Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Hate Mail

Someone is whining at me, with a quote from a sciency blog that Clarence Darrow's piece was more scathing about eugenics than anything William Jennings Bryan wrote.

Well, one of the reasons he might think that could have been because Bryan died within days of the end of the trial.  He was an old and quite sick man when he participated in it.

What Bryan said in his ungiven final speech for the trial about the relationship of Darwinism - natural selection - to eugenics was, in fact, a far more basic and far more extensive criticism of the entire intellectual complex it rested in than Darrow's piece.  Perhaps your expert who wrote that blog post was unaware of the text of Bryan's final argument.

And, lest it be forgotten, eugenics was mainstream science in the 1920s.  While there were anti-eugenics biologists, it's quite likely that in the English speaking world, they were in the minority.  The entire literature of eugenics was based, explicitly and absolutely, on the theory of natural selection.

Even after the war many Darwinists - and by then just about all people in the sciences were Darwinists due to the neo-Darwinian synthesis of the 1930s, lots of the most eminent among them were and still are eugenicists, only those such as Francis Crick advocated their especially racist form of it mostly among his fellow scientists.  Some, such as one of the major figures in forming the neo-Darwinian synthesis, Ronald Fisher were, after the war, vehement eugenicists and scientific racists based on nothing except their belief in natural selection.   William Jennings Bryan was far more insightful on those matters - predicting the horrors he didn't live to see -  than a lot of your heroes of the past or those of today who don't have an ignorance of what eugenics would lead to to cover their asses in their eugenics advocacy.   Get back to me when the likes of the writers at Panda's Thumb go over that post-war eugenics junk.


  1. And they Nazjs took their eugenics laws from us.

    1. They kept better records on American eugenics programs than the Americans did, from what Edwin Black said in War Against the Weak.

      I think I pointed out that when Francis Biddle was presiding over the Nuremberg trials the Nazis were able to quote his boss and mentor, Oliver Wendell Holmes jr. to defend what they'd done. I really doubt it but would love to know if Biddle ever commented on that.