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« Trendy Zen | Main | The Judgment Olympics »

June 24, 2008

’Ring any bells?’

This is going to be a very long quotation, but it needs to be for you to get the full force of it. From Dr. Benjamin Wiker's 10 Books That Screwed Up the World:

Although your high school biology textbook undoubtedly had a short section on Darwin and was laced throughout with discussions of evolution, it probably left out Darwinism's eugenic implications. But such was not always the case. Witness this discussion from a high school biology text in use in 1917:

Improvement of Man. -- If the stock of domesticated animals can be improved, it is not unfair to ask if the health and vigor of the future generations of men and women on the earth might not be improved by applying to them the laws of selection.
Eugenics. -- When people marry there are certain things that the individual as well as the race should demand. The most important of these is freedom from germ diseases which might be handed down to the offspring. Tuberculosis, that dread white plague which is still responsible for almost one seventh of all deaths, epilepsy, and feeble-mindedness are handicaps which it is not only unfair but criminal to hand down to posterity. The science of being well born is called eugenics.

The book goes on to warn students about the infamous Jukes family, whose prodigious mental and moral defects wre passed on through even more prodigious breeding. Of the 480 descendants of the original genetically ill-starred pair, "33 were sexually immoral, 24 confirmed drunkards, 3 epileptics, and 143 feeble-minded." The book continues:

Parasitism and Its Cost to Society. -- Hundreds of families such as those described above exist to-day, spreading disease, immorality, and crime to all parts of this country. The cost to society of such families is very severe. Just as certain animals or plants become parasitic on other plants or animals, these families have become parasitic on society. They not only do harm to others by corrupting, stealing, or spreading disease, but they are actually protected and cared for by the state out of public money. Largely for them the poorhouse and the asylum exist. They take from society, but they give nothing in return. They are true parasites.
The Remedy. -- If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe and are now meeting with success in this country.

Until the last line, you probably thought you were reading a textbook written by proto-Nazi biologists, but such is not the case. The excerpts come from George William Hunter's A Civic Biology. Ring any bells? Hunter's book was the high school textbook at issue in the famous Scopes trial of 1925. It was the pro-evolution textbook that the forces of progress led by lawyer Clarence Darrow defended against the "booboisie" and William Jennings Bryan.

Something to keep in mind for the next time someone tells you that any link between Darwinism and eugenicism is purely accidental.

(For more about 10 Books That Screwed Up the World, look for my Q&A with Dr. Wiker in a few days.)

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Comments

Chris Clukey

Time to bring in Bob Uecker:

"Dalfonzo has taken her time getting back to the plate, but now her bat is ready...Here's the pitch, she swings...she connects and the ball soars over left field...get up! Get up! Get outta here...GONE!!!!"

Gina Dalfonzo

Thanks, but Dr. Wiker did all the swinging and hitting -- I just quoted! :-)

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