Friday, May 26, 2017

Forgotten Footnote

Oh, and since the overall topic is the reality of natural selection in the real world of politics and social policy I should have made a comment on this part of Goddard's argument

To maintain that mediocre or average intelligence should decide what is best for a group of people in their struggle for existence is manifestly absurd.   We need the advice of the highest intelligence of the group, not the average any more than the lowest. 

"In their struggle for existence" is a red-letter marker, a dead giveaway of the shadow of natural selection in which Goddard is making his argument.   It provides the framing of exigency in which so much of the scientific advocacy of that kind, so much of its extension into politics and social policy in 1919 and after was and is being made.


  1. Ah, "struggle for existence." I remember being taught as a child that all animals spend all their time seeking food, because if they didn't, they'd starve to death.

    Among other things I now realize its a refutation of "Consider the birds of the air, they sow not, neither do they spin," and yet, as Jesus went on to say, they get by just fine. People more familiar with nature than theories of nature knew what he meant. I've noticed over the years in an urban environment how much time birds spend sitting on wires. When trees are cleared, the return to the wires that replace them, gathering in the same place every evening, and often spending part of the day just sitting and watching.

    What they aren't doing is seeking food while the sun shines. They do eat: having high metabolisms, they go for food when they see it. But they sure don't seem caught up in the "struggle for existence." As I say, whole flocks gather at evening at the same place every day, and raise enough of a squawk it's obvious they're all "checking in" and locating probably family members (lots of flitting about as birds arrive).

    Frankly, the "struggle for existence" looks pretty easy for them. Humans are the ones convinced we have to be productive, busy busy busy, and struggle with our fellow humans in order to "survive." I think that "struggle" is all a matter of metaphor and narrative, rather than undeniable reality.

    1. I have been toying with the idea of going through that Nazi propaganda film and documenting how many of the arguments made in it were directly taken from On the Origin of Species, The Descent of Man and Haeckel's History of Creation because I can say exactly where almost all of them were first said by those two. But I'd have to translate the text and just listening to it turns my stomach.

      I remember being taught about "the Kallikaks" in my highschool biology class, decades after it had been debunked. I know it was still used by Henry Garrett to slam Brown vs. Board in about 1960 and he was still including it in the widely used psychology text book he co-authored decades after it had been debunked. It is still cited as science by racists and political hacks. I would bet that most of the people who would recognize the name don't know it's been debunked.

      It is something that I had never really appreciated before studying this how much the assertion of natural selection, even within supposed hard science is based entirely on making up stories and scenarios in the total absence of any evidence supporting them. It turned making up fiction into science, and it spawned a whole host of such sciences. It's not just Sociobiolgy and evo-psy, though that is what those consist of. It really does make a good part of the assertions of science vs. the humanities into a lie.

    2. "It really does make a good part of the assertions of science vs. the humanities into a lie."

      Yes, it does. More and I more I consider just how badly reasoned Snow's "Two Cultures" argument was.