Re: [asa] Racial Hygiene and Science

From: Michael Roberts <>
Date: Mon Sep 07 2009 - 17:51:56 EDT

I have just been on a Darwin conference in Germany and aspects of this came

It is surprising how many nations practised eugenics etc Germany led by the
agriculturalist Himmler, Canada usa UK, Brazil Argentina etc.

Culture will always mix with science in one way or another.


It was also said that every German has a Nazi ancestor
----- Original Message -----
From: "Bill Powers" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, September 07, 2009 8:20 PM
Subject: [asa] Racial Hygiene and Science

> I'm reading an interesting book on Racial Hygiene, which was all the rage
> in the West during the early part of the 20th century up till WWII.
> The central issue for the racial hygienists was the issue of the relative
> importance of nature versus nurture. They argued, as so-called
> Darwinists, that nature was of much greater importance than nurture.
> Whereas, the Marxists and socialists (esp. the Russians) that nurture was
> of greater importance than nature, and therefore favored a form of
> Lamarckianism.
> What is interesting here is that this scientific issue boiled over into
> the political arena. The National Socialists (Nazis) claimed, and was
> embraced as, the one truly scientific political party.
> The similarity to our own time could be drawn, but I would rather direct
> our attention to another question.
> Today, we regard the science of racial hygiene as wrong. We probably
> believe today that nurture is certainly of equal importance to that of
> nature.
> But suppose we agreed with science. Suppose that subsequent work, and
> there was serious work being done, was found to support the initial
> claims. What would we recommend for social policy?
> Viewed in this light, there may not be much difference between the Nazi
> regime and our own. Both, at least publicly, declare great respect for
> science and its accepted theories. The principal difference is a
> disagreement over the "right" science.
> Even should you think I go to far in my analogy. The issue raises
> questions regarding present Western and American notions of intrinsic
> human value and by what means that value is assigned. Given the
> materialistic bent of modern biology, what does the issue of nature versus
> nurture entail?
> The history of racial hygiene has associated nature with a Conservative
> perspective regarding social policy, and a Liberal one with nurture. What
> bearing does that distinction have on our culture.
> This history is but one instance of the intersection of culture and
> science. At one time, before science rose to the status it presently
> holds, science might have been somewhat immune to such pressures and uses.
> But we live in a scientific age, and everyone wants to be "scientific."
> bill
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Received on Mon Sep 7 17:52:58 2009

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