Saturday, October 17, 2015

Case Closed

Looking at various comments in the overnight hate mail, it's clear that there is a book that really needs to be written, one which I don't have the resources or time to write but one which is really necessary.  The genealogy of the post-war eugenics-free Darwin myth would be really useful for showing how a blatantly obvious lie could be sold to the so-called educated public of the English speaking world when its refutation was still known to so many who had grown up and been educated before the Second World War.  Not only that but the absolute refutation of that lie is absolutely known and from the most unimpeachable of sources.

As I have written here before, the identification of Charles Darwin's natural selection as published in his book On the Origin of Species as the inspiration of eugenics was made by the man who invented eugenics, the eminent scientific polymath, Francis Galton.   He said so in the most unambiguous manner in Chapter XX of his memoir.

THE publication in 1859 of the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin made a marked epoch in my own mental development, as it did in that of human thought generally. Its effect was to demolish a multitude of dogmatic barriers by a single stroke, and to arouse a spirit of rebellion against all ancient authorities whose positive and unauthenticated statements were contradicted by modern science… 
... I was encouraged by the new views to pursue many inquiries which had long interested me, and which clustered round the central topics of Heredity and the possible improvement of the Human Race.

If you think I pulled a fast one with the ellipsis, go read it for yourself.  In fact, unlike my opponents, I really, very much want everyone to read Francis Galton, Charles Darwin, Ernst Haeckel,  Darwin's family and associates, fully and not in opportunistically clipped form.   And I want them to be read, not as if they were writing texts full of literary devices such as metaphor and veiled meaning but as the straight-forward scientific texts they claimed to be writing.

No one but Francis Galton could identify the origin of eugenics and what inspired its invention, by him*.  Once he made that identification as his cousin's book, that sealed the case for the unalterable relationship between Charles Darwin, natural selection and eugenics.   Eugenics would have no motivating principle were it not for natural selection, in each and every case when some manner of eugenics was proposed, from the 1870s down to today, the idea of natural selection being disrupted in some manner, allowing those of lesser "fitness" to live and reproduce, leading to the general degradation of the human population is the logical (though far from evidenced) foundation of eugenics.

Given the history of eugenics, how various political and philosophical ideologies have adopted the idea in different variations,  I hold that there is a very strong reason to believe that as long as natural selection is the governing dogma of evolutionary biology it can be expected that eugenics proposals will be made.   Considering the rapidity with which those became malignant, violating many of the most basic rights of many and all of the rights of many more, there is no reason to expect that future proposals for eugenics won't include those if not worse ideas, carried out with increased effectiveness due to computers.  The Nazis used tabulation devices in their round-up of those they deemed "unfit", a computerized genocide would certainly be far more scientifically efficient.

So, right there, in absolutely irrefutable terms, we have the inventor telling us that Charles Darwin and his natural selection were the inspiration of eugenics.   Case closed.

But Francis Galton also gave us the first of many pieces of information to prove that Charles Darwin, having read Galton's eugenic ideas, expressed as an extension of Darwin's natural selection, approved of what he saw.   Galton published Charles Darwin's letter saying that, here with Galton's prefatory remarks:

Hereditary Genius made its mark at the time, though subjected to much criticism, no small part of which was captious or shallow, and therefore unimportant. The verdict which I most eagerly waited for was that of Charles Darwin, whom I ranked far above all other authorities on such a matter. His letter, given below, made me most happy. 


3rd December

"MY DEAR GALTON,--I have only read about 50 pages of your book (to Judges), but I must exhale myself, else something will go wrong in my inside. I do not think I ever in all my life read anything more interesting and original--and how Well and clearly you put every point! George, who has finished the book, and who expressed himself in just the same terms, tells me that the earlier chapters are nothing in interest to the later ones! It will take me some time to get to these latter chapters, as it is read aloud to me by my wife, who is also much interested. You have made a convert of an opponent in one sense, for I have always maintained that, excepting fools, men did not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work; and I still think this is an eminently important difference. I congratulate you on producing what I am convinced will prove a memorable work. I look forward with intense interest to each reading, but it sets me thinking so much that I find it very hard work; but that is wholly the fault of my brain and not of your beautifully clear style.--Yours most sincerely,

(Signed) "CH. DARWIN"

Note that George Darwin, Charles Darwin's son, finished the book before he did and was quite enthusiastic about it, the same George Darwin who shortly after wrote a magazine article proposing, in light of his father's theory and cousin Galton's research that they start changing the marriage laws to control who could and who couldn't have children, the very essence of involuntary eugenics.  And that when George Darwin's proposal was criticized, his father supported his son's outrageous proposals.

I have pointed out, over and over again, that there is absolutely no evidence, whatsoever, that Charles Darwin disapproved of Francis Galton's or his sons' eugenic assertions, extensions of his own theory of natural selection.  The plain fact, as plain as anyone reading his second major work on evolution, The Descent of Man, repeatedly faces as Charles Darwin, over and over again, not only states the premises of eugenics as hard science but does so while citing Francis Galton's very book and early articles on the topic.   And that is not to mention the far more and plainly proto-Nazi statements of Ernst Haeckel in his book,  Natürliche schöpfungsgeschichte, translated by Darwin's friend and associate, Ray Lankster as "The History of Creation", including assertions of  the scientific ranking and classification of ethnic and racial groups in a hierarchy of fitness (guess which ones are lower and who is at the top) , the benefits of killing the disabled and the extinction of various, named ethic and racial groups.   All of which Charles Darwin endorsed as hard science, with the citation of Haeckel, in The Descent of Man.

Again, please, don't take my word for it, read Darwin's text, in full and not in cherry picked, quote mined snippets but as found in full, from many neutral and Darwin friendly sources online.   Look at his citations and read what it was he endorsed as science before he died in 1882.  Just about all of them are available online, in unaltered reproductions of the originals, in most cases.

One of the things you gain an appreciation of as you reach old age is how short a period of thirty, fifty, even seventy years can seem when looking back whereas  looking forward it looks like a long time.   There isn't that long a time between Darwin and 1939,   There are 68 years which separate the first publication of The Descent of Man and the beginning of the Nazi genocide.  For most of that time and all of the end of it, Charles Darwin's natural selection was the predominant theory influencing the thinking on those matters which the eugenicists dealt with.  And that includes the Nazi eugenics laws and program which put the ideas of Ernst Haeckel which Darwin endorsed into terms of political and social policy.  If you think that is an outrageous statement, read what Darwin says about the benefits to the survivors and increased fitness of the population from things like infanticide, allowing the "weaker members" of the human population die and of the eventual extinction of unnamed, though implied, ethnic groups and some named ones, citing Ernst Haeckel, in German on every single one which I can recall looking up.  

It took the most appalling ignorance of what Darwin, Galton, Haeckel, Darwin's family and his colleagues said, what they wrote as science and serious public discourse to sell the lie that Charles Darwin had nothing to do with eugenics, Social Darwinism and the applications of those in various countries, including Germany, beginning in the period when the Nazis passed the first German eugenics laws and began preparations to begin with the murder of the unfit, a list which includes many of those on the list that Haeckel drew up in the 1870s.   And it also took the silence of many scientists who were alive during the previous decades who knew very well that natural selection and the thinking of Darwin and Darwinists was the root of eugenics.  Yet, today, among the self-defined champions of evidence, truth and unflinching reality, it is a piously believed article of faith that Charles Darwin had nothing to do with any of it.

I think there is a lot to be learned from how that whopper of a lie became the common and insisted on dogma of the so-called educated class.  The speed with which it was imposed as the de rigueur line of thinking might give us some clues as to how easy it is to sell a lie to even those most proud of their modern, scientific way of thinking.  I'm not convinced they aren't as easy to sell on a big lie as those they love to look down on, so disdainfully.

*  I will remind you that that is eugenics in the English language,  Leonard Darwin, who was both an expert in his fathers' thinking and a witness to the entire history of active eugenics, noted that in Germany, organized eugenics was begun by Willhelm Schallmeyer before he had read Galton.  He noted that Schallmeyer, like Galton was inspired by his reading of Origin of Species.


  1. The whole issue of Buck v. Bell was not marriage, but reproduction. Darwin said:

    "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."

    And the brighter lights of many a state legislature in America in the early 20th century (where the more things change, the more they remain the same, right down to the century mark), realized that marriage was no prerequisite to reproduction, and said: "Hey! We CAN do something about that!"

    And so they did.


  2. It's also revanchist revisionism of history to claim Darwin and eugenics have no connection whatsoever.

    Until the Nazis gave eugenics a bad name, nobody thought ill of it. And it's telling that Gene Roddenberry, of the WWII generation, imagined Eugenics Wars sometime in the future.

    He grew up in the time when eugenics was still championed, even as it was being destroyed by the Nazis. We see it as such a shibboleth we can't imagine any thinking person ever considered it more than junk science and quackery; Roddenberry had a very different experience with it, and feared it.

    I wonder if our failure to fear it as much will bring about unintended consequences.

    1. The history of eugenics in the post-war period proves it's anything but dead. Both Watson and Crick ( the Penn and Teller of modern biology) were eugenicists, as were a number of other prominent figures in science, many of them Nobel laureates, infamously William Schockley, less infamously others, such as Crick. Many retained their eugenics such as R. A. Fisher and Charles Galton Darwin, the son of George Darwin, the grandson of Charles Darwin. I believe Francis Galton was his god-father, which strikes me as odd because Galton wasn't especially friendly to Christianity or religion. I suspect George Darwin was an atheist.

      I think that as long as natural selection is the central dogma of evolutionary biology, eugenics will arise, again and again, even its supposed benign forms evolving into its more and perhaps most vicious forms. Which makes this an important issue.

      Though the way in which such an obvious lie was sold to the educated class of the English speaking world is, also, a phenomenon that interests me greatly. It's not the only required myth among that myth-deriding class. It also interests me that, though they are wrong about the fact of evolution, the despised creationists are generally far more accurate on the question of Charles Darwin's eugenics.

    2. Racism and eugenics, of course, walk hand in hand; and the former seems to be as popular today as it was in my childhood.