Friday, September 01, 2006

Darwin, Eugenics and Hitler: So What?

I realized that throwing up extended quotes from my last post could be misleading. So here is an outline of why this matters to us today:

Darwinian theory, for good or evil, has influenced many people's thinking regarding many areas of human endeavor. Among these are the fields of religion, philosophy, morality, law and public policy. His theory has been called the most important idea of the 19th century. Given the impact of his theory, one must acknowledge that it has, at the least, inherent implications in all these areas. Because of its religious, philosophical and moral implications, and the requirements of the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution, it is reasonable for school boards and the courts to insist that it not be taught in such a way as to promote a particular religious or anti-religious viewpoint of any kind. Since organized religion is banned from public schools, Darwinian theory should not be taught in such a way as to promote a philosophy or moral reasoning framework that competes adversely with traditional religions.

How do you do this? A good start is to be very careful to teach it with a balanced presentation, including both the evidence for it and the evidence that tends to undermine it.

At the end of my last post, I included links to previous posts where I discussed related issues.

[Update: I wanted to add a clarification so there can be no confusion: the way people used evolution to promote eugenics tells us nothing about whether evolutionary theory is true or not.]

Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Three Generations of Imbeciles Are Enough"

"Three Generations of Imbeciles Are Enough."

One thing that was missed by those who trashed the show Darwin's Deadly Legacy before they watched it (other related posts here and here), was that the segment about the Hitler connection was relatively small. It was only one part of an examination of the Social Darwinism and Eugenics movements and their varied aspects and "successes." As noted previously, it is well established that Darwinian thinking gave rise to the Eugenics movement. I did not realize how pervasive this movement was right here in the United States.

In the 1927 case of Buck v. Bell, the US Supreme Court upheld the right of the state of Virginia to sterilize a mentally retarded woman against her will. Writing for the majority, Oliver Wendell Holmes said this (bold emphasis mine throughout this post):
We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.

"A Dead Weight of Human Waste"

Another enlightening segment of the show referenced a quote from Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. Here is some of what she had to say in her 1922 book, The Pivot of Civilization:
The emergency problem of segregation and sterilization must be faced immediately. Every feeble-minded girl or woman of the hereditary type, especially of the moron class, should be segregated during the reproductive period. Otherwise, she is almost certain to bear imbecile children, who in turn are just as certain to breed other defectives. The male defectives are no less dangerous. Segregation carried out for one or two generations would give us only partial control of the problem. Moreover, when we realize that each feeble- minded person is a potential source of an endless progeny of defect, we prefer the policy of immediate sterilization, of making sure that parenthood is absolutely prohibited to the feeble-minded.

Not so "pro-choice." In another part of the book, she writes:

But there is a special type of philanthropy or benevolence, now widely advertised and advocated, both as a federal program and as worthy of private endowment, which strikes me as being more insidiously injurious than any other. This concerns itself directly with the function of maternity, and aims to supply GRATIS medical and nursing facilities to slum mothers. Such women are to be visited by nurses and to receive instruction in the ``hygiene of pregnancy''; to be guided in making arrangements for confinements; to be invited to come to the doctor's clinics for examination and supervision. They are, we are informed, to ``receive adequate care during pregnancy, at confinement, and for one month afterward.'' Thus are mothers and babies to be saved. ``Childbearing is to be made safe.'' . . . .

. . . .

Such philanthropy, as Dean Inge has so unanswerably pointed out, is kind only to be cruel, and unwittingly promotes precisely the results most deprecated. It encourages the healthier and more normal sections of the world to shoulder the burden of unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity of others; which brings with it, as I think the reader must agree, a dead weight of human waste. Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world, it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant.

So much for compassionate progressivism.

I do not have time at the moment to add my comments on what this all means to the current debate. I hope to post on that topic shortly. Until then, this link will give you a clue. Here is another. And how can you resist reading a post with the title "Penguins, Shy Swedish Females and the Non-Speciesist Imperative"?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Creationism in a Cheap Mitre?

The Washington Post has picked up again on this story:

PARIS (Reuters) - Pope Benedict gathers some of his former theology students on Friday for a private weekend debate on evolution and religion . . . .

. . . .

Religion and science blogs are buzzing about whether it means the Vatican will take a more critical view of evolution and possibly embrace "Intelligent Design," which claims to have scientific proof that human life could not have simply evolved.

One of the organizers was quoted thus:

"It has nothing to do with creationism," he added, referring to a fundamentalist Protestant view that God created the world in six days as described in the Book of Genesis. "Catholic theology does not endorse creationist views."

I laughed when I saw this, because I can only imagine the response by stereotyping materialists. I am sure some will say that they are lying theocrats and that it is just "Creationism in a cheap mitre." Or perhaps a "cheap pallium"?

I also laughed when I read this:

The "ID movement" does not name the designer as God, but its opponents -- including scientists who are believing Christians -- call this an unacceptable bid to sneak God into the teaching of science, which should only focus on empirical knowledge.

It is the ID proponents who insist that we should focus on the empirical evidence, and avoid all a priori philosophical assumptions which prevent the evidence from speaking for itself. It is the evolution proponents who say that unless the evidence is filtered through a rigid materialism, you are undermining science.

The article closes with this:

Catholic teaching accepts evolution as a scientific theory and does not read the Biblical story of creation literally. But it disagrees with what it calls "evolutionism," the view that the story of life has no role for God as its prime author.

"The possibility that the Creator used evolution as a tool is completely acceptable for the Catholic faith," Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, one of the two main speakers at the meeting, said last week.

Schoenborn, a close associate of Benedict, raised eyebrows last year with an article in the New York Times suggesting the Catholic Church supported the Intelligent Design movement.

He did not endorse it outright, but agreed with the ID movement's view that scientists who say evolution rules out God draw an ideological conclusion not proven by the theory.

Benedict has argued this way since his teaching days. At his inaugural mass after his election last year, he declared: "We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God."

Horn said Benedict and his students would probe further into this issue at their meeting: "We have to ask what is really scientific in Darwin's theory and its later development and where there are ideological elements that are unscientific."

It is too bad that most American public school students are forbidden from asking these kinds of questions.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Abraham Foxman's Allegations and Reality

Now that I have seen the show, I can evaluate Abraham Foxman's strident remarks before it aired. Let's take a look.

Foxman said:
This is an outrageous and shoddy attempt by D. James Kennedy to trivialize the horrors of the Holocaust.

The show is based on the premise that Hitler was one of the most evil men who ever lived. I believe that this was stated in so many words on the show. Far from trivializing the Holocaust, the show affirmed the enormity and the horror of this great tragedy.

Foxman said:
Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan to exterminate the Jewish people.

The show never asserted that Hitler "needed" Darwin. It suggested that Darwinian theory significantly influenced the eugenics movement, and that eugenics played an important role in Nazi ideology.

My take: It is well established that the eugenics movement was significantly influenced by Darwinian theory. It is also well established that the Nazi's were significantly influenced by ideas and concepts from the eugenics movement. How important were these influences and what other influences played a role is a matter of debate about which reasonable persons may differ. However, Foxman's suggestion that there were no such influences seems absurd and seems to deny historical realities.