Wednesday, February 15, 2017
"that tendency can only be aristocratic, certainly not democratic" About a Conversation I Had Last Night
In talking about yesterday's topic with a friend he raised the possibility that Clarence Darrow had never seriously considered the political and social consequences of Darwinism until the trial and that he, as well as William Jennings Bryan, saw the anti-democratic and proto-fascist consequences of believing it. And that might have been why he wrote that article. It is plausible, though it's clear in the article that he didn't put the time into studying the issue that Bryan did in his speech.
And, before anyone goes another bubble out of level over that, the anti-democratic nature of natural selection was something noted by Darwin's closest German colleague and associate, Ernst Haeckel in his book "Freedom in Science and Teaching," a book which I believe was translated into English by a member of Darwin's inner circle, Ray Lankester and which in the English translation was definitely prefaced by Darwin's foremost propagandist, Thomas Huxley and about which Darwin wrote to Haeckel " I admire the whole of it. It is a most interesting essay and I agree with all of it." Haeckel was no outlier or insignificant figure in the history of Darwinism, his elucidation of natural selection had Darwin's and his English speaking inner-circle's endorsement as genuine.
Besides, Darwinism, the theory of natural selection—which Virchow aimed at in his denunciation, much more especially than at transformation, the theory of descent—which is often confounded with it—Darwinism, I say, is anything rather than socialist! If this English hypothesis is to be compared to any definite political tendency—as is, no doubt, possible—that tendency can only be aristocratic, certainly not democratic, and least of all socialist. The theory of selection teaches that in human life, as in animal and plant life everywhere, and at all times, only a small and chosen minority can exist and flourish, while the enormous majority starve and perish miserably and more or less prematurely.
You can see how that would be something the most regressive of today's Republican-fascists would love people to believe is scientific fact, as, in fact, their aristocratic predecessors in England, the United States, Canada, and Germany did. I have every confidence that the adoption of natural selection and, as an inevitable consequence, eugenics was aided by that class having complete control of universities and science. You can also see how it is something that Clarence Darrow wouldn't find congenial. You can also see that as early as the late 1870s, Charles Darwin agreed with a statement of his theory that sounds like something Hitler or Hess would have said fifty years later.
Perhaps, like almost every ignorant St. Darwin worshiper among today's college-educated sect who have never read much, if anything, he ever wrote, the consequences of facing that fact about their idol was emotionally inhibiting. Though I think the actual content of and consequences of a belief in natural selection is what is the problem. Forget about ol' Chuck, certainly the theatrical-cinematic dummy of him which is as much as most people know.
Darrow as a prominent figure in the radical-liberal pantheon of his time would have had a hard time pointing that out, though I doubt a lawyer as good as he was, once he had the facts put before him, could have merely ignored what he saw. He just couldn't bring himself to risk his respectability on his political-social side by telling the whole truth about it, choosing, instead to attack one of its more malignant manifestations instead of the source of it. I don't have any, so I'm a heretic. Respectability, that is.
Posted by The Thought Criminal at 8:06 AM