Florida State University, Tallahassee
Heredity and Humanity: Race, Eugenics and Modern Science Roger Pearson Scott-Townsend Publishers, Washington D.C., 1996 ISBN 1-878465-15-5 162 pps.
"Most of those who have sought to suppress human knowledge about heredity have done so with kindly intentions, but sound policies can never be constructed on bad science or unsound data. Any society that sets itself against the immutable causal laws of biology and evolution will ultimately bring about its own demise" (Pearson, p. 140).
Whatever happened to Eugenics? How is it that the prevention of human suffering came to be considered as the greater evil? In this delightful little book Roger Pearson takes us on an excursion through history, science and ideologies.
In so doing he illuminates the origins of great concepts and names the heroes and the villains in a saga that is not yet complete. In recommending this book to a Seminar in Evolutionary Psychology I told the graduate students that it is "an anti-PC, anti-egalitarian, historical polemic, well referenced and worth reading - this is not the story you got in cultural anthropology class." This is a story well-told that needs wide telling, and serious pondering by all who are concerned for the welfare of our civilization.
The opening chapter (The Concept of Heredity in the Ancient World) serves to remind the reader that heredity has been considered important since before the beginning of recorded history, and at least until earlier in the twentieth century. Unfortunately, these observations will be new to many students who have suffered a modern deconstructed education. Pearson announces his agenda in that the opening chapter "illustrates the deep belief in the importance of heredity and race which prevailed from the earliest times until roughly the end of the nineteenth century. Subsequent chapters document the rise of politically-motivated egalitarian ideology which, heavily supported by the media, eventually succeeded in making the idea of biological inequality taboo. Despite the fact that there is today a rapidly developing body of scientific research which validates the age-old comprehension of the role of heredity in shaping human abilities, too many people are unaware of the mechanics behind the swing toward the notion of the biological equality of mankind" (p. 9).
The mechanics of the swing will be well understood by the readers of this book. Pearson reasonably speculates that an appreciation of heredity probably existed at least as early as the Neolithic origins of agriculture and animal husbandry. It is well documented with ample quotes (Plato, the Odyssey, Theognis, etc.) that the ancient Greeks had a keen appreciation of hereditary contributions to both physical and mental traits. Unlike the matrilineal and patrilineal clan systems of many other peoples, the ancient Germanic "kindred" acknowledged the actual degrees of genetic relatedness on both paternal and maternal sides. This Germanic kindred is the basic traditional approach to family shared today by most North Americans of European descent.
Multicultural egalitarianism reared its civilization - destroying head in the ancient world. Early on, freeborn Romans could only marry among certain stocks under the system of connubium. But with military and bureaucratic successes the empire grew to become a "multicultural giant", "ripe for the rise of egalitarian political ideologies" (p.13):
The coming of Christianity plunged logic and classical philosophy into centuries of near-oblivion and clashed with the established and ancient European belief in the inequality of men. Spreading first among the slaves and lowest classes of the Roman empire, Christianity came to teach that all men were equal in the eyes of a universal Creator God, an idea that was totally alien to older European thought which had recognized a hierarchy of competence among men - and even among the gods. Opposing the traditions of classical philosophy and scientific enquiry, Christianity introduced into Europe the concept of a single omnipotent `God of History' who controlled all the phenomena of the universe - with men and women being creations of that God. Since all men and women were the `children of God', all were equal before their Divine Maker! Faith in the church's interpretation of supposedly prophetic revelations became more important than scientific or philosophical enquiry; and to question the church's view of reality came to be perceived as sinful. .... Christianity carried the anti-intellectualism of the Middle Eastern prophets to its extreme (p. 14).
And the weakened, multicultural egalitarian Roman Empire soon fell "before the onslaught of the smaller, more homogeneous, Germanic nations, which still retained a sense of group identity" (p.13).
Across the centuries of church domination the notions of hereditary differences among men were discouraged in the service of Church power. The "divine right" to rule, given by God, became quite different from the earlier concept of hereditarily noble ruling lineages. Stripped by the Church of belief in the importance of human heredity and of the notion of the state as a kinship unit - "a family writ large" (p.16), believing instead in the essential equality of all God's children, the stage was set for the development of egalitarian-espousing secular political movements:
Such was the case of the Levellers who fought alongside the Parliamentarians in seventeenth century Britain; of the Jacobins, who decimated the accomplished aristocracy of eighteenth century France; and of the Bolsheviks who wrought genocidal slaughter among the more successful members of Czarist Russian society .... In recent times, calls for political revolution have frequently invoked attacks on `genetic determinism' in favor of the alternate, wildly illogical, philosophy of `biological egalitarianism'.... The suggestion that one individual might be inherently more creative or productive than another was unlikely to fuel the feelings of resentment necessary to incite the masses to revolutionary action (p. 17).
After more than a thousand years of intellectual suppression, there eventually was a renaissance. By the eighteenth century thinking people were well aware of inherited differences among individuals and races. Thomas Jefferson certainly did not confuse rule of law [ .... all men are created equal ....] and hereditary reality. In a letter to John Adams, Jefferson states that "I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents. .... For experience proves, that the moral and physical qualities of man, whether good or evil, are transmissible in a certain degree from father to son" (Jefferson, at Monticello, October 28, 1813). Jefferson's view concerning the profound inherited differences between the black and white races are well known, and are documented in his "Notes on the State of Virginia" and elsewhere throughout his writings.
In the chapter "The Discovery of Evolution: Eugenics and the Pioneers of Modern Science" Roger Pearson presents the scientific heroes of early eugenics. The topmost trinity are Charles Darwin, Sir Francis Galton, and Karl Pearson. By all accounts a kind and gentle man, Charles Darwin delayed over twenty years between formulating his theory of evolution by natural selection and its publication (Desmond & Moore, 1991). His feeling for his wife's religious sensitivities, and a reluctance to be excoriated by correct society, contributed to the delay.
Were it not for Alfred Russel Wallace, Darwin may well have traveled the road of such luminaries as Copernicus and Descartes and not published until beyond the reach of disapprobation. However, Darwin received instant acclaim among important scientists when appeared in 1859 his masterpiece The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.
Among those profoundly influenced was Darwin's half-cousin (same grandfather - Erasmus Darwin - different grandmother) Francis Galton. Already an eminent scientist, explorer, and inventor in his own right, Galton later wrote to Darwin:
I always think of you in the same way as converts from barbarism think of the teacher who first relieved them from the intolerable burden of their superstition. ....the appearance of your Origin of Species formed a real crisis in my life; your book drove away the constraint of my old superstition as if it had been a nightmare and was the first to give me freedom of thought". (from Karl Pearson, 1924).
It was Galton who immediately took up the scientific study of human diversity, human ability, and the evolution of civilizational capacity. By 1865 Galton published two important articles which shared the title "Hereditary Talent and Character", in 1869 he published Hereditary Genius: An Inquiry into Its Laws and Consequences. From the beginning Galton's work on heredity combined science (which later developed as human genetics) with notions of applications for the benefit of humanity. Galton founded, and then in 1883 named, the new science, eugenics. The term was from the Greek eugenes ("well born"), and Roger Pearson tells us:
In Galton's own words, the purpose of genetic science was "to give the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable.'(p. 19).
The humanitarian goal of eugenics was summarized by Galton in 1908:
Man is gifted with pity and other kindly feelings; he has also the power of preventing many kinds of suffering. I conceive it to fall well within his province to replace Natural Selection by other processes that are more merciful and not less effective. .... Natural Selection rests upon excessive production and wholesale destruction; Eugenics on bringing no more individuals into the world than can be properly cared for, and those only of the best stock. (Galton, 1908, p.323).
Heartened by Galton's applications of evolution to humanity, and by his investigations into the laws of heredity, Darwin was encouraged to prepare his own notes and thoughts concerning human evolution, and, in 1871 published The Descent of Man. In light of what came after it is important to emphasize that neither Galton nor Darwin, nor I dare say any competent scientist, doubted that the races differed profoundly in hereditary characteristics. As illustration Roger Pearson provides the following excerpt from chapter seven of The Descent of Man:
" .... the various races, when carefully compared and measured, differ much from each other - as in the texture of hair, the relative proportions of all parts of the body, the capacity of the lungs, the form and capacity of the skull, and even the convolutions of the brain. But it would be an endless task to specify the numerous points of difference. The races differ also in constitution, in acclimatization and in liability to certain diseases. Their mental characteristics are likewise very distinct; chiefly as it would appear in their emotion, but partly in their intellectual faculties. Everyone who has had the opportunity of comparison, must have been struck by the contrast between taciturn, even morose aborigines of S. America and the light-hearted talkative negroes (p. 20).
In order to study heredity Galton revolutionized methods, becoming "The Father" of modern statistics. The younger applied mathematician and social activist Karl Pearson [later to be Galton's major biographer] became an important colleague. Karl Pearson generalized the mathematical foundations of Galtonian statistical concepts, and further developed statistics in his quest of eugenical science. He was one of the most influential scientists at the turn-of-the-century, and emphasized eugenics in books with titles such as National Life from the Standpoint of Science (1901), and Nature and Nurture: The Problem of the Future (1910). Karl Pearson had deep concerns for the welfare of the British Empire, he feared that current conditions were having dysgenic consequences such that the quantity of qualified persons would be insufficient to maintain the Empire. Judging from the changes to the British Empire over the century from 1896 to 1996, there is certainly nothing apparent that contradicts his concerns. At one point he lamented "We have placed our money on environment, when heredity wins in a canter".
Roger Pearson makes abundantly clear with extensive documentation and fascinating text that the period up until approximately 1930 saw the flowering of eugenics in science, society and law. Many humanitarians of both the left and the right were united in an enthusiasm to improve human stock and prevent human suffering, rather than to only treat suffering after the fact. Eugenic ideals were embraced by such luminaries as George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Havelock Ellis, A. J. Balfour and Winston Churchill, to list but a few in Britain. In the United States such influential people as Henry Ford, Madison Grant, Margaret Sanger and Theodore Roosevelt were enthusiastic. The Carnegie Institute of Washington established, with Harriman family funds, the Cold Spring Harbor Eugenics Record Office under the leadership of the geneticist Charles Davenport.
Organizations such as The Galton Society and The Race Betterment Foundation were founded with ample scientific and social support. Writing for a majority (only one justice dissented) of the United States Supreme Court in 1927, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., noted:
It is better for all the world if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. ..... Three generations of imbeciles is enough (Buck v. Bell, 1927).
With such widespread support eugenics might have continued to develop as a major component of progressive society. Alas, such was not to be. Within the movement, R. Pearson points out, there developed schisms between those interested in race betterment and those more interested in prevention of specific genetic diseases - a breach between positive and negative eugenics. At the same time the "eugenic ideal - the desire to engineer a healthy genetic heritage for future generations - came under increasing attack from those who were ideologically committed to egalitarianism. The latter refused to see the eugenic ideal in any light other than as an hierarchical concept implying superiority and inferiority - the precise pattern of thought they sought to eliminate from social consciousness. They, too, sought to engage in social engineering, though engineering of a political nature which would have unanticipated dysgenic consequences, and the stage was set for the intense emotional struggle which today dominates both academia and the media, about the political correctness of permitting research into behavioral genetics, as well as the right to propagate information about the role of heredity in shaping the limits of human abilities and behavior." (pp. 52 - 53).
The arch villain on the academic front, instrumental in supplanting and then demonizing eugenics was Franz Boas, aided by a large entourage of students and fellow-travelers. One of the main take-home messages is that honest empirical science does not fare well, at least in the short run, when up against ideologically inspired polemics in which almost anything goes in the service of a greater good [the end justifies the means]. In Chapter V (Radical Egalitarianism Penetrates Academe), and the following few chapters, Roger Pearson exposes the players and the agenda promoting the egalitarian fallacy. It is a fascinating expose of names, dates, and events, too rich to be dealt with adequately in even a lengthy review. The reader is reminded of the Verona files, recently released documentation of the extensive infiltration of American government and society by communist agents. In very important respects Joe McCarthy was neither paranoid nor mistaken. Roger Pearson here makes clear that the academic and anthropological/psychobiological scientific fronts were not immune from the same intellectual infestations.
Born of a pair of politically radical socialists who were active in the 1870-71 wave of revolutionary movements across Europe, Franz Boas emigrated to the United States in 1886. In coming to America he was following Abraham Jacobi, an uncle by marriage, who came after being released from prison for armed violence in the Cologne revolution of 1848. Jacobi was active in the revolutionary socialist movement in the United States, and was in a good position to provide influential contacts for his kinsman. Boas "became the head of a department of anthropology established at Columbia University, where he trained and awarded doctoral degrees to numerous selected students. Equipped with the earliest American doctorates specifically designated as being in the field of anthropology, his students by default became the leaders and prime builders of academic anthropology in the United States, rapidly establishing themselves as the arbiters of anthropological research, publishing and teaching in American universities.
Interestingly, as late as 1911, in his book The Mind of Primitive Man, Boas had admitted that: "[d]ifferences of structure must be accompanied by differences of function, physiological as well as psychological; and, as we found clear evidence of differences of structure between races, so we must anticipate that differences in mental characteristics will be found."
However, Boas was shortly to reverse this position when he realized that the recognition of genetic forces conflicted with the goals of his egalitarian and internationalist ideology, which sought to demolish the unity and coherence of national units. Instead he began a massive campaign to undermine national and ethnic consciousness and `combat racism' in whatever form it might find expression. In particular, his [books] were devoted to downplaying the concept of heredity and undermining the eugenic ideal. .... The spread of Boasian doctrines was further facilitated by the position of world dominance then enjoyed by the Western nations. Spurred by an ethical desire to shoulder `the white man's burden' in a shrinking world, many academics came to believe that Mankind should now abandon the Darwinian struggle and treat the diverse subspecies of mankind as members of a single, international gene pool. This .... was an ethical concept not shared by the non-Western nations, who adhered to more functional, self-promoting, competitive patterns of behavior. .... the desire that biological egalitarianism should be true gained strength as human altruism was redirected away from the immediate group ..[to].. an ideology which favored overall sapiens homogenization. The new radicals in U.S. social science found it convenient to downplay heritability; and Boas's earlier acknowledgment of human biological disparities was edited out of his 1938 edition .... . Those to whom Boas awarded doctoral degrees in anthropology generally shared his ideologies and became prime disciples of egalitarian universalism" (pp. 57 - 59).
Among his many students were Margaret Mead, the "mother of American anthropology", eventually exposed as a hoaxster and communist propagandist, and Israel Ehrenburg (A.K.A. Ashley Montagu) whose "entire career was built around a bitter crusade against the work of respected scholars such as Carleton Coon, who recognized race as a vital product of human evolution" (p. 62). Others too numerous to even list are exposed in their infamy.
Many world events contributed to the growth of anti-eugenic egalitarianism, not least among which was the suffering associated with the world-wide depression which followed World War I. The growth of Nazism and the outcome of W.W.II provided an unfortunate boost to anti-eugenic sentiment. It was a propaganda coup of tremendous proportions to be able to paint eugenics with the tar brush of Nazi anti-Semitism. Never mind that it makes no more sense than to condemn all of pharmaceutical science or medical surgery because German science and applications were well developed in those fields. The propaganda damage was done, and it became unacceptable to even mention the possibility of race differences in behavior at the same time that Lysenkoism, condemning all genetics, was taking hold in the Soviet Union.
Biological egalitarianism became the only 'politically correct' doctrine among Marxists throughout the world, and .... permeated Western [universities] through the teachings of faculty members who were ideologically attracted to egalitarianism but were balefully ignorant of even elementary biology." (p. 71).
The Science for the People movement sprang up as part of the counter-culture protests in the era of the Vietnam War; "The political left-wing had now achieved ascendancy in the universities of the Western world. Indeed, many contemporary evolutionary scientists still seem to wish to be perceived as believing in equality, .... in a degree of malleability of human nature that does not exist. .. [Pee-Cee evolutionists focus] their writings on the 'panhuman' traits shared by all living hominids" (p. 73). They attempt to deny any genetic diversity among living races. Indeed, some even deny the existence of races. A sickly accurate joke has it that "It takes a Ph.D. in biology from Harvard to not be able to discern any difference between an Eskimo and a Hottentot"!
The second half of the book deals in fascinating depth with essentially current happenings, both in eugenical science [genetics], and in ideological countermoves to empirical science. On the one had, DNA fingerprinting can now establish, from a drop of saliva or dried blood, the race of origin to a probability of error of less than one-in-a-hundred-million. Incredibly, at the same time popular media and scientific publications stridently proclaim that biological [genetic] races do not exist. We are now in critical times, a race is occurring around us between humanitarian applications of modern genetic science (eugenics, that is) and the suppression of knowledge by PeeCee ideologues. The media, by-and-large trained by egalitarians, know no better than to attack as "racist", "repellent", or "repugnant" almost any admission of information concerning behavior and genetic diversity among human races. Yet at the same time the human genome project in combination with a wide variety of research in the neurosciences [brain science] and behavioral medicine and genetics in general, is quickly taking us beyond the point where race differences can be obfuscated or denied. So? It is ominous that there is a proliferation of 'hate crime' and 'hate speech' laws being considered or already in existence in various European countries, Australia, and Canada. While in the United States, under the umbrella of first amendment freedom-of-speech protection, academic tenure is under wide-spread attack and previously respectable academic publishers are censuring authors and censoring their book lists, even withdrawing from publication a title deemed "repellent" for including mention of race differences.
Whatever happened to eugenics? In China it is alive and well. The "Maternal and Infantile Health Care Law" went into effect on 1 June 1995. A media mention states "The official Xinhua News Agency reported that China currently has more than 10 million disabled people whose births could have been prevented if such a law had been in effect" (Tallahassee Democrat, 1994).
Meanwhile, in the West, eugenics continues to encounter politically motivated attempts to suppress. As the scientific advances continue at an accelerating pace, it remains to be seen if rational humanitarian applications of sound genetic knowledge can be implemented for the benefit of mankind, or if we will slip into another era of anti-intellectual totalitarianism. Anyone concerned for the future of mankind should carefully read this book. It is not the story you were told in cultural anthropology class.
... there is now no reasonable excuse for refusing to face the fact that nothing but .... eugenics ..... can save our civilization from the fate that has overtaken all previous civilizations" (p. 136).
Buck v. Bell.
1927 274 U.S., pp 201-208.
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