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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Darwin and Hitler

The new film Expelled!, which I haven't seen and am not sure if I will see, makes some kind of claim about the relation between Darwinism and Hitler, only I am not sure yet what it is. The reviewers seem to perceive different claims being made.

One claim that is certainly false is that Naturalistic Darwinism (hereafter 'Darwinism') logically entails Social Darwinism. But there is nothing inconsistent with being a Darwinist and being against eugenics of any kind. There is still an account to be given about what sort of reasons might be given by a Darwinist to oppose eugenics, but it is not hard to imaging a possible social costs versus social benefits analysis type of account as possibly being empirically justified. So hopefully the movie is not embarrassingly making this claim.

However, one thing that can be said is that Darwinism sees all things as merely instrumental or extrinsic causes, and that includes human beings. So there is nothing inconsistent about being a Darwinist and being a eugenicist either. It is inconsistent with Darwinism to think that human beings are actual ends and not means (or mere means). It may be that even if Darwinism does not entail social Darwinism, it may be that there is no good comprehensive social policy that is consistent with Darwinism.

A possible exception to that claim would be treating human beings as if they were ends because that is the way the majority of people prefer to be treated. This can be secured through a social contract. Of course, if people's preferences change, so would the contract and there would be no motivation to resit it. Whether or not people ever adopted such a contract would be a matter of probability. However, if the eligible preferences are to be restricted to rational preferences such that they comport to the widest view of all the facts and all that we accept as true, it seems that we would reject a fortuitous preference for "as-if-endship" for a Weberian bureaucracy.

One connection that people are claiming to find is that Darwinism "inspires" eugenics or social Darwinism. This seems to mean that when one comprehends the meaning of Darwinism, one tends to adopt eugenics policies rather than otherwise -- something about the Darwinian vision creates a proclivity to accept eugenics. Perhaps something about the affirmation that, after all, humans are mere means, tends to attract the simpler minded to adopt the apparently most radical and clear way to affirm this (i.e. through adopting eugenics or Social Darwinism) rather than consider all the possibilities. This for the Darwinist would be a sociological question rather than a theoretical one. The evidence usually sited -- that Hitler continuously refers to Darwin as support for his ideology -- only fails to disconfirm the claim, but does not provided a significant sample for support.

1 comment:

Ojalanpoika said...

Stein is under heavy attack for 'exaggerating' the influence of evolutionism behind Nazism and Stalinism (super evolution of Lysenkoism in the Soviet Russia). But the monstrous Haeckelian type of vulgar evolutionism drove not only the 'Politics-is-applied-biology' Nazi takeover in the continental Europe, but even the nationalistic collision at the World War I.

It was Charles Darwin himself, who praised and raised the monstrous Haeckel with his still recycled fraud embryo drawings in the spotlight as the greatest authority in the field of human evolution, even in the preface to his Descent of man in 1871.

Darwin did not apply his revolutionary theory to the human beings until his Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex in 1871. This was after the ambitious Haeckel had firmly stepped
in the print, and the old Darwin paid hommage in his introduction:
"The conclusion that man is the co-descendant with other species… is not in any degree new… maintained by several eminent naturalists and philosophers… and especially by Häckel. This last naturalist, besides his great work
'Generelle Morphologie' (1866), has recently (1868, with a second edit. in 1870), published his 'Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte,' in which he fully discusses the genealogy of man. If this work had appeared before my essay
had been written, I should probably never have completed it. Almost all the conclusions at which I have arrived I find confirmed by this naturalist, whose knowledge on many points is much fuller than mine."

I quote from my conference posters and articles defended and published in the field of bioethics and history of biology (and underline them a bit):

Race biological reason was not only rhetoric, it was scientific. There is evidence, that In Ukraine and Baltic countries, the people wellcomed the German troops as redeemers. These illusions evaporated soon, when the SS (Schutzstaffel) and civilian administration followed the field-army. Hitler did not even try to separate the Russian people from the Soviet government. The Eastern Europeans Slavic people were born "slaves", indeed. For Hitler, they were "Untermenschen" (Bullock 1958 pp- 423-5). The ethymology for the Greek "barbaros" was in their uncomprehensible tongue, the word was onomatopoetic.
BUT marriage laws were once erected not only in the Nazi Germany but also in the multicultural states of America upon the speculation that the mulatto was a relatively sterile and shortlived
hybrid. The absence of blood transfusion between "white" and "colored races" was self evident (Hailer 1963, p. 52).

The first law on sterilization in US had been established in 1907 in Indiana, and 23 similar laws had been passed in 15 States and sterilization was practiced in 124 institutions in 1921 (Mattila 1996; Hietala 1985 p. 133; these were the times of IQ-tests under Gould's scrutiny in his Mismeasure of Man 1981). By 1931 thirty states had passed sterization laws in the US (Reilly 1991, p. 87).

So the American laws were pioneering endeavours. In Europe Denmark passed the first sterilization legislation in Europe (1929). Denmark was followed by Switzerland, Germany that had felt to the hands of Hitler and Gobineu, and other Nordic countries: Norway (1934), Sweden (1935), Finland (1935), and Iceland (1938) (Haller 1963, pp 21-57; 135-9; Proctor 1988, p. 97; Reilly 1991, p. 109). Seldom is it mentioned in the popular Finnish media, that the first outright race biological institution in the world was not established in Germany but in 1921 in Uppsala, Sweden (Hietala 1985, pp. 109). (I am not aware of the ethymology of the 'Up' of the ancient city from Plinius' Ultima Thule, however.) In 1907 the Society for Racial Hygiene in Germany had changed its name to the Internationale Gesellschaft für Rassenhygiene, and in 1910 Swedish Society for Eugenics (Sällskap för Rashygien) had become its first foreign affiliate (Proctor 1988, p. 17).

Hitler's formulation of the differences between the human races was affected by the brilliant sky-blue eyed Ernst Haeckel (Gasman 1971, p. xxii), praised and raised by Darwin. At the top of the unilinear progression
were usually the "Nordics", a tall race of blue-eyed blonds. Haeckel's position on the Jewish question was assimilation, not yet an open elimination. But was it different only in degree, rather than kind?

In 1917 the immigration of "defective" groups was forbidden even in the United States by a law. In 1921 the European immigration was diminished to 3% based on the 1910 census.
Eventually, in the strategical year of 1924 the finest hour of eugenics had come and the fatal law was passed by Congress. It diminished immigration to 2% of the foreign-born from each country
based on the 1890 census in order to preserve the "nordic" balance in population, and was hold through World War II until 1965 (Hietala 1985, p. 132).

Richard Lewontin writes:“The leading American idealogue of the innate mental inferiority of the working class was, however, H.H. Goddard, a pioneer of the mental testing movement, the discoverer of the Kallikak family,
and the administrant of IQ-tests to immigrants that found 83 % of the Jews, 80% of the Hungarians, 79% of the Italians, and 87% of the the Russians to be feebleminded.” (1977, p. 13.) Finnish emmigrants put the cross on the box reserved for the "yellow" group (Kemiläinen 1993, p. 1930), until 1965.

Germany was the most scientifically and culturally advanced nation of the world upon opening the riddles at the close of the nineteenth century, and in 1933 the German people had not lived normal life for twenty years. And so Adolf Hitler did not need his revolution. He did not have to break the laws in Haeckel's country, in principle, but to constitute them.
Today, developmental biologists are anticipating legislation of laws that would define the do’s and dont’s. The legislation should not distract individual researchers from their personal awareness of responsibility. A permissive law merely defines the ethical minimum. The lesson is that a law is no substitute for morals and that dissidents should not be intimidated.

I am suspicious over the burial of the Kampf (Struggle). The idea of competition is innate in the modern society. It is the the opposite view in a 180 degree angle to the Judaeo-Christian ideal of agapee, that I personally cheriss. The latter sees free giving, altruism, benevolence and self sacrificing love as the beginning, motivation, and sustainer of the reality.
Biochemist, drop-out (Master of Sciing)