Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter Vigil

The year before she died, our mother and I watched some Youtubes of liturgies of various Orthodox and Catholic churches, those in communion with Rome and those not in communion with Rome.  I'd started listening to them out of curiosity about different chant traditions.   I showed them to her when I noticed how, even though I had no idea what was being said in languages I had absolutely no knowledge of, I could figure out parts of the liturgy that corresponded to the familiar Catholic mass.  I knew from reading Willi Apel's and others books about Gregorian Chant that a lot of the parts of that liturgy were very ancient but didn't really appreciate how true that was before watching those videos from Orthodox congregations in Europe, Asia Africa, and North America singing in Syriac, Old Slavonic, various other Eastern European, Asian and African languages, some modern, some in old languages used for nothing but the liturgy.  Around the world, in places as unexpected (to me) as Korea where I hadn't known there were Orthodox Christians.

Our mother was as surprised as I was to be able to figure out what was going on at times, even in the expected order during the liturgy,  even though she had no more understanding of the languages than I did.   You don't usually expect to be moved in that way by watching Youtubes but it was quite an amazing experience.   The depth of connection to people we didn't even know existed, though that commonality was, perhaps, something of a mystical experience.  And the sense of connection can go much farther and much deeper than that, in the present time and for all time.

The modern Catholic Easter Vigil liturgy, full of texts from the Jewish scriptures, is the deepest and most comprehensive liturgy of the entire year.   Beginning with the lighting of a new fire and its spread on candles through the congregation, the recitation of the the Bible story of creation, the story of Abraham and Isaac, The call to Moses and the liberation of the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, though the prophets and their radical vision of justice based on the equal status of all people to baptism - the baptism of new Christians is one of the most ancient of all Pascal practices - to the account of the Resurrection of Jesus, this year from the earliest and most plain spoken of the Gospels, Mark.   I can't be there but I can read the texts and I can remember and think about what it means.

 Easter Vigil is the first time since the beginning of Lent when the word "Alleluia" appears in the liturgy, chanted three times before the gospel is read.   Maybe you have to have been raised in a Church with that tradition but it's one of the most deeply emotional experiences there are, one many during this liturgy. So, that's how I'll end.  Alleluia.

Suspension of Disbelief: The Failure of Skepticism in the face of Science Another Response

If you are going to insist on asserting "behaviors being evolved", on them being "an adaptation" or, most abbreviated and often most clueless of all "it's in the DNA"  then you are claiming that whatever "it" it is you're talking about resulted in someone who had "it" having more children than someone who didn't have "it".   That production of a larger percentage of offspring in a population is the basis of natural selection.

If you don't actually SEE A BEHAVIOR and you don't KNOW HOW MANY CHILDREN THEY HAD WHO DID THE BEHAVIOR and how many of THEIR CHILDREN DID IT you don't have any actual knowledge to back up your contention that "it" was 1. a positive adaptation, 2. inherited as a positive adaptation.

Any assertion to that effect made, even by the ex-Oxford based Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science on Fresh Air, is nothing more than a story purported to be science, based on self-serving speculations of the most obvious kind.   THEY ARE BASED ON NOTHING EXCEPT THE DESIRES OF SAID SCIENTIST THAT THEY BE TRUE.   They may seem plausible but that is only through their skill as a story teller, it isn't based on any actual observation from nature, any actual counting of offspring or any real connection made between the unseen "behavior" and the uncounted "offspring" not least of all because ALL OF THE INDIVIDUALS IN THE STORY AND THEIR "BEHAVIORS" ARE ENTIRELY MADE UP.  

One of the convenient features of story telling is that you can come up with stories that hold together in the imagination  and even simulate some reality about even the most unrealistic animals found nowhere in nature and even fictional environments and even universes that seem plausible merely on the basis of internal consistency.  That isn't any unknown aberration of diseased thinking, it is the near universal reality taken advantage of by even realistic playwrights and novelists.  And it isn't something our modern, sciency, cynical age has surpassed.    I can promise you, if you go to  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter ™ that the flying and the magic are not real.   I can't guarantee you that the organisms and their behaviors in any evo-psy creation fable are any more real and neither can the most well credentialed scientist who makes those up.

In the case of Daniel Dennett, his  witheven more baseless speculations, are even more apt to the comparison I just made, yet he has parleyed such stuff into him being Co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies, the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, and a University Professor at Tufts University.  And, more importantly, a frequent guest on the chat shows.*

That is a pattern which has been a feature of natural selection from the beginning of it, stories invented out of nothing which were then successfully passed off as science, proving in some cases, such as eugenics, that it is an extremely dangerous practice which, at the very least, should never be accepted as any more than what it is.

The stories told about Carrie Buck's feeble mindedness and that of her daughter were entirely false, carried merely by the authority of the eugenicists telling it through court cases up and to the Supreme Court where supposedly the keenest of minds trained in the truth testing skills of the law bought it.  Those stories were sold to that august body largely through the repute of Darwinism among the educated class who, clearly, didn't really understand it.   Cleary, the social prejudices of those justices, all of them in the upper class, all of them with university educations, in the case of the famous author of the infamous decision stripping Carrie Buck of her rights, saturated in Darwinism, were all predisposed to suspend their critical faculties and to never actually look at the woman and her child as they were in reality.  And that was a relatively mild form of the violence that resulted from the tales told by scientists using natural selection as the vehicle for their creative story telling.   The success of evolutionary psychology proves we have not progressed in the sophistication of our understanding of it.

The danger of that is best proven by an example I first realized when I read this paragraph from Marilynne Robinson's review of The God Delusion.

The God Delusion has human history and civilization as its subjects, inevitably, considering the pervasiveness of religion. Dawkins dwells particularly on Christianity, since he is most familiar with it, and because its influence is and has been very great. On the one hand, he professes a lingering fondness for the Church of England and regrets that familiarity with the Bible, a great Literature, is in decline. On the other hand, he finds the Old Testament barbarous and abhorrent and the New Testament mawkish and fairly abhorrent as well. His treatment of these texts depends to a striking degree on a “remarkable paper” by John Hartung, an associate professor of anesthesiology and an anthropologist. The paper, titled “Love Thy Neighbor: The Evolution of In- Group Morality,” originally published in 1995, is available on the Web. Dawkins and his wife are thanked in the acknowledgments. Curious readers can form their own impression of its character. A sympathetic review by Hartung of Kevin MacDonald’s A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy, with Diaspora Peoples is also of interest. These are murky waters, the kind toward which Darwinism has often tended to migrate.

I had never heard of John Hartung before but I was certainly familiar with the name, Kevin MacDonald, due to him being the sole witness called by the Holocaust denier, Hitler apologist and crypto-Nazi, David Irving in the lawsuit Irving brought against Deborah Lipstadt.   MacDonald's professional expertise in evolutionary psychology was based on a series of books treating Jews as a subject under the methodology and accepted practices of evolutionary psychology.  Though his books are clearly antisemitism as science, called that by a large number of reviewers outside of evo-psy, promoting some of the same negative stereotypes that earlier anti-Semites used to promote pogroms and, yes, the genocide attempt by Irving's hero, his professional stature within evolutionary psychology didn't suffer one bit, until the trial.

He was made a full professor at  Department of Psychology at California State University, Long Beach the year before his testimony for David Irving, Secretary-Archivist of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society, editor of professional journals, the full scale of positions and honors, even as he was publishing and after he had published the books which made David Irving believe he would be both a friendly witness and useful for his attempt to deny Irving's Holocaust denial and promoting neo-Nazism, the writings that presumably make MacDonald popular with neo-Nazis now.   You can read his professional resume and see for yourself how well that science policed itself.

Since MacDonald made it impossible for his colleagues to overlook the nature of his science - I admit to believing it's  more due to the desire to avoid bad publicity - some further honors may have been withheld.  Though I have read that several of those journals and groups who still publish him and with which he is associated push white supremacy.   I have to ask how those sophisticated readers of him, most of them certainly his academic colleagues and other university educated readers of such books and papers, failed to notice.

And John Hartung's paper mentioned above, such as it is, is still also available, online.  As are a number of others with it, listed under the authority gleaned from the Darwinian phrase, "Struggles for existence" , clearly full of scienceoids (to coin a term that desperately needs coining) in the genera of anti-monotheist, anti-religious invective, passed off by Dawkins as reliable science.

Marilynne Robinson continued, in her review:

Dawkins says,[after Hartung] “I need to call attention to one particularly unpalatable aspect of its [the Bible's] ethical teaching. Christians seldom realize that much of the moral consideration for others which is apparently promoted by both the Old and New Testaments was originally intended to apply only to a narrowly defined in-group. ‘Love thy neighbor’ didn’t mean what we now think it means. It meant only ‘Love another Jew.” As for the New Testament interpretation of the text, “Hartung puts it more bluntly than I dare: ‘Jesus would have turned over in his grave if he had known that Paul would be taking his plan to the pigs.” Pigs being, of course, gentiles.

There are two major objections to be made to this reading. First, the verse quoted here, Leviticus 19:18, does indeed begin, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people,” language that allows a narrow interpretation of the commandment. But Leviticus 19:33–34 says “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. . . . You shall love the alien as yourself.” In light of these verses, it is wrong by Dawkins’s own standards to argue that the ethos of the law does not imply moral consideration for others. (It would be interesting to see the response to a proposal to display this Mosaic law in our courthouses.) Second, Jesus provided a gloss on 19:18, the famous Parable of the Good Samaritan. With specific reference to this verse, a lawyer asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”Jesus tells a story that moves the lawyer to answer that the merciful Samaritan–a non-Jew– embodies the word “neighbor.” That the question would be posed to Jesus, or by Luke, is evidence that the meaning of the law was not obvious or settled in antiquity. In general, Dawkins’s air of genteel familiarity with Scripture, though becoming in one aware as he is of its contributions to the arts, dissipates under the slightest scrutiny.

The intellectual practices of people who believe they embody the very reliability of science, and who are presented in the media and by academia as such, are quite frequently susceptible to dissipating under the slightest scrutiny**.  I've found that in nothing is that made clearer than looking at the speculative assertions of evolutionary psychology and, through my scrutiny of them and associated lore and mythology of neo-atheim, the Darwinists.   For all of these reasons, for their association with some of the darkest periods and practices of the past century and a half, I have come to the conclusion that, instead of a beacon of the Enlightenment which anti-religious commentators made out of the scientific successes of religious people such as Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and others in the exact, observational sciences, they are a recursion to the earlier tradition based on plausible narrative.  But, with the added arrogance that they have the gold standard guarantee of science to back up their creation myths.

*  Despite Joseph Weizenbaum thanking him in the credits of his book, Computer Power and Human Reason, as a "young" philosopher, Dennett didn't learn a thing from Weizenbaum's book.   In talking about what scientists do as they practice science, Weizenbaum said:

He [the scientist] is rather like a theatergoer, who, in order to participate in and understand what is happening on the stage, must for a time pretend to himself that he is witnessing real events.  The scientist must believe his working hypothesis, together with its vast underlying structure of theories and assumptions, even if only for the sake of the argument.  Often the "argument" extends over his entire lifetime.  Gradually he becomes what he at first merely pretended to be:  a true believer.

That is as accurate a description of what this whole thing rests on as could be imagined.

** It's only fair that I point out that David Irving was, before scholars such as Lipstadt exposed him and the libel trial he brought to try to silence his critics, presented as a fine and important historian of the Nazi period.  It is discouraging to read some of the endorsements those writings got from other renowned historians who, obviously, either didn't know German sufficiently well to have the authority they were granted or who just didn't read Irving very carefully.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Urban Myth of Anglo-centrism or Eostre My Ass

It comes around every year as certainly as FOX "news" pushing the "war on Christmas" nonsense, the internet babble about how the "Xians" stole Easter from those poor put upon pagans.  I'm reading it all over the place today so I'm posting this now.  Somehow the "reality community"  thinks that the English invented Easter.   The whole thing centers around the derivation of the English name "Easter" by the Anglo Saxon monk, The Venerable Bede in 725.  From The Reckoning of Time:

Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated "Paschal month", and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.

Apparently that statement is the sole reason that this modern myth arose, no other one, apparently, making that claim.  You wonder why a bunch of "Xian" haters take the word of a Catholic monk for it.   I'm no expert in the minor goddesses of Germanic paganism but the entire issue of Germanic paganism as known in the early 8th century is made moot by the fact that by that time Christians around the Mediterranean had been fighting over the right time to observe the PASCAL TIME for, oh, about 535 years and likely longer.

 Ecclesiastical history preserves the memory of three distinct phases of the dispute regarding the proper time of observing Easter. It will add to clearness if we in the first place state what is certain regarding the date and the nature of these three categories.

First phase

The first was mainly concerned with the lawfulness of celebrating Easter on a weekday. We read in Eusebius (Church History V.23): "A question of no small importance arose at that time [i.e. the time of Pope Victor, about A.D. 190]. The dioceses of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should always be observed as the feast of the life-giving pasch [epi tes tou soteriou Pascha heortes], contending that the fast ought to end on that day, whatever day of the week it might happen to be. However it was not the custom of the churches in the rest of the world to end it at this point, as they observed the practice, which from Apostolic tradition has prevailed to the present time, of terminating the fast on no other day than on that of the Resurrection of our Saviour. Synods and assemblies of bishops were held on this account, and all with one consent through mutual correspondence drew up an ecclesiastical decree that the mystery of the Resurrection of the Lord should be celebrated on no other day but the Sunday and that we should observe the close of the paschal fast on that day only." These words of the Father of Church History, followed by some extracts which he makes from the controversial letters of the time, tell us almost all that we know concerning the paschal controversy in its first stage. A letter of St. Irenæus is among the extracts just referred to, and this shows that the diversity of practice regarding Easter had existed at least from the time of Pope Sixtus (c. 120). Further, Irenaeus states that St. Polycarp, who like the other Asiatics, kept Easter on the fourteenth day of the moon, whatever day of the week that might be, following therein the tradition which he claimed to have derived from St. John the Apostle, came to Rome c. 150 about this very question, but could not be persuaded by Pope Anicetus to relinquish his Quartodeciman observance. Nevertheless he was not debarred from communion with the Roman Church, and St. Irenæus, while condemning the Quartodeciman practice, nevertheless reproaches Pope Victor (c. 189-99) with having excommunicated the Asiatics too precipitately and with not having followed the moderation of his predecessors. The question thus debated was therefore primarily whether Easter was to be kept on a Sunday, or whether Christians should observe the Holy Day of the Jews, the fourteenth of Nisan, which might occur on any day of the week. Those who kept Easter with the Jews were called Quartodecimans or terountes (observants); but even in the time of Pope Victor this usage hardly extended beyond the churches of Asia Minor. After the pope's strong measures the Quartodecimans seem to have gradually dwindled away. Origen in the "Philosophumena" (VIII, xviii) seems to regard them as a mere handful of wrong-headed nonconformists.

The fact is that in the Greek language the far older name for the feast day is "Paskha" apparently from where the Latin "Pascha" comes from, all of which is taken from the Hebrew word for the Passover "Pesach",  all of which pre-date any interaction that Christians are likely to have had with Germanic rabbit worshipers by a considerable time.

Let me take a second to point out that anyone who knows anything about the accounts of the execution and Resurrection of Jesus, would know that it was entirely, intimately and from the beginning related to THE PASSOVER, WHICH HAD ALREADY BEEN SET FROM TIME IMMEMORIAL BY THE 1ST CENTURY.

14 This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall hold a solemn assembly, and on the seventh day a solemn assembly; no work shall be done on those days; only what everyone must eat, that alone may be prepared by you. 17 You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread, for on this very day I brought your companies out of the land of Egypt: you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a perpetual ordinance.
Exodus 12:14-17

The Christian holiday has NOTHING to do with German paganism, it would be more accurate to say that pagan practices polluted the Jewish-Christian holiday.

All of the romance languages I know of derive their name for Easter from the same cognates from the Hebrew.  And even a number of  Germanic tongues, such as Danish (Påske), Swedish (Påsk), and even Icelandic (Páskar) who would seem to have missed the Eostre bandwagon. You'd think that the isolated island that preserved the Sagas and, as my old History of English teacher claimed, a closer affinity with Anglo Saxon than modern English does, would have retained it if anyone would have, but it was likely never there to start with. *

If anyone had a legitimate beef to make over the holiday, it would be the Jews and Jesus and everyone named in the accounts of the event, except a few Romans, were Jews, including Jesus.

But what can you expect, the same people run their own ideological campaigns around Christmas, just like FOX does.

*  Update:  Other than German and English and a few modern descendants of German such as the language of the Pennsylvania Dutch, just about all of the names for Easter in most languages are, clearly, derived from the Hebrew cognate name for the the holiest day of the Christian year.  Some examples, Norwegian (Påske), Scots (Pace),  Welsh (Pasg), and,  Irish Gaelic, (Cáisc) I suspect through a p to hard c consonant shift, though I'm no Irish scholar, much to my shame.  Even the near cousins of English don't share in the "Eostre" stuff showing more affinity in their name for the day to the Hebrew, Flemmish (Poaschn),  Frisian (Peaske).

Tomás Luis de Victoria - Tenebrae facta sunt

The Tallis Scholars

A Response

The quote from Richard Lewontin I began with yesterday is, I think, obviously true if you think honestly about the issues involved in a scientific endeavor in which so much of the information you would need to draw the conclusions you would like to is just simply not available to you and you are unable to observe, measure and analyze that information so as to come up with anything like science.  Only, if you are a scientist, you can, clearly, successfully sell your results as science and few will object to it.

If you can't observe something, and in the question of evolution, other than fossilized remains and other fragmentary information available, the minutest of fractions of the actual process included in our definition of evolution is available, other than the factual information you can glean from what you can observe is rankest speculation.  When it is speculations about "selective forces operating on most genes" which cannot be measured  "because those forces are so weak" what the currently most popular understanding of evolution, evolutionary psychology in the Dawkins style is based in, we are talking about speculations about speculations about speculations.  Lewontin's statement pointed out how thin that branch  on which rests the current understanding of evolutionary science is by comparing it with the status of knowledge about less attenuated speculations.

Worse, there is no way to confirm or reject stories about the selective forces that operated in the past to bring traits to their present state, no matter how strong those forces were. 

Even when the forces are strong, your inability to actually observe the organisms on which they were operating in the lost past means you can't choose between any alternative explanations of what happened.  That is true for many reasons that first came to the attention of many of us with the speculations about "traits" in Sociobiology, what morphed into evolutionary psychology.  In the stories and scenarios of that school of evolutionary speculation, those "traits" are alleged to have survived in a meaningfully similar form across hundreds of millions if not more than a billion years* of evolution through numerous species, not to mention organisms, which have left absolutely no available fossilized trace.  I would guess in a lot of the speculations of that sort, hundreds perhaps thousands of unknown intervening species and an incredible number of unknown individual organisms are passed over as unimportant in the epic generalization and speculation in such "stories" all unobserved, all entirely the product of the imaginations of E. O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins and others making up such stories and scenarios, all of which rely, undeniably on their imaginations informed by the scantiest of information about other, barely related organisms which either live today or which by chance and random events left fossilized remains.  Or, presumably, though unreadable traces of DNA which only proves that it is a reasonable conclusion that there is some physical connection through lines of physical inheritance.  Hardly enough to prove any kind of connection between what an E. O. Wilson will interpret as the motivation in ant behaviors, also the product of his imagination (ants don't tell us what's on their minds) and his desire to make a connection to behavior in modern animals, most resonant for us, human behaviors.  And Wilson was rather modest in his claims compared to some of the evolutionary psychologists who will get on Fresh Air and are quoted by news readers and conservative columnists in the New York Times.

That Lewontin's admissions seem amazing and so unusual should, itself, be a flashing warning sign about the enormous amount of stuff we just take as a given when it should be part of the consideration before we believe something.  It should always be considered by anyone putting their faith in any of the assertions of scientists talking about things they never observed in the lost past and can't adequately observe and measure now, that they are certainly not doing so on the basis of reliable science.   What should have been the clearest of facts about science, that it can't go where accurate observations adequate to base any generalized assertion on and sufficient in quality and detail to quantify them are unavailable should have been included in everyone's science education.  It clearly isn't.  You can, obviously, become a renowned scientist without taking that ground-floor level necessity seriously, you can advance to the top of a career in science at a major university while blatantly ignoring it.

I will note, in passing, that the habit of story-telling was always part of the study of evolution, even before Charles Darwin, even before his grandfather Erasmus, it is something that the atheist conception of the story of life had in common with religious and folkloric explanations.  When you don't have the information you need, if you're going to think up stories about what animals and people might have been like (and it's striking low seldom plants are the feature players in those stories), what they might have done and what might have happened to them you can't do it except through creative imagination.   Darwinists didn't give up story telling, they just told different stories based on their preferences.  They may have been informed by different and, sometimes, superior information than those told outside of science - though often the science relies on other myths pretended to be information -  but they are still made up stories.  The really impressive results of evolutionary science are the ones least based on story telling and most based on physical evidence.  Pretending that the creation myths told by atheists are not myths is a common enough and accepted enough lie but it is a lie.

If a science can't do those things that Lewontin admits that much of the science around the topic of evolution can't do, then, clearly the choices between stories and the creation of those stories have to be based on things other than what gave physical sciences their reliability before some of their scientists, as well, veered off into speculations they allowed themselves to make.   Obviously the prime candidate for many of these people is their materialism, gone from a methodological choice to an ideological faith.  That was, actually and quite explicitly inserted into biology in the generation of Haeckel, Galton and Thomas Huxley, all of whom made speculations of the kind I've been talking about, based on what are clearly ideological and self-serving assertions.  Since many of their fellow scientists shared the same ideological, social and even financial interests of these scientists, they allowed it to happen, I would guess that was as strong a force in quelling critiques which would have greatly reduced the size of the field of evolutionary biology but may have left it with far less speculative underpinnings and a core of much more solid evidence based substance.  That such a substance would have been less useful for making up science fiction and anthropological romances would have been a price, but not a significant one in any serious sense.   It may have failed to capture the popular imagination, as so much of chemistry doesn't, but things don't have to make good stories to be important.

But, I think, a more modest, more careful, more factual evolutionary biology would not have served the purposes of supporting the materialist ideology of the first generation of Darwinists, those who, like Ernst Haeckel attributed to natural selection the confirmation, nay, the "Triumph of materialist monism,"Haeckel's phrase in a book which Charles Darwin endorsed without reservation.  But that goal is certainly not a scientific one, science is entirely unequipped to determine the truth of any ideology, materialistic or religious.  That is another thing which is routinely ignored by scientists who constantly assert the validation of their ideological desires through science.  And perhaps that is a habit ingrained enough in us that if science wants to approach objectivity, it will have to routinely be on guard against materialist ideology as it is against religious ideology. And not only that but also the self-interest of scientists in other areas, professional, financial and political interests, something which is a far larger and more clearly present danger to the integrity of science than any alleged religious infiltration of it.   Religion is the ONE pollutant in science that is successfully guarded against, all of those others mentioned above are routinely inserted into it.  As the history of eugenics proves, the results of failing to keep science on the straight and narrow can have the most disastrous effects in real life, the body count in the tens of millions, perhaps eventually our entire species and perhaps all of life on Earth.

*  Since, if a "trait" were to survive in two very dissimilar species, in different families, perhaps in higher taxonomic categories,  it was through two different lines of inheritance from a common ancestor so I think it's legitimate to multiply the years between us and our common ancestor by two to make this analysis.

Update:   The "speculations about speculations about speculations" are the unspecified percentages speculated about the behaviors speculated to have happened in imagined, unevidenced animals speculated to have been there.  I could have added several more "speculations" to that chain of speculation because once you get out of the range of time known on hard physical evidence and the virtual fraction of a second in evolutionary time for which we have any sound knowledge of behaviors, the entire thing is storytelling and guess work.  But such is the science of evolutionary psychology and most of the story telling around evolution made of.  While, since we know evolution happened and since we know that we know almost nothing about it, the lack of information is frustrating but making stuff up is still making stuff up and the conclusions you draw from that are only as grounded as the legitimate conclusions you can draw from physical evidence allow.  In a complex story of even a very simple behavior, it is entirely ungrounded.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Peter Latona - Mandatum

Choir Of The Basilica Of The National Shrine Of The Immaculate Conception

Peter Latona, Director Of Music and, I believe, the composer

Gary Burton et al - Open Your Eyes You Can Fly


Sometime in the 1970s or 80s with another group


The difference in the solos is quite wonderful.  Note the difference in Steve Swallow's bass solos.

Remember this the next time you hear a mega-rich rock or pop star going through the motions exactly the same way, note for note, inflection for inflection just like they recorded it in way back in the last century.

Antonio Sanchez is quite a drummer but, then, obviously, Gary Burton doesn't work with anyone who isn't great.

Why I Am Not A Darwinist

Though I am certain it was not his purpose in saying it, the eminent geneticist, Richard Lewontin, ever honest, laid out the problem with accepting natural selection as a law of nature or, in fact, accepting it even as a real thing instead of an entirely artificial concept having no more existence in nature than other eventually discarded ideas.  From his introduction to his book "It Ain't Necessarily So."

It is not only in the investigation of human society that the truth is sometimes unavailable.  Natural scientists, in their overweening pride, have come to believe that eventually everything we want to know will be known.  But that is not true.  For some things there is simply not world enough and time.  It may be, given the necessary constraints on time and resources available to the natural sciences, that we will never have more than a rudimentary understanding of the central nervous system.  For other things, especially in biology where so many of the multitude of forces operating are individually so weak, no conceivable technique of observation can measure them.  In evolutionary biology, for example, there is no possibility of measuring the selective forces operating on most genes because those forces are so weak, yet the eventual evolution of the organisms is governed by them.  Worse, there is no way to confirm or reject stories about the selective forces that operated in the past to bring traits to their present state, no matter how strong those forces were.  Over and over, in these essays reproduced here, I have tried to give an impression of the limitations on the possibility of our knowledge.  Science is a social activity carried out by a remarkable, but by no means omnipotent species.  Even the Olympians were limited in their powers.

It is a remarkably frank and honest statement.  One which, I am sure, Lewontin understood both some necessary consequences of and many of the implications that could be drawn from it while remaining entirely within the bounds of reason and honest consideration.  I am not sure if he realized that thinking about what he said could lead someone to the conclusion that natural selection is very likely an illusion, clung to for a variety of reasons, many of those merely ideological but by even responsible biologists out of the desire to have some explanation for how species diverged and the diversity of life we observe came about in evolution.  I'd had increasing doubts about the quality of the theory of natural selection as I read about it more while looking at the disaster of its application through eugenics.  I had realized that it was not much like other established laws of science in physics and chemistry and even some in biology that were based on direct observation of organisms, living and their available corpses (so many of those killed so they could be studied).

As Lewontin said,

"For other things, especially in biology where so many of the multitude of forces operating are individually so weak, no conceivable technique of observation can measure them.  In evolutionary biology, for example, there is no possibility of measuring the selective forces operating on most genes because those forces are so weak, yet the eventual evolution of the organisms is governed by them." 

Those conditions define two of the biggest problems with establishing natural selection as reliable in the ways that the holdings of the physics and chemistry are.   If that were not bad enough, the enormous length of the period that evolution covers, now known to likely be more than three and a half billion years, makes it certain that, by an enormous percentage, the vitally important evidence testing the theory is certainly lost forever and will never be available.   Those trillions and trillions of unavailable organisms which either left or failed to leave offspring, the factors in their lives which determined their reproduction or failure to reproduce, are the very subject which would be necessary to study in order to confirm the existence of natural selection or to come up with better explanations.

It is entirely possible that were even a representative sample of those stupendously many organisms available to study (and there certainly wouldn't be "the time and resources available" for such a study) that a multitude of different forces and factors could be found that are, actually, responsible for the multitude of life around us.   I would bet my last cent that mere chance and random events would be more of a factor than the "fitness" that Darwinism imposes as the universal law governing biology and the required frame through which evolution and biology are to be seen, though there is no way to test that, either.

Other people, including the influential philosopher of science, Karl Popper,  have made other and very serious observations of problems with natural selection as science.  He, I think very reasonably, said that the entire idea was tautological.  I can't recall who said that natural selection actually meant " the survival of the survivors", which is certainly what it boils down to.

Defining "fitness" as mere survival unreasonably assigns a quality to those organisms which left offspring due to mere chance events, events that killed off even genetically identical organisms in perfect health.   An identical twin could be hit by a car, eaten by a predator, a clone fail to thrive by taking root in the shade of a larger plant while its identical twin matured and left surviving offspring.  The mere failure to leave offspring or that success, under natural selection, would impose the quality of "fitness" on merely random events due to mere chance when that quality is entirely irrelevant to the event and its results.  And what you say of identical twins, would be true of other members of a family or group or species who are not identical but otherwise as "fit".

Furthermore, once you begin to include random events, chance events, accidental events and events which are decisive in determining their success in leaving offspring but which have nothing to do with an organism's "fitness" such as which animal a predator notices and chooses to kill, you have to include the liklihood that those would fall equally on the "fitter" as they would the "less fit" who might be "chosen" by mere chance to survive and leave offspring than the "more fit".  By any analysis under natural selection, that mere chance event would be indistinguishable from the idea of natural selection at work weeding out the "unfit" leaving the traits of the "fitter" for propagation into the next and succeeding generations.

And what you can say about the unwarranted imposition of "fitness" on mere chance, could also be true of undiscovered forces and entirely unknown and undefined "things" that were at work, bringing about that diversity over those enormous eons and in that effective infinity of numbers.  If "there is no possibility of measuring the selective forces operating on most genes because those forces are so weak," then it's quite possible that not only are the forces defined by natural selection not there but that there are others that are either not observed or masked by the analysis forced by the universal requirement to see natural selection when you can't observe it is there.   There is, certainly, no means of knowing in any event in the lost, unobservable past, if anything like natural selection is relevant to the outcome.  And over the enormous number of such events, certainly more than one of those possibly determining the success in reproduction of an organism during its life, multiplying the "mere" number or trillions of organisms by a large factor, that means there is no way to determine the strength of natural selection as a factor in the entire phenomenon of evolution over the course of billions of years.   It is quite possible that even if it exists, natural selection may be of effectively no importance and there is no way to determine if that is or is not the case.

Karl Popper, I think rather obviously due to the heat he got for his critique of natural selection, backtracked and recanted his heresy, I think he was right in his critique.   There is no rational case to be made that natural selection is like the laws of physics and chemistry that are formulated through actual observations which are accurately quantified, tested and analyzed, it is actually nothing like those laws.

The bizarre results of the hegemony of natural selection within science has led to numerous hypocrisies, among the greatest of those is the often heard assertion that there is no notion of progress and directed progression in the idea of natural selection.   The refutation of that is found in the earliest documents from Charles Darwin and in those documents written by the first generation of his followers which he endorsed, especially in Haeckel.   Both Darwin and Haeckel made a major point of asserting that the elimination of the less fit would, somehow, lead to a superior stock of organisms, the very basis of Galton's eugenics.   The infamous and double speaking passage predicting a catastrophe for the human species if Victorian levels of aid and healthcare were made available to the poor is among the best known examples disproving the assertion that notions of progress towards a definite direction aren't embedded in the basic fabric of natural selection.

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*.

That passage is full to the top with assertions of progressive development due to the working of natural selection.  The notion that survivors would be "more vigorous" than the population before that selection had effectively changed the species through weeding out traits of the "less vigorous" constitutes a progressive development.   To deny that is the baldest of lies.  Yet its inherently deterministic nature is one that is uncomfortable for the materialism that the most prominent Darwinists held as their basic ideological frame, one which could admit to nothing that couldn't be made compatible with material causation.  Certainly anything that implied design and, so, a designer, had to be suppressed even though it forced a hypocritical denial of the nature of what Darwin, Haeckel, Galton, Huxley, were asserting as they asserted it.   If there is no designer then everything about natural selection, selection being an action by a conscious selector and towards a goal, increased fitness in the population,  is problematic.

Those problems caused by what natural selection is and implies not fitting with the more basic program of its proponents, materialist monism, are many.  One of the other more obvious ones is the division of influences in heredity vulgarly condensed into "nature vs. nurture."   There is this passage from Francis Galton's memoir, right before he disposes of the troublesome issue of free will:

I had long tried to gain some insight into the relative powers of Nature and Nurture, in order that due allowance might be made for Environment, neither too much nor too little, but without finding an adequate method of obtaining it. At length it occurred to me that the after-history of those twins who had been closely alike as children, and were afterwards parted, or who had been originally unlike and afterwards reared together, would supply much of what was wanted. So I inquired in all directions for appropriate cases, and at length obtained a fair supply, on which an article in Frazer's Magazine, Nov. 1875, was written.

It was revised and added to in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute, 1875 [43], and then incorporated into Human Faculty, 1883 (which is now republished in an exceedingly cheap form in" Everyman's Library ").

The evidence was overwhelming that the power of Nature was far stronger than that of Nurture, when the Nurtures of the persons compared were not exceedingly different. It appeared that when twins who had been closely alike had afterwards grown dissimilar, the date of divergence was usually referred to a time when one of them had a serious illness, sufficient to modify his constitution.

While there are many problems with the thinking in this passage, the biggest of those is that under materialism's monist system, there could be no meaningful distinction made between nature and nurture and any intellectual holding that asserted such a difference must be a distortion of the underlying unity that must hold if materialism is to be true.  Nature and nurture would merely be an artificial division of one entity holding any features validly assigned to either category, making them inseparable.   The problems that makes for extracting natural selection (Galton's "nature") out of that unity, assigning it a supreme percentage of its determinitive strength in questions of heredity aren't addressed in anything I've yet come across.  I haven't found it in the foremost advocate of monism among the Darwin inner circle, Haeckel, though his writing is very hard going, very tedious and very prone to being distracted by the horrific conclusions he reaches as an essential result of his Darwinian-materialist system.  He engages in the same discussion that Galton does.  Galton's and Charles Darwin's conclusions are no different, though often phrased more diplomatically, that is proven by Darwin's citations of both Haeckel and Galton in backing his conclusions. 

I have only given the barest of outlines of why the entire thing is burdened with illogical and contradictory features.  I could go much farther on how it became the enforced and habitual mode of thinking about these things when it never should have been.  Out of which its legal and political manifestations in eugenics, horrible social policy enhancing and enforcing inequality, and its most extreme forms in extermination programs arose.  Yet on such a basis millions of people had their most basic rights stripped from them, their right to reproduce, their right to make that determination for themselves, and in the more extreme forms their right to continue living.   Not only people individually but entire groups were deprived of their rights and lives, their extinction held by the most revered of scientists, whose glorification is a requirement of maintaining your respectability in polite society, to be a boon for the human species.

* Note:  I have analysed this passage a number or times, pointing out how Darwin undercut his assertions about "aid which we feel compelled to give" constantly in a way he did not undercut his far stronger and more persuasive predictions of catastrophe".  It is only one of many, many passages in which Darwin asserted the benefits of those he deemed of lesser fitness dying to those who survived them.  Related to those is in his exchange with G. A. Gaskell, giving his reasons for rejecting birth control over the kind of "elimination" by "savages" he credits with the salubrious results he asserts in The Descent of Man.  Darwin's hope for the eventual replacement of other populations around the world with superior British stock is a real revelation of just what he had in mind. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

This Isn't Wittgenstein It's Not Hard To Get: A Response

Domesticated dogs, especially those bred by human beings are TAME ANIMALS.  Animal breeds were developed by HUMAN BEINGS IN THE PERIOD AFTER HUMAN CULTURES AROSE.   They are a product of human culture, no wild animal breeds dogs, selecting them for traits.  Not even our nearest cousins among the apes, not in the evidence left by our nearest hominid ancestors and their cousins.   Charles Galton Darwin's contention is nonsense of a kind that so often accompanies his kind of speculation about such things.

You can't cite an artificial product of modern human culture - different breeds of dogs -  to support your contention that people are "wild animals" using that evidence of decidedly "unwild" human behavior,  much of it within the period of modern history dependent on intellectual practices and cultures, transportation, communications,  heck, language, etc.  which don't appear anywhere in the wild.

Especially as the breeding of dog varieties is often motivated by the necessities brought about by human domestication - taming - of  other species, sheep, cows, etc. chosen with the goal of having dogs more suited to herding those animals - OFTEN IN THE LARGER BREEDS TO PROTECT THEM FROM WILD ANIMALS, INCLUDING THE ANCESTORS OF THOSE DOGS. 

If that flower of the Darwin family had wanted to come up with a worse argument for his contention that people are wild animals, I doubt he could have found one.  This is especially incompetent and hypocritical considering his family heritage from Charles Darwin all of them up to their crowns in the desire of their "meddlesome scientific priestcraft (A.R. Wallace's beautiful description of eugenics) to manage the human population as if it were a herd in a breeding operation based on their entirely not-natural educations and acculturation in modern science.  No wild animal practices science, either.

Update:   Like mind-body dualism, idealism, etc, the contention that human beings are, by any definition, not wild animals, though animals they certainly are, is merely unfashionable, its rejection for the same reasons that those other two are rejected, they are not compatible with materialism.   The necessities of upholding materialism were never a good reason for rejecting any idea, and as these articles concerning eugenics prove, no sound basis for accepting ideas, either.

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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why I've Spent So Much Time On Studying Eugenics

You wonder why the the phenomenon and history of eugenics is so interesting to me.  Considering the amount of time I've spent on it, it's a fair question.   One which has several answers of different gravity.

Most importantly, eugenics was and is one of the more blatant and blatantly hypocritical instances of those with more power violating the most basic rights of people with less power, everything from passively denying them access to goods and services including educational opportunities, to coerced and even forced sterilizations and all the way up to murdering them.

The Nazi eugenics program is not separable from the mass murders of the T4 program and the gassing of those deemed to be unfit in death camps.   They were the creation of the same groups of scientists, engineers and politicians working out of the same basic assumptions, all of them informed by same primitive scientific and concepts of natural selection and genetic fitness.   The evil results in human life that are the real history and existence of eugenics makes it an important thing to understand.  Unless the real nature of the concepts that scientists based it on and their motives are understood we are in serious danger of that history being repeated.  The basic ideas of eugenics are still current in world cultures, taught as science, accepted as facts of nature.   The eagerness with which even the most scientifically illiterate news readers and columnists cling to neo-eugenics, for example, evolutionary psychology, betrays a total lack of understanding of the issues involved mixed with a dangerous faith in even the most clearly illogical ideas that they are allowed to be passed off as science. More about that, later.

That other scientific and economic ideas were part of that is also true.  The pedigree of the most potent of those through the hardly natural, entirely intentional and artificial British class system, in forms such as Malthusian economics bring related points of interest up.

Included in those is the ease and willingness of people with the most obvious interests in class privilege, such as the Darwin inner circle and those who adopted their ideas, to mistake artificial social conditions as universal aspects of nature.  The reductionism involved in asserting that the privileges they enjoy, a result of entirely artificial conditions brought about by aristocrats exerting political and military control over people on the basis of force in the ancient past, are in any way similar to the lives of plants and animals in the wild has an enormous amount to tell us about how even science is not a vaccination against the most obvious and corruptly motivated wishful thinking.

The speed with which eugenics was derived from natural selection is instructive as to how ideas favorable to an elite can be thought up and the corners which any asserted science will be allowed to cut if it favors those with power. That those with such interests were the ones who decided questions of what was allowed as science then and, to a large extent, now, is certainly important to understand.

On the Origin of Species was published in 1859, within the next five years Francis Galton had conceived of using it as a scientific validation of the superior life status of the class of men he and Charles Darwin belonged to.  Of course, Galton never put it in those terms, but I am not going to pretend that his hypothesis and his methods could ever have been expected to produce any other result than the one he got.  I will also not pretend that he was likely to publicize any results he got that undermined the superiority of the class his study favored.  An invalidation of the superiority of the wealthy and powerful would have died, immediately and never would have developed into any alleged science.  His good news for the rich, those who had university degrees and entree into high status professions found the most fertile of ground, the most favorable of environments for it to flourish and propagate in the very class with the power to call it "science" and to fund it.

In order to come up with what would be acceptable in the rather loose definition of evidence that would prove acceptable for his study, Galton used the hardly random group of largely incestuously selected, aristocratic men who were graduates of Cambridge University in what was clearly not a valid representation of the entire human population.  Everything about his study invalidated it as a means of finding alleged universal laws covering the human population, everything about it was obviously rigged to favor an artificial and self-selecting group of men who, among other things, were only too willing to associate themselves with any of the very varied accomplishments and varied virtues of their class mates, perhaps especially those Cambridge men who had never done anything noteworthy.   And in the way of self-confirming bias that is rampant in the history of such science, those results were decisively determinative in how future thought in the matter was to be found acceptable as science.  That is something I strongly suspect was as true for natural selection as it became viewed as the sufficient explanation of the enormously varied, enormously long and vastly numbered organisms, known in only a tiny fraction of relevant examples available to scientists for study in the question of evolution.  I didn't start this study as a skeptic of natural selection, the longer it goes on the more skeptical I am that it is anything more than a conventional and required POV.

Galton published his first articles which he, himself, would later classify as eugenics in 1865, represented as already being scientifically significant.  In fact, Charles Darwin, eight years later, cited them as such in The Descent of Man. Galton published the first major book on the topic in 1869, Hereditary Genius, also cited by Darwin as settled science, three years later.  Eugenics took off with an amazing speed, considering the hardly settled question of the status of natural selection.   In fact, I strongly suspect that the good news for rich men which was eugenics, the validation of the disdain which the rich had for the poor, especially but hardly exclusively in Britain,  and the validation of their being crushed into the misery that the New Poor Law had instituted, was an important factor in the adoption of natural selection as a "law of nature".   It was not universally accepted among scientists until well into the next century even as its offspring, eugenics, was given enormous legal power to oppress people on the basis of race and class.  Even in those countries reputed to be class-free democracies, especially the United States, even in states which very likely had far less support for the theory of evolution than they did for eugenics.

Ironically and surprisingly, the intense British campaign for eugenics, peopled by the elites of everything from the far right to the pseudo-left, was unsuccessful in passing laws due to a combination of Catholic and Labour Party opposition to it.  A number of American states, even those which may well have had majorities opposed to Darwinism, nevertheless made eugenics law and programs which the Nazis would study and use in their justification of theirs. The status of eugenics was strongly related to the strength of the Catholic opposition and its influence.  The first American eugenics law, that of the hardly progressive state of Indiana, was adopted in 1907, twenty-four years after Galton invented the word "eugenics".


Beyond question, the most important reasons to study the history of eugenics is as the scientific motivation it was for mass murder and other violations of human rights on a large scale.   Considering what the eugenicists overcame to do that, in conventional morality and religion, only something with the power provided by the status of science could have done it that quickly.  The importance and relevance of that is that, despite popular belief,  the promotion of eugenics by scientists, academics, journalists and others, didn't disappear with the defeat of the Nazis and the revelation of the extent of their crimes on the basis of applied natural selection.

If you looked closely at the photocopy of the letter posted yesterday in which Charles Davenport announed to Francis Galton the establishment of the Eugenics Records Office, you may have been surprised to see that it was on a letterhead from the American Breeders Association, the group which supported the establishment of organized promotion of eugenics laws in the United States.  If that doesn't make you feel queasy it is probably due to not fully thinking out what happens in a breeding operation.   One of the things which made the artificial selection of livestock breeding so useful to Charles Darwin in promoting the theory of natural selection is that as well as breeders selecting those animals they choose to breed on the basis of "traits" they favor, animals not kept for breeding stock are slaughtered for food or other uses or, in some cases, merely so they won't have to feed, house and otherwise care for them.   Animals not selected for breeding aren't kept as pets.   Growing up among farmers,  I didn't realize that large numbers of even college educated people don't realize that until I wrote my first blog posts on these topics.  Death was always the major force in the concept of natural selection, the "selection" of nature was a selection of which organisms didn't leave offspring mostly because they died.   I am struck at how easily those whose daily business consisted of the raising and killing of animals as commercial material looked at  human beings in a similar way.

The inhibiting force of traditional morality, in its politically effective form as Christianity in most of the west, was all that ever stood between the assumptions included in eugenics and murder.   But, those inhibitions removed by the enlightening power of science and the desire to be modern and up to date, it's rather amazing how freely it was seriously considered as social policy in the Unites States and elsewhere, among, no doubt, affluent and well off members of select committees.

Here are two passages  from The War Against the Weak by Edwin Black.

- In 1911, the leading pioneer eugenicists, supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the American Breeders Association and the Carnegie Institution, met to propound a battle plan to create a master race of white, blond, blue-eyed Americans devoid of undesirables.

Point eight of the Preliminary Report of the Committee of the Eugenic Section of the American Breeders Association to Study and to Report on the Best Practical Means for Cutting Off the Defective Germ-Plasm in the Human Population specified euthanasia as a possibility to be considered. Of course, euthanasia was merely a euphemism—actually a misnomer. Eugenicists did not see euthanasia as a “merciful killing” of those in pain, but rather a “painless killing” of people deemed unworthy of life. The method most whispered about, and publicly denied, but never out of mind, was a “lethal chamber.”

The lethal chamber first emerged in Britain during the Victorian era as a humane means of killing stray dogs and cats. Dr. Benjamin Ward Richardson patented a “Lethal Chamber for the Painless Extinction of Lower Animal Life” in the 1880s. Richardson’s original blueprints showed a large wood- and glass-paneled chamber big enough for a Saint Bernard or several smaller dogs, serviced by a tall slender tank for carbonic acid gas, and a heating apparatus. In 1884 the Battersea Dogs Home in London became one of the first institutions to install the device, and used it continuously with “perfect success” according to a sales proposal at the time. By the turn of the century other charitable animal institutions in England and other European countries were also using the chamber.

This solution for unwanted pets was almost immediately contemplated as a solution for unwanted humans—criminals, the feebleminded and other misfits. The concept of “the lethal chamber” was in common vernacular by the turn of the century. When mentioned, it needed no explanation; everyone understood what it meant.

In 1895, the British novelist Robert Chambers penned his vision of a horrifying world twenty-five years into the future. He wrote of a New York where the elevated trains were dismantled and “the first Government Lethal Chamber was opened on Washington Square.” No explanation of “Government Lethal Chamber” was offered—or necessary. Indeed, the idea of gassing the unwanted became a topic of contemporary chitchat. In 1901, the British author Arnold White, writing in Efficiency and Empire, chastised “flippant people of lazy mind [who] talk lightly of the ‘lethal chamber’…”

- Leaders of the American eugenic establishment also debated lethal chambers and other means of euthanasia. But in America, while the debate began as an argument about death with dignity for the terminally ill or those in excruciating pain, it soon became a palatable eugenic solution. In 1900, the physician W. Duncan McKim published Heredity and Human Progress, asserting, “Heredity is the fundamental cause of human wretchedness… The surest, the simplest, the kindest, and most humane means for preventing reproduction among those whom we deem unworthy of this high privilege [reproduction], is a gentle, painless death.” He added, “In carbonic acid gas, we have an agent which would instantaneously fulfill the need.”
By 1903, a committee of the National Conference on Charities and Correction conceded that it was as yet undecided whether “science may conquer sentiment” and ultimately elect to systematically kill the unfit. In 1904, the superintendent of New Jersey’s Vineland Training School, E. R. Johnstone, raised the issue during his presidential address to the Association of Medical Officers of American Institutions for Idiotic and Feebleminded Persons. “Many plans for the elimination [of the feebleminded] have been proposed,” he said, referred to numerous recently published suggestions of a “painless death.” That same year, the notion of executing habitual criminals and the incurably insane was offered to the National Prison Association.
Some U.S. lawmakers considered similar ideas. Two years later in 1906, the Ohio legislature considered a bill empowering physicians to chloroform permanently diseased and mentally incapacitated persons. In reporting this, Rentoul told his British colleagues that it was Ohio’s attempt to “murder certain persons suffering from incurable disease.” Iowa considered a similar measure.
By 1910, the idea of sending the unfit into lethal chambers was regularly bandied about in American sociological and eugenic circles, causing a debate no less strident than the one in England. In 1911, E. B. Sherlock’s book, The Feebleminded: a guide to study and practice, acknowledged that “glib suggestions of the erection of lethal chambers are common enough.…” Like others, he rejected execution in favor of eugenic termination of bloodlines. “Apart from the difficulty that the provision of lethal chambers is impracticable in the existing state law…,” he continued, “the removal of them [the feebleminded] would do practically nothing toward solving the chief problem with the mentally defective set…, the persistence of the obnoxious stock.”

One of the figures in history who as recently as 2005 I could read with pleasure but whose every witticism revolts me now is the Fabian socialist, hero of so-called liberals and brilliant dramatist, George Bernard Shaw.   His remark made to the elite members of the Eugenics Education Society in 1910, the same year as Davenport's letter to Galton announcing the creation of the Eugenics Records Office, are not unique among the stars of eugenics and the smart set in Britain and elsewhere.  Imagine one of his more developed characters, perhaps Henry Higgins saying it.

A part of eugenic politics would finally land us in an extensive use of the lethal chamber.  A great many people would have to be put out of existence, simply because it wastes other people's time to look after them.

I have to wonder if Galton was present,  he well may have been he was the head of the organization until Leonard Darwin, the son of Charles Darwin,  became head of it.  Both of them must have heard about it.  In a book written in the next decade, Leonard Darwin discussed the possible use of "lethal chambers" for eugenics.  I'd love to have an attendance list of those who did hear it and if any of the objected to it.  For me, his remark about the necessity of mass murder in lethal chambers, proposed as eugenically sound, acted as a key to look more fundamentally at his thinking and his writing and once you have seen it in light of a mind that could say what he did reveals that, despite its reputation as some kind of progressive or liberal thing, is merely the typical British thinking fully informed by the assumptions of the class system, not far different from that which informed Galton and Darwin and Malthus.

And, remember, he was one of the lights of the Fabian society, a group whose goals included harrying the most destitute out of existence and enforcing the absolute destitution of the poor before they received any and very meager aid, what the brightest of the British Brights of his time produced as a political left.   We still get those kinds of people on the left even outside of Britain.   Just as an example, Peter Singer is famous for his utilitarian proposals for killing people and he's hardly been rejected as an "ethicist" over it in any place among the English speaking peoples.  It is remarkable to me how among the materialists, even those allegedly of the left, the contemplation of murder as a means of virtue recurs as a continuing feature of their discourse.

None of this stuff is the dead past, it's all relevant to today, it will be as long as natural selection retains its status as both science and ideology.   I'm convinced that its status as science is driven primarily by ideology.  I think with such fantastic assertions about it, even its extension outside of biology, by such popular voices as Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, etc. its role as a atheist-fundamentalist god substitute* is even stronger today than it was at the turn of the last century.   And, as the history shows, that assertion of natural selection as THE primary fact of biology will always lead, immediately to ideas for applying it to the human population.  It did in the early 1860s, it still does today,

*  Read the eminent geneticist H. Allen Orr's review of Dennett's book, Darwin's Dangerous Idea.