Friday, May 26, 2017

The Scientist As A Liar And A Knowing Accomplice To Murder

"Democracy, then, means that the people rule by selecting the wisest, most intelligent and most human to tell them what to do to be happy."  Henry Herbert Goddard

I went around looking to see what had been written about "The Kallikak" family the alleged focus of that book by the American psychologist and eugenicist Henry Herbert Goddard and found an article that points out the extremely influential book, used in the United States to legalize eugenics and other discriminatory laws and, as seen in that repulsive propaganda film, to promote the ideas of both eliminating "useless eaters" disabled people and other aspects of Nazi ideology.   I found this article Who Was Deborah Kallikak? Goddard's starting point for creating a depraved geneology for her, full of dysgenic ancestors, the progeny of a Revolutionary lieutenant screwing around with a degenerate bar maid before he married a virtuous Quaker woman and had good children with her.  Not coincidentally,  Henry Herbert Goddard was raised a Quaker of the evangelical late 19th century type in Maine, though I'm not sure if he remained one in the years he was a psychologist and one of the main figures in promoting eugenics and some of the worst of America's use of such science to legally enforce discrimination and racism.   I doubt he'd fit into any meeting of Quakers I'm aware of, these days.

Anyway, the guy was a combination of an incompetent researcher of the kind who can flourish in the behavioral and social sciences and an outright liar.  Both in his description of the woman who he made into "Deborah Kallikak" Emma Wolverton who was far more a victim of unjustified institutionalization from her early life through its end than the figure Goddard presented.  As he had the major hand in her unjustified institutionalization, for his purposes she was more a convenient piece of raw material than a person.  I'll let you read the less opportunistic description of her in the article, it is a rather heartbreaking and infuriating story.  But Goddard's use of her, the same program of utility that he provided for both the American eugenics industry and to the Nazis, lay in her alleged ancestry which was mostly a lie.  Here's what the article says about that. 

In 1985, the lead author of this article published a book titled Minds Made Feeble: The Myth and the Legacy of the Kallikaks. Goddard’s thesis of the hereditary nature of feeblemindedness rested, in large measure, on the presumption that Emma’s Wolverton’s1 ancestors, or a large proportion of them, were feebleminded, although the only family member ever tested using an IQ test was Emma herself. The bulk of The Kallikak Family narrative itself involves descriptions of these ancestors: from Emma’s purported great-great-grandfather, Martin Kallikak Jr., the offspring of the ill-advised dalliance with the feeble-minded bar maid, on down to Emma herself. Of course, these family members were christened with stigmatizing names by Goddard and Kite; Martin Jr. was referred to, for example, as the “Old Horror.” The pictures in the text show Kallikak family members posed in front of what can best be described as hovels, thereby juxtaposing purportedly degenerate people with their degenerate homes

Minds Made Feeble debunked the assertion in Goddard’s narrative that these Wolverton ancestors were degenerate, more or less feebleminded. The present context does not allow for a detailed accounting, but a few examples will suffice to make this point.

It is, of course, Martin Kallikak, Jr., the great-great-grandfather of ‘Deborah,’ who is the fulcrum in The Kallikak Family narrative. Goddard’s description of Martin, Jr. is laden with those traits he felt characterized people he described as “morons”. In the text, Goddard narrates a conversation with an elderly woman who is, supposedly, part of the “good side of the Kallikak family” (p. 80), who was reported to remember Martin Jr. as:

… always unwashed and drunk. At election time, he never failed to appear in somebody’s cast-off clothing, ready to vote, for the price of a drink” (p. 80)

According to census data for Hunterdon County, Martin, Jr., whose real name was John Wolverton2, was born in 1776 and was married in 1804, a union that lasted 22 years, until his wife’s death. Unlike Goddard’s description of Martin, Jr., John Wolverton appears to have been fairly successful. He owned land throughout most of his adult life. County records indicated that he purchased two lots of land in 1809 for cash. Deed books for the county contain records of his transferring his property to his children and grandchildren later in his life. The 1850 census record shows that he was living with one of his daughters and several of his grandchildren at that time. That record also lists all of the adults in the household as being able to read. The 1860 census record lists his occupation as “laborer” and his property as valued at $100 (not a meager amount for the average person at that time). John Wolverton died in 1861 (Smith, 1985, p. 93).

Or, consider Martin Jr.’s fourth child, “Old Sal” whom Goddard described as feeble-minded and as marrying a feeble-minded man and as having two feeble-minded children, who, likewise married feeble-minded wives and had large families of defective children, some of whom are pictured in The Kallikak Family.

“Old Sal” was, in fact, Catherine Ann Wolverton, born in December, 1811. She was married in January, 1834 and died in 1897 at the age of 85 (Macdonald & McAdams, 2001, p. 218). Goddard’s nickname of ‘Old Sal’ probably came from Goddard and Kite mistaking Catherine for her sister-in-law, Sarah (Macdonald & McAdams, 2001, p. 811). There is not much known about Catherine herself from the records, but a family history relayed by some of Catherine’s descendants reveals many contradictions to Goddard’s portrayal of her offspring. Two of her grandchildren were still living in 1985 when Minds Made Feeble was published. A brother and sister, they were retired school teachers living in Trenton, New Jersey. One grandson moved from New Jersey to Iowa, became treasurer of a bank, owned a lumber yard, and operated a creamery. Another grandson moved to Wisconsin. His son served as a pilot in the Army Air Corps in World War II. A great, great grandson of Catherine was a teacher in Chicago. A great grandson was a policeman in another city in Illinois. A 1930 newspaper article reported that all of Catherine’s sons had been soldiers in the Civil War.

Others of the so-called bad Kallikak family members were land owners, farmers, and, while poor, were generally self-sufficient rural people. Though many of them had lived with limited resources and against considerable environmental odds, the records suggest that they were a cohesive family. With Emma’s grandfather’s generation, though, the tides turned for the family. Called Justin in Goddard’s narrative, Emma’s grandfather (also named John Wolverton) was born in 1834 and, like his ancestors, lived in Rural Hunterdon, New Jersey working primarily in agriculture. Like many of his generation, though, John and his family were swept up in the turmoil of the industrial age and by 1880, the family had moved to Trenton New Jersey and John worked as a laborer. Times were difficult, the cohesiveness of the family eroded, and Emma’s mother’s family scraped to get by in those tough economic times.

Malinda Woolverton was the actual name of Emma’s mother. She was born in April of 1868, when the family lived in Hunterdon, but by 1885, at the age of 17, she had already moved out of the family home, living with and serving as a domestic and child care helper in the home of a neighbor. Emma was born to Malinda in February of 1889. Though Goddard indicates that Emma’s mother had three illegitimate children who didn’t live past infancy before Emma was born in the almshouse, Mcdonald and McAdams’ (2001) genealogy of the Wolverton family noted that records suggest that Emma was Malinda’s only illegitimate child.

The real story of the disfavored Kallikaks, the ‘other Wolvertons,’ is not free of troubles and human frailties. The family had its share of skeletons in the closet, but so did many families of that era, particularly those who were faced with poverty, lack of education and scarce resources for dealing with tumultuous social change. But the family also had its strengths and successes. The tragedy of the disfavored Kallikaks is that their story was distorted so as to be interpreted according to a powerful myth, and then used to further bolster that myth. The myth was that of eugenics.

The pseudo-science of psychology and the other social sciences have a long history of making up stories like the one Goddard lied up.   And, as you could see from the Nazi propaganda movie, Das Erbe, the results can be devastating to hundreds of thousands and millions of people.    His book, The Kallikak Family" was entered (misspelled) into the Supreme Court argument that led to Oliver Wendell Holmes jr.'s infamous Buck vs. Bell decision legalizing forced sterilization, which was used in a number of places, including quaint 1920s and 30s Vermont, to try to exterminate racial groups through forced and coerced sterilization.  As has been noted here before, some contemporary scholars looking into that have found the records of it were best preserved in Germany because the Nazis diligently studied American eugenics programs to build on them.  

Goddard and his use of IQ testing is also infamous as he had a knack for finding, or inventing idiocy or, in the term he introduced into science, "morons" and, wouldn't you know it, their massive concentration in ethnic and racial groups.  His science was also supportive of the racist restrictions on immigration put into effect in the 1920s and which were used to exclude, among others, Jews trying to flee from the Nazis.  The same kinds of arguments are what fueled the cable-TV campaign to whip up racist activity against Latinos and others which has taken over the American government again.  I believe some touted the victory of the Republicans as their peak since the last time they had such control - wouldn't you know it - in the 1920s.  

This kind of science, which is taken and asserted to have the reliability of science but which is based, in reality, on lies and professional interest and opportunistic bigotry, is not something that was left behind in a past that is past and done.   Its still here, now, being published and being promoted to have exactly the same effects and for exactly the same reasons it was being done in in the early decades of the bloody 20th century.   And, as science has not done much of anything to prevent this kind of science, I'm not putting the word in scare quotes anymore.  Science that is done by those who get to be called scientists and which is published as science and is accepted by the colleagues of the scientists that make it up is their responsibility.  The media can be held responsible for its promotion of it, even as they heap ridicule on and rejection of real science such as done around climate change, which is unprofitable for the billionaires and millionaires that promote this kind of junk.  That's the real reality of science as it enters into politics.  

With natural selection and other theories in science, such as those which congealed into psychology - itself an offshoot of natural selection-  the idea of asserting science could reliably and accurately measure people on a scale of economic and social value and that such measurement should be used to manage the human population arose and gained currency.  Starting with Darwin, continuing through eugenicists, that was explicitly put in terms of managing people in terms of an animal breeding operation on a farm.  As country boys, both Charles Darwin and Henry Herbert Goddard knew such operations at first hand.   I'm a country boy, too, and one of the things I know about such an operation is that in addition to breeding the stock the farmer consider best, they select out those not chosen as breeding stock to be slaughtered for profit.  That anyone with that knowledge would make such a recommendation about the human population cannot be allowed to escape blame when the known outcome of that happens when their scheme is applied, that people, in large numbers are murdered or allowed to die of neglect, starvation, etc.   That those last methods are considered more "moderate" doesn't make them any less deadly.   They knew exactly what they were advocating.  They just used refined English to say it, instead of explicit German. 

That quote at the top, anyone who think's that's democracy is a stinking fascist. 

1 comment:

  1. I have to come back when I have time to read the entire post, but halfway through the excerpted quote I thought of Phineas Gage: the story woven around him and it's "proof" of the "mind/brain connection," and the true story, which doesn't support the commonly received story, at all.

    Funny how often that story repeats itself, eh? Always in service of some narrative dressed up as theory and taken as "science," and therefor "absolute truth."