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Eugenics: How consensus science can be dead wrong

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A friend writes to urge us to listen to John West’s podcast on eugenics:

John’s account is thorough and accurate onthe application of Darwinian principles to the “improvement of humankind.” Most Darwinists today would like to forget this, but as John shows, eugenics wasn’t an aberration of those principles but a natural and logical outgrowth of ideas presented in Darwin’s Descent of Man. It was mainstream science. It is not hard to find leading faculty in the early 20th century praising eugenics as “cutting edge” medical science. This dark chapter must not be forgotten. As John has frequently said, “ideas have consequences.”

From David Klinghoffer:

Eugenics was the scientific “consensus,” the mainstream science, of its day. It was wreathed in academic prestige, with proponents at the best research universities. Its chief opponents were clergy and other religious activists, then as now dismissed by sophisticated opinion as naïve or worse. Only the chastening lesson of the Holocaust, itself an exercise in eugenics-inspired mass murder, finally discredited the idea in the eyes of most respectable people.

Dr. West draws several conclusions. One is that the scientific “consensus” can be dead wrong, and dangerously so. Another is that open debate, rather than passively accepting whatever is claimed in the name of science, is a crucial defense for truth and against injustice. A third is the necessity of resisting the lure of scientism, the mistaken belief that scientists at any given moment know best in all matters.

Darwin Day in America West is also the author of Darwin Day in America, a look at the many ways that Darwinism has shaped our culture that most of us are barely aware of.

Podcast

See also: John West has updated Darwin Day in America (read free excerpt!)

13 Replies to “Eugenics: How consensus science can be dead wrong

  1. 1
    EDTA says:

    Yes, it’s interesting but depressing to read the original textbooks those eugenicists wrote.

    I’ve highlighted some excerpts here and here.

  2. 2
    critical rationalist says:

    Posts like this make me wonder if ID proponents take their own theory seriously. Or perhaps they don’t have very good imaginations? Or perhaps they think their theory has been divinely revealed as true, so they don’t both criticizing it?

    Specifically, if ID really doesn’t say anything about the designer, and we are intelligently designed, in reality, then could we not basically the results of eugenics?

    I mean, isn’t eugenics a form of designing organisms?

    It’s only if one assumes that ID does say something about the designer, in that it’s some sort of authority, which is supposed absent from ID the supposed scientific theory, that one could say that adopting ID is a “better” response to eugenics.

    So, what gives?

    Oh. That’s right. Everyone knows, ID’s designer is God.

    If I got it wrong, then please explain why ID proponents like News think it’s any better than, say, Darwinism. I won’t be holding my breath.

  3. 3
    tribune7 says:

    –I mean, isn’t eugenics a form of designing organisms?–

    You mean like breeding livestock?

  4. 4
    EDTA says:

    I mean, isn’t eugenics a form of designing organisms?…It’s only if one assumes that ID does say something about the designer, in that it’s some sort of authority, which is supposed absent from ID the supposed scientific theory, that one could say that adopting ID is a “better” response to eugenics.

    Perhaps selective breeding is a crude form of designing organisms, but it depends entirely on nature/randomness to generate the variation(s) you are looking for. Only then can you selectively breed those variations to the exclusion of all the others.

    We are concluding from the evidence that a better explanation for origins is design rather than physical laws + chance. From that conclusion, you pretty much have to conclude that the designer has some form of authority over nature, yes.

  5. 5
    LocalMinimum says:

    CR:

    Is the development team of Microsoft Windows some sort of authority with respect to Microsoft Windows?

    Should we trust third parties to write patches for problems they’ve conceived of on the basis of a very amateurish understanding of the actual system and no reference to the original plans?

  6. 6
    critical rationalist says:

    @LocalMinimum

    First, if ID says nothing about the designer(s) then you cannot rule out the possibility of just that having occurred with human beings. According to ID, for all we know, we could have been designed by one designer, then modified extensively by another designer to make more complex life forms, who really didn’t have access to the “original plans”.

    I’d also point out that the knowledge of what transformations of matter in genomes are the “original plans”, so I don’t know what exactly you’re suggesting we’re missing. Or are you suggesting the genomes of organisms “complied?” from some higher level language? (If so, that wouldn’t prevent us from decompiling it any more than decompiling an existing executable today.)

    IOW, by not defining any level of competency to allow for God, you cannot say the results are any level of competency, either. For example, we might be the result of a compromise by multiple designers, where none of them got what they wanted, etc. And improvements could be made.

    Again, apparently, ID proponents don’t have much of an imagination or take their own theory seriously.

    Second, you’re equivocating.

    It’s true that Microsoft is an “authority” on Windows because it owns the trademark and the source is closed. But this in no way means that Microsoft is actually in any better position because most of the original people who worked on the original version of Windows no longer work there. Rather, most developers who currently know something about Windows because they have studied the source code, not because they are merely “authoritative sources of knowledge ” on Windows.

    Furthermore, Microsoft itself attempted to replace the core of Windows (Win32) with something called WinFX, which failed rather spectacularly. So, here we have a number of designers that found flaws in the original design, had the “original plans”, attempted to perform a massive upgrade, but could not. Being an Authority on Windows, whatever that means, didn’t help them. Again, since ID supposedly says nothing about the designer, it’s unclear how you know this wasn’t the case with us as well.

    I’d also point out that at least the designer(s) of Windows ships regular updates, even with its defined limitations? What about us?

    Not to mention that Microsoft buys other companies and integrates their technology into Windows. These companies were not “authorities” on Windows, yet their technology actually ships with Windows.

    IOW, it seems that your entire analogy fails to explain how ID is actually a better alternative to evolution unless it assumes that designer is God.

    But, as I’ve pointed out, we already know ID’s designer is actually God.

  7. 7
    ET says:

    IOW, it seems that your entire analogy fails to explain how ID is actually a better alternative to evolution unless it assumes that designer is God.

    ID is not anti-evolution so that statement doesn’t make any sense. That said there isn’t any evidence that natural selection, drift or any other materialistic, ie blind and mindless, process can produce the diversity of life, including protein machines and other biological systems.

  8. 8
    critical rationalist says:

    @ET

    The OP implied that intelligent design is somehow a better alternative response than evolution in regards to eugenics. But, my point is, ID supposedly doesn’t say anything about the designer(s), competency, etc. and it does so by design. As such, that assumption doesn’t make sense unless one actually assumes the designer is God.

    IOW, all the supposed arguments for ID doesn’t actually get you there. In fact one could use ID as an argument for eugenics, as we could be the result of it, if ID is true.

    This is like saying a theory includes an undefined abstract number, then turning around say saying that same theory predicts that adding one to that number equals 6. When trying to take those two statements serious, as if they are both true in reality, they contradict each other. One must be mistaken.

  9. 9
    critical rationalist says:

    @ET

    Why don’t you start out by explaining as to how human beings create knowledge. Then point out how neo-Darwinism doesn’t fit that explanation. Please be specific.

  10. 10
    ET says:

    CR- You have it all backwards, as usual. YOU need to show that Neo-Darwinism has a mechanism that can do something other than beget disease and deformities.

  11. 11
    ET says:

    IOW, all the supposed arguments for ID doesn’t actually get you there.

    Of course they do. Look if your position had something then you could use it to refute ID as ID says that your mechanisms are impotent.

    And AGAIN, evolution doesn’t say anything about the OoL. That is because most theories are limited in scope. And we already know that we can detect and study design in nature without knowing anything about the designer. We know the way to get to know anything about the designer is by studying the design. We don’t even ask about the designer until design has been detected.

    But then again that simple stuff is way over your head

  12. 12
    LocalMinimum says:

    First, if ID says nothing about the designer(s) then you cannot rule out the possibility of just that having occurred with human beings. According to ID, for all we know, we could have been designed by one designer, then modified extensively by another designer to make more complex life forms, who really didn’t have access to the “original plans”.

    I’d also point out that the knowledge of what transformations of matter in genomes are the “original plans”, so I don’t know what exactly you’re suggesting we’re missing. Or are you suggesting the genomes of organisms “complied?” from some higher level language? (If so, that wouldn’t prevent us from decompiling it any more than decompiling an existing executable today.)

    IOW, by not defining any level of competency to allow for God, you cannot say the results are any level of competency, either. For example, we might be the result of a compromise by multiple designers, where none of them got what they wanted, etc. And improvements could be made.

    Again, apparently, ID proponents don’t have much of an imagination or take their own theory seriously.

    Well, I admit, that does take some imagination. However, knowing that the designer was sufficiently competent to produce biology as we know it and we are simply not, is enough to give a good practical reason to doubt advocates of eugenics.

    It’s true that Microsoft is an “authority” on Windows because it owns the trademark and the source is closed. But this in no way means that Microsoft is actually in any better position because most of the original people who worked on the original version of Windows no longer work there. Rather, most developers who currently know something about Windows because they have studied the source code, not because they are merely “authoritative sources of knowledge ” on Windows.

    Furthermore, Microsoft itself attempted to replace the core of Windows (Win32) with something called WinFX, which failed rather spectacularly. So, here we have a number of designers that found flaws in the original design, had the “original plans”, attempted to perform a massive upgrade, but could not. Being an Authority on Windows, whatever that means, didn’t help them. Again, since ID supposedly says nothing about the designer, it’s unclear how you know this wasn’t the case with us as well.

    I’d also point out that at least the designer(s) of Windows ships regular updates, even with its defined limitations? What about us?

    Not to mention that Microsoft buys other companies and integrates their technology into Windows. These companies were not “authorities” on Windows, yet their technology actually ships with Windows.

    So are you trying to say that we are in contact with parties who were a part of the design process of biology? Or did you just pick the first star to the right and proceed straight on until morning?

  13. 13

    Then point out how neo-Darwinism doesn’t fit that explanation. Please be specific.

    You’ve been given the very clear “specifics” several times already, which you’ve avoided time and time again. When I say “time and time again” I mean you fail to engage the physical observations every time they are presented to you — and you will continue to do so even as you respond to this comment (if you choose to respond at all). The only purpose of this comment is to point out the incoherence of a committed anti-intellectual like yourself demanding specifics that he never intends to address.

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