Dr. West, meet Dr. Tinkle, Creationist eugenicist

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Tinkle%20Giant%20Beaver.jpgAs many have noted, the Intelligent Design movement’s echo chamber has been recently belaboring the connection between Darwinian evolutionary ideas and eugenics. That’s not surprising: the Discovery Institute-headed machine has been on the ropes for a while, unable to make any significant scientific, legal or political headway against evolution science (a.k.a. “Darwinism” in ID/Creationist parlance), and it has naturally turned to what it does best, that is media-based attack campaigns on straw-man stand-ins for evolutionary biology.

The transparent goal of this new P.R. offensive is to tarnish 150 years of scientific discovery with the stain of one of its aberrations, the logical equivalent of attacking experimental medicine by claiming that it is based on analogous principles as Josef Mengele’s experiments in Nazi concentration camps. Oblivious to logic and intellectual honesty, the “Darwinism = eugenics” meme nevertheless has been widely promoted by several ID advocates, most prominently by John G. West, Associate Director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture.

West’s argument is not particularly subtle. Not only he points out that “eugenics was in reality a reasonable deduction from Darwin’s theory” [1], which depending on interpretations may not be not too far off, but he actually argues that eugenics is a necessary consequence, a “corollary” [2] of evolutionary biology and “thoroughly grounded in the principles of Darwin’s theory” [1]. The Discovery Institute’s President Bruce Chapman echoed the same sentiments, stating that “eugenics was not just connected to Darwinism, but derived from Darwin’s own work” [3] (emphasis mine). I guess the idea is that by pointing out its necessary evil consequences, people will turn against “Darwinism” whether or not it is scientifically supported (moral choices should apparently trump reality in the Discovery Institute’s brave new scientific world).

Minor and even less subtle ID characters have then jumped in to dutifully amplify the sound-bite, but doing so have inadvertently exposed the religious motivations behind the argument. Thus, human April Fool’s joke and neurosurgeon Michael Egnor has not only claimed that eugenics’ “modern scientific foundation is Darwinism” [4] (though bizarrely claiming elsewhere that selective breeding, the main tool of eugenics, is an application of ID principles[5]), but also that “[t]he ideology that drives Darwinism and eugenics is materialism” [4] and “[t]he basis for eugenics was philosophical materialism, which denied the inherent dignity and sanctity of every human life”[5]. Hatchet-wielding ID-friendly journalist David Klinghoffer, writing in the Weekly Standard, upped the ante with characteristically hammy rhetoric:

The major ethical impact of the Darwinian idea has been to undercut what contemporary Princeton bio-ethicist Peter Singer decries as the “Hebrew view” of a purposefully-designed humanity, crowned by the solemn and central theme: “And God said, Let us make man in our image.” [6]

(Go ahead and tell us how the “Hebrew view” of the crowning solemnity of God-given human dignity applied to the Amalekites, Mr. Klinghoffer.)

Of course, the origins and history of eugenics are far more complex and nuanced than this. The modern eugenics movement certainly drew much of its scientific aura and justification from Darwinian ideas, especially as the latter became more and more supported and accepted. But eugenics also stemmed from Mendelian genetics, with its static view of genetic transmission, and from the rising prestige of scientific medicine and medical psychiatry in the early 20th century. In addition, the rise of eugenics was fed by traditional views on “bloodlines” and hereditarianism, Victorian ideas on class and aristocracy, conservative socio-economic theories, positivist philosophy, racism and anti-immigrant sentiment in the US, etc.[7]

In fact, eugenics is pretty much as old as human society, and pervasive throughout its history. Most cultures of course have prohibitions against incest, and several US States still ban marriage even between third-degree relatives (first cousins). The Talmud explicitly endorses negative eugenics when it forbids marriage for individuals coming from families with perceived hereditary defects (e.g. lepers and epileptics), and positive eugenics by encouraging marriages with members of scholarly families (a bit self-serving from the highly educated Talmudic authors, for sure!). Greeks (not just the notorious Spartans, see also Plato and Aristotle) and Romans routinely and swiftly got rid of their “undesirables”, as many other cultures did (and still do) less officially and openly. More close to home, the decrease in the incidence of certain genetic diseases in high-risk populations (e.g. thalassemia in Sardinia and Cyprus, Tay-Sachs disease among Ashkenazi Jews) through voluntary screening and genetic counseling has been one of the most significant success stories of medical genetics, and enjoys wide public support and participation in the affected communities.

Even more problematic for the claim that “Darwinism” was critical and instrumental in the development of eugenics is the uncomfortable fact that eugenics was also openly embraced by opponents of evolution (the first eugenics sterilization laws in the world were passed in 1907 Indiana, hardly a hotbed of “Darwinists”). The most notable of these anti-evolution eugenics supporters was probably William J. Tinkle, geneticist and prominent Creationist. Tinkle taught at religious LaVerne College and Taylor University, and participated in the activities of the Deluge Society, the first “Creation Science” organization. He then joined forces with the “young lions” of Creationism, Henry Morris, Duane Gish and Walter Lammerts, and with them he was one of the 10 Founding Fathers of the Creation Research Society, which later became the Institute for Creation Research.

Tinkle opposed evolution and Darwinian theory, but was an enthusiastic proponent of eugenics, and published several articles on the subject. In his 1939 textbook “Fundamentals of Zoology” he devotes a section to “The Need of Human Betterment”, where he laments the existence of “defective families” who “give birth to offspring like themselves” , producing “persons of low mentality, paupers and criminals in much greater ratio than the general population” [8, p. 130]. Negative eugenics via institutionalization seems to have been his preferred eugenic solution:

It is an excellent plan to keep defective people in institutions for here they are not permitted to marry and bear children.[8, p. 131]

and

[Scientists who are working at the task of improving the human race] would like to increase the birth rate of families having good heredity, while those people having poor heredity should not marry at all.[8, p. 131]

Tinkle%20figure.jpg Figure 65 from Tinkle’s “Fundamentals of Zoology” illustrates the effect of differential reproduction on human population demographics. Pace the Discovery Institute propaganda, Tinkle did not need “Darwinism” or materialism to draw his eugenical conclusions.

Unsavory as they sound to us today, Tinkle’s writings in 1939 are probably within the mainstream of his time, and fall well short of those of Nazi apologists and proponents of extermination of “defectives” (such as conservative Catholic and Nobel Prize winner Alexis Carrel [9]). Like the majority of American eugenicists of the time, Tinkle seems to have thought that eugenics would humanely solve otherwise apparently intractable social problems and relieve human suffering (indeed, many progressive Christian clergymen and churches in America endorsed eugenics for precisely these reasons [10]).

Much more troubling, however, are Tinkle’s opinions of almost 30 years later, in his book “Heredity. A study in science and the Bible” published in 1967, while Tinkle was the Secretary of the Creation Research Society. In its chapter “The prospect for eugenics”, far from having abandoned his support for the practice, Tinkle sounds more radical about it. He writes positively about sterilization for the “feeble-minded” (carefully classified as “morons”, “imbeciles” and “idiots”) and people with other hereditary conditions. Sterilization in a male, he says “is a simple operation”, and “in a girl or woman, [it] is as serious as removal of the vermiform appendix” [11, p. 139]. While he admits that it is impractical to sterilize all “defectives”, he still thinks it’s worth a shot when possible:

At the present time there are in the United States more than a million people with serious hereditary defects, and to reduce their numbers by even a few thousand would reduce the amount of discomfort and hardship in the future. Unfortunate births are reduced by segregation also but there are not enough institutions to house nearly all the ones who have unfortunate genes. Institutional care is expensive but as compared to total government expenditure it is small.

Sterilization is sometimes employed with the consent of the patient for non-eugenic purposes. An example is a woman who has borne three children by Caesarean section and could not stand another birth. Persons who are on the borderline of normal mentality may be able to marry and care for themselves but would not be good parents. Their children might be normal or might be defective, and at any rate would have poor home discipline. Such persons sometimes are prevailed upon to submit to sterilization, to their own advantage. [11, pp140-141]

Tinkle was well aware of the dangers of eugenics, and mentions the horrors of Nazism (though he disturbingly feels it necessary to specifically note that among the millions of people killed by that regime “many [were] of the highest types”) and of forced sterilization (only however insofar as it was applied as a punishment for sex offenses and other forms of “misbehavior”, and thus “flout[ing] the law”). But those concerned with the “sanctity of human life” should not fear, because Tinkle was on top of it:

A careful reading of eugenic literature reveals that it may inculcate less respect for human life. In this way it runs counter to democracy, which stresses the worth and rights of the individual. The Bible teaches that life comes from God and that it is wrong to take that which one can not give. Unfortunately there are other programs also which destroy the idea of the sacredness of life. We refer to murder on the screen, war, and the teaching that man originated from, and still is, an animal. [emphasis mine]

We mention these unfortunate results [i.e. Nazism and “misapplied” sterilization] as dangers only; not as objections to attempting to improve our race by application of known genetics principles. [11, p.143]

Thus, on the eve of the Apollo moon landing, the Secretary of the preeminent Creationist organization in the US was denouncing the teaching of evolution as immoral, but thought sterilization on the “feeble-minded” was A-OK. I hope Dr. West & C will include this interesting case in their future discussions of how “Darwinism” was the origin and key motivation for eugenics, and materialism its philosophical basis.

So, the pill the ID advocates are trying to get the public to swallow is - surprise! - filled with over-simplified and dishonestly slanted propaganda: while the modern eugenic movement embraced and built on the ideas of Darwin and of evolutionary biology, among other disciplines, for its theoretical foundations, eugenics in itself is neither necessarily Darwinian nor inherently materialistic in nature, and its historical, social and philosophical roots reach far wider and deeper than the simple flow-chart Darwin -> Galton -> eugenics. The ID advocates’ misrepresentation and exploitation of this argument for their quixotic battles against evolutionary science is, once again, a disservice to the public.

—– [1] J. West, “Darwinism and Eugenics Revisited”, Evolution News and Views blog, 4/20/07 [2] quoted in: M Bansal “Policy Expert Sees Darwinism-Eugenics Link”, CNSNews.com, 5/1/07 [3] B Chapman, “John West and the Darwin-Eugenics Link”, Evolution News and Views blog, 5/1/07 [4] M Egnor, “Eugenic Birthdays”, Evolution News and Views blog, 3/30/07 [5] M Egnor, “Pseudo-Darwinism: Dr. Cartwright’s Error and Eugenics”, Evolution News and Views blog, 3/30/07 [6] D. Klinghoffer, “Happy Darwin Day! Celebrating mankind’s discovery of eugenics.”, The Weekly Standard, 2/12/07. Incidentally, that sentence misrepresents Singer’s point, which in context refers not to divinely-derived, universal human rights and dignity (for which the Hebrew people objectively had little use), but to the Genesis-based justification of human “dominion” over other living creatures. The original is here. [7] for serious scholarly treatment of the subject, see Daniel J. Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics. Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity, Alfred A Knopf Inc, 1985 and Harvard University Press, 1995; and Elof A Carlson The Unfit: A History of a Bad Idea, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2001. Another interesting read is John Waller’s article Ideas of Heredity, Reproduction and Eugenics in Britain, 1800-1875 (Stud. Hist. Phil. Biol. & Biomed. Sci. 32, 457–489, 2001), which describes the social and intellectual milieu in which Galton’s ideas were formed and flourished, and shows how in fact widespread eugenic sentiments and even explicit calls for eugenics-oriented social intervention predated not only Galton’s Hereditary Talent and Character, but also On the Origin of Species. [8] W. J. Tinkle Fundamentals of Zoology, Zondervan, 1939. [9] Andres H. Reggiani God’s Eugenicist: Alexis Carrel And the Sociobiology of Decline, Berghahn Books, 2006. [10] Christine Rosen, Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the American Eugenics Movement, Oxford University Press, 2004. [11] William J Tinkle Heredity: A Study in Science and the Bible, St. Thomas Press, 1967.

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Eugenicist quotes from Respectful Insolence on May 16, 2007 2:02 PM

Here are a few typical eugenicist quotes from early last century: "It is an excellent plan to keep defective people in institutions for here they are not permitted to marry and bear children." "[Scientists who are working at the task... Read More

60 Comments

That Darwins ideas influenced Eugenics is irrefutable…heck, he praises Francis Galton (popularly called the father of eugnics) in The Descent of Man.

So does Tinkle in “Heredity”.

[NOTE: This comment was edited by AB to delete a response to a post which has been sent to the Bathroom Wall]

Not on topic, but there is an article on Dark Matter (http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070515[…]ce_matter_dc) that just showed up on Yahoo! this morning. Somehow I seem to remember some creationists arguing about this and the lack of proof of dark matter somehow meant that evolution was wrong. Never did get the nonsensical argument, but I see the flames of another idiotic creationist position in the rear-view mirror of scientific progress.

That Darwins ideas influenced Eugenics is irrefutable…heck, he praises Francis Galton (popularly called the father of eugnics) in The Descent of Man.

Who ya kiddin?

www.waragainsttheweak.com

Get an education. Eugenics was practiced in ancient times by many cultures, the earliest proof-positive Western references being the Ancient Greeks of Sparta and Plato’s pontificating on the subject in Athens. This has been discussed ad nauseum.

It is also clear that eugenics, as a movement (but lacking a formal, coined title), existed in England before Darwin’s Origin of Species. That the Eugenics movement jumped on Evolution as a tool is no more significant than the use of the Bible and Leviticus for the Eugenics movement by many Christians.

In fact, the Bible is still used today by the Ku Klux Klan as one of their “proofs” that blacks are inferior to whites. Just as it was used by the Council of Cardinals (Church of Rome) in 1455, to justify enslaving Blacks. An event that precedes Origin of Species by over 400 years.

But to say eugenics, and its sins, originated from the Theory of Evolution is as nonsensical as blaming Auschwitz on the disciplines of Chemistry and Engineering and we need to find some sock-puppets in those fields to beat up.

Great article, Andrea: well-researched, reasonable, fair. Of course, the chances that it will influence the lying propagandists at the Discovery Institute is exactly 0.

So, even if evolutionary ideas can be used to further a eugenics agenda doesn’t actually make evolution invalid. Guns have nasty consequences but guns exist all the same.

Grady, stop reading your book of myths and get a real education:

Eugenics is ARTIFICIAL selection; Darwinism is NATURAL selection. Any sane man would blame animal husbandry for eugenics before he would blame Darwin.

Great find Andrea!!! I have a feeling there are lots more skeletons in the creationist attic just like this. Not that they aren’t adding more every day. The hypocracies and lies of these guys are never ending. An odd position for avowed christians to be in but when you are holding a losing hand, sometimes you just got to bluff.

The most notable of these anti-evolution eugenics supporters was probably William J. Tinkle, geneticist and prominent Creationist. Tinkle taught at religious LaVerne College and Taylor University, and participated in the activities of the Deluge Society, the first “Creation Science” organization. He then joined forces with the “young lions” of Creationism, Henry Morris, Duane Gish and Walter Lammerts, and with them he was one of the 10 Founding Fathers of the Creation Research Society, which later became the Institute for Creation Research.

I have found that a surprising number of people go along with the assumed association between “darwinism” and eugenics. It is interesting that you have found this anti-evolutionary writer backing eugenics as late as this. I’d also mention that, so I have been told, that the textbook that was used to teach evolution in the Scopes case (“A Civic Biology”, as I recall) came out in a revised edition, removing much of evolution, but retaining eugenics.

On a more abstract level, we can observe certain features of the eugenics movement, creationism, and evolution.

First: Creationists often insist upon telling us that they accept “micro”evolution - evolution within a “kind”. And eugenics is obviously only relevant within a “kind”, human-kind. The creationists cannot (1) accept evolution within a kind, (2) censure the acceptance of evolution for eugenics, and (3) escape censuring themselves. There is no conceivable connection between “macro”evolutionary events and eugenics - events like the Cambrian Explosion or the natural origins of the bacterial flagellum.

Eugenics is “micro”evolution.

Second: Creationists tell us that natural causes - “mere chance”, as they would put it - is not enough; and “intelligent design” is needed. The eugenicists followed a similar line, that, left to its own, natural causes would cause the deterioration of human-kind, and that it must be guided by - not their words, but - intelligent design. It should be no surprise that the eugenics movement existed at a time when “darwinism” was in “eclipse” - when “random variation and natural selection” was felt not to be adequate; there was more of Mendel than Darwin about.

Eugenics is “design”.

I hasten to say that I am not trying to put the blame for eugenics on creationism. But there is no room for creationists to put any more distance from eugenics than they allow for evolutionary biology. And I most certainly am not trying to say that we should accept “random variation and natural selection” because I’m imputing some evil consequences to “intelligent design” - arguing that way would be just as wrong for pro-science people.

Ed DeVeccia wrote: Eugenics is ARTIFICIAL selection; Darwinism is NATURAL selection. Any sane man would blame animal husbandry for eugenics before he would blame Darwin.

That’s true, to a point.

From what I have read, it is clear that eugenic ideas were already percolating Victorian society before Darwin’s Origin. And as you say, they were based precisely on the analogy with animal husbandry that inspired Darwin as well. People were also already aware of the predictable demographic effects of differential reproduction between the ruling and “lower” classes, and of course hereditarianism with respect to human qualities that were perceived to be associated with socio-economic status was prevalent at the time. Not surprisingly, therefore, several thinkers in those days (most notably a fellow named William Farr) put all these ideas together to develop what were clearly eugenical proposals. John Waller’s article I cite above goes in depth about this, and provides this 1851 quote by Farr:

If by any judicious means the increase of the incurably criminal, idle, insane, idiotic, or unhappily organized parts of the population can be without cruelty repressed, under a system of religious discipline, to a greater extent than it is at present by the selection that pervades, more or less, the whole system of English marriages,—the character and qualities of the race will be immeasurably improved. (Farr, Census Report, 1851, pp. xliv—vii)

So, eugenics did not require Darwin’s ideas, and most likely would have developed even without them.

On the other hand, however, it is undeniable that the eugenicists enthusiastically espoused evolutionary biology, both because it provided a ready-made, comprehensive theoretical framework for their ideas and also possibly because evolution had so captured the public’s imagination and academic interest that it was just great PR to hitch their wagons to it. It is also certainly true that the majority of evolutionary biologists (in fact, of biologists and scientists in general, not to mention physicians) of the late 19th and early 20th century supported eugenics, that some evolutionary biologists were leading eugenicists, and that even most of those who didn’t, or didn’t agree with its excesses, were not vocal enough in denouncing it. There was undoubtedly culpability in the scientific community of the time with regard to eugenics and its disgraceful applications.

On the other hand, however, it is undeniable that the eugenicists enthusiastically espoused evolutionary biology, both because it provided a ready-made, comprehensive theoretical framework for their ideas and also possibly because evolution had so captured the public’s imagination and academic interest that it was just great PR to hitch their wagons to it.

A hundred-year-old mistake (i.e., the equating of eugenics and Darwinism) does not become any less of a mistake because the passage of time. The eugenicists were wrong to try to co-opt Darwinism to support their theory, just as the creationists are wrong to try to hang eugenics around the necks of Darwinists today.

I think that the facts are such that the pro-science side shouldn’t (from a standpoint of both strategy and morality) make any concession on this issue. The message must be: the eugenicists were wrong then, and the creationists were wrong now.

Also, we are in much agreement, I would contest your statement that “evolutionary biology… provided a ready-made, comprehensive theoretical framework for their ideas,” to the extent that it suggests that evolutionary biology, properly understood, has anything to say about eugenics. I would contest it because one of the rock-solid basic planks in the framework of evolutionary biology (that is, Darwinism, evolution through natural selection, which is really what we’re talking about here) is the fact that the “selection” is done by nature. If this isn’t there – if the selection is done by an intelligence or done with a goal in mind – then Darwin’s theory has nothing to say. The comprehensiveness of the theory, even for a misapplication like eugenics, dissipates to nothing once that plank is removed. What would remain is indistinguishable from the artificial selection precepts known to practitioners of animal husbandry since time immemorial.

But I wholeheartedly agree that the eugenicists attempted a PR coup from falsely associating themselves with the then-new ideas of Darwin, just as the creationists are doing today. Wrong 100 years ago, wrong today.

First rate piece of writing.

I suggest you send this to some prominant news papers as an editorial (maybe with a few revisions, like eliminating footnotes/refereces- or just let the editors earn their pay).

Andrea, this is an excellent article. However, I’m missing the broader point, as to what is “wrong” with eugenics. Is there some principle of evolutionary biology that leads us to reject eugenics as public policy?

Andrea, this is an excellent article. However, I’m missing the broader point, as to what is “wrong” with eugenics. Is there some principle of evolutionary biology that leads us to reject eugenics as public policy?

You didn’t miss it, because that was not the broader point at all. The issue of rejecting or accepting eugenics as public policy is primarily ethical and political, not scientific.

In fact, the real issue is not even whether to accept or reject eugenics in toto, but the extent to which eugenic policies should be rejected or accepted, since as I mentioned all societies including ours already implement certain eugenic restrictions and allow some eugenic interventions (some of which even John West, David Klinghoffer and Michael Egnor almost certainly agree with, such as prohibitions on some forms of consanguineous marriage).

And the issues are far from black-and-white. Interestingly, for instance, I read that technically the laws that ban first-cousin marriages in some US states, as well as in China and North Korea, violate international human rights conventions.

It is precisely because these problems are so complex and nuanced, and are likely to only get worse with the ever-increasing knowledge about genetics and advances in related biotechnological approaches, that accurately informing the public is absolutely necessary, and the DI-promoted disinformation so pernicious.

Nice to see a balanced historical article.

Since husbandry et cetera influences would predate and influence both eugenics and evolutionary biology (as a common ancestor .-), the relationship is both clearly there and clearly confusable. These articles help.

DeVeccia Wrote:

if the selection is done by an intelligence or done with a goal in mind — then Darwin’s theory has nothing to say.

Presumably selection pressure is selection pressure, whether natural or artificial. So the same models would apply AFAIK.

Alas, I don’t understand what you mean here?! Could you expand your argument?

Dave Wrote:

Is there some principle of evolutionary biology that leads us to reject eugenics as public policy?

I’m not exactly sure what you mean. As eugenics were accepted for social reasons, it was rejected for them too, such as morality.

Now, evolutionary biology certainly reveals some of the mechanisms underlying morality, but it doesn’t help you choose among moral options. (That would be the “naturalistic fallacy”, btw.)

But on the measurable problems of eugenics, isn’t it sort of working against natural evolution?

You try to eradicate undesired characteristics, chosen by some principle outside natural selection pressures, by applying artificial selection pressures. By so doing you would presumably decrease genetic variation for the earlier natural selection to work with, change natural drift, et cetera. Perhaps not the best action if you have “the best for the species”, whatever that means, as your goal.

Yeah, this is excellent.

Excellent article. I have added it to my arsenal for defending evolution.

Bottaro Wrote:

And the issues are far from black-and-white.

Right. People who are incapacitated (by some objective measure) by hereditary diseases or developmental problems can feel both judged and devalued by diagnostics and abortive selection or even corrective surgery on fetuses.

Yet the prospective person have presumably a right to “the best care” and “equal opportunity”, which could mean using such methods to the best of our ability. Morally we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

[FWIW, my own opinion is that we pass judgment on each other all the time anyway, and some will be devalued as a result. The problem is probably rather to minimize resulting harm. Still not easy to compare, if some of it is mental and/or social…]

Torbjörn Wrote:

You try to eradicate undesired characteristics, chosen by some principle outside natural selection pressures, by applying artificial selection pressures. By so doing you would presumably decrease genetic variation for the earlier natural selection to work with, change natural drift, et cetera. Perhaps not the best action if you have “the best for the species”, whatever that means, as your goal.

It seems clear that natural selection has offered diminishing returns for humans, starting at some point in history when human environmental modifications first overcame inherited maladaptations. Do you not think it will soon be difficult to show that natural selection provides any genetic benefit at all to humans?

As I said earlier, excellent article. But what is the relevance of the picture of the giant beaver?

Larsson Wrote:

FWIW, my own opinion

wasn’t really thought through, after all. Since I suddenly realized what has been gnawing me before in this question; I would support that the prospective person as being closer to the action (or non-action) should be the primary focus here.

What do you know, sometimes blogging are useful. :-)

I can imagine a program in which many, many human beings are engineered but only some given one specific trait that would make them “superior” or “acceptable,” while the great majority of the humans would be seen as “by-catch” and merely cast aside as useless byproduct. Would that count as “eugenics”? Because it comes close to describing Calvinist Christianity.

Edwin Wrote:

what is the relevance of the picture of the giant beaver?

Enhanced reproductive capacity in humans would definitely be a useful heritable trait.

Torbjörn Larsson Wrote:
DeVeccia Wrote:

if the selection is done by an intelligence or done with a goal in mind — then Darwin’s theory has nothing to say.

Presumably selection pressure is selection pressure, whether natural or artificial. So the same models would apply AFAIK.

No, because Darwin’s theory was an attempt to explain the biological diversity in the world. Its primary mechanism, the thing on which the model is built, is adaptation to the environment through natural means, as a consequence of inheritable mechanisms for differential reproductive success. Definitionally, it excludes mechanisms which are non-natural (which, in this context, includes human choice.) It is solely a model of a naturalistic process.

When you are saying “selective pressure is selection pressure” you are mistaking analogy with identity: the selection process in natural selection is akin to the selection process in artificial selection because they affect, differentially, organisms reproductive success, based on inhereted characteristics. But that doesn’t make them the same. For one thing, artifical selective pressure is generally smaller in scale, but stronger in effect than natural selective pressure.

Torbjörn Larsson Wrote:

Alas, I don’t understand what you mean here?! Could you expand your argument?

Sure. Natural selection is an attempt to explain what happens (more specifically, what happened) to organisms in the absence of anything but inheritable traits which lead to differential reproductive success. Artificial selection is the control of reproduction in organisms by humans in order to achieve a pre-determined outcome.

There are similarities, no doubt, but the differences outweigh the differences both in their details and their effects.

Thanks for an excellent post that comes when I needed it.

Just to restate what has been said before: When talking about animals, it’s breeding; when talking about people, it’s eugenics. (And when some folks refer to a person’s “breeding,” they might just be less than polite.)

Ed Deveccia said:

Darwin’s theory … excludes mechanisms which are non-natural (which, in this context, includes human choice.) It is solely a model of a naturalistic process.

Why? Humans are as much a part of the natural world as any other creature. We are 99% chimp. If the actions of chimps are considered “natural”, why not humans?

the selection process in natural selection is akin to the selection process in artificial selection because they affect, differentially, organisms reproductive success, based on inhereted characteristics. But that doesn’t make them the same. For one thing, artifical selective pressure is generally smaller in scale, but stronger in effect than natural selective pressure.

So what? That just makes “artificial selection” a focused, intense version of selection, akin to a meteor hitting, or a new predator being introduced to a population of potential victims. The key element is “they affect, differentially, organisms reproductive success, based on inhereted characteristics”, which the creationist/IDers claim cannot result in the kind of complexities we see like the flagellum. Note that part of Behe’s argument for the flagellum being IC was that scientists could not create one using artificial selection. Selection is selection, regardless of the source.

raven: Great find Andrea!!!

Thanks, but just for the record, I am not the first to point out Tinkle’s support for eugenics. It was already commented upon by Ronald Numbers in The Creationists, and it is mentioned in Mark Isaak’s Index to Creationist Claims. All I did was to get my hands on some of Tinkle’s writings (oh, the stuff you can find nowadays on Biblio.com!).

Tinkle’s sympathies were also no secret in another important sense: other Creationist leaders were likely aware of them. Indeed, Heredity: A Study in Science and the Bible bears a glowing Introduction by Walter Lammerts, in which the chapter on Eugenics is singled out for its importance, and recommended to “every high school student”. Thus, we can surmise Lammerts had no qualms about eugenics either.

Edwin: But what is the relevance of the picture of the giant beaver?

Aside from the delicious semantic coincidence noted by others above, that was the first and as far as I could tell only original figure in Tinkle’s Fundamentals of Zoology, and it looked totally cute to me, with the larger-than-a-bear beaver chomping on the big tree with the giant dam in the background (alas, it turns out giant beavers weren’t so gigantic, and probably didn’t behave much like modern beavers either, but the error wasn’t Tinkle’s fault). Also, I think that now that the phrase “giant beaver” is on PT, we’ll get far more internet traffic, at least for a while.

Ed DeVeccia: I understand your point, although I don’t fully subscribe to it. But regardless of whether the eugenicists’ conflation of their approach with evolutionary mechanisms was theoretically justified or not, the fact remains that most of them associated themselves with evolutionary theory, and many evolutionary biologists associated themselves with eugenics. From a historical perspective, that is a significant connection that cannot be ignored simply because we may think the association was unwarranted.

No, because Darwin’s theory was an attempt to explain the biological diversity in the world. Its primary mechanism, the thing on which the model is built, is adaptation to the environment through natural means, as a consequence of inheritable mechanisms for differential reproductive success. Definitionally, it excludes mechanisms which are non-natural (which, in this context, includes human choice.) It is solely a model of a naturalistic process.

Artificial selection is natural selection occuring in an environment dominated by the desires of another species. Or, if you prefer, AS is NS where the fitness landscape is heavily skewed away from typical predator-prey types of pressures, and towards whatever traits the breeder is interested in.

It’s not different in principle from any other co-evolutionary relationship. Being intelligent and fore-thoughtful doesn’t make people non-natural. Now, I’m not claiming there’s not any kind of distinction to be drawn. But it fails to distinguish artificial selection except as a subset of natural selection. This sounds wrong to a lot of people, but it’s true. (Science Avenger has a nifty little thought experiment… SA?)

For my illustration, I’ll ask you to imagine the earth in 5 million years. Humankind is gone. Yet canine genes exist, equine genes and brassica genes, too. Now, if you buy the notion that an organism’s genome, in a way, contains “the story” of the past environments in which that organism’s ancestors lived, and you look at a future dog- or horse- or cabbage-descendant’s genes, there is no discontinuity surrounding the (brief) period in which humans dominated the fitness landscape for those lineages, is there? At a sufficient level of detail, the “story” of the mammal lineage will also include a period when the fitness landscape was dominated by the presence of a tremendous diversity of huge, lumbering reptiles in the environment, and we all know that was “natural.” I fail to see a fundamental difference.

But that doesn’t make them the same. For one thing, artifical selective pressure is generally smaller in scale, but stronger in effect than natural selective pressure.

Yes, and those are differences of degree, not of kind. The kind of definitional jerrymandering you’re attempting doesn’t, to my mind, amount to a useful distinction.

An eight foot long beaver weighing 485 lbs sounds pretty big to me.

Giant Beaver From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fossil range: Pleistocene Binomial name Castoroides ohioensis The Giant Beaver (Castoroides ohioensis) was a huge species of rodent, with a length up to 2.5 m (8.2 feet) and an estimated weight of 220 kg (485 lbs). It lived in North America during the Pleistocene epoch, and went extinct during the last Ice Age, 10,000 years ago. The arrival of humans in the Americas is thought to be a factor in its extinction. It was one of the abundant Pleistocene megafauna - a wide variety of very large mammals that lived during the Pleistocene.

Fossils 70,000 years old were found in Toronto, Canada. Its fossils are concentrated around the Midwestern United States in states like Ohio, Minnesota, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Also in Florida.

One of the big differences between the Giant Beaver and modern beaver species other than size is their teeth. Modern beavers have chisel-like teeth for gnawing on wood. The teeth of the Giant Beaver are bigger and broader, and grew to about 15 centimeters (6 inches) long. In addition, the tail of the Giant Beaver must have been narrower, and its hind legs shorter. Its great bulk might have restricted its movement on land (although large squat-legged hippopotamuses can move well on land with little difficulty).

The first Giant Beaver fossils were discovered in 1837 in a peat bog in Ohio, hence its species epithet ohioensis. Nothing is known on whether or not the Giant Beaver built lodges like modern beavers. In Ohio, there have been claims of a possible Giant Beaver lodge four feet high and eight feet in diameter, formed from small saplings.

Raven lobbed this one over the plate:

An eight foot long beaver weighing 485 lbs sounds pretty big to me.

OK, let’s get this one out of the way. I like big beavers.

CJO so kindly said:

Science Avenger has a nifty little thought experiment… SA?)

You talking the deer and the wolves? I liked your 5 million year one better, got me to thinking in scales I don’t normally consider. It’s useful to think of our time as a future past.

Anyway, the experiment, which is sure to bring C Bass scoffing back, was to consider a species of wolves and a species of deer that have been kept seperated by a mountain, and suddenly allowed to comingle, because a pass through the mountains appears, resulting in the deer evolving more speed in response to being chased by the wolves. The question is, which of these causes of the pass counts as natural selection and which count as artificial selection and why:

landslide men with the intent of building a road men with the intent of allowing the wolves free roam men with the intent of creating a faster species of deer

The poles seem plausiby identified at first glance, but I contend consideration of the middle range of possibilities destroys the notion that natural and artificial selection are discrete concepts.

“eugenics was in reality a reasonable deduction from Darwin’s theory” [1], which depending on interpretations may not be not too far off

Yeah, I suppose that, if you interpret it as being in the language of the gas wisps of Aldebaran, it may not be too far off, but in English it’s a different story. A practice cannot possibly be “deduced” from a theory. Anyone who says it can has no grasp of what “deduction” means.

By the way, while it is certainly true that a form of eugenics existed long before Darwin and Galton; their work was the foundation for the modern scientific applications of the same.

“Darwinism” was no more the foundation for eugenics than “Mendelism”. I am sure you oppose that too.

Second, no more gratuitous accusations of anti-semitism or genocidal sympathies will be tolerated in this thread, from anyone.

Finally, Grady and Clarissa sound very much like the same person and both trace to the same i.p. domain. If we get confirmation that they are one and the same, he/she will be banned for posting under different handles, as per official site rules.

Popper’s ghost: A practice cannot possibly be “deduced” from a theory. Anyone who says it can has no grasp of what “deduction” means.

Eugenics, besides being a practice, had its own theoretical framework. I think West argues that eugenics’ theoretical underpinnings were in part deduced (i.e. derived as a necessary conclusion from more general principles) from Darwin’s ideas. His argument is wrong, but his terminology seems OK to me.

Clarissa wrote,

“What with pre natal tests and abortion…you know all those pre natal tests are looking for defectives to eliminate, not “cure”

And right there is the problem with the argument. Tests cannot look for anyone to elimiinate. Tests do not elimiinate anyone.

Prenatal testing is almost always performed in order to detect diseaases for which a safe and effective cure already exists. That is in fact one of the standards used in deciding which screening programs to implement.

Even if a disease for which there is no cure is screened for, the test does not eliminate anyone. The test does not decide to eliminate anyone. The scientist conducting the test does not decide to eliminate anyone. All the test does is provide information which is used by the parents to make informed reproducticve decisions. If you have a problem with decisions made due to test results, take it up with the parents. Don’t blame the test or the science. If you don’t like abortion, take that up with the government that made it legal.

If you want to argue that eugenics is wrong and is based on science therefore science is wrong, you have bigger problems than abortion to deal with anyway.

Grady/Clarissa: It a rule, and common courtesy, to stick to one name rather than appearing to be a bunch of people with the same thoughts.

Dave Wrote:

Do you not think it will soon be difficult to show that natural selection provides any genetic benefit at all to humans?

No, I don’t.

Dave wrote:

“It seems clear that natural selection has offered diminishing returns for humans, starting at some point in history when human environmental modifications first overcame inherited maladaptations. Do you not think it will soon be difficult to show that natural selection provides any genetic benefit at all to humans?”

No.

First, removing selection pressures leads to increased genetic load. That could be a problem if the environmental modifications were not permanent or if technological civilization is lost in the future.

Second, humans are still under strong selection for many traits. We cannot completely relax selection for all traits, nor would it be beneficial to do so.

Third, other types of selection are also important, such as sexual selection and artificial selection. In addition, humans now have some limited capability in altering their own genes through gene therapy. So in essence, we now have potentially more genetic choices. This could mean that selection will continue to play a very important role for many traits.

Fourth, mutations are constantly arising and most are harmful. Even if we could “purify” the human genome for everyone today, selection would still play an important role in the future.

I don’t know if genetic screening, genetic counseling, and prenatal screening are eugenics or not.

What they are is voluntary on the part of the two people most affected, the parents. Some people choose not to bring severely ill children into the world who will die an early and unpleasant death.

If anyone doesn’t like it, tough. It is not anyone else’s business and they have no right to make decisions like this for other people.

“It seems clear that natural selection has offered diminishing returns for humans,

Probably not. Natural selection pressures have changed. We no longer select for hunter gatherers who can move about the plains and take down large animals with a spear while avoiding being lunch for larger carnivores.

My pure speculation here without any data whatsoever. We are in a new environment highly unusual compared to the African savanah with new screens. 1. Civilization is technical and rapidly changing. Selections for intelligence and adaptability.

2. We are much more crowded. Selections for ability to tolerate and interact productively with large numbers of conspecifics without going all shiite-sunni.

3. There is a large environmental load of new chemicals, pollutants at usually low levels. Estrogenic compounds, pesticide residues, mercury, lead, smog, and so on. Ability to withstand and detoxify life long xenotic assaults.

4. We live longer and reproduce later. Selection for healthy longevity.

5. One obvious and well characterized selection is for presence of cheap, assured, abundant food. Diabetes type 2 and obesity are epidemic and one sees them in populations newly introduced to modern circumstances, Amerinds, polynesians, etc..I’ve read somewhere that this problem tends to work itself out in a few generations in a Darwinian manner. Not sure of the accuracy of this claim though.

6. Must be others. Maybe someday, ability to withstand low gravity for years on end if we expand outwards.

Service announcement: Some comments were sent to the Bathroom Wall because they were out of topic, responses to out-of-topic posts and/or just plain snarky. Some of my comments were edited as noted. I may add notes to other posts as needed.

Let’s keep it on track.

Since several readers have posted reference the website to “War against the Weak” by Edwin Black without stating whether or not they have actually read the book (I doubt they did), I (having actually read the book) feel justified in making some comments:

The really interesting thing about the eugenics movement was how widespread and accepted it was in many different societies and how often the strongest advocates of eugenics were actively involved in the care of those they were advocating sterilizing. That includes many otherwise “progressive” individuals.

Examples of well-known names involved in or supportive of eugenics: Alexander Graham Bell, Winston Churchill, H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Woodrow Wilson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Margret Sanger. In fact, Shaw, in 1910, during a lecture at London’s Eugenics Education Society said, “A part of eugenics politics would finally land us in the extensive use of the lethal chamber [yes, he did mean gas chambers]. A great many people would have to be put out of existence, simply because it wastes other people’s time to look after them.”

Less well known names include the social reformer, the Congregationalist Reverend Oscar McCulloch of Indianapolis, who later became president of the National Conference of Charities and Correction (he authored one of the “family” studies used to support eugenics, “The Tribe of Ishmael: A Study of Social Degeneration”. Henry Goddard (psychology and care of the feeble-minded). John Harvey Kellogg (brother of the corn flakes flake). The noted ophthomologist, Lucien Howe (namesake of the Howe Laboratory of Ophthomology at Harvard and the reason why newborn eyes got treated with silver nitrate to prevent infectious blindness). David Starr Jordan (biologist and president of Indiana and Stanford Universities, with biology buildings named after him on both campuses) and a pacifist and anti-war activist (he thought wars killed the best in societies).

That large group of ‘progressives’ is in addition to the outright racists like Madison Grant. Basically, the thesis of the book is that negative eugenics (sterilization, isolation of groups in ‘reservations’ or camps, a racial component with Aryan superiority) was largely an American movement. It is quite clear that it was initially

In the U.S., ‘scientific’ eugenics was clearly based in animal husbandry, particularly the American Breeders Association. Most ‘scientific’ eugenic publication was in that Association’s Journal, now the Journal of Heredity. Most of those publications would be scientifically better had it been used as toilet paper.

As I replied (in part) to Grady/Clarissa/Emanuel,

[from Plato’s Republic]…the best men must cohabit with the best women in as many cases as possible and the worst with the worst in the fewest, and that the offspring of the one must be reared and that of the other must not, if the flock is to be as perfect as possible. [Book V, English translation by Paul Shorey]

This passage illustrates not only that the concept of eugenics predates Darwin by a long time, but, more importantly, that the ancients were quite familiar with animal husbandry and breeding for specific qualities, which did lead to the idea of eugenics in the absence of a coherent theory of descent with modification as put forth by Darwin. There is no doubt that selective breeding can change the frequencies of certain traits; the desire to apply selective breeding, forcibly if necessary, in order to “improve” a nation, is simply not a component of evolution science. It would be just a foolish to blame the law of gravity for the possibility of a disasterous exchange of nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

The important point is not that eugenics predates Darwin, but that eugenics could (and did) arise without Darwin’s theory.

Here is a free (I think) reprint of Daniel Kevles’s NY Times review of “The war against the weak”, for anyone interested. Looks like it’s a provocative book, though agenda-driven and somewhat short on rigorous scholarship.

By the way, while it is certainly true that a form of eugenics existed long before Darwin and Galton…

Thank you, Clarissa, you’ve just admitted that the “evolution is responsible for eugenics” link is crap, and that people have been doing it long before Darwin. Buh-bye.

I meant to distinguish “natural selection” as meaning not due to human environmental and social activity. As others have noted, this is an artificial distinction. However, it places “eugenics” within a broader context of selection due to deliberate human interventions.

One may ask, how is human environmental and social activity different from that of any other species, insofar as it affects survival and reproduction within the population?

Here I am defining human environmental intervention as the imposition of environmental changes (1) deliberately, thus assuming some inherent significance for “human consciousness”; and (2) synthetically, such that a new, non-natural structure, object, or material is introduced. The argument is that human environmental interventions are consequential for the individual’s survivability, genetic profile, and reproductive capacity, and that they are broadening in effect on the population over time, perhaps geometrically.

Human social intervention is defined here as behaviors that affect an individual or group’s survivability, genetic profile, or reproductive capacity based solely on social/ethical considerations.

The study cited by windy surveyed 309(!) individuals and it is basically a statistical analysis, with speculations about possible selection pressures. No attempt was made to distinguish “natural” influences from human environmental and social interventions, which would be very difficult anyway.

David Stanton and raven, curiously, emphasize the fact that human interventions will become more important than “natural selection.”

This has been an interesting discussion – obviously the adults hang out here.

The links between Darwinism and the modern Eugenics movement is undeniable. While the existence of evolutionary biology was not necessary to propel the movement forward, it’s obvious that those individuals who supported eugenics drew intellectual sustenance from science. To coin a phrase, evolution made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled eugenist.

As for the claims that animal husbandry is “responsible” for Victorian Eugenics, Darwin used artificial selection as evidence for the utility of natural selection. Either artificial selection is a heuristic application of Darwinian principles, in which case the two are tied together after all, or artificial selection is divorced from the mechanisms that produce common descent, which implies that Darwin (and modern science’s) appeal to the former as evidence for a naturalistic basis for the latter is unwarranted. So which is it?

No cries of “False Dilemma!” without cause.

It would be just a foolish to blame the law of gravity for the possibility of a disasterous exchange of nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

But using eugenics as an argument against evolution is even stupider than that. You can legitimately blame gravity, I suppose, for providing the potential for bad things to fall on you. What would be really idiotic, and more closely analagous, would be claiming that the fact that gravity makes it possible for bad things to happen is evidence that the theory–and existence–of gravity is incorrect.

Oh just say it, we should go with Lysenkoism because Darwin can be used to argue for eugenics.

If science is driven out by pseudoscience, then science won’t be used for any evil purposes. Long live ID!

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

Because, of course, Mendelianism was much more the proximate cause of the modern eugenics movement (at least according to many sources):

The term eugenics comes from the Greek roots for “good” and “generation” or “origin” and was first used to refer to the “science” of heredity and good breeding in about 1883.

Within 20 years, the word was widely used by scientists who had rediscovered the work of Gregor Mendel. Mendel had meticulously recorded the results of cross-breeding pea plants, and found a very regular statistical pattern for features like height and color. This introduced the concept of genes, opening the field of genetics to a tumultuous century of research. One path of genetic research branched off into the shadows of social theory, and in the first quarter of the twentieth century became immensely popular as eugenics. It was presented as a mathematical science that could be used to predict the traits and behaviors of humans, and in a perfect world, to control human breeding so that people with the best genes would reproduce and thus improve the species. It was an optimistic school of thought with a profound faith in the powers of Science.

www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/dh23eu.html

So you see, it’s science that’s the problem. ID is the cure for science, naturally, as it is anathema to the scientific method. And it’s not Darwin they’re opposing so much as all of genetics (cause, like, it’s evidence-based).

Sure they’re not going to say it’s modern genetics that they’re opposing with their cheesy little “ban anything not PC crusade” (gee, they don’t think that couldn’t be used against them?), it’s just that it is genetics itself that gets shot in the process. What do they care? They have no regard for science and its methods.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

Ghost of Paley wrote:

“Either artificial selection is a heuristic application of Darwinian principles, in which case the two are tied together after all, or artificial selection is divorced from the mechanisms that produce common descent, which implies that Darwin (and modern science’s) appeal to the former as evidence for a naturalistic basis for the latter is unwarranted. So which is it?”

We have been through this before, and recently if memory serves. My position then, and my position now, is that artificial selection is simply an application of Darwin’s concept of natural selection. Selection operates whether the source of genetic variation is random or not (no let’s not get into that discussion again). Selection operates whether the selection agent is “natural”, “intelligent”, “artificial” or whatever. The same principles apply, the same equations apply, the same limitations apply, the same outcomes can be predicted. Although there is most likely a higher probability that a particular outcome will be produced more quickly if the selection is intelligent and purposeful and confounding variables are controlled to a certain extent (not let’s not get into that again either). That doesn’t mean that Darwin is responsible for eugenics and even if he was directly responsible, that still doesn’t mean he was wrong.

Think of it this way. PCR is an application in molecular biology using the thermally stable DNA polymerase discovered in the hot spring bacteria Thermus aquaticus. The bacteria is not responsible for developing PCR and Mullis is not responsible if someone uses PCR to identify suboptimal genotypes and eliminate them from the gene pool. ANd if he is responsible for that, then he is also responsible for any good that comes from the technology as well. If you want to place blame for atrocities, blame those making the moral decisions regarding how to apply the technology. Don’t blame those who advanced science simply because they provided us with more options and more moral choices.

In regards to the thought experiment so thoughtful provided by Science Avenger, my answer is that technically I consider all of the examples given to be natural selection. The reason is that the selection agent in all cases is still the wolves. Now if humans had captured the deer, given then forced tests to determine maximum speed and then allowed only the fastest to breed, that would be artificial selection. Of course that’s only my opinion, I could be wrong. I think the point was how silly it is to make such arbtrary distinctions in the first place.

Because, of course, Mendelianism was much more the proximate cause of the modern eugenics movement (at least according to many sources):

Good point. Lets toss out genetics because it could be misused or misconstrued.

Toss out physics. I’ve been living under threat of being incorporated into a mushroom cloud my entire life.

Toss out chemistry. Nerve gas is no way to go.

Toss out engineering. They have come up with large numbers of devices that go “boom” and kill people.

Toss out the germ theory of disease. Biowarfare could ruin your whole planet.

So then it is back to those happy dark ages days where the life span was 45 years.

Scientific theories such as evolution, gravity, quantum mechanics, or the germ theory of disease are true no matter what what someone’s opinion is and/or no matter how they have been misused or misconstrued.

That the IDers stoop to evolution=eugenics shows their essential intellectual poverty.

(Go ahead and tell us how the “Hebrew view” of the crowning solemnity of God-given human dignity applied to the Amalekites, Mr. Klinghoffer.)

Balaam described Amalek as “the first of the nations” even despite the fact that Amalek was not mentioned in the list of Noah’s descendants. Clearly, the Amalekites are not descended from Noah. Since Noah was the ancestor of all humanity, the Amalekites aren’t human.

In accordance with the commandment, as humanity expands into space we must be on our guard and be ready to fight Amalek of Borg.

Resistance won’t be futile.

The links between Darwinism and the modern Eugenics movement is undeniable. While the existence of evolutionary biology was not necessary to propel the movement forward, it’s obvious that those individuals who supported eugenics drew intellectual sustenance from science. To coin a phrase, evolution made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled eugenist.

Except of course that there is no evidence that the scores of pre-Darwin eugenicists, and people like Tinkle who opposed evolution but embraced eugenics, were intellectually unfulfilled.

As for the claims that animal husbandry is “responsible” for Victorian Eugenics, Darwin used artificial selection as evidence for the utility of natural selection. Either artificial selection is a heuristic application of Darwinian principles, in which case the two are tied together after all, or artificial selection is divorced from the mechanisms that produce common descent, which implies that Darwin (and modern science’s) appeal to the former as evidence for a naturalistic basis for the latter is unwarranted. So which is it?

This makes no sense. Let’s see: - animal husbandry is not “responsible” for eugenics any more than “Darwinism”. However, concepts derived from animal husbandry, evolutionary theory, Mendelian genetics, medicine and hygiene etc were all integrated into eugenics, and used to support it. - Darwin did NOT use artificial selection as evidence for “the utility of natural selection” (whatever that means - maybe you mean effectiveness?). He drew an analogy between artificial selection and the natural process that occurs when organisms reproduce with variation in numbers that exceed their environment’s available resources, and recognized that the latter also represents a form of selection for the best adapted organisms. - artificial selection per se is NOT a heuristic application of Darwinian principles, since artificial selection went on for thousands of years before Darwin was even born. (However, the idea that “blind” mutation and selection schemes can be used to generate useful, unpredictable novelty, e.g. in some biotechnological and research applications, is indeed derived from Darwinian principles.) - Darwin and modern science do NOT appeal to artificial selection as evidence for a naturalistic basis of common descent. That would be whacky.

Another source puts the issue quite starkly:

Eugenics was not very popular until after the rediscovery of the scientific work of Gregor Mendel in 1900. Mendel’s work, which led to modern genetics, gave new tools for understanding how heredity worked. Mendel himself experimented on peas, and found that many characterstics of the pea plants, such as their color or their height, could be turned on and off through heredity like a switch. For example, his peas could be either yellow or green, one or the other. When applied to humans, people thought this meant that human characteristics, like being smart or not, could also be easily turned on or off through heredity.

In the United States, eugenics became a very popular idea in the early 20th century.

simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics

So while it is true that Darwinism was used by eugenicists, you can see what the real culprit is, anything that’s true in biology, especially genetics.

“Materialistic science” is the overwhelming problem. Just ask the neo-Nazis:

Even though the consequences of rule by the “Nordic elite” were made manifest in the Ukraine during the German occupation of the Ukraine, Dontsov continued to hail fascist regimes (those of Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco) as models for the Ukraine to emulate: “having liberated the social life of Germany from Judaizing influence, National Socialism (together…with similar movements) in opposition to democracy, to the Western-Jewish Communism of Marx and the Eastern-Russian Communism of Lenin — created its own system that in a basic way changed the face of the German world.…”27

He called for reviving the “spirit of Ukrainian antiquity,” thereby transforming the nation and leading the opposition to the “gangrene of democracy, materialism, Bolshevism, Judaizing, and Freemasonry.”28 Dontsov pointed to the Nazi mobilization of mysticism for political ends, using Charles Peguy’s 1910 phrasing: “All begins with mysticism and ends with politics. Politics without mysticism is fruitless.”29

www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=DYM20041217&articleId=318

Yup, materialism and enlightenment, ideas opposed by Nazis and IDists.

Is the association fair? Probably not, other than that any version of nonsense has to oppose the honest methods of science. But if we’re going to hear incessantly about how “evolution” supposedly gave rise to eugenics, surely we’d do well to show how the rhetoric of true eugenicists, from neo-Nazis like Dalton, matches the “anti-materialim” rhetoric of the IDists.

And Mendelian genetics was what really gave people the idea that “materialistic science” might work to “improve” the human species. Darwin’s work did not itself demonstrate that heredity occurred by “material means”, it was that Austrian monk who did that. See what religion causes?

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

Evolutionary theory, natural selection, Mendelian genetics, modern genetics, and all of their corollary fields of study were and are descriptions of “natural” phenomena. Practical applications and ethical implications are, strictly speaking, not pertinent to the science itself. Do I have that right, Andrea?

However, it seems that eugenics was a broad social movement embodying existing cultural values and ancient principles, including those of many creationists. Lacking credibility among progressive intellectuals, however, its supporters drew on evolutionary theory for rhetorical support.

Now it seems to be discredited as a social movement and has become a naughty word, primarily used for polemical purposes, and suitable for inclusion in a broad-based application of Godwin’s Law.

I submit that if you are going to choke on the word “eugenics,” then you should find another word to describe “the science of improving offspring, esp. that of the human race” [1913], because it will always be a live issue. And cherry-picking a few dumb creationists won’t help get rid of the tar-baby.

Dave wrote:

“I submit that if you are going to choke on the word “eugenics,” then you should find another word to describe “the science of improving offspring, esp. that of the human race” [1913]”

The only one choking is Tinkle. However, if you prefer a more accurate and descriptive term, I believe that “selective breeding” would be appropriate. Or perhaps “selective mating” might have fewer negative connotations.

Either way, I don’t think you’ll find many scientists supporting the types of programs Tinkle proposed. After all, even if “those people having poor heredity should not marry at all [8, p. 131” we now know that they could still reproduce even if they weren’t married.

Dave Wrote:

Do you not think it will soon be difficult to show that natural selection provides any genetic benefit at all to humans?

I was concerned about variation as a resource when selection (by catastrophes, for example) is needed.

For your concern, it seems evolution is working in historical times, for example in providing ability to digest milk in adults.

Ed DeVeccia Wrote:

Definitionally, it excludes mechanisms which are non-natural

Maybe it did, but that would not prevent us from applying the theory if it works. The same argument would apply for your scale (population size) and strength argument.

So while you may see this as different applications for perhaps historical reasons, personally I don’t. Reading Science Avenger and CJO it is now inconceivable. :-)

Specifically, I can’t see why applying evolution (“Darwin’s theory”) doesn’t say anything here. We are not morally subscribing to either breeding or eugenics by recognizing the possibility of application of the theory, if that is your concern.

Ed DeVeccia Wrote:

There are similarities, no doubt, but the differences outweigh the differences both in their details and their effects.

What is the experimental basis for this?

And as I discuss above, why isn’t evolutionary theory still applicable after allowing for the alleged differences? If you are saying that no one has done this work I can respect that it would remain to do.

Andrea Bottaro Wrote:

[T]here is no evidence that the scores of pre-Darwin eugenicists, and people like Tinkle who opposed evolution but embraced eugenics, were intellectually unfulfilled.

If that’s the case, then perhaps the Enlightenment’s influence on religious skepticism is overstated, since there were intellectually fullfilled skeptics, freethinkers, and atheists before the 1700’s.

I understand what you’re saying, of course, but evolutionary biology gave the movement a scientific panache and theoretical underpinning that it didn’t have before. Natural selection and genetics established the soundness of eugenic reasoning. At least they thought it did, and in this context that’s what counts.

Andrea Bottaro Wrote:

As for the claims that animal husbandry is “responsible” for Victorian Eugenics, Darwin used artificial selection as evidence for the utility of natural selection. Either artificial selection is a heuristic application of Darwinian principles, in which case the two are tied together after all, or artificial selection is divorced from the mechanisms that produce common descent, which implies that Darwin (and modern science’s) appeal to the former as evidence for a naturalistic basis for the latter is unwarranted. So which is it?

This makes no sense. Let’s see: - animal husbandry is not “responsible” for eugenics any more than “Darwinism”. However, concepts derived from animal husbandry, evolutionary theory, Mendelian genetics, medicine and hygiene etc were all integrated into eugenics, and used to support it.

I agree that the eugenics movement was multidisciplinary, but animal husbandry proved that animal stocks could be “improved” by artificial selection, and since people are gussied-up animals, well.…

- Darwin did NOT use artificial selection as evidence for “the utility of natural selection” (whatever that means - maybe you mean effectiveness?). He drew an analogy between artificial selection and the natural process that occurs when organisms reproduce with variation in numbers that exceed their environment’s available resources, and recognized that the latter also represents a form of selection for the best adapted organisms.

Perhaps using AS as evidence for NS was not his primary goal, but I recall at least one statement in a later edition where Darwin said something to the effect of, “For those doubting the power of Natural Selection to shape organisms, recall the variety of organisms produced by Man who only selects for those qualities that please him, while Natural Selection acts on every organ.”

Of course, Darwin noted several differences between man and nature-driven selection: for example, he (mistakenly) believed that man introduced more variety in the stocks than Nature could. Nevertheless, AS was proof of NS’s plausibility, and that’s what I meant.

- artificial selection per se is NOT a heuristic application of Darwinian principles, since artificial selection went on for thousands of years before Darwin was even born. (However, the idea that “blind” mutation and selection schemes can be used to generate useful, unpredictable novelty, e.g. in some biotechnological and research applications, is indeed derived from Darwinian principles.)

Sorry for the unintended meaning; I simply meant that AS was an application of evolutionary principles even if the shepherds didn’t understand the concept. I used the term “heuristic” to indicate a trial-and-error approach to the problem. Not a good choice, perhaps.

- Darwin and modern science do NOT appeal to artificial selection as evidence for a naturalistic basis of common descent. That would be whacky.

Since NS is proposed as the mechanism shaping raw variation, evidence for NS is evidence for naturalism. If NS is falsified, then only blind chance remains as an explanatory tool. Suddenly, “Goddidit” doesn’t sound so bad.

Look, many scientific ideas have a shady background. Probability theory has been tied to gambling from the very beginning, much of modern statistics theory originated from Ronald Fisher, etc. Everyone else can fess up – why not evolutionary biologists?

”…filled with over-simplified and dishonestly slanted propaganda”

This is overly wordy and redundant. The term “conservatism” will suffice here.

Probability theory has been tied to gambling from the very beginning, … Everyone else can fess up — why not evolutionary biologists?

Fess up to what? I don’t think anyone here is saying that the theory of evolution has never been used (or misused) to justify eugenics. However, there are creationists/IDers who are saying that evolutionary theory has been used to justify eugenics, therefore it is wrong and immoral, even though creationists themselves have advocated compulsory sterilization. By contrast, no-one is saying that, because probability theory arose out of gambling, statistics is wrong and immoral. Do you feel they should be saying this?

The irony of this whole discussion is that the religion of evolutionism encourages its followers to fail to reproduce via their enthusiasm for buggery. This is the real eugenic meaning of evolutionism; it is a differential reproduction program aimed against the evolutionists themselves. While Christians are building large families via the creation of new human life evolutionists are only reproducing bacterial life with their–ahem–lifestyle, and they wonder why they are losing the culture war. Blinded by their own sinfulness, they have turned the eugenic ax on themselves!

“The irony of this whole discussion is that the religion of evolutionism encourages its followers to fail to reproduce via their enthusiasm for buggery. This is the real eugenic meaning of evolutionism; it is a differential reproduction program aimed against the evolutionists themselves. While Christians are building large families via the creation of new human life evolutionists are only reproducing bacterial life with their—ahem—lifestyle, and they wonder why they are losing the culture war. Blinded by their own sinfulness, they have turned the eugenic ax on themselves!”

Translation: “All evolutionists are homo’s!”

BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAA!!!

Pumpkinhead, I can’t tell if you’re trying to be offensive or funny. Either way, I think your meds are wearing off.

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This page contains a single entry by Andrea Bottaro published on May 15, 2007 8:16 PM.

Iowa State University responds was the previous entry in this blog.

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