Continued from: Of Eugenicists, Oligarchs and Psychopaths (part 1)
Eugenics is not a dead, spurious historical phenomenon; its roots and influential tentacles are deep and enduring. And the human casualties – even after the end of the Nazi ‘experiment’ resulting from this supremacist ideology – number in the tens of millions. Eugenics began as an elitist, racist, supremacist movement which enlisted highly respected academic scientists in a kind of mission aimed at controlling human reproduction. It was a diabolical, gigantic human experiment precipitated by a deluded misconception: the belief that by applying population control methods used in animal breeding would result in improving the ‘quality’ of the human ‘race’.
The previously mentioned David Starr Jordan, President of Stanford University, was an influential American eugenicist whose publication, The Blood of a Nation: A Study in the Decay of Races by the Survival of the Unfit, was aimed at influencing the wide public. It was published in 1902 and again in 1910 by the American Unitarian Association, Boston, MA. Eugenicists adopted dubious racial-genetic theories borrowed from animal breeding techniques used to improve the genetic stock of animals. They used specious screening and measuring techniques – that they called ‘scientific’ – to identify, label and control human beings with presumed inferior genetic traits, whereby some humans could be declared ‘unfit’. To reduce the number of ‘unfit’ people, eugenicists promoted policies to control human reproduction – through forced sterilisation – and restrictive immigration.
America’s leading scientists espoused eugenics, and all the premier universities offered eugenics courses, including Chicago, Harvard, Northwestern, Purdue and Yale. The father of American eugenics could be regarded as Charles Benedict Davenport, a Harvard educated zoologist, who taught biology at both Harvard and the University of Chicago, who headed the Eugenic Record Office and spearheaded a worldwide campaign to create a master ‘Nordic race’ and sterilise or segregate all other ‘inferior’ humans to control their population size. Davenport was interested only in cataloguing defective human traits, with the ultimate goal of removing the carriers from the national gene pool. His textbook, Heredity in Relation to Eugenics (Balefire Publishing, H. Holt & Co., New York, 1911), combined sound science with unadulterated nonsense about ‘genetic predispositions’: “One family will be characterized by political activity, another by scholarship, another by financial success… another by insanity, another by imbecility and epilepsy, another by larceny and sexual immorality, another by suicide…” et cetera.
Still, in 1904 Davenport had received large grants from the Carnegie Foundation and the widow of the railroad baron E.H. Harriman to open the Station for Experimental Evolution at Cold Spring Harbor. He worked closely with the American Breeders Association, adding a Eugenics Committee the purpose of which was “to devise methods of recording the value of the blood of individuals and families, peoples and races” emphasising ” the value of superior blood and the menace to society of inferior blood.”(E. Black, War against the weak: Eugenics and America’s campaign to create a master race, Dialog Press, Washington D.C., 2003, at 39).
In 1910, again with funding from Carnegie and Harriman, Davenport opened the Eugenics Record Office – E.R.O. for the purpose of compiling family records on the ‘unfit’ and to take a census of America’s ‘defective’ population at hospitals, prisons, refuge homes, and insane asylums. Davenport hired Harry Hamilton Laughlin, a lawyer, to head the E.R.O. field office operation and collation of the records.
The E.R.O. census takers determined that ten million Americans met the criteria for ‘defectives’ classified within ten categories. The first category was the ‘feeble minded’ – a broadly defined catch-all category which included stutterers, people who spoke poor English, and those who were shy. Physicians working for the government enthusiastically surgically sterilised tens of thousands of such unfortunate persons.
Secular eugenicists, some of them still calling themselves ‘good Christians’ discarded the Biblical belief that all humans descended from one source; that despite various ethnic diversities, humans share a common heritage. Instead, eugenicists embraced a new thought and the called it ‘scientific racism’.
“In the early 20th century, most scientists believed in the existence of distinct biological races. Scientific disciplines such as physical anthropology, cephalometry, phrenology, physiognomy, and anthropometry sought to measure physiological differences among human populations. The thinking was that physical differences translated into mental differences. Cephalometry, for example, dealt with the variations in size, shape, and proportion of skulls among human races. Scientists theorized that larger skulls held larger brains, which resulted in increased intelligence. Races possessing a higher average ‘cephalic index,’ that is, the Nordics, were supposedly smarter.
What separated scientific racism from older ideas about race was the belief that racial differences were fixed and unchangeable. Mankind was divided into superior and inferior races. Such theories lent themselves to racial discrimination.” (E. Rudolph, White Lies: Eugenics, Abortion, and Racism, 2014, PDF file).
Eugenicists’ materialistic view of the world inevitably led to ‘social engineering’. If heredity and/or environment determine all human behaviour, then it stands to reason that man can be modified – ‘engineered’, like any other material object. Eugenicists were confident in the ability of their ‘scientific method’ to evaluate, classify, and manipulate; ultimately to repair the negative characteristics and qualities of human beings – just as is done in the breeding of animals. However, to do so, it was essential to dispense with free will. Only by eliminating free will can human beings be manipulated and improved – for society’s best interests.
The American Eugenics Society, founded in 1922 by Henry Fairfiild Osborn, the eldest son of prominent railroad tycoon William Henry Osborn and President of the American Museum of Natural History, was a large umbrella organisation for various factions. The Society changed its name in 1972 to the more ‘palatable’ Society for the Study of Social Biology; and again to the more pretentious appellation in 2008 of Society of Biodemography and Social Biology. American promoters of eugenics included highly trusted professionals, including well known lawyers and medical doctors, national leaders, charitable organisations, and respected corporate foundations – all well established and financially well provided. The Society collaborated with the Department of Agriculture(!) and various state agencies in formulating public policies designed to restrict the birth rate of humans deemed genetically, ethnically, or socially ‘unfit.’ Notable proponents of eugenics defined power and prestige in America. They included: the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Harriman railroad fortune, Harvard University, Princeton University, Stanford University, Yale University, the American Medical Association, Margaret Higgins Sanger, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Robert Mearns Yerkes, Thomas Woodrow Wilson, the American Museum of Natural History, the American Genetic Association and a sweeping array of government agencies from the obscure Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics to the U.S. State Department. (E. Black, War against the weak: Eugenics and America’s campaign to create a master race, Dialog Press, Washington D.C., 2003).
It is especially significant that the United States was the first country to impose eugenic sterilisation under state statutes. Indiana was the first, in 1907, of 30 states which enacted forced sterilisation laws. And the U.S. Supreme Court by the hand of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes upheld the Virginia Sterilization Act of 1924 in 1927.
Applied Eugenic (The MacMillan Co., New York, 1918), a textbook co-authored by Dr. Paul Bowman Popenoe, a venereal disease specialist, advocated eugenicide. The recommended methods included: a “lethal chamber.” “Lethal selection” was another method, realised “through the destruction of the individual by some adverse feature of the environment, such as excessive cold, or bacteria, or by bodily deficiency.” (E. Black, Eugenics and the Nazis: the California connection, SF Chronicle, 9.11.2003).
Another American physician, regarded as ‘progressive reformer,’ Dr. John Randolph Haynes, recommended medical murder of mentally ill patients: “There are thousands of hopelessly insane in California, the condition of those minds is such that death would be a merciful release. How long will it be before society will see the criminality of using its efforts to keep alive these idiots, hopelessly insane, and murderous degenerates. … Of course the passing of these people should be painless and without warning. They should go to sleep at night without any intimation of what was coming and never awake.” (Haynes Papers, box 84, c. 1918).
Dr. Harry Hamilton Laughlin’s Model Eugenical Sterilization Law (Arizona State University, Tempe AZ., 1922) served as the model for both American sterilisation laws, and was the blueprint that Hitler used to frame Germany’s Sterilisation Law (1933); its ethnic exclusionary Nuremberg Laws (1935); and its medical murder of handicapped children and of adults in psychiatric institutions under Aktion T-4. (On 1 September 1939, the day German tanks rumbled into Poland, Hitler signed an informal memorandum allowing specially-appointed doctors to deal with “incurable” patients by “granting [a] mercy death after a discerning diagnosis.” This memorandum unleashed Aktion T4: a programme to clear hospitals and free up resources by euthanising the mentally disabled.) In recognition of his contribution, in 1936, the Dean of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute awarded Laughlin an honorary Medical Doctor degree. Eugenics institutes in the United States and in Germany were financed by America’s corporate elite – the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation.
“Throughout the first six decades of the twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of Americans and untold numbers of others were not permitted to continue their families by reproducing. Selected because of their ancestry, national origin, race or religion, they were forcibly sterilised, wrongly committed to mental institutions where they died in great numbers, prohibited from marrying, and sometimes even unmarried by state bureaucrats. In America, this battle to wipe out whole ethnic groups was fought not by armies with guns nor by hate sects at the margins.
Rather, this pernicious white-gloved war was prosecuted by esteemed professors, elite universities, wealthy industrialists and government officials colluding in a racist, pseudo-scientific movement called eugenics. The purpose: create a superior Nordic race.
To perpetuate the campaign, widespread academic fraud combined with almost unlimited corporate philanthropy to establish the biological rationales for persecution. Employing a hazy amalgam of guesswork, gossip, falsified information and polysyllabic academic arrogance, the eugenics movement slowly constructed a national bureaucratic and juridical infrastructure to cleanse America of its “unfit.” (E. Black, War against the weak: Eugenics and America’s campaign to create a master race, Dialog Press, Washington D.C., 2003).
American eugenicists saw mankind as a ‘biological cesspool.’ The goal was to sterilise fourteen million people in the United States and millions more worldwide – the “lower tenth” – and then continuously eradicate the remaining lowest tenth until only a ‘pure Nordic super race’ remained. Ultimately, some 60,000 Americans were coercively sterilised and the total is probably much higher. No one knows how many marriages were thwarted by state felony statutes. Although much of the persecution was simply racism, ethnic hatred and academic elitism, eugenics wore the mantle of respectable science to mask its true character.
Psychiatrists withheld medical treatment on the ground that “nature had intended for them to die,” according to Black.
Though the term eugenics was largely abandoned after the revelations at the Nuremberg Doctors’ Trials, its proponents have not given up nor disappeared. Eugenics continues to permeate United States public health policies and research involving vulnerable, disenfranchised human subjects. Covert eugenicists invoke the ‘greater good for society’ argument when they seek to embark on dubious public health policies and experiments to which no rational person would voluntarily agree. Experiments aimed at behaviour modification and genetic engineering aimed at controlling biological traits have most often backfired, after causing irreparable harm to hundreds of thousands of victims. The moral problem at the heart of eugenics – and public health as well – continues to be the tension between public – that is the social – good and individual liberty, rights and interest.
The only change is in the terminology: from eugenics to human genetics. As The Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics (Oxford University Press, 2012) makes clear, “while there is a common ‘old wine in new bottles’ argument about eugenics, this reading disregards a rather more openly continuous history.”
The journal Annals of Eugenics (1925) became Annals of Human Genetics in 1954; Eugenics Quarterly (1926) changed its name to Social Biology in 1969, then changed again to Biodemography and Social Biology in 2008; the Bulletin of the Eugenics Society (1969-1983) changed to Biology and Society; The Journal of Eugenics Society (1984-1990); The Eugenics Review (1909-1968) changed to the Journal of Biosocial Science (1969). The Galton Laboratory of National Eugenics – which had been named for Francis Galton, who had been Chair of Eugenics at the University College of London, and coined the term eugenics – was renamed the Department of Human Genetics with Galton as Chair of Genetics in 1963.
“Historians of race and American medicine have documented over two centuries of race-based scientific exploitation. There is a long history of the use and abuse of racialized bodies in the name of advancing medical knowledge… Scientists’ expectation of uniformity within racial groups and differences across racial groups was a belief repeated across at least two centuries of American research.
Yet, their assumptions were not proven in their studies, and researchers admitted that individual variation was the most significant finding… their own research led them to conclude that ‘race’ provided little, if any, meaningful health information.” (Susan L. Smith, Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 2008).
Austin Leland Hughes, Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina, deconstructs the dogmatic belief in the supremacy of all knowledge derived from measurable scientific methods in his essay: “Folly of Scientism,” (The New Atlantis, 2012) “The eugenics movement arose, with its battle cry, “The unfit are reproducing like rabbits; we must do something to stop them!” Plenty of prominent Darwinians endorsed such sentiments in their day, but no more incoherent a plea can be imagined from a Darwinian point of view: if the great unwashed are out-reproducing the genteel classes, that can only imply that it is the great unwashed who are the fittest – not the supposed “winners” in the economic struggle. It is the genteel classes, with their restrained reproduction, who are the unfit. So the foundations of eugenics are complete nonsense from a Darwinian point of view.”
Nevertheless, modern day eugenicists continue to occupy positions of authority at academic institutions, in medical professional associations, in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry, in bioethics departments, at medical journals, and in public health agencies. (Alliance for Human Research Protection, American Eugenics Research – Racism masquerading as “science”, May 7, 2015, posted in Before Nuremberg and tagged eugenics, Steven Mosher, scientific racism, Origins of Population Control, War Against the Weak, American Eugenics Research – Racism masquerading as “science”).
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