Five items appear below:
1 Editorial 72 2 A Brief History of the Eugenics Movement (Dr Bergman) 72 3 Reply to Bergman on Eugenics (Dr Potter) 73 4 Is the Orthodox History of Eugenics True? (Dr Bergman) 77 5 Reply to Bergman: Some Tangential Points (Dr Potter) 77
EDITORIAL: INVESTIGATOR 72; 2000 May
Jerry Bergman has donated the article A Brief History of the Eugenics Movement. Dr Bergman’s conclusion on Eugenics (= racial improvement by scientific control of breeding) are reminiscent of the conclusions of “Anonymous” on the related topic Social Darwinism. (Investigator 33)
Social Darwinism was the theory that “societies and classes evolve under the principle of survival of the fittest.” With eugenics such evolution toward better/fitter societies could in principle be speeded up.
Dr Bergman shows that eugenic ideas were supported by many scientists, were contrary to the Bible, discouraged help to the poor, culminated in the Holocaust, and became untenable with newer scientific research. “Anonymous” showed the same of Social Darwinism.
A Brief History of the Eugenics Movement
(Investigator 72, 2000 May)
Dr Jerry Bergman
Eugenics, the science of improving the human race by scientific control of breeding, was viewed by a large segment of scientists for almost one hundred years as an important, if not a major means of producing paradise on earth. These scientists concluded that many human traits were genetic, and that persons who came from genetically ‘good families’ tended to turn out far better than those who came from poor families. The next step was to encourage the good families to have more children, and the poor families to have few or no children.
From these simple observations developed one of the most far-reaching movements, which culminated in the loss of millions of lives. It discouraged aiding the sick, building asylums for the insane, or even aiding the poor and all those who were believed to be in some way ‘genetically inferior’, which included persons afflicted with an extremely wide variety of unrelated physical and even psychological maladies. Their end goal was to save society from the ‘evolutionary inferior’. The means was sexual sterilization, permanent custody of ‘defective’ adults by the state, marriage restrictions, and even the elimination of the unfit through means which ranged from refusal to help them to outright killing. This movement probably had a greater adverse influence upon society than virtually any other that developed from a scientific theory in modern times. It culminated with the infamous Holocaust and afterward rapidly declined.
THE HISTORY OF THE MOVEMENT
The eugenics movement grew from the core ideas of evolution, primarily those expounded by Charles Darwin.1 As Haller concluded:
‘Eugenics was the legitimate offspring of Darwinian evolution, a natural and doubtless inevitable outgrowth of currents of thought that developed from the publication in 1859 of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species.’ 2
Eugenics spanned the political spectrum from conservatives to radical socialists; what they had in common was a belief in evolution and a faith that science, particularly genetics, held the key for improving the life of humans.3
The first eugenics movement in America was founded in 1903 and included many of the most well known new-world biologists in the country: David Star Jordan was its chairman (a prominent biologist and chancellor of Stanford University), Luther Burbank (the famous plant breeder), Vernon L. Kellog (a world renowned biologist at Stanford), William B. Castle (a Harvard geneticist), Roswell H. Johnson (a geologist and a professor of genetics), and Charles R. Henderson of the University of Chicago.
One of the most prominent eugenicists in the United States was Charles Benedict Davenport, a Harvard Ph.D, where he served as instructor of biology until he became an assistant professor at the University of Chicago in 1898.4 In 1904, he became director for a new station for experimental evolution at Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island. Even Edward Thorndike of Columbia University, one of the most influential educational psychologists in history, was also involved. His work is still today regarded as epic and his original textbook on tests and measurements set the standard in the field.
Other persons active in the early eugenics society were eminent sexologists Havelock Ellis, Dr F. W. Mott, a leading expert in insanity, and Dr A. F. Tredgold, an author of a major textbook on mental deficiency, and one of the foremost British experts on this subject. Nobel laureate George Bernard Shaw, author H. G. Wells, and planned parenthood founder Margaret Sanger were also very involved in the movement.5
As the eugenics movement grew, it added other prominent individuals. Among them were Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone who was ‘one of the most respected, if not one of the most zealous participants in the American Eugenics Movement.’ 6He published numerous papers in scholarly journals specifically on genetics and the deafness problem, and also in other areas.
Of the many geneticists who are today recognized as scientific pioneers that were once eugenicists include J. B. S. Haldane, Thomas Hunt Morgan, William Bateson, Herman J. Muller, and evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley.7 Professors were prominent among both the officers and members of various eugenics societies which sprang up in the United States and Europe. In virtually every college and university were professors ‘inspired by the new creed,’ and most of the major colleges had credit courses on eugenics.8 These classes were typically well attended and their content was generally accepted as part of proven science. Many eugenicists also lectured widely and developed new courses, both at their institutes and elsewhere, to help educate the public in the principles of eugenics.’ According to Haller:
‘the movement was the creation of biological scientists, social scientists, and others with a faith that science provided a guide for human progress. Indeed, during the first three decades of the present century, eugenics was a sort of secular religion for many who dreamed of a society in which each child might be born endowed with vigorous health and an able mind.’ 10
The eugenics movement also attacked the idea of democracy itself. Many concluded that letting inferior persons participate in government was naive, if not dangerous. Providing educational opportunities and governmental benefits for everyone likewise seemed a misplacement of resources: one saves only the best cows for breeding, slaughtering the inferior ones, and these laws of nature must be applied to human animals. If a primary determinant of mankind’s behavioural nature is genetic as the movement concluded, then environmental reforms are largely useless. Further, those who are at the bottom of the social ladder in society, such as Blacks, are in this position not because of social injustice or discrimination, but as a result of their own inferiority.11
THE FOUNDER FRANCIS GALTON, DARWIN’S COUSIN
The first chapter in the most definitive history of the eugenics movement12 is entitled ‘Francis Galton, Founder of the Faith’. Influenced by his older cousin, Charles Darwin, Galton began his lifelong quest to quantify humans, and search for ways of genetically improving the human race in about 1860. So extremely important was Darwin’s idea to Galton, as Hailer states, that within six years of the publication of The Origin of Species
‘…Galton had arrived at the doctrine that he was to preach for the remainder of his life.., this became for him a new ethic and a new religion.’13
Galton openly stated that his goal was ‘to produce a highly gifted race of men by judicious marriages during several consecutive generations’. 14In an 1865 article, he proposed that the state sponsor competitive examinations, and the male winners marry the female winners. He later suggested that the state rank people according to evolutionary superiority, and then use money ‘rewards’ to encourage those who were ranked high to have more children. Those ranked towards the bottom would be segregated in monasteries and convents, and watched to prevent them from propagating more of their kind.15
Galton concluded that not only intelligence, but many other human traits were primarily, if not almost totally, the product of heredity. He believed that virtually every human function could be evaluated statistically, and that human beings could be compared in a quantitative manner on many hundreds of traits. He was also fully convinced that the survival of the fittest law fully applied to humans, and that it should be under the control of those who were most intelligent and responsible. Galton himself coined the word eugenics from the Greek words meaning well born. He also introduced the terms nature and nurture to science and started the nature/nurture argument which is still raging today. His goal was to produce a super race to control tomorrow’s world, a dream which he not only wrote about, but actively involved himself in promoting his whole life.
In 1901 he founded the Eugenics Education Society based in the Statistics Department at the University College of London.16 This organization flourished, later even producing a journal called Biometrika, founded and edited by Galton and later Pearson. It is still a leading journal today, but it has since rejected the basic idea behind its founding.
Galton, himself a child prodigy, soon set about looking for superior men by measuring the size of human heads, bodies and minds. For this purpose, he devised sophisticated measuring equipment which would quantify not only the brain and intelligence, but virtually every other human trait that could be measured without doing surgery. He even constructed a whistle to measure the upper range of hearing, now called a Galton whistle, a tool which is still standard equipment in a physiological laboratory. His work was usually anything but superficial much of it was extremely thorough. He relied heavily upon the empirical method and complex statistical techniques, many of which he developed for his work in this area.
In fact, Galton and his coworker, Karl Pearson, are regarded as founders of the modern field of statistics, and both made major contributions. Their thorough, detailed research was extremely convincing, especially to academics. German academics were among the first to wholeheartedly embrace his philosophy, as well as the theory of Darwinian evolution.
The idea that humans could achieve biological progress and eventually breed a superior race was not seen as heretical to the Victorian mind, nor did it have the horrendous implications or the taint of Nazism that it does today. All around Galton were the fruits of the recent advances in technology and the industrial revolution that had dramatically proved human mastery over inanimate nature. 17 They knew that, by careful selection, farmers could obtain better breeds of both plants and animals, and it was logical that the human races could similarly be improved. 18
Galton’s conclusion was that, for the sake of mankind’s future, pollution of the precious superior gene pool of certain classes must be stopped by preventing interbreeding with inferior stock. The next step was that we humans must intelligently direct our own evolution rather than leave such a vital event to chance. And Galton was not alone is this conclusion. All of the major fathers of modem evolution, including Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace (often credited as the co-founder of the modern theory of evolution), Edward Blyth, as well as E. Ray Lankester, and Erasmus Darwin, inferred that ‘evolution sanctioned a breeding program for man’. 19
The route to produce a race of gifted humans was controlled marriages of superior stock.20 In an effort to be tactful in his discussion of race breeding, he used terms such as ‘judicious marriages’ and ‘discouraging breeding by inferior stock.’ He did not see himself as openly cruel, at least in his writings, but believed that his proposals were for the long term good of humanity. Galton utterly rejected and wrote much against the Christian doctrines of helping the weak, displaying a tolerable attitude toward human fragilities and also showing charity towards the poor. Although this response may seem cold the mind of the co-founder of the field, Karl Pearson, has often be described as mathematical and without feeling and sympathy it must be viewed in the science climate of the time.21 Galton received numerous honours for his work, including the Darwin and Wallace Medals, and also the Huxley and the Copley Medals. He was even knighted by the British government and thus became Sir Francis Galton.
Understanding the eugenics movement requires a knowledge of how evolution was viewed in America and Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many scientists had concurrently applied Darwinian analysis to various racial’ groups, concluding that some ‘races’ were more evolutionarily advanced than others. If this claim was valid, the presence of certain racial groups in the United States and Europe constituted a threat to ‘the long-run biological quality of the nation.’ Consequently, it was concluded that ‘selective breeding was a necessary step in solving many major social problems’.22
We are today keenly aware of the tragic results of this belief; most people are now horrified by such statements when quoted by modern day white supremacists and racist groups. Many of the extremist groups today often quote from, and also have reprinted extensively, the scientific and eugenic literature of this time.
THE MAKING OF GALTON
From this point on, Galton’s ideas about eugenics rapidly catalyzed. The knowledge he obtained from his African travels confirmed his beliefs about inferior races, and how to improve society. This conclusion strongly supported the writings of both his grandfather and his first cousin, Charles Darwin. Galton, highly rewarded for his scientific contributions, likely felt that his eugenics work was another way that he could achieve even more honours. He concluded that his work was more important than that which he had completed for the various geographical societies, and more important than even his research which helped the fingerprint system become part of the British method of criminal identification.
The history of eugenics is intimately tied to the history of evolution. Hailer, the author of one of the most definitive works on the history of the eugenics movement, stated
Galton called the method of race analysis he developed ‘statistics by intercomparison.’ It later became a common system of scaling psychological tests. This scale permitted Galton
‘very nearly two grades higher than our own that is, about as much as our race is above that of the African Negro’. 27
Around the turn of the century, eugenics was fully accepted by the educated classes. As Kelves states:
‘Galton’s religion [became] as much a part of the secular pieties of the nineteen-twenties as the Einstein craze.’ 28
Books on eugenics became best-sellers Albert E. Wiggam wrote at least four popular books on eugenics, several were best-sellers29-32 and the prestigious Darwinian family name stayed with the eugenics movement for years the president of the British Eugenics Society from 1911 to 1928 was Major Leonard Darwin, Charles’ son.
The impact of the eugenics movement on American law was especially profound. In the 1920s, congress introduced and passed many laws to restrict the influx of ‘inferior races,’ including all of those from Southern and Eastern Europe, and also China. These beliefs were also reflected in everything from school textbooks to social policy. American Blacks especially faced the brunt of these laws. Inter-racial marriage was forbidden by law in many areas and discouraged by social pressure in virtually all. The eugenicists concluded that the American belief that education could benefit everyone was unscientific, and that the conviction that social reform and social justice could substantially reduce human misery was more than wrong-headed, it was openly dangerous.34
According to Hailer, it was actually between 1870 and 1900 that
ENTER KARL PEARSON
The second most important architect of eugenics theory was Galton’s disciple, Karl Pearson. His degree was in mathematics with honours from Kings College, Cambridge, which he completed in 1879. He then studied law and was called to the bar in 1881. A socialist, he often lectured on Marxism to revolutionary clubs. He was later appointed to the chair of applied mathematics and mechanics at University College, London, and soon thereafter established his reputation as a mathematician. His publication The Grammar of Science also accorded him a place in the philosophy of science field.
Pearson, greatly influenced by Galton, soon began to apply his mathematical knowledge to biological problems. He developed the field now known as statistics primarily to research evolution specifically as it related to eugenics. Pearson vigorously applied the experimental method to his research. Kevles concludes that Pearson was cold, remote, driven, and treated any emotional pleasure as a weakness. Challenging him on a scientific point invited ‘demolishing fire in return’. Pearson ‘like so many Victorian undergraduates, was beset by an agony of religious doubt’.38
Pearson concluded that Darwinism supported socialism because he assumed that socialism produced a wealthier, stronger, more productive, and in short, a superior nation. And the outcome of the Darwinian struggle results in the ascendancy of the ‘fittest’ nation, not individuals. Achievement of national fitness can better be produced by national socialism, consequently socialism will produce more fit nations that are better able to survive. Pearson carried his conclusions of heritability far beyond that which was warranted by the data. He stated to the anthropological institute in 1903 that
When Galton died in January of 1911, the University College received much of his money and established a Galton eugenics professorship, and a new department called applied statistics. The fund enabled Pearson to be freed from his ‘burdensome’ teaching to devote full time to eugenics research. The new department blossomed, and drew research workers from around the world. Pearson now could select only the best scientists and students who would immerse themselves in eugenic work. His students helped to manage the dozens of research projects in which Pearson was involved.
Pearson’s students and those who worked under him had to be as dedicated as he was or they soon were forced to leave. Some, trying to emulate Pearson’s pace, suffered nervous breakdowns.43 The laboratory’s goal was the production of research, and produce they did.
Between 1903 and 1918, Pearson and his staff published over 300 works, plus various government reports and popular expositions of genetics. Some of his co-workers questioned the idea that the only way to improve a nation is to ensure that its future generations come chiefly from the more superior members of the existing generation, but if they valued their position, most said nothing.” As Kevles added,
CHARLES DAVENPORT, THE AMERICAN LEADER
The next most important figure in the eugenics movement was an American, Charles Davenport. He studied engineering at preparatory school, and later became an instructor of zoology at Harvard. While at Harvard, he read some of Karl Pearson’s work and was soon ‘converted’. In 1899 he became an assistant professor at the University of Chicago. During a trip to England, he visited Galton, Pearson and Weldon, and returned home an enthusiastic true believer.
In 1904 he convinced the Carnegie Institute to establish a station for ‘the experimental study of evolution’ at Cold Spring Harbor, some thirty miles from New York City. Davenport then recruited a staff to work on various research projects ranging from natural selection to hybridization. He argued that hereditability was a major influence in everything from criminality to epilepsy, even alcoholism and pauperism (being poor).
Among the many problems with his research is that he assumed that traits which we now know are polygenic in origin were single Mendelian characters. This error caused him to greatly oversimplify interpolating from the genotype to the phenotype. He ignored the forces of the environment to such a degree that he labelled those who ‘loved the sea’ as suffering from thalassaphilia, and concluded that it was a sex-linked recessive trait because it was virtually always exhibited in males! Davenport even concluded that prostitution was caused not by social, cultural or economic circumstances, but a dominant genetic trait which caused a woman to be a nymphomaniac. He spoke against birth control because it reduced the natural inhibitions against sex.
He had no shortage of data for his ideas when the Cold Spring Harbor was founded in 1911 to when it closed in 1924, more than 250 field workers were employed to gather data and about three-quarters of a million cases were completed. This data served as the source of bulletins, memoirs, articles and books on eugenics and related matters. Raised a Congregationalist, Davenport rejected his father’s piety,
‘replacing it with a Babbitt-like religiosity, a worship of great concepts: Science, Humanity, the improvement of Mankind, Eugenics. The birth control crusader, Margaret Sanger recalled that Davenport, in expressing his worry about the impact of contraception on the better stocks, “used to lift his eyes reverently, and with his hands upraised as though in supplication, quiver emotionally as he breathed, “Protoplasm. We want more protoplasm”‘.49
AND THE MOVEMENT GREW AND PROSPERED
There are few individuals more important in the field of educational psychology and educational measurement and evaluation than Edward Lee Thorndike. He wrote many of the college texts which were the standards for years (and many still are), not only in educational psychology but also in measurement and child psychology. Yet, he was largely unaware of, or ignored, the massive evidence which had accumulated against many of the basic eugenic views.
When Thorndike retired in 1940 from Columbia Teachers’ College, he wrote a 963-page book entitled Human Nature and the Social Order. In it, he reiterated virtually all of the most blatant misconceptions and distortions of the eugenicists. As Chase states,
‘at the age of sixty-six, he was still peddling the long discredited myths about epilepsy that Galton had revived when Thorndike was a boy of nine… Despite Thorndike’s use of such twentieth-century scientific words as “genes” and his advocacy of the then current Nazi eugenics court’s practice of sterilizing people who got low marks on intelligence tests and for “inferior” morals, this [book] was, essentially, the 1869 gospel of Galton, the eugenical orthodoxy that all mental disorders and diseases were at least eighty percent genetic and at most twenty percent environmental.’ 59
THE REASONS FOR THE GROWTH OF EUGENICS
Part of the reason that the eugenics movement caught on so rapidly was because of the failures of the many innovative reformatory and other programmes designed to help the poor, the criminal, and people with mental and physical problems. Many of those who worked in these institutions concluded that most people in these classes were ‘heredity losers’ in the struggle for existence. And these unfit should not be allowed to survive and breed indiscriminately. Evolution gave them an answer to the difficulties that they faced. Charles Loring Brace
The translation of the eugenics movement into policy took many forms. In America, the sterilization of a wide variety of individua1s who were felt to have ‘heredity problems,’ mostly criminals, the mentally retarded, mentally ill and others, were at the top of their list. The first sterilization laws in the United States were in Indiana. They required mandatory sterilization of
Although the American courts challenged many of the eugenic laws, only one case, Bell versus Buck, reached the Supreme Court of the United States.
In an eight to one vote, the high court upheld sterilization for eugenic reasons, concluding that ‘feeblemindedness’ was caused by heredity and thus the state had a responsibility to control it by this means! The court’s opinion was written by none other than Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who used his no small knowledge of science in his erudite opinion. He forged a link between eugenics and patriotism, concluding that eugenics was a fact derived from empirical science. A rash of sterilization laws which were passed in half of the states soon followed, many of which were more punitive than humanitarian.53
Many eugenicists also believed that negative traits that one picked up in one’s lifetime could be passed on. The theory of acquired characteristics was widely accepted, and was not conclusively refuted until the work of August Weismann of Germany. The new view, called neo-Darwinian, taught that acquired characteristics could not be inherited, and thus
And much of this research was on the so-called simple creatures such as the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster). Secondly, it was realized that, as a human is produced from between 50,000 and 100,000 genes, it is extremely difficult to determine if any one is ‘superior’ to another. At best, one could try to make judgments relative to the superiority of one specific trait compared to another. This is most easily done in the case of a mutation. A person who had the mutation for hemophilia could be considered inferior for that trait compared to the person who does not.
On the other hand, this method considers only one gene, which means that a person without the genetic defect for hemophilia will be genetically inferior in some other way compared to the one with it. He may have the mutation for retinoblastoma, for example, and develop eye cancer later in his life.
Even a person who has certain traits, such as below average intellect, may as a whole be genetically superior, a determination which we cannot make until all 100,000 genes are mapped and then compared with the whole population. And even then comparative judgments cannot be made except on simplistic grounds, such as counting the total number of ‘inferior’ and ‘superior’ genes.
This falls short in that certain single genes can cause far more problems than others, or conversely, can confer on the person far more advantages than most other genes. It would then be necessary to rate each individual gene, something that is no easy task. In addition, many so-called inferior genes are actually mutations which were caused somewhere in the human genetic past, and were since passed on to the victim’s offspring. Of the unidentified diseases, about 4,000 are due to heritable mutations and none of these 4,000 existed in our past before the mutation for it was introduced into the human gene pool. This is de-evolution, an event which is the opposite of the eugenics goal of trying to determine the most flawless race and limit reproduction to them. This goal is flawed because the accumulation of mutations tends to result in all races becoming less perfect.56
Although the validity of many of the eugenic studies and the extent of applicability to humans were both seriously questioned, the demise of the eugenics movement had more to do with social factors than new scientific discoveries. Haller lists
Many of the people involved in the eugenics movement can best be summarized as true believers, devoted to the cause and blissfully ignoring the evidence which did not support their theories. Yet many knew that its basic premise was unsound, and often tried to rationalize its many problems. Galton
The importance of studying the eugenics movement today is not just to help us understand history. A field which is growing enormously in influence and prestige, social biology, is in some ways not drastically different from the eugenics movement. This school also claims that not only biological, but many social traits have a genetic basis, and exist from the evolutionary process. Although many social biologists take pains to disavow any connections, ideologically or otherwise, with the eugenics movement, their similarity is striking. This fact is a point that its many critics, such as Stephen J. Gould of Harvard, have often noted.60
In the late nineteenth century, ‘when so many thought in evolutionary terms, it was only natural to divide man into the fit and the unfit.’ 61 Even the unfortunates who because of an unjust society or chance, failed in business or life and ended in poverty, or those who were forced to live from petty theft, were judged ‘unfit’ and evolutionarily inferior.62 There was little recognition of the high level of criminality among common men and women, nor of the high level of moral virtuousness among many of those who were labelled criminals. They disregarded the fact that what separates a criminal from a non-criminal is primarily criminal behaviour. Because they are far more alike than different is one reason why criminal identification is extremely difficult.
The eugenicists also usually ignored upper class crime and the many offenses committed by high ranking army officers and government officials, even Kings and Queens, all of whose crimes were often well known by the people. They correctly identified some hereditary concerns, but mislabelled many which are not (such as poverty) and ignored the enormous influence of the environment in moulding all of that which heredity gives us. They believed that since most social problems and conditions are genetic, they cannot be changed, but can only be controlled by sterilization.63, 64
CHRISTIANITY AND EUGENICS
In contrast, the teaching of Christianity presented quite a different picture. It declared that anyone who accepted Christ’s message could be changed. The Scriptures gave numerous examples of individuals who were liars, thieves, and moral degenerates who, after a Christian conversion, radically turned their life around. The regeneration of reprobates has always been an important selling point of Christianity. From its earliest days, the proof of its validity was its effect on changing the lives of those who embraced the faith. Helping the poor, the weak, the downtrodden, the unfortunate, the crippled, and the lame was no minor part of Christianity. Indeed, it was the essence of the religion, the outward evidence of the faith within. If one wanted to follow Christ, one was to be prepared, if necessary, to ‘go and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor’ (Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21).
The rest is here:
A History of the Eugenics Movement – Tripod.com