Thursday, June 1, 2017

Poverty Is War On The Poor Waged By The Rich

New Preface 

Poverty is the worst form of violence.  Mahatma Gandhi

I decided to repost the below, with some revisions because the extent to which Darwin was able to talk out of both sides of his mouth, exempting his class of wealthy people from the proposed laws he used to target the poor is a constant in the application of academic, legal and economic natural selection in the human species.   Darwin's double standard laid out in this post, in today's Republican and market economics holds that too much money is bad for the poor and the class that has to work for a living but hundreds and thousands of times that much money is never enough to produce the optimum good in the richest of the rich.   A living wage is supposed to be a luxury which will have a degrading and weakening effect on those who have to work, even more than one job to make ends meet, but millions of dollars in bonuses on top of obscenely huge salaries of the upper end of management produces, allegedly, more productivity - though in many cases, really most, the people who get paid like that seldom produce anything but theft.

That the economics which holds things like that come up with their arguments on the basis of natural selection in the human population, in human society is both a motive for their double-speak and evidence of its real and most enduring character and, it should never be forgotten, its origin in Malthusian economics, the original good news for the wealthy, though decidedly bad news for the poor and the British working class.  I have pointed out before that well before the publication of On the Origin of Species, the British radical politician William Cobbett noted the hypocrisies and contradictions of the declarations of Parson Malthus, none so much that his economics was a call to allow nature to work in the poor.  He pointed out that by the law of nature the deprived poor would not passively die of starvation as Malthus wished, they would dispossess the rich to provide for themselves and their families.  That was a point so obvious that even I thought of it when I read The Descent of Man for the first time, before I'd read Cobbett, though one which has consistently escaped most readers of both Malthus and his disciple, Darwin.

Another note.  Listening to several lectures by Richard Lewontin and being struck, again, at his philosophical erudition, an extremely rare trait among even elite scientists and increasingly rare in the educated population, I wondered if one of the reason so many contemporary scientists are hostile to philosophy is due to the inconvenient habit of philosophers noticing logical contradictions, flaws, mistakes and oversights in the declarations of scientists.   It would seem, in the intellectual life of the English speaking people in 2017 to come as a shock that science, in it vast impressiveness has not escaped and surpassed the requirement that its claims be logically as well as mathematically coherent.  No matter what some of the current stars in it would like.

 An example of that has been pointed out by, among others, Karl Popper, the eminent philosopher of science.  If, as Darwin himself admitted, at the urging of no less an authority than Alfred Russell Wallace,  his co-inventor of it, that Natural Selection was identical to Spencer's Survival of the Fittest, then the logical character of Spencer's statement has to hold for Darwin's theory.   "Survival of the fittest," it has been pointed out, is logically indistinguishable from the phrase "survival of the survivors" the concept is a tautological construction that is a mere and banal expression of a fact and not an explanation of how that fact came to be.  Popper eventually caved in to the massive protests made by scientists and others but I can't see any way that his point isn't a valid one.

In the same way a theory which is claimed to be a law of nature, a force of nature, an explanation of how the human species, among all others, evolved and which works on all of us but which is also claimed in virtually the entire line of Darwinists starting with him and in a continual line up to today's ultra-Darwinists, most obviously in the Darwinian economists I've been discussing, to have not only different but opposite effects in the economic elite than those claimed for the economic underclass cannot escape the disconfirming effects of what turns into a blatant hypocrisy when the economic interests and class of those making those exceptions are taken into account.

The role that such class hypocrisy and eugenic features of Darwinism plays in opposition to the fact of evolution is too little discussed.  And the history of Darwinism proves that its eugenic features are an intrinsic feature of it, not a bug and, by Darwin's identification of it with Spencer's phrase, his endorsement and, in fact, adoption of Galton's and Haeckel's eugenic conclusions of the consequences of the theory, nothing like a heretical deviation from it.   What was a deviation from natural selection as an intellectual phenomenon is the all too brief period when its eugenic features were suppressed in light of the horrors they produced when, as Rudoph Hess said, the Nazis applied biology in political organization.   I hold that today's Darwinist economists are proposing a slower working, less dramatically violent form of the same thing.

As early as his May 21, 1867 letter to Haeckel, Darwin, in a rare instance  was worrying that telling too much of the consequences of his theory of natural selection would arouse too much opposition to his theory, too soon for his purposes, worried that Haeckel's "boldness" "will excite anger & that anger so completely blinds every one that your arguments wd. have no chance of influencing those who are already opposed to our views."   A lot of Darwin's friends and colleagues, especially Thomas Huxley, commented on his desire to avoid direct conflict and, certainly, public dispute.  There are several times when Darwin provided himself with plausible deniablity that he was advocating exactly what he was clearly advocating.  I am confident it was so he could point to it as denial.  He did that with the most famous of those, his frequently extracted "The aid which we feel impelled to give" paragraph, seldom given in whole by his defenders and never in context.  At least one time Darwin referred to it in his response to the eugenics advocate G. A. Gaskell, which Darwin's defenders also quote mine to invent the eugenics-free Darwin.  I've written about that in detail, giving the entire correspondence which shows that Darwin is completely distorted by his modern defenders.   I mentioned the cynicism of his response to "Miss Cobbe" in another post.

I will give the "aid" paragraph with the section immediately before it:

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.

The Descent of Man

"Even at the urging of hard reason,"  "he is acting for the good of his patient," UNDOUBTEDLY bad effect of the weak surviving and propagating their kind," "more to be hoped for than expected".

About the only example of a more hypocritically rendered message I can recall, undercutting the mildly stated intention with regular thunderbolts of refutation is Mark Anthony's funeral speech in the play Julius Ceasar.

Notice that in the first paragraph of the two, Darwin, at no point softens or hedges his "scientific" discourse, laying out, baldly and undeniably, the premise of eugenics as fact derived by science, his own theory of natural selection.  In the "aid which we feel impelled" paragraph, always grasped onto by those denying Darwin's role in eugenics, notice that Darwin ascribes the desire to give aid to feelings, not reason or science, a point made by Frances Cobbe in Sunday's post .  The implication of that can only be that the grounds for eugenics have the reliability of hard science while the impulse to give charity is merely a notion, a habit which is a relic of our past, followed against the better judgement of "hard reason".  And the price of that is a virtual guarantee that what he laid out in the previous paragraph will be the result.   The possibility that will be avoided is "more to be hoped for than expected".

Over and over again Darwin undercuts his "plea" for aid to the weak and poor. I have underlined those revealing passages.  I am certain that Darwin consciously gave himself a mechanism of plausible deniability that he'd just said what he said in the preceding paragraph, that is what the passage has been used to do since WWII, almost always cutting out Darwin's fatally wounding his plea as he is pretending to make it.  I am under no obligation to go on with his ruse as I've read the rest of the book and he continues to promote eugenics for pretty much the rest of it, two lesser escape clauses, more or less excepted.  The points that could be made about this paragraph in reference to other things that Darwin said in The Descent of Man are numerous and they don't count in Darwin's favor.  You might want to contrast the content and tone with this passage, not much farther on into the book.

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.

“But the inheritance of property by itself is very far from an evil.... Nor does the moderate accumulation of wealth interfere with the process of selection.” 

One suspects Darwin’s “moderate accumulation of wealth” which was not yet insalubrious included the wealth of the Darwin -Wedgewood families. Why, since he refuses to consider the possibility that humans’ capacity for reason, moral reflection and self-denial might exempt us from the brutal forces of natural selection, does he seem to think that membership in his notably brutal economic elite should render its members immune?

You also wonder why Darwin didn't include the laws against stealing in the list of unfortunate curbs on the workings of natural selection. Something commented on in much the same context by William Cobbett decades before Darwin wrote this book.  If you doubt that the laws protecting private property are one of the greatest inhibitions of the weeding out of the unfit, imagine what would have happened in Darwin’s Britain if it was suddenly legal for the masses of the poor to take from those worthless drones bred to the aristocracy. The resultant struggle might have saved Darwin the embarrassment of explaining how he neglected to discourage their vaccination.  And speaking of that,  if vaccination is such a danger, in the long term, to the fitness of the economic underclass, presumably it has the same effect among the wealthy, preventing small pox would dysgenically drag them down to the same level of degradation the underclass was already in.  Yet  I haven't seen any indication that Charles Darwin or subsequent generations of Darwins went without vaccination or medical care for their families.  I have seen no mention of any Darwins in subsequent generations dying of it.

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In revising this series I've noticed all kinds of problems with the most basic aspects of Darwin's case for natural selection which I hadn't noticed before.  He is always using natural selection to assert contradicting results. I've mentioned the assertion that constant warfare and killing among "savages" is asserted to render the survivors more fit while in "civilised" countries, it sacrifices the fittest and prevents them reproducing.  The several pausible deniability provisions are full of this kind of double standard.

Notice this assertion of the value of having men rich enough to have the leisure to get an education and be able to avoid labor

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.

Compare that with the first section quoted above, it is exactly the material progress:

- shelter and food, such as provided in "asylums";

- the incredibly stingy and bare subsistence provided to a few by the infamous, Malthusian Victorian New Poor Law as described by Dickens!

 - the maintenance of the slave workers in those Dickensian  work houses, an intrinsic aspect of the New Poor Law;

-  medical care and vaccination;

That kind of material sustenance, WHEN IT IS GIVEN TO THE POOR is named as the mechanism of their future degradation but in the rich, Darwin asserts that material progress is the flower of creation.

You may notice this is identical to the assertions of today's conservatives in the United States and Britain.   Work is good for the poor, leisure is good for the rich.   Having even the barest provision material benefits degrades the poor but a superabundance for the rich motivates them to further enterprise.  etc.

Darwin constantly uses natural selection to assert that the same phenomena have the opposite effects.  In every case I have found, so far, Darwin asserts that factors which impede the struggle for survival are a benefit when they effect the rich and an impending disaster when they effect the poor.  In each and every case, Darwin's "science" ends up supporting his wealth, his class.  It rather suspiciously benefits HIM.   As I have been dealing with Darwin for seven years now, I have no doubt that his unmentioned "other and higher advantages" were those to the class of people he was addressing, rich men like himself.

By the way, many of whom directly benefited from the slave labor of those just barely maintained in Victorian work houses, kept in conditions disturbingly near that in which those enslaved in Nazi industries two generations later.   As Marilynne Robinson pointed out, the Poor Law presented contractors with an economic incentive to starve and kill the inmates.

Under the Old Poor Law, before the 1834 reforms that made the operation of the system more punitive and severe, child paupers, that is, the children of destitute parents, were given to employers, each with a little bonus to reward the employer for relieving the public of this burden.  The children would be worked brutally, because with each new pauper child the employer received another little bonus.  To starve such children was entirely in the interest of those who set them to work.  Aside from all the work the child performed under duress, its death brought the reward that came with a new child   The authorities asserted an absolute right to disrupt families, and to expose young children to imprisonment and forced labor. 

This was "material progress"  for the poor that Darwin thought TOO GENEROUS to avoid the catastrophe of too many of them surviving long enough to have children, who would, no doubt, find their way to the work houses, contracted to produce the wealth of the wealthy, Darwin's family and friends.   If you think it is mean of me to point that out, please, tell me why?

Also note this section:

"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",

That statement is directly contradicted by the quote of W. R. Greg addressed in another of these posts.   Darwin uses Greg to assert that the degenerate Irish "multiplies like rabbits" unlike the virtuous Scot who "marries late and passes his best years in struggle and in celibacy, marries late, and leaves few behind him".  Darwin obviously agreed with Greg that in a dozen generations, given equal numbers of "Celts" and "Saxons (?)" at the start, the degenerate would greatly dominate in numbers, five to one!,  but not in, power property or intelligence, in that case the ratio is in favor of the "Saxons".    Darwin obviously was using Greg to speak for himself, using that passage, curiously elided by Darwin, to assert the case he made in the first of the two paragraphs above.

Over and over again, Darwin twists and turns his theory of natural selection around to assert that it has the opposite effects in different populations of people, either by class or ethnic group and, in every case, the white and wealthy and "Saxon" come out ahead and SUPERIOR by the impedance of natural selection, the most brutal aspect of that is, on the other hand, a definite boon for the poor and the "savage".  Though, in the case of the "savage" the same struggle for life which improves them will also lead to their extinction.

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I am left thinking that the main reason that natural selection ever was established was due to the compliments and benefits it carried for the wealthy establishment who had control of science and academic institutions.   It isn't because it's anything like a consistent theory.  Unlike gravity, chemical laws, and most of the laws of science, it is notably a hit or miss thing and, unlike those, it falls unequally on those of different classes and ethnic groups.  Darwins' self-interest and that of his early and later supporters clearly embedded in it is reason enough to arouse the deepest skepticism of the idea.

Science is an attempt to produce reliable information about the world and the universe, it is an attempt to make sense of human experience and perception.  Scientific methodology reduces its focus in an attempt to generalize knowledge about the basic physical aspects of that human experience.  It can produce a specific kind and range of knowledge, when it is well and honestly done   History is every bit as much an attempt to do that focusing on a different scale of human experience,  The history of natural selection assumed to be relevant to human societies has produced the historical record of eugenics and the several radical applications of eugenics by the Nazis and other dictatorial regimes. History often uses the information that science can provide to it, using it to consider the physical, material and, to somewhat less impressive results, the statistical frequency of aspects of the historical record.

In this case, with the enormous evidence of the disaster of applied natural selection in human history,  it is time for scientists to come down from their Olympian perch, where they may see things in too general a focus for them to really see what's there.  The historical case of what Darwin said, what his followers did and the results of that are far more reliable than the evidence that natural selection is more than the traditional way of thinking about these things, enforced by habit and by peer coercion.   Maybe it's time that scientists consider that other people might see things their customs prevent them from seeing.  If only Darwin had done that he might have avoided these questions of him inserting his self-interest into evolutionary science.

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