Saturday, May 27, 2017

Another Footnote As An Afterthought

When I originally posted about the founder of German eugenics, as an organized entity. Wilhelm Schallmeyer,  in the absence of English translations of his work I depended on a very interesting book by Sheila Weiss, Race Hygiene and National Efficiency: The Eugenics of Wilhelm Schallmayer, which, fortunately, is available online.

In writing about him the other day I remembered this passage from the third chapter of that book, it contains part of the same passage from Haeckel I posted this morning.

During the 1860s and 1870s Social Democratic leaders such  as Friedrich Albert Lange, August Bebel, and Karl Kautsky—to name only the most important—embraced Darwinism and viewed it both as a legitimation of the inevitability and desirability of socialism, and as a justification for materialism and atheism.  Haeckel, however, considered socialism to have "the most dangerous and objectionable character which, at the present time, any political theory can have," and asserted during the 1877 debate that Darwinism 

is anything rather than socialist! If this English hypothesis is to be compared to any political tendency—as is, no doubt possible—that tendency can only be aristocratic, certainly not democratic, and least of all socialist. The theory of selection teaches that in human life, as in animal and plant life everywhere, and at all times, only a small chosen minority can exist and flourish, while the enormous majority strive and perish miserably and more or less prematurely. . . . The cruel and merciless struggle for existence which rages throughout all living nature, and in the course of nature must rage, this unceasing and inexorable competition of all living creatures, is an incontestable fact; only the picked minority of the qualified "fittest" is in a position to resist it successfully, while the great majority of the competitors must necessarily perish miserably. We may profoundly lament this tragical state of things, but we can neither controvert it nor alter it. "Many are called but few are chosen." The selection, the picking out of these "chosen ones" is inevitably connected with the arrest and destruction of the remaining majority.

I have mentioned here before that Karl Marx, writing to Engels, notwithstanding his disdain for what he called the typical British vulgarity of Darwin's approach,  originally saw natural selection as useful for their dialectical materialism.   That's not unusual in the least, just about all of the early adopters of natural selection I've read mention its usefulness for asserting materialism and atheism, including many Marxists, socialists and others who obviously didn't think too hard about the implications for the rest of their ideological program.   I've also mentioned that, thinking more about it,  Marx modified his attitude, noting that Darwin had, actually, imposed a twisted version of Malthus on the natural world.

I do think that the asserted usefulness of natural selection for materialism, atheism and, explicitly, anti-Christian advocacy that was immediately asserted for it by the most conventional of Darwinists, including Haeckel, Huxley, implied by Galton and many others, is its major attraction today.

It is possible that Sheila Weiss might be wrong about Lange in so far as materialism is concerned, though I am hardly anything like an expert in this, my understanding is that Lange rejected materialism. For example, from the article on Lange in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Lange’s most famous book, The History of Materialism and Critique of its Contemporary Significance, is in essence a defense of such a return to Kant. It is also a detailed history of materialism (and was read well into the twentieth century for precisely this reason). However, more fundamentally, it was meant to drive home the above mentioned concerns about materialism. Lange accepted materialism as a sensible maxim for the construction of theories within natural science. However, as a comprehensive philosophical system, as both fundamental ontology and epistemology, materialism is self-undermining.

Anyway I've been able to figure it, I do also think that any rigorously logical thinking about the consequences of materialism, which is inescapably a monist, totalistic ideology, can't help but totally discredit everything about human thinking, including that which has produced materialism, which, in turn, discredits its basic credibility.   I think any rigorous thinker who, never the less, retains their materialism does so for the emotional hatred of religion that, in my experience, is the actual reason they adopted it in the first place.  That has certainly been my experience in decades of engaging in arguments with materialists.

Lange's rejection of Hegel discussed in the article is certainly of major consequences for his thinking about Marxism.  But that's for another post.

About August Bebel I don't know much of anything,  Kautsky was pretty much an orthodox Marxist, though an anti-Leninist, anti-Soviet figure.  So there's that to say for him.  In its horrific test of time Marxism, in its own rejection of democracy, doesn't produce the workers paradise Marx and his followers fantasized, it produces a massively corrupt oligarchy who, as it suits their purpose, will dispense with pretenses of egalitarian socialism to adopt a particularly vicious form of capitalism that the Victorians could only dream of.  In the case of the aftermath of the denouement of the Soviet state, it has become one of the foremost forces in promoting fascism and neo-Nazism.   However,  I've got no reason to think that Weiss was wrong in their case.

Someday I'll say something about Haeckel's cynical twisting of the words of Jesus to support the very opposite of the Gospel.


  1. Curious thing about"survival of the fittest" is it requires a "snapshot" to work. Dinosaurs were fit, until they weren't. Compared to them, humans are a blip. Are we the"fittest"? As Chou-en La I said in another context, it's too soon to tell.

    1. Once you get over the old smoke screen, that "survival of the fittest" was Spencer distorting Darwin - as I'll never have to stop pointing out, Darwin, himself said it was the same thing as natural selection - then you confront the thing that Karl Popper originally said about it, that it was tautological, that survival of the fittest is no different from survival of the survivors. But Popper was mightily pressured to retract that point which would, obviously, refute natural selection as anything but a tautology, which he did. But I don't have a career in science or the history of science or philosophy to lose so I just say the obvious and if the trolls break the rules of the blog, they go to the spam file.

      You can't blackmail someone with nothing to lose. At least they've never found a way to do it in the 11 years I've been writing on this topic.