Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Corrupt Legacy of Galton And It's Propagation as Science Through Selectively Framing Arguments

Rereading the chapter in Francis Galton's memoir which deals with his development of eugenics it is pretty astonishing how bad his scientific methodology was and how illogical the analysis of his data as revealing anything about the general human population was.   I mentioned him studying the entirely artificial and highly selected sample of those who attended the all male, largely aristocratic Cambridge University in the early to mid 19th century.   Another of his samples were the self-selected, highly placed members of The Royal Society, all male, I believe.  His own description of another of his data gathering techniques has so many red flags as to its unsuitability that it is stunning how someone with only a modest ability to think logically couldn't have noticed the results couldn't possibly result in any reliability such as physics and chemistry achieved by studying much simpler phenomena.

The dearth of information about the transmission of Qualities among all the members of a family during two, three, or more generations, induced me in 1884-85 to offer a sum of 500 pounds in prizes to those who most successfully filled up an elaborate list of questions concerning their own families. The questions were contained in a thin quarto volume of several pages, printed and procurable at Macmillan's, cost price, which referred to the Grandparents, Parents, Brothers, Sisters, and Children, with spaces for more distant relatives. A promise was given, and scrupulously kept, that they should be used for statistical purposes only. My offer had a goodly response, and the names of the prizewinners were duly published in the newspapers. I was much indebted, when devising the programme and other prefatory details, both to Professor Allman (1812-1898), the biologist, and to my old friend at King's College, Mr. (afterwards Sir) John Simon. The material afforded by the answers proved of considerable importance, and formed the basis of much of my future work. I had it extracted in a statistical form, in considerable detail, Which was of much value to Professor Karl Pearson at the outset of his inquiries, before he had been able to collect better and much more numerous data of his own. It will be convenient to defer speaking of the results of all this until the last chapter.

All of these studies, made in the early stages of the development of eugenics, used by other scientists, including Charles Darwin as evidence to support the application of natural selection to the study of the human population are, and there's no other honest way to put this, trash.   They are junk, the results couldn't possibly even allow you to come to any scientific conclusions about the people of Britain, England or even London.   And, the mention of Karl Pearson collecting "better and much more numerous data" does nothing to mitigate the problems arising from the wretched quality of these methods of information gathering.   That in none of the literature from Darwin, Haeckel, and others in the first generation of Darwinists does anything but accept the results of Galton's studies as reliable science, that none of these giants of biological science noticed the problems of extending those results to the entire human population and, in fact, use the unreliable results arising from entirely  artificial conditions in highly atypical human groups and societies as evidence of alleged natural selection in the entire, world wide biome for the entire history of life, is about as problematic as anything that has ever been done in the history of academic study.

There is nothing about even the general population of Britain that is enough like that of people living in other countries,  under other laws governing inheritance of property, social status, access to the necessities of life and the protection of those by law and by force of arms in the form of police, military and other forms of united enforcement of those laws and customs, to make even valid general conclusion drawn from data on them applicable to other people.  The British class system, enforced inequality and disparity in life circumstances and opportunities, adds another and decisive series of artificial conditions that make any general statement covering the entire British population impossible.   That, alone would have made the task of coming up with coherently generalized statements about people as if they were wild animals impossible.  In nature there are no enforced property rights of inheritance, there are no laws protecting the property of animals, not even food and access to water.   The offspring of lions who are merely smaller than other lions don't automatically get to inherit a fortune and get put down for a prestigious public school if not an elite university at birth, they are driven off to fend for themselves.  And that's only one example of the complete difference made by human laws, which are hardly the same the world-round and for all times.  You can't even come up with generalized statements on most relevant aspects of human life that would be decisive in how many children who leaves due to the differences in property laws and customs, laws that artificially assign ownership and rights on an entirely unnatural and quite different laws.   Darwin, himself, showed that he was willing to grant major exceptions to natural selection to the lesser sons* of the aristocracy, exceptions he was entirely unwilling to grant, generally and, typically British, most harshly, to the poor.   But also those who he held were ethnically depraved (the Irish) or racially inferior (a large number of named non-white ethnic groups).

Having recently been very critical of Karl Marx I will note that his second analysis of Darwin's natural selection was accurate, it does, in fact, attempt to find the British class system as a general law of nature.  His first analysis was that Darwinism was useful to his materialistic view of the universe.  That is, I think, the primary reason that natural selection was exempted from much of the rigorous criticism that it should have been subjected to for the past century and a half.

The British class system and similar systems of legal, political and economic inequality are so much a part of the thinking of Darwin and his audience of generally elite men who grew up as favored members of those systems that I doubt they were capable of seeing problems with it anymore than they were with the glaring problems of Galton's methodology.  I am absolutely certain that the acceptance and promtion of eugenics was entirely due to the interests of the rich in promoting science that supported their wealth and power**  I suspect that his membership within that same elite may well have led to them overlooking the inadequacy of what he did and the absurdity of the claim that his conclusions were applicable to the entire human population. The incident of St. John Mivert objecting to George Darwin's absurd and unfounded eugenic proposals to invade the privacy of married couples and strip them of their rights of choice, led to the circling of the wagons in the Darwin camp and to launch attacks to damage him professionally.   It wasn't science open to all challenges, certainly.

I have mentioned before that I was hardly the first person to notice this problem with the kind of thinking Darwin sold, purported to be the greatest idea in science, by Darwinists.   The observation of that was even earlier than The Origin of Species, made by a non-scientist,  William Cobbett in his critique of Darwin's inspiration, Malthus.  What he said about the lapses in observation based on habits of thought among men of science is certainly true of Galton and the scientists who took his junk science as reliable.

The audacious and merciless MALTHUS (a parson of the church establishment) recommended, some years ago, the passing of a law to put an end to the giving of parish relief, though he recommended no law to put an end to the enormous taxes paid by poor people. In his book he said, that the poor should be left to the law of Nature, which, in case of their having nothing to buy food with, doomed them to starve. They would ask nothing better than to be left to the law of Nature; that law which knows nothing about buying food or any thing else; that law which bids the hungry and the naked take food and raiment wherever they find it best and nearest at hand; that law which awards all possessions to the strongest; that law the operations of which would clear out the London meat-markets and the drapers' and jewellers' shops in about half an hour: to this law the parson wished the parliament to leave the poorest of the working people; but, if the parliament had done it, it would have been quickly seen, that this law was far from 'dooming them to be starved.'

The same habits of thought, the same unadmitted biases that privileged people practice are still with us today.  And the privileges being protected can sometimes seem quite modest.  Nothing about claiming the methods and rigor of science exempts the people doing that from taking advantage of commonly held interests.  Eventually some of those will be held up to a more critical light, often not on the basis of scientific rigor.  In the case of eugenics it took the crimes of the Nazis being revealed and even with that most exigent of lessons of history,  it wasn't even twenty-five years that scientists - both those on the right and the left - were asserting exactly the same kinds things, citing exactly the same junk science that led to those crimes in order to promote scientific racism and proposing coercive and absolute violations of privacy, by law, using the prestige of natural selection as their reason.

- Early in the 1960s the American geneticist Hermann Muller, a Nobel laureate, proposed collecting sperm from men with outstanding qualities such as high intelligence and altruism, and then seeking out women of intelligence and good health as recipients. Although he died before it opened, the Hermann J. Muller Reposi tory for Germinal Choice was established in 1971 and initially accepted sperm exclusively from Nobel Prize-winning scientists, only a few of whom publicly acknowledged their donations. The “sperm bank” went Clout of existence last year, leaving no public indication of how many artificial fertilizations actually took place.

And outrageously intrusively

-  Amid the exciting progress being made in molecular genetics, conflicting voices were heard among the scientists involved. Nobel laureate Linus Pauling, the scientist responsible for one of the earliest identifications of the molecular basis of a genetic disease (sickle cell anemia), in 1968 urged compulsory screening for defective genes before marriage. He suggested some form of visible display—such as forehead tattoos—to prevent the mating of two carriers of a defective gene.

Remember, that Pauling, considered with some justification to be a hero of liberalism, came up with this proposal for a modern scarlet letter on the basis of genetics and statistical probabilities.  While those bases may be less unreliable than those asserted in the typical neo-eugenics of evolutionary psychology, the proposal would be an absolute violation of rights, an analysis that Pauling was certainly capable of comprehending.  Apparently he was blinded by science to the nature of what he was proposing.

Even earlier, in the book The Next Million Years written seven years after the liberation of the death camps and the ending of the Nazi system of eugenic murder, Charles Galton Darwin, the son of the early proponent of eugenic violation of right, George Darwin, the grandson of Charles Darwin, Cambridge graduate and professor in physics and member of the Eugenics Society,*** bemoaned the impossibility of instituting strict eugenics laws in the current political atmosphere, predicting the catastrophic dysgenesis of allowing the poor to breed that his grandfather, as well, predicted if too many of the poor lived till adulthood.   He, after seeing how the revelations of applied genetics in Germany put a dent in the effort, took a pessimistic view of the future which he was certain depended on the extent to which scientists were allowed to manage the human population.  Many of his more outrageous statements have been quoted but for this post, this passage from his book is extremely revealing of both the unconsidered dependence of his argument on artificial exigencies of academic thinking and its illogical assertions, even those that undermine the case his grandfather made for natural selection using exactly the analogy with human animal husbandry and animals in the wild that he rejects here.  I am amazed that Charles Galton Darwin doesn't even seem to realize what he's doing as he says it.

Man - A Wild Animal

In the past two chapters I have examined different aspects of the nature of man.  In the first he was regarded just like any other species of wild animal, while in the second some of his social qualities were considered, which might not be regarded as those of a wild animal.  Civilization might, loosely speaking, be counted as a sort of domestication, in that it imposes on man conditions not at all typical of wild life.  It might then at least be argued that it is a false analogy to compare man to a wild animal, but that he should rather be compared to one which has been domesticated.  I shall maintain that this analogy would be false, and that man is and will always continue to be essentially a wild and not a tame animal. 

Before coming to this main theme it is important to notice that, if it were admissible to regard man as a domesticated animal, the whole time-scale of history would have to be radically altered.  Thus though the geological evidence shows that it takes a million years to make a new wild species, we know that the various domesticated animals have been created in a much shorter time.  For example, the ancestors of the grey-hound and the bulldog often thousand hears ago would probably have been indistinguishable, of then man's characteristics could be similarly remolded in so short a time, the whole future of history  might be radically different.

The entire argument boils down to it being unadmissable because it doesn't suit Charles Galton Darwin's purposes and those of like-minded people.  That the enormous edifice of human culture is to be ignored, even as its influence can't but radically undermine any possible assertion of analogy between human being in their known history and animals living in the wild.  Especially using the dissimilarity between modern dogs and their more nearly wild ancestors to incoherently attempt to make that case.   I don't think there is any more resonant example of the kind of dishonest double-talk acceptable as reliable science than this.  To suit his eugenics and the structure of practices set up by his grandfather and his godfather (Francis Galton) the obvious facts that any analysis of human beings living in the artificial conditions of human societies, under human laws, is to be disregarded as unimportant.   That is an assertion and the practice that I've found just about every time I have read anything asserting the relevance of natural selection to human beings and the obvious reason that it will always, eventually, be a disaster.  His confidence that he can use such clearly dishonest, even incoherent and self-undermining arguments to discern the future is unfounded, arrogant and absurd.

*  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.

I have not come across any critique of this passage made by any Darwinist, though it is a plain and obvious example of class privilege flummery  which, in the book, comes right after Darwin asserted the most harsh view of the poor imaginable, including complaints that the Victorian work houses kept a dangerously high number of poor children alive to reach adulthood and that their vaccination would  bring down the human species.

**  This article from The Galton Institute is interesting reading.

An intriguing feature of the eugenics movement was the support given to it by wealthy patrons.1 This raises questions of how much influence money can buy, and the extent to which the opinions of ordinary people can be modified by the wealthy. In Britain, the Eugenics Education Society was “baled out” by donations from wealthy supporters in the early 1920s.  The Society and its successor, the Eugenics Society, received its largest donations from Henry Twitchin, his bequest particularly financing the Society’s expanded operations in the 1930s.

Similar observation about the support of American eugenics could be made with other names of other millionaires substituted.

It's typical of this kind of thing that the question of how much influence money can buy and the extent to which the opinions of scientists modified by it would seem to be entirely relevant but never mentioned.

***  The article is a revelation in how little the thinking of those who buy eugenics has been informed by modern history and even more recent science.  I would encourage you to read it.  I don't see a date on the article but the citations go to at least 2001, so I would guess the thinking it represents is still around.   If nothing else, it is proof that the Darwins certainly saw eugenics as being a continuation of Charles Darwin's work,  a convincing if not conclusive disproof of the post-war attempt to white wash his part in producing it.


  1. The Salon article about forced sterilization being offered as the basis for a plea bargain or release from prison: it was all aimed at poor women.

    The problem was not so much their mental capacity (although in some cases that was alleged), as it was removing them from welfare rolls by preventing them from having any more children.

    Same as it ever was.

  2. By the way, you'll find this interesting: