Tuesday, June 12, 2018

More "Darwin was a Racist" Bull

14 June, 2018

Matthew Sears a professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of New Brunswick published a short essay;"Anomaly and Academia: is the Left Really Afraid of Honest Inquiry?"

Sears was critical of a right-wing whine by Anomaly about mean students at a public university angry that Anomaly is opposed to public education.

What I first look at in any publication is the references. It is a habit I developed as a student. In this case, I noticed that according to Matthew Sears, the target of his criticisms, 'Jonny' Anomaly, had promoted a version of Darwinian racism. What Sears wrote that caught my eye was, "Anomaly expands on this line in inquiry in a 2018 article entitled “Defending Eugenics.” Beginning with Darwin himself, Anomaly says, “Darwin argued that social welfare programs for the poor and sick are a natural expression of our sympathy, but also a danger to future populations if they encourage people with serious congenital diseases and heritable traits like low levels of impulse control, intelligence, or empathy to reproduce at higher rates than other people in the population.”

Anomaly claims early on in that essay that "In defending eugenics, I want to reclaim the spirit of authors like Francis Galton and Charles Darwin ..."

I of course smelled a rat because Charles Darwin was dismissive of Galton's Eugenics Society. And, I have read Darwin's core books. I already knew that that Darwin did not propose that social welfare programs were a "danger to future populations." Also as I have written, Darwin was not a racist.

Anomaly in his cited paper pretended to quote from the 1882 printing of the 2nd edition of Darwin's "The descent of Man..." citing page 138. He presented the quote as, "Darwin feared that in developed nations “the reckless, degraded, and often vicious members of society, tend to increase at a quicker rate than the provident and generally virtuous members” (Darwin 1882, p. 138)."

Since I am long familiar with creationists who for years lied about what Darwin supposedly wrote, I have developed the habit of reading the context of any "so-called quote." Here it is in fact;

"A most important obstacle in civilised countries to an increase in the number of men of a superior class has been strongly insisted on by Mr. Greg and Mr. Galton,(19) namely, the fact that the very poor and reckless, who are often degraded by vice, almost invariably marry early, whilst the careful and frugal, who are generally otherwise virtuous, marry late in life, so that they may be able to support themselves and their children in comfort." Darwin expanded on this making the reference explicit by writing on the same page, "Or as Mr. Greg puts the case: "The careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman multiplies like rabbits: the frugal, foreseeing, self-respecting, ambitious Scot, stern in his morality, spiritual in his faith, sagacious and disciplined in his intelligence, passes his best years in struggle and in celibacy, marries late, and leaves few behind him."

So the opinion that Anomaly attributed to Darwin's was in fact that of Galton, and Greg.

(The Galton book also in Darwin's footnote 19 was citation to "Hereditary Genius' 1870," and will be skipped over for now). The remainder of the quote was a paraphrase of William R. Greg, “On the failure of ‘Natural Selection’ in the case of Man,” Fraser’s Magazine, Sept. 1868, p. 353-362. My former colleague, John Wilkins has made a copy of Greg's 1868 article available on-line. We see that the often timid Mr. Darwin was even then trying to moderate the actual statement by Greg. Here is the actual piece from Frasier's Magazine;

"The careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman, fed on potatoes, living in a pig-stye, doting on a superstition, multiplies like rabbits or ephemera: the frugal, foreseeing, self-respecting, ambitious Scot, stern in his morality, spiritual in his faith, sagacious and disciplined in his intelligence, passes his best years in struggle and in celibacy, marries late, and leaves few behind him."

It goes on, but you get the gist.

In fact, Darwin spends the rest of the Chapter V (7 pages) dismissing the false claims of Greg in particular. Recall that Darwin's actual opinion of the Eugenics Society proposed by Galton was dismissive, "I am not, however, so hopeful as you. Your proposed Society would have awfully laborious work, and I doubt whether you could ever get efficient workers. As it is, there is much concealment of insanity and wickedness in families; and there would be more if there was a register. But the greatest difficulty, I think, would be in deciding who deserved to be on the register. How few are above mediocrity in health, strength, morals and intellect; and how difficult to judge on these latter heads." Darwin to Galton, January 4th, 1873. 

So, Jonathan Anomaly is either incompetent, or a liar. 

Matthew Sears is either incompetent, or too lazy to read citations.


Small Pseudonym said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Small Pseudonym said...

Something you may want to correct: The professor in question from UNB is called Matthew Sears, not Spears. It's a minor issue, but in context of your complaint that he wasn't precise enough in his attributions it's a bit hypocritical.

Gary S. Hurd said...

Thanks. I will see to it. What is odd is that I cut'n'pasted the name from the article.