No matter how many times I see the history of eugenics and its blood-soaked impact upon civilization, there is no diminishing that feeling of utter helplessness in the face of the disturbing conclusion that no matter whether humanity pursues religion or science, it will ultimately lead to the same outcome. Nevertheless, I will try to argue there is a grain of hope, but first, I will fulfill the terms of the assignment. What three things did I learn?
First, though I had heard of the extermination of the indigenous Tasman population, the chain of cause and effect was well done. One salient point, however, should have been emphasized, that the “settlers” of Tasmania were violent criminals and, therefore, their violence against the Aborigines should have come to no surprise to George Arthur. Simply put, that is an example of willful ignorance on the part of the governor and his attempts to curtail the slaughter later, culminating in George Augustus Robinson’s “missionary” work, are further evidence. Aside from that, however, I never knew how quickly it happened. 44 years after the first settlement in 1803, the last 47 Aborigines were moved from Flinders Island to Oyster Cove—a people who lived there for a millennia obliterated in two generations. Just horrific!
You can read echoes of scientific racism in Victorian literature. Even in Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë emphasizes the physiognomy of Rochester’s skull, and, of course, the missionary position St. John offers Jane in India likely is indicative of the same missions that led to eradication of indigenous peoples. What I did not know, however, though it should have been no surprise, is of Dickens’s support for Governor Eyre of Jamaica. Because of his stories, I had always thought of Dickens as a friend of the lower classes, but here we see him coddling the worst of the Victorian gubernatorial despots.
The last detail that surprised me was the early involvement of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics in the Holocaust. I supposed Josef Mengele and Karin Magnussen were responsible for the early groundwork of the establishment of death camps, but the argument of the video makes sense. They eased into killing people, culling the mentally ill first, which is a eugenic argument.
Incidentally, I was a little surprised they left out Brazilian eugenic policies. Rockefeller Foundation money helped fund policies of “branqueamento” in Brazil too. I found a link to an article from a government site that discusses Brazilian eugenics:
Eugenics in Brazil in Early 1900s
Perhaps Ira Levin’s idea for the novel (& later film) Boys From Brazil had its roots in actual history.
So where is the hope in the face of so much calamity caused by subscribing to ignorance? One problem with understanding science and scientists is it never claims absolute certainty. Science is, in essence, a work in progress until we have better theories available. Some theories work amazingly well. Einstein’s theories thwart every challenge, for example, but others, such as String Theory I mentioned in my video last night, cannot even be proven by our technology.
Scientists are used to dealing with uncertainty. It’s a fundamental principle, in fact, of quantum mechanics. Bad science, however, happens when instead of investigating the unknown and making fair observations while armed with doubt, a scientist instead makes the same observation tainted by their prejudices. There is an avalanche effect as similar small minds group together and bad results are compounded by dirty money and politics. So, what is the solution?
Weirdly… better science.
It’s true. The Human Genealogical Project, which was sponsored by the National Geographic Society (huge racist history there, by the way) and originated by Spencer Wells drawing from the work by Luca Cavalli-Sforza has created a genetic map from the indigenous peoples’ DNA. The resulting map shows conclusively that we are all from a relatively small group of survivors from Africa.
So, I will add a couple videos as a rebuttal. The first is a documentary called Journey of Man from 2002 that shows their process and different indigenous people, including the Bushmen who live in the same area of Namibia the Germans committed their early 20th century bloodbaths:
Here is Wells teaching Stephen Colbert about his DNA origins:
Wells has a podcast on Stitcher and this year he updated his findings (because Journey of Man in 2002 was a bit precocious), after having much more data from which to draw. You can find the podcast here:
So, as you might suspect from your common sense, there is abundant scientific proof that eugenics is pure bullshit. The horrors of racism belong to an evil kernel in ourselves. Eugenicists only found science to be a convenient crutch to justify their atrocities.