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The sophistry of science

06 November 2012, 20:14

‘Eugenics is the self-direction of human evolution.’ This was the slogan for the Second International Eugenics Conference in New York City. It sounds very impressive, but what is it exactly?

Like so many so-called sciences, Eugenics was widely accepted for many years, and if the Nazis had not used it as an excuse to eliminate the Jews, homosexuals and Gypsies, would have still been regarded as science today. In fact Sweden only outlawed its use in 1975.

Sweden? One of the most liberal democracies in the world? Yup, Sweden. Home of Abba and enforced sterilisation of those deemed unfit to propagate.

So what is eugenics exactly, I hear you ask. Well not literally, but you know what I mean.

Sir Francis Galton was so impressed by the work of his half-cousin, Charles Darwin that he decided to further investigate a way of ensuring ‘survival of the fittest’, one of the key points in evolution. So in 1883, he wrote down his findings in a book, ‘Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development’.

By looking into the work of Charles Darwin and adding his own unique twist to the Mendellian Laws of Inheritance, he began a crusade of sorts. And he gave it a name, ‘Eugenics.’ This was defined as ‘the study of all agencies under human control which can improve or impair the racial quality of future generations’.

This has, of course, from the very beginning, meant many different things to many different people. Historically, the term has referred to everything from prenatal care for mothers to forced sterilization and even euthanasia.

JBS Haldane, a British-born geneticist and evolutionary biologist generally credited with a central role in the development of neo-Darwinian thinking wrote, that ‘the motor bus breaking up inbred village communities was a powerful eugenic agent’.

The term eugenics is often used to refer to movements and social policies influential during the early 20th century. In a historical and broader sense, eugenics can also be a study of ‘improving human genetic qualities’. It is sometimes broadly applied to describe any human action whose goal is to improve the gene pool. So at present we have, still with us, I might add, repro-genetics, pre-emptive abortions and designer babies, so eugenics is not dead, it’s just not the all-consuming ‘science’ it was once thought to be.

The essential thrust behind eugenics was the improvement of the species, in pretty much the same way thoroughbred race-horses were improved by breeding the best with the best. And on the face of it, seemed reasonable. On the subject, Sarah Bernhardt was supposed to have said to George Bernard Shaw ‘Imagine if you and I had children how wonderful they would be, with your brains and my looks!’

He replied, ‘Ah, my dear, but what if it happens the other way round? Your brains and my looks?’

He was one of the many proponents of eugenics, as a matter of interest.

Scientific racism was a large part of eugenics as well, as it was believed that the Negro peoples were inferior. The mixing of races, or miscegenation, was to be avoided in the name of racial purity.

The concept seemed to have a broad consensus of scientific support, until a later study showed the folly of dividing humans into unequal races.

Now this was not some rogue theory dreamt up by a few crackpots: this was science, and was offered as an academic discipline at many leading universities in the world. This was the real McCoy!

Understanding the cultural background leading to the creation of this field of ‘science’ is important, because it provides context.

After the American Civil War, the US economy was in tatters with a flood of European immigrants, mostly poor and largely Jewish, from Eastern Europe, or Catholic, from the Mediterranean regions. These people were seen to be taking jobs from Americans, and something had to be done: and it was. With a fluctuating economy, social inequality became more pronounced and a solution presented itself.

Social Darwinism.

Social Darwinism so easily explained the difference between the various peoples, as natural selection was applied to society as a whole. By using the concept of ‘survival of the fittest’, it allowed for social engineering on a scale never heretofore imagined. Wealthy people were obviously of better stock, as with thoroughbred racehorses, so it was vital that they procreate, and something be done about the poor. This was more easily said than done, however.

Birth rates amongst the poor were rocketing, as is always the case, whilst amongst the elite, they were in decline. So various governments around the world applied science to the problem! Forced sterilisation of Negros, prostitutes, the poor, alcoholics and the feeble-minded. The feeble-minded were manic-depressives, schizophrenics and so on.

Society, in the view of these scientists, had already paid enough to support these people, so science would find a cure, which included forced abortion. All the measure taken for the good of society, of course. Once the degenerates were eliminated, there would be a far happier and more productive world than it was then.

Of course the accuracy of Eugenics was never questioned: after all it was based on genetics, and in-depth studies were performed which proved, to their satisfaction, that criminality was a genetic trait. Environment was not taken into account, nor was the grinding poverty and worklessness. These people were criminals and their progeny were bound to be criminals as well, although that was not the considered opinion of sociologist Richard Dugdale, who based his study on a group of seven hundred people: criminals, prostitutes and paupers. He believed they could be rehabilitated.

EH Estabrook, was one of the leading proponents of Eugenics, and author of ‘The Mongrel Virginians’, which proposes that the Win Indians never belonged in Virginia and were, in fact passing through to see the ‘Great Father’ and decided to settle. He studied the same data and decided that these people were incorrigible and undesirable traits would always be passed down between shiftless families.

Now consider this, one of the eighteen proposed solutions was euthanasia. Solution number eight of eighteen. Euthanasia? In the so-called civilised West? The suggested method was the lethal chamber or gas chamber. The Nazis certainly cottoned onto that one!

What they decided to do, however, was more humane than that. They decided on forced sterilisation and abortion and, as an added safeguard, marriage restrictions between lower classes and the elite, so as not to contaminate the gene pool.

Here’s the preamble to the report of the Governor of North Carolina:

The concept of eugenics was created in the late 1800s by British scientist Sir Francis Galton. The mindset at that time was to use genetic selection used in breeding thoroughbreds and other animals to create a class of people who were free of inferior traits. Indiana became the first state in the nation to pass a eugenics law in 1907.

Whenever people on this forum say that ID is not science, and was proven as such by the US Supreme Court, I laugh, because they have passed so many absurd laws that they are often laughable. This case, however, was anything but.

In 1927, Buck vs Bell, in the US Supreme Court, gave further impetus to eugenics, when it ruled that the State of Virginia could legally sterilise Carrie Buck, an adolescent girl, because her foster parents deemed her a ‘moral delinquent’. She was sent to the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-minded and sterilised. This landmark ruling resulted in eugenics being formally adopted in the United States, with thirty three states adopting it in full measure leading to sterilisation and forced abortion of the deaf, blind, generally disabled, criminals, epileptics, alcoholics, loose women, children who’d been raped and people on welfare.

Very progressive.

So about sixty five thousand Americans were sterilised under this programme, very often without either their consent or knowledge, and at the height of the sterilisation programme in North Carolina, even social workers could make recommendations for sterilisation. The shocking thing was that those recommendations were almost always accepted!

This is what the North Carolina Justice for Sterilisation Victims Foundation has to say:

‘North Carolina law during the eugenics period endorsed sterilization of people who had epilepsy, sickness, "feeblemindedness" and other disabilities. Eugenics was a popular movement, especially prior to the World War II, and other states had similar programs.

However, North Carolina was the only state that allowed social workers to petition for the sterilization of members of the public. These local social workers would petition the board to sterilize a person, and the board would make the final decision. Over 70% of North Carolina's sterilization victims were sterilized after 1945 in contrast to other states that conducted the majority of their sterilizations prior to World War II and 1945.’

It was not uncommon for the poor, often Black, women in rural areas to be sterilised while going into hospital to give birth, being under the impression that an appendectomy was being performed. This happened to children and rape victims as well. In North Carolina, eighty five percent of sterilisations were performed on girls as young as nine!

Now this was not a backwoods operation, overseen by Abner and Buford: this was cutting-edge science, and it was approved by the US Government amongst others!

‘The concept or term eugenics refers to the intentional and selective breeding of humans and animals to rid the population of characteristics deemed unfit by those administering this practice. In the U.S., eugenics was carried out by individuals, non-profit organizations and state governments that felt that human reproduction should be controlled.

… In the late 1940s, the Department of Public Welfare began to promote increased sterilization as one of several solutions to poverty and illegitimacy. In the 1950s, the N.C. Eugenics Board began to focus increasingly on the sterilization of welfare recipients, which led to a dramatic rise of sterilizations for African Americans and women that did not reside in state institutions. Prior to the 1950s, many of the sterilization orders primarily impacted persons residing in state institutions.’

As Home Secretary at the time the Mental Deficiency Act of 1913 finally became law, Hansard recorded Winston Churchill as saying, ‘The unnatural and increasingly rapid growth of the feeble-minded classes, coupled with a steady restriction among all the thrifty, energetic and superior stocks, constitutes a race danger. I feel that the source from which the stream of madness is fed off should be cut off and sealed up before another year has passed.’

Among its many supporters were Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, George Bernard Shaw, HG Wells, Alexander Graham Bell, Bertrand Russell, Marie Stopes, Margaret Sanger and Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University. It also enjoyed the support of hundreds of Nobel Prize winners and the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, Oliver Wendell Holmes.

The Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation were active supporters. The Cold Springs Harbour Institute was built to carry out this research, but important work was also done by Harvard and Yale, Princeton, Stanford and Johns Hopkins.

Adding their support were the National Academy of Sciences and the American Medical Association. It was said that, if Jesus were alive, He would have supported this effort. Anyone who objected, was shouted down and called reactionary and blind to reality. Any hope of being published or finding work at a respectable institution was virtually nil. How could they employ anyone so ignorant?

We now know the theory to be fatally flawed, and I say fatally for a reason, as it was not only criminally wrong, but ultimately led to the death of millions.

If it had not been for the ethnic cleansing by the Nazis during World War II, it is doubtful this would have ended. As I said at the beginning, Sweden only outlawed it in 1975.

Steven Pinker, in comparing Nazism and Marxism, says they are essentially two sides of a coin when it comes to genetics and eugenics.

‘But the Twentieth Century suffered two ideologies that led to genocides. The one, Marxism, had no use for race, didn’t believe in genes and denied that human nature was a meaningful concept. Clearly, it’s not an emphasis on genes or evolution that is dangerous. It’s the desire to remake humanity by coercive means (eugenics or social engineering) and the belief that humanity advances through a struggle in which superior groups (race or classes) triumph over inferior ones.’

Now call me close-minded if you will, but another pseudo-science is currently enjoying the support of the majority of scientists, with naysayers almost guaranteed zero employability, regardless of their qualifications.

Can guess which one it is?

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