A Primer on Eugenics:(SAMPLE CHAPTER: Pgs 15-30 of "H.H. LAUGHLIN: American Scientist. American Progressive. Nazi Collaborator")
● Buy on Amazon ● Buy on Google Play ●
“At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes . . . will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.” - Charles Darwin - The Descent of Man (1871), Chap. VI, Pgs. 200-201
So what is eugenics? Even those well-versed in WWII history still misunderstand the ideology that was the impetus behind the “crimes against humanity.” Those contemporary to Hitler knew precisely what eugenics was and how central the science was to his regime. Yet, eugenics was an Anglo-American export to Germany, and not the other way around as is commonly depicted by popular accounts of The Holocaust. The general confusion about the science behind the murders began as American and British academic elites deliberately distanced the eugenics they practiced from the eugenics implemented by the Third Reich. The relationship was further blurred by the Nuremberg Trials. The prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials deliberately described the “crimes” as part of a military conspiracy, and not as the consequence of an ideology, a world-view, or creed that permeated all aspects of Hitler’s Third Reich. The Nuremberg Trials were, after all, “military tribunals” and were limited to presiding over crimes of a military nature. Thus, the prosecution at Nuremberg focused disproportionately on those cold water and high-altitude experiments conducted at the concentration camps, as they had been conducted for military research by the likes of Dr. Mengele. Yet, neither the high altitude nor the cold water experiments had anything to do with Hitler’s perverse fascination with breeding a “master race.” Despite the horrid nature of these experiments, they were a small handful of incidents compared to the mechanized and industrial scope of eugenic policy in Nazi Germany. To make matters worse, the military tribunal had no jurisdiction to sit in judgment on the German domestic policy that existed prior to the declaration of war, nor did the American military have the jurisdiction to sit in judgment over crimes that occurred in nations where the United States was not actively engaged in the war. This became a distinctly limiting factor after the coalition of nations that presided over the first Nuremberg Trial fell apart, and the German territories were divided between East and West along the footprint of what would later be the Berlin Wall. This demarcation is of some significance. The peak of Hitler’s genocidal campaign came after 1942 or 1943, yet the relevant policies and laws were put in place as soon as the regime came to power a decade earlier in 1933. This is a crucial point to make about the timeline and its relation to the jurisdictional limitations of the Nuremberg Trial. The ethnic cleansing campaign to breed a “master race” began as soon as the National Socialists amassed power in 1933. Thus, much of the early “crimes against humanity” fell outside of the jurisdiction allowed to the military tribunal.
More to the point, one cannot understand The Holocaust without understanding the intentions, ideology, and mechanisms that were put in place in 1933. The eugenics movement may have come to a catastrophic crescendo with the Hitler regime, but the political movement, the world-view, the ideology, and the science that aspired to breed humans like prized horses began almost 100 years earlier. More poignantly, the ideology and those legal and governmental mechanisms of a eugenic world-view inevitably lead back to the British and American counterparts that Hitler’s scientists collaborated with. Posterity must gain an understanding of the players that made eugenics a respectable scientific and political movement, as Hitler’s regime was able to evade wholesale condemnation in those critical years between 1933 and 1943 precisely because eugenics had gained international acceptance. As this book will evidence, Hitler’s infamous 1933 laws mimicked those already in place in the United States, Britain, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Canada.
So what is this scientific and political movement that for 100 years aspired to breed humans like dogs or horses? Eugenics is quite literally, as defined by its principal proponents, an attempt at “directing evolution” by controlling any aspect of human existence that affects human heredity. From its onset, Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin and the man credited with the creation of the science of eugenics, knew that the eugenic cause had to be observed with religious fervor and dedication. As the quote on the opening pages of this book illustrates, a eugenicist must “intrude, intrude, intrude.” A vigilant control over anything and everything that affects the gene pool is essential to eugenics. Eugenic policies cannot allow for the individual to enjoy self-government or self-determination any more than a horse breeder can allow the animals to determine whom to breed with. One simply cannot breed humans like horses without imbuing the state with the level of control a farmer has over its livestock, not only controlling procreation, but also the diet, access to medical services, and living conditions. Garland Allen and Randall D. Bird explain how interest in animal breeding turned into an interest in breeding humans like animals:
Like many eugenicist, Laughlin was fascinated by animal breeding, and for a serious reason. He believed, through analogy, that the eugenicist was to humans what the agricultural breeder was to animals; a scientist using experimental procedures to perfect the species along desired ends. (“The Papers of Harry Hamilton Laughlin”, Garland Allen & Randall D. Bird, Annals of the History of Biology, Vol. 14, No. 2)
Popular culture has rightfully associated eugenics with ethnic cleansing and dystopian aspirations. However, at one point, it was accepted by the majority of the scientific community as Galton’s eugenics had emerged in conjunction with Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. It was not until after the horrid revelations of the death camps that eugenics was exposed as a vile belief system leading. Leading up to WWII, eugenics was regarded as the logical conclusion derived from Darwin’s theory of how “sexual selection” affected human evolution. Eugenics now seems to share infamy with other erroneous doctrines such as phrenology, but the general public is yet to understand exactly how pervasive eugenics truly was or how deeply it influenced not just the Third Reich, but comparatively benign governments in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Canada, England, and the United States.
More to the point of this book, it is important to quickly summarize what the eugenic cause entailed for those that preached its doctrines. Laughlin certainly understood eugenics to imply a nation-wide effort that necessitated the enforcement by an all-powerful state obsessed with the purity of its population. Laughlin and his fellow eugenicists understood how radical this concept truly was and declared war on not just traditional morality that prescribed treating humans like animals, but the founding notions of any government that based its laws on the belief that “all men are created equal.” The derision directed at the Declaration of Independence and Judeo-Christian values is prominent throughout their work, and their claims are herein juxtaposed against the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution and the Christian church as this was the arena the eugenicists chose to wage war upon.
A proper primer on eugenics necessitates an understanding of how eugenicists defined their science. The Laughlin files held at Truman University’s archives hold a two-page compendium of the definition of the science of eugenics by several of its key proponents. Much of it was taken from a paper by a “Prof. Dr. Günther Just” entitled “Bevölkerungspolitische Richtlinien” which was presented to the International Congress for Population Study that was held in Hitler’s Germany in 1935. The first definition is from Otto von Verschuer, the man whom the infamous Dr. Mengele answered to in the Nazi hierarchy:
O. von Verschuer: “The aim of eugenics (Rassenhygiene) is the cultivation of good hereditary qualities, and therefore, the preservation of hereditary soundness in the nation.” (BOX: D-2-4:14, Laughlin Papers, Truman Univ. Archives, Special Collections)
Note that Otto von Verschuer’s definition is devoid of the overt anti-Semitism Hitler’s National Socialist regime is known for. This is what made the movement so dangerous, as it appealed to an otherwise educated group of intellectuals. These were scientists embarking on a project of “directed evolution.” Anti-Semitism dovetailed with eugenics because those that wanted to “direct evolution” believed in a racial hierarchy with respect to evolution, and these scientists regarded the Jewish population as being of a lower evolutionary value. Alfred Ploetz, one of the fathers of eugenics in Germany as well as one of the architects of the Third Reich’s eugenic legislation, is the next definition Laughlin quotes:
Alfred Ploetz: “Eugenics (Rassenhygiene) is the endeavor to keep the species healthy and to develop its inborn qualities.” (BOX: D-2-4:14, Laughlin Papers, Truman Univ. Archives, Special Collections)
Again, these are the seemingly benign words of a true-believer intent on redirecting human evolution, through the cold and dispassionate calculations of science, and should not be confused with the drunken bigotry of a lynch mob. Laughlin’s compendium also includes definitions from well-known American and British eugenicists like Havelock Ellis and C.W. Saleeby. Laughlin also provides four different definitions of the science of eugenics from Herman Lundborg. Lundborg was one of the premiere eugenicists from Sweden. In 1922, Lundborg was appointed as the head of Sweden’s eugenic governmental agency, the State Institute of Racial Biology. Some of his definitions are telling as to the nature of a society dedicated to breeding humans like horses, and willing to reorganize society towards this end:
H. Lundborg: “Its (Racehygiene) aim and endeavor is to prevent the emergence and spreading of hereditary degeneracy and to organize social conditions so that future generations can best be equipped for their struggle for existence. This can best be achieved by a good mate-selection.” (BOX: D-2-4:14, Laughlin Papers, Truman Univ. Archives, Special Collections)
This eugenics primer must also clarify that some of Galton’s devoted followers spoke of “positive” and “negative” eugenics in sporadic fashion, and that historians of the movement have since tried to split the movement and its proponents down these demarcation lines. Laughlin quotes C.W. Saleeby, who was an associate of Margaret Sanger and an early ideological head of her Birth Control movement. Saleeby provides an interesting dissection of eugenics and is quoted as having “Galton’s approval to extend the concept of National Eugenics under three heads”:
- Positive Eugenics, the encouragement of worthy parenthood.
- Negative Eugenics, the discouragement of unworthy parenthood.
- Preventive Eugenics, the protection of parenthood from the racial poisons. (according to Saleeby:
alcoholism and venereal diseases)
(BOX: D-2-4:14, Laughlin Papers, Truman Univ. Archives, Special Collections)
The last point is instrumental in revealing that eugenics was far more than just a human breeding project. Saleeby’s last point is important as it reveals why Hitler’s domestic policy went to the lengths it did to protect its prized gene pool. The Third Reich would implement some of the world’s first anti-smoking, anti-alcohol, and the most extensive campaign to stamp out known carcinogens such as food colorants. Controlling human heredity in order to direct evolution meant vigilantly guarding against anything and everything that would negatively affect the gene pool. Eugenics, as such, is not just a tool of totalitarianism. Eugenics, as it was conceived, could not be anything but totalitarian as it desired to control all aspects of society. German eugenicists reveled in Hitler coming to power as they knew his “National Socialist” (Nationalsozialist) form of government was willing to put the full force of government to coerce “compulsory” or “preventive” eugenic health initiatives.
This is also what makes the intentions of these scientists relevant today, as the motivation to legislate and micro-manage the lives of the population can hardly be said to be a thing of the past. Many of these compulsory health measures remain part of mainstream collectivist thought. Yet, they are the very mechanisms by which a ‘totalitarian’ form of government enacts its strangling control over a populace. Dystopias come in the guise of good intentions and are always the inevitable outcome of utopian aspirations. Case in point, before the term “totalitarian” was ever uttered, the young Adolf Hitler was dreaming up an “Ideal State” where everything would be planned for and provided for. These utopian sentiments later informed the expansive domestic policy of a hyper “nationalized” and “socialized” Germany under Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers Party. (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Thus, Hitler’s National Socialism was a centrally-planned society by necessity, as one cannot breed a “master race” without total control over all aspects of society. A eugenic society by necessity is a centrally-planned society, and in many ways, centrally-planned economies tempt the necessity for eugenics. The centrally-planned societies of the Fordism and Taylorism era were focused on creating an efficiently orchestrated society with a collectivist focus on the equitable distribution of resources. They are, for this reason, easily threatened by a population that either grows beyond the available resources or fails to produce them in the pre-determined quantities. This is why “population control” efforts of the Fordist-Taylorist era were synonymous with “eugenics,” and why “eugenics” became synonymous with the elimination of “surplus” population. This is also why Hitler’s first victims were otherwise “Aryans” and “Nordics” that were simply deemed “useless eaters” or as “lives unworthy of living.” This was the “negative” side of eugenics, which aspired to rid society of undesirable, and more importantly, unneeded drains on its resources.
So, where does the virulent racism and anti-Semitism come into play into this utopian human breeding project? All of the leading eugenicists that had an influence on the international movement believed in a “rank-order” evolutionary hierarchy, which quite literally subscribed to the anthropological view that “whites” were the pinnacle of the evolutionary ladder and that the colored races were closer to apes than to whites. In terms understood by an animal breeder, allowing a superior specimen to breed with an inferior specimen only produced an undesired variation that was considered a “degeneration,” an “atavism,” or in other words, a step backward evolutionary speaking. By this measure, anyone deemed lesser than the prized “Aryans” or “Nordics” was a detriment to the population’s gene pool. In the case of the Germans, the offending ethnicities were the Jews and the Eastern Europeans. In the case of the American eugenicists, the offending population were the recently arrived Italians, Irish Catholics, Eastern Europeans, and on the West Coast, the Hispanics, and the Orientals.
Frances Janet Hassencahl’s unpublished dissertation explains that Charles Darwin’s “articulation of the mutability of the species” is what inspired the “idea of man taking active effort to control or change his evolution.” Thus, it is of no coincidence that the laboratory at Cold Spring Harbor, where Laughlin worked, was named the “Station for Experimental Evolution.” Most academics bitterly reject the notion that Charles Darwin had anything to do with the eugenic movement that lead up to The Holocaust. This is a subject that must be broached with trepidation. The rhetoric and vitriol that surrounds this conversation reach theatrical extremes. That said, the question is not if Charles Darwin would have approved of the tactics of Hitler’s SS or Brown Shirts. By all accounts, Charles Darwin was a compassionate man incapable of the violence practiced by Hitler’s henchmen. However, what is too easily lost upon those blindly defending Darwin is that the ideology presented by the eugenicists was a biological one; a biological question about how humankind fit into Darwin’s “Theory of Evolution.” This all-important inquiry was inspired by and set in motion because of Darwin’s aptly titled first book, “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” However, Darwin would not speak about humans in this first book but later extrapolated on the consequences of human sexual selection by incorporating and endorsing Galton’s eugenics in his second book, “The Descent of Man.” To get to the heart of the matter, one must ask two questions that touch the core of both what Darwin postulates in his second book and what Francis Galton and his followers believed to be at the center of the eugenic creed:
- Did Charles Darwin believe that his Theory indicated that some of the “races of man” were closer to apes than to the Anglo man on the evolutionary ladder he depicted? Or, in the alternative, did Charles Darwin believe that there was a hierarchy of the “races of man” with some of these so-called “races” more evolved than others?
- Did Charles Darwin believe that the interbreeding between a higher evolved and a lower evolved race resulted in a step backward evolutionary speaking?
The answer to both of these questions is without question, YES. There is no version of Darwin’s work where he presents the human race as monolithic in evolutionary value. In fact, he says quite the opposite as these are the differences by which “selection” operates per his Theory:
There is, however, no doubt that the various races, when carefully compared and measured, differ much from each other,—as in the texture of the hair, the relative proportions of all parts of the body, the capacity of the lungs, the form and capacity of the skull, and even in the convolutions of the brain. But, it would be an endless task to specify the numerous points of structural difference. The races differ also in constitution, in acclimatisation, and in liability to certain diseases. Their mental characteristics are likewise very distinct; chiefly as it would appear in their emotional, but partly in their intellectual, faculties. Every one who has had the opportunity of comparison, must have been struck with the contrast between the taciturn, even morose, aborigines of S. America and the light-hearted, talkative negroes. There is a nearly similar contrast between the Malays and the Papuans, who live under the same physical conditions, and are separated from each other only by a narrow space of sea. [sic.] (Pgs. 216–217, “The Descent of Man,” First edition, 1871)
Even the crowned champion of evolutionary science, Stephen Jay Gould concedes that this type of racism, “scientific” racism, began with Darwin:
Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1859, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory. The litany is familiar: cold, dispassionate, objective, modern science shows us that races can be ranked on a scale of superiority. If this offends Christian morality or a sentimental belief in human unity, so be it: science must be free to proclaim unpleasant truths. (Pg. 127, “Ontogeny and Phylogeny”, Harvard University Press, 1977)
It is from this concept that eugenics originates. Those that would follow Darwin and Galton believed that the offspring between a white man and one of the “colored races” was a human further down the evolutionary ladder. This is also where “scientific racism” started to adopt the methods of animal breeders. This is also where academics begin to disregard Darwin’s own words, and wrongfully claim that eugenics and its proponents misunderstood, misinterpreted, or perverted Darwin’s work. Darwin himself not only praised Galton but also incorporated Galton’s eugenic notions to underscore the foundations of his second book, which addressed exactly how evolution applied to humanity. The introduction to “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex” incorporated both Francis Galton’s and Ernst Haeckel’s eugenics and credits both of them generously. More to the point, Darwin himself qualified his “single origins” theory by proposing that there was an evolutionary hierarchy constantly in flux consisting of the various “races of man,” and that evolution happened precisely by “sexual selection,” with some of the choices between “fittest” and “unfit” being progressive and regressive evolutionary speaking. To deny that “selection” of the more or less “fit” sexual mates was not central to Darwin’s “sexual selection” is to deny Darwin’s work in its practical entirety.
Laughlin himself would directly quote Darwin as part of his testimony before the United States Congress during the immigration debates of the early 1920s. The eugenicists that labored to advance Laughlin’s work described eugenics as “applied biology,” or “directed evolution.” In fact, “applied biology” was the phrase utilized by the top ranks of National Socialism to describe their political movement. This was also the definition given by Dr. Clarence Campbell, President of the Eugenics Research Association, in a speech delivered before the Social Service Club of Delaware in Wilmington. Laughlin kept a copy of this address in his files:
Eugenics does not consist, as people have sometimes been led to believe, merely in sporadic attempts to persuade people here and there to produce healthier and better babies. But eugenics is the broad science of human evolution; it is the scientific study of the changes which take place in the evolution of human conditions. Francis Galton who was the first cousin of Charles Darwin, and who originated the science of eugenics and gave it its name, based this science upon the principles of biological evolution which Darwin gave to the world. Galton, who possessed no less genius than Darwin, at once saw the incalculable value of applying the principles of the biological evolution of species to the evolution of humanity. And he devoted the remaining forty odd years of his life to the intensive development of this science. The general principles of eugenic evolution which Galton enunciated in his lifetime, stand today as irrefutable and impregnable. We may well ask why these principles have not been universally accepted and adopted as the basis of our social development. (BOX: D-2-3:5, “Race Betterment and Sterilization”, Laughlin Papers, Truman Univ. Archives, Special Collections Feb. 13th, 1934, Campbell)
Benign as Campbell’s definition may sound, this was the essence of “scientific racism,” a type of racism that is veiled in intellectual legitimacy because of its scientific foundations. It is a kind of racism that should not be confused with common bigotry. Eugenicists went to great measures to distance themselves from the poor rural whites and the low-brow jingoism of rural bigotry. The leading eugenicists were very careful as to whom they mingled with professionally, carefully guarding the reputation of the movement as legitimate science. In fact, the most dangerous and influential leaders of the eugenics movement were students and professors from the American Ivy League universities and their European equivalents.
Of equal importance is the need to clarify that scientists like Laughlin and his mentor, Charles B. Davenport, had taken up the cause of eugenics much prior to Adolf Hitler. The international eugenics movement was well entrenched at a time when Adolf Hitler was nothing more than a frustrated artist. While German eugenicists had a significant influence in the movement prior to World War I, the devastation in the wake of this war allowed British and American eugenicists to make significant strides while German medicine and science were teetering on the verge of total collapse. The British and American eugenicists moved well ahead of the German scientists, who were, at the time struggling to provide for basic necessities. The Americans, under the leadership of Laughlin and Davenport quickly became the leaders of the international movement, scoring legislative accomplishments at both the federal and state level, while the Germans were struggling to feed themselves. Resurrecting German eugenics was possible precisely because the leadership across oceans had coalesced into a bonafide international movement prior to the Great War. Laughlin, Davenport, and Britons, like Leonard Darwin, the famous scientist’s son, made it a point to bring their German counterparts back up to speed. It is thus that the modern and matured version of eugenics that became part of Hitler’s repertoire was an American and British export to Germany. The insidious nature of Hitler’s National Socialism; its obsession with hereditary purity, was an acquired aspect that was not part of Hitler’s megalomania prior to him being sent to jail for the failed Beer-Hall Putsch. Hitler would describe his spell in prison as “free education at the state’s expense.” J.F. Lehmann, Hitler’s publisher, financier, and sympathizer brought Hitler the book titled “Grundriss der Menschlichen Erblichkeitslehre und Rassenhygiene,” or in English the “Principles of Human Heredity.” The book was first published by J.F. Lehmann in 1923. The book has come to be known by historians as the “Baur-Fischer-Lenz” book. Hitler would research and write “Mein Kampf” while in jail. As discussed in “From a ‘Race of Masters’ to a ‘Master Race’: 1948 to 1848,” eugenic notions do not appear in Hitler’s speeches until after his brief stint in prison. They are ever present after that, and “racial hygiene” thereafter becomes the central concept that permeated all aspects of Nazism:
One often hears that National Socialists distorted science, that doctors perhaps cooperated more with the Nazi regime than they should have, but that by 1933, as one émigré said, it was too late, and scientists had no alternative but to cooperate or flee. There is certainly some truth in this, but I think it misses the more important point that medical scientists were the ones who invented racial hygiene in the first place. (emphasis mine, Pg. 27, “When Medicine Went Mad: Bioethics and the Holocaust”, Compiled by Arthur L. Caplan, Humana Press, 1992. – Robert Proctor contribution)
There is one important observation to keep in mind. The basic premise that one can breed desirable traits in humans, or breed out undesirable ones, persists to this day. Yet, modern genetics had disproved this claim by the time Harry H. Laughlin and his eugenic-minded counterparts made their concerted effort to radically change American and German law. The Hardy-Weinberg Principle had disproven the claim that eugenics could appreciably alter the course of human evolution. The equilibrium model showed that sterilization of “defective” individuals would never appreciably reduce the percentage of mental defectives in society. In other words, the Hardy-Weinberg Principle proved that the systematic eradication of unwanted people over a thousand years would still fail to “direct evolution” as the eugenicists postulated.
The work by Godfrey Harold “G. H.” Hardy and Wilhelm Weinberg was hardly too isolated or obscure to have escaped the eugenic-minded scientific community. The principle was used to identify the various blood groups in humans. Felix Bernstein, working with funding from the Rockefeller Institute, used the principle to further refine the work of the Nobel Prize-winning Karl Landsteiner. Landsteiner developed the modern system of classification of blood groups, thus enabling physicians to transfuse blood without endangering the patient’s life. This was a major milestone in the advance of science, too important to entertain the notion that the eugenicists could have been unaware of their impact or meaning. Furthermore, George Shull, who also worked at the Carnegie Station for Experimental Evolution, showed that hybrid corn plants were more vigorous than pure-bred ones. This refuted the notion that racial purity offers any biological advantage or that race-mixing leads to “degeneration” of racial types, as the eugenicists contended. We know that Laughlin was aware of Shull’s work. Copies of Shull’s work and correspondence can still be found at the Laughlin Papers held at the Truman University Archives.
Eugenicists also ignored any scientific work proving that environmental influences significantly affected humanity. In spite of the mounting evidence, Laughlin himself refused to recognize that economics, culture, and other environmental influences severely affected the individual’s ability to be successful members of society. Laughlin, Davenport, and Leonard Darwin stuck to the belief that heredity determined everything about humans. As Hassencahl points out in her unpublished dissertation, “Laughlin was not trying to avoid the nature-nurture controversy; for him the question did not exist.” That, of course, is the polite way of characterizing Laughlin’s myopic process. The truth is that Laughlin was too devoted to his eugenic revolution to allow facts to get in his way. Laughlin was somewhat of a pseudo-Marxist, in the sense that his scientific work was conducted for the political advancement of the cause, and not in search of scientific truth, per se.
So why did it take the rest of the scientific community so long to do an about-face on eugenics? The scientific community that had largely supported eugenics didn’t dispute the validity of the Hardy-Weinberg Principle; they, like Laughlin, just seemed to refuse to believe that their previously held convictions that “defectives” should not reproduce were mistaken. After all, it had been no one less than Charles Darwin to propose that humanity could benefit from the animal breeder’s hand in “Descent of Man,” and at this point in history, it was these Ivy League educated eugenicists, whom also happened to be heading up most of the influential journals and institutions.
For this reason, it is also important to define what kind of “science” eugenicists practiced. Francis Galton was not a scientist, and Harry H. Laughlin was not a lawyer. Yet, both spent as much time drafting proposals on how government should be run and society organized as they did working on what we generally understand as scientific endeavors. Their methodology did not rely on the type of laboratory science as we know it in the 21st Century. Eugenics relied almost exclusively on statistics, and not laboratory experimentation as scientific experimentation is typically understood today. It was the science of cranial measurements, family pedigrees, and other statistical methods of gathering the information that was utilized to differentiate the different “races” of man. This was the contrast between eugenics and genetics as genetics emerged along with the new technological developments in science and in a proper laboratory.
The internal correspondence of the eugenicists proves that eugenicists like Laughlin were keenly aware of what modern genetics was accomplishing. Leonard Darwin bemoaned criticism and opined that work being done in laboratories with expensive instrumentation would not make his work obsolete. It had. He just refused to acknowledge it. Karl Pearson, Francis Galton’s protégé and founder of the journal Biometrika, literally threw tantrums and lashed out at any colleague that even tinkered with any other methodology outside of “Biometrics,” the other name for the eugenic statistical method. Curiously enough, Charles Darwin’s other relatives alluded to this chasm between eugenics and genetics in the first “Galton Lecture” before the Eugenics Education Society:
The contrast between Galtonism and Mendelism may be illustrated by an example that if not a strict analogy has in it something illuminating, especially for those who do not know too much of the subject. Galton seems to me like a medieval chemist while Mendel is a modern one. Galton can observe, or can follow the changes that occur when two compounds are mixed. But the Mendelian is like a modern chemist who calls the chemical elements to his aid, and is able to express the result of the experiment in terms of these elements. This is an enormous advantage, and if my analogy is to be trusted it would seem as though a progressive study of heredity must necessarily be on Mendelian lines. (emphasis mine, “Galton Lecture”, Francis Darwin, Eugenics Education Society, Feb. 16th, 1914)
Mendel is often said to be the father of genetics, and many historians paint a broad brush and castigate “geneticists” for their relationship to eugenics. Others often point to the institutions that funded eugenics as being the same. This book will evidence that it was the geneticists, many of the ones that worked in the same institutions as Laughlin, which would ultimately be the first to take drastic steps to expose eugenics. The evidence dissected and extrapolated in this book demonstrates that institutions that had at one point been supportive of eugenics shut down and defunded their eugenic programs as Hitler’s Germany revealed what eugenic utopianism looked like when put into practice. Part of the justifications for shutting down and defunding Laughlin’s and Davenport’s Eugenics Record Office was the highly politicized nature of Laughlin’s work, which tailored scientific conclusions towards political ends in spite of what the scientific evidence showed. Therefore, the observations extrapolated in this book should by no means be construed as an attack on science in general. To the contrary, this is intended to be high praise for those that practice “pure science,” and which place science above the political fray that some scientists are too often caught up in. The truth is that the Hardy-Weinberg Principle was pure science and thus lacked the political and ideological propaganda megaphone that the eugenics movement excelled at. Hardy was a pure mathematician and held applied mathematics in some contempt. He made statements to that effect in his 1940 book:
I have never done anything ‘useful’. No discovery of mine has made, or is likely to make, directly or indirectly, for good or ill, the least difference to the amenity of the world. (Pg. 83, “A Mathematician’s Apology”, Godfrey Harold Hardy, University Press, 1940)
Ironically, it has been the authors of fiction that have most accurately depicted the dangers of totalitarian collectivism, where academia, likely for political reasons, has otherwise floundered:
But as Alston Chase put it, “when the search for truth is confused with political advocacy, the pursuit of knowledge is reduced to the quest for power.” That is the danger we now face. And this is why the intermixing of science and politics is a bad combination, with a bad history. We must remember the history, and be certain that what we present to the world as knowledge is disinterested and honest. (crichtonofficial.com, “Why Politicized Science is Dangerous” - Excerpted from “State of Fear”, Michael Chrichton, Harper Collins, Oct. 13th, 2009)
Neither politicized science nor the hubris of perfecting humanity can be said to be things of the past. These political strategies and mechanisms are still used in the 21st Century on a regular basis by scientists equally politicized as Harry H. Laughlin. Utopian aspirations may even be stronger and more prevalent today than ever. The astute reader will recognize the parallels.
(Numbering adapted for this extract.)
- Introduction of Lession.1Pg. 172 - “The Young Hitler I Knew: The Memoirs of Hitler's Childhood Friend”, 1955. Back
- See Generally: “The Misuse of Biological Hierarchies: The American Eugenics Movement, 1900-1940”, Garland E. Allen, History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, Vol. 5, No. 2, 1983, pp. 105-128. – See Also: Pgs. 200-201 – “The Descent of Man” Charles Darwin, VI, Chap. VI, 1871. Back
- Pg. 20 - “Harry H. Laughlin, Expert Eugenics Agent”, Frances Janet Hassencahl, 1970, University Microfilms. Back
- Pg. 277 - “Harry H. Laughlin, Expert Eugenics Agent”, Frances Janet Hassencahl, University Microfilms, 1970. Back
- Rudolf Hess at a mass meeting in 1934: See Robert Lifton, “The Nazi Doctors’ Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide”, Basic Books, 1986. – Robert Proctor has proven that the expression was coined by Fritz Lenz in “Menschlinche Auslese und Rassenhygiene” (Eugenik), 3rd ed., Lehmann Verlag, 1931. Back
- See Generally: Chptr. 5 - From Oppressed to Oppressor in the first book of this series: “From a ‘Race of Masters’ to a ‘Master Race’ – 1948 to 1848”, A.E. Samaan. Back
- BOX: D-5-5:7, D-5-4:13, D-2-1:22 – Laughlin Papers, Truman Univ. Archives, Special Collections. Back
- Pg. 250 - “Harry H. Laughlin, Expert Eugenics Agent”, Frances Janet Hassencahl, University Microfilms, 1970. Back
- See Generally: “Lysenko’s Marxist Genetics: Science or Religion?”, Robert C. Cook, Journal of Heredity, Vol. XL, No. 7, July, 1949. Back
● Buy this book on Amazon ● Buy this book on Google Play ●