Darwin and Eugenics

This seems to me beside the point of arguing for or against creation, evolution, or design:

1) Even if Darwin and Galton were mass murderers, that would have nothing to do with the truth or falsity of evolutionary theories of their day or ours.

2) Injustice and inequalities and class systems can be found throughout history. Concentrating on the injustices of "eugenics" is simply to focus on one tiny aspect of all the injustices and inequalities and class systems on earth. Besides, for those who wish to discuss race, then let's discuss the history of Christianity and the extermination of "less Christian" races like the American Indians (whose extermination was compared by Puritan preachers to the following of the command of God to destroy the Canaanites), or let's discuss Christianity and slavery, or even some of Henry Morris's statements in the last ten years concerning the "curse of Ham," or let's discuss Christian racist groups like the KKK and apartheid South Africa, and Christian racist speeches throughout the ages. Bob Jones here in Greenville S.C. firmly believed and preached on his radio program that "If you are against segregation you are against God."

3) Billy and Oral and Pat are passing along their dynasty to their genetic heirs today. People tend to love their own children the best, don't they? As far as the future of eugenics goes, the human genome project is opening up a can of worms, since the odds of people coming down with various illnesses appears related to a person's genomic proclivities for those illnesses. Insurance companies are going to probably start taking advantage of that information in the future, and dividing people up into various risk categories, from low to high risk, and parents will probably want to make sure their children don't have those genetic illnesses, and the easiest way to do that is by assuring it at birth, by choosing their children's genome before conception. That will also assure the parents that their child will be healthier in both body and mind and live longer. That might be how the future will turn out. (See the movie GATTACA for some of the bad side to that scenario. But for some more positive aspects of eugenics and long lifespans read Robert Heinlein's TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE novel.)

I happen to agree with Darwin's comments concerning eugenics below, which doesn't mean I agree with everything Darwin ever said or wrote. "Choosing who would be on the registry" is a major problem.

Darwin points out a number of practical difficulties, of which the greatest, he thought, 'would be in deciding who deserved to be on the register; ... Though I see so much difficulty,' he concludes, 'the object is a grand one; ... yet I fear [it is] utopian.'" (Darwin C.R., letter to F. Galton, January 4, 1873, in Darwin F. and Seward A.C., eds., "More Letters of Charles Darwin: A Record of His Work in a Series of Hitherto Unpublished Papers," John Murray: London, 1903, Vol. II, p.43, in Bowlby J., "Charles Darwin: A New Life," [1990], 1992, W.W. Norton and Co: New York, reprint, pp.415-416)

If we were discussing say, Christianity instead of Darwinisn, I could go on about the ways Christianity has influenced society and/or political systems, with plenty of dark examples.

As we learn more about the human genome, the question of how to use that knowledge for our own betterment will continue to raise questions of a "Eugenics" like nature. Eugenics is not simply Hitler's hatred of the Jews raised to a scientific dogma among Nazi "scientists" who salivated at the thought of exterminating them. Eugenics can mean simply wishing to conceive "better" human beings, healthier in mind and body. And with modern day knowlege of the genome increasing, the temptation to try and conceive humans that are in some ways "better" will be increasingly difficult to resist. That is not "Darwinism," that is plain fact. As if the way insurance companies might use that knowledge in future to raise the rates of those highest at risk, due to their genomic content of various risk factors.

As for "Darwinism" today, it appears to have remained a staple of modern day conservatives round the world who believe the poor and destitute need to be prodded by the hot poker of their disheartening circumstances, which will only make them "stronger" (or kill them it seems), while the wealthy need more corporate welfare and tax cuts. *smile* That kind of "Darwinism" is rife among modern day political conservatives (which oddly enough seem to be backed nowadays by their religiously conservative counterparts).

"Darwin not the founder of negative eugenics"
To combat the endless distortions of Darwin's ideas, an international team of 150 specialists in the biological sciences and human studies has, over a period of 10 years, achieved an historical and critical synthesis of Darwinism and evolutionary theory. At last the matter has been clarified: Darwin is not the father of modern anti-equalitarian theories; Darwin is the founder neither of negative eugenics nor of dogmas of the elimination of the weak; Darwin is not the justifier of Victorian imperialism. In short, Darwin is not responsible for "Social Darwinism". Edited by PATRICK TORT Presses Universitaires de France

Patrick Tort has recently set up the "Institut Charles Darwin International" (International Charles Darwin Institute) which has a two-fold purpose: to encourage original research on evolutionary biology and on the history of evolutionist thought, and to publish the complete works of Darwin in French (35 volumes).

History of Science Prize:
Patrick TORT, from the UMR 7596 research unit of CNRS, for his research on the works of Charles Darwin, in particular the publication of the "Dictionnaire du Darwinisme et de l'évolution" (Dictionary of Darwinism and of Evolution) and the creation of a new methodology (analysis of discursive complexes)designed for the analysis of the history of thought systems.

Racist theories of creationists...American theories of polygenesis
American Theories of Polygenesis is the first set in the Concepts of Race in the Nineteenth Century series edited by Robert Bernasconi. The seven-volume collection brings together key works on the creationist theory of polygenesis.

A creationist theory of the origins of racial differences.
In the mid-nineteenth century, American ethnological research was dominated by two polygenists, Samuel George Morton and Louis Agassiz. Their works on the subject are represented in this set, as are the major texts of the two most famous popularizers of polygenesis, Josiah Nott and George Gliddon. Charles Hamilton Smith's work, which was adopted by supporters of polygenesis in the United States, is included in its American edition, as is the translation of Arthur Gobineau's classic essay on the inequality of the human races by Henry Hotz, a work which Nott and Hotz doctored to bring into line with American polygenesis. This set is completed with a volume by John Bachman, an American opponent of Nott and Gliddon, and another by Alexander Winchell, a representative of the next generation of American polygenists. Historians of science, anthropology, American philosophy and evolution will find this collection indispensable for understanding one of the key debates on race in the nineteenth century.

collection of rare primary sources on American polygenesis in the nineteenth century

important examination of a nineteenth-century scientific concept of race

Volume 1
Samuel George Morton, Crania Americana: Or, a Comparative View of the Skulls of Various Aboriginal Nations of North and South America. To which is prefixed an Essay on the Varieties of the Human Species (1839)

Samuel George Morton, 'Crania Aegyptiaca', from Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 9 1844)

Volume 2
Charles Hamilton Smith, The Natural History of the Human Species. With a Preliminary Abstract by S. Kneeland (1851)

Volume 3
Josiah Clark Nott and George Robins Gliddon, Types of Mankind (1854)

Volume 4
Josiah Clark Nott and George Robins Gliddon, Indigenous Races of the Earth (1857)

Volume 5
John Bachman, The Doctrine of the Unity of the Human Race Examined on the Principles of Science (1850)

Volume 6
Joseph Arthur de Count Gobineau, The Moral and Intellectual Diversity of Races, transl. By Henry Hotz (1856)

Volume 7
Alexander Winchell, Preadamites (1880)

Creationists invented the first "racial" theories
The following creationists were products and producers of the prejudices of their era concerning ideas of "race":

Use of race as a way to classify large divisions of Homo sapiens originated with Carl von Linne (Linnaeus) [a creationist]. Johann Blumenbach [another creationist] was the first to use the word "race," and use of this word has remained largely unchanged in common and medical contexts.

Creationist Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish taxonomist and botanist, was the first to place humans in a taxonomy of animals, in his Systema Naturae in 1758. He divided humans into four main groups on the basis of physical and psychological impressions: Europeans, who were "fair gentle, acute, inventive governed by laws"; Americans, who were "copper-coloured obstinate, content free regulated by customs"; Asiatics, who were "sooty severe, haughty, covetous governed by opinions"; and Africans, who were "black crafty, indolent, negligent governed by caprice."

Blumenbach, the German anthropologist and anatomist, first used the word "race" in 1775 to classify humans into five divisions: Caucasian, Mongolian, Ethiopian, American, and Malay. Blumenbach also coined the term "Caucasian" because he believed that the Caucasus region of Asia Minor produced "the most beautiful race of men." Both Linnaeus and Blumenbach stated that humans are one species, and the latter remarked on the arbitrary nature of his proposed categories.

These men were products and producers of the prejudices of their era, but it is remarkable how similar the concept and categories of race remain today, even after it has been widely documented that phenotypic and biochemical variations do not correlate simply with genotypic differences.

No comments:

Post a Comment