Saturday, July 13, 2013

Gretchen Parlato quartet plays Juju at Lake Zurich

Steve Swallow - Ladies in Mercedes

Steve Swallow

Ladies in Mercedes

More About British Workhouses As Death Camps

Until 1842 all meals were taken in silence, and no cutlery was provided - inmates had to use their fingers. And the meals were kept dull, predictable & tasteless. There were 6 official diets which were so meagre that they were described as "a slow process of starvation". A typical diet was:- BREAKFAST 6 oz bread; DINNER 4 oz bacon and 3 oz bread or potatoes; SUPPER 6 oz bread & 2 oz cheese. [Note, oz is short for ounce, 1 ounce = 25 grams]. The official ration in HM Prisons was 292 ounces of food a week. The workhouse diet was between 137 and 182 ounces a week only.

And here is part of  a contemporary speech by Ebenezer Elliott, an opponent of the Poor Law and its intrinsic institution, the workhouse.  It puts the poor law, its workhouses and the economic and legal system that outlawed poverty, enslaved the destitute and starved them in workhouses as plainly as was  done by the Krupps and  I. G. Farben a century later.

Mr Elliott, the chairman, said: "Fellow townsmen, the worst of all bores is a prating chairman. But I hope you will allow me ten minutes on this occasion, because a famous fool may be listened to, when wise men cannot obtain a hearing; and a few plain words from me, truly painting the position of the aristocracy, and its dangers, may, it is most possible, reach and warn them. I wish your wives had been present, for I have to tell a tale, poetical because true, which I had rather addressed to them than to the hard-gizzarded souls of their husbands.

About a year ago, a poor old fork maker came to me and said, "I can work no more; I have worked during the last 25 years from five in the morning until seven or eight at night; and if I could have got as much money for 15 hours work as I once got for eight, I should now have been independent. But I am 75 years old; my wife is 76, and we have only 2s. a week from the club. I have brought up a family respectably, but they are now as poor as I am. What are we to do? I might as well kill my wife at once, as take her into the Workhouse; for she is of a respectable family. Go with me to the guardians, and tell them that in my better days I paid poor-rates 40 years, and persuade them, if you can, to allow us a little outdoor relief. I shall not trouble them long."

I felt instantly, that if this old gentleman - I call him a gentleman - had not been robbed during the last 23 years, of half of his earnings by the food monopoly, he would have needed no assistance. So I went with him to the Workhouse, and the parties we met there were men; but I should speak low, lest the despots of freedom hear us. The guardians allowed him 2 shillings a week and a loaf for which he was affectingly thankful, - thankful even to tears. Well, about six days ago, the old man came to see me again, and said, "My club-pay is at end - the club will only bury me now. What am I to do? It will kill my old wife, if I take her into the Workhouse; and she is 77 years old. Go with me again to the guardians, and persuade them, if you can, to make up my club pay, for I shall not trouble them long, and the club will bury me."

So, on Monday next, I shall go again with him to the Workhouse, and again, I have no doubt, meet with men - who will not mercilessly execute a merciless and most wicked law; most wicked, because it began at the wrong end, for it ought, first, to have taken the hands of the lords and squires out of the working man's pocket, when, peradventure, no poor law would have been granted, except for the lords and squires.

But, gentlemen, if ever I am appointed guardian, I will not stand between the aristocracy and their victims. I will tell them that until they restore what they have taken from the workers by their food monopoly during the last 23 years, the poor have a better right than they have to ride on coaches and fours, and live on venison and moselle, in the Workhouse or out of it. I will ask, and bid all England ask, why palaced paupers are allowed to have property? why a distinction is made between honest paupers and rascals, in favour of the latter?

And I will tell them again, as I have twice told them already, that if I again find myself in a jury-box while they continue to exercise their present horrible power, I cannot find verdicts against their victims. I would rather they would hang themselves, but much rather they would do justice. Aye, but they will not do justice; they have had a great meeting a few days ago, and their cry was, "No surrender!" Why no surrender? Spence Broughton surrendered; - the murderers of Weare surrendered. Is not hemp strong enough to hang worse criminals? Then the law must neck-chain them; there is iron enough in England to hang them all in chains, and the spectacle would benefit remotest posterity.
Oh! but the landed interest must be supported! Why? Because land is all-in-all important. That is neither proved nor provable at present; but if it were true, there is no connection between the two ideas; for the landed interest would support itself. Besides, the possession of land does not give the possessor a right to rob me, and destroy our common country. What has the landed interest done for Sheffield? Sheffield supports the landed interest. Here, on about 700 acres of land, not originally worth three halfpence, live 120,000 human beings, who not only maintain themselves, but the agriculturists also, as Chandos and Co. will find, if they destroy the trade of England; for, instead of getting 50s. per quarter for wheat here - as with a free trade, they might honestly do, - they will have to sell it at Amsterdam for 28s., pay 10s. expenses, and sack lads. Land is all important? How? Look at the productive power of trade, compared with that of land, in relation to time only. It takes 12 months to grow a bit of raw cotton; but machinery can quadruple it in twenty-four hours. Will you suffer Chandos and Co. - the most useless and ignorant of men - the vilest vermin on earth, not excepting lice - will you suffer such creatures to destroy such a power, merely that, in the end, they may horribly destroy themselves, by forcing their victims to eat them?

Look seriously at one fact, which lies under your very noses, and it will open your eyes for ever. Why do the Hull ships cross from Hull to Hamburgh, when their captains want to lay in their shipping beef? Because beef is 7d. a lb. at Hull, and 2d. at Hamburgh. Is that the reason? I believe so; but I am the mad poet you know.

Well, here is Mr. Paulton: ask him, though I suspect he is madder than I am. He wishes to convince you that 1s. with a good trade, is better than 6d., or 3d., or 2d., or 1d. with no trade at all. Now, your lords and squires have declared the exact contrary, by act of Parliament; and to my knowledge, you are of their opinion, and have been for 24 years; or, there would now have been little poverty in England, and you would have had few rivals on the continent or elsewhere. Only think of this young sprig presuming to differ in opinion from you and the nobility. But what will you think of his brazen modesty, if he imagines he can convince you that he is right? If he cannot, there are two chaps coming that can; they call one of them "Nothing-to-do," and the name of the other is "Nothing-to eat!" Then will be seen at every other door throughout Great Britain, a hideous, grinning, long-shanked fellow, with a jointed bone instead of a belly, and the upper part of him all ribs, bare scalp, and teeth. You know the name of him! It is Death! But if millions are to die of famine, caused by act of Parliament, Oh, God, why were they born? And why were governments instituted? Better return to the woods and deserts, and like wild beasts, devour each other.

But your lords and squires are not satisfied with their corn laws, though they say they are. They wish to give you a slow fall (but an irretrievable one) to potatoes, to potato-peel. They want a fixed duty on corn, equivalent, with the other branches of the food-monopoly, to a fixed burden of some eighty millions a year on your industry. They have got the collar round your necks; let them get a fixed duty; and they snap the lock.

You must sweep away the whole food-monopoly, and all other monopolies; or suffer the monopolists to finish their work, - let them anarchise this nation, and lay the most industrious nation in the world at the feet of the first foreign despot who may think it worth his while to seize old England for a potato garden. Depend on it, he could not do worse to you, than tax your food, and, at the same time, destroy the market for your productions.

But do our aristocracy really wish to see the day when coal will be our only article of export; - coal, which they will sell abroad for less than some of them get for it, at the pit head? If they do, if they are so blind, and if they are to be dominant, as their fellow pauper, Lord Russell, says they are, what hope have you? Look at their insane position! That which is true in theory today, may be practise tomorrow, for that reason, namely, because it ought to be. If then, (as can be demonstrated) their food-monopoly has cost more than the land is worth, it is already time in theory, that a government representing the interests of the nation, might tomorrow, with the strictest justice, sequestrate the estates of the monopolists, and with the rents pay the taxes, till the cost of the monopoly should be repaid to the state. If, then, I repeat, they are so blind, as to place themselves in such a position, and if they are to be dominant till you say "No!" what hope have you, but in yourselves? Oh, but they think you have no hope in yourselves, for they can broom you out with cannon! They had better do justice, and let us double their incomes, by doubling our own.

Awful is the responsibility of that party which has, first, recourse to physical violence; and fatal is the error of those who imagine that an ignorant and desperate populace can be safely despised. The more ignorant they are, the more dangerous. Such a populace in France, destroyed the dynasty of Hugh Capet. Besides, Messrs Chandos, Destruction, Palaced Ignorance, and Company! England is not like that Canada which you are brooming out with cannon; England is not a string of wooden villages, which can be fired by the rocket, - villages, situated on a navigable river, where they can be battered down one by one. No; England is a land of hedges, of stone fences, of innumerable commercial and other buildings - in short, a land of infinite shelter, where, if the people were in earnest - as they soon will be, if again wantonly attacked - the battle of the rifle, in a few months, would convert redcoats into rarities; and were Wellington himself at the head of one hundred thousand veterans - Wellington, the greatest military mind, with one exception, since Caesar, would find that he could not hold Strathfieldsay, unless he stood upon it. Oh but they can establish a rural police! They have one already - the yeomanry, their armed unliveried, - their soldiers, who are not liable to be flogged, as her Majesty's armed gentlemen are. Besides, they have their gamekeepers, teachers of the art of sharp-shooting; and a pretty dash they cut with them! I warn them, I, their best friend, I who, alone, with the exception of Colonel Thompson, and half a dozen other individuals, have for twenty-three years told the truth, and nothing but the truth; - I warn them, that the moment they get their rural police, the game of assassination will begin in earnest, - the "sniping," as a military commander called worse murder in India, - and their only estates will be their graves. Nay, if they do not instantly retrace their steps, I warn them, that their own acts will destroy them; they will perish, they, their wives, their children, and (which is of infinitely more importance) the national independence. Why, their attempts to prevent the people from seeing the corn laws; - the harangues of their Oastlers, their Bells, and their O'connors - have already (and from my soul I thank them) opened the eyes of more than two millions of self-sustained and long outraged men, to the means of ridding, not the corn laws only, but all other monopolies, and, worst of all, the monopoly of lawmaking.

Who are the authors of this agitation? Themselves. Madmen! do they not know that though public opinion can be retarded, it cannot be put back? Are they unable to see that, in a very short time, there is likely to be only one class of people in Great Britain, - "the dissatisfied class!" And do thirty thousand splendid beggars imagine that they can long resist the just indignation of a great people, whose industrial genius has baffled a competing world? I have yet to learn that mere beggary is a power anywhere. They will find it is weakness here, though assisted by robbery. And, instead of giving themselves airs, they had better set their mortgaged house in order, and ask themselves what sort of a figure their spoon-fed, fox-hunting, empty-pated sons will make, when they come to compete with our Vickerses and Sandersons, as merchants, - our Palfreymans and Rodgerses as lawyers, - our Knights, our Hollands, our Thompsons, our Favells, as physicians, - or these poor fellows, as file cutters? Is it our fault, if men who live in palaces which they call their own, make laws for their own destruction? Is it my fault, if their food monopoly is an instrument in the hands of the Almighty mercy to exterminate the vermin that, in man's image, libel God's? Why will they convert even poets into politicians? If they would have allowed us anything like fair play, - if they would have done us anything like justice, if they would have let it be possible for us to stand under our burdens, - if they would have destroyed the monopolies, which are destroying the nation, and will destroy their authors, - I would not have crossed my door-step for all the politics in the universe. - But I am the mad poet. Here is Mr. Paulton. Listen to him. Discreet in his ravings, he will instruct many, and offend none; but not fail, I trust, to startle some of you into something more like common sense than your practical wisdom of the last 23 years. [The Chairman concluded amid loud cheers.]

Something for you to think about the next time you watch one of those shows about The Stately Homes of Britain.  

It is regrettable that he underestimated the ease with which the British aristocracy could put down opposition, how ruthless they were and how easily soldiers and constables could be induced to maintain a system that, a less compliant population may have overthrown.  Of course, one of the most potent weapons the British aristocracy used against the poor was by making them disreputable, of presenting them to the near-destitute as to be looked down on and despised, feared all the more because, like the fork-maker, he knew he could easily become one of them through age or misfortune. That is how it is done today, too.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ru con Nam Bo (Lullaby from South Vietnam) - Thanh Tung đàn bầu 

It couldn't be more beautiful and profound in its simplicity.

Update:  OK, you know how I feel about using Wikipedia for research but I've listened to all of Nguyen Thanh Tung's YouTubes playing the đàn bầu and wanted to find found out more about him:

Nguyễn Thanh Tùng was born on October 20, 1979, in Hanoi, Vietnam. Affected by Agent Orange or dioxin inherited from his father, a Vietnam War soldier, Tùng was born with one blind eye. His other eye was very weak. However, since an early age, he has shown his musical talent. In a talent competition for children held in 1986-1987, he earned the Special Award.

When Thanh Tùng turned 12, he became totally blind. Nevertheless, his love for music has never died. He applied to a special two-year music course in the Vietnam National Music Academy. There he proceeded to study Vietnamese traditional music, majoring in Monochord Performance. Despite his illness, in 1997, Nguyen Thanh Tung continued to study Music composition and piano as well.
Thanh Tùng went through much hardship in his years at the Vietnam National Music Academy. He received great support from friends and professors such as Prof. Đặng Xuân Khải, music composer Đỗ Hồng Quân, Prof. Minh Khang, etc. and many philanthropists 

I googled him up after listening to this piece:

Song Trang (River and Moon) 

About which the wiki bio said:

Thanh Tùng's mother is a devoted and loving wife and mother. Her love and sacrifice for the family gives Thanh Tùng more strength to get over the difficulties and pursue his dream as a musician. The piece "Moon and River" was composed by Thanh Tùng to honor his mother, who has spent her whole life caring for him and his sister. In 2005, she received the Sofia Kovalevskaya Award.

He's quite a musician, quite a profound composer and performer.

Found Poem

Ruoan,           Surname

Michael,         Forename

6,                  Age (Years)

M,                 Sex

Starvation,      Cause of Death

11 Aug 1850,  Date of Death

6 Feb 1850     Date of Admission

----------         Observations of Medical Officer

From the record of deaths in the workhouse I posted yesterday

Need Another Day Off, Here's the last two moves in my brawl

Ancient Brit   5 hours ago −

I have a big project in the works so I can't give this drivel the treatment it deserves, but a few points need emphasizing:

1. Pew themselves regard their study as barely adequate, primarily because it relies upon true anecdotal evidence, something you seem only dimly aware of (prison chaplains in 50 states stating what they think prisoners may hold as beliefs - which is NOT the same as self-reporting, you absolute cretin).

2. I chose not to use Pew originally because I didn't think it was a good example, but then you came out with such drivel about Pew's scientific reliability I figured what the hell, he's dumb enough to open that door, so I'll follow up. If even Pew say in writing that it's not a scientific study, what does that say about your comprehension skills?

3. The relationship I proposed between morality and crime was drawn not by an atheist but by a Christian. I figured quoting someone from your camp might carry some weight with you, but apparently not. He was obviously the wrong type of Christian.

4. Your discussion of Darwin is an ad hominem attack because you're trying to say that flaws in his character must mean there are flaws in his ideas. If your article ends up saying "but despite all these character flaws he produced a solid piece of scientific reporting that has given us the solid grounding of evolutionary theory today" then I'll happily withdraw the ad hominem accusation - but we both know you hate the man's ideas and so you're trying to undermine them by showing his failings in comparison with today's accepted social norms. He was a product of his time and STILL managed to produce some decent science in spite of that.

Whichever way you slice it, you're out on a limb with little credibility, and you have no chance of even denting the solid body of science until you come up with a rational scientific critique that is acceptable to most scientists (just as they do among themselves).

Anthony_McCarthy   6 minutes ago −

1. What survey can you point to that doesn't ask people to answer questions that the surveyors can't verify the answers to? They asked questions about religious belief, how do you propose to discover what they really believe on a basis other than "anecdotal evidence" THAT, BRIT, IS WHAT YOU GET FROM PEOPLE TELLING YOU WHAT THEY BELIEVE. I've been on record going back to 2006 as calling for the banning of political polling during election years because polling is a pseudo-scientific effort, as, indeed, all sociological surveying of that kind is.

2. I said Pew's methodology was better than other polls I've seen cited in these arguments, what I should have said is that it was less bad than a lot of them, generally on the basis of sample size and other factors. Most surveys use a far smaller sample and survey methods KNOWN to be less reliable. Which gets us to the fact that I DIDN'T START TALKING ABOUT SURVEY TYPE STUFF WHICH I DON'T REGARD AS "EVIDENCE" FOR ALL OF THE ABOVE REASONS.

3. YOU are the one who brought the matter of prisoner populations into this discussion, not me. I'm the one who pointed out that it not only was a false measure of morality but that your argument, depending on their honesty in identifying their religious belief was self defeating of your use of them as a measure of their immorality SINCE YOU WOULD HAVE HAD TO HAVE TRUSTED THEM TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH ABOUT THAT.

4. You obviously didn't read my series on Darwin because that's not what I did. In fact, the piece I posted in it yesterday pointed out how Darwin used natural selection to argue that the same things had opposite effects depending on which class or ethnicity he was applying them to, and that, inevitably it was his class of rich, white, "Saxons" that came out better for exactly the kinds of things that, when provided to the poor and the "savage" (his word, not mine) he said was catastrophically dysgenic, dragging everyone down. He sounded like today's Republicans here and the worst of the fascists in your government.

I used to be as superstitious about Darwin as you were before I did what you so obviously haven't done, read him. I'd suggest you try what I did, read The Descent of Man, noting his endorsement of both Galton's and Haeckel's eugenics assertions and Haeckel's twisted, degenerate materialistic monism and the degenerate results he drew from them. Of course that means having to look up and read Darwin's numerous citations, which I've been doing. I, for example, discovered Darwin lied about something Schaaffhausen said to make one of his most infamous statements in that book. You can read all about it at my blog, the pieces I've been posting in June and July.


Your Darwin is the Darwin I discovered was a post-war invention, unknown to generations of Darwinists before the war, including his own sons, professional colleagues and others who did what neither you nor any other post-war Darwinist has, met the man and talked to him, never mind knew him as well as his sons did, including Leonard Darwin. I've read them in their own words, from Darwin, those he cited in his books and letters, his sons and his professional associates. You are superstitious about the guy, I've relied on the evidence he and they provided.

Oh, and as to what scientists say about Darwin?  That, Brit, is generally based in the same superstition I used to suffer from and you still do.  If scientists knew more about how historians and others in the humanities use documentary evidence left by people such as Darwin and those others mentioned - which has the decided advantage of being written by them IN ORDER TO EXPRESS WHAT THEY THOUGHT AND DID TO OTHER HUMAN BEINGS - they might not be so superstitious about him.  That evidence doesn't need nearly, nearly the amount of interpretation that the evidence he and they use to assert natural selection does, it has few of the ambiguities or the susceptibility of conscious or unconscious bias completely distorting it.  And it can always be checked against the original in its context which, I've discovered to my disappointment, is so seldom done in science these days.  If scientists  weren't so ignorant of such evidence and so arrogant about the methods scholars have developed to deal with it, they might not be so completely in the dark about this particular demi-god of scientism.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Hải Phượng đàn Bầu LÝ QUA CẦU

I don't know what the name of the piece is or who is playing it but the instrument is the Đàn bầu , which I don't know how to pronounce.  It's a monochord played by sounding overtones on the single string and changing the tension of the string.   This is the modern version played with a pickup so it can be heard.  Here is what I believe is the original, very quiet, non-amplified version.

Bèo dạt mây trôi Đàn bầu of Quang

One Year of Deaths At A Workhouse

I've been looking for records of deaths in English workhouses and have had a hard time finding those. But the British Parliament set up the poor-law, workhouse system in its occupied territories as well.  I did find the records for some of those in Ireland, where, according to Darwin and Greg, "The careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman multiplies like rabbits." 

Here is the stunning record of deaths for one year in one workhouse in Ireland, ages from infancy to advanced old age, most of them young children.  No doubt, given what he said about the disaster of the beneficiaries of the poor law surviving to the age of reproduction,  I have no hesitation to say that Darwin would have been dismayed that some of their ages get into two figures.   

Update:  Someone has pointed out that this may be the record from two workhouses, though, as they say it would still be an astonishing number of deaths.  I interpreted it to mean one facility with multiple houses, based on how they presented the statistics for occupancy - a lot of them were a compound of different buildings.  I will revise if I was mistaken.  I will point out that even if it was two separate compounds - the temptation is to to call them death camps, that is clearly what they were - it represents a tiny fraction of the British work house system inmates for that year.  

We civilised men... we institute poor-laws

Here is an excerpt from a short description of the New Poor Law, the "charity" which Darwin scientifically  determined was a social evil because it kept too many of the poor alive past childhood, allowing the "weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind." 
In Wales, particularly in the central and north-western regions, resistance to the building of workhouses was strong. By 1847, seventeen out of 47 unions had still not opened workhouses. One union, Rhayader, held out against erecting one until 1877. Attacks also took place on the workhouses at Llanfyllin where the Montgomeryshire Yeomanry prevented a mob from destroying the building, and at Narberth where special constables were employed to protect the site after a mob attempted to burn down the new workhouse.
However, at the heart of opposition to the new law was the hardship and brutality it engendered. In 1841, GR Wythen Baxter published his famous The Book of the Bastiles — a somewhat lurid compilation of newspaper reports, court proceedings, correspondence and so on, which graphically illustrated some of the horror stories relating to the New Poor Law. For example:
"An enquiry has taken place this week at Rochester, before the county magistrates, into several charges preferred against James Miles, the master of the Hoo Union-House, for cruelly beating several young pauper-children of both sexes. Elizabeth Danes stated that she was 13 years of age, and that the defendant, James Miles, had punished her three times while she was in the Union-House. The offence she had committed was leaving a little dirt in the corner of a room, and the defendant made her lie upon a table, and took her clothes off, and beat her with a birch-broom until blood came."
Two years later, in 1843 the satirical magazine Punch reported how in Bethnal Green "An infant, only five weeks old, had been separated from the mother, being occasionally brought to her for the breast."
In the Huddersfield Union, where five small old workhouses were still in use, there was public outcry in 1848 at conditions in the Huddersfield township workhouse. Conditions in the workhouse were appallingly cramped and unhygienic, with up to 10 children sharing a bed. The inmates' diet was miserable, even by workhouse standards. Conditions in the infirmary were even worse — a living patient occupied the same bed with a corpse for a considerable period after death, and the sick were left unwashed for days on end, in some cases besmeared in their own excrement.
The most notorious scandal was that at Andover Workhouse in 1845 where, it emerged, conditions were so harsh that inmates had resorted to scavenging for decaying meat from the bones that they had been set to crush. This case received enormous publicity and the fall-out from this was considerable.

Accounts of the horrors of the poor-law in its foremost presence, the workhouses, were continuous, though, for their entire existence.  As can be seen, those motivated everything from protests, political discourse and even popular insurrection.   Darwin could hardly have avoided reading about these, though I haven't looked to see if he ever talked about them in letters.  How he discussed them in his second most important scientific book, is undeniable. 
About the only thing in this account that is less than horrific about it is the resistance to the establishment of the New Poor Law noted at the beginning. But it did get established, pervaded the lives of the British poor in a way that, indeed, presages much of German law in the Nazi period, and only ended, even officially, in 1946, though it allegedly had ended a few years before that.  Some commentators still see remnants of it some of the welfare-state established after the Second World War.

The National Health Service Act of 1946 came into force on 5th July 1948. Even the sweeping changes that came with this had less impact than might be imagined. Institutions now came under the control of Hospital Management Committees under Regional hospital Boards but many still carried the stigma from their workhouse days. Many of these new "hospitals" also maintained "Reception Centres for Wayfarers", i.e. casual wards for vagrants, until the 1960s.

This legal system of enslavement and incarceration of the poor, from the age of birth on, notable for its horrific conditions, abuses, deaths (especially of young children) the destruction of families as brutally as chattel slavery... and as noted, starvation and the encouragement of brutal treatment, this was what Charles Darwin said was too much charity.  I would be interested to find if any of his many investments, those of his rich family, if any of the family enterprises made direct use of workhouse labor.  It would almost be impossible for anyone with wealth in Britain to escape having benefited at least indirectly from it. 

Update:  Upwards of half-a-dozen girls in the Hoo workhouse, some of them verging on womanhood, have at times had their persons exposed in the most brutal and indecent manner, by the Master, for the purpose of inflicting on them cruel floggings and the same girls, at other times, have, in a scarcely less indecent manner, been compelled by him to strip the upper parts of their persons naked, to allow him to scourge them with birch rods on their bare shoulders and waists, and which, from more than one of the statements from the lips of the sufferers, appears to have been inflicted without mercy. One girl says, 'My back was marked with blood.' Another, a witness, who had not herself been punished, says, 'We women were called to hold one of the girls while the Master flogged her; but we went down in the yard out of the way, because we could not bear the sight; afterwards we got ointment out of the sick ward to rub her back, for it was all cut to pieces.' Again, `One Sunday the Master flogged little Jemmy (a pauper's illegitimate child, then two years of age) with a birch rod, so that the child carried the marks a month, because it cried for its mother, who was gone to church, and for its little brother, who was that day put into breeches, and taken away from the children's ward.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Darwin's Self-Made Parachutes Are Full of Holes Except the Golden Ones

As early as his May 21, 1867 letter to Haeckel, Darwin was worrying that telling too much of the consequences of his theory of natural selection "will excite anger & that anger so completely blinds every one that your arguments wd. have no chance of influencing those who are already opposed to our views."   A lot of Darwin's friends and colleagues, especially Thomas Huxley, commented on his desire to avoid direct conflict and, certainly, public dispute.  There are several times when Darwin provided himself with plausible deniablity that he was advocating exactly what he was clearly advocating.  I am confident it was so he could point to it as denial.  He did that with the most famous of those, his frequently extracted "The aid which we feel impelled to give" paragraph, seldom given in whole by his defenders and never in context.  At least one time Darwin referred to it in his response to the eugenics advocate G. A. Gaskell, which Darwin's defenders also quote mine to invent the eugenics-free Darwin.  I've written about that in detail, giving the entire correspondence which shows that Darwin is completely distorted by his modern defenders.   I mentioned the cynicism of his response to "Miss Cobbe" in another post.

I will give the "aid" paragraph with the section immediately before it:

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

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

The Descent of Man

"Even at the urging of hard reason,"  "he is acting for the good of his patient," UNDOUBTEDLY bad effect of the weak surviving and propagating their kind," "more to be hoped for than expected".

About the only example of a more hypocritically rendered message I can recall, undercutting the mildly stated intention with regular thunderbolts of refutation is Anthony's funeral speech in the play Julius Ceasar.

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

Over and over again Darwin undercuts his "plea" for aid to the weak and poor. I have underlined those revealing passages.  I am certain that Darwin consciously gave himself a mechanism of plausible deniability that he'd just said what he said in the preceding paragraph, that is what the passage has been used to do since WWII, almost always cutting out Darwin's fatally wounding his plea as he is pretending to make it.  I am under no obligation to go on with his ruse as I've read the rest of the book and he continues to promote eugenics for pretty much the rest of it, two lesser escape clauses, more or less excepted.  The points that could be made about this paragraph in reference to other things that Darwin said in The Descent of Man are numerous and they don't count in Darwin's favor.  You might want to contrast the content and tone with this passage, not much farther on into the book.

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

“But the inheritance of property by itself is very far from an evil.... Nor does the moderate accumulation of wealth interfere with the process of selection.” 

One suspects Darwin’s “moderate accumulation of wealth” which was not yet insalubrious included the wealth of the Darwin -Wedgewood families. Why, since he refuses to consider the possibility that humans’ capacity for reason, moral reflection and self-denial might exempt us from the brutal forces of natural selection, does he seem to think that membership in his notably brutal economic elite should render its members immune?

You also wonder why Darwin didn't include the laws against stealing in the list of unfortunate curbs on the workings of natural selection. Something commented on in much the same context by William Cobbett decades before Darwin wrote this book.  If you doubt that the laws protecting private property are one of the greatest inhibitions of the weeding out of the unfit, imagine what would have happened in Darwin’s Britain if it was suddenly legal for the masses of the poor to take from those worthless drones bred to the aristocracy. The resultant struggle might have saved Darwin the embarrassment of explaining how he neglected to discourage their vaccination.  And speaking of that,  if vaccination is such a danger, in the long term, to the fitness of the economic underclass, presumably it has the same effect among the wealthy, preventing small pox would dysgenically drag them down to the same level of degradation the underclass was already in.  Yet  I haven't seen any indication that Charles Darwin or subsequent generations of Darwins went without vaccination or medical care for their families.  I have seen no mention of any Darwins in subsequent generations dying of it.


In revising this series I've noticed all kinds of problems with the most basic aspects of Darwin's case for natural selection which I hadn't noticed before.  He is always using natural selection to assert contradicting results. I've mentioned the assertion that constant warfare and killing among "savages" is asserted to render the survivors more fit while in "civilised" countries, it sacrifices the fittest and prevents them reproducing.  The several pausible deniability provisions are full of this kind of double standard.

Notice this assertion of the value of having men rich enough to have the leisure to get an education and be able to avoid labor

The presence of a body of well-instructed men, who have not to labour for their daily bread, is important to a degree which cannot be over-estimated; as all high intellectual work is carried on by them, and on such work, material progress of all kinds mainly depends, not to mention other and higher advantages.

Compare that with the first section quoted above, it is exactly the material progress:

- shelter and food, such as provided in "asylums";

- the incredibly stingy and bare subsistence provided to a few by the infamous, Malthusian Victorian New Poor Law as described by Dickens!

 - the maintenance of the slave workers in those Dickensian  work houses, an intrinsic aspect of the New Poor Law;

-  medical care and vaccination;

That kind of material sustenance, WHEN IT IS GIVEN TO THE POOR is named as the mechanism of their future degradation but in the rich, Darwin asserts that material progress is the flower of creation.

You may notice this is identical to the assertions of today's conservatives in the United States and Britain.   Work is good for the poor, leisure is good for the rich.   Having even the barest provision material benefits degrades the poor but a superabundance for the rich motivates them to further enterprise.  etc.

Darwin constantly uses natural selection to assert that the same phenomena have the opposite effects.  In every case I have found, so far, Darwin asserts that factors which impede the struggle for survival are a benefit when they effect the rich and an impending disaster when they effect the poor.  In each and every case, Darwin's "science" ends up supporting his wealth, his class.  It rather suspiciously benefits HIM.   As I have been dealing with Darwin for seven years now, I have no doubt that his unmentioned "other and higher advantages" were those to the class of people he was addressing, rich men like himself.

By the way, many of whom directly benefited from the slave labor of those just barely maintained in Victorian work houses, kept in conditions disturbingly near that in which those enslaved in Nazi industries two generations later.   As Marilynne Robinson pointed out, the Poor Law presented contractors with an economic incentive to starve and kill the inmates.

Under the Old Poor Law, before the 1834 reforms that made the operation of the system more punitive and severe, child paupers, that is, the children of destitute parents, were given to employers, each with a little bonus to reward the employer for relieving the public of this burden.  The children would be worked brutally, because with each new pauper child the employer received another little bonus.  To starve such children was entirely in the interest of those who set them to work.  Aside from all the work the child performed under duress, its death brought the reward that came with a new child   The authorities asserted an absolute right to disrupt families, and to expose young children to imprisonment and forced labor. 

This was "material progress"  for the poor that Darwin thought TOO GENEROUS to avoid the catastrophe of too many of them surviving long enough to have children, who would, no doubt, find their way to the work houses, contracted to produce the wealth of the wealthy, Darwin's family and friends.   If you think it is mean of me to point that out, please, tell me why?

Also note this section:

"but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely that the weaker and inferior members of society do not marry so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage",

That statement is directly contradicted by the quote of W. R. Greg addressed in another of these posts.   Darwin uses Greg to assert that the degenerate Irish "multiplies like rabbits" unlike the virtuous Scot who "marries late and passes his best years in struggle and in celibacy, marries late, and leaves few behind him".  Darwin obviously agreed with Greg that in a dozen generations, given equal numbers of "Celts" and "Saxons (?)" at the start, the degenerate would greatly dominate in numbers, five to one!,  but not in, power property or intelligence, in that case the ratio is in favor of the "Saxons".    Darwin obviously was using Greg to speak for himself, using that passage, curiously elided by Darwin, to assert the case he made in the first of the two paragraphs above.

Over and over again, Darwin twists and turns his theory of natural selection around to assert that it has the opposite effects in different populations of people, either by class or ethnic group and, in every case, the white and wealthy and "Saxon" come out ahead and SUPERIOR by the impedance of natural selection, the most brutal aspect of that is, on the other hand, a definite boon for the poor and the "savage".  Though, in the case of the "savage" the same struggle for life which improves them will also lead to their extinction.


I am left thinking that the main reason that natural selection ever was established was due to the compliments and benefits it carried for the wealthy establishment who had control of science and academic institutions.   It isn't because it's anything like a consistent theory.  Unlike gravity, chemical laws, and most of the laws of science, it is notably a hit or miss thing and, unlike those, it falls unequally on those of different classes and ethnic groups.  Darwins' self-interest and that of his early and later supporters clearly embedded in it is reason enough to arouse the deepest skepticism of the idea.

Science is an attempt to produce reliable information about the world and the universe, it is an attempt to make sense of human experience and perception.  Scientific methodology reduces its focus in an attempt to generalize knowledge about the basic physical aspects of that human experience.  It can produce a specific kind and range of knowledge, when it is well and honestly done   History is every bit as much an attempt to do that focusing on a different scale of human experience,  The history of natural selection assumed to be relevant to human societies has produced the historical record of eugenics and the several radical applications of eugenics by the Nazis and other dictatorial regimes. History often uses the information that science can provide to it, using it to consider the physical, material and, to somewhat less impressive results, the statistical frequency of aspects of the historical record.

In this case, with the enormous evidence of the disaster of applied natural selection in human history,   it is time for scientists to come down from their Olympian perch, where they may see things in too general a focus for them to really see what's there.  The historical case of what Darwin said, what his followers did and the results of that are far more reliable than the evidence that natural selection is more than the traditional way of thinking about these things, enforced by habit and by peer coercion.   Maybe it's time that scientists consider that other people might see things their customs prevent them from seeing.  If only Darwin had done that he might have avoided these questions of him inserting his self-interest into evolutionary science.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Need a Day Off

so I think I'll post this exchange from one of my ongoing blog brawls

Anthony_McCarthy   • 2 days ago −
There is no way to maintain a durable belief in moral obligations if you practice the atheists methods of rejection of belief and debunkery. You have to accept the validity of belief to have a durable moral belief. Most atheists can't even honesty admit that they believe all kinds of stuff just as well as any religious person does. As Steve "Mr Bad Religion" Weinberg demonstrated, even the most sophisticated effort of atheists, utilitarianism, can be rejected out of hand by an atheist who used to believe in it. The history of atheism is full of the advocacy of depravity. Religion has plenty of depravity but it also has the holding that it is morally wrong and will lead to punishment. Atheism's highest brake on depravity is whatever someone who wants to do something figures they can get away with doing.

Ancient Brit   • 2 days ago −
There is no way to maintain a durable belief in moral obligations if you practice the atheists methods of rejection of belief and debunkery...

An interesting claim, and quite testable. Let's conduct a simple experiment. The percentage of those identifying themselves as atheists in the US population is estimated to be between 3% and 10% (depends on whose figures you take - some analysts apparently classify those who express no religious preference as atheists (!)).

So if you're correct, then there should be many more atheists in prison in the US as a proportion, because they must inevitably succumb to depravity and immoral behavior.

But the Federal Bureau of Prisons figures show that the proportion of those incarcerated who identify as atheist is between 0.2% and 0.3% - far lower than in the general population - between about one tenth and one fiftieth, in fact.

Maybe atheists don't get caught as often as non-atheists. Maybe huge numbers of atheists who get caught become believers once they're incarcerated. I doubt it.

When you look at the US, you find that those states that have the highest rates of crime, sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies also have the highest proportion of religious believers. Surely those should have the lowest rates - moral code and all that?

That envelope also seems to apply to countries as well - the higher the levels of believers, the higher the rates of things you wouldn't tend to associate with behavior by those with religious belief.

So the idea that atheists cannot be as moral as believers is hogwash, IMHO. You may draw different conclusions.

Anthony_McCarthy  • 21 hours ago −
First, your figures for the number of atheists in the United States are seriously inflated. The Pew survey, which seems to have the most reliable seeming methodology of any I've seen, gives figures between 1.6 and 2% as being atheists, though they, and even more so, the media misreports that by combining them with people who poll as being agnostics or, in the case of many ideological atheists, those who merely report not belonging to a church, including the majority of those who report being, nonetheless, religious. So the honesty of many atheists can be tested against the surveys they cite and, in my reading of them, lying about those is rampant among atheists.

Second, crime rates are a very poor measure of moral behavior. Many crimes, such as marijuana possession, accounting for an enormous percentage of people incarcerated in the United States is not something I'd call an immoral act. In the past people used to be jailed for consensual sexual behavior between consenting adults, often sexual behavior which was practically risk free. Again, I'd not consider that to be a violation of morality, though perhaps you disagree. And today, in the United States, people are being jailed for an inability to pay their debts - aping the worst of Victorian British law - and any number of other crimes made criminal at the behest of the privatized prison industry and the guards unions when those crimes are, essentially, victimless. So, something being criminal is not a good indication of immorality.

We might look at clear immoral behavior among scientists, an identifiable group which atheists are always bragging are one of the few of those where atheists predominate. I'm a fan of retraction watch blog and other sources that document clear malfeasance, misfeasance, fraud, lying, reviewer fraud (I've come to the conclusion that the high quality of scientific review is on its way to becoming a myth) and that's not even getting to the infamous list of scientists involved in weaponeering, the extraction industries, industry which pollutes, creates dangerous pollutants, pharmaceuticals and consumer products - the largely mythical consumer testing industry and the myriad of scientists it employs - those involved with scientific racism ... a very long list could be complied of scientific amorality, depravity and criminality, not to mention those things which injure and kill thousands if not millions if not, in time, all of us which are as much a product of science as the polio vaccine or, the greatest potential good of science of all, environmental science that might, might just be the best hope to save us from all of those other scientists who get payed a lot more money to produce their science and "science".

Perhaps I should compile a list of atheists who were and are scientists who could provide context for my argument. One who comes to mind is William Shockley, the infamous scientific racist and Nobel laureate. Another is Francis Crick, another Nobel laureate who was one of his and Arthur Jensen's great supporter, about whom I'm preparing a blog post. You'd just hate my blog, I got done dismembering the Charles Darwin manikin that was set up after WWII. Or nearly finishing with him. I've got one or two more posts in mind.

Ancient Brit • 5 hours ago −
I had been going to include the Pew Forum in my response, but decided against doing so, because their data are anecdotal and thus unreliable.

However, since you've opened the door, I'll quote from their 2012 study of the US:

With regard to prison populations: "... according to the [prison] chaplains surveyed, inmates with no religious preference appear to be a small minority. On average, chaplains say that about 11% of the inmate population is atheist, agnostic or has no particular religious affiliation. The median estimate of inmates with no religious preference is 5%."

With regard to the general population, Pew says: "By comparison, in the U.S. public as a whole, half (50%) of adults identify as Protestants and about a quarter (23%) are Catholics. About one-in-five adults (19%) are religiously unaffiliated (describing their religion as atheist, agnostic or "nothing in particular")."

So even Pew with their terrible methodology show an all-inclusive 19% in the general population versus 11% in the prison population, based on subjective observation. Further - and admittedly circumstantial - support for the contention that atheists are at least as moral as religionists, if not more so.

So then you proceed to cherry pick what's moral and immoral, as a way to try and whittle the Pew figures down into something that more closely fits your preconceptions. Sooooo scientific. And immoral. In fact, a classic example of a bad scientist at work.

As a scientist and statistician I would be horrified if anyone suggested that data be manipulated in this manner - it's so incredibly unethical. I'm surprised at you.

While criminality and immorality (depending on whose definition you take) are not equivalent, they're definitely related (don't take my word for it, ask Carl Drews, the site).

Personally, I'd agree with you in some instances - there are some crimes that should never have been classified as such (cf marijuana use - which is not something I've ever tried. Many years ago my father was temporarily attached to the Drugs Squad in London, and the stories he came back with made an impression on me that lasts to this day).

But if you're going to cut some slack for prison inmates, you have to do the same (to the same degree) for the general population - and I can't see a valid way to do that. So the figures should stand, as should the sample population.

As for Darwin, you must know that conducting ad hominem attacks does nothing to validate your position. It just makes you look petty (and yes, I do see that that is ad hominem. But can you see the difference?)

Anthony_McCarthy  • 21 minutes ago −
ALL DATA IN ALL SURVEYS are anecdotal, all surveys are based in self-reporting, all of them are susceptible to misreporting either on the basis of intentional deception or through misunderstanding or other unintended errors. There is no evidence that if you asked exactly the same sample exactly the same questions two weeks later that you would get the same results. But you're the one who wanted to base arguments on surveys, not me. YOU OPENED THAT DOOR, NOT ME. Live by the survey, die by the survey. Pew's methodology is, if anything, far better than most of them and it has been cited over and over again in atheist propaganda, I know because it was due to that use that I first looked into the reporting of their results and what those really were.

Your use of imprisonment as a measure of morality is deeply flawed, as I pointed out. If Bradley Manning is sentenced to prison, would his crime be an act of immorality? How about Nelson Mandela? How about people imprisoned for impiety or blasphemy? Are they immoral because they broke the law and are imprisoned for it? How about the myriad of people imprisoned in the Soviet Union, China, North Korea for their non-state religious activity? How about the scientists imprisoned for their refusal to dishonestly say that Lysenkoism was scientifically valid? You know, an atheist paradise where quite a number of scientists were killed and placed in real prisons for standing up for scientific truth against establishment pseudo-science. Was the fact that they were imprisoned by the secular, civil government a sign of their immorality?

Your proposal to derive reliable information from that method is nonsense that doesn't stand up. If you hadn't guessed, I have looked at your argument before, it's one of the lesser of the favorite ones among atheists right now and like just about all of them entirely invalid when they are subjected to even a minimal level of genuinely skeptical analysis. .

Your very method, using imprisonment as a measure of morality presents a big problem for your use of surveys of people within the prison population. If they are presumed to be unusually immoral, asking them to tell you the truth and assuming they are is self-refuting. If you trust them to tell you the truth, you would have to assume they are at least as honest as the non-imprisoned population. And that doesn't get to the fact that they, as an imprisoned population, might not think they have reasons to lie to someone asking them personal questions. What if an imprisoned atheist suspects, consciously or, perhaps, unconsciously, that misrepresenting themselves as a Christian would be better for them. Atheists are always whining that they are discriminated against.

What I said about Darwin was based in multiple citations of what Darwin said, in his books, in his letters, what his family and closest professional associates said ... there was nothing ad hominem about it. Your version of Charles Darwin is a post-war fabrication.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Eugenics Here And Now

RMJ calls our attention to a story showing that eugenics is still being practiced on women in prison, through coercion.   Eugenics was not something that ended in 1945 or even 1972.  It's going on right now and on the basis of class and ethnicity under a different mask.  

The Eugenics Free, Haeckel Free, Charles Darwin Is a Public Relations Myth: Darwin and Haeckel 5

It is quite possible that if Darwin had not written On the Origin of Species or if he had written it in a different way,  Ernst Haeckel might have remained a cranky doctor who had no sympathy with his patients and whose bigotry was sustained by his peculiar interpretation of  German romanticism and Lamarck .   If, when Darwin  read in the Generelle Morphologie and Naturliche Schopfungsgeschichte that Haeckel was mixing huge doses of political, racist and anti-religious, extra-scientific content with evolutionary science IN THE NAME OF DARWIN,  he had objected at being insanely misrepresented,  perhaps Haeckel would have backed off some of the worst of it.  Or maybe he would have been discredited at the beginning and he would have died in the same obscurity as scores of others prominent at the time have.   If Darwin had done that it is possible that the German version of eugenics would have still developed in all of its racist, anti-Semitic, militaristic and homicidal depravity.   But if Darwin had done that, if he had rejected Galton's eugenics, he could escape the responsibility of being their inspiration and the spark that set off eugenics through the 19th and 20th centuries and down to today.

But that isn't how the relationship of Darwin and Haeckel went.  Darwin praised those works in the highest terms, not objecting to where Haeckel was taking Darwinism.  Even as Thomas Huxley was appointing Haeckel  the leader of Darwinism in Germany and, perhaps, on the entire continent of Europe.  Darwin fully endorsed Haeckel's books, including those containing  Haeckel's monism, whose "triumph" he attributed to Darwin in those very books that Darwin was reading.   Further political statements about Darwinism in Haeckel's Freie Wissenschaft und Freie Lehre,  claiming that a political interpretation of Darwinism would inevitably lead to aristocracy instead of democracy or socialism, also got Darwin's complete approval.   And it wasn't only Darwin and his closest associate of all,  Huxley - he wrote the glowing introduction to the English version of Freie Wissenschaft und freie Lehre - as well as others in the Darwin circle like Lankester who translated Haeckel,  when he was developing his poisonous concoction of Darwinism, bizarrely off kilter romantic nationalism and his, frankly, deranged  monist philosophy.  Spreading it into the English speaking world.

As I was more than seven years ago, before I started looking into these questions,  I'd have looked for explanations as to how the Darwin I believed was an accurate picture of the man could have overlooked the  obvious degeneracy of Haeckel's books.*    As so many who haven't looked closely at Darwin's record and the record of those close to him, I bought the fictitious Darwin of the BBC and PBS and the Darwin industry.   That Darwin was the creation of a PR machine that, as I've mentioned several times,  got going after the Nazis made the eugenic and Social Darwinist legacy that Darwin left a major liability to the popular acceptance of evolution.  That was an ongoing problem even as science was giving evolution a far stronger base than Darwin had with natural selection**.   In the same period, molecular biology was discovering other ways in which evolutionary change happens other than the most recent version of natural selection.  There were reasons to deemphasize Darwin during the fifties and afterward that were scientific instead of merely an exercise in public relations but that isn't the road that scientists and educators took.  I suspect that was also due to a PR effort that began even as Darwin and his friends were rushing to publish and gain priority for natural selection for him.

But that's all done now, the real record of Darwin is available, online.  The information tying him to eugenics through Galton and Darwin's sons, particularly Leonard Darwin is known.  That part of the creationist attack on the public perception of science is not baseless, it is an air tight case. It is absolute stupidity for people who are always taking about evidence as if it were their private property to deny the massive evidence that Darwin directly supported the developing eugenics of Galton and Haeckel,   It is massively stupid to deny his support for social Darwinism when he, himself, equated "Natural Selection with Survival of the Fittest" and called Herbert Spencer a "great philosopher".   Anyone who reads The Descent of Man and misses that it is filled with scientific assertions of eugenics and Social Darwinism asserting that "weaker members" of society surviving till their child bearing years will lead to a catastrophe for the human species, is willfully blind.  They will cling to the paragraph and odd phrase in the book that Darwin obviously put there, intending those as plausible deniability when those he didn't want to bother him read the enormous percentage of the book which advocated an unfounded assertion of eugenics.

The reliance on the myth of Charles Darwin is bound to fail.  Most people don't have that much of an emotional attachment to Charles Darwin that they will read him with blinders and deny he said exactly what he said.  Increasingly, as even more of what Darwin was endorsing is easily available in online formats that make reading THE ENTIRE DOCUMENTS easy, they will be able to read what Darwin knew was being said by his supporters and friends and can see whether or not he publicly rejected the attribution to him.  They will be able to read his own endorsements.

As soon as I read The Descent of Man, my great man conception of Charles Darwin began to crack.  As soon as I followed up on the first of his citations, reading Hereditary Genius, that Darwin fell ,  Reading Galton's memoir, in which he published Charles Darwin's unreservedly enthusiastic endorsement of Galton's developing eugenicis, it was buried.  I'd gotten there from Darwin's own extravagant endorsement of  Galton in The Descent of Man.  From there I went on to read what Leonard Darwin had done and said.  With him I began the search for people who knew Darwin who had claimed he was not responsible for eugenics and found only support for the connection among those who knew him.  I, likewise, found no Darwinists who made the case divorcing Charles Darwin from eugenics before the Second World War.   Then I followed up the even more troubling endorsements of Haeckel and found the massive attempt to disassociate Darwin from Haeckel was false, as well.

think anyone who wasn't looking for every single loophole for Darwin to rescue him from his record would come to the same conclusion if they read that record.  And a few of those loopholes were left by Darwin, even as he made them implausible by the mass of his record.   The mythical Darwin rests on that implausibility.

The mythical Darwin that is the standard received point of view among the self-appointed educated class of the English speaking world was possible to believe in before his real record was widely available.  But the survival of that myth is no longer possible, the environment has changed with that record being there for anyone to read.   That myth is not fit to survive in today's information environment.

* There were also some really foolish sciency  fictitious creations by Haeckel to "fill in" the record, endorsed by no less than Huxley, but that's another post.  Such creations do nothing for the credibility of evolutionary science.

**  Natural selection was an idea that is vague enough to have had different interpretations during Darwin's time.  I'm not convinced that even Darwin and Wallace really meant the same thing when they talked about it.  As I showed in a previous post, Wallace didn't like the term "natural selection".   But a lot of the things that generation of evolutionists left got changed over the years.  Look at how Wallace understood "survival of the fittest".   Darwin made a very good case for evolution in On the Origin of Species and he provided it with what he believed was a solid explanation by interpreting the confirmatory evidence he had available with Malthusian political-economics.  But that interpretation isn't the same thing as evolution.  Evolution does not rest on Darwin, certainly not on the myth and not even on the real one.

This discussion the early decades of Natural Selection in Germany is an illustration of how the idea could mean radically different things at different times, even as the first generation of Darwinists were still living and working.

The superior technical quality of the German biological synthesis of Darwinism with cell biology and embryology should also be taken into account.  From debates over vitalist and mechanist interpretations of evolution, there emerged an organicist consensus by the 1890s.  Darwin's most original contribution to evolutionary theory, that of natural selection, was often lost from sight.  During the 1890s some scientists reformulated natural selection not as competition between organisms but as selection from an immutable germplasm.  Others rejected ideas of redundant liberal individualism.  Darwinism thus meant a general conviction of the truth of evolution, and could include such diverse mechanisms as “Lamarckian” adaptaion and psychic factors such as “will” and learning powers.  German biologists drew on distinctive organicist philosophical and historical concepts in analyzing developmental processes. These biological ideas were distinct from other traditions of racial thought including that of Aryan racial purity.

Health, Race and German Politics between National Unification and Nazism by Paul Weindling Cambridge University Press, 1989

Weindling's book has a lot of excellent material related to the continuing history of Darwinism during this period.  I certainly would not blame Darwin, personally, for much of it, he being long dead and having no knowledge of what people unknown to him would do with the idea.  He was, though, fully aware of what Haeckel was doing while they were in contact and much of what follows grows out of ideas Darwin had already read in Haeckel's work.  Haeckel was certainly responsible for inspiring and encouraging many of Alfred Ploetz's ideas and activities.   And Charles Darwin is certainly responsible for promoting Haeckel, and, in some of those very ideas,  expanding on them in The Descent of Man, giving them the force of his scientific reputation.

Ploetz maintained contact with literary circles containing figures such as the Hauptmanns and Boelsche,  the naturalist, poet and popularizer of Darwinism.  They discussed plans for journals where biology and literature could be combined, as well as technical problems in zoology.  Boelsche required scientific guidance for his monumental work-in-progress Love Life in nature.   The zoologist Pate (a supporter of the liberal freisinnige Volkspartei, a fervent nationalist and anti-semite) formed part of the group.  On 11 May 1901 Ploetz agreed with Gustav Fischer that there should be a monthly journal for racial hygiene.  However, Ploetz was to be disappointed in Fischer,  whom he condemned as “worse than a Jew”.  The plan for a journal re-surfaced on 5 December 1902 when Ploetz was with Stasius. They began to seek sources of support, both financial and academic.

Family finances were crucial to the success of the venture.  As Ploetz had the support of his brother-in-law, Stasius, he would sink some of the Nordenholz's wealth into the scheme.  They each contributed 12,500 marks to the Archive-Gesellschaft.  The zoologist Plate became engaged in April 1902 to Hedwig von Zylinski,  the daughter of a Prussian general,  so that Plate could also contribute financially to the journal.   Ploetz scouted around for additional capital.  Haeckel recommended Friedmann,  a lawyer who had won one of the smaller “Krupp” prizes, as someone who could finance the journal.  On 19 October 1903 Ploetz could announce to Haeckel that the Archiv was founded as a campaigning force on the side of Darwinism and the modern Weltanschaung.  Prospective contributors were approached.  Forel was offered 160 marks pro Bogen.  On 26 January 1904 the first issue of Archiv fur Rassen und Gesellschaftsbiologie appeared.  

In 1904 the journal underwent further changes. In mid-January 1904, Friedman withdrew.  Ploetz was uneasy with the discovery that Freidmann was Jewish.  Ruden appealed for Forel for an additional editor.  He should be young, progressive and have plenty of money.  The anthroplogist,  Richard Thurnwald, was enlisted in December 1904.  Ruden was paid 200 marks to do editorial work and to contribute a position he he held until 22 June 1911  when Ploetz took sole control of the journal.  By April 1905 the journal's future seemed assured, as publication was taken over by the scientifically reputable Teubner Verlag of Leipzig.  This coincided with the founding of the Racial Hygiene Society in Berlin  The Archiv became the organ of the Society.  A recurrent risk in Ploetz's strategy,  that the Archiv should be scientific in orientation,  was that a popular journal would be established by rival racist ideologues.  Ploetz managed to prevent the first attempt when Ulrich Patz (a pharmaceutical manufacturer) and Ruden proposed a popular journal in 1907.


With Ploetz, who Charles Darwin certainly never heard of, the fuller dangers that were contained in ideas Darwin and Haeckel were asserting in the late 1860s through Darwin's death, came to term in the Nazi eugenics program.  Charles Darwin couldn't have anticipated Ploetz and the future course of German eugenics in detail.  His death prevents that charge being credible.  Which is the most you can say about it.  His son, Leonard Darwin, doesn't come off even that well,  though.  He took over as the head of British eugenics from Galton and had frequent exchanges with some of the most extreme of German eugenicists.   Directly, and indirectly through the American, Charles Davenport, an infamous figure, as well.  As seen in an earlier post, Leonard Darwin was still praising Ploetz's eugenics activity for "changing German thought in the right direction"  as late as April, 1939.    Six years after the Nazi eugenics laws were in effect.  The extent to which his father would agree can't be known.

I don't think Leonard Darwin's point of view at that late date can be reliably known to represent what his father would have thought about events more than a half-century after his death.   The problem is that there was no one alive at that time who would have had a better claim to the right to speak for him.   It is entirely possible that Leonard Darwin, who knew his father better than anyone today, was absolutely right about his father's reaction to events in 1939.  That fact produces a dilemma for those who would propose to speak for a man they never knew,  never mind knew as well as a son would know his father,   No one has that right these many decades after the catastrophe Leonard Darwin seemed to not have anticipated even as it was unfolding.  There is no today who has a standing to make that statement as compared to Leonard Darwin's.   But, what is indisputable, from his own words and actions,  the Charles Darwin of the 1870s to his death in 1882 is far from blameless.

Considering that throughout his second, major book presented as science, Charles Darwin  repeatedly advanced the idea that a violent struggle for existence, including the deaths of many "weaker members" of the human species was necessary to avoid catastrophic dysgenic results, he is responsible for the idea.   Darwin asserted that over and over, with many horrific examples from around the world purporting that mass death and even infanticide were hygenic for the group as a whole.   And that is what he was presenting AS SCIENCE.  Charles Darwin is responsible for those who took that idea from him as fact, including four of his sons.   Charles Darwin is also responsible for providing those who attack evolutionary science with some of their most persuasive material.   They don't have to lie about his record to associate Darwinism with eugenics and the likes of Ernst Haeckel, you have to lie about Darwin to distance him from those.

The fact is, what Charles Darwin would have thought of events in 1939 cannot be known and, barring a revelation at a Last Judgement, never will be.   But, looking at what he said, the associations he made and what their work he promoted contained, people will come to conclusions as to what he might have said.  It's clear not all of them will come down on one side or the other in that speculation.  Which is a serious problem for the public promotion of science today.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Offenses of "Miss Cobbe" And Darwin's Condescension

I have tried to look up all of Darwin's citations in the passages I've used here, some of them have been harder to find than others, as my post a week ago Saturday pointed out.  I decided to see if I could find "Miss Cobbe's" essay that so annoyed Darwin that he did what he so seldom did, cite a woman.  I found it, thanks to Google Books,  Darwinism in Morals and Other Essays by Frances Power Cobbe, a quite radical and early Anglo-Irish feminist and social reformer.  The essay was written in the florid Victorian style but it was far better written than a lot of the other things I've read from the same era by more respected writers - such as all of those anthropologists etc. I poured through last week.

Reading it I was also struck at how it read like Haeckel or Thomas Huxley or a number of other, later Darwinists only, whereas they approved of the same consequences of believing what Darwin said,  Cobbe foresaw the depravity that would logically follow from believing it.

Here's part of what she said.

It must be admitted that these two doctrines between them effectively revolutionize morals, as they have been hitherto commonly understood.  The first dethrones the moral sense from that place of mysterious supremacy which Butler considered its grand characteristic.  Mr Darwin's moral sense is simply an instinct originated, like a dozen others, by the conditions under which we live, but which happens, in the struggle for existence among all our instincts, to resume the upper hand, when no other chances to be in the ascendent.  And the second theory aims a still more deadly blow at ethics, by affirming that not only has our moral sense come to us by a source commanding no special respect, but that it answers to no external or durable, not to say universal or eternal, reality, and is merely tentative and provisional, – the provincial prejudice, that we may describe it, of this little world ad its temporary inhabitants, which would be looked on with a smile of derision by better informed people now living on Mars, or hereafter to be developed on earth, and who, in their turn, may be considered as walking in a vain shadow by other races.  

I'll pause here to say that I'm certain Cobbe was very used to being looked on with such smiles of derision by "better informed people."  I'm sure as a woman, a feminist, a social reformer, she had frequently experienced such smiles of derision of the kind you have to sense Darwin gave her in his debunkery effort.

Instead of Montesquieu''s grand aphorism “La justice est un rapport de convenance, qui se trouve réelle­ment entre deux choses; ce rapport est tou­jours le même; quelque être qui le considère, soit que ce soit Dieu, soit que ce soit un Ange, ou enfin que ce soit un homme”  Mr. Darwin will leave us only the sad assurance that our idea of justice is all our own, and may mean nothing to any other intelligent being in the universe.  It is not even, as Dean Mansel has told us, given us by our Creator as a representative truth, intended at least to indicate some actual transcendent verity behind it.  We have now neither veil nor revelation, but only an earth-born instinct, carrying with it no authority whatever beyond the limits of our race and special social state, nor within them further than we choose to permit it to weigh on our minds. 

Let me say it at once.  These doctrines appear to me simply the most dangerous which have ever been set forth since the days of Mandeville.  Of course, if science can really show good cause for accepting them, their consequences must be frankly faced.  But it is at least fitting to come to an examination of them, conscious that we are criticizing no ordinary problems, but theories whose validity must involve the invalidity of all the sanctions which morality has hitherto received from powers beyond those of the penal laws.  As a matter of practice, no doubt men act in nine cases out of ten with very small regard to their theories of ethics, even when they are thoughtful enough to have grasped any theory at all;  and generations might elapse after the universal acceptance of these new views by philosophers before they would sensibly influence the conduct of the masses of mankind.  But, however slowly they might work, I cannot but believe that in the hour of their triumph would be sounded the knell of the virtue of mankind.  It has been hard enough for tempted men and women heretofore to be honest, true, unselfish, chaste, or sober, while passion was clamoring for gratification or want pining for relief.  The strength of the fulcrum on which has rested the virtue of many a martyr and saint must have been vast as the law of the universe could make it.  But where will that fulcrum be found hereafter, if men consciously recognize that what they have gleaned to be 

“The unwritten law divine, 
Immutable, eternal, not like those of yesterday, 
But made ere Time began,”  Sophecles:  Antigone

The law by which “the most ancient heavens are fresh and strong,” – is, in truth, after all, neither durable nor even general among intelligent beings, but simply consists of those rules of conduct which, among many that might have been adopted, have proved themselves on experiment to be most convenient; and which in the lapse of ages, through hereditary transmission, legislation, education, and such methods, have got woven into the texture of our brains?  What will be the power of such a law as this to enable it to contend for mastery in the soul with any passion capable of rousing the languid impulse?  Hitherto, good men have looked on repentance as the most sacred of all sentiments, and have measured the nearness of the soul to God by the depth of its sense of the shame and heinousness of sin.  The boldest of criminals have betrayed at intervals their terror of the Erinnyes or remorse, against those scourges all religions have presented themselves as protectors, with their devices of expiations, sacrifices, penances, and atonements.  From Orestes at the foot of the altar of Phoebus to the Anglican in his new confessional today;  from the Aztec eating the heart of the victim slain in propitaion for sin to the Hindu obeying the law of Menu, and voluntarily starving himself to death as expiation of his offenses, – history bears testimony again and again to the power of this tremendous sentiment and, if it have driven mankind into numberless superstitions, it has, beyond a doubt, also served as a threat more effective against crime than all the penalties ever enacted by legislators.  But where is repentance to find place hereafter, if Mr. Darwin's view of its nature be received?  Will any man allow himself to attend to the reproaches of conscience, and bow his head to her rebukes, when he clearly understands that it is only his more durable social instinct which is reasserting itself, because the more variable instinct which has cause him to disregard it is temporarily asleep?  Such a physiology of repentance reduces its claims on our attention to the level of those of our bodily wants;  and our grief for a past crime assumes the same aspect as our regret that we yesterday unadvisedly preferred the temporary enjoyment of conversation to the permanent benefit of a long night's rest, or the flavor of an indigestible dish to the wholesomeness of our habitual foo.  We may regret our imprudence, but it is quite impossible we should ever again feel penitence for a sin.  

You can read the passages from Galton, Haeckel, Huxley, and especially the next generation or two dealing with morality and see that she came to pretty much the same conclusions they did about the consequences of Darwin's natural selection and far earlier than most of them.  Only, whereas the Darwinists thought the destruction of the basis of morality was wonderful, she didn't.   Her great offense to Darwin wasn't in what she warned would happen, he already approve of books and other writings  by authors who spelled that out in quite awful detail.  Her offense is in that she didn't think it was a good idea and said so in a quite coherent, quite informed essay.  Or maybe it was that she was a woman while saying it.  I don't think I was imagining very hard when I sensed a sneer in the way Darwin called her "Miss Cobbe".

Frances Cobbe seems to me to have been a quite intelligent person.   Before she wrote her essay she  did what I've noted Darwin's contemporary fans have not done, read him.  And she clearly informed herself as to what its implications were.  And not only Darwin, but many of those in his circle and other figures in science that I'd guess few of Darwin's lay readers have bothered to look at.

Mr. Wallace, in his contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection, appears to me to sum up this argument admirably.  After explaing how very inadequate are the Utilitarians' sanctions for truthfulness, and observing how many savages yet make veracity a point of honor, he says: “It is difficult to conceive that such an intense and mystical feeling of right and wrong (so intense as to overcome all ideas of personal advantage or utility) could have been developed out of accumulate ancestral experiences of utility, but still more difficult to understand how feelings developed by one set of utilities could be transferred to acts of which the utility was partial, imaginary, or absent,” – or (as he might justly have added) so remote as to be quite beyond the ken of uncivilized of semi-civilized man.  It is no doubt a fact that, in the long run, truthfulness contributes more than lying to the greatest happiness of the greatest number.  But to discover that fact needs a philosopher, not a savage.  Other virtues, such as that for the weak an age, seem still less capable, as Mr. Mivart has admirably shown of being evolved out of a sense of utility, seeing that savages and animals find it much the most useful practice to kill and devour such sufferers; and, by the law of the survival of the fittest, all nature below civilized man is arrange on the plan of so doing.  Mr. W. R. Gregs very clever paper in Fraser's Magazine, pointing out how natural selection fails in the case of man in consequences of our feelings of pity for the weak, affords incidentally the best possible proof that human society is based on an element which has no counterpart in the utility which rules the animal world.

Of course, Cobbe was writing in the later half of the 19th century and had some ideas we don't generally have and her style isn't modern but, compared to Darwin and his circle, she can seem quite enlightened and, more importantly,  aware of likely practical outcomes in real life.  One of her most noted writings were attacks on laws that allowed husbands to torture their wives, she frankly called it wife torture instead of the euphemisms common then and now.  She was also an anti-vivisectionist, writing a book in which she detailed, in horrifying particularity, the abominably inhumane treatment of animals in the hands of 19th century science.   She had no illusions about what people relieved of moral consideration were capable of doing.  As she shows in her essay, no doubt informed by her knowledge of what the law could allow by way of the stronger exercising dominance and violence against weaker people, she had a clear eyed skepticism that it was sufficient to keep men from being depraved.

The things she read from Darwin and his closest followers were not only claiming some of those things were a social benefit for the survivors but the way of nature, arguing that moral teachings intended to try to lessen the frequency of them were mere illusions, the epiphenomena of evolution with no foundation within themselves.  That was something she got from reading what was being said, not out of any ignorance.

Her predictions of what would come about if Darwin's ideas on morals became generally held are borne out by subsequent history.  That prediction is something she shares with William Jennings Bryan, only she was writing more than a half-century earlier than he was.  Darwin's dismissal of her, which I pointed out in my post yesterday,  is absurd, given what he was saying in the book, proven to be so by what happened when a society was ruled by Darwinian precepts.  Even today, the ultra-Darwinist, Richard Dawkins,  has had to downplay the societal consequences of  Darwinian amorality, explicitly saying that a society ruled by Darwinian principles would be a horrible place to live in, that he wouldn't want to live in one and that we don't have to*.  You can contrast that with what Darwin and many of his disciples, even today, say about the inevitability of natural selection, its inescapable nature overriding human reason and morality.  That is the basis of eugenics.  Only, as Cobbe also showed, Dawkins' kind of utilitarian lite means of avoiding that is entirely inadequate.  Given her predictive abilities and insight gained, no doubt, by her fully facing a more nearly Darwinian-Malthusian society, I'd trust her on that point over Dawkins.

Frances Power Cobbe wasn't your stereotypical Victorian prude.  She was a feminist and, apparently, a lesbian who considered herself to be married to another sufferage activist, Mary Lloyd.  The extent to which their relationship was a physical one was, apparently, kept private between the two of them but, if you followed that last link, you will see their marriage was openly known AND you will read that she knew Charles Darwin.  I haven't been able to look at primary documents but other things I've read said that she met the Darwins and Emma, Charles' wife was quite taken with her.  Another thing I read said that Charles Darwin broke with her when Cobbe published an excerpt** from a letter he had sent her without his permission.  I don't know what that letter concerned, her suffrage, anti-vivisection or other activities.  Or if it dealt with natural selection.  The extent to which Darwin might have seen her marriage with Lloyd as sexual, of her as being a lesbian would be interesting to know.  Despite all of the things he wrote about sex,  in his letters Darwin comes off as pretty prudish about sex, preferring the prospects of bloody struggle to birth control because if women could have sex without worrying about pregnancy they might enjoy it and become promiscuous, more about that next week.

What I've read of her writings the past two weeks, "Miss Cobbe" was anything but an insignificant and ignorant critic of Darwin.  She obviously read and understood the background material quite comprehensively, at least what was available in English.  It's a kind of scholarship she brought to her other critical writing, even on the topic of religion, in which she also seems to have been anything but conservative.  She was not troubled by the idea of evolution, early in her essay, she shows she is informed and the idea doesn't seem to much bother her.  She, unlike many scientists, took the experience and suffering of animals seriously.  That would indicate that she saw real and significant bonds between human beings and other animals.  She did have the strongest problem with the idea of natural selection as a prescription for human behavior and the destruction of morality that Darwin's strongest supporters, those whose understanding of him, he confirms, were already  promulgating.  Since Darwin knew her and she was famously outspoken, he must have realized she was not an ignorant or superficial critic.  His dismissal was, I'd have to say, him exercising his male privilege because he had no real answer to her arguments.  He couldn't because she could cite him and his closest circle to refute them.  And he would have known that, which is why he had to try to make her seem ridiculous or insignificant.  

Note:  The issue of women according to Darwinism is one that could fill another series.  I haven't dealt with it here but I have read some of the contemporary criticism of Darwin's theory regarding women, all of that from women.  I may get around to writing on that in the future.

I am very comfortable with the idea that we can override biology with free will. Indeed, I encourage people all the time to do it. Much of the message of my first book, "The Selfish Gene," was that we must understand what it means to be a gene machine, what it means to be programmed by genes, so that we are better equipped to escape, so that we are better equipped to use our big brains, use our conscience intelligence, to depart from the dictates of the selfish genes and to build for ourselves a new kind of life which as far as I am concerned the more un-Darwinian it is the better, because the Darwinian world in which our ancestors were selected is a very unpleasant world. Nature really is red in tooth and claw. And when we sit down together to argue out and discuss and decide upon how we want to run our societies, I think we should hold up Darwinism as an awful warning for how we should not organize our societies.

**  I would be interested if anyone has looked at Darwin's practice in citing other peoples' letters were.  He seems to have had no problem doing so in private correspondence, I doubt that he always sought permission to do so, and not in full.  His son, Francis, in publishing his father's letters after his death, did what Cobbe apparently did.

Update:  Rereading this, Cobbe's analysis of Greg's article, subverting his eugenics argument to point out the inadequacy of the theory of natural selection to explain human society,  was rather ingenious.   It is gratifying to see her getting a bit of hers back in her description of it.  Or at least that's how it feels, having read Greg's article in all its pretty disgusting,  bigoted contortions.   Her having lived in Ireland and, having seen the famine's results more closely than Greg or Darwin had, I can only imagine what she must have thought of their bigotry on that point.

Update 2:   I found this, containing some of what Frances Cobbe had to say about her relationship with Darwin.  According to her it was Darwin's and her disagreement over vivisection that led to their falling out.  She specifically notes that she sent her review to Darwin for review and posts some of his response.  Considering how he characterized it in his book, I'm surprised they didn't fall out of that.