Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I Was Serious About The Possible Opportunity To Revive The Idea Of Improving Lives In Light Of The Fall Of Neo-Darwinism

I think there is certainly a political effect in believing in biological determinism, especially in the extreme ultra-neo-Darwinist version which E. O. Wilson and Richard Darwkins and their colleagues pushed beginning in the 1970s   If our fates as individuals, as families, as gender, racial, ethnic, etc. groups is determined in a fixed manner by "our genes" then any attempt at improvement of the lives of people living today and, so, the future of their children is everything from bound to fail to foolish.

It is no more a surprise that since an increasing number of people, especially those indoctrinated by intro-level courses in college, have been indoctrinated to believe that we're merely the "lumbering robots" controlled by and at the service of our genes starting in the mid-1970s that the countries where that ideology has become the strongest, Britain and the United States, has seen the steady destruction of government programs to improve the lives of various underclasses, racial and ethnic underclasses.   I don't think it's unrelated to the backlash to feminism which has included massively promoted propaganda about irremediable differences in "male and female brain" and the fixity of gender roles as well as intellectual abilities.

The model that educated people were previously indoctrinated in, behaviorism, was both deterministic and wrong but it notably held that animals and people could be trained by conditioning in ways that would be effective and salubrious.  I think that there is probably a lot to be learned about how the educated class that run the media, the legal system, educational institution, various professions, governments and research science are taught and led to think about things and to articulate thing and the character of what those people come up with for policies and laws.

One thing that  is an important part of that consideration is that a strongly biologically deterministic view of life inevitably favors those already with wealth and, so, power.   There is no mistaking the fact that eugenics arose out of natural selection, first by Galton's assertions of the inherited intellectual superiority of the wealthy class which his family were part of.  In his letter praising his cousin's first major book inventing eugenics, Hereditary Genius, Charles Darwin, himself, says that it changed his thinking from believing that teaching and training and application to those could make a decisive difference to believing that our fates in that are far more fixed than he had.


3rd December

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

(Signed) "CH. DARWIN"

I don't doubt, for a minute, that Darwin, belonging to a different branch of the same family* was certainly gratified if not predisposed to believe their superiority was a matter of blood inheritance.  So were the other members of the various elites which so rapidly adopted eugenics and started, immediately, to use it in ways to oppress and, yes, kill off the underclass.  They'd already had a good start with the sociology of Malthus giving them an excuse to make the lot of the poor even worse so as to harry them out of existence, setting up the death camp, slave labor, workhouse system.

Traditionally, the United States was far less invested in that kind of British class depravity, ours being more of the robber baron, parvenu, type, though there was certainly racism which is exactly the same kind of biological determinism.  But things certainly changed for the worse, especially in the intellectual class which took biological determinism to heart and used it differently.  It definitely had a role in exacerbating the damage of racism.  In some ways American use of determinism was less bad but in others worse than the Brits did.  Of course, in the United States, they had to contend with a population which used to be more independent minded and with resistance and rebellion against oppression more in their culture.   There was the stronger influence of religious traditions which included taking the Mosaic Law regarding the provision of the poor more seriously, as well.  As that last one was weakened, one of the major mean of Americans resisting their oppression was removed.

If the new thinking about biology will be able to pull the legs out from under the fascist regime of biological determinism in the same way that attempts to improve people through training with the supplanting of behaviorism with ultra-Darwinism did, I don't know.   But it is worth thinking about.   If people stop being convinced that there is no reason to try to improve the lives of the underclass, that there is hope in trying to improve lives, it might work.  If people continue to believe that genetic inheritance is a fixed, unalterable and inherited determiner of intellectual and class status, that inequality is natural and a fact of nature, there isn't much hope in striving for equality.  There is a reason that fascism has always, informally or formally, scientifically or non-scientifically, embraced biological determinism. and inherited roles.

At the worst, people can be taught to believe in their own inferiority, though there will always be women, members of racial minorities, who will rebel against that.  I think it's high time to encourage those rebellions, especially in light of the new biological findings that support attempts to make lives better instead of defining life as fixed at conception.

If enough of a fuss is made, I will go over the behind the scenes campaign of Francis Crick to rally support for the scientific racism of Arthur Jensen among his fellow scientists and other such, little known efforts of some of the most extravagantly adulated scientists of recent times.  Though it will have to wait, it takes time to look up those citations and documents online and I'm having some serious difficulty with my eyesight right now.

 * As Marilynne Robinson pointed out in Mother Country, the British elite were pretty much all the product of cousin marriage.

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