Darwin's Evil Fruit Exposed
Two recent books expose bitter legacies of Darwin’s idea that the fittest rule a world without God.
A book review in Nature contains sober reminders that ideas have consequences. In “When eugenics became law,” Victoria Nourse reports on a new study Adam Cohen on the historic misuse of biology in the US: Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck. We must never forget:
Eugenics is a well-known low point in the modern history of science. In the United States, from the late nineteenth century to the 1940s, credence was given to this pseudoscience focused on the notional ‘improvement’ of human populations by halting the reproduction of supposedly lesser genes. Less well known is the story of how US law rendered eugenics intellectually respectable across the world, supporting programmes from Canada to Sweden. Ultimately, this egregious failing led to the enforced sterilization of at least 60,000 US citizens, and was used by the Nazi regime to justify its own programme of sterilization and, later, extermination.
Americans tend to blame Hitler alone; how many realize the guilt of American scientists in what happened? Eugenics was alive and well in the United States long before Hitler took it to extremes. Nourse says that America bears guilt for making it “intellectually respectable” around the world. John West documents that as well in his book Darwin Day in America.
(See also video The War on Humans).
Nourse calls eugenics a “pseudoscience,” but is reticent to reveal that leading American scientists strongly promoted it, enshrining it with statues of Darwin and Galton in the American Museum of Natural History. It led to the infamous Supreme Court ruling Buck v. Bell (1927), wherein Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes upheld a forced sterilization law with the infamous comment, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Carrie Buck, incarcerated in an asylum because of being diagnosed as an “imbecile” (an extremely non-scientific term), along with her mother and daughter, lived a long and fulfilling life after her forced sterilization. “All three had been erroneously ‘diagnosed’ with mental disabilities,” Nourse writes, but then she tries to exonerate Darwin for this bad fruit:
Before Buck v. Bell, eugenic sterilization had been advocated for decades by US reformers and scientists, including prominent biologist Charles Davenport, but it had been used only sporadically because of fears that it was illegal. Eugenics itself was born in Britain in the late nineteenth century, nurtured by polymath Francis Galton, a half-cousin of Charles Darwin. The concept resonated with contemporary interpretations of ‘social Darwinism’, which hinged on engineering the ‘survival of the fittest’ — a gross caricature of Darwin’s idea.
But historical facts are facts. Not only did Darwin (though personally magnanimous) provide the intellectual justification for survival of the fittest in his Origin and Descent of Man, he did not hinder his half-cousin Galton from taking that idea and running with it into advocacy of social policy. The Brits exported it into America, where it took root and grew like a toxic weed among the leading scientists (not “pseudoscientists”) and intelligentsia:
By 1928, a total of 375 US universities and colleges were teaching eugenics, and 70% of high-school biology textbooks endorsed the pseudoscience in some form. Eugenics was also endorsed by presidents including Theodore Roosevelt, funded by philanthropic organizations including the Carnegie Institution, and touted by award-winning scientists such as biologist Edwin Grant Conklin and the Nobel laureate Hermann Muller, discoverer of X-ray mutagenesis, as well as prominent inventors such as Alexander Graham Bell. Eugenics came to be seen as the solution to everything from hearing loss to criminality. In Britain, advocates tended to focus on segregation and voluntary sterilization. Major British eugenicists included left-leaning scientists J. B. S. Haldane and Havelock Ellis, and supporters included the economist John Maynard Keynes, social reformers Sidney and Beatrice Webb, and writer H. G. Wells.
H. G. Wells, in fact, can be seen in a video clip trashing what he considers the unfit, demanding that they justify their existence on the planet. This was not some fly-by-night pseudoscience but a leading movement for decades, until the horrors of the Holocaust made it politically incorrect. Today, there are worries about gene editing creating the conditions for a resuscitation of eugenics (see, for instance, this ethical warning in Nature). Does Nourse warn about the lessons of history? No; all she says at the last sentence about “one of the most spectacular miscarriages of justice in US history” is that, “To this day, the Supreme Court has never officially overruled Buck v. Bell.”
In Science Magazine, Irving A. Lerch reviews a new autobiography by a man called “the most wanted man in China” during the reign of Mao Zedong, the late Fang Lizhi—”a renowned scientist, humane scholar, political activist, intractable enemy of authoritarian government, and courageous advocate of human rights.” Here’s just a taste of the totalitarian world of suspicion, illogic and slavery after Mao came to power:
In 1957, Fang was exiled to labor in the rural fields of China. He would return and be banished again multiple times over the next two decades, perhaps targeted for helping to draft a critical letter to Party Central—criticism invited by the Party but designed to identify potential dissidents. The enlistment of Chinese intellectuals in their own suppression was so successful that none could emerge as a heroic figure capable of capturing public sentiment or leadership.
Fang appreciated the resilience of his fellow laborers. During his exile to the Xishan coal mines, he recalled one miner’s response to demands for greater productivity: “‘Sixty cents of pay buys sixty cents of work.’”
Fang soon learned that party proscriptions extended to the kinds of scientific inquiry that could be pursued. The precedent set by the Soviet Union was to discourage the study of modern science in adherence with Marxist principles, an approach that foundered on the shoals of reality after World War II. With the enlistment of scientists in the nuclear program, Stalin was forced to promote talented physicists like Andrei Sakharov, who became “heroes of the revolution.” Mao knew that all he needed were faceless technicians to build his bomb.
And so it went for this courageous scientist and intellectual, treated like a faceless coal miner by the regime. By 1989, Fang had hoped the air was clearing for freedom:
In the winter of 1989, Fang wrote a letter to Deng Xiaoping noting that the year marked the 40th anniversary of the founding of the PRC and the 70th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement. “In order to capture the spirit of these occasions in the best possible way, I sincerely propose that you announce a general amnesty, specifically to include all political prisoners,” he concluded. This letter would be cited by the authorities as the principal cause of the student demonstrations that incited the government to use military force, which resulted in the massacre in Tiananmen Square.
Exiled to the United States, Fang continued his advocacy of human rights until his death 4 years ago at age 76. Although Lerch does not connect the dots from Darwin to Mao in his review, it is well known that all the communist leaders have been staunch Darwinians who, like Marx, viewed Darwinism as the scientific justification for their views. Human rights are fruits of the Judeo-Christian tradition that sees every individual as a valuable person made in the image of God, “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”.
Update 3/02/06: Breitbart News quotes BBC sources saying that communist rulers of Cambodia cannibalized their victims. A summary at the end of the article provides context:
Pol Pot led the Khmer Rouge regime between 1963 and 1981. The regime committed genocide between 1975 and 1979, when they sought to install the purest form of communism in the world, leaving one to three million people dead. The country lost 25% of its population from torture, malnutrition, executions, disease, and forced labor.
Witnesses at the trial of top leaders responsible for the “Killing Fields” report seeing the butchers celebrating with alcohol as they ate livers and gall bladders of their victims, including organs from a pregnant woman that had just been murdered.
Those too young to remember the cold war cannot imagine the depth of depravity that issued forth in the 20th century after Darwin’s theory took hold. The oppression of communism went on so long, it encompassed whole lifetimes in misery and despair. It’s a sorry verdict on our education system’s failure that so many today are embracing socialism, the halfway house to communism. The Big Science institutions as well have so soon forgotten the horrors of eugenics. It’s good that books are still coming out about these two evil fruits of Darwinian ideology, but so many forget (or never heard) about them. Encourage young people to read George Orwell’s Animal Farm. No student is educated without it (the young may enjoy the classic cartoon version). Encourage your friends and family members and fellow students to watch the Discovery Institute’s excellent videos about Social Darwinism, where clear lines are drawn from Darwin to eugenics, Hitler and communism. We must never forget!
Matthew 7:15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.” —Jesus Christ, from the Sermon on the Mount