Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Following The Roadmap The Eugenicists Laid As To What They Base Their Claims ON

As I've mentioned in answer to my critics several times, when I began to research these things my first plan was to do what you would think any responsible person would, I went to see what Charles Darwin said, in his own words, in full, in the books and articles published, by him as having the reliability of science and taken as such by his fellow scientists.  From there I looked up his citations of his fellow scientists and others to see what he was endorsing as supporting his contentions - much if not all of it is or will probably be fully available online, much of it in forms far more convenient to fact checking your own contentions about it than print on pages is.

That was the most direct route but I could have saved myself a lot of time if I'd also taken another, more unsavory route of looking at what scientific racists and eugenicists have claimed as supporting their contentions.  I have recently gotten a bootleg copy of Dysgenics: Genetic Deterioration in Modern Populations by Richard Lynn, the emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Ulster, one of the sources cited by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murry in The Bell Curve.   The book, itself, was glowingly reviewed by as influential a biologist as could be imagined in the past fifty years,  W. D. Hamilton Royal Society Research Professor at Oxford University and one of the major theoreticians who provided the basis of Sociobiology, Evolutionary Psychology and the theory of genetically transmitted altruism so useful to the massively held faith in gene selfishness. I believe his review may have been the last piece he wrote, published posthumously,  in it Hamilton said Lynn, "shows in this book that almost all of the worries of the early eugenicists were well-founded".  Hamilton, himself, was a scientific racist and, as that shows a eugenicist, his theories are certainly supportive of both and, I will say again, were foundational aspects of the Evolutionary Psychology which has become influential in both the real sciences and in such social sciences as economics.

I will note that many eminent biologists haven't agreed with Lynn and he has been the focus of a great deal of criticism, such criticism of such ideas has always been there but I think the historical record of natural selection will show that, no matter how well reasoned or founded in skepticism, that that has not been sufficient to gain the upper hand except, to some extent in the three decades immediately after the end of World War Two and the eugenic crimes of the Nazis were exposed to the world.*  There has been eugenic advocacy even among scientists whose progressive and leftist credentials are as good as any.   Richard Lynn has also had his critics among scholars and activists in civil rights, the Southern Poverty Law Center maintains a page of his quotes.  Such as:

"I think the only solution lies in the breakup of the United States. Blacks and Hispanics are concentrated in the Southwest, the Southeast and the East, but the Northwest and the far Northeast, Maine, Vermont and upstate New York have a large predominance of whites. I believe these predominantly white states should declare independence and secede from the Union. They would then enforce strict border controls and provide minimum welfare, which would be limited to citizens. If this were done, white civilisation would survive within this handful of states.”
—Undated interview with fascist magazine Right NOW!

As a life long resident of Maine, let me take this opportunity to tell him to go screw himself.

Anyway, if I had steeled myself and read the book by Lynn before, I would have found a virtual roadmap to things I should have looked at in addition to the obvious primary sources because in an argument as to the Darwinian origins and nature of even the most putrid and extreme of eugenics will carry the relevant citations of such authorities.  And his first chapter, a review of the history of eugenics provides the confirmation that all of eugenics took its motivation from natural selection.  He notes that Darwin's co-inventor of natural selection Alfred Russel Wallace, said that in his last meeting with Darwin he found him gloomily contemplating the disaster that decency and civilization was for the human species.

Darwin understood that the way to prevent genetic deterioration lay in curtailing the fertility of those with socially undesirable characteristics, writing that “Both sexes ought to refrain from marriage if they are in any marked degree infirm in body or in mind”** (1871 [The Descent of Man], p. 918).  In those days if people refrained from marriage they also, for the most part, did not have children.

A few years later Darwin talked about these problems with the biologist Alfred Russell Wallace, who had formulated the theory of evolution independently of Darwin in the 1850s, and who recorded their discussion:

"In one of my last converstaions with Darwin he expressed himself very gloomily on the future of jumanity, on the ground that in our modern civilisation natural selection had no play and the fittest did not survive…. It is notorious that our population is more largely renewed in each generation from the lower than from the middle and upper classes."  (Wallace, 1890, p 93)

Wallace went on to record that Darwin spoke of the large number of children of “the scum,” and of the grave danger this entailed for the future of civilization [same citation as above].  Darwin understood the relaxation of natural selection was leading to genetic deterioration.

Thanks to the ever expanding archive of such material available online, I could read that citation of Wallace, an article, Human Selection,  in the popular science magazine,  Popular Science for June 1890 [on page 103 as displayed on my browser] where Wallace, does, indeed discuss that conversation with Darwin.  I will note, out of fairness to Darwin and out of accuracy,  Lynn misrepresented one thing, it wasn't Darwin who Wallace quoted as "the scum" providing the "renewal" for the "stream of life" it was an author, Hiram M. Stanley, Wallace's citation of whom is available, online, as well but which I have not, yet read.

I was, to some extent, surprised by reading Wallace's 1890 article because I know in his last years he was extremely critical of eugenics, saying, "Eugenics is simply the meddlesome interference of an arrogant, scientific priestcraft."  As to why his obvious inclinations to see the poor and other targets of eugenic with more sympathy than his more aristocratic colleagues might have been at low ebb just then, he said in this paragraph.

Before discussing the question, itself, it will be well to consider whether there are in fact any other agencies than some form of selection to be relied on.  It has been generally accepted hitherto that such beneficial influences as education, hygiene, and social refinement had a cumulative action, and would of themselves lead to a steady improvement of all civilized races.  This view rested on a belief that whatever improvement was effected in individuals was transmitted to their progeny, and that it would be thus possible to effect a continuous advance in physical, moral, and intellectual qualities without any selection of the better or elimination of the inferior types.  But of late years grave doubts have been thrown on this view, owing chiefly to the researches of Galton and Weismann as to the fundamental causes to which heredity is due.  The balance of opinion among physiologists now seems to be against the heredity of any qualities acquired by the individual after birth, in which case the question we are discussing will be much simplified, since we shall be limited to some form of selection as the only possible means of improving the race.

I think that, as early as 1890, Wallace put his finger on exactly why eugenics - never really absent from those who believed in natural selection - has made such a resurgence in the period after Sociobiology and Evolutionary Psychology and the extension of those gene-centric theories of absolute, molecular determinism, into such politically potent fields such as economics and a key to understanding how that view is dependent on ignoring far more potent and obvious factors in producing people deemed to be superior and how such scientists who want to promote genetic, biological and material determinism of human beings will find "tests" to provide them with their confirmation.  The wealthy, the privileged in life, unsurprisingly and consistently show up as having higher intelligence on such tests,

One of the most obvious means of passing traits from parent to child is through inheritance laws,  not laws of Mendelian genetic, the laws that allow parents to both give their children an advantage in life through better nutrition, healthcare, dental care, education, social networking,... which is certainly a reproductive advantage and even a major factor in whether or not they will leave more or any offspring.   Yet such a powerful mechanism of inheritance, entirely non-biological and due to a huge number of artificially made human laws is not even considered as relevant to the question.  I have noted before that several pages after Darwin made his most infamous eugenics declarations, he issued a long passage exempting his own, wealthy class, even "useless drones" among them from producing the same dysgenic features that he condemned when attributed to the poor and sick being provided even less than a barely subsistence level of such economic support.

I don't think that it is a surprise that the decade which saw the rise of Sociobology and Evolutionary Psychology, often criticized as "Darwinian fundamentalism" and "ultra-Darwinism" also saw the rise of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and, even more so, the influence of the economics of Milton Friedman which helped their way to power.

The identification of Galton and Weismann as the source of Wallace's doubts about the obvious beneficial effects of a better life is noteworthy because Weismann, even before the rediscovery of Mendel's genetics was an opponent of the idea - held by Charles Darwin and Ernst Haeckel - that acquired traits could be passed from parent to child.  Weismann's absurd experiments of chopping off the tails of mice had a potence all out of proportion to its intellectual character but the results, supporting those eugenics which were so congenial to the wealthy who, by a very large percentage, dominated science and virtually all of the educated class, especially white, Northern Europeans and their cousins where they had colonized and dominated.

That some of the most angry, even febrile rejection and dismissal of recent discoveries supporting the enduring aspects of epigenetic inheritance of acquired traits has had similar motives is predictable when considering the history of natural selection and who it benefits.** That anger is frequently expressed in  accusations of infidelity to Darwin and subversion of his theory, often quite at odds with the frequently made assertions of the spirit and practice of science.

I think that the history of Sociobiology and Evolutionary Psychology and its entirely irrational extension into economics and political thinking cannot be separated from the status of natural selection, especially in the neo-Darwinian synthesis of the 1930s and its orthodox dominance since then has a lot to reveal about how it has had an influence in setting our politics back to a depraved form of Victorianism - minus any moral veneer.

There is nothing so telling about the character of those two recent academic fields as to their foundation among racists and eugenicists.  I think the history of natural selection as an influential idea and its effects in both academic and real life demonstrate that as long as it holds sway and, especially, when it is tied to a dogma that biological inheritance is of fixed character and that it is determined at birth, inherited, that its character can be discerned, labeled and evaluated, natural selection will always be an extremely dangerous and inherently anti-egalitarian, anti-democratic idea, just as Ernst Haeckel said in 1877.   A decade before that, Frances Cobbe noted many of the effects that could be expected if natural selection were believed by large numbers of people and became politically and legally potent.  History proved her right and Darwin's dismissive rejection of her concerns entirely wrong.

* I will make the point that it is exactly the revelation of the eugenic crimes of the Nazis that is under full and well funded attack as the generation who experienced and witnessed those is passing away.  That we have seen a rise in neo-eugenics in the same period is as big a danger and as flashing a warning as it was in the 1920s.   As is seen in the presence of assertions of natural selection in conservative economics not all the dangers are of such outright violence in the immediate future, though, when made law and policy, they have the effect of both killing people and blighting lives, often on the same bases of class and race that those early eugenicists endorsed by Hamilton targeted as a source of dysgenesis.

**  Weismann's experiments chopping off the tails of mice leads to the question as to the ability of science to find any subtle but real mechanisms of inheritance which may be there but too subtle to detect or occur to the imagination of biologists.  As I've noted several times, Richard Lewontin, one of the more subtle and philosophically astute of recent biologists attributed great subtlety and weakness to what he fully believes to be the focus of natural selection, admitting that such unobservable action on traits too weak and subtle to observe or measure are, nonetheless, the very material which the "law" of natural selection is asserted to work on.  At that scale of weakness and subtlety, there are possibly a myriad of such "forces" which may be compatible with Darwinism or which may refute it.  The character of natural selection as a dogma or doctrine and a required frame through which such matters must be seen to be allowable in science and academia would certainly blind researchers to such forces or even the possibility that they are there, giving the reality of evolution a far different character than the one which has been created through Darwinism.

Post Script:  I should note that Charles Darwin's grandson, Charles Galton Darwin, after the Second World War, late in his life, was, like his grandfather (who he'd never met) giving gloomy, eugenic prognostications as to the dysgenic fate of the world because people were not heeding the warnings founded on natural selection, in his book rather oddly titled "The Next Million Years".  Such was the predictive faith that those who believe in natural selection claim for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment