Re: [asa] Racial Hygiene and Science

From: dfsiemensjr <>
Date: Mon Sep 07 2009 - 22:58:50 EDT

Nature v nurture was bunk because it held that nature was an absolute
limitation, seen in the counter notion of Lamarkianism, which held that
entities were almost infinitely flexible over time. Adopting these
notions, Lysenko, backed by Stalin, nearly destroyed Soviet agriculture.
Nature is much more flexible than the old timers recognized, so much so
that modern techniques discover different genetic activity in identical
twins. A more reasonable approach recognizes that one must deal with
nature and nurture.
Dave (ASA)

On Mon, 7 Sep 2009 13:20:19 -0600 (MDT) Bill Powers <>
> 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 23:02:02 2009

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