November 27, 2021 | Jerry Bergman

Caltech Cancels Eugenicists from Its Racist Past

University Cancels Eugenics Supporters, Yet Charles Darwin,
One of the Most Influential Racists of All Time, Still Venerated

 

by Jerry Bergman, PhD

The once widely accepted eugenics movement was supported by scores of scientists, physicians, lawyers, judges, and others. The move to “cancel” those who supported eugenics may implicate past American presidents and even several Supreme Court judges.

How Have the Mighty Fallen

Caltech recently renamed buildings and departments previously named in honor of eugenics supporters. Even the founder of the university—Nobel Laureate Robert A. Millikan—has been canceled for his support of eugenics.[1] Millikan, who led Caltech from 1921 to 1945, was a leading experimental physicist most remembered for measuring the charge of the electron.

Persons whose name have been removed from buildings and professorship titles include Ezra Seymour Gosney who founded the non-profit Human Betterment Foundation in Pasadena, California. The foundation supported research and publication of the social effects of eugenic sterilizations carried out in California. After Gosney’s death in 1942, its funds were used to form the Gosney Research Fund at Caltech. The Human Betterment Foundation records were then transferred in 1968 to the Caltech Archives.

Other Caltech names removed, all of whom were affiliated with the Human Betterment Foundation, include:

Harry Chandler: Canceled. Publisher of The L.A. Times, Chandler dons a sombrero to receive greetings from Olvera Street children on his 74th birthday. From Wiki Commons.

Harry Chandler, a former Los Angeles Times publisher, who transformed the L.A. Times into the leading newspaper in the West and one of the most successful in the country. He was also owner of the largest real estate empire in the U.S.

William B. Munro, Ph.D. was a leading Canadian historian and Harvard University political scientist who authored a number of important books and articles on history and government.

Henry M. Robinson, the lawyer whose inspiration and support founded the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery. He was an officer and trustee of Caltech and was a major supporter of constructing the world-famous Mount Palomar astronomical laboratory.

Albert B. Ruddock was Caltech’s benefactor for more than 40 years. His long association began in 1926 as one of the 100 founders of The Associates of the California Institute of Technology. In 1938 he became a trustee of the Institute and, from 1954 until he retired in 1961, he was chairman of the board.

The Human Betterment Foundation (HBF) Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees of the Human Betterment Foundation besides Henry M. Robinson, included George Dock and David Starr Jordan.

David Starr Jordan: Canceled. Shown in 1874, Jordan was Founding President of Stanford University. From Wiki Commons.

Jordan was a militant Darwinist who wrote many best-selling books about evolution and related areas. He was the founding President of Stanford University, serving from 1891 to 1913. Starr was also a strong supporter of eugenics, believing that cattle and human beings are governed by the same laws of evolution, expressed a fear of what he called “race-degeneration”. He was also “an eminent evolutionary biologist who later volunteered to aid in the legal defense of John Scopes” of the Scopes Trial fame.[2]  Jordan was later recruited by the ACLU to help raise money for Scopes’ defense. He also raised funds for Scopes to pursue geology graduate training at the University of Chicago after the trial ended.[3]

George Dock was professor of medicine for 30 years at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Tulane School of Medicine and, last, at Washington University, in St. Louis. He retired in to Pasadena, California in 1922. The archive of his writing contain letters from the Human Betterment Foundation and California Department of Institutions contain discussions regarding their second survey of sterilization in California’s mental institutions. Dock was a prominent physician very involved in research and publishing. Dock wrote that Hitler “may be too impulsive in some matters, but he is sound on the theory and practice of eugenic sterilization.” [4]

Additional inaugural trustee members were Charles Goethe (a Sacramento philanthropist), Justin Miller (dean of the College of Law at the University of Southern California), Otis Castle (a Los Angeles attorney), Joe G. Crick (a Pasadena horticulturist), and biologist/eugenicist Paul Popenoe. Later HBF trustee members included Professor Lewis Terman (a Stanford psychologist best known for creating the standard IQ test, the Stanford-Binet), William B. Munro mentioned above,  University of California—Berkeley anatomy professor Herbert M. Evans, and zoology professor Samuel J. Holmes.

To Be Consistent, Another Racist Should Also Be Canceled: Charles Darwin [5]

The fact that Darwin was a racist of the worst kind was documented in an article by a Princeton University professor and published in the most esteemed science journal in the world, Science.[6] The author, Professor Agustín Fuentes, wrote some of Darwin’s racist “assertions were dismally, and dangerously, wrong.” Fuentes writes that Darwin’s 1871 treatise, Descent of Man, a book venerated by many evolutionists today, “is often problematic, prejudiced, and injurious. Darwin thought he was relying on data, objectivity, and scientific thinking in describing human evolutionary outcomes. But for much of the book, he was not. ‘Descent,’ …  offers a racist and sexist view of humanity.”[7]

Fuentes adds: “Darwin portrayed Indigenous peoples of the Americas and Australia as less than Europeans in capacity.…  Peoples of the African continent were consistently referred to as cognitively depauperate, less capable, and of a lower rank than other races.”[8] Fuentes concludes that Darwin

went beyond simple racial rankings, offering justification of empire and colonialism, and genocide, through “survival of the fittest.” … In “Descent,” Darwin identified women as less capable than (White) men, often akin to the “lower races.” He described man as more courageous, energetic, inventive, and intelligent, invoking natural and sexual selection as justification, despite the lack of concrete data and biological assessment…. Darwin was a perceptive scientist whose views on race and sex should have been more influenced by data and his own lived experience. But Darwin’s racist and sexist beliefs, echoing the views of scientific colleagues and his society, were powerful mediators of his perception of reality.[9]

One example of Darwin’s sexism is his statement that women were at a “lower level of development” than men, due to an “earlier arrest of individual evolution” in human females. Because they had smaller brains, Darwin and other evolutionists believed women were “eternally primitive” and childlike, less spiritual, more materialistic.[10] Darwin also listed historical proof that supported his view that women were inferior to men.[11]

Darwin also made explicitly racist ideas numerous times in his writings. An example is his view that ‘the civilized races …. are now everywhere extending, their range, so as to take the place of the lower races,” which Darwin believed would eventually lose in the survival of the fittest struggle.”[12]

Robert Andrews Millikan: Canceled. Caltech removes name of its founder, a Nobel Laureate. From Wiki Commons.

The racism of most of those canceled by Caltech does not compare to that of Charles Darwin. I have published several articles about Nobel Laureate Robert A. Millikan and never came across a single sentence that supports the charge of racism or support for eugenics.[13] Although it appears he supported the Human Betterment Foundation, from what I have read, he believed that all humans were descendants of Adam and Eve. It appears, therefore, that he did not believe that inferior races exist, although he did favor some form of evolution.[14] I have not found a hint of racism or claims of inferiority or the use of eugenics in his autobiography, either, and noted the opposite.[15] Likewise, I found the same in his book The Evolution of Religion he wrote “the greatest miracle there is, is the fact that a mind has got here at all, ‘created out of the dust of the earth’. That is the Bible phrase, and science today can find no better way to describe it.”[16]  In contrast, Darwin’s writing contains scores of blunt racism, a few examples quoted above.

 Scientists’ Racism Exploited by White Supremacists

It is a demonstrable fact that today’s “Racists, sexists, and white supremacists, some of them academics, use Darwin as support for [their] beliefs.”[17] An example is the Ku Klux Klan’s frequent use of quotations from pre-1930 scientific literature to justify its claims that Negroes are inferior. Darwin’s writings were an especially important influence on racism because Darwin’s ideas had a profound influence on the entire academic and scientific world. Fuentes asserts that “The Descent of Man’ is one of the most influential books in the history of human evolutionary science” ever written.[18]

Now that the leading scientific journal has acknowledged his major contribution to the racist problem, will academia follow the lead and cancel Darwin? His racism has been well-documented, such as in Zitzer’s 778-page, small-print tome-study. But hypocritically, he is not yet controversial enough to cancel. But Millikan was?[19]

Harry Chandler, publisher of The Times, dons a sombrero to receive greetings from his          little Olvera-Street friends on his seventy-fourth birthday. From Wikimedia-Commons. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Chandler#/media/File:Harry_Chandler.jpg

References

[1] Gomez, Melissa. 2021. After admitting founder’s eugenics past, Caltech honors a diversity of campus figures. Los Angeles Times.

[2] Larson. E. 1997. Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and American’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion, Basic Books, New York, NY, p. 41.

[3] Larson. Edward.1997, pp. 82, 112, 135.

[4] Platt, Anthony et al., 2005. Bloodlines: Recovering Hitler’s Nuremberg Laws from Patton’s Trophy to Public Memorial. New York: Routledge P. 59.

[5] Bergman, J., “150 Years of Darwin’s Dangerous Book,” This year is the 150th anniversary of the most dangerous book ever published: Darwin’s racism and sexism are now acknowledged, Creation-Evolution Headlines, https://crev.info/2021/06/darwin-dangerous-book/, 10 June 2021. (Abbreviated from The 150th-Year Anniversary of the Most Dangerous Book Ever Published: Darwin’s Racism Acknowledged.)

[6] Fuentes, A. “The Descent of Man,” 150 years on. Science 372(6544):769, DOI: 10.1126/science.abj4606, 21 May 2021.

[7] Fuentes, 2021, p 769.

[8] Fuentes, 2021, p 769

[9] Fuentes, 2021, p 769.

[10] Gilmore, D. Misogyny: The Male Malady, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA, 2009, pp. 124-125. See also George Romanes, Mental Differences Between Men and Women, The Nineteenth Century, May 1887, pp. 654-672. Also in Popular Science Monthly, Volume 31, July 1887. Also William Fielding, Women: The Eternal Primitive, Haldeman-Julius Publications, Girard, KS, 1927, 64 pages.

[11] Darwin, C., The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, Vol. 2, 1871, p. 327.

[12] Darwin, 1871, p. 169.

[13] Bergman, Jerry. 2010. “Robert A. Millikan, Physics Noble Laureate and Darwin Doubter.” Journal of Creation. 24(1):88-91.

[14] Kargon, Robert. 1982. The Rise of Robert Millikan: Portrait of a Life in American Science. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

[15] Millikan, Robert.1950.  The Autobiography of Robert A. Millikan. New York: Prentice Hall.

[16] Millikan, Robert. 1927. The Evolution of Religion. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.  p. 69.

[17] Fuentes, 2021, p 769.

[18] Fuentes, 2021, p 769.

[19] Zitzer, L., Darwin’s Racism, I Universe, New York, NY, 2016.


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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