Saturday, May 27, 2017

"that tendency can only be aristocratic, certainly not democratic"

You will remember the post from yesterday in which the author of the pseudo-scientific, pseudo-historical but massively influential book advocating eugenics, The Kallikak Family, twisted the definition of democracy into a definition of aristocracy in which the most intelligent, as measured on the tests he also brought to America, ruled benevolently over the unintelligent.   Henry Herbert Goddard included in those to be so lorded over, the average man, who his IQ testing led him to believe

can manage his affairs with only a moderate degree of prudence, can earn only a very modest living, and is vastly better off when following directions than when trying to plan for himself.

It's interesting to note that he included that such people could "earn only a very modest living" because I think that's, actually, the strongest motive behind all of it, recalling that the line of thinking Goddard followed has its intellectual origin in Malthus and his supposed mathematical, quasi-scientific support for the most depraved aspects of British class inequality. .

In the excerpt from his book,  The Psychology of the Normal and Subnormal,  which you can read in the second of my post yesterday,  you will see that what Goddard's regime of "intelligence testing" did was talk him into promoting what was being called in Italy and other places, "fascism" and in Germany, starting the very year he published the book, "Nazism",  both of which had a similar origin in a rejection of democracy and both with a founding motivation in the understanding of natural selection.   All of this was a development of the rapid adoption in the intellectual class, which was largely comprised of those in the upper economic classes who had access to education, higher education and the relevant professions.   In the United States, which had pioneered public education and with the Morril acts of 1862 and 1890, public, land-grant universities, perhaps the effects were, to some extent, mitigated by having a higher level of people from modest backgrounds represented in the educated class but that mitigation certainly didn't keep such thinking out of the country.   Natural selection its almost guaranteed by product eugenics, the allegedly scientific process of testing and grading people for intelligence and the assertion that democracy had been scientifically discredited filled the intellectual milieu of the late 19th and early 20th century.  I do think it's notable that the rejection of at least its political manifestation of fascism here, after 1933, had a lot to do with the presence of such unaristocratic people in the educated population of the United States.

I do, very strongly, believe if the Republicans and the aristocrats in the United States hadn't crashed the economy and proved, in the Hoover administration, how cold bloodedly willing they were to put their scientific, economic theories and principles and, not at all coincidentally, the profits of the wealthiest before the very lives of the American people, things might have turned far uglier.  The Republicans in the 1920s were on a path not that dissimilar from the one they're on today.  Who knows if we will be lucky in such a form a second time.

But the indication that that was a result of Darwinian thinking was in place much earlier.  In the immediate invention of eugenics, which was just one more step past the willing belief in natural selection, in its first manifestation of Galton's assertion that "Hereditary Genius" was a thing and, wouldn't you know it, it was especially manifested in his own aristocratic class, which accounted for most of those who had been provided with an education and a place at universities.

The most explicit evidence we have that Charles Darwin's thinking was along the same lines lies in his total and complete endorsement of his disciple and friend Ernst Haeckel's book Freie Wissenschaft und freie Lehre,  Freedom in Science And Teaching.  In his letter to Haeckel praising the book he said,

" ....  you must let me have the pleasure of saying how much I admire the whole of it. It is a most interesting essay, and I agree with all of it".  

Letter of Charles Darwin to Ernst Haeckel April 29, 1879

I will note that in the more than a decade I've been looking into this, I have yet to read anything by Charles Darwin in which he expresses any rejection of anything Ernst Haeckel ever said on these topics, he even endorses many of his most depraved ideas, such as the salubrious effects of murder, especially in the form of infanticide.

But for purposes of considering what led the, by then, very influential Henry Herbert Goddard to twist the meaning of democracy into an aristocratic fascism of the allegedly biologically superior this infamous passage of the book Darwin endorsed says it explicitly.

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. The germs of every species of animal and plant and the young individuals which spring from them are innumerable, while the number of those fortunate individuals which develop to maturity and actually reach their hardly-won life's goal is out of all proportion trifling. The cruel and merciless struggle for existence which rages throughout all living nature, and in the course of nature must rage, this unceasing and inexorable competition of all living creatures, is an incontestable fact; only the picked minority of the qualified "fittest" is in a position to resist it successfully, while the great majority of the competitors must necessarily perish miserably. We may profoundly lament this tragical state of things, but we can neither controvert it nor alter it. "Many are called but few are chosen." The selection, the picking out of these "chosen ones," is inevitably connected with the arrest and destruction of the remaining majority. Another English naturalist, therefore, designates the kernel of Darwinism very frankly as the "survival of the fittest," as the "victory of the best." At any rate, this principle of selection is nothing less than democratic, on the contrary, it is aristocratic in the strictest sense of the word. If, therefore, Darwinism, logically carried out, has, according to Virchow, "an uncommonly suspicious aspect," this can only be found in the idea that it offers a helping hand to the efforts of the aristocrats. But how the socialism of the day can find any encouragement in these efforts, and how the horrors of the Paris Commune can be traced to them, is to me, I must frankly confess, absolutely incomprehensible.

I will note several things, such is that this English edition was published during Darwin's lifetime, with a preface by Darwin's closest English colleague and defender, Thomas Huxley.  I am certain Darwin read it, though I can't locate the citation I believe confirms that.  I doubt he could have been unaware of it.  His letter proves that he read the book, as he had read Haeckel's far harder to read books which Darwin cited to support his thinking.

That passage is as obvious, as explicit an expression of proto-fascist, proto-Nazi, explicitly biological-aristocratic thinking as is imaginable.  The book was published, in German, in 1877, 42 years before the founding of the Nazi party.   To give you an idea of how close in time that is, subtract 42 years from the year you're reading this.  And I will point out that Ernst Haeckel died in 1919, the very same year the Nazi party formed, the very same year that Henry Herbert Goddard, considered the greatest expert in the United States on inherited intelligence, whose regime of "intelligence testing" had already led him to redefine democracy as fascist rule by those his testing determined to be the most intelligent.   And I will remind you that Goddard's central idea as to why democracy must be deformed into facism was that we are in exactly that Darwinian " struggle for existence " that Haeckel describes in that paragraph of his elucidation of the political consequences of adopting a Darwinian view of life.

That any of what I've said above could be considered unspeakable, including the obvious relationship of natural selection to fascism and Nazism and the explicit rejection of democracy on allegedly scientific grounds only proves to show how thoroughly the big lie denying that has been inculcated in the English speaking educated class.  It is a lie based on a dismissal of the actual primary literature dealing with the question.  It can only lead to asking how much else that is "known" about this is also based in, not citation of, but in covering up or distorting or lying about that record.  And, as can be seen in the case of the application of natural selection in politics, in the law, in such things as American and, yes, Nazi eugenic laws, which are as real in their results as anything.  And, today, in the extension into the neo-eugenics which are rampant in current Republican policy.

I think ignoring that, ultimately, and in the beginning, it all began with Charles Darwin reading the work of Malthus - truly the Good News for his family and those of their economic class - is a similar distortion of what continues to be the official lens, the frame through which so much of our thinking is required to be expressed and skepticism of which is not to be permitted.

It's no accident that it always, always, ends up reinforcing those who have the money and the power. That's where it all started.


I said here the other day that the English Wikipedia was unreliable on these topics because it has obviously been "edited" by people with an ideological motive and those who, either through ignorance or a desire to cover up the record, post lies as facts.  I found such an instance just as I was checking the publication date of Haeckel's book, mentioned above.  The current article on Haeckel, in an obvious attempt to shield Darwin from the inevitable association of natural selection with Nazism says:

Haeckel's political beliefs were influenced by his affinity for the German Romantic movement coupled with his acceptance of a form of Lamarckism. Rather than being a strict Darwinian, Haeckel believed that the characteristics of an organism were acquired through interactions with the environment and that ontogeny reflected phylogeny.

If that is the case then Charles Darwin was not "a strict Darwinian" because he not only believed that characteristics of an organism were acquired through interactions with the environment, he explicitly developed his own theory of such inheritance, his version of the panspermia theory.

Pretty much everything that is included within that passage from the English Wikipedia is present in the writings of Haeckel, including, as seen above, the proto-Nazism, was present during Darwin's lifetime, published in books which Darwin not only praised and endorsed in letters but which he cited in some of his most important scientific works.  Certainly in the one most relevant to the political application of natural selection, The Descent of Man in the preface to which Darwin says that if Haeckel's Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte had been known to him before he started writing The Descent of Man, he might not have bothered finishing it because Haeckel's book - chuck full of his German romantic thinking, as well as many depraved assertions about the salubrious effects of infanticide suggestions of killing the disabled, the inevitable killing and replacement of "savage" races by those whose homicidal success renders them "civilised" etc much of which Darwin repeats in his book - because Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte is so in line with his thinking.

Charles Darwin never, in anything I've read, distanced himself from Ernst Haeckel or his thinking. Nor of other writers such as Heinrich Fick OR HIS OWN SON GEORGE who, during his lifetime, with his support, called for changing the laws to make them conform to their assertions of natural selection.

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