October 10, 2003


Breeding perfection: Investigative journalist Edwin Black has an explosive new book about the eugencis movement and explains how America taught Hitler and Mengele to systematically kill a nation. (Edwin Black, October 11, 2003, Jewsweek)

Hitler and his henchmen victimized an entire continent and exterminated millions in his quest for a co-called "Master Race." Mengele's madness was part of that quest.

But the concept of a white, blond-haired, blue-eyed master Nordic race was not Hitler's. The idea was created in the United States two to three decades before Hitler came to power, the product of the American eugenics movement. Eugenics was the racist American pseudoscience determined to wipe away all human beings except those who conformed to a Nordic stereotype. The philosophy was enshrined into national policy by forced sterilization and segregation laws, as well as marriage restrictions, enacted in 27 states. Ultimately, eugenics coercively sterilized some 60,000 Americans, barred the marriage of thousands, forcibly segregated thousands in "colonies," and persecuted untold numbers in ways we are just learning.

Only after eugenics and race biology became entrenched as an American ideal was the campaign transplanted into Germany, where it came to Hitler's attention.

Hitler studied American eugenic laws and rationales and preferred to legitimize his innate race hatred and anti-Semitism by medicalizing it, and wrapping it in a more palatable pseudoscientific fa?ade -- eugenics. Indeed, Hitler was able to recruit more followers among reasonable Germans by claiming that science was on his side. While Hitler's race hatred sprung from his own mind, the intellectual outlines of the eugenics Hitler adopted in 1924 were strictly American.

Eugenics would have been just bizarre parlor talk had it not been for massive financing by corporate philanthropies, specifically the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Harriman railroad fortune. They were all in league with America's most respected scientists hailing from such prestigious universities as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. These academicians faked and twisted data to serve eugenics' racist aims.

Give scientists a rational theory and remove the moral constraints provided only by religion and you can be damn sure they'll run the experiment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 10, 2003 8:30 PM

Baloney. There was nothing good about the American eugenics movement, but Hitler was Hitler when the eugenics movement was in diapers.

He was influenced by various thinkers, like Chamberlain and Gobineau, but not one of them was a scientist.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 10, 2003 9:54 PM

He may never have heard of her, but Margaret Sanger was at her peak when Hitler was a boy.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 10, 2003 10:53 PM

Yet it moves.

Posted by: oj at October 10, 2003 11:24 PM

Funny, Harry, how the religious on this site are prepared to face up to the awful complicity of their faiths and co-religionists in historical evil, but you go to herculean lengths to exculpate each and every scientist that ever lived.

Posted by: Peter B at October 11, 2003 6:05 AM

Rationalism is an immature faith, so it's incapable of admitting error. Give it time.

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2003 6:24 AM

With a hundred million deaths under its belt, how much more time can we afford to give it?

Posted by: Peter B at October 11, 2003 7:31 AM

I'm puzzled.

During the golden period of eugenics, religious belief was a much more powerful force in America than now.

So why aren't we seeing more such experiments if the only bar is religion's moral constraints?

I can think of some morally reprehensible experiments--Tuskeegee syphilis experiments performed on African Americans--that happened in the very religious deep south.

I'm not excusing the horrific excesses of rational inquiry, but rather suggesting there is rather more to it than OJ suggests.

And I'll bet you could easily find rationalists who would sadly agree that such things were horrible mistakes.

So either the religion is not so young, or not so religious.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 11, 2003 8:05 AM


Today science is conducting the abortion experiment, not much different.

Meanwhile, the common people--as opposed to intellectual elites--are probably more skeptical of things like Darwinism than they were in the 20s & 30s:


Posted by: oj at October 11, 2003 8:25 AM

When a debased culture is stronger than religion (or more properly, religious or spiritual awareness), then all sorts of nastiness cloaked in religion occurs (like female circumcision and the odious "family honor" killings). Likewise, when science is conducted in a moral vacuum, one finds Mengele.

We would not gauge the utility (or the results) of all science based on the monsters; and the same must be true for religion (really, for theology).

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 11, 2003 8:27 AM

Remember, Jeff, the overall thread of the posters here is that we support rationalism, freedom, democracy and scientific inquiry provided they are restrained and informed by civility, morality and reverence, hopefully self-imposed, but, sadly, otherwise if not. We aren't the ones who see one side as a dark, evil chain binding the other and preventing a total victory that will lead us into broad, sunlit uplands of a modern new paradise.

Posted by: Peter B at October 11, 2003 8:45 AM


Since your assumption reflects a kind of circular logic, namely that religious or spirituality was stronger in the past than now, it would be difficult to explain a lot of things. The "golden age" of rationalism was the 19th century which followed the 18th which was preceeded by theenlightenment. So what? The French Revolution, Marxism and humanism all emerged during what you characterize as more religious times. Those conservative religious who noted the dangers inherent in all these movements where correct in their prognosis? One could as easily say that the rationalists were not very rational.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 11, 2003 3:18 PM


Science is not conducting the abortion "experiment." Women are. You daily walk streets filled with murderesses, who should be the real targets of your anger.

Never mind that, what is the scientific theory being tested? There isn't one, and without that, whatever you call the activity, you can't call it a scientific experiment.

Whether the "common people" are more, or less, skeptical about Evolutionary Theory has precisely nothing to do with its explanatory power.

People (at least in the West) are also far more skeptical of a powerful, aware, and morally concious God than ever before. No matter one's views on God's characteristics, the "common people's" view is immaterial to those characteristics' actuality.


You misread both me and Harry badly. When some make claims on behalf of religion, it is only fair to point out religion's manifest failures, which were extraordinarily common when religion had no countervailing power. Therefore, Harry and I are extremely suspicious of any sectarian moves to get anywhere close to exerting coercive power.

If results count, it is difficult to find better results than those provided by stringently secular government combined with a highly religious society. I know Harry has said so in so many words. Hence our extreme suspicion at such things as prayer in the classroom, or the Ten Commandments in public spaces.

Further, Harry and I assert that religious belief is not nearly the bulwark to immorality claimed. Hence my citation of morally reprehensible experiments undertaken within a pervasively religious culture, which almost certainly means the experimenters themselves were religious. This rather weakens OJ's assertion that religion provides moral constraints to such experiments, or even eugenics generally.

Or do you wish to defend laws against miscegenation?


One of my points all along is that using the term "rational" when applied to the -isms is abusing the term. Rational belief systems and argument from authority are antagonistic concepts. Marxism isn't rational simply because Marx says so. The moment any belief system relies on unassailable argument from authority, it stops being rational.

So, you are right, the self proclaimed rationalists were in fact not rational. And the test of their claims is very easy to make.

Which makes the character of the -ism belief systems identical to theological belief systems.

With one noteworthy exception: theological belief systems make no secret of their argument from authority.


Humble apologies if I have mischaracterized your views.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 12, 2003 8:21 AM


Harry is in favour of a highly religious society? Excuse me while I re-draft my last several hundred posts. If Harry confirms this, I will prostrate myself at his feet in abject apology, while continuing to disagree with him, of course. (South Seas paganism doesn't count). Harry?

I accept completely you believe this. I simply cannot understand how you can reconcile your admiration for a religious society with you oft-stated assertions that: a) scientific findings are the only kind of knowledge that is reliable to act upon; b)moral precepts are supect/invalid because they can't be proven rationally and scientifically, and also because there is diagreement as to what they are; c) as long as there are no cuts and bruises, freedom of moral choice is an absolute value independent of its consequences or, indeed, the democratic will of the people (Now THERE is a neat way to stack the deck!. But, Jeff, I'll keep trying.

Surely your assertion that scientific experiements conducted in a religious society "almost certainly" mean the experimenters are religious is the most unscientific, irrational, non-deductive, untested, monarchical statement you have ever uttered. Shame on you.

Posted by: Peter B at October 12, 2003 9:27 AM


The experiment is whether human nature has changed sufficiently that if we allow people the "right" to kill their young they'll use it anything like responsibly--for instance, only in cases where the child would be born profoundly defective and incapable of surviving. The answer is "no".

The failure of evolution to persuade and the persistence of belief in God, in a democratic society where we've already acknowledged that all we have is varying faiths, is dispositive.

Posted by: OJ at October 12, 2003 11:03 AM


Harry not too long ago said the mix we have in the US is just about right. That is, a secular government and widespread religious belief absent a single overweening sect.

I my writing skills aren't what I thought they were. I thought I clearly said that material means were the only ways to distinguish the truth value between competing assertions.

Communism made claims about human nature. How is it possible to determine the truth value of those claims without material evidence?

Mormonism and Christianity make competing, exclusive, eschatological claims. Would you please tell me which, if any is true?

Similarly, I never said moral precepts are worthless because they can't be empirically proven. I said the truth value of competing moral claims is impossible to determine absent material evidence. Some moral claims lead to more successful results than others.

European economies are organized on a different, very possibly more Christian, set of moral claims than the US. Which is better? How do you know?

You look at the results, that's how. OJ does it all the time.

My assertion that the experimenters were almost certainly religious was probabilistically based. How many people in the deep South at the time weren't religious? Are you willing to claim none, or even many, of the experimenters were not religious?

In the absence of anything like an agreed moral basis, what else is there except individual freedom of conscience? Do you propose to impose your moral precepts upon the rest of us? If not yours, whose?

Do you think the "will of the people" is a suitable basis for deciding where your kids go to school? If 95% vote your kids must go to a school you most heartily approve of, will you defer?


I thought one of the things you would take on board from Mother Nature is that abortion, and its even more brutal compatriot, exposure, have been going on since the dawn of humanity. If it is an experiment, it started a heck of a lot earlier than Roe v Wade.


Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 12, 2003 10:22 PM


A) Where my kids go to school is not a moral issue;

B) Yes, material and historical evidence can very useful in valuing the truth of moral precepts, although not exclusively;

C)Although religions may have incompatible theologies, they are surprisingly similar on fundamental moral precepts. You tend to take differences on the edge and then claim there are "competing" moral rules that cannot be reconciled. Which major faith can you name that says abortion is a matter of the mother's freedom of choice, gay sex/sodomy is just peachy, divorce and sex outside marriage are morally neutral, and it's perfectly ok to help Granny along to the next world?

D) Re: religious scientists. I could just as well assert that, because scientists world wide tend to be secularists, it is probable this or that experiment was conducted by an atheist. If I did, you would rightly accuse me of outrageous, inductive reasoning. Let's be good empiricists and ask, if we think it is important.

Posted by: Peter B at October 13, 2003 7:56 AM


To a whole bunch of people where your kids go to school is very much a moral issue. Who are you to say otherwise?

What is your alternative means for deciding the truth value of moral assertions?

The uniformity of moral precepts among religions leads to the conclusion that religious belief is an ineluctable part of human nature, the specific details of which don't, in general, seem to matter much.

Though there have been some that thought virgin and other live human sacrifice was mighty fine, slavery just as OK, the viewing of women as fundamentally impure vessels scarcely above cattle in the grand scheme of things divinely ordained, and left handedness or cleft palate a sure sign of the devil.

Your red herrings aren't helpful. There are all kinds of people who are just as opposed to helping Granny into the next world as support her autonomy to make her own decision as to when her time has come. If it is fair play to tar my position with that kind of brush, then be prepared for me to tar yours with the World Church of the Creator.

No, I don't know of major faiths that support those things you list. Well, I take that back. There are certainly sects among those that do. And, in case you didn't know it, the second largest religious faith in the US is secular/agnostic/atheist/no religious denomination, at about 23 million of US adults. (from a USA Today article of about a month ago)

But why should they get to make their own moral decisions?

RE: Religious scientists. OJ made the initial leap of faith, ask him.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 13, 2003 8:20 AM


I repeat, where I send my kids to school is not a moral issue. It may be a freedom issue, a constitutional issue, a rights issue, an educational issue or a political issue, but it is not a moral issue. You can't squirm out of the question by suddenly expanding the word morality to include every issue people feel stongly about.

Morality deals with malem in se--things wrong in and of themselves. As you don't believe in such things philosophically, it is not surprising you have crafted your own personal definition. (It's a hard word to do without, isn't it.) As all those people you say see it as a moral issue would presumably be satisfied if my kids attended the school I wanted, irrespective of which one it was, it can't be a moral issue. It might only be a moral issue if they all felt it was wrong to send my kids to this or that school for whatever reason, whatever I wanted or decided.

And so what if 23 million Americans are atheist/agnostic? That means their view of morality (which is that morality doesn't exist because nothing is wrong in itself) governs? Jeff, freedom of individual choice is not a moral cause, but it can be extremely desirable and important.

I'm glad you found my "red herrings" unhelpful. That's what I intended them to be.

Posted by: Peter B at October 13, 2003 7:55 PM


It isn't a moral issue to you, or me. But that you don't see it that way doesn't mean others don't in a very serious way. There are plenty of folks here in Southeast Michigan who feel school choice is evil pure and simple.

And you won't be able to convince them otherwise, no matter your very persuasive reasoning.

The uniformity of moral precepts among religions--despite their otherwise kaleidoscopic variety--probably means that both religious belief and moral sense are part and parcel of human nature.

Which means, to the 23 million or so of us, that human nature, not religion, defines morality. So go ahead and pick a religion or none, it just isn't going to make any difference in the morality department.


Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 13, 2003 10:00 PM

Jeff, you represented my general views very well.

I like our mixed society. I think it would be better if it were less religious, and I think it is better now than when it was more religious.

Since it ain't gonna ever be irreligious, I'd settle for less spiteful and violent religious beliefs, and we have moved in the right direction there since my boyhood.

But my first commnet on this post was not nearly so cosmic. I simply deny, on the basis of historical evidence, that eugenics (the pseudoscience) had much, if any, influence on Hitler.

What led Hitler to his extreme antisemitism has been the subject of tens of thousands of books. At one time it was popular to say that he picked it up from Krueger, the mayor of Vienna, but then it was shown that Hitler got to Vienna too late for that to be plausible.

Ny own view is that he sopped it up with his mother's milk, like most other Christian babies in Central Europe in the 1890s. Later on, he read widely but there's very little evidence that any of his reading formed his beliefs. He read to confirm his beliefs, not to find them.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 13, 2003 10:26 PM


Hitler's rather a minor matter. The question is why was so much of Germany in general prepared to kill groups of people based on biological factors. That's down to scientific rationalism:

Posted by: OJ at October 13, 2003 11:24 PM


That some people are wrong in their beliefs about what is good and what evil can't mean much to the rest of us or else we head right into the relativist ditch you advocate. The 23 million need to conform or be dealt with.

Posted by: OJ at October 13, 2003 11:30 PM


Before I prostate myself as promised, will you confirm your ideal is a "deeply religious society" and give us an indication as to what you means by that?

Posted by: Peter B at October 14, 2003 6:04 PM

Yes, of course I mis-spelled.

Posted by: Peter B at October 14, 2003 6:06 PM

U seem like the philospher type. Nice site. Maybe u will find this interesting http://www.angelfire.com/ny5/mahler
"Mahler: The Man Who Was Never Born is a play which utilizes Goethe's concept of The Faustian Bargain. It is a term that I've coined to indicate an imagined, unearned gain in exchange for one's soul - a barter where-in the recipent is the looser. It is the relinquishing of one's judgement and life and when he places himself in the power of another. One does not get a "free lunch.""-From the Author

Posted by: MISS EXISTENTIALIST at November 9, 2003 2:42 AM