Eugenics and Guilt By Association

by John Holbo on April 21, 2010

[UPDATE: One of the CAP authors, John Halpin, showed up in comments to complain – very reasonably – that I linked to the wrong part of their three part series, and failed to make clear it was part of a series. (I copied it from Goldberg, in composing the post! Why would I assume that anything he does is right?) Anyway, here is Halprin’s response to my post, with links. Halprin also argues that he and his co-author handled some of the stuff I wanted included in part 3. I admit that I had only read parts 1 & 2 before writing the post – I though part 3 was still forthcoming – but it doesn’t seem to me that the material from part 3 he quotes is quite forceful or extensive enough to do the job, even given that it must be done briefly.]

Jonah Goldberg links, approvingly, to a Damon Root post at Reason, complaining about a new Center For American Progress paper entitled “The Progressive Intellectual Tradition In America” (PDF). Root’s complaint is fair, but only up to a point. Here’s the fair bit: the CAP paper is a feel-good affair. Nothing about uglier aspects or excesses of American Progressivism: specifically, racism and sexism, hence eugenics. (And imperialism, but let’s just stick with eugenics for this post.) Of course the obvious objection to that is that there was nothing distinctively Progressive about racism and sexism. It’s just that we are talking about the late 19th/early 20th Centuries here. Still, if you combine eugenics – even if it’s only average for the era – with political philosophy and policy you sure can get bad results. There’s no reason whatsoever to paste this ugly history on every single contemporary formulation of progressive political philosophy. If Barack Obama is giving a stump speech, and he delivers some applause line about progressive ideals, there is no reason for him to pause and add a pedantic footnote about eugenics and how some Progressives, and some people some Progressives admired as scientific authorities, believed ugly stuff a hundred years ago. But if you are writing a history, the presumption is that you want people to learn from history, and some of the major lessons of the Progressive Era are cautionary ones, philosophically and in terms of policy. I doubt the authors of these papers would deny this, so including a ‘cautionary lessons’ subsection would have been a better scheme. (If I had to guess, they’re thinking tactically. ‘If we mention this stuff, being careful to get all the necessary nuance in, someone like Jonah Goldberg will find it and quote it, carving out the nuance, and it will sound like even CAP admits that Progressivism = Eugenics.’ Still, if you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t, you should do the right thing and be damned.)

Now we get to the unfair bit. Root and Goldberg seem to think that if you are advocating progressivism today – rather than writing history – there is some vital need to self-lacerate, early and often, over the whole eugenics-a-hundred-years-ago business. The Goldberg rule seems to be this: if some Progressive believed in eugenics – or if some really major, central figure of the Progressive movement admired someone who was a major proponent of eugenics – then Progressives have to “own up” to this. Goldberg (from the post linked above):

As anyone who has read my book knows, I’m all for today’s Progressives owning up to their intellectual founders, but even I don’t claim that today’s Progressives believe the same things as their forebears. If they did, they would be rightly pelted from the public stage as statist, racist, imperialist, eugenicist warmongers.

It’s unclear what ‘owning up’ to beliefs you don’t own – i.e. believe – amounts to, but Goldberg is very clear that he doesn’t think conservatives are in the same boat. He’s sure that progressives have a dark past. But conservatives? “Of course, there’s no evidence provided [by those who protest that eugenics is as much conservative as progressive] that any conservatives supported eugenics.” Well, here goes …

I have recently developed a minor interest in Irving Fisher, on account of his Terry Pratchett-worthy pioneering of Gloopernomics. But besides that, as his Wikipedia page states, he was an early proponent of what came to be neoclassical economics. (I guess he was a paleoneoclassicist.) Milton Friedman called him “the greatest economist the United States has ever produced.” Mostly because he anticipated Friedman’s monetarism. And if you read William F. Buckley’s God & Man at Yale – the introduction to the 1977 edition, anyway – there’s a note explaining that, by ‘individualism’, he means ‘monetarism. (that’s why the chapter on ‘individualism’ reads so funny). So: there is a sense in which Irving Fisher is the Godfather of modern American conservatism and modern American libertarianism, insofar as the latter is inspired by, or deeply infused by, Friedmanian ideas about markets.

Oh, and Irving Fisher was a major figure in American eugenics. And he wanted to ban booze, too! And remove your bowels, noseriously. From Wikipedia:

The lay public perhaps knew Fisher best as a health campaigner and eugenicist. In 1898 he found that he had tuberculosis, the disease that killed his father. After three years in sanatoria, Fisher returned to work with even greater energy and with a second vocation as a health campaigner. He advocated vegetarianism, avoiding red meat, and exercise, writing How to Live: Rules for Healthful Living Based on Modern Science, a USA best seller.

In 1912 he also became a member of the scientific advisory to the Eugenics Record Office and served as the secretary of the American Eugenics Society.

Fisher was also a strong believer in the now-ridiculed “focal sepsis” theory of physician Henry Cotton, who believed that mental illness was attributable to infectious material residing in the roots of the teeth, recesses in the bowels, and other places in the human body, and that surgical removal of this infectious material would cure the patient’s mental disorder. Fisher believed in these theories so thoroughly that when his daughter Margaret Fisher was diagnosed with schizophrenia, Fisher had numerous sections of her bowel and colon removed at Dr. Cotton’s hospital, eventually resulting in his daughter’s death.

Fisher was also an ardent supporter of the Prohibition of alcohol in the United States, and wrote three short books arguing that Prohibition was justified on the grounds of both public health and hygiene, as well as economic productivity and efficiency, and should therefore be strictly enforced by the United States government.

Now, if contemporary Progressives have to ‘own up’ to eugenics because their ancestors believed it, I think it hardly makes sense for writers at National Review and Reason not to ‘own up’ to precisely the same degree. (Obviously they don’t believe any of this crazy stuff, but if they think people who have only one or two degrees of separation from it are obliged to tar themselves with it, lavishly – then go to!) Or maybe Jonah Goldberg can do one of his ‘we are all fascists’ pirouettes: we are all eugenicists now!

But seriously. What’s going on here? It doesn’t make sense to say economic monetarism is a eugenic doctrine, or that belief in laissez faire economics will lead to a resurgence of prohibitionism, or more weakly that believers in monetarism and markets have to ‘own up’ to these doctrines, because it isn’t that hard to separate them out, intellectually. And spiritually! By the same token, it doesn’t make sense to say that political progressivism is a eugenic doctrine. Why shouldn’t it be possible to believe what political progressives believe without believing in eugenics? Why should progressives have to ‘own up’ to stuff from 100 years ago any more so than writers at Reason have to own up to advocacy of prohibition? or wanting to pull your teeth and extract your bowels, for your own good?

In other news, I’ve been researching what practical, policy implications of Obamacare are likely to be. It’s pretty exciting, progressive stuff – very modern and scientific, Frankensteinish, up-to-the-minute, likely to make America more like Europe. All the good stuff. (I think it’s a damn shame that Republicans have been threatening to filibuster Baron von Evilstein’s nomination.) Here are some scans:

{ 204 comments }

1

mcd 04.21.10 at 4:00 am

Ever since the extreme right decided to pretend to be “populist”, they’ve been doing this stuff, arguing that:

Women are the real sexists.
Blacks are the real racists.
Liberals are the real fascists.
Pro-abortion and pro-gay groups are the real authoritarians.

I doubt their followers read this, and their opponents know better. Perhaps it’s designed to freak out progressives, so they’ll fear rightwingers are capable of anything.

2

Joshua Holmes 04.21.10 at 4:03 am

It doesn’t make sense to say economic monetarism is a eugenic doctrine, or that belief in laissez faire economics will lead to a resurgence of prohibitionism, or more weakly that believers in monetarism and markets have to ‘own up’ to these doctrines, because it isn’t that hard to separate them out, intellectually.

Yeah, it’s almost like libertarianism isn’t actually close to feudalism.

3

Jim Harrison 04.21.10 at 4:05 am

I have yet to encounter a conservative who acknowledges that before 1945 almost all American conservatives were anti-Semites.

4

pv 04.21.10 at 4:08 am

“He advocated vegetarianism, avoiding red meat, and exercise,”

Oh, great: now all vegetarians are responsible for eugenics too. Because (here comes shrill voice) “Hitler was a vegetarian, you know!!!” (stop shrill voice).

5

Aulus Gellius 04.21.10 at 4:15 am

Surely the real purpose of the whole progressives-must-claim-their-eugenic-heritage thing is as a counter to the much closer association of contemporary conservatives with segregation, right? I think the real desired outcome is an attitude of “well, we all have movements that have been associated with some nasty beliefs, so we’ll just stop bringing up what William F. Buckley may or may not have said back when the world was young.” So a conservative eugenicist doesn’t help Goldberg (since it seems to put the conservatives down 2-1 in the great game of Not Having Your Movement Allied With Past Racist Causes), but it can still be made to fit a general principle of “you can’t really hold anybody accountable for anything said before 1960. (Well, 1970.) (All right, call it 1980, but that’s it.)” And thus, he’s careful not to make any claims about how modern progressive beliefs are still associated with their unsavory predecessors, because the conservatives DEFINITELY lose that game.

6

Nick 04.21.10 at 4:51 am

“I have yet to encounter a conservative who acknowledges that before 1945 almost all American conservatives were anti-Semites.”

But EVERYONE* before 1945 was an anti-semite. Even some Jews! No one in that intellectual milieu seems to have escaped it.

Eugenics is similar, almost universal support amongst the intellectual establishment. In fact, it would be more interesting to look at who wasn’t a eugenicist (perhaps the individualist anarchists knocking around that time).

So either it is going to be historical recriminations all round because no one’s intellectual history is all that great. Or people will have to call pax. We could even take on Scott Sumner’s suggestion: forget the left’s (mostly historical) communist love affair, in return for forgeting the right’s (mostly historical) racism.

But then perhaps recriminations are more fun, and we’ll hardly get to sustain a peace on this with Goldberg smearing randomly on the right, and people on the left trying to frame Tea Party supporters.

*Not absolutely literal claim

7

John Holbo 04.21.10 at 5:09 am

“people on the left trying to frame Tea Party supporters.”

By saying they are responsible for things conservatives believed 100 years ago, but – admittedly – no longer believe? Examples, please.

8

Nick 04.21.10 at 5:23 am

Ok, I haven’t seen an example of people doing exactly that. But they try and impute the beliefs of conservatives 100-50 years ago onto many of those protesting today, usually without justification.

9

StevenAttewell 04.21.10 at 6:10 am

Why? The teabaggers are intellectually confused enough that they practically self-refute. Trying to bring in historical comparisons is like using a bazooka to open a jar.

10

Hidari 04.21.10 at 7:06 am

The really frightening thing about eugenics is not that that many/most Progressives believed in it. It’s that almost everybody believed in it. The list of names who were eugenicists is long and really quite frightening: W.B. Yeats, D.H. Lawrence, (whose Lady Chatterly’s Lover is really a eugenicist screed, if read right), Trotsky (!), George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Keynes and Beveridge, R.A. Fisher (Fisher was such an ardent eugenicist he was nearly interned during WW2 on the grounds that he was likely to be a Nazi fifth columnist), Alexander Graham Bell, Theodor Roosevelt (I could go on and on and on and on)……. Nor can one assume that those intellectuals and scientists who did not write or speak about it were necessarily particularly opposed to it.

It was not a ‘progressive’ ideology. It was not a Conservative ideology. It was not a ‘liberal’ ideology. It was a ideology believed by swathes of people from many different backgrounds and many different political beliefs, although, of course it had special appeal to white, heterosexual, middle and upper class European/Australasian/North American males. As Nick above points out, only anti-semitism had a broader intellectual appeal.

The question mark that should therefore be appended is not to the ‘progressive’ tradition, but to the whole Western intellectual school of thought (‘progressive’ and ‘conservative’) in Europe, Australasia, and North America between, roughly 1850 and 1945, and its relationship to Empire building (another idea many intellectuals got pretty excited about at this time, again, both ‘conservative’ and ‘progressive’). However given that this would lead to some tough questions being asked about imperial ideology and its relationship to ‘Western Civilisation’, and the relationship of pseudo science (cough cough, economics, cough) to barbarism, I think this is a discssion Goldberg will not want to have.

11

Hidari 04.21.10 at 7:13 am

I forgot to mention: there was one intellectual institution, and one only, at this time, which wholly and completely rejected eugenics in toto. That institution was the Roman Catholic Church.* Make of that what you will.

*Rather notoriously, the RCC was not too keen on Jews at this time, but this was purely on religious, not biological grounds, a distinction which is sometimes not made clearly enough.

12

Marc 04.21.10 at 7:33 am

Goldberg wrote a book where he skipped every single Republican president when talking about abuses of power by the executive branch. When asked why, he responded “that wasn’t the story he wanted to tell.”

Why bother assuming that a political hack is anything but? He wants to beat up liberals, and eugenics is a useful stick. He isn’t paid to care about anything unfavorable about conservatives, living or dead.

13

John Holbo 04.21.10 at 7:42 am

“But they try and impute the beliefs of conservatives 100-50 years ago onto many of those protesting today, usually without justification.”

I sort of doubt that, but I’m willing to listen to evidence that this really takes place. Again, examples? One thing that bothers conservatives is associating their politics with racial/cultural politics of the 1960′s and 70′s, which is getting on for 50 years. It’s an oldy but goldy. Look at a map of red vs. blue and you will see that Goldwater/Nixon and the Southern Strategy is not a dead letter, by any means. It seems to me quite reasonable to pin stuff that Goldwater and Reagan said/did to conservatives/Republicans because, allegedly, conservatives/Republicans still believe that stuff. So they shouldn’t mind. On the other hand, holding some progressive whose never heard of Herbert Croly responsible for something Herbert Croly said seems to me much more unreasonable.

14

Kevin Donoghue 04.21.10 at 8:29 am

I’m not sure that present-day American conservatives embrace Fisher and Friedman. They were both somewhat respectful of Keynes, for one thing. I don’t think anyone to the left of Mises will do really.

But that’s a side-issue. What does believing in eugenics entail? I don’t think it’s true to say that progressives were generally in favour of forced sterilisation. A much more common position was that the lower classes should be instructed in birth control. That was a bit paternalistic of course, but hardly evil.

15

Hidari 04.21.10 at 8:41 am

16

Don 04.21.10 at 9:38 am

The question the left, and academia has to ask is how much of current assumptions, current paradigms, current beliefs in social science relates to assumptions of racial superiority or racial hierarchy.

I posit fields like Sociology, Anthropology, and even Economics or Mass Communications do not sufficiently examine this question.

Prevailing paradigms in some of these fields include implicit or explicit notions of Western cultural or racial superiority.

17

dsquared 04.21.10 at 9:40 am

Get a modern conservative on the subject of IQ, poverty and the benefits system and you will see exactly who wants to enforce eugenics via food stamps.

18

rea 04.21.10 at 9:40 am

Look at a map of red vs. blue and you will see that Goldwater/Nixon and the Southern Strategy is not a dead letter, by any means. It seems to me quite reasonable to pin stuff that Goldwater and Reagan said/did to conservatives/Republicans because, allegedly, conservatives/Republicans still believe that stuff. So they shouldn’t mind. On the other hand, holding some progressive whose never heard of Herbert Croly responsible for something Herbert Croly said seems to me much more unreasonable

Particularly as no modern progressive that anyone ever heard of believes in this eugenics nonsense, unless you count the authors of The Bell Curve as progressives. On the other hand, overt racism–teabaggers meet John Lewis–is quite common on the present day right.

19

Don 04.21.10 at 9:40 am

To add to the previous comment, I’m not even sure those fields could exist without vague implicit heirarchical judgements which attribute superiority or inferiority to cultures.

20

Tim Worstall 04.21.10 at 9:51 am

“Now we get to the unfair bit. Root and Goldberg seem to think that if you are advocating progressivism today – rather than writing history – there is some vital need to self-lacerate, early and often, over the whole eugenics-a-hundred-years-ago business.”

Sounds like a useful thing to do really. “Progressivism” in some incarnations or definitions is based on the idea that greater State power over the lives of individuals can make things better for all.

This is certainly true for some levels of State power over the lives of individuals. It is not necessarily true for all levels of such power nor for levels greater than current (or even less than current). Keeping eugenics in mind as an example of when greater such power really isn’t a good idea is useful in reminding ourselves that greater or lesser State power isn’t a good thing in and of itself. It depends upon which power over what aspects of the lives of individuals.

21

John Holbo 04.21.10 at 10:18 am

“Sounds like a useful thing to do really.”

I agree. But only so long as it’s not done in such a way that it doesn’t pointlessly generate the impression that there’s more of a conceptual connection between progressivism and eugenics than between, say, any other view and eugenics.

22

John Holbo 04.21.10 at 10:19 am

“I’m not sure that present-day American conservatives embrace Fisher and Friedman.”

Conservatives don’t like Milton Friedman. “Free To Choose”? C’mon.

23

rea 04.21.10 at 10:21 am

“Progressivism” in some incarnations or definitions is based on the idea that greater State power over the lives of individuals can make things better for all.

The strange process of defining other peoples’ ideologies so that y0u can then tell them what they really believe, whether they know it or not, and criticize them for it.

Libertarians eat babies.

24

engels 04.21.10 at 10:26 am

I think mcd, Attenwell and Dsquared have said all that needs to be said. It’s the favourite tactic of the US ‘conservative’ moronosphere, the pre-emptive ‘I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I?’ Engaging on the level of serious historical analysis is likely to prove futile.

25

FreedomDemocrat 04.21.10 at 11:10 am

I think you’re too quick to hand wave away concerns about eugenics, racism, and nativism as they were promoted by the progressive movement by noting that everyone during the time period was a supporter of eugenics, racism, and nativism. This period certainly wasn’t a golden age and a lot of people believed a lot of bad things. But I think this hand waving ignores the specific links between progressivism and the believe that government, through sound management of the population, could improve the very genetic stock of the nation. It takes the pseudo-scientific arguments of Social Darwinism and its “survival of the fittest” argument against a social welfare state and actively promotes a stronger role for the state to speed natural selection along. This is going above and beyond the “passive” racism that many others in the era held. And I think blame should be assigned for the groups and individuals who were most active in promoting the ideas. For a shallow and superficial comparison, it’s like saying that you can’t hold it against neoconservatives that the United States went to war in Iraq because, in the end, so many Democrats got on board as well. The comparison is off because eugenics was far more popular at the time, but politicians rolling over to vote for something that they feel has gotten broad public support are a different creature than those actively promoting and pushing the agenda. And I’m pretty sure that the historical origins of eugenics were closely aligned with progressives and, on a related note, the conservationist movement. Which were the main contributions of Northeast Republican progressives to the movement, unlike more democratic contributions from more Southern and Western Democratic populists. There’s an interesting divide to the progressive movement that CAP’s report seems to look over.

26

Matt 04.21.10 at 11:50 am

I think you’ve given up the idea that modern libertarians and conservatives want to remove our bowels much too quickly, John. It’s true that most don’t publicly advocate for it, but then, that would be the sort of thing to keep secret for now, wouldn’t it, making the silence just one more bit of evidence.

27

JoB 04.21.10 at 12:00 pm

Really? Libertarians eat babies? Damn those liberals!

28

JoB 04.21.10 at 12:14 pm

And I’m sure none of those famous liberals will come here and tell us once and for all that they condemn all that baby killing! Ha!

29

PHB 04.21.10 at 12:25 pm

Why is Goldberg considered worthy of attention at all? He is a marginal figure on the right and the only reason he gets any attention there is that he spends time baiting the left. Like Coulter he is making a lot of money but has absolutely no policy influence as [here I would write something different if the UK libel laws were not expressly designed to be a tool of censorship and if a certain British judge was not so clearly a complete fool and enabler].

Popper was rather more insightful on the true roots of totalitarianism. What sustains it is a mode of thought that cannot accept any possibility of error. Today this is characteristic of the Catholic church and its inability to come to terms with the fact that its leader facilitated a group of pedophiles. And it is characteristic of movement conservatism which has adopted more or less Moaist tactics in enforcing ideological conformity.

30

Steve LaBonne 04.21.10 at 12:32 pm

Progressivism was an elite, top-down movement, whose weak commitment to democracy made it fertile ground for garbage like eugenics; which is why I’ve never been very happy that liberals nowadays have been intimidated by Rovian name-calling into calling themselves progressives instead of liberals. The Progressives had some real achievements to their credit but theirs is not the model I would wish today’s center-left to emulate.

Ok, I haven’t seen an example of people doing exactly that. But they try and impute the beliefs of conservatives 100-50 years ago onto many of those protesting today, usually without justification.

Nick is full of shit as always (I love the “I haven’t seen an example” = “Oops, I was caught lying through my teeth”). All we have to do to see what these idiots actually believe is read their fucking signs.

31

magistra 04.21.10 at 12:44 pm

In the UK, Winston Churchill was one of a number of enthusiasts for sterilisation of the ‘feeble-minded’, a cause which appears to have drawn cross party support.

32

Barry 04.21.10 at 12:49 pm

Nick 04.21.10 at 5:23 am

“Ok, I haven’t seen an example of people doing exactly that. But they try and impute the beliefs of conservatives 100-50 years ago onto many of those protesting today, usually without justification.”

Yes, it’s not like Republicans are (literally or metaphorically) waving Confederate flags, in this day and age :)

33

bob mcmanus 04.21.10 at 12:51 pm

30:Progressivism was an elite, top-down movement, whose weak commitment to democracy made it fertile ground for garbage like eugenics

After reading the CAP paper I see the center’s continuing project to write the left out of history continues apace. I guess they had to mention Debs, but I’ll bet it really hurt.

29:Why is Goldberg considered worthy of attention at all?

See above. “The center-right is and always was the real responsible left. Oh, and look over there! Monsters!”

34

Steve LaBonne 04.21.10 at 12:56 pm

I guess they had to mention Debs

Who of course would not have been at all amused to be lumped in with the Progressives whom he loathed as wolves in sheep’s clothing.

35

Nick 04.21.10 at 1:37 pm

“I sort of doubt that, but I’m willing to listen to evidence that this really takes place.”

Take this for example, on racism (obviously, not as old as eugenics): http://www.classicalvalues.com/archives/2010/03/to_a_truther_de.html

On the intellectual front, I could point to Joshua Cohen’s take on libertarianism: http://bostonreview.net/BRwebonly/cohen2.php

Basically claiming that classical liberals are/were never there in the vanguard of pursuing equal civil rights (of course, some individuals who subsequently became classical liberals were activists in the civil rights movement). Contemporary classical liberals are held responsible for the mistakes of some intellectuals in our past, and deemed theoretically deficient on that basis. This occludes the work of prominent libertarians like Tom Palmer today in the area of gay rights. Yet, in the past classical liberals, though often not having quite the same priorities as those on the left, have helped achieve dramatic improvements in civil liberty, such as the ending the draft. And they have been prominent in opposing drug prohibition, which, in practice, is one of the most deadly policies for civil rights, and was always disproportionately aimed at minorities. So it is a mixed heritage which gets labelled by the left as reactionary.

36

bianca steele 04.21.10 at 1:54 pm

Goldberg is disingenuous when he criticizes 19th-century Progressivism for wanting to base policy on eugenics. He has a more basic objection to technocracy on even a rudimentary level. The point that everybody was a racist is more reasonable than it “feels” at first glance, for at least two reasons. One, although US Progressives may have been more willing to make certain medical interventions in order to influence the proportion of different types of people in the population, it is almost certain that the conservative parties did the same without acknowledging its being a deliberate policy. Two, without acknowledging the widespread nature of racism, the fact that this was actually consensus science is lost. He gets an easy emotional reaction by dwelling on “eugenics” and pretending he doesn’t understand why you have to think more when you change what you’re talking about even a little bit.

Goldberg is also probably drawing on Gertrude Himmelfarb’s critique of the Fabians, but an easy equation of Fabianism and Progressivism is not serious. (For one thing, the Progressives’ goals were much less ambitious.)

37

alex 04.21.10 at 2:32 pm

There’s nothing wrong with sterilising the feeble-minded, as long as we get to watch them do each senator, representative, columnist and pundit in turn…

38

Tom Hurka 04.21.10 at 2:41 pm

The government of Alberta, in Canada, only recently agreed to pay compensation to people forcibly sterilized as “feeble-minded” under legislation passed in 1928 and in force (amazingly) until 1972. (Over 2800 people were sterilized under the legislation.)

In the 1920s the main agitators for this legislation were members of the women’s suffrage and temperance movements. In fact, of the “Famous Five” women who initiated and then won the 1929 “persons” case that got women recognized as legal “persons” in Canada — and who are rightly celebrated for that achievement — three were active campaigners for eugenics and sterilization and significant influences on the Alberta legislation.

I don’t say this to make any Goldberg-type points, but if women’s suffrage was a progressive cause, then in Canada the main campaigners for eugenics, explicitly including sterilization, were progressives. This doesn’t have to be mentioned every time progressive politics is discussed, but it shouldn’t be hidden either.

39

chris 04.21.10 at 2:44 pm

“I forgot to mention: there was one intellectual institution, and one only, at this time, which wholly and completely rejected eugenics in toto.”

Don’t you mean one *European or North American* intellectual institution? I rather doubt that Chinese or Indian scholars were blithely accepting the idea of the genetic superiority of the white man. (Although I suppose they might not have rejected it in toto, but adapted some of the ideas to fit their own tribalisms…)

It’s kind of odd that in the process of decrying imperialism, you implicitly accept European/American intellectual institutions as the only ones worthy of consideration.

Aside from that, I think it’s a great example of the stopped clock principle. The Church’s religious beliefs (common descent from Adam, and species can’t change or vary from the “kind” created by God) forced them into that position. The fact that it happened to be in the teeth of what everyone else considered the evidence wouldn’t bother them a bit, considering how many other impossible things they believe before breakfast.

P.S. Isn’t there rather a lot of equivocation over the term “eugenics”? It seems to encompass everything from “some mental disorders may have genetic causes” to “genetic superiority can be read directly off socioeconomic status and the fortunes of nations, because there are no confounding forces of any importance” — to say nothing of the even wider variety of plans of action.

40

alkali 04.21.10 at 2:47 pm

Looking at historical discussions of “eugenics” is complicated by the fact that sometimes that term referred to the concept “let’s sterilize undesirable ethnic groups,” and other times it referred to the concept “perhaps it would be better for poor people to have access to birth control instead of having lots of children they can’t support,” and it’s not always clear what speakers were referring to at the time.

(This is not to claim that all progressives who talked favorably about eugenics were really on the correct side of the issue. The point rather is that you can’t just make a list of historical persons who said nice things about “eugenics” and expect to reach a meaningful conclusion.)

41

alex 04.21.10 at 3:00 pm

@39, and then there’s the middle position that it would really be better if there were fewer poor people around polluting the racial gene-pool, and nice middle-class people could be persuaded to breed like rabbits. That was more like the default assumption c. 1900.

Marie Stopes, there’s another one. Family planning? Yes, if it’s someone else’s family she’s planning… Don’t like the genes on your daughter-in-law? Cut your son out of your will, that’ll learn them.

42

Arion 04.21.10 at 3:11 pm

among the prominent backers of EUGENICS: President Taft, Senator Robert Taft, Prescott Bush (and children), Averell Harriman, Dillon Read, John Foster Dulles, J D Rocekfeller III, the Dupont family. Surely a progressive pantheon.

43

JoB 04.21.10 at 3:37 pm

legislation passed in 1928 and in force (amazingly) until 1972

There are a surprising amount of laws that were still amazingly in force in 1972 (and later!). It is a testimony to the actual success of the progressive view (progressive, not ‘Progressive’), which puts into perspective all the Hoo-Hah on how reactionary ‘the people’ are becoming of late.

Also, as per 40, there is nothing wrong at all with believing it is better for any family to be with a number of children that is an order of magnitude less than the number advocated to the poor by their respective religious elites.

44

politicalfootball 04.21.10 at 3:47 pm

Take this for example, on racism (obviously, not as old as eugenics):

Nick, are you really denying that a significant motivator for Tea Partyism is racial animosity?

45

Nick 04.21.10 at 4:06 pm

“Nick, are you really denying that a significant motivator for Tea Partyism is racial animosity?”

Well I probably get a slightly biased sample (the Tea Partiers that I meet have usually made a trip across the Atlantic) but the ones I have met are not racist, and would not like to hang out with racists either. I am sure there are racist groups within such a large national movement but they don’t seem to be central to its ideology.

46

bianca steele 04.21.10 at 4:14 pm

Really, alex? I am aware of at least a couple of upper-middle class 19th- and early 20th-century women who were persuaded they were “neurotic” and therefore unfit to have children.

There are a whole raft of issues that were supported primarily by suffragists, because they were labeled “family” issues. These included ensuring the “unfit” did not reproduce, as well as eliminating VD (which was considered a hereditary disease affecting children, not women, in part because married women were often not diagnosed, for the obvious reason). If others considered these issues important, it’s a good question why they left it to a special interest group.

There is a whole scholarly literature on eugenics and related topics, primarily carried out by left-leaning scholars, whom I assume Goldberg does not name or credit. At the time (coincidentally when Goldberg was in college) that kind of thing was considered “politically correct” and was anathema to anyone who considered themselves libertarians, Republicans, or conservatives.

I don’t know what people are calling “progressivism” today, I don’t know who CAP is or who funds them or what background their people have. I do know that Jonah Goldberg’s “historical scholarship” should be taken about as seriously as Ayn Rand’s ballet criticism.

47

Ahistoricality 04.21.10 at 4:30 pm

If you follow Goldberg’s logic, the Libertarian movement and the TEA Parties are Stalinists and Crooks who should flog themselves for their contributions to 20th century death, destruction and fraud.

48

politicalfootball 04.21.10 at 4:30 pm

I am sure there are racist groups within such a large national movement but they don’t seem to be central to its ideology.

What do you think of the racial attitudes of the ones who march with Confederate flags? What do you think of the racial attitudes of the ones who march with the ones who march with Confederate flags.

Polls have been taken in which the tea partyers talk about their support for/identification with Glenn Beck. Are you prepared to make the argument that Beck isn’t an overt racist? Limbaugh?

To answer my own questions: Folks who are that comfortable identifying with racists ought not get all offended at being labeled racist.

49

speranza 04.21.10 at 4:32 pm

Well I probably get a slightly biased sample (the Tea Partiers that I meet have usually made a trip across the Atlantic)

I’m aware the British have a gift for understatement but this is a masterpiece.

50

bob mcmanus 04.21.10 at 4:33 pm

Heather Richardson review of Nancy Cohen Reconstruction of Anmerican Liberalism 2002

“Setting out to uncover the roots of modern liberalism, Cohen believes she found them in the thought of late-nineteenth-century economists and social scientists. Liberal thinkers of the first postwar generation, like E. L. Godkin and George William Curtis, faced squarely the implications of the postwar expansion of democracy to include workers and people of color. Quickly, they began to fear that the poor would threaten private property and individual liberty, key tenets of liberalism, by demanding cooperative action and redistribution of wealth. In response, Cohen argues, liberal reformers denigrated political self-rule and elevated the idea of the “economic man” who strove to succeed in the marketplace; they clung to the idea of laissez- faire government; and they abandoned equal citizenship and embraced racism. Their plan was to “limit and constrain the power of propertyless majorities in a polity that had recently erected universal male suffrage as its cardinal political ideal” (p. 220).

Saying that the ideas of the ruling class were the ruling ideas ain’t really saying much, until you deconstruct why the ruling class found those ideas useful.

“On this one issue, the problem of progress in a regime of consolidated
capital—depends the future of humanity. In so far as principles decide the
event, it appears that man has the power forever to progress.
This result will be gained if human evolution does not turn backward and
ensure a survival of the hopelessly unfit among industrial types.
Such a reversal of the order of nature has not elsewhere occurred.
We are justified in putting faith in evolution.”

john bates clark, ‘‘The Theory of Economic Progress,’’
aea Economic Studies 1, no. 1 (1896) …epigraph to the Nancy Cohen book

Technocratic elitism is at the heart of both the Progressive Movement and modern liberalism.

51

politicalfootball 04.21.10 at 4:34 pm

And to bring this back to the original topic, I think that’s exactly what’s missing in the discussion of historical progressivism: What evidence is there that people who label themselves “progressive” today identify with eugenics?

52

engels 04.21.10 at 4:36 pm

I demand the CAP condemn Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

53

Area Man 04.21.10 at 4:54 pm

Progressives should apologize for their racism of a hundred years ago, just as soon as conservatives apologize for their racism of last week.

54

Nick 04.21.10 at 5:06 pm

“What do you think of the racial attitudes of the ones who march with Confederate flags? What do you think of the racial attitudes of the ones who march with the ones who march with Confederate flags.”

It means different things to different people. Just as “Family planning” continues to mean different things to different people: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/article680126.ece

55

bob mcmanus 04.21.10 at 5:08 pm

51:What evidence is there that people who label themselves “progressive” today identify with eugenics?

Well, that might be idiot Goldberg’s point, or what Holbo wants to talk about, but if you redefine the question as to how CAP supports capital accumulation with technocratic elitism, then you can look at the new social theories and policies liberals have developed as tools of hegemony in the last 100 years.

“Identity politics” as “divide-and-conquer” strategy may have been amusingly inverted as grassroots power shifted with demographics.

56

Jacob Christensen 04.21.10 at 5:21 pm

A Danish side-note:

1. As others have noted there was a near-universal consensus from the late 1910s until the early 1930s on the benefits of eugenics (here defined as sterilisation, not elimination of “defective” individuals), with conservative religious circles as the exception. This also applied in Denmark and Sweden.

2. We should probably link this with the demographic transition taking place at the time. Among the middle-class intellectuals there was a pronounced fear that the underclass would dominate the population due to their higher birth-rates compared with the middle-classes. You will find endless discussions about the fear of the sexual activity of the underclass and the consequent genetic degeneration here.

2a. Just for fun: Try looking at the political discussion of Hispanic immigration to the US and Asian/Middle Eastern immigration to Europe and compare the arguments.

3. Yes, for progressives of that age eugenics was the flip side of social reforms like the introduction of general health care.

3a. By Jonah Goldberg’s standard everyone who advocate universal health care is a Nazi.

4. Come the 1930s and the problem changes as the birth-rates continue to fall. Now family policies and the question about getting the working class to have children become a major political issue. Eugenic policies do continue but political interest is dramatically limited compared with the 1920s.

4a. France had family policies promoting large families as did Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. By Jonah Goldberg’s standards this obviously proves that the French are Nazis, the Germans Communists and the Russians Germans. Or French. Or whatever

57

alex 04.21.10 at 5:39 pm

Bianca, meet Jacob. And as a different, completely random off-the-top-of-my-head argument, note that when Emile Zola was busy defending Dreyfus, he was also busy writing Fécondité, a hymn to the reproductive potential of good, healthy people.

58

bay of arizona 04.21.10 at 6:00 pm

“Setting out to uncover the roots of modern liberalism, Cohen believes she found them in the thought of late-nineteenth-century economists and social scientists. Liberal thinkers of the first postwar generation, like E. L. Godkin and George William Curtis, faced squarely the implications of the postwar expansion of democracy to include workers and people of color. Quickly, they began to fear that the poor would threaten private property and individual liberty, key tenets of liberalism, by demanding cooperative action and redistribution of wealth. In response, Cohen argues, liberal reformers denigrated political self-rule and elevated the idea of the “economic man” who strove to succeed in the marketplace; they clung to the idea of laissez- faire government; and they abandoned equal citizenship and embraced racism. Their plan was to “limit and constrain the power of propertyless majorities in a polity that had recently erected universal male suffrage as its cardinal political ideal” (p. 220).

This is classical liberalism, not modern day liberalism.

59

bianca steele 04.21.10 at 6:08 pm

alex,
No problem. AFAIK Zola wrote an entire novel cycle depicting an extended family of “degenerates,” who according to the French science of the time, were certain to die out in short order due to the organic nature of “degeneration” (I haven’t read it myself and don’t know whether this is accurate), seemingly anticipating Thomas Mann’s introduction of the idea of a wealthy industrialist’s family’s decline in Buddenbrooks. If you’re interested in this sort of thing.

60

Martin Bento 04.21.10 at 6:08 pm

Why is it that “yes, many progressives were eugenicists, but that is not essential to progressivism, and the bulk of the intellectual elite were eugenicists too, so it’s not a defining trait historically” a valid way to acknowledge and then lay aside the issue, but “yes, many populists were racists, but that is not essential to populism, and the bulk of the population were racists too, so it’s not a defining trait historically” is just making excuses. Wasn’t that how it was treated when Emerson made that argument in the Populism thread? The interesting difference is “intellectual elite” vs. “population”. Did eugenics have more support among the intellectual elite than the population at large?

61

y81 04.21.10 at 6:17 pm

“It seems to me quite reasonable to pin stuff that Goldwater and Reagan said/did to conservatives/Republicans because, allegedly, conservatives/Republicans still believe that stuff.”

If this means, “pinning” a belief on tax cuts on today’s Republicans, that seems fair–certainly they won’t argue–because they do in fact advocate tax cuts, just as Reagan did. If this means, pinning opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act on Republicans, that seems about as constructive and as likely to promote civility and good faith in public policy discussions as pinning Woodrow Wilson’s dismissal of blacks from federal employment on Democrats.

62

chris 04.21.10 at 6:22 pm

“the fear of the sexual activity of the underclass and the consequent genetic degeneration”

Isn’t that one of those universal historical constants? 19th century elites had a *slightly* more sophisticated understanding of genetics than a Bronze Age warlord, but other than that, upper classes have been worried about this for millennia.

It always turns out not to be as big a deal as they think because their aetiology of success is tainted by self-serving judgment, the fundamental attribution error, and essentialism (applied to subpopulations). Or in other words, they’re not as different from the lower classes as they like to think they are, so reproduction by one class isn’t really that different from reproduction by another. Individual humans are different from each other, but by the time you reach the class level, almost all the difference is within-group.

63

engels 04.21.10 at 6:24 pm

The point people were making on the ‘populism thread’ (really a thread about UK politics that lot hijacked) was that labelling someone a ‘populist’ today, for good or ill, really has bugger all to do with any little-known Minnesotan political party of the 1890s or whatever. I’d guess a similar thing could be said about ‘progressive’.

64

John Halpin 04.21.10 at 6:36 pm

Hi John –

In this post you incorrectly charge me and my colleagues with failing to mention racism and sexism in the progressive past (“Root’s complaint is fair, but only up to a point. Here’s the fair bit: the CAP paper is a feel-good affair. Nothing about uglier aspects or excesses of American Progressivism: specifically, racism and sexism, hence eugenics.) In fact, you don’t even have the title and paper link correct in this post. We released a three-part series on the progressive intellectual, political, and social movements tradition (links below). You printed the title to our first paper with a link to our second and make no mention of our third paper in which we write the following:

“Progressive leaders themselves learned from the principled activism of social movements. Many mainstream progressive political leaders in the past were reactionary on issues of race and gender. At the same time, the seeds of the great civil rights triumphs of the 20th century came from within progressivism itself. An interracial coalition of progressives joined together to create the NAACP and many leading progressives emerged from the fight for abolition and women’s suffrage. The collective efforts of these movements eventually helped to turn progressivism itself into a stronger vehicle for human equality, social tolerance, and political rights for all people.”

If you want additional evidence on this front, I direct you to Chapter 3 of a book I co-authored with John Podesta entitled, The Power of Progress. We explicitly state:

“Looking back on the Progressive and New Deal eras, the historical record is markedly negative in terms of support for racial justice. Many leading progressives either actively promoted segregation (as Woodrow Wilson did by introducing formal segregation into the executive branch during his presidency), held attitudes of racial superiority (as was the case with Teddy Roosevelt), or were sympathetic but not inclined to support African American equality due to political considerations and the need for southern votes (which is the leading explanation for many New Dealers). As George Mowry shows in his overview of the era, some progressives (particularly middle-class urban reformers) were anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, and anti-Jewish—holding biases based on faulty assumptions about the role of immigrants in the corruption and poor sanitary conditions of the cities.

One might chalk up these attitudes to the times or political reality. But given the stated principles of progressives, it is not incorrect or historically backward to say that many progressives were just plain wrong on a critical set of issues having to do with human dignity and equality. It’s an important lesson that should chasten progressives to this day.”

I hope you will at least correct the record on your formulation of our position.

Sincerely,

John Halpin, Center for American Progress

The Progressive Intellectual Tradition in America
Part One of the Progressive Tradition Series

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/04/progressive_traditions1.html

The Progressive Tradition in American Politics
Part Two of the Progressive Tradition Series

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/04/progressive_traditions2.html

Social Movements and Progressivism
Part Three of the Progressive Tradition Series

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/04/progressive_traditions3.html

65

chris 04.21.10 at 6:37 pm

@59: I’m not sure it’s that interesting a difference; it would be absurd to interpret populists’ beliefs in the context of the intellectual elite because they’re populists. (IIRC, whether or not that definitionally, or merely incidentally, made them opposed to intellectual elites was one of the main points of contention on the previous thread.)

At any rate, IMO modern populism is generally interpreted in the light of populism’s racist past because of all the modern racist populists running around. So it’s more like the tax-cut example in 60 than the anti-Civil-Rights-Act example (and I wish that opposition to civil rights for minorities was a position the Republican Party had moved on from, but unfortunately, no dice.)

Anyway, to say that racism is or isn’t “essential to populism” is to presuppose a One True Populism, isn’t it? Individual populist movements may be, or not be, racist; “populism” is just a convenient label for a variety of similar phenomena of which, it must be observed, many instances are racist.

66

engels 04.21.10 at 6:39 pm

Again, B. McManus’s point re the anti-democratic tendencies of contemporary liberals (aka the centre-left or social democrats) is fair enough, but it’s a bit odd to get hung up on terms like ‘progressive’ or ‘populist’ which are now just words and don’t refer to real political forces anymore (afaik).

67

geo 04.21.10 at 6:49 pm

Hidari @10: The list of names who were eugenicists is long … : W.B. Yeats, D.H. Lawrence, … Trotsky, George Bernard Shaw, … Keynes, and Beveridge

Goodness … in that case, perhaps it’s time to give eugenics another look.

68

Hidari 04.21.10 at 6:51 pm

‘As others have noted there was a near-universal consensus from the late 1910s until the early 1930s on the benefits of eugenics (here defined as sterilisation, not elimination of “defective” individuals), with conservative religious circles as the exception. This also applied in Denmark and Sweden.’

Actually the Swedish sterilisation programme was only stopped in 1976. (Although the ‘compulsory’ part of it seems to have been downplayed after the 1950s).

The Swiss programme, on the other hand, went on till the 1980s (and was, apparently, nastier).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsory_sterilization#Sweden

69

bob mcmanus 04.21.10 at 6:56 pm

64:Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin probably had a point and purpose to focusing on the word “progressive,” and apparently, although we will have to wait for the sequel, attaching Obsma to that century-old tradition. I suppose after the last two years it is embarrassing to try to paint FDR as Obama’s John the Baptist anymore. They’ll try TR instead.

70

piglet 04.21.10 at 6:57 pm

rea 23: exactly.

Bianca: “There is a whole scholarly literature on eugenics and related topics, primarily carried out by left-leaning scholars, whom I assume Goldberg does not name or credit. At the time (coincidentally when Goldberg was in college) that kind of thing was considered “politically correct” and was anathema to anyone who considered themselves libertarians, Republicans, or conservatives.”

Indeed.

71

Colin Danby 04.21.10 at 7:00 pm

Surely the underlying errors are (a) rummaging through intellectual history for poo to fling at your opponents (b) trying to compress all ideas past and present into a left/right binary. If there’s one intellectual/institutional movement that a contemporary left-right binary will block you from understanding, it’s eugenics.

Re one legacy of eugenics, check out Matthew Connelly’s _Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population_ (Harvard 2008). He’s good on the role of the Catholic Church, the Scandinavian social democracies etc. I also really like Laura Briggs’ _Reproducing Empire_ (U California 2002) on the history of eugenics in Puerto Rico.

Thanks for the Obamacare research, John! Have you had your chip implanted yet?

72

Theophylact 04.21.10 at 7:28 pm

“What do you think of the racial attitudes of the ones who march with Confederate flags? What do you think of the racial attitudes of the ones who march with the ones who march with Confederate flags.”

It means different things to different people.

I think Nick has revealed his true colors here. I’m certainly familiar with this line of argument, but it’s homeomorphic to the one about slavery not being the real cause of Secession.

73

Jacob Christensen 04.21.10 at 7:42 pm

@alex (#57) As it is, I wouldn’t be the least surprised if somebody told me that Jonah Goldberg at some point has argued that Zola’s defence of Dreyfuss proves that he was a Fascist anti-semite.

@colin danby (@69) I think you can leave out the “left/right” element here and just focus on the binary or manichaean aspect: “If you are not like us, you are evil”.

74

Russell L. Carter 04.21.10 at 7:51 pm

@60:

Let me see if I understand your logic. In other words:

Since the Democratic Party historically up to the 60′s harbored the bulk of explicit racists, but since then, the explicit racists transferred from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party via the “Southern Strategy”, it’s not fair to describe the current Republican Party as the party of racists. This is because Woodrow Wilson in the early 20th century was both a member of the Democratic Party and a racist.

Hmm… I guess I’m not convinced.

75

politicalfootball 04.21.10 at 8:20 pm

Anyway, to say that racism is or isn’t “essential to populism” is to presuppose a One True Populism, isn’t it?

Less than half right. Saying that racism is essential to populism could presuppose a One True Populism. Deny that racism is essential and you are denying a One True Populism.

(Of course, saying that Populism cannot be racist points you back in the direction of One True Populism.)

76

chris 04.21.10 at 8:42 pm

@75: ISTM that if you deny a One True Populism than the question of what is or isn’t essential to it becomes meaningless. So denying that racism is essential to populism is *affirming*, not denying, a One True Populism (in which racism is optional).

Although I guess what I really mean is One True Set Of Defining Characteristics Of Populism, which could be satisfied by more than one actual populist movement (indeed, if it weren’t, the category would be rather useless as a category).

If you think that categories are inherently fuzzy and arbitrary, then the question of whether racism is essential to populism is as meaningless as “if an unripe orange is green, can you still call it an orange?”.

77

y81 04.21.10 at 8:47 pm

@ 74:

Let me see if I understand your logic: “Lynne Stewart votes Democratic, therefore it is fair to say that Democrats are supporters of Islamic terrorism.” Or how about: “University speech codes are uniformly proposed and implemented by people who identify as liberal Democrats, therefore liberal Democrats are opposed to free speech.” Or how about: “Supporters of boycotts of Israel are uniformly members of the left, therefore leftists are anti-Semites.”

78

politicalfootball 04.21.10 at 8:49 pm

It means different things to different people.

It always means being unconcerned about delivering a straightforward racist message. And by any sensible definition, that’s racist.

Anyway, I’m glad you’re not going to pretend that Beck and Limbaugh are something other than overt racists. You think Beck’s ties with the tea partyers are a coincidence?

79

engels 04.21.10 at 9:05 pm

Whoops. I guess ‘progressive’ isn’t just a word for Halpin then, at least. Evidently I don’t really know what I an talking about here. Bob, I take it back.

80

Nick 04.21.10 at 9:23 pm

“I think Nick has revealed his true colors here. I’m certainly familiar with this line of argument, but it’s homeomorphic to the one about slavery not being the real cause of Secession.”

I’ve seen the confederate flag worn by Poles who want one of their richer cities to be able seceed from the rest of their country. It honestly can mean various things depending on the context, like any symbol. Of course, I wouldn’t want to vouch for everyone who decides to wave that flag in the US.

81

ScentOfViolets 04.21.10 at 9:30 pm

The really frightening thing about eugenics is not that that many/most Progressives believed in it. It’s that almost everybody believed in it. The list of names who were eugenicists is long and really quite frightening: W.B. Yeats, D.H. Lawrence, (whose Lady Chatterly’s Lover is really a eugenicist screed, if read right), Trotsky (!), George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Keynes and Beveridge, R.A. Fisher (Fisher was such an ardent eugenicist he was nearly interned during WW2 on the grounds that he was likely to be a Nazi fifth columnist), Alexander Graham Bell, Theodor Roosevelt (I could go on and on and on and on)……. Nor can one assume that those intellectuals and scientists who did not write or speak about it were necessarily particularly opposed to it.

The funny thing is, even today a lot of people believe in the science behind eugenics, and worse, it’s actually to some extent accurate. In fact, I’d wager that probably something on the order of 90% of the American public (that part that believes in evolution, that is) think that “lower life forms evolve into higher ones.”

82

Steve LaBonne 04.21.10 at 9:37 pm

In fact, I’d wager that probably something on the order of 90% of the American public (that part that believes in evolution, that is) think that “lower life forms evolve into higher ones.”

Sadly, I would not even dream of taking that bet. This misconception is deeply rooted in the popular mind.

83

bianca steele 04.21.10 at 10:22 pm

IIRC in the 1990s progressive meant simply farther left than liberal but not Marxist or socialist. Guess things have changed.

84

piglet 04.21.10 at 10:29 pm

I’d wager that probably something on the order of 90% of the American public (that part that believes in evolution, that is) think that “lower life forms evolve into higher ones.”

Are you serious? First, far less than 90% of the American public believe in evolution, second, those who do hopefully don’t all believe in the misleading characterization you just gave, and third, what does this have to do with eugenics?

85

hix 04.21.10 at 10:32 pm

“I’m certainly familiar with this line of argument, but it’s homeomorphic to the one about slavery not being the real cause of Secession”

Sounds about right to me. But maybe the textbook that gave me that idear, right next to world system theory and gender perspective might have been written by some American racist…..

86

Stuart 04.21.10 at 11:16 pm

Piglet, the first issue you have is your own misreading I think (ignoring the modifier in brackets), the second issue I would think that it isn’t that unlikely – it is certainly a very common misconception anyway, I think for the third point it is a oblique reference to the mistaken idea that different racial groups of humans are more/less evolved rather than both being equally evolved but exposed to different environmental pressures (the most visually obvious being the average amount of solar radiation members of the group have been exposed to over a long period of time).

87

Harold 04.22.10 at 1:03 am

People did not understand Mendelian genetics and thought that if two “races”, “species”, “opposites” mixed then the result would be a combination or average of the worst elements of both. They called this mongrelization. It is the theory behind Faulkner’s depiction of “degraded” mulatos and Indian mixes.

Not everyone believed this of course. One who did not was Henry A. Wallace whose corn breeding experiments, inspired by his boyhood idolization of George Washington Carver, who boarded with his family when he was a child, successfully proved that outward appearance had nothing to do with so-called desirable traits in corn.

Others who didn’t included the Spiritualists, such and Alfred Russel Wallace, and Arthur Conan Doyle, and others who founded the first societies for human rights; and anti-racist anthropologists like Franz Boas. (Some of these people are still being ridiculed for alleged “softness” and “romanticism.”) There is a passage in Andre Gide’s The Counterfeiters, about how the most valuable human beings are not always the strongest or most fit, but the weakest and most vulnerable. It would indeed be valuable to trace and pay tribute to those far-seeing spirits who did not.

Still, it is a humbling to remember that that scientific racism marched for a while under the banner of medicine, science, reason, and even of humanism.

88

ScentOfViolets 04.22.10 at 1:06 am

Are you serious? First, far less than 90% of the American public believe in evolution, second, those who do hopefully don’t all believe in the misleading characterization you just gave, and third, what does this have to do with eugenics?

“Higher organisms evolve from lower organisms” seems to me a pretty widespread trope, which is just one manifestation of the idea that certain organisms are “superior” to others. And further, rightly or wrongly, this seems to be how a lot of people have been taught in school. For example, I myself – granted, this was the 60′s – was taught that mammals came reptiles, and that mammals were “better” than reptiles because mammals were warm-blooded, had four-chambered, gave live birth, etc. You also see this idea of evolutionary advancement in imagery like Zallinger’s March of Progress. True or not, this is a common conception of evolution: multicellular creatures came from unicellular ones and are better; jellyfish are more evolved than sponges; mammals and birds are more advanced that fish, amphibians, or reptiles. And so on and so forth (the depiction of evolution has a fascinating history in and of itself actually), each successive age on Earth somehow being an improvement on the one before. Popular SF like Star Trek hasn’t helped matters any either.

The other point people tend to take away from what they learn in school is that you can breed for success; an improvement on Mother Nature actually, since you have a more direct control over the process as well as the an idea of the traits you want to select for or against, ie, you’re not staggering upward in a random walk but rather striding firmly forward. These are hardly uncommon beliefs even today. The sad thing is that these ideas are not obviously wrong but are almost right, which makes them more pernicious than they otherwise would be.

89

ScentOfViolets 04.22.10 at 1:11 am

Still, it is a humbling to remember that that scientific racism marched for a while under the banner of medicine, science, reason, and even of humanism.

Exactly. To bring this full circle to the original remark (and ironically, a manifestation of error similar to the ones committed in the name of evolution), yeah, a lot of progressives believed in eugenics; but that’s only because practically everyone did at the time. That’s like faulting them for believing in the vital principle in an age when synthesizing urea from inorganic compounds was still cutting-edge science.

90

Sebastian 04.22.10 at 1:41 am

“The strange process of defining other peoples’ ideologies so that y0u can then tell them what they really believe, whether they know it or not, and criticize them for it.”

Ahem. You were here for the repeated rounds of libertarian bashing, right?

Anyway, I think that a fair history of the Progressive movement, with some attention on the eugenics and racism is a good idea because it belies the relatively silly idea that so much ‘progress’ belongs to one ideology or mode of thought, to the exclusion of all/most others. Their idea of progress ended up including a couple of things that we now consider deeply immoral. If it makes a little extra humility about controlling people’s lives and decisions, great.

91

ScentOfViolets 04.22.10 at 2:03 am

Anyway, I think that a fair history of the Progressive movement, with some attention on the eugenics and racism is a good idea because it belies the relatively silly idea that so much ‘progress’ belongs to one ideology or mode of thought, to the exclusion of all/most others.

Oh Jebus, the “They all do it, so they’re all of equal merit” defense. And from the guy who was whining just the other day that I made him call me a bad name . . . and after selective trimming of the post at that.

Nope, all ideologies are not equal. And libertarianism, “conservatism”, etc are near the bottom of the heap.

92

Sebastian 04.22.10 at 2:11 am

SoV, could you use English? Because you aren’t making sense.

93

piglet 04.22.10 at 2:12 am

“If it makes a little extra humility about controlling people’s lives and decisions, great.”

If the purpose of your post is to attribute the desire of “controlling people’s lives and decisions” to progressives, then it is deeply dishonest and not deserving of response.

I am glad to report that an Arkansas court has just declared unconstitutional a law that excludes “unmarried couples” from becoming foster parents. How many “progressives” do you think voted for that law (which was approved by 57% of voters in a deeply conservative, gun-happy, “anti-government” state), how many “conservatives”, and how many “libertarians”?

94

gatherdust 04.22.10 at 2:23 am

I hope Sebastian reads ScentOfViolets comment – read all the words. A lack of humility is an occupational failing of elites, not unlike some what often parades through these comments.

Scientific racism didn’t march for a while but rather marched all the way until the racism was defined as such and that it could no longer be regarded as scientific. Eugenics and race science represented and characterized science. It was biology. As Jonathan Marks likes to point out, it wasn’t exactly science that steered science away from the racism. Science pretty much failed to be self-correcting in this matter. Rather it was more like the humbling experiences of the Depression and the aggressive and brutal racializing policies that were coming full force in the 1930s and 1940s that gave people pause.

It’s historically accurate to link progressives to eugenics but you might as well link it with it with pretty much everyone else, including the anti-science crowd. For the latter, eugenics may have been unacceptable but the bigots on the right would have to give a nod and recognize that the egghead scientists had their hearts in the right place, even if those hearts were Godless or decidedly un-Christian.

From what coordinate on the ideological spectrum did the most significant criticisms of eugenics come? What social movements and ideological currents presented the challenge to this turn of the century intellectual racism?

95

ScentOfViolets 04.22.10 at 2:30 am

SoV, could you use English? Because you aren’t making sense.

(Rolls eyes) Okay, Sebastian. Whatever you’ve got to tell yourself so you can go to sleep at night.

96

Russell L. Carter 04.22.10 at 2:58 am

@77

Riiiiight. Very convincing.

What about that Southern Strategy? Sure did work well. Now live with it.

97

Sebastian 04.22.10 at 6:14 am

“It’s historically accurate to link progressives to eugenics but you might as well link it with it with pretty much everyone else, including the anti-science crowd. For the latter, eugenics may have been unacceptable but the bigots on the right would have to give a nod and recognize that the egghead scientists had their hearts in the right place, even if those hearts were Godless or decidedly un-Christian.”

No that really isn’t true. Eugenics was mostly opposed by churches and the religious until after the WWII Nazi horrors were revealed. And the history of the similar anti-slavery movements is deeply religious in organizational history.

Which isn’t to say that churches are in the right about most things (or even many things). But organizationally, anti-slavery, anti-racism, and anti-eugenics movements were all very much religiously oriented long before their moral take was adopted by the US or European societies at large.

The progressive movement in particular, was not at the time one of the moving forces in changing societal attitudes about eugenics and racism. Those moral developments/understandings came from elsewhere in the society.

Which isn’t a particular indictment of progressiveism really. I wouldn’t expect any social movement to get all the things right all of the time. That is why free speech/thought/association is so important.

98

Sebastian 04.22.10 at 6:19 am

And similarly, that is why the ridiculous rounds of libertarian bashing around here were so crazy. It wasn’t about finding out what libertarians really tend to think (as Caplan’s views were roundly bashed by libertarians far more prominent than him). It seemed to be something much more akin to in group/out group boundary enforcing. Which is why I noted that feminism tends to have VERY libertarian analysis in most cases. Because once you remove the out-group analysis/boundary enforcement, the exact same arguments suddenly become more convincing.

99

alex 04.22.10 at 7:36 am

No, it was just fun, because the kind of libertarians we were talking about are demonstrably cretins, yet think that they are Masters of the Universe. A swift kicking really is the least they deserve.

100

Hidari 04.22.10 at 7:39 am

‘Which isn’t to say that churches are in the right about most things (or even many things). But organizationally, anti-slavery, anti-racism, and anti-eugenics movements were all very much religiously oriented long before their moral take was adopted by the US or European societies at large.’

That’s actually a highly dubious statement. It’s true that, as I pointed out, the Roman Catholic Church was strongly anti-eugenics (for precisely the same reasons that they are now strongly against stem cell research: ‘you shouldn’t interfere with Mother Nature’) but the Protestant churches weren’t nearly so bothered. Again, it’s true that may anti-slavery groups were religious. But then many pro-slavery groups were also religious (especially in the United States). Even within living memory, the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa was institutionally racist and aggressively supported the Apartheid regime.

It’s true that it’s kind of inherent to the Christian message that Christians not be racist (the idea that ‘we’ are all one with Christ being the essence of the Christian message). But of course that ‘we’ in the sentence above only means ‘Christians’. Historically speaking, Christians have been a lot less…er…’Christian’ to people who had the bad luck not to be born Christian: Muslims, for example, or ‘pagans’. Certainly the invasion of North, Central and South America had the backing of the Pope, and the enslavement of the native population (and quasi-genocide) there was the direct result of theological thinking: ‘we’ had a responsibility to go ‘over there’ and ‘save’ the poor pagans, preferably by working them to death in gold mines. (Of course some Christians opposed this, but they were very much in the minority).

As I pointed out, the reason Progressives and Conservatives and Liberals generally speaking tended to be in favour of eugenics in the period 1850 to 1945 was because of the omnipresent ideology of Empire. In order to justify ‘our’ God given mission to go out and conquer the world, a quasi-scientific ideology of Race had to be developed to justify this, and eugenics was the result. This also had the additional value of explaining why poor people shouldn’t be allowed to vote, but racial theorising to justify imperial foreign policy goals was the key rationale behind it. And Progressives and Liberals (in the West) tended to be just as much in favour of Empire building as anyone else.

But, to repeat, this is not a discussion any American Conservative will want to have, because, of course, whereas most people on the Left in Europe and the US have become tired of Empire, on the Right, generally speaking, they think it’s still a peachy idea. Likewise, on the Right, there still tends to be a belief that the United States is ‘for’ white Protestant heterosexual males. Hence the hysterical claims about the Obama birth certificate and the explicitly racist and homophobic ‘Tea Party’ movement.

101

Hidari 04.22.10 at 7:58 am

‘Historically speaking, Christians have been a lot less…er…’Christian’ to people who had the bad luck not to be born Christian: Muslims, for example, or ‘pagans’.

I should really have added Jews to that list, as it’s probably the most egregious example of Christians not being very Christian to people that God told them not to be Christian to.

102

bianca steele 04.22.10 at 1:04 pm

You have to give Goldberg credit for making sure the only 2 coherent paragraphs in his post were up front in the first screen. He has a point that Jill Lepore’s prose style can be difficult to take. He also has a point about scholars of hideous 19th-c ideologies mislabeling historical figures “conservative” etc. in order to accuse. (I have some sources but that’s too much for a comment box.) It repels readers who try to think the argument through or who are fond of the figures who are accused.

But I don’t see how you can just expel that kind of binary labeling. Not when there is an extensive tradition of conservative attempts to pin down the ideology of “modernism” or whatever it’s called these days. And a parallel tradition of attempts to pin down the ideology that results in death camps.

103

bianca steele 04.22.10 at 1:08 pm

And when English departments (at least in the paleolithic days before cultural studies) have been so focused on defending Eliot, Pound, Mahler, and Shaw against the philistines with conservative tastes in art. (And “philistines”?! Is that antisemitic? But the philistine was Goliath!)

104

ScentOfViolets 04.22.10 at 1:30 pm

Which isn’t to say that churches are in the right about most things (or even many things). But organizationally, anti-slavery, anti-racism, and anti-eugenics movements were all very much religiously oriented long before their moral take was adopted by the US or European societies at large.

Sigh. Does anyone need to point out that Christianity as a credo is highly progressive – Jesus was a Hippy and all that? Or that Fundamentalism as it is expressed today, while very much associated with the Right is historically a rather recent phenomenon? This bespeaks of a rather appalling ignorance of Christianity in general and it’s recent history in particular.

105

ScentOfViolets 04.22.10 at 1:36 pm

No, it was just fun, because the kind of libertarians we were talking about are demonstrably cretins, yet think that they are Masters of the Universe. A swift kicking really is the least they deserve.

What, Sebastian didn’t bother to note that the bashing was because some libertarian maintained that the 1880′s were more free than the 1980′s, and when this factual inaccuracy was pointed out, several more of these idiots doubled down on their stupidity rather than admit this was wrong?

I’m shocked, shocked I tell you – Sebastian never tries to pull this sort of dishonest stunt ;-)

106

chris 04.22.10 at 3:02 pm

@104: Are you really trying to whitewash all of Christianity’s history except “rather recent”?

Christianity as a credo is what the believer makes of it — there’s enough in the Bible to support pretty much anything. And this is amply demonstrated by centuries of Christians justifying just about everything and its opposite in the Bible (definitely including imperialism and slavery).

Of course if the society is 90%+ Christian, most of the pro-slavery *and* most of the anti-slavery movements will be Christian. But that’s just the base rate fallacy.

107

Harold 04.22.10 at 3:35 pm

Christians, Jews, and Greek and Roman Stoics (most of the Roman Upper class) believed or gave lip service to the equality of man (the prime philosopher of Stocism was a slave, Epictetus). Most of the first generation abolitionists were Christian, many of the nineteenth century agnostics were former Christians or had fundamentalist upbringings and left the Church for reasons of conscience and because they felt Christianity did not live up to its own ideals. Many of the Civil Rights Workers in the American South in the 1930s were Christian Marxists, if you can imagine such a thing — such as, to name a few, Willard Uphaus (Methodist) and Claude C. Williams (Presbyterian) — whose histories have been carefully suppressed.

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Sebastian 04.22.10 at 3:36 pm

“Does anyone need to point out that Christianity as a credo is highly progressive – Jesus was a Hippy and all that? Or that Fundamentalism as it is expressed today, while very much associated with the Right is historically a rather recent phenomenon?”

See this is what I mean. Christianity isn’t ‘progressive’ or ‘conservative’ or whatever you want to do with modern political labels. It was one of the first religious movements to really take ideas of equality seriously, and in that sense Progressive ideology has borrowed from Christian thought. But labeling it after a nineteen hundred year later political ideology is just silly unless it was a picture perfect fit. You are just committing the fallacy which is the whole subject of this post–claiming the historical good while ignoring the bad. And with Christianity there is quite a bit of bad to go along with it. But hey points for using the phrase trying to whitewash of Christianity’s history while implying that I’m being *too mean to it*. It takes rhetorical guts to go that far out on a limb.

“What, Sebastian didn’t bother to note that the bashing was because some libertarian maintained that the 1880’s were more free than the 1980’s, and when this factual inaccuracy was pointed out, several more of these idiots doubled down on their stupidity rather than admit this was wrong?”

Ummm, I said both on this thread and the other, that it was unfair to characterize Capalan’s stupid rant as typical of libertarian thought without noting that MUCH MORE PROMINENT libertarians including Willkinson, Cowen, and McCardle bashed his rant on *specifically libertarian grounds*. Him doubling down on that, doesn’t make it any more characteristically libertarian just because you want to believe it is so. Especially when his response spurred another round of libertarians bashing him for it. If you want to take that point as a case of my intellectual dishonesty, you’re free to Humpty-Dumpty whatever definitions you want. I’m not trying to convince closed-minded fundamentalists. I’m just stating my actual position for the record.

109

Sebastian 04.22.10 at 3:55 pm

Ugh I shouldn’t have let myself get sucked into the SoV sidetrack.

Back on point, Holbo’s update points us to part 3 of the series which its authors claim deal with the ugly history. But it really doesn’t at all. In fact Halpin is trying to imperialistically co-opt movements that actual Progressives of the time weren’t allied with under the umbrella of the progressive movement.

Look what he does here:

First, each of the movements developed in response to a grave injustice in American life that directly or indirectly affected a significant segment of society—for example, the formal inequality of women, African Americans, immigrants, and gays and lesbians led to various movements for civil rights; the poor working conditions and poverty-level subsistence of wage earners led to the rise of the labor movement.

That is quite a move. He has taken narrower social movements, many of which Progressives were opposed to at the time, and transformed them into examples of progressivism merely because we as a society NOW judge them to be correct. Progressivism as a movement wasn’t neutral to desegregation and eugenics, it was actively for segregation and eugenics.

He isn’t analyzing the history of the Progressive movement, he is rewriting it so that all good things count as ‘progressive’ achievements while bad things get attributed to other people.

110

Sebastian 04.22.10 at 3:56 pm

Hmmm the blockquote didn’t come through. The “First, each of the movements” through “rise of the labor movement” was him.

111

Harold 04.22.10 at 4:57 pm

Some progressives opposed birth control (Susan B. Anthony) some did not. It had to do with whether or not one felt the sexual act was sinful (or dangerous because it led to pregnancy, then carrying grave risks to the mother, or potentially spread terrible incurable diseases like syphilis to all future offspring).

If by Eugenics you mean trying to get rid of hereditary diseases (by prevention or cure), isn’t that still a mainstream position? On the other hand, getting rid of the handicapped has never been a mainstream position. Hitler had to keep it secret even from his supporters.

112

Harold 04.22.10 at 4:59 pm

Saying that eugenics is a “Progressive” position and thereby insinuating that all progressives are like Nazis is just stupid mudslinging.

113

Harold 04.22.10 at 5:06 pm

Medicine is one of the few fields in which “progress” has been realized, hideous mistakes notwithstanding

114

geo 04.22.10 at 5:08 pm

Sebastian @110: That is quite a move. He has taken narrower social movements, many of which Progressives were opposed to at the time, and transformed them into examples of progressivism merely because we as a society NOW judge them to be correct. Progressivism as a movement wasn’t neutral to desegregation and eugenics, it was actively for segregation and eugenics.

I’d say this is “quite a move.” Are you saying that Progressives were generally opposed to political equality for women and blacks and generally supportive of eugenics and segregation? And are you also saying that “”we as a society,” rather than, well, liberals and progressives, now support (rather than, like many conservatives, merely have given up actively opposing) equality for women, blacks and gays?

115

Sebastian 04.22.10 at 5:11 pm

“If by Eugenics you mean trying to get rid of hereditary diseases (by prevention or cure), isn’t that still a mainstream position? On the other hand, getting rid of the handicapped has never been a mainstream position.”

This isn’t true. Eugenics in the sense of trying to restrict the propagation of ‘imbeciles’ and people of allegedly lower IQ racial backgrounds was a very strong part of the Progressive historical position. (See the Canadian laws which weren’t removed until the 1970s as referenced upthread for example) That such a thing has little or nothing to do with modern Progressives is no reason to edit out the historical reality.

116

Sebastian 04.22.10 at 5:18 pm

“Are you saying that Progressives were generally opposed to political equality for women and blacks and generally supportive of eugenics and segregation?”

Of course I’m saying that. Progressives brought segregation to the Presidential administration. And their support, above and beyond the general societal support, for eugenics–especially the idea that black people should be restricted from having as many children– is well documented, as Holbo says in the main post.

“And are you also saying that “”we as a society,” rather than, well, liberals and progressives, now support (rather than, like many conservatives, merely have given up actively opposing) equality for women, blacks and gays?”

I would say that the societal norm in the US is that blacks and women should be not discriminated against and that they should have equal rights. (The only way you would get otherwise is if you define support for Affirmative Action as the necessary break point). Do some people deviate from the societal norm? Clearly yes. Does that deviation from the societal norm skew more to the right? Clearly yes. But is it a societal norm? Yes.

And with gay people, yes progressives are on the right side. Heaven knows I’m not arguing that they are definitionally wrong on everything.

117

ScentOfViolets 04.22.10 at 5:20 pm

Ummm, I said both on this thread and the other, that it was unfair to characterize Capalan’s stupid rant as typical of libertarian thought without noting that MUCH MORE PROMINENT libertarians including Willkinson, Cowen, and McCardle bashed his rant on specifically libertarian grounds.

Sebastian, you do know there’s this thing called cut and paste, right? Let’s rewind and see what you actually said:

Ahem. You were here for the repeated rounds of libertarian bashing, right?

And:

And similarly, that is why the ridiculous rounds of libertarian bashing around here were so crazy. It wasn’t about finding out what libertarians really tend to think (as Caplan’s views were roundly bashed by libertarians far more prominent than him).

And:

Which is why I noted that feminism tends to have VERY libertarian analysis in most cases. Because once you remove the out-group analysis/boundary enforcement, the exact same arguments suddenly become more convincing.

Do you really think people cannot scroll up and see exactly what you said? Or that they cannot go back to those other threads and see for themselves who said what?

118

ScentOfViolets 04.22.10 at 5:25 pm

@104: Are you really trying to whitewash all of Christianity’s history except “rather recent”?

Christianity as a credo is what the believer makes of it—there’s enough in the Bible to support pretty much anything. And this is amply demonstrated by centuries of Christians justifying just about everything and its opposite in the Bible (definitely including imperialism and slavery).

I thought Christianity was supposed to be primarily about the teachings of Jesus – you know, turn the other cheek, judge not lest you be judged, running the money lenders out of the Temple, all that sort of thing? And that the fun part of Christian-bashing is what flaming hypocrites a lot of them are six days out of seven?

No, the credo is just fine, thank you very much. It’s the people taking it as their own that’s the problem.

119

ScentOfViolets 04.22.10 at 5:29 pm

“Does anyone need to point out that Christianity as a credo is highly progressive – Jesus was a Hippy and all that? Or that Fundamentalism as it is expressed today, while very much associated with the Right is historically a rather recent phenomenon?”

See this is what I mean. Christianity isn’t ‘progressive’ or ‘conservative’ or whatever you want to do with modern political labels. It was one of the first religious movements to really take ideas of equality seriously, and in that sense Progressive ideology has borrowed from Christian thought.

WHOOOOOOOSH!!!

Notice how no one is buying the liberals are fascists, conservatives are persecuted, etc arguments? I guess victory is never having to say you’re sorry.

120

geo 04.22.10 at 5:36 pm

Sebastian: Progressivism was chiefly a movement against corruption and for administrative and civil-service reform and for business regulation, ie, for rationalized or “good” government. That’s what defined it and what was distinctive about it. There was also nativism, Jim Crow, and a serious eugenics movement, with which some – perhaps, I don’t know, many – Progressives sympathized and even collaborated. The question is whether this was a major or a minor feature of Progressivism. One might also ask whether opposition to civil-rights legislation on behalf of blacks, women, and gays has been a major or a minor feature of post-WW II conservatism in the US. I would say in the case of Progressivism, a minor feature; in the case of conservatism, a major feature.

121

Alice de Tocqueville 04.22.10 at 6:02 pm

From a paper on “Evangelical Engagement” with eugenics; many people who “supported” eugenics made a distinction between “positive” and “negative” eugenics. “Positive” eugenics, which grew out of social reforms like temperance, women’s suffrage and eradication of poverty, was about persuasion, common sense, and ideas like abstinence from sex until marriage. Remember, there was no Nazi association with the idea in 1900. By the 1920′s and 30′s it started to become clear that what many well-intentioned people had been led to believe about eugenics not only wasn’t supported by the science, but was being distorted by racism and classism.

A number of very well-known clergy (and others) took pains to point out their opposition to forced anything, (thankfully) cited the science (!), and emphasized that Christian virtues (like kindness) would do “more than 100 years of eugenics”.

Walter L. Maier, Missouri Lutheran Synod, popular radio ministry;
“For Maier, “this cult of the superman,” was guilty of promoting social injustice. He found the studies on tenement dwellers by eugenicists as both condescending and “a startling contradiction of Christian ideals.”
And:
“To prevent underprivileged individuals from accepting their inalienable and divinely bestowed pleasures of parenthood is not only a physiological error, but it is also an act of presumptuous discrimination.” He was far from the only church leader to realize the dark side of eugenics and condemn it.
–http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4004/is_200207/ai_n9119561/pg_4/?tag=content;col1

A really interesting story is that of H. J. Muller, a geneticist ( and Drosophylla researcher) who won the Nobel Prize for his proof that radiation and xrays cause genetic mutation, who also was a Leftist and atheist since his teens. He taught biology at the U of Texas, where he ‘helped edit and distribute an illegal leftist newpaper, The Spark. He was in Berlin later doing research, but by 1932, saw and abhorred National Socialism, but the FBI was investigating him because of The Spark, so he went to Russia. Eventually didn’t get along with Stalinism either, so came back to the US.

Muller published “The Geneticist’s Manifesto” in 1939, which denounced racism and forced anything, as well as past oversimplifications of the actual science of genetics. Its main points:
1) For the effective genetic improvement of mankind is dependent on major changes in social conditions, and correlative changes in human attitudes. In the first place, there can be no valid basis for estimating and comparing the intrinsic worth of different individuals without economic and social conditions which provide approximately equal opportunities for all members of society instead of stratifying them from birth into classes with widely different privileges.

2) The elimination of all forms of racism.

3) The elimination of economic and social difficulties in the rearing of children.

4) The legalization and universal dissemination of efficacious means of birth control.

5) A widespread recognition among all people of the world that both environment and heredity are inescapably complementary factors in human well-being.

6) Agreement upon the direction, or directions, that any conscious selection of genetic characteristics, especially those affecting health, intelligence, or cooperativeness, should take.

Not exactly a Declaration of Human Rights, but going in a much better direction. Though I’m not sure what he means by #6 at all, I’m thinking at least wide and open discussion.

He went on to research radiation sickness and campaign against nuclear weapons for the rest of his life.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermann_Joseph_Muller

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Alice de Tocqueville 04.22.10 at 6:13 pm

Apologies for my lack of HTML .
Source for the Geneticist’s Manifesto:
http://www.estherlederberg.com/Eugenics.html.
Scroll down quite a ways.

123

parse 04.22.10 at 6:14 pm

you know, turn the other cheek, judge not lest you be judged, running the money lenders out of the Temple, all that sort of thing

How was running the money lenders out of the Temple an example of turning the other cheek or judging not lest you be judged? Doesn’t this tend to validate the claim that there’s enough in the Bible to support pretty much anything.

124

Alice de Tocqueville 04.22.10 at 6:28 pm

Just from three Google sources it seems clear, especially from the first source I found above, that all kinds of well-intentioned people;

1) Misunderstood eugenics
2) Understood later that it was bad science and inhuman
3) Rejected eugenics

And that American political discourse was alot less dumb (and less materialistic) in those days. Nowadays, if your property happens to include media and advertising companies, you are free to disseminate whatever crap you want to.

125

lemuel pitkin 04.22.10 at 6:47 pm

Late to the party, but folks should know that Seth Kaufman,who blogs at Lawyers Guns & Money and comments here sometimes as well, is one liberal who is happy to embrace eugenics as part of the progressive intellectual tradition:

I’m not saying that eugenics per se was laudable, but it was necessary to the furtherance of scientific knowledge: it validated human society and the human body as objects of scientific inquiry. Conservatives opposed this because it removed humanity from its pedestal of special creation. … So why, then, were liberals more likely to support eugenics? Because conservatives clung fast to their retrograde and anthropocentric beliefs.

Yes, he really is saying that it’s to liberals’ credit that they supported eugenics. Doubling down in comments:

my claim is that someone had to reify the human body, and that once someone did, horrors would abound. Be it eugenics, Taylorization, or what-not, the process of downgrading the human body from “made in the image of God” to “just another piece of meat for scientists to study” was bound to have unsavory results, and it did.

I have as low an opinion of Jonah Goldberg as anyone here (maybe even lower, since I don’t feel obliged to write thousands of words in response to him), but it seems to me that if folks like Kaufman are liberals in good standing, Goldberg this once has a bit of a point. Or — even tho it’s never fun to call out your friends — maybe someone here (Berube?) ought to write a post on why Kaufman is wrong?

126

bianca steele 04.22.10 at 6:57 pm

lemuel,
Scott Kaufman did some of Goldberg’s work for him once, and it seems he’s still feeling sore about it. Daniel Kevles wrote an excellent work on the history of eugenics in the West that has not yet been surpassed.

127

Substance McGravitas 04.22.10 at 6:59 pm

Seth Kaufman

Scott Eric Kaufman.

128

lemuel pitkin 04.22.10 at 7:03 pm

Substance- right, thanks.

129

Alice de Tocqueville 04.22.10 at 7:28 pm

@#123: “How was running the money lenders out of the Temple an example of turning the other cheek or judging not lest you be judged? Doesn’t this tend to validate the claim that there’s enough in the Bible to support pretty much anything.”

This comment distorts what it comments on. ‘Running the money lenders, etc.’ wasn’t cited as an example of the latter two tenets. Obviously, Jesus was claiming the right to righteous anger but exhorted his followers to be more aware of their human state.

But yes, there is a huge load of crap in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. During my Christian indoctrination, we were taught that Jesus, and therefore, Christianity, actually meant something different than the Old Testament religion. But has anyone else noticed that conservatives almost never quote Jesus, but rather, the Old Testament?

Sebastion @ 109 says: “Progressivism as a movement wasn’t neutral to desegregation and eugenics, it was actively for segregation and eugenics.”

You cannot ignore HOW progressives were in favor of eugenics and segregation being applied, that is, by persuasion and non-coercive means, and that they also rejected eugenics early and for both human rights and scientific reasons. No doubt many libertarians and others did, too.

I suggest we spend less time word-splitting, hair-splitting, and gotcha-izing and spend more time calling our Congressional representatives and exhorting them to co-sponsor Rep. Jim McGovern’s HR 5015, which could end up as an amendment to the upcoming 30+billion Afghan ‘war’ supplemental. We’re all in this together, even if we can’t stand each other.

And you should read this, if you haven’t, from The American Conservative:

Graceful Decline: The End of Pax Americana,
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article25263.htm ;
Then print it out and mail it – yes, snail mail – to your legislator of choice. They live in a bubble, and don’t get out much. In my experience, our legislators are often completely unaware of not only what’s in the legislation they pass, but what happens after that.

130

Steve LaBonne 04.22.10 at 7:31 pm

Or—even tho it’s never fun to call out your friends—maybe someone here (Berube?) ought to write a post on why Kaufman is wrong?

Well, I don’t see any actual historical argument there, only Kaufman’s unsupported assertions that the eugenics movement was somehow integral and necessary to scientific progress rather than being a shameful sideshow. If that post and his followup comments are all he’s got, there’s no substance there to refute. I would personally make exactly the opposite point; it’s demonstrable that given the knowledge and technology available pre-Watson/Crick, humans were about the least desirable organism imaginable for studying genetics; genuine scientific progress came from studying much more tractable model organisms , first Drosophila and then (and decisively for the advent of molecular genetics) all the way down the scale of complexity to bacteriophage. The eugenicists were more a diversion from the mainstream of scientific progress in genetics than a part of it.

131

Alice de Tocqueville 04.22.10 at 7:51 pm

@ Steve Le Bonne’s #130;

Exactly right. The whole career of H.J. Muller, who did major research on Drosophila, and went on to genetic mutation, illustrates the marginality of eugenics to genetics.

132

lemuel pitkin 04.22.10 at 7:58 pm

Right — but the point is, LGM is one of the more prominent liberal blogs, several of its contributors write for The American Prospect, etc. So when you have a blogger there saying, as Kaufman does, that liberals should be proud to have supported eugenics because it was part of Science and Progress, then you can’t say — as Holbo does in response to Goldberg — that liberalism’s connection to eugenics is purely historical. Unless, that is, you also call out Kaufman’s BS.

133

Steve LaBonne 04.22.10 at 8:02 pm

Unless, that is, you also call out Kaufman’s BS.

Well, here on prominent liberal blog Crooked Timber, we (you, I, Alice) just did.

It’s also pretty clear that the impulses behind eugenics have crossed the political aisle viz. Charles Murray.

134

parse 04.22.10 at 8:24 pm

You cannot ignore HOW progressives were in favor of eugenics and segregation being applied, that is, by persuasion and non-coercive means, and that they also rejected eugenics early and for both human rights and scientific reasons.

Alice de Tocqueville, can you be more explicit about what sources convinced you that Progressives who supported eugenics were not in favor of forced sterilization but only persuasion and non-coercive means. I followed the links you posted and don’t see evidence of that.

135

Jonathan Mayhew 04.22.10 at 8:28 pm

I should point out that Bérubé does answer Kaufman on that very same comment thread, and that then Kaufman backs down a bit and changes “necessary” to “inevitable.”

136

politicalfootball 04.22.10 at 8:38 pm

Yes, he really is saying that it’s to liberals’ credit that they supported eugenics.

Well, not in the material you quote. You’re reading of the quote and the quote itself are fairly close to opposites:

I’m not saying that eugenics per se was laudable.

Did you miss the “not” in that sentence?

Then when you claim he’s “doubling down” he does indeed double down – to say more strongly the exact opposite of what you contend he’s saying. He refers to eugenics as one of the “horrors” that resulted from downgrading the human body from its status as an object made in the image of God.

He supports that downgrade, but as the quoted material shows, he’s very careful to distinguish the benefits of that intellectual move from the “horrors” (his word, per your quote) that he also perceives.

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Steve LaBonne 04.22.10 at 8:44 pm

Kaufman is a few centuries too late even for the claim he’s trying to make. The modern scientific study of the human body was initiated by Vesalius and Harvey.

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lemuel pitkin 04.22.10 at 8:47 pm

politicalfootball-

You really need to read the post — he says clearly that eugenics was necessary to make the human body an object of scientific knowledge, which was essential to scientific progress. He says clearly that the reason liberals supported eugenics, and conservatives opposed it, was that conservatives were hostile to science and liberals were not. Certainly Berube read it as a defense of eugenics, as his comment there makes clear. And as a general rule, when someone says of something widely loathed, “I’m not saying it’s laudable, but…” it’s a pretty sure bet they are defending it.

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lemuel pitkin 04.22.10 at 8:49 pm

And as for the “horrors”, he brings them up only to say they were inevitable regardless, so the eugenicists can’t be blamed for them. It’s all the classic tropes of defenders of slavery, racism, colonialism, etc. — everyone was doing it, it was a regrettable necessity, the alternatives were just as bad, etc. If it were on a right-wing site you’d have no trouble seeing that. Unfortunately liberals as well as conservatives are subject to tribalism.

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Steve LaBonne 04.22.10 at 8:53 pm

Lemuel, what in the hell are you on about? What tribalism? He’s getting his ass handed to him in the comments to his post over there, as well as on this thread.

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roger 04.22.10 at 8:54 pm

Isn’t the question here: who overturned the eugenics mentality? Who argued for racial equality and civil rights? Otherwise, this is a silly and unreal scoring of “teams” – and the team view of history, while soothing pablum for the pundit, has no hooks in reality.

Pierce Butler, who was a conservative jurist, certainly opposed the Buck vs. Bell decision (about a sterilization law in, ahem, ultra-liberal Virginia). So, where were these laws put in place, and who opposed them, and who worked to overturn them? Where conservatives did so, I’d suspect that this was due to the good offices of the Catholic church – which I’d readily credit with being an ethical model on this subject. Larson’s book on Eugenics in the South credits the Catholic church with fighting against sterilization bills in Louisiana and Mississippi.

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lemuel pitkin 04.22.10 at 9:12 pm

Steve-

I meant politicalfootball, just now. You’re right about the responses in general.

On the larger point, it’s true that you’re far more likely to find support for eugenics on the right than on the left today. But that doesn’t mean there are no affinities between liberalism and eugenics. There’s no shortage of liberals even now who want the “mission” in Afghanistan to “succeed” because of the good they imagine it will do for Afghani women, or who are comfortable with the principle of “humanitarian intervention” in general. It seems to me that imagining you can improve people’s lot by bombing and/or occupying someone else’s country is coming from a similar place as imagining you can do it by forcibly controlling someone else’s choices about childbearing.

One of the reasons I identify myself as a leftist rather than a liberal is that I think progress requires a mass movement of the people who stand to gain — it can’t be delivered from above. In his faith of the good intentions of elite planners (“Cruel and inhuman as some of those early 20th century tracts seem, their were many reformers who genuinely cared about the plight of the poor; … there was the belief that improving the conditions in which the poor lived would improve the quality of their stock”) Kaufman is, I think, succumbing to a temptation that really is widespread among liberals, even if most have better sense than to defend eugenics.

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Steve LaBonne 04.22.10 at 9:35 pm

I take your more general point, Lemuel. Indeed, contemporary liberalism, or one of its more prominent strains at any rate, still has too much of Cold War liberalism about it. Associating imperialism with eugenics, though, strikes me as a bit of a stretch. Not all bad things are the same bad thing.

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Sebastian 04.22.10 at 10:10 pm

“Lemuel, what in the hell are you on about? What tribalism? He’s getting his ass handed to him in the comments to his post over there, as well as on this thread.”

Ummm, that wasn’t considered good evidence in the Caplan libertarian threads (were there really multiple threads by different authors?) just last week.

Unless of course there are different standards for bashing libertarians.

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Alice de Tocqueville 04.22.10 at 11:24 pm

I don’t claim to have made an exhaustive study. Here’s the main one. Did you read all nine pages? (it’s not posting as a link, and I’ve lost what little html I learned, but try copy and paste)

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4004/is_200207/ai_n9119561/pg_4/?tag=content;col1

I’m not here to say that every libertarian is a racist, and certainly not to say that no progresssive was ever a racist. As I also posted above, these kinds of arguments, tho challenging, are of questionable value, compared to working on a common, and dire, current problem, namely a matter of life and death called America’s invasion of the Middle East.

FWIW, for me a progressive is a leftist, and a social justice advocate. If you call yourself a progressive, but you are for racism, then you’re mistaken when you say you’re a progressive.

I had a better, more detailed answer for you, but it went somewhere while I clicked and clacked to check a source. Honest, I did! But right now I have to go to work, so I’ll try later if I can.

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parse 04.22.10 at 11:45 pm

Alice de Tocqueville, I didn’t read all nine pages, but did read the page you linked, which reported Some evangelical intellectuals offered public opposition to the more extreme forms of eugenics. I don’t think this would support the general conclusion progressives were in favor of eugenics and segregation being applied, that is, by persuasion and non-coercive means and that they were opposed to compulsory sterilization. Is there something in the link you posted that gave you the impression you have regarding progressives and eugenics that I could read without looking at all nine pages?

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lemuel pitkin 04.23.10 at 12:27 am

FWIW, for me a progressive is a leftist, and a social justice advocate. If you call yourself a progressive, but you are for racism, then you’re mistaken when you say you’re a progressive.

I get where you’re coming from, Alice, but it’s not quite that simple. There was a concrete political movement called Progressivism in the early part of the 20th century, centered around writers like Herbert Croly and Walter Lippman and reformers like Jane Addams and Lincoln Steffens, and the early New Republic. As George Scialabba noted above, Progressives in this sense were centrally concerned with rationalizing administration, especially at the local level, and replacing government based on patronage and personal loyalty with government based on formal expertise. This incorporated interests in replacing particularistic local and ethnic identities with a uniform national identity; constitutional reform (the 17th Amendment was a major Progressive victory); the establishment of professional credentials (doctors and lawyers as formally licensed professions date from this period); and so on. Most important Progressives supported US entry into World War I (the great exception was of course Randolph Bourne) and it’s fair to say Wilsonianism was in large Progressivism on an international scale. Eugenics and racism were not central to this movement but they were compatible with it, and there was significant overlap.

I think it’s important that we not forget this history because there’s a strong tendency in modern-day liberalism to recapitulate some of the problematic elements of Progressivism, as well as the small-p progressive ones. Not eugenics per se, necessarily — altho belief in meritocracy can easily drift in that direction — but certainly the faith in expertise and the impatience with the messier forms of mass political participation.

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ScentOfViolets 04.23.10 at 12:32 am

you know, turn the other cheek, judge not lest you be judged, running the money lenders out of the Temple, all that sort of thing

How was running the money lenders out of the Temple an example of turning the other cheek or judging not lest you be judged? Doesn’t this tend to validate the claim that there’s enough in the Bible to support pretty much anything.

I’m scratching my head here; where’s the contradiction? You do know who Jesus is, right (or at least, said to be)?

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ScentOfViolets 04.23.10 at 12:40 am

Just from three Google sources it seems clear, especially from the first source I found above, that all kinds of well-intentioned people;

1) Misunderstood eugenics
2) Understood later that it was bad science and inhuman
3) Rejected eugenics

That’s it in a nutshell; to say that these well-intentioned people embraced eugenics is some sort of indictment is equivalent to laying the same sort of charges against anyone who accepts the science of their day. Notice, btw, that this is precisely the same sort of argument a lot of people made back in the day (or still make, for that matter) to marginalize evolution: to accept it as a scientific theory is to say that the nature of man does not partake of God, or even of the Angels. Rather, man becomes no better than one of the “lower” animals. While I have some sympathies for the argument, it is no way a legitimate one.

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ScentOfViolets 04.23.10 at 12:49 am

You really need to read the post—he says clearly that eugenics was necessary to make the human body an object of scientific knowledge, which was essential to scientific progress. He says clearly that the reason liberals supported eugenics, and conservatives opposed it, was that conservatives were hostile to science and liberals were not. Certainly Berube read it as a defense of eugenics, as his comment there makes clear. And as a general rule, when someone says of something widely loathed, “I’m not saying it’s laudable, but…” it’s a pretty sure bet they are defending it.

Well, I think the bit about “liberals” generally supporting science while conservatives are generally hostile to it is pretty spot on, in fact, almost a defining characteristic of what it means not to be a conservative. And I’ll agree with the notion that accepting eugenics was not laudable, but . . . it’s a pretty good sign about the willingness to support empirical evidence and the scientific method. Let me put it this way: suppose the genes for Evil could be identified in human chromosomes, just like you could identify genes for height or hair color. Wouldn’t you generally be in favor of getting rid of those genes? If you say yes, whether it’s by force or persuasion that this goal is achieved, you’re pretty much on the side of eugenics movement.

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Sebastian 04.23.10 at 1:03 am

“FWIW, for me a progressive is a leftist, and a social justice advocate. If you call yourself a progressive, but you are for racism, then you’re mistaken when you say you’re a progressive.”

I think you’re confusing the group *now* with the group historically. I’ll easily grant that Progressive politics in the US isn’t very friendly to racism (with the possible exception of anti-Mexican racism in California progressives, it seems sort of common there but that is a whole nother ball of wax). That isn’t the same at all as saying that the historical progressive movement wasn’t friendly to racism. It was. It was friendly to sterilization based on IQ. It was very friendly to segregation for black people. It was somewhat friendly for government measures to reduce child bearing among non whites and increase it among whites. Trying to retrospectively claim the black civil rights movement under the progressive label (as Halpin tries to do) really is whitewashing the history.

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parse 04.23.10 at 1:07 am

SOV, I believe Jesus ran the money lenders out of the Temple because he judged them, decided they were guilty and, instead of turning the other cheek, took action against them.

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Monarda 04.23.10 at 1:12 am

Defining progressivism as synonymous with Wilsonianism is rather narrow. Wilson was a well known racist and supporter of segregation. T.R. was a white suppremacist but I am under the impression that he supported Booker T. Washington and invited him to dine at his table. He also opposed birth control, as did most people in those days. Indeed, weren’t there laws against it until the 1950s — and don’t women even now need a prescription for a diaphram?

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bianca steele 04.23.10 at 1:15 am

lemuel quotes Kaufman: there was the belief that improving the conditions in which the poor lived would improve the quality of their stock

Stock? Were they soup? Were they stationers?

Why do English professors insist on doing history of science?

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lemuel pitkin 04.23.10 at 1:26 am

to say that these well-intentioned people embraced eugenics is some sort of indictment is equivalent to laying the same sort of charges against anyone who accepts the science of their day.

Well that’s one point of view. The other point of view is that eugenics was not the science of the day, that most people — including most biologists, etc. — did not accept it, and that those who did — including, unfortunately, some parts of the progressive movement — did so for particular reasons, and can’t be excused on the ground that “everyone believed in forcibly sterilizing poor women back then” — which is, after all, what we’re talking about.

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Harold 04.23.10 at 2:15 am

I think a case can be made that it was the “popular science” of the day. And in the late nineteenth century it certainly was the science of the day.

In any case, according to her defenders on wikipedia’s discussion page:

Eugenics is a theory of improving hereditary qualities by socially controlling human reproduction. Eugenicists, including the Nazis, were opposed to the use of contraception or abortion by healthy and “fit” women (Grossmann, 1995). In fact, Sanger’s books were among the very first burned by the Nazis in their campaign against family planning (“Sanger on Exhibit,” 1999/2000). Sanger helped several Jewish women and men and others escape the Nazi regime in Germany — “Margaret Sanger and the ‘Refugee Department’,” 1993.

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bianca steele 04.23.10 at 2:19 am

It’s more complicated than that. On the one hand were discriminatory policies based on biological theories (for instance, in the US, institutionalization rates varied widely by state and in some states disproportionately targeted non-white men among adult men generally). On the other were people who tried to get birth control devices legalized by reminding policy makers that the poor could use them to limit the size of their families.

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ScentOfViolets 04.23.10 at 2:20 am

SOV, I believe Jesus ran the money lenders out of the Temple because he judged them, decided they were guilty and, instead of turning the other cheek, took action against them.

Iow, you really don’t have the faintest idea who Jesus was, do you?

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parse 04.23.10 at 2:24 am

Iow, you really don’t have the faintest idea who Jesus was, do you?

Well, we’ve never met, if that’s what you mean. Or maybe you’re telling me that Christianity is all about “Do as I say, not as I do.” Otherwise, I’m the one scratching my head.

Are you saying that, in driving the money lenders out of the Temple, Jesus didn’t judge, and he did turn the other cheek, or that it doesn’t matter that his behavior in the incident you mentioned was contrary to his words?

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ScentOfViolets 04.23.10 at 2:25 am

Well that’s one point of view. The other point of view is that eugenics was not the science of the day, that most people—including most biologists, etc.—did not accept it, and that those who did—including, unfortunately, some parts of the progressive movement—did so for particular reasons, and can’t be excused on the ground that “everyone believed in forcibly sterilizing poor women back then”—which is, after all, what we’re talking about.

Sorry, but calling it a “point of view” doesn’t magically make it so. As I noted upthread, the number of Americans who still believe in the “science” of eugenics is disappointingly large. In fact – as I also noted upthread – this particular idea was taught to schoolkids at least as late as the 1960′s, and probably a good deal later than that. Is it real science? Of course not. But that doesn’t stop a lot of people from thinking that it is.

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ScentOfViolets 04.23.10 at 2:28 am

Iow, you really don’t have the faintest idea who Jesus was, do you?

Well, we’ve never met, if that’s what you mean. Or maybe you’re telling me that Christianity is all about “Do as I say, not as I do.” Otherwise, I’m the one scratching my head.

Are you saying that, in driving the money lenders out of the Temple, Jesus didn’t judge, and he did turn the other cheek, or that it doesn’t matter that his behavior in the incident you mentioned was contrary to his words?

Uh-huh. So you’re claiming that you don’t know that Jesus was considered to be the son of God? I’m having a really, really hard time believing this one. Convince me.

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ScentOfViolets 04.23.10 at 2:36 am

It’s more complicated than that. On the one hand were discriminatory policies based on biological theories (for instance, in the US, institutionalization rates varied widely by state and in some states disproportionately targeted non-white men among adult men generally). On the other were people who tried to get birth control devices legalized by reminding policy makers that the poor could use them to limit the size of their families.

Exactly so. And this is where the racists show their hand, time and time again. Assume for the sake of argument that there is such a thing as intelligence that can be accurately measured by a single number, that it’s very highly heritable, and that identifiable groups can be proven to be of “inferior intelligence”. Now, I consider myself a moderate, not a liberal. But if I were going to show my liberal bona fides, this would be the place: racists like Murray believe in denying any educational or occupational resources to these low IQ groups on the grounds that they’ll just be wasted and could be put to much better use elsewhere.

Otoh, I would make a (nonscientific) case that even if all the above were true, that would mean these groups should get more of those exact same resources, perhaps much more. Not less. And that this is probably the best use one could make of them. So sue me.

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parse 04.23.10 at 2:44 am

Uh-huh. So you’re claiming that you don’t know that Jesus was considered to be the son of God? I’m having a really, really hard time believing this one. Convince me.

No, I’m not saying that.

Are you saying that, in driving the money lenders out of the Temple, Jesus didn’t judge, and he did turn the other cheek, or that it doesn’t matter that his behavior was contrary to his words because he was the son of God?

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bianca steele 04.23.10 at 3:01 am

SoV,

I’m not sure what you’re arguing. Are you saying that (in your opinion as an admitted non-liberal) liberals should not discuss the historical or scientific details of biology and of racism, in order to prove that they would have the correct moral beliefs even if racism is true?

Or are you saying that liberals should give Jonah Goldberg the benefit of the doubt and nuance his argument for him in the hopes that he will run out of disingenuousness before they run out of patience?

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ScentOfViolets 04.23.10 at 3:08 am

Are you saying that, in driving the money lenders out of the Temple, Jesus didn’t judge, and he did turn the other cheek, or that it doesn’t matter that his behavior was contrary to his words because he was the son of God?

Sigh. Who was he addressing? People like himself? Or not? Really, this isn’t hard. I’m sensing quite a bit of willfulness on your part. I am given to understand from other people here that this is something you do rather frequently, but up until now I’ve been willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. You’re getting down to your last chance to come clean.

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ScentOfViolets 04.23.10 at 3:18 am

I’m not sure what you’re arguing. Are you saying that (in your opinion as an admitted non-liberal) liberals should not discuss the historical or scientific details of biology and of racism, in order to prove that they would have the correct moral beliefs even if racism is true?

Not at all. Just that there is a difference between science and the policy prescriptions based upon that science. And that’s how you can tell who the racists are – the scientific justifications keep changing, but the policies dictated by them always seem to be about limiting options, constraining choices, and denying resources to the afflicted groups. But there is not necessarily any “scientific” justification for those particular policies, even if the science happens to be valid.

Here’s a thought experiment, based upon the good kind of science: based upon studies of heritability, we can practically rid the world of hemophilia, Huntington’s chorea, etc as well as a goodly chunk of heart disease and cancer simply by denying those who carry those genes any right to reproduce. Bam! Problem solved.

It’s good science, and the prescription will definitely work if vigorously prosecuted, yet somehow, there seems to be something wrong here . . .

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parse 04.23.10 at 4:17 am

Sigh. Who was he addressing? People like himself? Or not? Really, this isn’t hard. I’m sensing quite a bit of willfulness on your part.

You know what would make it easier for me? Instead of sighing, just say “Yes, because he was the son of God, it was alright for him to say “Do as I say, not as I do,” and there’s no contradiction in him saying that because he was addressing people who were not like himself.” Or, when I say “Do you mean this or that?” answer “I mean this” or “I mean that” or “I don’t mean either this or that, I mean something else–here’s what I mean.”

Then we’d have a difference of opinion, but no misunderstanding.

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Sebastian 04.23.10 at 6:24 am

Do not feed the troll. ;)

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alex 04.23.10 at 7:33 am

Dearie, dearie me. There are some for whom the concept that things were different in the past is just too much to handle, aren’t there?

If you expect the configuration of what people understood as good vs true vs scientific vs ethical vs progressive in 1890 or 1920 to look anything like what it does today, you are a fool; and most of this discussion, frankly, has been different kinds of fools yelling.

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politicalfootball 04.23.10 at 12:50 pm

I have as low an opinion of Jonah Goldberg as anyone here (maybe even lower, since I don’t feel obliged to write thousands of words in response to him), but it seems to me that if folks like Kaufman are liberals in good standing, Goldberg this once has a bit of a point. Or—even tho it’s never fun to call out your friends—maybe someone here (Berube?) ought to write a post on why Kaufman is wrong?

I disagree with Kaufman, but Kaufman understands that his argument, in some key ways, supports Goldberg’s argument.

I’m having trouble figuring out your view on this. Do I understand you correctly to say that you agree with Kaufman’s that the progressive movement, as it is currently understood, is indebted to eugenics? Then why do you approve of Berube’s rebuttal?

Kaufman acknowledges part of the problem with his own argument – he’s adopted Goldberg’s insistence on imposing current terminology on historical ideas. My problem with Kaufman is that he’s making the same argument that Bush supporters often did: Well, yes, the liberals were right about Bush when it came to the war, the economy, competence, etc., but the liberals were only right because they’re Bush-haters. I think Kaufman gives short-shrift to the idea that some conservatives of that day were correct because their analysis of the situation was more in tune with modern liberal ideas about individual rights, etc.

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ScentOfViolets 04.23.10 at 1:25 pm

You know what would make it easier for me? Instead of sighing, just say “Yes, because he was the son of God, it was alright for him to say “Do as I say, not as I do,” and there’s no contradiction in him saying that because he was addressing people who were not like himself.” Or, when I say “Do you mean this or that?” answer “I mean this” or “I mean that” or “I don’t mean either this or that, I mean something else—here’s what I mean.”

Okay, that’s it – you’re on the willfully obtuse list. Sigh. Yes, sigh – why people think this is a winning strategy is beyond me. You could have just admitted that no, in the one case Jesus was talking about how men should behave and in the other we see a demonstration of how the son of God behaves. That’s apples and oranges, and no more a contradiction than when I tell my fifteen-year-old daughter she can’t drive by herself but I engage in the proscribed behaviour all the time.

But because you had to have a win at all costs, you’ve just sacrificed your credibility with me, and I agree with other people that your behaviour isn’t anything to be encouraged.

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piglet 04.23.10 at 1:44 pm

“Let me put it this way: suppose the genes for Evil could be identified in human chromosomes, just like you could identify genes for height or hair color. Wouldn’t you generally be in favor of getting rid of those genes? If you say yes, whether it’s by force or persuasion that this goal is achieved, you’re pretty much on the side of eugenics movement.”

Oh dearie. What’s the matter with you, SoV? This nonsense has nothing to do with credible science, no more than the underpinnings of the eugenics movement or of scientific racism (which were intricately connected, I’m not sure anybody has made that point yet) had any scientific credibility. Have you set out to make the point of the right-wingers?

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piglet 04.23.10 at 1:59 pm

“Is it real science? Of course not. But that doesn’t stop a lot of people from thinking that it is.”

It almost seems as if you are saying that liberals (or progressives or whatever) are more likely to believe in popular pseudoscience than conservatives and that this is to their credit. Needless to say, I disagree.

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Harold 04.23.10 at 2:09 pm

During the teens and early twenties, when it was fashionable, and books about heredity talked about the Jukes and the Kallikak (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jukes_and_Kallikaks) (it was progressives, it appears, who discredited these studies). We have genetic counseling for things like Tay-Sachs and it is nothing more than eugenics, under another name.

Sanger appears to have advocated sterilization of people incapable of making their own decisions (feeble minded, profoundly retarded) but she never advocated forced sterilization for women of sound mind. On the contrary, her focus was always on giving women the ability to control their own reproduction and not to put the control in the hands of male doctors, religious figures or bureaucrats.

“Eugenists imply or insist that a woman’s first duty is to the state; we contend that her duty to herself is her first duty to the state. We maintain that a woman possessing an adequate knowledge of her reproductive functions is the best judge of the time and conditions under which her child should be brought into the world. We further maintain that it is her right, regardless of all other considerations, to determine whether she shall bear children or not, and how many children she shall bear if she chooses to become a mother. . . .Only upon a free, self-determining motherhood can rest any unshakable structure of racial betterment” (Sanger, 1919a)

Note: “racial” as used above by Sanger, does not necessarily refer to one particular “race” but to the human race.

In any case there is a long tradition by religious fanatic abortion and birth control opponents of quoting Sanger out of context in order to attempt to paint her as a racist, which she was not and which can be demonstrated by her life and writings. These posthumous smears are disgraceful and dishonest. It is too bad if so-called “libertarians” are now taking them up. One can only say, like Eyore, “How like them.”

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BenSix 04.23.10 at 2:14 pm

Why should progressives have to ‘own up’ to stuff from 100 years ago any more so than writers at Reason have to own up to advocacy of prohibition?

Well, if they’re going to place themselves within a tradition, they should be honest about it. Some just aren’t: Planned Parenthood, say. It was fair to throw the NR‘s Franco-lauding past at Liberal Fascism, wasn’t it?

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ScentOfViolets 04.23.10 at 2:26 pm

“Is it real science? Of course not. But that doesn’t stop a lot of people from thinking that it is.”

It almost seems as if you are saying that liberals (or progressives or whatever) are more likely to believe in popular pseudoscience than conservatives and that this is to their credit. Needless to say, I disagree.

To the contrary, a lot of people of all inclinations still believe this even today (I would not be surprised if a lot of schools still teach evolution this way.) And as for a century or more ago? Yep – it’s accepted as bog-standard science. Now know to be wrong, certainly. But still “scientific” back then.

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BenSix 04.23.10 at 2:29 pm

Sanger appears to have advocated sterilization of people incapable of making their own decisions (feeble minded, profoundly retarded) but she never advocated forced sterilization for women of sound mind.

She defined “feeble minded” very loosely, though, didn’t she.

The first step would thus be to control the intake and output of morons, mental defectives, epileptics.

The second step would be to take an inventory of the secondary group such as illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, dope-fiends; classify them in special departments under government medical protection, and segregate them on farms and open spaces as long as necessary for the strenghtening and development of moral conduct.

- A Plan For Peace

Doesn’t sound like somebody all that interested in “rights“.

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piglet 04.23.10 at 2:32 pm

“a lot of people of all inclinations still believe this even today”

Nobody doubts that a lot of people believe all kinds of stuff. I don’t get what this has to do with this thread and frankly I am still not sure what point you are trying to make.

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alex 04.23.10 at 2:34 pm

Well, this is dull. Anyone up for arguing about whether opponents of women’s suffrage had a point? Or, fuck it, why don’t we just do the whole Civil War thing over one more time, just for shits an’ giggles?

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ScentOfViolets 04.23.10 at 2:39 pm

Sanger appears to have advocated sterilization of people incapable of making their own decisions (feeble minded, profoundly retarded) but she never advocated forced sterilization for women of sound mind.

She defined “feeble minded” very loosely, though, didn’t she.

And again, that’s kind of beside the point. Suppose she had gone with something like an adult having the effective intelligence of a two-year-old. Would that change anything? How about if she had urged genetic counseling (assuming it was available in her day) on couples and advised them not to have children if they both carried the gene for Huntington’s chorea?

Is this still “bad”?

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ScentOfViolets 04.23.10 at 2:46 pm

“a lot of people of all inclinations still believe this even today”

Nobody doubts that a lot of people believe all kinds of stuff. I don’t get what this has to do with this thread and frankly I am still not sure what point you are trying to make.

Sigh. The same point a lot of people have been making: if you honestly believe this is what the best science says – particularly if you’ve been taught it in public school – you can’t fault people for formulating policy around that belief. This is a far, far different thing from being a racist and looking for some sort of scientific justification for your beliefs, which is exactly backwards.

And come on everyone: raise your hands if you were taught in school that mammals are “more evolved” than the dinosaurs they replaced. I know I was, even though that’s completely wrong.

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piglet 04.23.10 at 3:16 pm

“if you honestly believe this is what the best science says – particularly if you’ve been taught it in public school – you can’t fault people for formulating policy around that belief”

- like, you can’t fault people to support slavery if they sincerely believe and have been taught in school that science supports XXX? I must be getting you totally wrong but I don’t know what to do about it. I think I have to give up at this point.

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ScentOfViolets 04.23.10 at 3:30 pm

– like, you can’t fault people to support slavery if they sincerely believe and have been taught in school that science supports XXX? I must be getting you totally wrong but I don’t know what to do about it. I think I have to give up at this point.

No, you really can’t. Now point to the science that supported that belief. Are people supposed to be omniscient with regards to certain subject matter in your world?

Another example: suppose that evolution is disproved tomorrow – say someone reruns a classic experiment and finds out that yes, you really can spontaneously get maggots from rotting meat. Are you going then going to fault everyone who believed in evolution? I’m sorry, but this simply makes no sense.

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Strether 04.23.10 at 4:59 pm

I came in late, but if anyone is still reading, what intellectual history/ies of eugenics do you recommend? Thx!

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BenSix 04.23.10 at 5:07 pm

Strether -

Daniel Kevles In the Name of Eugenics is good on the history (though, when it came to science, I felt he was being a tad assertive). Andre Pichot’s The Pure Society seemed interesting (only got the chance to read a snippet). He is, to put it mildly, rather more polemical.

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tom bach 04.23.10 at 5:07 pm

An interesting place to start on Eugenics in America is Gallager’s Breeding Better Vermonters.

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BenSix 04.23.10 at 5:19 pm

ScentOfViolence -

If she’d tried to lay out a case with the slightest rigour it may have turned out “bad” (intellectually, or morally), but it would, at least, have been defensible. As it was, she demanded that whole swathes of never-quite-defined poor souls be marched off to stifling fates because of the dangers she’d never established.

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BenSix 04.23.10 at 5:22 pm

Oh, God, I’m so sorry – Violets. That honestly wasn’t a limp bit of flaming; either I’m taking this too seriously, or it’s last night’s Cronenberg.

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roac 04.23.10 at 5:42 pm

In one of the memoirs James Thurber wrote for the New Yorker in the ’30s, he claimed that when he was a cub reporter on the city desk of a New York newspaper, his editor told him to check out a report that violets were blooming in the snow in Red Bank, NJ. So he called the Red Bank police; the desk sergeant said, “Ain’t no violence here,” and hung up.

If the error was excusable in a cop — a public servant — it is surely excusable in a blog poster, who owes no duty of care to anybody.

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Harold 04.23.10 at 6:30 pm

187 “She demanded that whole swathes of never-quite-defined poor souls be marched off to stifling fates because of the dangers she’d never established.”

“Demanded” ? “marched off”? Can you back this up with evidence in the form of a direct citation from Sanger herself, Ben Six? Or is this more of last night’s beer talking?

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chris 04.23.10 at 6:34 pm

@171: speaking as a bystander, he wasn’t being willfully obtuse, you were being willfully obscure. If you had just outright said what your thesis was instead of repeatedly retreating into clouds of rhetorical questions, this thread could have been dozens of comments shorter.

@177: It seems incredible to a modern mind that anyone could have believed even for an instant that half of those characteristics had any genetic basis. Drug addiction? Prostitution? Poverty? Illiteracy?

If nothing else, surely someone must have pointed out that a great many of the children of prostitutes were half-siblings of many of the leading citizenry.

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tom bach 04.23.10 at 6:40 pm

Also Ehrenreich’s Nazi Ancestoral Proof is very good on the internal contradictions of racial science and the opportunism of many of its German practitioners.

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BenSix 04.23.10 at 6:45 pm

Harold -

Yes.

The first step would thus be to control the intake and output of morons, mental defectives, epileptics.

The second step would be to take an inventory of the secondary group such as illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, dope-fiends; classify them in special departments under government medical protection, and segregate them on farms and open spaces as long as necessary for the strengthening and development of moral conduct.

- A Plan for Peace, the Birth Control Review, April 132, pg.107

Demanded” as the piece contains “we should“s and “essential factor“s, and “marched off” because, well, it sprang to mind – if we must descend to that level of pedantry, no, she didn’t specify how this “secondary group” would be transported.

By the way, unless you were kidding, Cronenberg, ie. David, ie. A History of Violence. A minor point, perhaps, but – bleaurgh – I can’t stand Kronenbourg.

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ScentOfViolets 04.23.10 at 7:24 pm

Oh, God, I’m so sorry – Violets. That honestly wasn’t a limp bit of flaming; either I’m taking this too seriously, or it’s last night’s Cronenberg.

Hakuna matata. My handle comes from a nineteenth century statistical mechanics problem.

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ScentOfViolets 04.23.10 at 7:33 pm

@171: speaking as a bystander, he wasn’t being willfully obtuse, you were being willfully obscure. If you had just outright said what your thesis was instead of repeatedly retreating into clouds of rhetorical questions, this thread could have been dozens of comments shorter

Really? Read his initial comment, and then look at what almost immediately follows @129:

This comment distorts what it comments on. ‘Running the money lenders, etc.’ wasn’t cited as an example of the latter two tenets. Obviously, Jesus was claiming the right to righteous anger but exhorted his followers to be more aware of their human state.

I don’t think I was being particularly opaque, Alice got it in one, and thinks the interpretation “obvious”. Given what people have said about “Parse” (get it?), I just wanted to give him enough rope to hang himself . . . which he did. In fact the first thing I said to him is:

I’m scratching my head here; where’s the contradiction? You do know who Jesus is, right (or at least, said to be)?

He then made the nonsubstantive:

SOV, I believe Jesus ran the money lenders out of the Temple because he judged them, decided they were guilty and, instead of turning the other cheek, took action against them.

Sorry, but he did this to himself all by his little lonesome. And I must say, I think it’s pretty obvious from his replies that he was just being cute.

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Harold 04.23.10 at 7:36 pm

Singer’s idea that prostitutes and criminal be sent to farms to learn morality is obviously one that no one would support today (though not long before that orphans from the cities used to be sent to the West to be adopted by farm families, in the hope of removing them from what was felt to be a blighted moral environment; and even today, Amish families in Pennsylvania have adopted unwanted crack babies from the urban ghettos — perhaps also to expand their own somewhat inbred genetic pool).

Planned Parenthood defends Sanger this way:

In 1927, the eugenics movement reached the height of its popularity when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Buck v. Bell, held that it was constitutional to involuntarily sterilize the developmentally disabled, the insane, or the uncontrollably epileptic. Oliver Wendell Holmes, supported by Louis Brandeis and six other justices, wrote the opinion.

Although Sanger uniformly repudiated the racist exploitation of eugenics principles, she agreed with those “progressives” of her day who favored

<blockquote• incentives for the voluntary hospitalization and/or sterilization of people with untreatable, disabling, hereditary conditions

• the adoption and enforcement of stringent regulations to prevent the immigration of the diseased and “feebleminded” into the U.S.

• placing so-called illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, and dope-fiends on farms and open spaces as long as necessary for the strengthening and development of moral conduct

Planned Parenthood Federation of America finds these views objectionable and outmoded. Nevertheless, anti-family planning activists continue to attack Sanger, who has been dead for over 30 years, because she is an easier target than the unassailable reputation of PPFA and the contemporary family planning movement. However, attempts to discredit the family planning movement because its early 20th-century founder was not a perfect model of early 21st-century values is like disavowing the Declaration of Independence because its author, Thomas Jefferson, bought and sold slaves.

Sanger’s Outreach to the African-American Community

In 1930, Sanger opened a family planning clinic in Harlem that sought to enlist support for contraceptive use and to bring the benefits of family planning to women who were denied access to their city’s health and social services. Staffed by a black physician and black social worker, the clinic was endorsed by The Amsterdam News (the powerful local newspaper), the Abyssinian Baptist Church, the Urban League, and the black community’s elder statesman, W.E.B. DuBois.

Beginning in 1939, DuBois also served on the advisory council for Sanger’s “Negro Project,” which was a “unique experiment in race-building and humanitarian service to a race subjected to discrimination, hardship, and segregation” (Chesler, 1992). The Negro Project served African-Americans in the rural South. Other leaders of the African-American community who were involved in the project included Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the National Council of Negro Women, and Adam Clayton Powell Jr., pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.

The Negro Project was also endorsed by prominent white Americans who were involved in social justice efforts at this time, including Eleanor Roosevelt, the most visible and compassionate supporter of racial equality in her era; and the medical philanthropists, Albert and Mary Lasker, whose financial support made the project possible.

A passionate opponent of racism, Sanger predicted in 1942 that the “Negro question” would be foremost on the country’s domestic agenda after World War II. Her accomplishments on behalf of the African-American community were unchallengeable during her lifetime and remain so today. In 1966, the year Sanger died, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

” There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts. . . . Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by nonviolent direct action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established by Margaret Sanger and people like her.”

http://74.125.93.132/search?q=cache:70anigwDe7YJ:www.plannedparenthoodnj.org/library/topic/contraception/margaret_sanger+Planned+Parenthood+Margaret+Sanger&cd=10&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a

See also: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are/history-and-successes.htm
and: http://fundamentalistdeceit.blogspot.com/2008/01/demonizing-of-margaret-sanger.html

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ScentOfViolets 04.23.10 at 7:52 pm

@177: It seems incredible to a modern mind that anyone could have believed even for an instant that half of those characteristics had any genetic basis. Drug addiction? Prostitution? Poverty? Illiteracy?

See, this is what I mean about the science “everybody knows”. Apparently you are unaware that current scientific opinion holds that there is definitely a genetic component to drug addiction.

Another way of looking at this is to consider the actual history of science. Atoms are made of electrons, protons, and neutrons, right? That’s what my daughter learned in school, being first introduced to this idea sometime in grade school. If you were to ask her when people knew this, you’d get a blank look and a mumbled response about hundreds of years. In fact, atoms weren’t definitively proven to exist until sometime either very late in the nineteenth century or some time immediately before or around 1905. The neutron itself wasn’t discovered until 1932 or thereabouts, iow, less than eighty years ago! There are people alive today who went to thoroughly respectable public schools who never heard of atoms being made out of protons, neutrons, and electrons. One does tend to forget how much progress was made in such a small amount of time – heck, 150 years ago if you’d have suggested that doctors wash their hands before surgery you’d have been laughed out of practice as a superstitious quack. Something to think about when judging people living a hundred years ago.

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BenSix 04.23.10 at 7:57 pm

Harold -

Angela Franks comments on the Planned Parenthood biography.

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piglet 04.23.10 at 8:08 pm

Re Eugenics literature:
“The mismeasure of man” is not specifically a history of the eugenics movement but very relevant to it. Stefan Kühl’s “The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism” is also highly recommendable.

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Harold 04.23.10 at 8:26 pm

Angela Franks is a Catholic theologian with an ax to grind.

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Harold 04.23.10 at 8:43 pm

I happen to be a longtime admirer of Margaret Sanger, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King and W.B. Dubois and of the organization Planned Parenthood. And especially Margaret Sanger who really put her life on the line to fight for the right of poor women to control their bodies, whatever misguided opinions she may or may not have held at different times in her life.

I myself support abortion rights in the first three months, medical abortion rights in the second trimester; and abortion (which amounts to infanticide) under extremely limited and horribly tragic conditions when unavoidably medically necessary to save the life of the mother in the final trimester. This is the humane thing and I am under the impression that this is current law.

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BenSix 04.23.10 at 8:45 pm

That doesn’t, of course, preclude her from being right!

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Harold 04.23.10 at 11:40 pm

If doing a hatchet job on someone is “being right.”

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Alice de Tocqueville 04.24.10 at 1:02 am

I was trying to answer parse’s question about a source, and looking at some other ref’s when I came across some alarming stuff. I think it’s more alarming than what happened 100 years ago. It’s about “Transhumanism” and “bio-medically enhanced warfighters”. (‘Stop me if you’ve heard this one’ – a guy walks into a research fellowship, and walks out, $773,000 richer, having re-written the protocols for biomedical ethics.)

I began with wikipedia’s Sanger article, and a link to this article:
State-sponsored Liberal Eugenics Has Just Begun

C. Ben Mitchell, Ph.D., and C. Christopher Hook, M.D.
Fellows

This is an article from 2006 stating:

“On April 29, 2006, Medical News Today announced that Case Law School was receiving $773,000 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to “develop guidelines for the use of human subjects in what could be the next frontier in medical technology – genetic enhancement.”

The article is a long, calm, careful description of what this project entails; briefly, the possible breach of a wall of separation that has (or had?) existed between research for therapeutic purposes – permitted, within detailed ‘informed consent’ guidelines – and the prohibition (stated) of genetics performed purely for enhancement.

Since the article was so old, before wriitng to the Fellows who wrote it, I decided to Google the name of the person who held the grant:

“Professor of law and bioethics Max Mehlman will lead a team of law professors, physicians, and bioethicists in a two-year project aimed at exploring guidelines for altering the human species through genetic enhancement.”

So here’s what turned up:
From Case Western’s Faculty page:
“Prof. Mehlman has been awarded a Templeton Fellowship for 2008-2009 at Arizona State University as part of a 4-year program funded by the Templeton Foundation entitled “Facing the Challenges of Transhumanism: Religion, Science, and Technology.” During the year, he will address the social, legal, and political implications of controlled evolution in a series of four workshops, and will summarize his thoughts in a book.”

And this:
“http://cetmons.org/thrust3_warfighter
Thrust Group Leader: Max Mehlman
Thrust Group Participant: Braden Allenby, Edward Barrett, Jessica Berg, Joel Garreau, Jason Gatliff, Leslie Henry, Stephen Helms Tillery, Patrick Lin, Margaret Kosal, George Lucas, Gary Marchant, Hunter Peckham, Insoo Hyun, Jared Silberman, George Poste, Todd Hardy, Bob Latiff, Dan Sarewitz, Anthony Jack, Jason Robert, Veronica Santos, Stuart Youngner

The Bio-Enhanced Warfighter Thrust Group is seeking funding to study the ethical, tactical and logistical , legal and policy, military-civilian, and strategic issues raised by the future deployment of biomedically-enhanced warfighters.

CETMONS – Consortium for Emerging Technologies, Military Operations, and National Security

http://www.templeton.org/ & http://cetmons.org/thrust3_warfighter

Now, I think of myself as not easily shocked; I’ve interviewed my parents about their service as Marines in WWII, been around since the Vietnam War and talked to hundreds of vets thereof, welded submarines as a civilian for the DOD, and visited all the AirForceBases in CA from Fairfield to Las Vegas (that I know of) and I don’t quite know what to make of these things. Did I copy where they call Mehlman the ‘thrust leader’?

I am putting this question without prejudice to whomever can enlighten me about these topics. Or whether they are as alarming as they sound to me. I urge anyone to read the article that lead to these sites, it is alarming enough in itself, since I know of protocols that were, as far as I remember, implemented 4 or 5 years ago, which allowed orphans to be used as guinea pigs in drug trials.

To parse: Apologies for not answering your interrogatory; all I can say at this point is to read the whole nine pages. It gives a perspective.
I’m off to prepare for a city council meeting, so won’t be online for some hours.

I want to say that no matter the darkness of the past, we live now, and let’s make the most we can of it!

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