Friday, January 10, 2014

Eugenic Sundays

At my blog Egnorance, commentor Diogenes believes he's found a flaw in the straight-forward historical observation that Darwin's theory of evolution was the germ of eugenics.

As I stated before, almost all major creationists from 1920 to 1970 were pro-eugenics. Let's list a few, with references. 
I already mentioned John Harvey Kellogg, cornflakes millionaire and Seventh Day Adventist, who funded the Eugenics Record Office. 
Let's next consider A. E. Wilder-Smith, who was both a Young Earth Creationist in the Henry Morris mold...
Diogenes goes off on quite a blitz, naming Christians who during the early and middle 20th century endorsed eugenics, which was applied human evolution, as James D. Watson recently explained:
"Eugenics is sort of self correcting your evolution..."
Diogenes, in his idiosyncratic way, raises an important point. Eugenics was enthusiastically endorsed not only by the biology community and the scientific community in general, but by religious leaders by the hundreds.

Francis Galton, the founder of eugenics, explained
[Eugenics] must be introduced into the national conscience, like a new religion. It has, indeed, strong claims to become an orthodox religious, tenet of the future, for eugenics co-operate with the workings of nature by securing that humanity shall be represented by the fittest races. What nature does blindly, slowly, and ruthlessly, man may do providently, quickly, and kindly.
Historian Christine Rosen, author of Preaching Eugenics and generally acknowledged as the authority on religious involvement in the eugenic movement, observes that eugenics was endorsed by many religious leaders, but not across the entire spectrum of denominations.

Rosen observes:
No Protestant fundamentalist ever joined the eugenics movement, and by 1937, the two Catholics who had been members of the [American Eugenics Society] had long since departed...
Which denominations, then, did populate the eugenics movement?

The evidence yields a clear pattern about who elected to support eugenic-style reforms and who did not. Religious leaders pursued eugenics precisely when they moved away from traditional religious tenets. The liberals and modernists in their respective faiths-- those who challenged their churches to conform to modern circumstances-- became the eugenics movement's most enthusiastic supporters. 
Why did liberal denominations, but not protestant fundamentalists or Catholics, embrace eugenics with such fervor?
[T]heir purpose was clear: they were dedicated to facing head-on the challenges posed by modernity. Doing so meant embracing scientific solutions... liberal religious leaders allowed their worldviews to be molded by the promise of the new science of eugenics. 
Rosen observes that the liberal religious participants in the eugenics movement were largely preachers of the Social Gospel, a cornerstone of early 20th century Progressivism.

It's worth noting that the clique of liberal denominations that fervently embraced eugenics in the early 20th century are the same clique of liberal denominations that preach Evolution Sunday from their pulpits in the early 21st century. Accommodation with the evolutionary understanding of man is a lodestar for religious eugenicists and their modern liberal descendants.

Before there was Evolution Sunday, there were eugenic Sundays, preached, more or less, from the same pulpits.


  1. (Responding to Diogenes' response to Egnor's Eugenics and the Station for Experimental Evolution" post of 12/19/2013, which I did not see at the time)

    Diogenes' portrayal of A.E. Wilder-Smith borders on (if not crosses the line into) outright slander. Wilder-Smith (hereafter "WS" for short) was not a eugenicist, certainly not along the lines of Francis Galton and his ilk.

    Diogenes quotes WS at length, but unfortunately not at sufficient length to show the context of WS's remarks. Fortunately, I have a copy of Man's Origin, Man's Destiny on my bookshelf. WS is not promulgating some personal theory of eugenics. He simply acknowledges that man's genetic makeup can be improved to eliminate many hereditary defects. But, WS adds (and this is the whole point of his digression into eugenics):

    It would not be possible to breed up from man more than is contained in him as chemical genetic information. That is, a new type of superman of a different race cannot be bred out of man, nor could a human be bred out of a chimpanzee, or presumably a chimpanzee out of a human.

    Shame on you, Diogenes.

    (Kent D., Omaha)

    1. Uh, actually you're slandering me. A. E. Wilder-Smith promoted eugenics, and as I proved, he said we could breed out recessives and make a race that would live to the age of 900, like Adam.

      Shame on you, Kent, and shame on Wilder-Smith.

    2. Diogenes:

      [Uh, actually you're slandering me.]

      You can't slander an anonymous commenter.

    3. To return to Kent D.'s quote mine, by which he attempts to portray A. E. Wilder-Smith as being anti-eugenics: Kent D's quote is irrelevant and does not refute the many pro-eugenics statements from Wilder-Smith, because in Kent's quote above, AEWS says "a new type of superman of a different race cannot be bred out of man." The key term here is "a new type"; he is invoking the creationist dogma of the "Biblical kind", according to which natural processes cannot turn one "Biblical kind" into another: that is, what creationists call "microevolution" is OK, what they call "macroevolution" is impossible.

      This is irrelevant to Wilder-Smith's strongly expressed support for eugenics, because eugenics is "microevolution" or as creationists call it, "variation within a kind."

      Kent D. has shamefully snipped off the beginning of Wilder-Smith's sentence, which begins with "But it" not "It." Would you like to see what comes right before Kent D's quote?

      Wilder-Smith, MOMD, p. 157: "The fact which we must keep firmly in view in thinking about evolution by selective breeding is that only properties which are already present in the genetic material as information can be brought out by selective breeding... there are definite limits to selective breeding. We might be able to breed out of the human race today an Adam who would live nine hundred years, that is, we could breed out the recessive and damaging genes which seem to have arisen over the centuries, probably by exposure to toxic substances and maybe ionizing radiation. But it would not be possible to breed up from man more than is contained in him as chemical genetic information."

      Kent D. left out the part about creating a race that can live to the age of 900, like Adam, and dropped the word "But." Shame on you, Kent.

      Wilder-Smith expresses exactly what is possibly and what is not:

      1. By selective breeding alone, which he calls "breeding out recessives", the human race can be rapidly improved and a super-race can be bred that can live to the age of 900, like Adam did.

      2. By selective breeding alone, a new "Biblical kind" of human cannot be created-- that is, a human with a new structure, e.g. new organs or body parts-- a change in kinds that Wilder-Smith compares to e.g. breeding an alligator out of a frog. This is the quote that Kent D. lifted above, and while it is accurate, it is irrelevant to eugenics, which only requires improvement, not wholly new organs, a change comparable to breeding an alligator out of a frog (to use WIlder-Smith's own analogy.) AEWS distinguishes between "improvements" to the human race (possible by selective breeding alone) and "constructive change", i.e. new organs or body parts (not possible by selective breeding alone).

      3. However, contra to 2, Wilder-Smith goes on to say that by selective breeding combined with genetic engineering (? Wilder-Smith does not use the term "genetic engineering", he calls it "steering mutation"), it is possible to produce an entirely new kind of human species, with both "improvements" and "constructive change", that is, new body parts. He associates these improvements with blue eyes and larger brains.

      Which I'll show in my next comment.

    4. Continuing with quotes from Wilder-Smith for eugenics:


      The weight of the foregoing lies in the fact that selective breeding is only a sieve or a filter... But the situation is quite different when one considers selective breeding coupled with mutation.

      Here, by mutation, new chemical information becomes available which can then be recombined in selective breeding. Could we attain a superrace by this method? Could mutation followed by selective breeding produce a superman?

      Obviously, if it were possible to so steer mutation that true synthesis occurred... then this, followed by selective breeding, should do the trick."

      Stop right there. Wilder-Smith has asked two questions: can we produce an improved race, and can we produce a new kind of superrace? And his answer to both questions has been "yes", using two methods, but both methods require selective breeding.

      Wilder-Smith, MOMD, p. 159: "If... it could be discovered just what chemical groups are responsible for blue eyes or large brain structures, for example, then suitable synthetic biochemical technique applied to the gene should be able to modify it constructively... so as to result in a more highly developed organism."

      Blue eyed people with large brains are "more highly developed organisms", you got that?

      He concludes:

      Wilder-Smith, MOMD, p. 159-60: "But by altering the metabolism of a cell by the mechanisms of [mutating DNA],... true evolutionary synthesis thus becomes theoretically possible. More complex foreign molecules... have already been shown to produce this type of change.

      From this we conclude that planned evolution, resulting in a species changing to a more complex one, is possible if one supplies the necessary planning for the synthesis of the chemical groups..."

      So Kent D. was taking a quote out of context to support anti-evolution. How shocking.

  2. Starting before the theory of evolution and the discovery of genetics, and continuing to this day, the Catholic Church has championed a kind of positive social eugenics to maximize the inheritable trait of Catholicism. From the encouragement to have large families to the prohibition of birth control and abortion, Catholic doctrine is designed to maximize the spread of Catholicism thru breeding.

    This idea is of course common among all conservative Christians and Muslims, and quite often morphs beyond social eugenics to take on a distinctly racial eugenics tone. Many prominent American conservatives, perhaps most notably Pat Buchanan, have suggested that in order to preserve our culture white people need to start having more babies. If that’s not Eugenics based on race I don’t know what is.

    Debate the history of Eugenics all you like, but today its religious conservatives who are its strongest champions and that’s not likely to change as long as there are Conservative Christians and Muslims around.


    1. KW:

      Eugenics is a scientific program. It began in 1869, and has flourished since. Its only inveterate opponents have been Catholics and fundamentalist Protestants.

      Having large families is not eugenics. Breeding is eugenics. Its funny that you would accuse the Catholic Church, run as it is by celibates, of trying to expand by outbreeding everyone else.

    2. Eugenics noun
      the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population, especially by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics)

      You are so pitiful you don’t even know what the word means. If you want to change your stance to embrace positive eugenics while denouncing negative eugenics feel free, but until then you don’t have a leg to stand on.


    3. On what chromosome, KW, is the Catholic gene?

    4. “On what chromosome, KW, is the Catholic gene?”

      I did say “a kind of cultural eugenics” developed before the theory of natural selection and knowledge of genetics. Obviously children are extremely likely to adopt the religion of their parents, and I’m sure there are genes affecting brain development, capacity for language etc. that have a role in this propensity, but of course they were not directly selected for. Its Christian culture warriors like Fisher and Buchannan that have leveraged and expanded this Christian ethos to encourage more white babies to preserve white Christian culture. In their case it’s the genes that make you white.

      Are you ready to denounce Pat Buchannan and others for encouraging positive eugenics, or are you OK with it?


    5. Pat Buchanan and I agree on very many things-- I think that he is perhaps the most perceptive political commentator out there.

      He and I part ways on two things: I believe that he has a streak of anti-Semitism, and I detest anti-Semitism. And I believe that he has a propensity to categorize people by race in ways that border on racism, which I detest just as I detest anti-Semitism.

      There are cultural conflicts in America about which we need to be honest. They are not racial-- racism in any form is utterly degrading and a lie.

    6. Egnor: Its only inveterate opponents have been Catholics and fundamentalist Protestants.

      Oh, already disproven. Egnor is like a man shown a photo of Earth from space and saying "It's flat."

      Fundamentalist Protestants promoted eugenics decades after real scientists had been opposing it. The invoked the name of science but seemed blissfully unaware of what scientists were writing.

  3. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyJanuary 10, 2014 at 9:05 AM

    Doc, it's "the inheritable trait of Catholicism".

  4. KW,
    I am not sure who explained to you what the moral shortcomings of eugenics consist of, but they fell short of the mark. Children being born - even when the motives are less than perfect - has never been one of the top issues. It is the bloody minded and cruel aspects of eugenics that horrify and disgust moral minded people.
    So some guy thinks there should be more 'white babies'?
    So what?
    I begin to worry when the tactic to increase one ethnicity, religion, or ideology is by means of culling the others like cattle.
    The hard facts are: The guy calling for more white babies is promoting his ideals, while the guy promoting black women to abort their babies is playing the role of selector. He is deciding which offspring do not make it to term. He is promoting death, termination, the end of existence and all potential for millions of people.
    More babies good. Kill babies bad.
    Get it?

    1. What you’re saying is positive eugenics good, negative eugenics bad. Get it?


    2. KW,
      No. That is not what my position is. You are incorrect.
      Here's my position in a nice and simple frame: Babies are good (a blessing ) and murder is bad. Having babies is not evil. Sacrificing them to the altar of hedonism is.
      That's my position.

    3. KW,
      What you seem to miss entirely here is that the rejection of eugenics is whole. The choices / dichotomy you present are framed from within a eugenics perspective. The standards by which you decide an act of positive or negative eugenics are precisely what has been rejected on moral grounds.
      I don't know that you'll follow me there, kw - but some other readers may.

  5. @KW:

    What you refer to as a "a kind of positive social eugenics" is less about "maximiz[ing] the inheritable trait of Catholicism" than it is about accepting God's blessing of children. Since Catholicism, or any other faith, is not inheritable genetically, the propagation of the faith cannot be ensured biologically. It's a matter of transmitting culture, of giving people something certain to hang onto, in a way that transforms thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors.

    Your misconstrual of Pat Buchanan is unfortunate. One of the best ways to preserve culture is to successfully transmit it to one's own children. But culture can also be successfully transmitted to those who are of other cultures. The latter transmission tends to be more difficult, humanly speaking, because the targeted individuals have already been immersed in language, thought patterns, behavior patterns, mores, etc--unlike children, who (if they're in the family from infancy) start out more like a blank slate.

    Accepting children as a blessing has virtually nothing in common with coercive eugenics.

    Kent D. (Omaha)

    1. “Accepting children as a blessing has virtually nothing in common with coercive eugenics.”

      Right, because the threat of eternal damnation isn’t coercive (if I knew an eye roll emoticon it would be here).


    2. [Right, because the threat of eternal damnation isn’t coercive (if I knew an eye roll emoticon it would be here).]

      Religious belief is voluntary. No one is coerced to believe in the Judgement.

      Being arrested and sterilized by the government because a eugenicist affirms that you are human waste is perhaps slightly coercive.

    3. Religion is voluntary, sure. Volunteer and enjoy eternal paradise, don’t volunteer and suffer torture for eternity. No coercion there.

      The only thing that makes it voluntary is the unbelievability of the coercion. If that crap where undoubtedly true religion would quickly become mandatory.


    4. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyJanuary 10, 2014 at 11:12 AM

      Popeye: "If that crap where undoubtedly true religion would quickly become mandatory."

      You've pixelated, kid.

    5. Egnor: Religious belief is voluntary. No one is coerced to believe in the Judgement.

      Sure, like it was voluntary for the Anabaptists (mass murdered), the Adamites (exterminated), the Jews (slaughtered), Servetus, Menocchio and the Polish atheist Kazimierz Łyszczyński.

      And then your god tortures non-believers with a slightly wrong theology for all eternity. Bishop Zaluski described how voluntary religious belief is:

      After recantation the culprit was conducted to the scaffold, where the executioner tore with a burning iron the tongue and the mouth, with which he had been cruel against God; after which his hands, the instruments of the abominable production, were burnt at a slow fire, the sacrilegious paper was thrown into the flames; finally himself, that monster of his century, this deicide was thrown into the expiatory flames; expiatory if such a crime may be atoned for.

      Egnor: No one is coerced to believe in the Judgement.

      Sure, you just get tossed non-coercively into the lake of fire.

  6. Dor yeshorim? Positive or negative eugenics? Good or bad? Should it be banned or extended to the entire population and to include all lethal recessive traits?


    1. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyJanuary 10, 2014 at 2:11 PM

      Been discussed and resolved to my satisfaction:

      Testing has legitimate uses even in the delicate arena of human reproduction. Young couples considering marriage may want to know whether one or both partners carry a gene associated with mental retardation, cystic fibrosis, breast cancer, or some other heritable condition. While such testing carries risk, it can be considered an act of prudence, whether the couple subsequently decides to marry or not.
      --- US Conference of Catholic Bishops

      bilgefull: "Dor [Y]eshorim? [...] Should it be banned or extended to the entire population and to include all lethal recessive traits?"

      Those are not the only two choices, Comrade.

  7. You're gonna have to stop it with all these hate-facts!

  8. Egnor is like a guy who's been shown a photo of the round Earth from space, and responds with a quote from an authority saying the Earth is really, really flat. Sorry, already disproven, no matter what your authority says.

    I showed by quotes and evidence that almost every major creationist from 1920 to 1970 supported or promoted eugenics. These were all conservative, fundamentalist Protestant anti-evolutionists who were anti-modern and anti-liberal and believed in the inerrancy of every word in the Bible. Most believed in six literal 24-hour days of Creation (although it's possible William J. Tinkle and T. T. Martin might have been closet "Day Age" Old Earthers, certainly Henry Morris, Whitcomb, Walter Lammerts, Frank L. Marsh, Harold W. Clark, Ernest S. Booth, Rousas Rushdoony, and A. E. Wilder-Smith were all Young Earth, Flood Geology, Global Flood, dinosaurs on Noah's Ark, six 24-hour day conservative fundamentalist creationists and all promoted or supported eugenics.)

    Against these facts, Egnor cites a historian, whose biased book I already read and laughed at, saying this hilarious statement:

    Rosen: No Protestant fundamentalist ever joined the eugenics movement, and by 1937, the two Catholics who had been members of the [American Eugenics Society] had long since departed...

    So that calls her knowledge and/or integrity into question. To be fair to Rosen, most scholars don't read conservative Christian books from the 1920's or 1930's (I do) so it's possible she's not lying-- she might just be ignorant. e.g. she makes no mention of Tinkle even though he published in the eugenic literature and wrote two books on the subject.

    When I confronted Egnor with the evidence, his initial response was a totally predictable "No True Christian[TM]" response:

    There was considerable support for eugenics among some Christians. I carry no water for Tinkle (we Catholics have fought for centuries against Protestant error). [Egnor, Dec. 21, 2013]

    So the above religious conservative anti-evolutionists who supported eugenics were not "true" Christians because they were Protestant.

    Now in this post, Egnor tries a new and different No True Christian[TM] argument, asserting that the religious people who supported eugenics were not "true" Christians because they were liberal.

    Now let's suppose that's true (already disproven, but let's pretend). Let's suppose, as Egnor now has started to claim, that liberalism (not Protestantism this time) causes support for eugenics, ha ha. Then he's cooked.

    Egnor is cooked because I showed that a bunch of conservative fundamentalist anti-evolutionists who supported eugenics. And Egnor, Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe, WiIlliam Dembski-- indeed almost everyone at the Discovery Institute-- is more liberal than all of these pro-eugenics, six 24-hour day, Global Flood, 6,000 year old Earth Creationists. If liberalism causes support for eugenics, then ID supporters, being "liberals" themselves, should logically support eugenics.

    These these "new elites", as they see themselves, cannot be trusted with power. Also, they suck at science.

    1. Diogenes:

      Rosen observed that no fundamentalist Protestant ever belonged to the eugenics movement, which means never belonged to a eugenics organization.

      Name the Protestant fundamentalists and their eugenic organizations.

    2. Egnor,

      And your point?

      I see now why my physician tutor many years ago claimed that surgeons were good with their hands, but not very intelligent.

      You must come from the very shallow end of the surgeons' gene pool.

    3. Looks as though I commented too early. Seems as though Egnor was experimenting with holding parts of his replies, initially just writing 'Diogenes' with 'genes' bolded.

      Still just iterating his previous assertions though. Appeal to authority, in this case false authority.

  9. Rosen observed that no fundamentalist Protestant ever belonged to the eugenics movement, which means never belonged to a eugenics organization.

    Why are you citing morons as your authority? You know the difference between reliable and unreliable authorities-- you've deliberately sought out unreliable authorities.

    And why are you now demanding Protestants? In your previous thread, when I presented a long list of fundamentalist Protestant creationists who promoted eugenics, you explained their support for eugenics by citing their Protestantism, thus not True Christians[TM]. But now you imply Protestant fundamentalists did not support eugenics, after I already presented proof to the contrary-- it doesn't even make sense in terms of your own previous "explanation", they supported eugenics because they were Protestant, you said. Remember?

    As for "belonging to a eugenics organization", I already pointed out that the Eugenics Record Office was funded by a fundamentalist Protestant creationist-- John Harvey Kellogg. That's more than belonging-- it wouldn't have existed without creationist $$.

    If you want some Catholics, we can start with Alexis Carrell. He ran the eugenics program in Nazi-occupied France. Not an atheist-- he wrote a book on the miracle cures at Lourdes.