Friday, September 1, 2017

Did Darwin Lie About What Schaaffhausen Said: Redux

Four years ago, while intensively researching the issues of Darwinism and eugenics and, as I found the connections between Darwinism and genocide, I came across a puzzle that led me to ask if, in one of the most infamously putrid passages of The Descent of Man might have misrepresented the famous biologist, Herman Schaaffhausen, mostly associated with the discovery of Neanderthals as an early species of hominids.   I'd looked for the citation Darwin gave to support some of his claims. The infamous passage, itself, wasn't what led me to ask the question, it was the use which Darwin made of what was, beyond any rational possibility of denial, exactly the same argument that Nazis gave as their reason for genocide.   After shifting through a PDF of the publications of the Anthropological Review, I couldn't find anything that corresponded to what Darwin Referred to, I did, though, in a later issue of the same magazine, find something which proved that, far from Schaaffhausen arguing for a common ancestry of human beings and the apes, he didn't believe in that common ancestry at all, so Darwin's use of his argument to support a common ancestry was dishonest.

I will give the entire paragraph in question, from The Descent of Man and the one which follows it.

The great break in the organic chain between man and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any extinct or living species, has often been advanced as a grave objection to the belief that man is descended from some lower form; but this objection will not appear of much weight to those who, convinced by general reasons, believe in the general principle of evolution. Breaks incessantly occur in all parts of the series, some being wide, sharp and defined, others less so in various degrees; as between the orang and its nearest allies—between the Tarsius and the other Lemuridæ—between the elephant and in a more striking manner between the Ornithorhynchus or Echidna, and other mammals. But all these breaks depend merely on the number of related forms which have become extinct. At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, (18. 'Anthropological Review,' April 1867, p. 236.) will no doubt be exterminated. The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.

With respect to the absence of fossil remains, serving to connect man with his ape-like progenitors, no one will lay much stress on this fact, who will read Sir C. Lyell’s discussion, in which he shews that in all the vertebrate classes the discovery of fossil remains has been an extremely slow and fortuitous process. Nor should it be forgotten that those regions which are the most likely to afford remains connecting man with some extinct ape-like creature, have not as yet been searched by geologists.

The part which is most controversial today is what I underlined, the part in which, as part of his argument that human beings are related to the apes through common ancestors [something which is uncontroversial, at least to those of us who believe in the theory of common descent] he casually predicted a time "not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races," and that the results would be that the murderer-survivors would be "man in a more civilsed state" "as we may hope," etc.  Naming two groups who were, no doubt, on his list of the to be exterminated "savage races", "the negro" and "Australian" - he didn't mean Mel Gibson, he is the white descendant of Darwin's "man in a more civilised state," the superior murdering race of the to be exterminated Australians.*   The only difference between that and Nazi biological theory was that they named European "races" to their hit list who were not explicitly on Darwin's, though, throughout the book, he's not shy about naming groups of people he claimed were inferior, mostly not white, except for, as I recall, the Turkish people and the Irish.   To be named a member of an inferior group by Darwin was him putting a target put on you, your family and all others like you.  That is what eugenics in all of its forms is all about.  Getting rid of you, cutting you off from the future, holding that your elimination will be beneficial to those getting rid of you.

That passage is exactly the scientific-ideological racism that Nazism adopted and put into effect just as, beyond any possible honest and rational doubt, the eugenics of Galton, Schallmeyer, Ploetz and others was a different means of doing the same thing, removing those deemed unfit or inferior or, as Darwin often put it, "savage" instead of "civilised" from the future of the human species.  And the groups specified as such by name, by Darwin and his disciples, make it certain that white, Northern, Europeans minus the Irish were his imagined "civilised" survivor race who would murder the "savage" and own the Earth.   That is, actually, the most important thing about the passage, why it is so often excerpted from the paragraphs and Darwin's argument.

But that wasn't why I asked if he had lied about or, at least, misrepresented the opinion of Herman Schaaffhausen.  I based that on a paper of Schaaffhausen which was cited in a later edition of the same journal Darwin cited in which Schaaffhauen rejected Darwin's theory of common ancestry. With that, Darwin's use of what Schaaffhausen is alleged to have said, in the Descent of Man became incoherent and contradictory.

The other night, while moderating comments, I found someone named  had produced the passage I hadn't been able to find.

I think that this is the wrong Schaafhausen. There's a write up in the Anthropological Review on the page that Darwin cites that refers to an "M. Schaafhausen of Bonn" that says this:

"In the present state of things, the distance between man and the animal increases under our own eye. Not merely the human races standing lowest in the scale, and presenting in their organisation many resemblances to animal forms, are gradually becoming extinct, but the superior apes approaching nearest to man become more rare from century to century; and will, perhaps, in a few centuries have entirely disappeared. What is there illogical in the idea that thousands of years back the distance between the lowest man and the highest ape was less than at present, and that it would still lessen the more we ascend the past?"

It's available on JSTOR here:

After four years of having that question hanging, I'm grateful to Daniel for providing that link.

I answered that Hermann Schaaffhausen taught at the University of Bonn so there is little question that it's the right Schaaffhausen in both cases, and I read the article at the link.  The first thing I will note is that, in fact, Schaaffhausen's rejection of Darwin's theory of common descent was commented on in the very article that Darwin cited, and, I'll note that what was published in the Anthropological Review doesn't seem to be the original article by Schaaffhausen but notes on its reading in translation and the discussion that happened at The Paris Anthropological Society,

M. Broca [I believe the still quite famous Paul Broca] is of the opinion that M. Gratiolet had misunderstood the ideas of M. Schaafhausen, who, far from supporting the theory of Darwin, on the contrary, commenced by refuting the opinions of Mr. Huxley.  M. Schaafhausen is apparently a partisan of animal series, but there is no no necessary connection between this and Darwin's theory.

It may be admitted that all families, genera, species, form a continuous scale without necessarily admitting that the higher species are by a progressive evolution issued from the lower.  Darwin's theory is a bold attempt to explain the existence of this series.  It is the interpretation of a fact, and, whilst accepting the fact, we may reject the interpretation which is probably M. Schaafhausen's stand-point.  The views communicated to the Society by M. Schaafhausen are both new and important. He shows that man is at present constantly engaged in the extermination of species which dispute his possession of the soil, and that he was so engaged in the past.  We know that the superior human races tend to increase at the expense of the inferior races,some of which disappear, and others must have disappeared within historical times, some will disappear and others must nave disappeared in the most remote periods.  May, then, asks M. Schaafhausen, this destructive intervention of man not have contributed to enlarge the interval separating man from the group of anthropoid apes?  He is of the opinion that the interval was less originally than at present, and is less at present than it will be be in times to come.  The last opinion is very probable; the former is less so, for even if it were demonstrated, the question still would remain whether the intermediate types which disappeared sufficiently differed from such now limiting the two groups, sensibly to diminish the distance.  At all events, the ingenious idea of M. Schaafhausen deserved serious consideration.

Which, to us, today, who are so used to thinking about these things on the basis of common descent, any theory which both asserts there was no common ancestor of the species in common but also that degree of anatomical similarity, is rather hard to wrap our minds around.  My question was motivated by asking how, if as Schaaffhausen believed, there was no common ancestor, there could be a link of the kind that Darwin was asserting by using what Schaaffhausen said, putting Schaaffhausen to use in advocating an even worse thing, his far more morally consequential theory of the eugenically beneficial practice of genocide, crowning the murderer-survivors with the promise of an enhanced state of "civilisation" than even his already elevated "caucasian" race had in 1872.

As someone as informed as Paul Broca noted that there was a serious confusion as to what Schaaffhausen believed in 1867 so I do feel vindicated in having noticed that same problem in 2013.  Given the entire contents of the article cited by Darwin, in which it was noted that Schaaffhausen had rejected that aspect of Darwin's theory and his closest British colleague, Thomas Huxley's application of it, his use of it as he did is hardly honest.  That, as I also noted in 2013, Darwin's citation seems to have attributed his eugenic genocide to Schaaffhausen, the ambiguity of his citation needed to be clarified.  That would require access to the original, untranslated article by Hermann Schaaffhausen, which I don't have.  I wouldn't think that an English translation of a translation of it given in Paris would be reliable.  But there is no question of the use that Darwin made of it and what he advocated by way of mass murder in a casual aside.. I have been struck at how often those kinds of things are said among the advocates of the theory of natural selection.

*  There is no doubt as to Darwin putting the original inhabitants of Australia on his hit list, he put the already murdered Tasmanians on it and, in other places, names them as doomed as, indeed, he did other human populations in the Pacific ocean, the Americas and other places of European imperial rule.  Of European and nearly European populations he fingered as inferior were, unsurprisingly, the Irish and the Turkish people.  And, of course, the white, European group whose survival he asserted was the greatest danger to his imagined future, the British poor and disabled and ill.  Are these lists sounding like a more recent one you might have read?

Anyone today whose ancestors were on Darwin's hit list, his list of those irredeemably degenerate due to their biological ancestry, even those who work in science and promote his legendary status, have every reason to reject his theory due to the extreme and pathological racism, his ethnic and class bigotry which has proved to be an inherent and inescapable feature of it.  If Nazism was a test in time of the results to be expected of the eugenic aspects of the theory of Natural Selection, proper, then the resurgence of scientific racism and more quaintly stated eugenics in the post-war period - which, as I've shown is being used by currently active Nazis - is proof that such racism will always be generated by a belief in it.  The Sociobiology Study Group got that right but they didn't go nearly far enough, it is the theory of Natural Selection which will always generate eugenics and scientific racism because, born in Malthusian theory and inevitably asserting the superiority of the killers over those killed, it is an inherent and intrinsic aspect of it and it always will be until it is succeeded by other theories and sent to the boneyard of discontinued science.  Pretending it is anything other than it is will put off that, one hopes, to be hoped for day.  Though there is no guarantee that any successor theory will not have its own amorally evil content and results.  Human decency depends on other things which science cannot find, as does our survival.

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