July 8, 2008


Louisiana Confounds the Science Thought Police: Neo-Darwinism is no longer a protected orthodoxy in the Bayou State's pedagogy (John G. West, 7/07/08, National Review)

During the first decades of the 20th century, the nation’s leading biologists at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and Stanford, as well by members of America’s leading scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, the American Museum of Natural History, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science were all devoted eugenicists. By the time the crusade had run its course, some 60,000 Americans had been sterilized against their will in an effort to keep us from sinning against Darwin’s law of natural selection, which Princeton biologist Edwin Conklin dubbed “the great law of evolution and progress.”

Today, science is typically portrayed as self-correcting, but it took decades for most evolutionary biologists to disassociate themselves from the junk science of eugenics. For years, the most consistent critics of eugenics were traditionalist Roman Catholics, who were denounced by scientists for letting their religion stand in the way of scientific progress. The implication was that religious people had no right to speak out on public issues involving science.

The same argument can be heard today, not only in Louisiana, but around the country. Whether the issue is sex education, embryonic stem-cell research, or evolution, groups claiming to speak for “science” assert that it violates the Constitution for religious citizens to speak out on science-related issues. Really?

America is a deeply religious country, and no doubt many citizens interested in certain hot-button science issues are motivated in part by their religious beliefs. So what? Many opponents of slavery were motivated by their religious beliefs, and many leaders of the civil-rights movement were members of the clergy. Regardless of their motivations, religious citizens have just as much a right to raise their voices in public debates as their secular compatriots, including in debates about science. To suggest otherwise plainly offends the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

It is also short-sighted. The history of the eugenics crusade shows that religiously motivated citizens can play a useful role in evaluating the public claims of the scientific community. It is worth pointing out that unlike such “progressive” states as California, Louisiana was spared a eugenics-inspired forced-sterilization statute largely because of the implacable opposition of its Roman Catholic clergy.

...it was the political cost of being associated with the Holocaust.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 8, 2008 8:13 AM

Agreed. The road to Treblinka was through claims of improving man. I have no interest in physical or mental improvement at the cost of Treblinka, or Buck v. Bell.

Posted by: Mikey at July 8, 2008 9:22 PM
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