Saturday, October 4, 2014

It Just Feels Like It's Going To Be This Kind of a Saturday Night

Ali Ryerson & Steve Rudolph Trio

Yves Montand - Les Feuilles Mortes

I think I need to  put on my winter coat, wrap myself in a scarf,  put on a flat hat and go sit somewhere somber, cold and quiet, now to look at the leaves in the grey, damp weather we've got today.

In Memory

I once heard someone expound on his theory that whether or not a French Canadian family in New England were Democrats or Republicans depended on which town they had settled in and who the dominant opposing English speaking ethnic group was.   If, as around here, the Anglo-Scot yankees who were Republicans dominated, they would be Democrats in opposition to them, if the dominant group were Irish Catholic - who are, to the surprise of many, not traditionally classified as yankees but who are overwhelmingly Democrats in New England - the French would adopt the Republican identity.  I think it's probably somewhat less true now than thirty or forty years ago when I believe I heard that theory, the mixing of the ethnic groups and rearranging of identity being somewhat modified.  It is certainly less true that there is the hard distinction between Irish and French Catholics, in many towns around here there used to be two Catholic churches, one Irish and one French.  With the priest shortage and the suicidal refusal of the hierarcy to expand the priesthood to married men and women, most towns have lost all of their churches.  In the town I grew up in there was one which was required by the dioceses to have a French speaking priest, which is one of the reasons I learned to speak French somewhat well "for an Irishman" as one of my dearest friends who died yesterday put it.

She and I had French in common first, when she moved here I met her while I was working behind the desk in the library.  She said something in French to her husband and was a bit surprised when I said something to her in French.  She was surprised to find out I had about as Irish a name as you could have.  We soon became friends, both her and her husband who, despite his French name didn't feel confident enough to speak it.  Being shameless, I speak it, errors and all and don't bat an eyelash.   If she noted one I pointed out that I learned from the Arcadians around here from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, whose French is far more antique than the Quebecois who were her family.

She was thirty years older than I am,  she had a stricter, 19th century style childhood, with a formidable, Jansenist, grandmother who wouldn't talk to her grandchildren except in French ("Lose the language and you lose the faith") and a father who made her leave school when she was fifteen to work in a factory until her inevitable marriage ("Education is wasted on girls") despite her being far and away a better student than her brothers.  But despite the differences we became close friends and, through me, she and my mother became quite close, too.

I quickly found out, as she devoured the contents of the library, that she pretty much had read EVERYTHING.  Even my dear old Latin teacher, who read widely in a number of languages had not read as much as she did in two.  Her vocabulary was far larger than mine or even that of my mother, whose use vocabulary might be the largest one I've encountered.  She was the kind of person who you could be talking to about some incident in town and she'd say,  That reminds me so much of what happened in.... what was that play by Ferenc Molnar? .... and be surprised that you didn't know it.  She also read the news and was up on everything and was one of the most reliable volunteers in town.  One thing she refused to do was learn to use a personal computer on the basis that she'd had to learn to use one in her position as secretary, way, way back and she didn't want to have to keep learning new software when she retired.  She'd handle anything in the library except that and do it as well as anyone else.

One of the last conversations I had with her, she told me she never bothered reading novels anymore (new ones, I suspect she'd already read all of the old ones) because she was too interested in real life to be interested in the banal stories about make believe people that constituted the top authors today.   She read voraciously about people, mostly travel writing - Paul Theroux was her favorite, though she told me that she couldn't read him after The Last Train to Zona Verde because it was too depressing and dispiriting.  It's one of the few books she respected that she told me I shouldn't read.

To a lot of people in town, she was a retired secretary, a quaint little French Canadian woman who they seemed to figure was a rather simple person. Perhaps part of their confusion is that she was always knitting.  She was entirely unassuming and, unless you talked to her about something that called on her incredible store of knowledge, she was quite happy to not let anyone know about it.

She was a Democrat, a quite liberal Democrat and someone whom despite what she called her "Victorian" childhood, in her mid-90s had no qualms about discussing issues around sexuality, if the topic came up.  I know she shocked someone she was talking to once when they talked about how disgusting "gay sex" was  in her presence.   She shocked everyone by saying  "Anal sex has risks but it's no one's business what adults do unless they're in public and not only gay men do it."   I never talked about sex with her and certainly not my sex life with her.  As a straight laced, New England Irishman, decidedly not of the Boston Southie variety, I was not comfortable talking about it. I know she wouldn't have blushed, no more than she did when she talked about how ignorant she was on her wedding night.  I was red as a beet about five words into it and she was someone who was never, ever vulgar or coarse.   I can feel my face burning, blushing as I remember it.

She was one of the most genuine intellectuals with one of the greatest souls I've known and I'll miss her.

Too Sick to Write So, Charles Taylor on Master Narratives of Modernism

I've become more and more interested in the bases that are the foundations of how we habitually think of things while not even being aware that those bases are there, like the air we use to talk.  I'm interested in how the results that are shaped, not by objective observation but observation through the sieves and filters provided by those bases, are universally to be regarded as some kind of pure observation of objective reality when they are not.  So, the fine and eminent Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor, one of the more astute critics of modernism is someone I'm spending a lot of time with these days.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Brahms Im Herbst op 104 no5

Ensemble Michel PIquemal

Score   page 125

Thursday, October 2, 2014

I Will Paraphrase

You can't bring up Leonard Darwin because I never heard of him before!

The exclamation mark stands in for several expletives.

No.... No...No.    I don't tailor what I write for people who don't know already and won't learn when they're presented with something new.   I write what I found - ususally not having known either, before looking -  and anyone who wants to check can check to see if I've gotten it right or if what I conclude from it makes sense.  Sort of the opposite who your average online magazine writer writes to. 

The Darwinist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Note:  I'm sick.   The other day, my former co-blogger, the estimable Echidne, had this post which touches on a theme, the allegation that there is a difference in the brains of men and women because boys test (as being a tiny bit) better at the ability to imagine and rotate 3-D shapes than girls can.  Girls, on the other hand are held to be better at the (far less esteemed) practice of empathy.  A tiny difference which, if I remember the actual literature correctly, may be a statistical artifact and which, with training, can be made to disappear.  In the comments I expressed why I think the belief that that "difference" is "hard wired" due to genetic inheritance, as opposed to alternative explanations is total nonsense.  But, I  shouldn't try to get into that as the Benadryl kicks in.   I'll just repeat that it is illogical to esteem the "male ability" over the "girly" one because while you might rotate a 3-D image in your mind to produce weapons of mass destruction, killing millions, it is impossible to empathize a genocide into reality.

The fans of the men are from Mars, women get to do that empathy stuff made me recall this post that I did the last time I looked into the rats nest of the Darwin Wars.   It is especially relevant to yesterday's subject.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. made what might be the most infamous declaration on eugenics made in the United States, it may be his most well known quote.

Three generations of imbeciles are enough.

The fuller reading of the paragraph, near the end of his decision in the Buck v Bell case, is even worse:

The attack is not upon the procedure, but upon the substantive law. It seems to be contended that in no circumstances could such an order be justified. It certainly is contended that the order cannot be justified upon the existing grounds. The judgment finds the facts that have been recited, and that Carrie Buck

"is the probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring, likewise afflicted, that she may be sexually sterilized without detriment to her general health, and that her welfare and that of society will be promoted by her sterilization,"

and thereupon makes the order. In view of the general declarations of the legislature and the specific findings of the Court, obviously we cannot say as matter of law that the grounds do not exist, and, if they exist, they justify the result. We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U. S. 11. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.

If I had the time, I'd go through Holmes' famous dissents in matters of prior restraint in printed matter, even, as in the Gitlow case, against the restraint of publishing incitements to violent insurrection and revolution, even as Holmes contemplated that sufficiently eloquent incitements might succeed in that incitement.  I see his approval of the forced sterilization of Carrie Buck was a "prior restraint" on her ability to have another child.  Leaving aside Stephen Jay Gould's essay on the case, in which he quite conclusively shows that neither Carrie Buck nor her daughter were, actually, of below normal intelligence,  Holmes clearly saw the danger of her having another child as being a greater danger to "the state" than a possibly successful insurrection overturning the government.   In the Gitlow case, when it was merely the mode of expression and its contents that were at stake, he said:

Every idea is an incitement. It offers itself for belief and if believed it is acted on unless some other belief outweighs it or some failure of energy stifles the movement at its birth. The only difference between the expression of an opinion and an incitement in the narrower sense is the speaker's enthusiasm for the result. Eloquence may set fire to reason. But whatever may be thought of the redundant discourse before us it had no chance of starting a present conflagration. If in the long run the beliefs expressed in proletarian dictatorship are destined to be accepted by the dominant forces of the community, the only meaning of free speech is that they should be given their chance and have their way.

However, clearly, in Buck v Bell, Holmes considered that people, their right to have children, the right to the ownership of their own body, was less important compared to the right of words.  


It would be possible to go through the decision and make point by point comparisons with what the great Holmes said and what such infamous figures as Galton, Haeckel, and their colleagues now considered less disreputable said and find who Holmes was very likely paraphrasing.  In fact, on the other end of the history of the first eugenics era, the defense of Nazi doctors at Nuremberg cited Holmes' decision as well as other American documents in their defense.  You have to wonder what that felt like for Francis Biddle, the chief judge at those trials, given that he had been Holmes' private secretary.   

His familiarity with Holmes gives Biddle's analysis of the effect that Holmes' thinking and reading a particular credibility that could stand alone as evidence of how he came to decide what he did.  In a series of lectures Biddle gave, which were published in 1960 he said.  

All society rested on the death of men or on the prevention of the lives of a good many. So that when the Chief Justice assigned him the task of writing an opinion upholding the constitutionality 
of a Virginia law for sterilizing imbeciles he felt that he was getting near the first principle of real reform— although of course he didn't mean that the surgeon's knife was the ultimate symbol. 
... He was amused at some of the rhetorical changes in his opinion suggested by his associates, and purposely used "short and rather brutal words for an antithesis," that made them mad. In most cases the difficulty was rather with the writing than with the thinking. To put the case well and from time to time to hint at a vista was the job. . . . 

The vista of which Biddle spoke was provided by Holmes' reading of Charles Darwin.  Biddle continued:

This approach is characteristic of Holmes, and constantly reflected in his opinions— to keep the law fluid and the doors of the mind open. For pedestrian lawyers it was often unsatisfactory— they wanted everything defined and settled and turned into everlasting precedents. 

Darwin's influence was strong on Holmes, and his theory of the survival of those who were fit to survive must have been constantly and passionately discussed in Dr. Holmes's house when 
Wendell was a growing lad and young man. On the Origin of Species had appeared when he was eighteen, and The Descent of Man in 1871, when he was thirty. Darwin led to Herbert Spencer, 
whom Holmes thought dull, with the ideals of a lower middle-class British Philistine, but who, with Darwin, he believed had done more than any other English writer to affect our whole way of thinking about the universe. All his life Holmes held to the survival of the strong, and did not disguise his view that the Sherman Act was a humbug, based on economic ignorance and incompetence, and that the Interstate Commerce Commission was not a fit body to be entrusted with rate making. However, as he said to Pollock, he was so skeptical about our knowledge of the goodness or badness of laws that he had no practical criticism except what the crowd wants. Personally he would bet that the crowd if it knew more wouldn't want what it does. 

Compared to the "right" of private businesses to do things that could have enormous effects, good or bad, on countless people, including deaths,  Holmes saw the danger of individual people asserted to be "imbeciles"  having a child as more deserving of the most extreme state intervention, even into their bodies with surgery, on the mere prediction that any child they had was of an increased potential to be intellectually or physically deficient.  

Yet Holmes is seen as some kind of great progressive force in the law, primarily, I'd guess, due to his free speech dissents and his usefulness to Franklin Roosevelt at the very end of his life.  There was the movie of the play "The Magnificent Yankee" which only adds weight to the case that historical fiction in the hands of the theater and Hollywood, is best considered to be fiction.  Liberals seem to be suckers for that kind of "history".

Since he lived until 1935, Holmes saw eugenics activity in the United States increase enormously after his decision, responsible for the forced and involuntary sterilization of scores of thousands of people.  He also lived to see the rise of fascists in Europe, the Nazis, he lived long enough and could have been quite aware of the Nazis eugenic laws, the first in Germany, in July of 1933, laws which were justified by the Nazis and their supporters by citing the eugenics laws in the United States, both at the beginning and, as mentioned before, after the fall of the Third Reich.  I don't know if he is recorded as ever having said anything about that,  other than his declaration that he felt he was getting at "the first principle of real reform" in his decision, I haven't yet found anything he said in its wake.  I would suspect there is something, I just haven't found it yet.

David A. Hollinger, in an interesting essay, "The Tough-Minded Justice Holmes" gives more insight into what almost certainly influenced Holmes to write his most famous decision.  He notes the influence of Charles Darwin and his circle and how William James tried to broaden his friend, Holmes' views and lead him to be less unquestioningly accepting of them. 

This is not to claim that James developed his categories with Holmes in mind, but there is no doubt that this particular map of intellectual alternatives was suggested to James by a circle of mid-nineteenth-century British secular intellectuals with whom Holmes strongly identified himself and against whom Jame's own career as a philosopher was directed.  The members of this circle were often called “scientific naturalists” or, less helpfully, “positivists”;  they included Herbet Spencer, G. H. Lewes, T. H. Huxley, John Tyndall, W.K. Clifford, Henry Buckle and – although his reticence in philosophical and religious matters made his position in this movement ambiguous – the great Charles Darwin Himself.  To James, these “knights of the razor,” as he called them sardonically, were anathema on account of their parochial misunderstanding of science and their extraordinary ability to intimidate people who would prefer to make a more generous view of religious experience and individual volition. While James mocked the pretensions of Popular Science Monthly – the major American medium for the dissemination of the views of this circle, Holmes so rejoiced in its influence that he sent a fan letter to its militant editor, E. L. Youmans.  Holmes celebrated the triumphs of this truly “scientific,” reality-facing, ostentatiously stoic cadre over the sentimentalism he associated with his own father.  While James thought his friend Holmes was making rather a spectacle of himself by representing his marks of toughness the scars worn by the sword-fighting duelists in German universities, Holmes seemed convinced that the battle against sentimentalism was never won. 

The idea that Holmes' "tough-mindedness", an attribute given him by James, could have been reacting to the "sentimentalism" of his father, the poet, is interesting.  It's almost tempting to see Holmes as an example of that turn from 19th century liberalism of the kind that produced the reform movements of abolition, women's rights, temperance, various reforms to protect workers and consumers, etc. into a more "scientific" liberalism that still distorts, denatures and defeats liberals today.  But I think the case is that such denatured liberalism was unable to make the distinction between a mythical, liberal Holmes and the reality of his products.  Is it his "free speech" language that deceives liberals?  Liberals go all soggy when someone says those words.  Free speech, with its potential to incite violent struggle can be seen as a useful motivator of natural selection as much as it is a vital component of liberal reform.  In the hands of the rich and powerful it has that effect, often to the detriment of genuine liberalism, as our freest press ever proves 24/7/365.  In the beginning of his essay, Hollinger points out:

.....that a major folk hero of the liberal intelligentsia is a man who has been plausibly described by Grant Gilmore as “savage, harsh, and cruel, a bitter and lifelong pessimist who saw in the course of human life nothing but a continuing struggle in which the rich and powerful impose their will on the poor and weak.  The two issues are largely distinct from one another, but they do connect through the utility of a “scientific” persona held for proponents of a genuinely secular, de-Christianized liberalism for the public culture of the United States. 

This is what I meant by the wrong turn that liberalism took as it attempted to become more "tough-minded", more "scientific", less "sentimental".  Such liberalism equates whatever is held to be science with hard reality and whatever can be associated with the "sentimental" as being an illusion, including religion, including vast stretches of morality which comprise the genuine substance of liberalism.  This is how it mistakes Holmes for a liberal when he was no such thing, it's how eugenics, the negation of everything that liberalism comprises, came to be associated with liberalism.  

Post Script:  I can't say it any better than the atheist and materialist and friend of Stephen Jay Gould,  Richard Lewontin, did in his Essay:  Billions and Billions of Demons

The struggle for possession of public consciousness between material and mystical explanations of the world is one aspect of the history of the confrontation between elite culture and popular culture. Without that history we cannot understand what was going on in the Little Rock Auditorium in 1964. The debate in Arkansas between a teacher from a Texas fundamentalist college and a Harvard astronomer and University of Chicago biologist was a stage play recapitulating the history of American rural populism. In the first decades of this century there was an immensely active populism among poor southwestern dirt farmers and miners.7 The most widely circulated American socialist journal of the time (The Appeal to Reason!) was published not in New York, but in Girard, Kansas, and in the presidential election of 1912 Eugene Debs got more votes in the poorest rural counties of Texas and Oklahoma than he did in the industrial wards of northern cities. Sentiment was extremely strong against the banks and corporations that held the mortgages and sweated the labor of the rural poor, who felt their lives to be in the power of a distant eastern elite. The only spheres of control that seemed to remain to them were family life, a fundamentalist religion, and local education. 

This sense of an embattled culture was carried from the southwest to California by the migrations of the Okies and Arkies dispossessed from their ruined farms in the 1930s. There was no serious public threat to their religious and family values until well after the Second World War. Evolution, for example, was not part of the regular biology curriculum when I was a student in 1946 in the New York City high schools, nor was it discussed in school textbooks. In consequence there was no organized creationist movement. Then, in the late 1950s, a national project was begun to bring school science curricula up to date. A group of biologists from elite universities together with science teachers from urban schools produced a new uniform set of biology textbooks, whose publication and dissemination were underwritten by the National Science Foundation. An extensive and successful public relations campaign was undertaken to have these books adopted, and suddenly Darwinian evolution was being taught to children everywhere. The elite culture was now extending its domination by attacking the control that families had maintained over the ideological formation of their children. 

Lewontin's is about the most realistic, most informed and most sophisticated analysis of the this struggle in the United States which I've read.

In a struggle that produces far more than its share of ironies, it is remarkable that as the fundamentalist anti-evolutionists who have made the best use of the history of American Eugenics, the eugenics history of Charles Darwin and his inner circle and the waves emanating from them as present day liberals are obsessively protecting the inspiration of eugenics, the lassie-faire capitalist, supporter of the 19th century British class system, anti-contraceptive, racist, flagrant bigot, etc. Charles Darwin on behalf of his science, which is long superseded by better explanations of the fact of evolution. 

How Darwinism became the great cause celebre of liberalism when it has nothing to do with a genuine liberal political agenda and, in the genuine history of Darwinism is antithetical to liberalism, is worth asking.  The separation of church and state is worth supporting but, frankly, if we've got to buy Darwinism to do it, it's not going to lead to liberalism.  I don't think liberalism has to make that deal.  At the very least it should face the real Charles Darwin and throw him off the sled.  Liberal struggle requires that.


Here is more of how his devoted friend and private secretary, Francis Biddle,  wrote of the imagined hero of liberals today, Justice Holmes:

He was an aristocrat and a conservative.  He did not prefer, he said, a world with a hundred million bores in it to one with ten.  The fewer people who do not contribute beauty or thought, the better.  He had little sympathy with the sufferings and failures of mankind; and no urgent desire to change their lot.  He thought that in the last analysis man rightly preferred his own interest to that of his neighbor, and did not believe in the Christian precept of love thy neighbor as thyself, which was the test of the meddling missionary:  if men thought more about their jobs and less about themselves and their neighbors, they would accomplish more in the world.  

He shared the general ideas that had been current when he was young, and he did not abandon them as he grew older.  These made him skeptical of much of the social and economic legislation adopted after he came to Washington at the beginning of the twentieth century.  He clung, for instance, to the argument of Malthus, the British curate who believed that population, unchecked by disease, war and poverty, would forever outdistance its means of subsistence, and remained pessimistic of possibilities of the future progress of mankind.  Holmes wrote to Pollock in the summer of 1914 that he had been reading the Nicomachean Ethics, Descartes, Berkeley, Ricardo and Malthus.  Malthus both pleased him immensely, and left him sad:  “ A hundred years ago he busted fallacies that politicians and labor leaders still live on . . . Exposures amount to nothing when people want to believe.”

In that last sentence, I finally find something to agree with him on, though his means at arriving there are degenerate in the extreme.

Any liberal who can read that and not question a liberalism that could hold Holmes as a great liberal hero, is no liberal.  The liberalism that hold Holmes in such high esteem is a pantomime of liberalism, libertarian but not liberal.  As can be seen in the failure of liberalism in the period after its highest point in the mid-1960s, that kind of liberalism is a political loser.

Biddle mentions Nuremberg once in the book that I've found and it and the lecture it appears in are well worth considering.  He doesn't mention the use of his mentor and hero by the Nazis on trial in so far as I've been able to find it.  I might look for that possible information later, though I now doubt it exists. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Again. One Of The Biggest Superstitions Held Among the Secular Intellectual Class and Many Nonintellectual Mid-Brows

Apparently what always happens when these issues are discussed on a factual basis has happened, I have been accused of having anti-Darwin cooties.   Some comparison of what I said with the words of someone named Jessica Duggar, someone I'd never heard of before, research keeping me from knowledge of that all important topic of study,  American "reality" TV.   I anticipated something like that which is why I said,  "And, though it will inevitably be a matter of making the most precise and subtle distinctions, which will inevitably be misunderstood, both unintentionally and intentionally, that is inescapable."

Being a bit of an old hand at the dirty dealing of ideologues, right and "left" , I know exactly how those proud to claim the title "reality community" will attack anyone who talks about these issues and it is not on the basis of evidence, the historical record.  And it will not be based on what the main figures involved said, including what their greatest of great heroes, Charles Darwin, really presented as having the reliability of science.

It is as hard a fact as any in science that Charles Darwin supported and promoted the first links in the chain of causation that led to the Holocaust, those in the writings and works of Francis Galton and Ernst Haeckel and lesser figures who are only excluded from that chain by the most blatant of lies.  He did that in some of his most popular books, The Descent of Man and in later editions of On the Origin of Species in which he, himself, equated Natural Selection with Spencerian "survival of the fittest" in exactly those terms.  Everything in eugenics, including Nazi eugenics flows from that explicit act of the man and it was understood as being causal even by those who knew Charles Darwin better than anyone who never met the man or was intimately associated with him.

No, I was not the one who made the causal link between Charles Darwin  and the Nazi program of epic mass murder.    That connection was made years before I was born.  Among many others,  one figure stands out as absolutely qualified to make that connection, Charles Darwin's son, a man he raised, who knew him as intimately as a child knows their own, beloved father, Leonard Darwin.  I have written about his own words, in 1939, six years after the adoption of the eugenics laws, the first in Germany, by the Nazis, and within weeks of the official opening of the mass murder program which began with the murders of the "unfit".   He had made the same link several other times in previous decades,  his claims supported by things his brother Francis (named after Galton) and George wrote and presumably by the many other children and grand children of Charles Darwin who knew the man and who were involved in eugenics.  Their actions speak as loudly and almost as frankly as words.

Given the history of eugenics in the United States, which the Nazis explicitly and publicly took as a model (they documented its activities in far more detail than the American programs did, themselves), what American eugenicists claimed about both the scientific and historical basis of their science was accepted by them.   Considering the nationalistic Germanic vainglory that was intrinsic to Nazism, it is remarkable how much use they made of American eugenics programs in their public propaganda for it.

The poster lists, by flag and by name, countries which had already established government eugenics programs and countries where eugenics laws were under consideration.  I don't know the extent to which others of those served as models for the Nazis, but there is a massive record of them learning how to do things from the United States.  They certainly noticed that one of the main features of American and other already up and running eugenics programs was that specific and named ethnic groups were explicitly marked for forced and involuntary sterilizations and so for genocide.

Since they were typical members of the German intellectual class, the Nazis who promoted eugenics and designed the Nazi eugenics laws read and understood what the American and other eugenicists said about their science.   Having read some of the eugenic literature, that was the second unbreakable chain  which unites the Holocaust, eugenics in Germany and elsewhere, its foundation in natural selection without which eugenics would not have been invented.  We have absolute proof of that because the inventor of eugenics, Charles Darwin's close colleague and cousin, a man who he read and cited as science, Francis Galton made that attribution with absolute explicitness in his memoir.  That record of attribution of eugenics to Charles Darwin, through his theory of Natural Selection pervades all of the literature of the eugenics movement which discusses the history of their movement.  It is the explicitly stated basis of the entire theory of eugenics.  The only  way to pretend that Charles Darwin was not part of it is to insist on a transparent and obvious lie, but it is just that lie which is an article of the faith of almost all English speaking people who believe they are good "liberals" or leftists who were educated in the post-war period.   It is a sad thing when an educated class enforces the repetition of a lie that even the Nazis didn't believe.

That those in the anti-abortion movement and those who want to impose creationism on American biology classrooms don't go along with that lie doesn't make the lie true.  No matter how much those folks are considered to have cooties, that doesn't change the historical record, the words of Charles Darwin and all others involved in the period before the Nazis deciding to take natural selection into their own hands.

As much as you might hate it, the Nazis were doing what was was explicitly presented in The Descent of Man as the inevitable positive alternative to total disaster.  The book continually and with what Darwin presented as scientific citation presented the killing of those deputed to be biologically inferior by those who were presented as biologically superior as a means of progressive improvement in the human population.  The Nazi's crime is doing exactly what was the basis of more genteel expressions of eugenics as practiced by English speaking doctors in Vermont and California, Virginia and Alberta, making sure that "inferior" people not would have children.  In fact the Nazis were doing exactly what Charles Darwin presented as being the way of nature, the superior killed off the inferior, the inferior were cut off from the future, the survivors (somehow) were improved and they would comprise the new and improved future.  That horrific application of natural selection will always be a danger because as Darwin presented it, actions like those are supposed to be a lesser evil than allowing the "inferior" to have children and that is a disaster because such people will be alive, living, eating and living lives.  It was English language speaking eugenicists, including Leonard Darwin who contemplated mass killing in gas chambers as a solution to having those inferior alive and eating and having families.  Leonard Darwin's soft handed discouragement of it presents it as not likely being effective, not as a crime and a moral atrocity.  I'm sure the Nazis must have read that and figured they, as Germans,  could manage things more efficiently than a genteel English gentleman imagined.

I have come to the conclusion that the most common use of Charles Darwin in the general culture and certainly by those who lie about his writing and his place in both intellectual and actual history is motivated by his usefulness in the promotion of atheism, his refutation of the story of creation in the early chapters of Genesis.  That is his actual political use by his greatest admirers, of whom I doubt more than 2% have ever read anything he wrote more challenging that The Voyage of the Beagle and I doubt even 5% of them have read that much.  Their Charles Darwin is a creation of BBC costume dramas and the post-war folklore of propaganda that was created to shield the man from his own words and the  words of those who have something in common which none of them do, they knew the man, in person, even as personally as a son knows his own father.

As I began at the top of the page, I knew what was coming when I started looking into this topic.  I knew that anyone looking into it will be attacked and how.  Anyone who does needs to make sure they're covered by citations of primary material, from those who are the subject of it.  In order to do that with links here, I'd have to present this post in red, since, literally, everything I've said on this topic is based on what the primary historical record, the words of Charles Darwin, Francis Galton, Ernst Haeckel, .... Paul Popone,  Leonard Darwin, Wilhelm Schallmeyer, Alfred Ploetz, etc. said.  That includes the directest links to Adoph Hitler as he was writing his most influential book, Mein Kampf, what informed his thinking and those who were influenced by that book.   Anyone who has missed that documentation can find a lot of it in the posts indexed here.  Not that I expect anyone who watches a lot of "reality" TV will take the time to check my citations for accuracy.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Get E-mail Heads Ups

Yeah, I looked at what he said, it doesn't surprise me that the insignifiance grise of bébé bleu, reminds me of what Bogey said about Katherine Hepburn said about the press, she didn't care what they said about her as long as it wasn't true.  It's something I've learned the wisdom of.  And the guy gives me so much to not care about on that count.   

Another  Hepburn quote is far less relevant to the case, 

Enemies are so stimulating

I'm sure if she'd ever noticed an enemy that insignificant she'd never have said that. 

Robert Schumann Dichterliebe Fritz Wunderlich

Hubert Giesen, piano


Your Provocative Ideas For Tuesday

1.  Yes, I did intend to point out that the wildly popular with many atheists Richard Dawkins was setting up a line of reasoning which could be used to call for the prevention of the births of atheists.   He's the one who is always inventing "genetic bases" for all kinds of behavioral and psychological "things", even "things" such as religious belief which are artificial categories invented within human culture, not actual "things" like the pigmentation of eyes or skin.

2.  Yes, I did intend to provoke thinking about THE FACT that freedom to choose abortion for genetic factors has mostly resulted in the abortion of girls, the purported beneficiaries of a right to abortion, arguably a decrease in the cumulative rights of women in the most serious of all expressions of it, as well as in more general expressions.  I don't see how those horrific paradoxes can avoid being addressed in the world-wide campaign of rights of women, though in cultures where women are not routinely seen as preventable through abortion, it seems to be, paradoxically, unmentionable.

3.  Yes, I do encourage you and everyone to consider that by the mere act of regarding human life in terms of utilitarian value measured by "happiness" you legitimate people looking at your children, your families, YOU in the same terms.

4. It was the stated goal of eugenicists and eugenics organizations to progressively eliminate the "bottom 10%" of the population, including statements purported to be idealistic quests for the general happiness and good of humanity by some of the most highly regarded social thinkers and scientists.   Only, once that " bottom 10%" (the product of imagination and arbitrary definition) was eliminated, there would be a new "bottom 10%" which would very likely include some of those who had approved of the removal of the previous "bottom 10%".  Eventually most of you would be part of that "bottom 10%" whose removal would be deemed a virtuous desideratum, blessed by science and this malignant and nightmarish form of promotion of "the general good of society".   Once that form of instrumental thinking has been that well established, you'll find yourself hard pressed to stop it.  In fact it is already established and thoroughly embedded* as you can read in the comment threads of a number of allegedly liberal online mags and blogs and, certainly, in explicitly right-wing ones.

Here is an excerpt from the Introduction of the excellent book,  War Against the Weak, by  Edwin Black:

Voices haunt the pages of every book. This particular book, however, speaks for the never-born, for those whose questions have never been heard—for those who never existed.

Throughout the first six decades of the twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of Americans and untold numbers of others were not permitted to continue their families by reproducing. Selected because of their ancestry, national origin, race or religion, they were forcibly sterilized, wrongly committed to mental institutions where they died in great numbers, prohibited from marrying, and sometimes even unmarried by state bureaucrats. In America, this battle to wipe out whole ethnic groups was fought not by armies with guns nor by hate sects at the margins. Rather, this pernicious white-gloved war was prosecuted by esteemed professors, elite universities, wealthy industrialists and government officials colluding in a racist, pseudoscientific movement called eugenics. The purpose: create a superior Nordic race.

To perpetuate the campaign, widespread academic fraud combined with almost unlimited corporate philanthropy to establish the biological rationales for persecution. Employing a hazy amalgam of guesswork, gossip, falsified information and polysyllabic academic arrogance, the eugenics movement slowly constructed a national bureaucratic and juridical infrastructure to cleanse America of its “unfit.” Specious intelligence tests, colloquially known as IQ tests, were invented to justify incarceration of a group labeled “feebleminded.” Often the so-called feebleminded were just shy, too good-natured to be taken seriously, or simply spoke the wrong language or were the wrong color. Mandatory sterilization laws were enacted in some twenty-seven states to prevent targeted individuals from reproducing more of their kind. Marriage prohibition laws proliferated throughout the country to stop race mixing. Collusive litigation was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sanctified eugenics and its tactics.

The goal was to immediately sterilize fourteen million people in the United States and millions more worldwide—the “lower tenth”—and then continuously eradicate the remaining lowest tenth until only a pure Nordic super race remained. Ultimately, some 60,000 Americans were coercively sterilized and the total is probably much higher. No one knows how many marriages were thwarted by state felony statutes. Although much of the persecution was simply racism, ethnic hatred and academic elitism, eugenics wore the mantle of respectable science to mask its true character.

The victims of eugenics were poor urban dwellers and rural “white trash” from New England to California, immigrants from across Europe, Blacks, Jews, Mexicans, Native Americans, epileptics, alcoholics, petty criminals, the mentally ill and anyone else who did not resemble the blond and blue-eyed Nordic ideal the eugenics movement glorified. Eugenics contaminated many otherwise worthy social, medical and educational causes from the birth control movement to the development of psychology to urban sanitation. Psychologists persecuted their patients. Teachers stigmatized their students. Charitable associations clamored to send those in need of help to lethal chambers they hoped would be constructed. Immigration assistance bureaus connived to send the most needy to sterilization mills. Leaders of the ophthalmology profession conducted a long and chilling political campaign to round up and coercively sterilize every relative of every American with a vision problem. All of this churned throughout America years before the Third Reich rose in Germany.

*  I would point out that it should be alien to traditional American liberalism which was based in the removal of people from those habits of viewing people as economic value and as beings with intrinsic and inalienable rights which individuals, societies and governments had a moral obligation to respect.  It was, though, more native to English thinking, formed through the class system and poor law.  Class, though BBC costume drama may cover it up, is based exactly in the distribution of rights as if those were not an absolute and inalienable possession of each person on an equal basis.  It was the classification of people in terms of an assumed possession of rights as certainly as the Hindu caste system is. Only it is so culturally embedded and habitual that its actual nature is not recognized even as its enforcement is performed by even those who are disadvantaged by it.   As I have come to conclude, the model and trial version of The Holocaust is found most explicitly in the English caste system, the Poor Law and the death camps that were the work house system.  It is hard to look at the activities of the infamous criminal, the mastermind economist of the T-4 program( of which the Hadamar psychiatric hosptial - murder center was merely one part) Viktor Brack,  and not be able to find exact parallels in the British work houses and associated programs and in the published words of even many British (and other English language) authors as respectable as George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells.

Dear Reichsführer, among 10's of millions of Jews in Europe, there are, I figure, at least 2-3 millions of men and women who are fit enough to work. Considering the extraordinary difficulties the labor problem presents us with, I hold the view that those 2-3 millions should be specially selected and preserved. This can however only be done if at the same time they are rendered incapable to propagate. About a year ago I reported to you that agents of mine have completed the experiments necessary for this purpose. I would like to recall these facts once more. Sterilization, as normally performed on persons with hereditary diseases is here out of the question, because it takes too long and is too expensive. Castration by X-ray however is not only relatively cheap, but can also be performed on many thousands in the shortest time. I think that at this time it is already irrelevant whether the people in question become aware of having been castrated after some weeks or months, once they feel the effects. Should you, Reichsführer, decide to choose this way in the interest of the preservation of labor, then Reichsleiter Bouhler would be prepared to place all physicians and other personnel needed for this work at your disposal. Likewise he requested me to inform you that then I would have to order the apparatus so urgently needed with the greatest speed. Heil Hitler! Yours, Viktor Brack.
Letter written to Heinrich Himmler (23 June 1942)

That, dear readers, is an expression of utilitarian value and biological fitness and a program of economic expediency on how to wring the last part of value from those lives that would make an economist marvel at the calculation of cost benefit.   Which is no way to look at human beings if you want to prevent the proven results of such thinking.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Affluent People Seldom Imagine Themselves As Being Candidates For Eugenic Elimination, Funny That

There has been some confusion as to the point of my post Saturday.

Richard Dawkins' breezy assertion about the desirability of a specific kind of people not being alive and among us, based on their utilitarian value in adding "happiness" to the world, is clearly a standard of judgement he would never apply to his class or himself.   He's not alone in that, it is the general rule with those who make breezy assertions about the "value" of other people and their lives that they would never want to be subjected to their methods of toting up the worth of those lives.  Or they could never imagine someone not seeing their lives expressed as "things" exactly as they do, themselves.

It was happenstance that I'd written about the measured and documented debility that atheism was associated with last week.  Lower life expectancy, increased illness and health problems, matched with lower birth rates.   That, my dear readers is exactly the measure of "fitness" that is the basis of Richard Dawkins' science.  Natural selection is measured in just those terms, fitness and reproductive advantage. In his own terms, the high priest of atheism,  Richard Dawkins',  own identity group is of less utilitarian and biological value than the religious people he so disdains.  I am sure an economist could come up with some alleged measure of the cost of atheism to society in terms of healthcare costs, figuring in the lower reproduction rates, early death rates, etc. to come up with some numbers of alleged informative value, of the kind that someone would assume was possible to measure the "value" of other human groups, including those who have Down Syndrome.

The fact is, that when you begin to practice evaluating people, their "fitness" to live - to put it plainly, the desirability of their not living or, more plainly, BEING DEAD - or their value in economic terms, you have made looking at yourself and your group justifiable.  I would say that, considering the history of that kind of economic evaluation of human lives which has had a horrifically devastating effect on people, depriving billions of people of "happiness" that it is a moral imperative to hold the people who do that to their own methods of evaluation.   And, unlike the practice of that in the past, we must not allow them to rig the vectors considered to their own advantage.   

In my long research into the issues surround eugenics, Darwinian natural selection applied to the human population,  I saw, at each and every step, there was a rigging of what was considered to be of more and of less value.  It wasn't unpredictable that the white, Norther European, university trained, aspirants to or members of the upper economic classes, would set things up the way they did and still do today*.  The common attributes of that class were given a positive evaluation, generally not an explicit number but a tacitly stated variable or constant value.   The things given a negative value in the calculation of worth was also predictable.  That those with dark skin were to be regarded as of lesser value was a given from the very beginning.   The entire question of what .... NO WHO was worth keeping alive or allowed to be born was a question of class and ethnic identification, subject to a few outliers of that group due to birth defects and the such.


Of course the issue of abortion is inevitably tied up with this proposed eugenic elimination of named populations of people.   And, though it will inevitably be a matter of making the most precise and subtle distinctions, which will inevitably be misunderstood, both unintentionally and intentionally, that is inescapable.

For a woman who is presented with the information that the child she is carrying will have Down Syndrome, her decision of whether or not to have an abortion will generally depend on her ability to imagine what the future of the child and her life with it will be.  If, perhaps as with most people, she has never known someone who has Down Syndrome and seen that many of them have happy lives and families who love and cherish them, it may be hard for her to imagine that as a possible outcome.  Richard Dawkins would seem to not encourage imagining that as a possibility since he, actually, presented the abortion of such a child as a moral imperative.

That such a child may bring less pain, at less cost to society than a stinking rich trust fund brat of a wealthy family who sends their spawn to Oxford, Cambrige, Harvard or Stamford, before they go on to be a titan in the military-industrial-banking complex would seem to be incomprehensible to him and many of the "liberal" commentators at places like Salon magazine.  If I were in the business of making those kinds of off the cuff calculations of utilitarian fitness to be born, based on the "happiness" contributed or destroyed, I'd feel morally obligated to insist that such pregnancies never be allowed to come to term.  But I'm not in that business.  Odd that those scientists who are seem to miss the opportunity to apply their science to a class who have added so much suffering and cost to the world.

Though I would hold that the state has no legitimate right to regulate or control the bodies of women and that the legitimate interest of the state certainly doesn't extend past the skin, it is inevitable that the reasons women have abortions will have consequences in societies where they live.  The frequent choice to abort girls is certainly a sign that the exercise of rights exist in the social and cultural milieu in which that exercise happens, not on the basis of an assumption of equal value of the two genders.  The ability science gave parents to determine the gender of the child being carried has, in many cases, prevented the births of, mostly, girls and favored the birth of boys.  That has been mentioned in some of the response to Dawkins' declaration, in those socieites, it is very easy for parents to imagine the "happiness" value of girls as a negative number and, so, many millions of girls who would have been there aren't.

There would seem to be no indication but that the results have been a disaster for the rights of women and their status in those societies.  While it may be hard for women in North America or Europe to imagine the paradox of a right they regard in the abstract informed by their experience of life here, the picture they come up with is not universally relevant.   It is certainly true that the casual ability to determine the gender of a fetus and the ability to have an abortion will lead to men and other women forcing women to have abortions they would, otherwise, have chosen not to have.

Asserting that right to choose abortion,  which I agree with,   doesn't do a thing to change the facts as they are.  What is chosen is not always  a matter of free choice anymore than a choice is made on the basis of full information.  In the case of the choice or whether or not to abort a child with Down Syndrome,  I would expect the choice is generally made on far less information.   Dawkins' and so many others are of no help at all in adding clarity.

It is so easy for those who are addicted to the methods of the social sciences, such as Dawkins, to see entire human beings, entire human lives, entire human groups as the most vulgar and deceptive of reductionist abstractions.   That habit was embedded in the British line of thought that includes Darwin's inspiration, Malthus,  the British Utilitarian thinkers, the truly nasty Fabians and the legal system created to serve the class bound English establishment.  All of those ultimately served and operated under the assumptions of that class system, including those who peopled the universities and science faculties that developed those methods. Virtually everything, from the most pedestrian of assumptions up to the massive Poor Law- work house system was based in the economic evaluation of lives in the abstract but which in hard, living fact belonged to real people in the most flesh and blood and living and DEATH reality.   For some reason it is hard for English speakers to appreciate how blood drenched that method of thinking about people is, of those who speak English and those who don't.   It is somewhat easier to understand when it speaks German or some other language of some "other" or other.

One of the most horrifically banal and evil events I read about in my researches was the festive celebration held at the psychiatric hospital in Hadamar Germany when they had murdered and cremated their 10,000th person selected as being unfit and a burden to society.  Beer and cake were served as the thick, acrid smoke that had been that 10,000th person and, certainly those people who were represented in the immediately lower numbers of their records, went into the air above the hospital.  It, no doubt, added to the happiness of those members of the fit population who gassed the "patients" and fed the crematoria, those who were higher up in the ranks of fitness of the employees of the hospital, those who moved paper around.  No doubt the elite members of that select "fit", the nurses, the doctors and perhaps even the most elite administrators came down for a glass of beer and some cake.  Though it may have been the kind of act of indulgent condescension that comprises nobleness oblige.   That is an act of imagination on my part.   Perhaps something like that entered the minds of those who judged a number of those employees for various war crimes and crimes against humanity after the allied victory.   I can easily imagine that happening here and now and in English as well as I can in German in the 1940s.  I used to have a harder time imagining it happening here.  With the popularity of biological determinism in line with economic utility and efficiency since the 1970s, I can imagine it very easily, now.

* I would recommend listening to the story Rupert Sheldrake tells on that video I linked to the other day in which he tells of how, as a young, undergrad atheist member of the Humanist society and a honors student in biology, he went to listen to the eminent biologist, Julian Huxley lecture on the eugenic desirability of the right kind of people producing more children through artificial insemination.   His perfect candidate was an eminent figure in the sciences, with a good education, coming from a line of eminent and accomplished people, as Sheldrake said, Julian Huxley asserted that the most fit of such parents would be a Julian Huxley.   He goes on to note that Huxley's son, now in his extreme old age in California has had his level of happiness reduced by getting requests for DNA samples from people who suspect they were his half siblings, their birth resulting from sperm donation.

I'd not known that there was a more successful Nobel Stud Farm scam than the one that the dotty, racist and rather biologically naive Nobel laureate, physicist William Shockley set up.   I seem to recall that the only known donations to that American effort was the very aged sperm of one William Shockely, no doubt having the higher presence of mutations due to the age of the donor, and his assistant who he let in under the prospects of him being a "future Nobel".   One wonders, though blanches, at what those two must have imagined their stud line would produce.   I think the best Huxley of them all, Aldous, probably was closer to what would come of that kind of stuff.