 

The ancient Spartans owed a good deal of their famous bravery, their bodily strength and beauty, as well their mental energy and capacity, to the old custom of doing away with new-born children who were born weakly or crippled. We find the same custom today among many savage races. When I pointed out the advantages of this Spartan selection for the improvement of the race in 1868 (chapter vii. of the History of Creation) there was a storm of pious indignation in the religious journals, as always happens when pure reason ventures to oppose the current prejudices and traditional beliefs. But I ask: What good does, it do to humanity to maintain artificially and rear the thousands cripples, deaf-mutes, idiots, etc., who are born every year with an hereditary burden of incurable disease  Is it not better and more rational to cut off from first this unavoidable misery which their poor lives bring to themselves and their families?
Ernst Haeckel: "Wonders of Life" 1904 Trans. Joseph McCabe***

Notice how Haeckel mixes an act of self determination, suicide in the face of the greatest and most hopeless of suffering, into advocacy for the murder of "cripples, deaf-mutes, idiots, etc."   That is an obvious attempt to palliate that he is promoting mass murder for the purpose of racial hygiene, as it would have been called in Germany even then.

You have to wonder if Darwin had severely and publicly criticized Haeckel's completely non-science based advocacy of infanticide in The History of Creation instead of giving the book his unreserved praise and advocacy if Haeckel might have been somewhat discouraged from perusing that kind of "public understanding of science" instead of extending the list of those to be killed.   Instead, he poked at Miss Cobbe's fear that someone might take his "science" seriously, applying it in real life.  And history shows that Miss Cobbe was right.

*  Darwin would also have been informed of Haeckel's intention to overturn conventional morality through  reading The History of Creation by the time he wrote The Descent of Man.  Haeckel was already scornful of present morality in such matters in that book.  There is no reason that Darwin could have expected his mild as milk assertions of morality would have deterred Haeckel - you can read how Darwin characterized his writing in earlier sections of this series.  Darwin could not have been unaware of how Haeckel and other early Darwinists in Germany were drawing such conclusions from The Origin of Species, where Darwin, himself, had gone no where near as far as he did in Descent of Man.

** You may have noticed an inconsistency in Haeckel saying

 But the same “humane civilization” thinks it quite as it should be, and accepts without a murmur, that at the outbreak of every war (and in the present state of civilized life, and in the continual development of standing armies, wars must naturally become more frequent) hundreds and thousands of the finest men, full of youthful vigour, are sacrificed in the hazardous game of battles. 

Haeckel, in the case of the Spartans and the "red skins" praises their warrior class and their warlike ways and comes close to decrying war in a "human civilization" for the deaths of many of the "finest men, full of youthful vigour."   This kind of having it both ways pervades the 19th and 20th century literature of natural selection, asserting the opposite effects for the same behavior, not depending on context but on the identity of those engaged in it.  It is an issue that Darwin agreed with Heinrich Fick on, it is present in Haeckel and even as mild mannered a eugenicist as Vernon Kellogg who made a rather ambiguous case for eugenics as he used the idea to promote pacifism, a pacifism which he would abandon when he was confronted by Darwinism as adopted by the German military establishment.  Of course, in order for natural selection to be a real thing, warfare that sacrificed "the fittest of young men in their prime reproductive years" would have to have had the same effect regardless of race or nationality.

Oddly, whenever the talk is "savages" it is exactly warfare, the continual warfare against the weak and disabled, warfare between groups, that is continually held up to be the foremost mechanism of natural selection.   That seems to have escaped a line of Darwinists, beginning with those who Darwinists who Darwin anointed, himself.

*** Joseph McCabe was the most famous English atheist in the late early 20th century, until he was ousted from that position by Bertrand Russell.  I may write a post about his advocacy of Haeckel's late and in some ways his most depraved works.   He started out as a Catholic priest and converted to becoming an early example of the rabidly anti-religious professional atheist,  He became quite enthusiastic about Haeckel's depraved monism even as he accused religion, especially Catholicism, of being guilty of all of the things that Haeckel gloried in as part of his system.  That is a pattern which has repeated itself ever since, attributed or not.  The double standard seems to be one of the most obvious aspects of atheist as well as fundamentalist discourse.

Let Me Know

I've got much more material on the topic of eugenics and its relationship to Darwin than I've already used.  I could probably make it the sole topic of a blog for a number of years.  As I mentioned to RMJ in the comments, I've looked long and hard at these questions and have found nothing in the past seven years that contradicts my contentions on that topic.  I have looked,  A lot of the strongest material I've used was the product of me trying to prove the opposite to only find that it supports my premise, that Darwin inspired and supported eugenics and the monism of Haeckel.  I have asked and, as they became more strident, demanded that people who deny what I've presented, show us their evidence for their eugenics-Haeckel free Charles Darwin who is as innocent as can be.  No one has been able to do that except by recourse to the two or three outs that Darwin provided for himself before going on to present the case against those, himself.  I will write a new post demolishing those with Darwin's own words next week.

If you want me to continue with this topic, let me know, otherwise I will start posting these more occasionally than I have the past two weeks.  Someone is reading these posts, they've been getting some of the highest hit rates of anything I've written.  Even higher than the duels with Sims.  Those have been removed to another blog.

Darwin and Haeckel's Monistic System: Darwin and Haeckel 3

If Charles Darwin had never heard of Ernst Haeckel or written to him or confirmed his understanding of natural selection, or encouraged him, endorsed his books, cited him positively in his scientific writing, or hosted him at Down,  he could still be responsible for inspiring Haeckel's version of evolution, his scientific racism, his eugenics and other things up till the end of Haeckel's life.   All that would take to prove that Darwin had inspired Haeckel is for Haeckel to say he had.   And he did from his early writings, lectures ....  right up to the end.   And Darwin did do all of those things.  Darwin knew that Haeckel was his foremost proponent in Germany, perhaps on the European continent.  He knew and said that Haeckel's promotion of Darwinism was important for its spread.  He knew what Haeckel was saying about him and  he knew that Haeckel's work was being read.  No conditional "what if" is relevant because Darwin, himself, left the record that ties him directly and intentionally to Ernst Haeckel.   The only way to deny that is to lie about it.

In an earlier post I gave an extremely startling passage from Haeckel's "The History of Creation  (Naturliche Schopfungsgeschichte)":

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.

As Darwin proved in his citations of the book, already noted here, he had read "The History of Creation" and gave it his enthusiastic endorsement.   He would have had to have read that sentence,  a sentence that contained his name and gave Darwin a superlative endorsement,  attributing the "final triumph of the monistic conception of nature" to him.    As I noted,  E. Ray Lankester, whose translation I took that passage from, a translation made during Darwin's lifetime,  was a longtime correspondent and colleague of Charles Darwin.  I cannot imagine that  if he suspected that passage could have been inaccurate, he wouldn't  have checked with Darwin - who was at the height of his fame and who was jealous for his reputation -  and corrected it accordingly.

If Darwin misunderstood what Haeckel meant by "monistic" he could not have remained in confusion as Haeckel talks about it quite a bit in the next chapters of "The History of Creation".And we know that Darwin knew of the book, writing to Haeckel that he had read Lankester's translation * as well as the original.   He had access to Haeckel's thoughts in English in time for him to have been horrified by what Haeckel attributed to him and his inspiration and to have done the only responsible thing, to have published a complete rejection of that in any context.  Especially in a scientific context.  If he did reject it, which I've never found any evidence of, not the first word of it.  In the absence of that explicit rejection, there is no other rational conclusion but that Darwin agreed with Haeckel.

have looked at many of Haeckel's books, some in German, some in English as well and find similar citations of Darwin all through his books, including one of his most infamous books,  "Monism as Connecting  Religion and Science".   In 1892, ten years after Darwin's death,  Haeckel showed just how much of his thought he attributed to Darwin's influence. It is incendiary and I know it will be controversial to cite it, but the record is there to be read by anyone.  The record being there is all the justification anyone needs to cite it.

And  I will point out that Darwin is the one who told Haeckel that "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"  in 1865,  less than thirty years before he presented the book as a lecture.  And that through the rest of Darwin's life,  he poured praise on Haeckel and what he was writing.  Darwin had not retracted his earliest endorsement of Haeckel but repeated it in private, by letter, and in the form of SCIENTIFIC CITATIONS up till the end of his life.

Here is the passage:

These considerations gain in force when we advance to the deeper knowledge of nature acquired by modern biology; here it was Darwin, especially, who thirty-three years ago opened our eyes by his doctrine of the struggle for existence, and his theory of selection founded upon it. We now know that the whole of organic nature on our planet exists only by a relentless war of all against all. Thousands of animals and plants must daily perish in every part of the earth, in order that a few chosen individuals may continue to subsist and to enjoy life. But even the existence of these favoured few is a continual conflict with threatening dangers of every kind. Thousands of hopeful germs perish uselessly every minute. The raging war of interests in human society is only a feeble picture of the unceasing and terrible war of existence which reigns throughout the whole of the living world. The beautiful dream of God's goodness and wisdom in nature, to which as children we listened so devoutly fifty years ago, no longer finds credit now—at least among educated people who think. It has disappeared before our deeper acquaintance with the mutual relations of organisms, the advancement of oecology and sociology, and our knowledge of parasite life and pathology.

All these sad but insuperable facts—truly the dark side of nature—are made intelligible to religious faith by amphitheism; they are the "works of the devil," who opposes and disturbs the perfect moral order in the world of the "good God." For pure monotheism which knows only one God, one perfect highest being, they remain unintelligible. If, with a monotheistic creed, any one still continues to talk of the moral order of the world, he in so doing shuts his eyes to the undeniable facts of history, both natural and civil.
Lecture given October 9, 1892, at Altenburg

As in the case of Darwin's enthusiastic endorsements of Galton's early eugenics, it will take the discovery of a complete repudiation of Haeckel's monism, his racism, his eugenics, his depravity, to get Darwin off of the Haeckel hook. Haeckel's word is all that is needed to identify Darwin as his inspiration, but, again as with Galton, Darwin, himself, provided the confirmation that Haeckel was not misrepresenting Darwin.  Darwin encouraged Haeckel's boldness in expressing his views.  As he gave Haeckel the highest praise in scientific citations, presenting what Haeckel wrote as extremely reliable information,  I don't think anything short of as public and grave a repudiation would get Darwin off.  Nor should he get off without it.  And if such a repudiation existed, it would be trumpeted non-stop by those who want to distance Darwin from Haeckel.

There is no reason a mere ten years after Darwin's death that Haeckel shouldn't have still believed he still stood as hear the head of the line as one of the "few who clearly understand Natural Selection,"  There was no reason for him to have believed that he would have no longer had Darwin's delight in confirming and expounding his views boldly.  Considering what he said in General Morphology, History of Creation and other books and articles which Darwin had praised and not criticized, there is no reason for Haeckel to believe what he said in that lecture would not have also met with Darwin's approval.   If someone else had asserted that it would have been disapproved by Darwin,  Haeckel had letters and endorsements enough to have asserted his superior credibility to all, except, perhaps, Thomas Huxley.  And Thomas Huxley was also praising Haeckel, not damning him.

If Darwin was nervous about or had rejected what was being derived from his ideas during his lifetime, in books and articles we know him to have read,  it was up to him to say so.   With his death, that record of statements or of unretracted endorsements has to stand as his final word on the matter.   No one can do that for Darwin posthumously.  I'm unaware of anyone who knew him who tried to do that for Darwin.  And they would have had to present the same record level of evidence that Haeckel could have brought on his behalf to credibly do so.

Update:  In one of my old notebooks I came across a reference to this passage from Haeckel's 1899 lecture,  "The Last Link: Our Present Knowledge of the Descent of Man."

The immense significance of this positive knowledge of the origin of man from some Primate does not require to be enforced. Its bearing upon the highest questions of philosophy cannot be exaggerated. Among modern philosophers no one has perceived this more deeply than Herbert Spencer.* He is one of those older thinkers who before Darwin were convinced that the theory of development is the only way to solve the   enigma of the world. Spencer is also the champion of those evolutionists who lay the greatest weight upon progressive heredity, or the much combated heredity of acquired characters. From the first he has severely attacked and criticised the theories of Weismann, who denies this most important factor of phylogeny, and would explain the whole of transformism by the c all-sufficiency of selection.  In England the theories of Weismann were received with enthusiastic acclamation, much more so than on the Continent, and they were called  “Neo-Darwinism” in opposition to the older conception of Evolution, or “Neo-Lamarckism.” 

Neither of those expressions is correct. Darwin himself was convinced of the fundamental importance of progressive heredity quite as much as his great predecessor Lamarck; as were also Huxley and Spencer. 

Three times I had the good fortune to visit Darwin at Down, and on each occasion we discussed this fundamental question in complete harmony. I agree with Spencer in the conviction that progressive heredity is an indispensable factor in every true monistic theory of Evolution, and that it is one of its most important elements. If one denies with Weismann the heredity of acquired characters, then it becomes necessary to have recourse to purely mystical qualities of germ-plasm. I am of the opinion of Spencer, that in that case it would be better to accept a mysterious creation of all the various species as described in the Mosaic account.

If you want to deny that's what Darwin agreed to in his private conversations with Haeckel, you've got the considerable problem of not having been there. No rational person would consider, given the evidence from first hand observation, that Darwin was unaware of Haeckel's monism, as he was still articulating it in 1899.  Though, in the context of my notes, I think it was Spencer I was looking into when it was taken down.   Note what he says about Weismann and the inheritance of acquired characteristics.  Both Darwin and Haeckel had been Lamarckians on that point, Darwin until he died.  Both of them wrong on it.  Darwin never had a mechanism of inheritance that worked with natural selection, it was not provided to it till long after he was dead.  Given the constant readjustments that have been made to natural selection to "make it work" with newer discoveries, it makes no sense to consider it to be the same today as it was to Darwin or Haeckel.

Update 2013:  Considering Haeckel's attribution of the confirmation of his monism in Darwin's biggest, though I'd contend not his best, idea, and Darwin's obviously not rejecting that, perhaps it is justifiable to call it Darwin-Haeckel monism.  By the sheer weight of his assertion of it, Haeckel would make the identification of it as Darwinian logically inescapable.  In my research of the issue, I can't see any evidence to refute that.  His other attributions to Goethe and Lamarck fade into inconsequentiality in comparison.

*  This is one of the many letters of Darwin to Haeckel which the Darwin Correspondence Project, somewhat mysteriously, has yet to make available.  Translation isn't the issue since Darwin wrote in English.  Considering what else it has made available, considering that Darwin's relationship with Haeckel is one of the hottest of topics in the Darwin Wars,  if that lapse in its presentation of the complete Darwin continues it is going to look suspicious.   I have it from another, off line, source.  If I can find it online I will post a link, later.

The Fight Develops Darwinwise

I'm skeptical that natural selection is more than a convenient and gratifying habit of thought.  I do not believe that all of those trillions of lives, all of those trillions of deaths with their vast variety of reproduction and survival rates,  the reasons for all of those survivals, the happenstance, the mere chance, the non-selective factors the neutral factors, the problem of the same trait being combined with different ones that could effect the rate of survival, the same trait existing in organisms interacting with slightly different habitats that have an effect on successful reproduction rates etc. equal Darwin's just-so story borrowed from the odious Malthus as a force of nature or a law of nature.

One of the dead give-aways that Darwin's and Darwinists' self-interest is involved in this matter  is that, somehow, by some enormous coincidence, Darwin's idea benefited his economic class, his desired way of life, his investment practices, his racial grouping and even his Anglo-Saxon and British identity. Now, isn't it just an incredibly amazing coincidence that Darwin's "discovery" would just benefit him and those members of his class, confirming them in their presumed superiority, in their preferred economic practices (don't forget it all started in Malthus)  and that in, notably, it was  Britain and  Germany which could establish the hegemony of natural selection in biology and in the general culture.  Countries with large military classes that could enforce the political aspect of Darwin's claim to fame which proved adaptable for the uses of economic elites everywhere.  I think the idea is just a few dozen coincidences and advantages for those guys - who controll the scientific establishments, enforcing its bounds of discussion and  funding - too far to be plausible.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday Night Fun From A Current Fight

You have proposed a materailistic, "brain only" model of consciousness, in which consciousness is an epiphenomeon of chemistry and physics present in the brain, entirely dependent for its existence and content on that chemistry and physics.

But, if that's the case, then materialism doesn't exist as a coherent entity.  In order for any of what you said to be more than an ephemeral illusion, your brain would have to maintain a constantly identical chemical and physical identity, the chemistry and the state it is in, held in a constant state of stasis.  Any change in that would produce a different "materialism".  For materialism or atheism or any holding of science to exist as a coherent concept, an impossible, static brain would have to contain them and for more than one "brain-only" brain to contain the same idea, they would have to maintain exactly the same conditions in the same state of stasis.

But, a static chemistry and physical state would mean that brain was dead.  Dead, dead, dead.  Even one "brain-only" brain would be unable to maintain its peculiar materialism because a living brain is constantly in flux.  Your materialism that you began reading this comment with would be a different materialism now.  The materialism you began this sentence with is a different materialism than what you have now.  And, wait, it just changed again.  How long does one of your constantly changing materialisms have to last to have an actual existence when it changes constantly?  How long does it have to exist to have a coherent existence?  How long does that materialism last before it changes into the next materialism?  What are the chances that the exact, same conditions that produce one of them will ever exist again?  Brains are rather large and complex entities, constantly changing.   How can you talk about materialism if, at any point in time, the materialism you are talking about will never be present in your mind and, very likely, the universe ever again?  And which of those vast numbers of materialisms is the real, true one?   If they are all true, how can that be?  In order for your materialism to merely exist, it would have to transcend the physical and temporal boundaries that you set for its possible existence.  And I haven't even brought up the impossibility of assigning the quality of being a better idea than any other product of a peculiar brain chemistry and physics.  How can materialism, your preferred ideology, be better than any other product of a specific chemistry.

You love to fall back on natural selection, well, natural selection would have produced the brain and its chemistry that produced Biblical fundamentalism, and for natural selection to be relevant, it would have to produce a greater number of more successful offspring to be a successful adaptation.  By your own ideological position, the repulsive "quiversfull" cult would almost certainly be biologically superior to atheism -atheists generally produce fewer children and atheists die younger.   So, your ideology is a failure all round.

Now, that was fun.  Your turn.

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.

I Am Not A Mayflower Descendant

It was rather odd for me to find Dr. Henry Farnham Perkins was involved in the eugenics decimation of the Abenakis of Vermont and the scientific destruction of their culture.  In my family, one of the few non-Irish ancestors is my great-great grandmother who was born a Perkins, only I don't think she was one of the Mayflower descendant Perkins as Henry Farnham was.  Family lore said she, and even more obviously her mother, were Penobscot, probably from around the Old Town Maine area, where the Penobscot Nation is today.  I've got two photographs of her, one taken in about 1940 with her daughter and granddaughter.  She was near 90 at the time, her daughter and granddaughter have snow-white hair, hers is decidedly dark brown or black (it's a black and white photo, of course) and she was definitely not the kind of woman who would have colored her hair.  The other picture is from far earlier, I'd guess in the 1870s, with her first, Irish, husband.  She looks decidedly not European in that photograph.  Some of my quite distant relations, who I gave copies of the pictures to, said that they have a family letter in which her mother is said to be "full-blood Indian".   Her father is known to have originally had the name Dana which is a Penobscot name.  We figure that they changed their name when they moved to New Hampshire in the early 19th century to try to blend in, though other family members who follow these things have been unable to trace the family in records from before my great-great-great grandfather in New Hampshire.  We know where they are buried but the stones are too eroded to supply any information.   My "Perkins" ancestors may have been trying to hide from discrimination and genocide of a different kind than the one, that, a hundred years later another Perkins would be committing against native people in the neighboring state in the last century.

It's chilling to find out people in quaint,  rural 1920s and early 30s New England, social workers, nurses, doctors.... practicing medical genocide against the native people.   Thinking of what they were doing as progressive and scientific.  And, as Edwin Black says, reporting what they were doing to the Nazis who kept the records that were obscured by small government bureaucratic inefficiency here.  It put a pall over the holiday, what with that lie from the Declaration I noted in my morning post.

Update:  Some of the documents around Dr. Perkins' eugenics activity are available online from the University of Vermont.  Of course the name C.B. Davenport shouts out, from what would become infamous, his support of and from Nazis, his extreme racism and eugenics, would stain anyone who had extensive associations with him.  Harry Laughlin is in the database, as well.   Unfortunate, but also there, are Perkins' letters from and to Margaret Sanger, from the period in which she was active in eugenics, unfortunately associating birth control during that period, with eugenics and implications of racism.  Birth control activism in the modern period certainly has left that association promoting personal choice on the basis of individual autonomy, especially that of women.  It would be a disaster to fall for the attempt to turn Margaret Sanger into a millstone for the right to birth control as Darwin has become for today's evolutionary science.  Both should be left to the dead past.

Update 2:   Here is a May 28, 1926 letter from Perkins to Davenport that is certainly relevant to the targeting of Abenakis and other racial minorities in the Vermont eugenics program.   I'm sure my great-great grandmother would have fallen under the eye of Perkins' staff on the basis of her "skin color valuation".

My dear Sir:

I am writing to inquire whether you have any references on negro‐white matings and skin color valuations in addition to your own paper on the subject. In case you happen to have a reprint of any of your own work on this matter, I should greatly appreciate your kindness in sending me copies, and I should like to get hold of any comments, criticisms, or amplifications upon or of your work.

The Eugenics Survey of Vermont which has been under way since last September is progressing satisfactorily, and we are now very eagerly searching for some possible source of additional funds. It has been impossible for the donor of the $7500 which is supporting the work this year to continue her generous help, although she assures us that it is not for lack of interest that she is obliged to decline. I have visited the Commonwealth Fund office and those of the National Committee of Mental Hygiene, the Russell Sage Foundation, Laura Spelman Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. In all cases, while the officials visited expressed genuine interest, they could not give me much assurance of assistance. It may be that you will be able to suggest some further possibilities, for we desire to leave no stone unturned to accomplish the continuance of our work. I have just had the address of the Milbank Foundation, and am going to write to them.

In addition to the above, I had hoped that we might draw on the Federal Experiment Station Fund given to the states through the Purnell Measure for rural investigation. We had thought of conducting a study on rural subnormalcy with especial reference to its hearing upon agriculture. We find that the Vermont funds are so nearly all allotted for next year that even if the project should be approved there would be an entirely inadequate sum available. We are not giving up our effort to get even a thousand dollars from that source, and I hope that I am not too optimistic in my expectation that the Mental Hygiene people will let us have two field workers, a psychologist, and a psychiatrist for a short term of service which will follow up the preliminary work that a field worker can do.

A phase of our investigation which promises fruitful results from further work is the study of the better branches of the more deficient families that have constituted the bulk of our year's investigation. There are various other aspects of subnormalcy in Vermont that I am very hopeful of going into at some future date, and it may be possible later to interest one of the big foundations in a rather wholesale project in this state. I am working upon a plan for such a composite investigation at the recommendation of Dr. Embree of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Our present Survey has included the study of the twenty most typical deficient families that we could find in Vermont. One or two of these tribes number up to three hundred individuals. There is therefore a rather formidable array of data in our files and in pedigree chart form available for further study. Our Field Worker and Clerk are proving so highly efficient that I particularly dislike the notion of having to give up our study at the end of the present summer, at which time the $7500 will be used up.

Any help that you can give us in the way of suggestions of possible sources of additional financial help will be very highly appreciated.

With very kind personal regards, I am 
Faithfully yours,

[H. F. Perkins]

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Charles Ives The Second Orchestral Set Cincinnati Symphony Gerard Samuel cond.

Curtis CURTIS SMITH: "The Great American Symphony" (GAS!)- Finale

James Merrill reads "Voices from the Other World"

"... It's Not Even Past" Excerpts On The 4th of July

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

The Declaration of Independence

Because the German and American wings collaborated so closely, the German archives clearly traced the development of German race hygiene as it emulated the American program. More importantly, because the American and German movements functioned as a binary, their leaders bragged to one another and exchanged information constantly. Therefore I learned much about America’s record by examining Reich-era files. For instance, although the number of individuals sterilized in Vermont has eluded researchers in that state, the information is readily available in the files of Nazi organizations. Moreover, obscure Nazi medical literature reveals the Nazis’ understanding of their American partners. Probing the prodigious files of Nazi eugenics took my project to the Bundesarchiv in Berlin and Koblenz, the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, Heidelberg University and many other repositories in Germany.

When it was finished, the journey to discover America’s eugenic history had taken me from an austere highway warehouse in Vermont, where the state’s official files are stacked right next to automotive supplies and retrieved by forklift, to the architectonic British Library, to the massive Bundesarchiv in Berlin—and every type of research environment in between. Sometimes I sat on a chair in a reading room. Sometimes I poked through boxes in a basement.

Edwin Black:  War Against The Weak:  Eugenics And America's Campaign To Create A Master Race

Dr. Perkins drafted a new research plan for his advisory committee's approval. The Eugenics Survey would document demographic and economic trends and select representative towns in the state for a more detailed study. That the towns "in decline" selected for the study were ones inhabited by some of the "degenerate" families in the Eugenics Survey files comes as no surprise. From 1925-1928 Perkins "conducted extensive investigations on selected kinship groups in Vermont to develop ‘pedigrees of degeneracy’ among Vermont’s rural poor". Perkins released five reports during his studies of eugenics and Vermonters. Here, the term "survey" refers to a concentrated campaign of isolation, stereotyping, segregation, and sterilization. The committees of the VCCL completed their final reports in January 1931 and compiled their findings in Rural Vermont: A Program for the Future. Every chapter addressed the specific means by which the state could restore the land, culture and values to the kind of people who had colonized the state and who were most deserving of the title "Vermonter." Perkins focus fell on the 3 D's that were beginning to show up in higher numbers late in the 19th century- delinquency, dependency and mental defect. During the first three years of Perkins's project, evidence was gathered through town records, social workers, government officials, policemen, and other various informants. Significant information was gathered about families who were found to have these defects. It became clear that many were extended families and tribes.

Of all the people affected by the eugenics movement in Vermont, the people who suffered the most were the Abenaki. It was during this time period that the Abenaki were left with little choice but to go underground. The Abenaki were out in the open and the obvious targets. Many Abenaki were forced to assume other identities or hide their heritage. "It is my opinion that the "new racism" of Vermont's elite eventually permeated Abenaki society, leading to shame at being different or fear that we or our children would be "discovered" by the state of Vermont and have evil things done to them. " (The Voice of the Dawn: An Autohistory of the Abenaki Nation, pp. 147-49). The easiest route for the Abenaki to take was to fit in with the French-Canadians of Vermont. Many of the Abenaki families investigated by Perkins' social workers were institutionalized and sterilized. Eugenics measures in Vermont followed the lead of other states in providing institutions for segregation of socially or mentally handicapped persons, followed by laws permitting sexual sterilization and denial of marriage licenses to those deemed "mentally unfit" for parenthood. As progressive reformers routinely attributed social welfare problems to "feebleminded women of child bearing age," poor women, particularly unwed mothers, became the primary targets of such measures. This went on for years and was backed by the Vermont Sterilization Laws passed in 1931. There are still Abenaki women today who were sterilized by the midwives that delivered their babies. It is estimated that nearly 300 Abenaki people were sterilized.

The history of Eugenics is a sad and damaging one. What it left behind is a loss of culture and a trail of broken families. The Abenaki of Vermont were the hardest hit. Although they took personal pride in their heritage, Abenakis had been discriminated against during much of the previous two centuries and many wanted their children to grow up free from the pain of prejudice. They believed that the only way for their children to get ahead in the white man's world was to act white. They maintained traditional Indian family structures and value systems but many of the outward manifestations of Abenaki culture nearly disappeared from Vermont in the past century. To this day in Vermont, the Abenaki are suffering the effects of the Eugenics Program. When the Abenaki went into hiding, they broke their historical trail. Because the tribe has not been a continuous entity, and many show up with the ethnicity of French-Canadian, it is difficult to decipher who belongs to the tribe

From: Abenakis and Eugenics A Culture Torn Away

A young Indian woman entered Dr. Connie Pinkerton-Uri's Los Angeles office on a November day in 1972. The twenty-six-year-old woman asked Dr. Pinkerton-Uri for a "womb transplant" because she and her husband wished to start a family. An Indian Health Service (IHS) physician had given the woman a complete hysterectomy when she was having problems with alcoholism six years earlier. Dr. Pinkerton-Uri had to tell the young woman that there was no such thing as a "womb transplant" despite the IHS physician having told her that the surgery was reversible. The woman left Dr. Pinkerton-Uri's office in tears.

Two young women entered an IHS hospital in Montana to undergo appendectomies and received tubal ligations, a form of sterilization, as an added benefit. Bertha Medicine Bull, a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, related how the "two girls had been sterilized at age fifteen before they had any children. Both were having appendectomies when the doctors sterilized them without their knowledge or consent." Their parents were not informed either. Two fifteen-year-old girls would never be able to have children of their own.

What happened to these three females was a common occurrence during the 1960s and 1970s. Native Americans accused the Indian Health Service of sterilizing at least 25 percent of Native American women who were between the ages of fifteen and forty-four during the 1970s. The allegations included: failure to provide women with necessary information regarding sterilization; use of coercion to get signatures on the consent forms; improper consent forms; and lack of an appropriate waiting period (at least seventy-two hours) between the signing of a consent form and the surgical procedure. This paper investigates the historical relationship between the IHS and Indian tribes; the right of the United States government to sterilize women; the government regulations pertaining to sterilization; the efforts of the IHS to sterilize American Indian women; physicians' reasons for sterilizing American Indian women; and the consequences the sterilizations had on the lives of a few of those women and their families.

The Indian Health Service and the Sterilization of Native American Women
Jane Lawrence

On November 6, 1976, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) released the results of its investigation into similar events at four of twelve IHS areas (Albuquerque, Aberdeen, Oklahoma City, and Phoenix). Records verified that the IHS performed 3,406 sterilizations between 1973 and 1976.[iv] “Tip of the iceberg” is indeed an appropriate metaphor. Per capita, this figure would be equivalent to sterilizing 452,000 non-Native American women.[v]Albuquerque contracted out their sterilizations to local, non-IHS physicians; therefore their region inaccurately added zero procedures to the government count. Independent research estimated that as many as 25-50% of Native American women were sterilized between 1970 and 1976.[vi]Independent verifications were critical. The GAO did not interview a single women subjected to sterilization. The GAO also admitted that “contract” physicians were not required to comply with any federal regulations (including informed consent) in the context of these surgical procedures. Study of consent forms utilized revealed that three different forms were in use. It also appeared the “consent,” in many instances, was obtained through coercion.

What may be the most disturbing aspect of the investigations followed: it was physicians and healthcare professionals in the IHS who coerced these women. It was they who abandoned their professional responsibility to protect the vulnerable through appropriate, non-eugenic indications for surgery and informed consent prior to the procedures. On a Navaho reservation alone, from 1972-1978, there was a 130% increase in abortions (a ratio of abortions per 1000 deliveries increasing from 34 to 77).[vii] The same study demonstrated that between 1972 and 1978, sterilization procedures went from 15.1% to 30.7% of total female surgeries on that one reservation. Healthcare professionals’ coercive tactics included the threat of withdrawing future healthcare provisions or custody of Native American children already born—if consent for sterilization was withheld.[viii] The scandal of this replay of earlier twentieth century eugenic programs and genocidal tactics led to a congressional hearing (Senator James Abourzek, Democrat, South Dakota), but little else in terms of publicity, justice, or public outcry. It has also not been scrutinized from a careful bioethical perspective.

Forced Sterilization of Native Americans: Late Twentieth Century Physician Cooperation with National Eugenic Policies

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Max Reger: Variations and Fugue on a Theme By J. S. Bach

Rudoph Serkin:  Piano

My Father Was A Ham

Well I remember this, from the dark radio room in the workshop.

Jean Shepherd Ham Radio Part 2 


Here is more of how his devoted friend and private secretary, Francis Biddle,  wrote of the imagined hero of liberals today, Justice Holmes:

He was an aristocrat and a conservative.  He did not prefer, he said, a world with a hundred million bores in it to one with ten.  The fewer people who do not contribute beauty or thought, the better.  He had little sympathy with the sufferings and failures of mankind; and no urgent desire to change their lot.  He thought that in the last analysis man rightly preferred his own interest to that of his neighbor, and did not believe in the Christian precept of love thy neighbor as thyself, which was the test of the meddling missionary:  if men thought more about their jobs and less about themselves and their neighbors, they would accomplish more in the world.  

He shared the general ideas that had been current when he was young, and he did not abandon them as he grew older.  These made him skeptical of much of the social and economic legislation adopted after he came to Washington at the beginning of the twentieth century.  He clung, for instance, to the argument of Malthus, the British curate who believed that population, unchecked by disease, war and poverty, would forever outdistance its means of subsistence, and remained pessimistic of possibilities of the future progress of mankind.  Holmes wrote to Pollock in the summer of 1914 that he had been reading the Nicomachean Ethics, Descartes, Berkeley, Ricardo and Malthus.  Malthus both pleased him immensely, and left him sad:  “ A hundred years ago he busted fallacies that politicians and labor leaders still live on . . . Exposures amount to nothing when people want to believe.”

In that last sentence, I finally find something to agree with him on, though his means at arriving there are degenerate in the extreme.

Any liberal who can read that and not question a liberalism that could hold Holmes as a great liberal hero, is no liberal.  The liberalism that hold Holmes in such high esteem is a pantomime of liberalism, libertarian but not liberal.  As can be seen in the failure of liberalism in the period after its highest point in the mid-1960s, that kind of liberalism is a political loser.

Biddle mentions Nuremberg once in the book that I've found and it and the lecture it appears in are well worth considering.  He doesn't mention the use of his mentor and hero by the Nazis on trial in so far as I've been able to find it.  I might look for that possible information later, though I now doubt it exists.

The Darwinist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. made what might be the most infamous declaration on eugenics made in the United States, it may be his most well known quote.

Three generations of imbeciles are enough.

The fuller reading of the paragraph, near the end of his decision in the Buck v Bell case, is even worse:

The attack is not upon the procedure, but upon the substantive law. It seems to be contended that in no circumstances could such an order be justified. It certainly is contended that the order cannot be justified upon the existing grounds. The judgment finds the facts that have been recited, and that Carrie Buck

"is the probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring, likewise afflicted, that she may be sexually sterilized without detriment to her general health, and that her welfare and that of society will be promoted by her sterilization,"

and thereupon makes the order. In view of the general declarations of the legislature and the specific findings of the Court, obviously we cannot say as matter of law that the grounds do not exist, and, if they exist, they justify the result. We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U. S. 11. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.

If I had the time, I'd go through Holmes' famous dissents in matters of prior restraint in printed matter, even, as in the Gitlow case, against the restraint of publishing incitements to violent insurrection and revolution, even as Holmes contemplated that sufficiently eloquent incitements might succeed in that incitement.  I see his approval of the forced sterilization of Carrie Buck was a "prior restraint" on her ability to have another child.  Leaving aside Stephen Jay Gould's essay on the case, in which he quite conclusively shows that neither Carrie Buck nor her daughter were, actually, of below normal intelligence,  Holmes clearly saw the danger of her having another child as being a greater danger to "the state" than a possibly successful insurrection overturning the government.   In the Gitlow case, when it was merely the mode of expression and its contents that were at stake, he said:

Every idea is an incitement. It offers itself for belief and if believed it is acted on unless some other belief outweighs it or some failure of energy stifles the movement at its birth. The only difference between the expression of an opinion and an incitement in the narrower sense is the speaker's enthusiasm for the result. Eloquence may set fire to reason. But whatever may be thought of the redundant discourse before us it had no chance of starting a present conflagration. If in the long run the beliefs expressed in proletarian dictatorship are destined to be accepted by the dominant forces of the community, the only meaning of free speech is that they should be given their chance and have their way.

However, clearly, in Buck v Bell, Holmes considered that people, their right to have children, the right to the ownership of their own body, was less important compared to the right of words.  


It would be possible to go through the decision and make point by point comparisons with what the great Holmes said and what such infamous figures as Galton, Haeckel, and their colleagues now considered less disreputable said and find who Holmes was very likely paraphrasing.  In fact, on the other end of the history of the first eugenics era, the defense of Nazi doctors at Nuremberg cited Holmes' decision as well as other American documents in their defense.  You have to wonder what that felt like for Francis Biddle, the chief judge at those trials, given that he had been Holmes' private secretary.   

His familiarity with Holmes gives Biddle's analysis of the effect that Holmes' thinking and reading a particular credibility that could stand alone as evidence of how he came to decide what he did.  In a series of lectures Biddle gave, which were published in 1960 he said.  

All society rested on the death of men or on the prevention of the lives of a good many. So that when the Chief Justice assigned him the task of writing an opinion upholding the constitutionality 
of a Virginia law for sterilizing imbeciles he felt that he was getting near the first principle of real reform— although of course he didn't mean that the surgeon's knife was the ultimate symbol. 
... He was amused at some of the rhetorical changes in his opinion suggested by his associates, and purposely used "short and rather brutal words for an antithesis," that made them mad. In most cases the difficulty was rather with the writing than with the thinking. To put the case well and from time to time to hint at a vista was the job. . . . 

The vista of which Biddle spoke was provided by Holmes' reading of Charles Darwin.  Biddle continued:

This approach is characteristic of Holmes, and constantly reflected in his opinions— to keep the law fluid and the doors of the mind open. For pedestrian lawyers it was often unsatisfactory— they wanted everything defined and settled and turned into everlasting precedents. 

Darwin's influence was strong on Holmes, and his theory of the survival of those who were fit to survive must have been constantly and passionately discussed in Dr. Holmes's house when 
Wendell was a growing lad and young man. On the Origin of Species had appeared when he was eighteen, and The Descent of Man in 1871, when he was thirty. Darwin led to Herbert Spencer, 
whom Holmes thought dull, with the ideals of a lower middle-class British Philistine, but who, with Darwin, he believed had done more than any other English writer to affect our whole way of thinking about the universe. All his life Holmes held to the survival of the strong, and did not disguise his view that the Sherman Act was a humbug, based on economic ignorance and incompetence, and that the Interstate Commerce Commission was not a fit body to be entrusted with rate making. However, as he said to Pollock, he was so skeptical about our knowledge of the goodness or badness of laws that he had no practical criticism except what the crowd wants. Personally he would bet that the crowd if it knew more wouldn't want what it does. 

Compared to the "right" of private businesses to do things that could have enormously effects, good or bad, on countless people, including deaths,  Holmes saw the danger of individual people asserted to be "imbeciles"  having a child as more deserving of the most extreme state intervention, even into their bodies with surgery, on the mere prediction that any child they had was of an increased potential to be intellectually or physically deficient.  

Yet Holmes is seen as some kind of great progressive force in the law, primarily, I'd guess, due to his free speech dissents and his usefulness to Franklin Roosevelt at the very end of his life.  There was the movie of the play "The Magnificent Yankee" which only adds weight to the case that historical fiction in the hands of the theater and Hollywood, is best considered to be fiction.  Liberals seem to be suckers for that kind of "history".

Since he lived until 1935, Holmes saw eugenics activity in the United States increase enormously after his decision, responsible for the forced and involuntary sterilization of scores of thousands of people.  He also lived to see the rise of fascists in Europe, the Nazis, he lived long enough and could have been quite aware of the Nazis eugenic laws, the first in Germany, in July of 1933, laws which were justified by the Nazis and their supporters by citing the eugenics laws in the United States, both at the beginning and, as mentioned before, after the fall of the Third Reich.  I don't know if he is recorded as ever having said anything about that,  other than his declaration that he felt he was getting at "the first principle of real reform" in his decision, I haven't yet found anything he said in its wake.  I would suspect there is something, I just haven't found it yet.

David A. Hollinger, in an interesting essay, "The Tough-Minded Justice Holmes" gives more insight into what almost certainly influenced Holmes to write his most famous decision.  He notes the influence of Charles Darwin and his circle and how William James tried to broaden his friend, Holmes' views and lead him to be less unquestioningly accepting of them. 

This is not to claim that James developed his categories with Holmes in mind, but there is no doubt that this particular map of intellectual alternatives was suggested to James by a circle of mid-nineteenth-century British secular intellectuals with whom Holmes strongly identified himself and against whom Jame's own career as a philosopher was directed.  The members of this circle were often called “scientific naturalists” or, less helpfully, “positivists”;  they included Herbet Spencer, G. H. Lewes, T. H. Huxley, John Tyndall, W.K. Clifford, Henry Buckle and – although his reticence in philosophical and religious matters made his position in this movement ambiguous – the great Charles Darwin Himself.  To James, these “knights of the razor,” as he called them sardonically, were anathema on account of their parochial misunderstanding of science and their extraordinary ability to intimidate people who would prefer to make a more generous view of religious experience and individual volition. While James mocked the pretensions of Popular Science Monthly – the major American medium for the dissemination of the views of this circle, Holmes so rejoiced in its influence that he sent a fan letter to its militant editor, E. L. Youmans.  Holmes celebrated the triumphs of this truly “scientific,” reality-facing, ostentatiously stoic cadre over the sentimentalism he associated with his own father.  While James thought his friend Holmes was making rather a spectacle of himself by representing his marks of toughness the scars worn by the sword-fighting duelists in German universities, Holmes seemed convinced that the battle against sentimentalism was never won. 

The idea that Holmes' "tough-mindedness", an attribute given him by James, could have been reacting to the "sentimentalism" of his father, the poet, is interesting.  It's almost tempting to see Holmes as an example of that turn from 19th century liberalism of the kind that produced the reform movements of abolition, women's rights, temperance, various reforms to protect workers and consumers, etc. into a more "scientific" liberalism that still distorts, denatures and defeats liberals today.  But I think the case is that such denatured liberalism was unable to make the distinction between a mythical, liberal Holmes and the reality of his products.  Is it his "free speech" language that deceives liberals?  Liberals go all soggy when someone says those words.  Free speech, with its potential to incite violent struggle can be seen as a useful motivator of natural selection as much as it is a vital component of liberal reform.  In the hands of the rich and powerful it has that effect, often to the detriment of genuine liberalism, as our freest press ever proves 24/7/365.  In the beginning of his essay, Hollinger points out:

.....that a major folk hero of the liberal intelligentsia is a man who has been plausibly described by Grant Gilmore as “savage, harsh, and cruel, a bitter and lifelong pessimist who saw in the course of human life nothing but a continuing struggle in which the rich and powerful impose their will on the poor and weak.  The two issues are largely distinct from one another, but they do connect through the utility of a “scientific” persona held for proponents of a genuinely secular, de-Christianized liberalism for the public culture of the United States. 

This is what I meant by the wrong turn that liberalism took as it attempted to become more "tough-minded", more "scientific", less "sentimental".  Such liberalism equates whatever is held to be science with hard reality and whatever can be associated with the "sentimental" as being an illusion, including religion, including vast stretches of morality which comprise the genuine substance of liberalism.  This is how it mistakes Holmes for a liberal when he was no such thing, it's how eugenics, the negation of everything that liberalism comprises, came to be associated with liberalism.  

Post Script:  I can't say it any better than the atheist and materialist and friend of Stephen Jay Gould,  Richard Lewontin, did in his Essay:  Billions and Billions of Demons

The struggle for possession of public consciousness between material and mystical explanations of the world is one aspect of the history of the confrontation between elite culture and popular culture. Without that history we cannot understand what was going on in the Little Rock Auditorium in 1964. The debate in Arkansas between a teacher from a Texas fundamentalist college and a Harvard astronomer and University of Chicago biologist was a stage play recapitulating the history of American rural populism. In the first decades of this century there was an immensely active populism among poor southwestern dirt farmers and miners.7 The most widely circulated American socialist journal of the time (The Appeal to Reason!) was published not in New York, but in Girard, Kansas, and in the presidential election of 1912 Eugene Debs got more votes in the poorest rural counties of Texas and Oklahoma than he did in the industrial wards of northern cities. Sentiment was extremely strong against the banks and corporations that held the mortgages and sweated the labor of the rural poor, who felt their lives to be in the power of a distant eastern elite. The only spheres of control that seemed to remain to them were family life, a fundamentalist religion, and local education. 

This sense of an embattled culture was carried from the southwest to California by the migrations of the Okies and Arkies dispossessed from their ruined farms in the 1930s. There was no serious public threat to their religious and family values until well after the Second World War. Evolution, for example, was not part of the regular biology curriculum when I was a student in 1946 in the New York City high schools, nor was it discussed in school textbooks. In consequence there was no organized creationist movement. Then, in the late 1950s, a national project was begun to bring school science curricula up to date. A group of biologists from elite universities together with science teachers from urban schools produced a new uniform set of biology textbooks, whose publication and dissemination were underwritten by the National Science Foundation. An extensive and successful public relations campaign was undertaken to have these books adopted, and suddenly Darwinian evolution was being taught to children everywhere. The elite culture was now extending its domination by attacking the control that families had maintained over the ideological formation of their children. 

Lewontin's is about the most realistic, most informed and most sophisticated analysis of the this struggle in the United States which I've read.

In a struggle that produces far more than its share of ironies, it is remarkable that as the fundamentalist anti-evolutionists who have made the best use of the history of American Eugenics, the eugenics history of Charles Darwin and his inner circle and the waves emanating from them as present day liberals are obsessively protecting the inspiration of eugenics, the lassie-faire capitalist, supporter of the 19th century British class system, anti-contraceptive, racist, flagrant bigot, etc. Charles Darwin on behalf of his science, which is long superseded by better explanations of the fact of evolution. 

How Darwinism became the great cause celebre of liberalism when it has nothing to do with a genuine liberal political agenda and, in the genuine history of Darwinism is antithetical to liberalism, is worth asking.  The separation of church and state is worth supporting but, frankly, if we've got to buy Darwinism to do it, it's not going to lead to liberalism.  I don't think liberalism has to make that deal.  At the very least it should face the real Charles Darwin and throw him off the sled.  Liberal struggle requires that.