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New York Times recounts when racism was a science

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Decorously leaving out the main reason why: Darwinism

The Eugenics Record Office

When the Eugenics Record Office opened its doors in 1910, the founding scientists were considered progressives, intent on applying classic genetics to breeding better citizens. Funding poured in from the Rockefeller family and the Carnegie Institution. Charles Davenport, a prolific Harvard biologist, and his colleague, Harry H. Laughlin, led the charge.

“There were many prominent New Yorkers involved in eugenics,” Dr. Tchen said. “It was initially about how to become more efficient as a modern society.”

Researchers sought out “unfit” families in the Manhattan slums and the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. They cataloged disabilities and undesirable traits, scribbling the exact dimensions of heads and arms. More.

Nary a word , of course, about how Darwinian evolution theory was the basis of the eugenics of that day. Certainly for Davenport and Laughlin.

Note: The Kvetching Guru tweeted to say in response to this post that we might have fun with this. And if you can’t sleep, you do just that.

See also:

Note: Was there racism before Darwinism? Of course! But the unique contribution of Darwinism was making it appear to be a science of some kind. As opposed to religion or politics or just how the world is.

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7 Replies to “New York Times recounts when racism was a science

  1. 1
    Heartlander says:

    Eugenic racism in 1925 was consensus science in the field of human evolution. By 1928 there were 376 university-level courses on eugenics, and there was widespread support from scientists and other academics at leading universities — Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins, to name a few — as well as enthusiastic support from media and government. Eugenic science was funded lavishly by the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Harriman Railroad foundation, and the wealthy businessman J.H. Kellogg. Many national and international conferences on eugenics and human evolution were hosted at leading research institutions, including the American Museum of Natural History, and eugenic science gained the imprimatur of leading scientific organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, and the National Research Council. Wealthy donors created the Eugenic Records Office on Long Island, later to become the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. By the 1930s, thirty-one states in the U.S. would pass compulsory sterilization laws based on mainstream eugenic science and human evolution, and eugenics would receive the explicit endorsement of the Supreme Court in 1926. By the end of the first half of the 20th century, sixty thousand Americans had been sterilized involuntarily on the basis of consensus eugenic science.

    …Racism and eugenics were the hallmarks of the theory of human evolution in the early 20th century, representing a clear consensus of evolutionary biologists as well as other scientists and leaders in higher education and government. There were a few dissenters, but such skeptics were disdained in mainstream scientific circles.
    – Michael Egnor

    See also – Hunter’s Civic Biology

  2. 2
    tintinnid says:

    Yes, Darwin’s theory was misused by eugenics advocates to lend credibility to an ideology. Much as the bible was often misused to justify racism and even slavery. But that doesn’t make Darwin’s theory evil (or wrong), or the bible evil.

    The science of physics (and by extension, chemistry) has made possible far more pain and suffering than all other sciences combined, yet I don’t hear anybody accusing physics of being directly and morally responsible for all of this suffering, accusations that are repeatedly made about evolution. Why is that?

  3. 3
    Andre says:

    Tintinid.

    I think I need to point something out to you, you can do the research yourself. In South Africa there are two very distinct Afrikaner groups. They are known as Boere and Afrikaners.

    The Boer are the descendants of European Protestants that fled Europe due to persecution of their beliefs. The Boer are devoted Protestants and hold to the belief that all men are created in the Image of God, they also believe in a patriarchal system.

    The Afrikaner are immigrants from Europe of all types of denominations and they pretty much adopted the British Imperialist system.

    These two groups share one thing only and that is language, their culture, beliefs and outlook on life are polar opposites. The Boer has always been the minority in South Africa, I think even today there are just under 1 million of us. We have been victimised, persecuted and blamed for all the charges you’ve made. You see the Imperialists hi-jacked South Africa and they did in fact use the Bible as a means to justify racism in South Africa that led to apartheid. Boere have never supported this system! Let it be clear those that hold true to the reformation has never ever used the Bible to justify slavery or racism because it goes against the grain of one of our core beliefs that ALL men are created equal.

    In 1914 one one the Boere volk’s heroes were assassinated, The Afrikaner government of the time said he was mistook for a robber when police shot him, but in actual fact He was on his way to a meeting to start a rebellion against the imperialist and his racist outlook.

    What is my point here?

    Well The Victorian outlook aka Darwinism naturally progressed to Imperialism, these are the people that should take responsibility for the charges you’ve raised not the Christian.

    You touch on a point that is close to my heart because people who has always been opposed to racism has been vilified as the perpetrators of it, a charge that is simply not true!

    Afrikaners hold imperialistic beliefs and it is a direct off shoot of the Victorian Era……

  4. 4
    mahuna says:

    tintinnid,

    it would help if you read more. Starting with Darwin’s own “Descent of Man”, his own explanation of how “Origin of Species” had usefulness in the world because it explained why Anglo-Americans were the most successful (and therefore most Fit) subspecies of humans. And then try “War Against the Weak” or “Better for All the World” or “The Pure Society”. There was no “misunderstanding” or “misrepresentation” of Darwinism. Eugenics was PRECISELY what Darwinism was about. “The Master Race” was originally the Anglo-Americans. It was the Americans who started talk of breeding a Super-Man. The Nazi “racial hygiene” laws were simply translations of a law passed in California in 1919. And the people leading the Eugenics programs in the US were CLOSELY connected with the people leading the programs in Germany. It was only when pictures from the concentration camps and stories from the survivors came out that the Darwinists and other Eugenicists began insisting that this was somehow NOT what they meant, other state-ordered sterilization of Americans to prevent “bad breeding” continued into the 1970s.

  5. 5
    Silver Asiatic says:

    mahuna #4 – fascinating history. Thanks for those book suggestions.

  6. 6
    DavidD says:

    Tintinid “The science of physics (and by extension, chemistry) has made possible far more pain and suffering than all other sciences combined, yet I don’t hear anybody accusing physics of being directly and morally responsible for all of this suffering, accusations that are repeatedly made about evolution.”

    The science disciplines of Physics and Chemistry make no attempt at depicting blacks from Africa & Aboringinals from Australia as subhuman apelike species the way the Darwinian Theory of Evolution did during the peek of slavery of the 19th century. Physicists and Chemists are not the ones who’ve created the religious iconography of March to Man which puts down imagined lower races with white Europeans on top of the list. The differences between Physics/Chemistry and Evolutionary Biology are so glaringly obvious to the average person on the street, that it makes your own religiosity stand out like a sore thumb.

  7. 7
    tintinnid says:

    “The science disciplines of Physics and Chemistry make no attempt at depicting blacks from Africa & Aboringinals from Australia as subhuman apelike species the way the Darwinian Theory of Evolution did during the peek of slavery of the 19th century.”

    The peak of slavery was long over before Darwin came up with his theory. But thank you for contributing your views.

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