Five items appear below:

1 Editorial 72
2 A Brief History of the Eugenics Movement (Dr Bergman) 72
3 Reply to Bergman on Eugenics (Dr Potter) 73
4 Is the Orthodox History of Eugenics True? (Dr Bergman) 77
5 Reply to Bergman: Some Tangential Points (Dr Potter) 77



… Jerry Bergman has donated the article A Brief History of the Eugenics Movement.

Dr Bergman's conclusion on Eugenics (= racial improvement by scientific control of breeding) are reminiscent of the conclusions of "Anonymous" on the related topic – Social Darwinism. (Investigator 33)

Social Darwinism was the theory that "societies and classes evolve under the principle of survival of the fittest." With eugenics such evolution toward better/fitter societies could in principle be speeded up.

Dr Bergman shows that eugenic ideas were supported by many scientists, were contrary to the Bible, discouraged help to the poor, culminated in the Holocaust, and became untenable with newer scientific research.

"Anonymous" showed the same of Social Darwinism.

A Brief History of the
Eugenics Movement

(Investigator 72, 2000 May)

Dr Jerry Bergman


Eugenics, the science of improving the human race by scientific control of breeding, was viewed by a large segment of scientists for almost one hundred years as an important, if not a major means of producing paradise on earth. These scientists concluded that many human traits were genetic, and that persons who came from genetically 'good families' tended to turn out far better than those who came from poor families. The next step was to encourage the good families to have more children, and the poor families to have few or no children.

From these simple observations developed one of the most far-reaching movements, which culminated in the loss of millions of lives. It discouraged aiding the sick, building asylums for the insane, or even aiding the poor and all those who were believed to be in some way 'genetically inferior', which included persons afflicted with an extremely wide variety of unrelated physical and even psychological maladies. Their end goal was to save society from the 'evolutionary inferior'. The means was sexual sterilization, permanent custody of 'defective' adults by the state, marriage restrictions, and even the elimination of the unfit through means which ranged from refusal to help them to outright killing. This movement probably had a greater adverse influence upon society than virtually any other that developed from a scientific theory in modern times. It culminated with the infamous Holocaust and afterward rapidly declined.


The eugenics movement grew from the core ideas of evolution, primarily those expounded by Charles Darwin.1 As Haller concluded:

'Eugenics was the legitimate offspring of Darwinian evolution, a natural and doubtless inevitable outgrowth of currents of thought that developed from the publication in 1859 of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species.' 2

Eugenics spanned the political spectrum from conservatives to radical socialists; what they had in common was a belief in evolution and a faith that science, particularly genetics, held the key for improving the life of humans.3

The first eugenics movement in America was founded in 1903 and included many of the most well known new-world biologists in the country: David Star Jordan was its chairman (a prominent biologist and chancellor of Stanford University), Luther Burbank (the famous plant breeder), Vernon L. Kellog (a world renowned biologist at Stanford), William B. Castle (a Harvard geneticist), Roswell H. Johnson (a geologist and a professor of genetics), and Charles R. Henderson of the University of Chicago.

One of the most prominent eugenicists in the United States was Charles Benedict Davenport, a Harvard Ph.D, where he served as instructor of biology until he became an assistant professor at the University of Chicago in 1898.4 In 1904, he became director for a new station for experimental evolution at Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island. Even Edward Thorndike of Columbia University, one of the most influential educational psychologists in history, was also involved. His work is still today regarded as epic and his original textbook on tests and measurements set the standard in the field.

Other persons active in the early eugenics society were eminent sexologists Havelock Ellis, Dr F. W. Mott, a leading expert in insanity, and Dr A. F. Tredgold, an author of a major textbook on mental deficiency, and one of the foremost British experts on this subject. Nobel laureate George Bernard Shaw, author H. G. Wells, and planned parenthood founder Margaret Sanger were also very involved in the movement.5

As the eugenics movement grew, it added other prominent individuals. Among them were Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone who was 'one of the most respected, if not one of the most zealous participants in the American Eugenics Movement.' 6He published numerous papers in scholarly journals specifically on genetics and the deafness problem, and also in other areas.

Of the many geneticists who are today recognized as scientific pioneers that were once eugenicists include J. B. S. Haldane, Thomas Hunt Morgan, William Bateson, Herman J. Muller, and evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley.7 Professors were prominent among both the officers and members of various eugenics societies which sprang up in the United States and Europe. In virtually every college and university were professors 'inspired by the new creed,' and most of the major colleges had credit courses on eugenics.8 These classes were typically well attended and their content was generally accepted as part of proven science. Many eugenicists also lectured widely and developed new courses, both at their institutes and elsewhere, to help educate the public in the principles of eugenics.' According to Haller:

'the movement was the creation of biological scientists, social scientists, and others with a faith that science provided a guide for human progress. Indeed, during the first three decades of the present century, eugenics was a sort of secular religion for many who dreamed of a society in which each child might be born endowed with vigorous health and an able mind.' 10  

The eugenics movement also attacked the idea of democracy itself. Many concluded that letting inferior persons participate in government was naive, if not dangerous. Providing educational opportunities and governmental benefits for everyone likewise seemed a misplacement of resources: one saves only the best cows for breeding, slaughtering the inferior ones, and these laws of nature must be applied to human animals. If a primary determinant of mankind's behavioural nature is genetic as the movement concluded, then environmental reforms are largely useless. Further, those who are at the bottom of the social ladder in society, such as Blacks, are in this position not because of social injustice or discrimination, but as a result of their own inferiority.11


The first chapter in the most definitive history of the eugenics movement12 is entitled 'Francis Galton, Founder of the Faith'. Influenced by his older cousin, Charles Darwin, Galton began his lifelong quest to quantify humans, and search for ways of genetically improving the human race in about 1860. So extremely important was Darwin's idea to Galton, as Hailer states, that within six years of the publication of The Origin of Species

'...Galton had arrived at the doctrine that he was to preach for the remainder of his life.., this became for him a new ethic and a new religion.'13

Galton openly stated that his goal was 'to produce a highly gifted race of men by judicious marriages during several consecutive generations'. 14 In an 1865 article, he proposed that the state sponsor competitive examinations, and the male winners marry the female winners. He later suggested that the state rank people according to evolutionary superiority, and then use money 'rewards' to encourage those who were ranked high to have more children. Those ranked towards the bottom would be segregated in monasteries and convents, and watched to prevent them from propagating more of their kind.15

Galton concluded that not only intelligence, but many other human traits were primarily, if not almost totally, the product of heredity. He believed that virtually every human function could be evaluated statistically, and that human beings could be compared in a quantitative manner on many hundreds of traits. He was also fully convinced that the survival of the fittest law fully applied to humans, and that it should be under the control of those who were most intelligent and responsible. Galton himself coined the word eugenics from the Greek words meaning well born. He also introduced the terms nature and nurture to science and started the nature/nurture argument which is still raging today. His goal was to produce a super race to control tomorrow's world, a dream which he not only wrote about, but actively involved himself in promoting his whole life. In 1901 he founded the Eugenics Education Society based in the Statistics Department at the University College of London.16 This organization flourished, later even producing a journal called Biometrika, founded and edited by Galton and later Pearson. It is still a leading journal today, but it has since rejected the basic idea behind its founding.

Galton, himself a child prodigy, soon set about looking for superior men by measuring the size of human heads, bodies and minds. For this purpose, he devised sophisticated measuring equipment which would quantify not only the brain and intelligence, but virtually every other human trait that could be measured without doing surgery. He even constructed a whistle to measure the upper range of hearing, now called a Galton whistle, a tool which is still standard equipment in a physiological laboratory. His work was usually anything but superficial – much of it was extremely thorough. He relied heavily upon the empirical method and complex statistical techniques, many of which he developed for his work in this area. In fact, Galton and his coworker, Karl Pearson, are regarded as founders of the modern field of statistics, and both made major contributions. Their thorough, detailed research was extremely convincing, especially to academics. German academics were among the first to wholeheartedly embrace his philosophy, as well as the theory of Darwinian evolution.

The idea that humans could achieve biological progress and eventually breed a superior race was not seen as heretical to the Victorian mind, nor did it have the horrendous implications or the taint of Nazism that it does today. All around Galton were the fruits of the recent advances in technology and the industrial revolution that had dramatically proved human mastery over inanimate nature.17 They knew that, by careful selection, farmers could obtain better breeds of both plants and animals, and it was logical that the human races could similarly be improved.18 Galton's conclusion was that, for the sake of mankind's future, pollution of the precious superior gene pool of certain classes must be stopped by preventing interbreeding with inferior stock. The next step was that we humans must intelligently direct our own evolution rather than leave such a vital event to chance. And Galton was not alone is this conclusion. All of the major fathers of modem evolution, including Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace (often credited as the co-founder of the modern theory of evolution), Edward Blyth, as well as E. Ray Lankester, and Erasmus Darwin, inferred that 'evolution sanctioned a breeding program for man'. 19

The route to produce a race of gifted humans was controlled marriages of superior stock.20 In an effort to be tactful in his discussion of race breeding, he used terms such as 'judicious marriages' and 'discouraging breeding by inferior stock.' He did not see himself as openly cruel, at least in his writings, but believed that his proposals were for the long term good of humanity. Galton utterly rejected and wrote much against the Christian doctrines of helping the weak, displaying a tolerable attitude toward human fragilities and also showing charity towards the poor. Although this response may seem cold – the mind of the co-founder of the field, Karl Pearson, has often be described as mathematical and without feeling and sympathy – it must be viewed in the science climate of the time.21 Galton received numerous honours for his work, including the Darwin and Wallace Medals, and also the Huxley and the Copley Medals. He was even knighted by the British government and thus became Sir Francis Galton.

Understanding the eugenics movement requires a knowledge of how evolution was viewed in America and Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many scientists had concurrently applied Darwinian analysis to various racial' groups, concluding that some 'races' were more evolutionarily advanced than others. If this claim was valid, the presence of certain racial groups in the United States and Europe constituted a threat to 'the long-run biological quality of the nation.' Consequently, it was concluded that 'selective breeding was a necessary step in solving many major social problems'.22

We are today keenly aware of the tragic results of this belief; most people are now horrified by such statements when quoted by modern day white supremacists and racist groups. Many of the extremist groups today often quote from, and also have reprinted extensively, the scientific and eugenic literature of this time.


From this point on, Galton's ideas about eugenics rapidly catalyzed. The knowledge he obtained from his African travels confirmed his beliefs about inferior races, and how to improve society. This conclusion strongly supported the writings of both his grandfather and his first cousin, Charles Darwin. Galton, highly rewarded for his scientific contributions, likely felt that his eugenics work was another way that he could achieve even more honours. He concluded that his work was more important than that which he had completed for the various geographical societies, and more important than even his research which helped the fingerprint system become part of the British method of criminal identification.

The history of eugenics is intimately tied to the history of evolution. Hailer, the author of one of the most definitive works on the history of the eugenics movement, stated

'Eugenics arose out of the Darwinian theory of evolution and attempted to apply that theory to mankind… eugenics...involved the application – or misapplication – to man of the discoveries in genetics that were then transforming scientific understanding of living organisms and the ways that evolution operated.' 23  

In a letter that he wrote to Darwin, Galton said

  'the appearance of your The Origin of Species formed a real crisis in my life; your book drove away the constraint of my old superstition as if it had been a nightmare and was the first to give me freedom of thought.' 24

Another aspect of Galton's motivation was:

'Galton, himself an agnostic, found in eugenics an emotional equivalent for religion. "An enthusiasm to improve the race is so noble in its aim" he declared, "that it might well give rise to the sense of a religious obligation."' 25  

He even advocated that law and custom should be utilized to support eugenics for the improvement of the race. This of course is exactly what the National Socialist Party did not too many years later in Germany.

Galton called the method of race analysis he developed 'statistics by intercomparison.' It later became a common system of scaling psychological tests. This scale permitted Galton

'to make a number of general statements about the comparative abilities of different races, statements that were well in tune with (and in many ways were merely re-expressions of the prejudices of that day'. 26  

Interestingly, Galton rated the ability of the ancient Athenians

  'very nearly two grades higher than our own – that is, about as much as our race is above that of the African Negro'. 27

How Galton was able to do this is not fully clear, but he likely relied almost totally upon the writings of literate Athenians who we know something about today, likely the more eminent and talented persons of that culture.

Around the turn of the century, eugenics was fully accepted by the educated classes. As Kelves states:

'Galton's religion [became] as much a part of the secular pieties of the nineteen-twenties as the Einstein craze.' 28  

Books on eugenics became best-sellers – Albert E. Wiggam wrote at least four popular books on eugenics, several were best-sellers29-32 and the prestigious Darwinian family name stayed with the eugenics movement for years – the president of the British Eugenics Society from 1911 to 1928 was Major Leonard Darwin, Charles' son.

The impact of the eugenics movement on American law was especially profound. In the 1920s, congress introduced and passed many laws to restrict the influx of 'inferior races,' including all of those from Southern and Eastern Europe, and also China. These beliefs were also reflected in everything from school textbooks to social policy. American Blacks especially faced the brunt of these laws. Inter-racial marriage was forbidden by law in many areas and discouraged by social pressure in virtually all. The eugenicists concluded that the American belief that education could benefit everyone was unscientific, and that the conviction that social reform and social justice could substantially reduce human misery was more than wrong-headed, it was openly dangerous.34

According to Hailer, it was actually between 1870 and 1900 that

'educated Americans took giant strides toward a fairly wide acceptance of varying forms and degrees of racism.' 35  

The year 1870 is an important date because

  'before the Civil War the lack of a well-developed racist philosophy in the Western World and a general belief that all men descended from Adam and Eve retarded the growth of race concepts. Only among those defending Negro slavery from increasingly bitter attack did specific biological theories of race become at all important. In the post-Civil War period, however, the general background of evolutionary thought and the writings of European races provided a climate of opinion that nurtured race thinking.' 36  

The conclusion was

  'the broad, flat nose, the slanted profile of the Negro face, and the smaller, average skull capacity so it was argued — placed the Negro closer to the anthropoids.'
And since they were inferior, miscegenation'was the road to racial degeneration.' 37


The second most important architect of eugenics theory was Galton's disciple, Karl Pearson. His degree was in mathematics with honours from Kings College, Cambridge, which he completed in 1879. He then studied law and was called to the bar in 1881. A socialist, he often lectured on Marxism to revolutionary clubs. He was later appointed to the chair of applied mathematics and mechanics at University College, London, and soon thereafter established his reputation as a mathematician. His publication The Grammar of Science also accorded him a place in the philosophy of science field.

<>Pearson, greatly influenced by Galton, soon began to apply his mathematical knowledge to biological problems. He developed the field now known as statistics primarily to research evolution specifically as it related to eugenics. Pearson vigorously applied the experimental method to his research. Kevles concludes that Pearson was cold, remote, driven, and treated any emotional pleasure as a weakness. Challenging him on a scientific point invited 'demolishing fire in return'. Pearson 'like so many Victorian undergraduates, was beset by an agony of religious doubt'.38 Pearson concluded that Darwinism supported socialism because he assumed that socialism produced a wealthier, stronger, more productive, and in short, a superior nation. And the outcome of the Darwinian struggle results in the ascendancy of the 'fittest' nation, not individuals. Achievement of national fitness can better be produced by national socialism, consequently socialism will produce more fit nations that are better able to survive. Pearson carried his conclusions of heritability far beyond that which was warranted by the data. He stated to the anthropological institute in 1903 that

'we inherit our parents' tempers, our parents' conscientiousness, shyness and ability, even as we inherit their stature, forearm and span... and no training or education can create [intelligence], you must breed it'.39  

Much of the criticism against the theory of eugenics was also against the theory of evolution itself. The two were highly intertwined, and many scientific critics attacked both ideas as a unit. Pearson, as Kevles states, often displayed a

'relentless closed-mindedness,' and 'frequently took a club to his scientific enemies and slashingly abused even…his methodological friends who queried his biometry or his eugenics.' 40  

The Danish biologist, Wilhelm Johannsen, discerned from his empirical research that, barring use of the gene splicing technology which was unknown in his day, a pure line of beans could not be bred beyond a maximum limit for a given character regardless of how it was manipulated. Pearson responded in a very irrational way against this evidence, even dismissing two members of his editorial board when they published articles reporting Johannsen's research. Pearson's only argument against Johannsen's conclusions was because reasonable correlational coefficients for intelligence and physical traits existed, therefore the influence of heredity must be similar for both; end of argument. It was primarily his theories of eugenics in which his fire erupted:

  'If Pearson responded to criticism with polemics, it was because the dissidents struck at his secular church.... When it came to biometry, eugenics, and statistics, he was the besieged defender of an emotionally charged faith [and his research in eugenics and statistics] conformed to the icy distance of his character, reinforcing his propensity for dealing with man in the impersonal group.' 41  

Pearson was no minor figure in the history of science. His contributions in statistics are crucial to virtually all modern scientific research.42 He not only developed the Pearson product moment correlational coefficient, to which his name is attached, but also regression analysis, multiple correlation, and chi square, and made numerous important contributions in the area of statistical analysis including the goodness of fit theory.

When Galton died in January of 1911, the University College received much of his money and established a Galton eugenics professorship, and a new department called applied statistics. The fund enabled Pearson to be freed from his 'burdensome' teaching to devote full time to eugenics research. The new department blossomed, and drew research workers from around the world. Pearson now could select only the best scientists and students who would immerse themselves in eugenic work. His students helped to manage the dozens of research projects in which Pearson was involved.

        Pearson's students and those who worked under him had to be as dedicated as he was or they soon were forced to leave. Some, trying to emulate Pearson's                 pace, suffered nervous breakdowns.43 The laboratory's goal was the production of research, and produce they did. Between 1903 and 1918, Pearson and his
<>staff published over 300 works, plus various government reports and popular expositions of genetics. Some of his co-workers questioned the idea that the only way to improve a nation is to ensure that its future generations come chiefly from the more superior members of the existing generation, but if they valued their position, most said nothing." As Kevles added,

'if staff members or students had private reservations about the validity of the work, it required rare courage to make their doubts known.... Pearson chose and assigned the research problems, guided their execution, and edited the results.' 45  

In 1925 Pearson began publishing The Annals of Eugenics. He continued to contribute both his enthusiasm and his mathematical genius to the cause until he died in 1936. He helped spread eugenics, first to Germany and later to the United States, then to the four corners of the earth. In Germany, The International Society for Racial Hygiene was formed in Munich in 1910 with Galton as the honorary President." As Hailer states:

  'Thus eugenics in Germany began its sad history that, under the Nazis, would justify wholesale sexual sterilization and then euthanasia for the allegedly unfit and would provide part of the justification for the slaughter of four to six million Jews.' 47  

Galton' s successor was Leonard Darwin, the son of Charles, who was very active in the eugenics movement. For years Leonard advocated compulsory sterilization to stop the 'unchecked multiplication of inferior types'.48



The next most important figure in the eugenics movement was an American, Charles Davenport. He studied engineering at preparatory school, and later became an instructor of zoology at Harvard. While at Harvard, he read some of Karl Pearson's work and was soon 'converted'. In 1899 he became an assistant professor at the University of Chicago. During a trip to England, he visited Galton, Pearson and Weldon, and returned home an enthusiastic true believer. In 1904 he convinced the Carnegie Institute to establish a station for 'the experimental study of evolution' at Cold Spring Harbor, some thirty miles from New York City. Davenport then recruited a staff to work on various research projects ranging from natural selection to hybridization. He argued that hereditability was a major influence in everything from criminality to epilepsy, even alcoholism and pauperism (being poor).

Among the many problems with his research is that he assumed that traits which we now know are polygenic in origin were single Mendelian characters. This error caused him to greatly oversimplify interpolating from the genotype to the phenotype. He ignored the forces of the environment to such a degree that he labelled those who 'loved the sea' as suffering from thalassaphilia, and concluded that it was a sex-linked recessive trait because it was virtually always exhibited in males! Davenport even concluded that prostitution was caused not by social, cultural or economic circumstances, but a dominant genetic trait which caused a woman to be a nymphomaniac. He spoke against birth control because it reduced the natural inhibitions against sex. He had no shortage of data for his ideas — when the Cold Spring Harbor was founded in 1911 to when it closed in 1924, more than 250 field workers were employed to gather data — and about three-quarters of a million cases were completed. This data served as the source of bulletins, memoirs, articles and books on eugenics and related matters. Raised a Congregationalist, Davenport rejected his father's piety,

'replacing it with a Babbitt-like religiosity, a worship of great concepts: Science, Humanity, the improvement of Mankind, Eugenics. The birth control crusader, Margaret Sanger recalled that Davenport, in expressing his worry about the impact of contraception on the better stocks, "used to lift his eyes reverently, and with his hands upraised as though in supplication, quiver emotionally as he breathed, "Protoplasm. We want more protoplasm"'.49


There are few individuals more important in the field of educational psychology and educational measurement and evaluation than Edward Lee Thorndike. He wrote many of the college texts which were the standards for years (and many still are), not only in educational psychology but also in measurement and child psychology. Yet, he was largely unaware of, or ignored, the massive evidence which had accumulated against many of the basic eugenic views. When Thorndike retired in 1940 from Columbia Teachers' College, he wrote a 963-page book entitled Human Nature and the Social Order. In it, he reiterated virtually all of the most blatant misconceptions and distortions of the eugenicists. As Chase states,

'at the age of sixty-six, he was still peddling the long discredited myths about epilepsy that Galton had revived when Thorndike was a boy of nine... Despite Thorndike's use of such twentieth-century scientific words as "genes" and his advocacy of the then current Nazi eugenics court's practice of sterilizing people who got low marks on intelligence tests and for "inferior" morals, this [book] was, essentially, the 1869 gospel of Galton, the eugenical orthodoxy that all mental disorders and diseases were at least eighty percent genetic and at most twenty percent environmental.' 59


Part of the reason that the eugenics movement caught on so rapidly was because of the failures of the many innovative reformatory and other programmes designed to help the poor, the criminal, and people with mental and physical problems. Many of those who worked in these institutions concluded that most people in these classes were 'heredity losers' in the struggle for existence. And these unfit should not be allowed to survive and breed indiscriminately. Evolution gave them an answer to the difficulties that they faced. Charles Loring Brace

'who had labored long and hard for the poor boys of New York City and who had been so fascinated by evolution that he read and re-read The Origin of Species thirteen times, reported that during the depression winter of 1873-74 those connected with charity work had warned against indiscriminate giving to the poor. But the warnings went unheeded, with the result that tramps converged on New York, many poor families abandoned their jobs, and many laborers lost the habit of steady industry'.51  

In short, instead of helping people, charity was supposedly hurting them by destroying positive habits of industry and enabling them to breed more of their own genetically inferior type. Many of those who began their careers helping the poor concluded that many, if not most, of their programmes were doing more harm than good.

The translation of the eugenics movement into policy took many forms. In America, the sterilization of a wide variety of individua1s who were felt to have 'heredity problems,' mostly criminals, the mentally retarded, mentally ill and others, were at the top of their list. The first sterilization laws in the United States were in Indiana. They required mandatory sterilization of

'confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles, and rapists in state institutions when recommended by a board of experts'  

The second effect of the eugenics movement was the passage of a variety of laws restricting emigration of the 'inferior races' — a group whose identity few agreed on, but in America it often included Blacks, Slovaks, Jews, Greeks, Turks, Magyars, Russians, Poles, and even Italians.

Although the American courts challenged many of the eugenic laws, only one case, Bell versus Buck, reached the Supreme Court of the United States. In an eight to one vote, the high court upheld sterilization for eugenic reasons, concluding that 'feeblemindedness' was caused by heredity and thus the state had a responsibility to control it by this means! The court's opinion was written by none other than Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who used his no small knowledge of science in his erudite opinion. He forged a link between eugenics and patriotism, concluding that eugenics was a fact derived from empirical science. A rash of sterilization laws which were passed in half of the states soon followed, many of which were more punitive than humanitarian.53

Many eugenicists also believed that negative traits that one picked up in one's lifetime could be passed on. The theory of acquired characteristics was widely accepted, and was not conclusively refuted until the work of August Weismann of Germany. The new view, called neo-Darwinian, taught that acquired characteristics could not be inherited, and thus

'our only hope for the permanent improvement of the human stock would then seem to be through exercising an influence upon the selective process'.54  

The importance of this is emphasized by Hailer who concludes that

'the disproof of the inheritance of acquired characteristics was, therefore, a major episode on the road to the acceptance of eugenics'.55  

Among the research that discredited some of the eugenics ideas, probably the foremost was the realization that resulted from the ongoing research into genetics that the relationship between the genotype and the phenotype was far more complex than previously imagined. And much of this research was on the so-called simple creatures such as the fruit fly (Drosophilia melanogaster).
Secondly, it was realized that, as a human is produced from between 50,000 and 100,000 genes, it is extremely difficult to determine if any one is 'superior' to another. At best, one could try to make judgments relative to the superiority of one specific trait compared to another. This is most easily done in the case of a mutation. A person who had the mutation for hemophilia could be considered inferior for that trait compared to the person who does not. On the other hand, this method considers only one gene, which means that a person without the genetic defect for hemophilia will be genetically inferior in some other way compared to the one with it. He may have the mutation for retinoblastoma, for example, and develop eye cancer later in his life.

Even a person who has certain traits, such as below average intellect, may as a whole be genetically superior, a determination which we cannot make until all 100,000 genes are mapped and then compared with the whole population. And even then comparative judgments cannot be made except on simplistic grounds, such as counting the total number of 'inferior' and 'superior' genes.
This falls short in that certain single genes can cause far more problems than others, or conversely, can confer on the person far more advantages than most other genes. It would then be necessary to rate each individual gene, something that is no easy task. In addition, many so-called inferior genes are actually mutations which were caused somewhere in the human genetic past, and were since passed on to the victim's offspring. Of the unidentified diseases, about 4,000 are due to heritable mutations – and none of these 4,000 existed in our past before the mutation for it was introduced into the human gene pool. This is de-evolution, an event which is the opposite of the eugenics goal of trying to determine the most flawless race and limit reproduction to them. This goal is flawed because the accumulation of mutations tends to result in all races becoming less perfect.56

Although the validity of many of the eugenic studies and the extent of applicability to humans were both seriously questioned, the demise of the eugenics movement had more to do with social factors than new scientific discoveries. Haller lists

'the rise of Nazism, the Holocaust, and America's struggle in World War II to defeat Hitler's Germany…the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the wars on poverty in the 1930s and 1960s.' 57  

In addition, Haller notes that, although the American and European academic life was once 'virtually a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) preserve' it was more and more joined by various racial minorities, including Asian Indians, Orientals, as well as American blacks.58 Many of these rejected the movement that labelled them inferior. Further, the atrocities and injustices committed both at home and in Europe made these once respectable beliefs repugnant, even though the basic theory of evolution was still widely accepted by the scientific community.

Many of the people involved in the eugenics movement can best be summarized as true believers, devoted to the cause and blissfully ignoring the evidence which did not support their theories. Yet many knew that its basic premise was unsound, and often tried to rationalize its many problems. Galton

'seems never to have been entirely at peace. He was continually plagued by varying degrees of nervous breakdown…'59  

When the data did not conform with their expectations, ingenious ways of explaining such problems were created. Professor Laughlin, who had a doctorate of science in biology from Princeton, reported to Congress on November of 1922 that, although immigrants might themselves be healthy, they carry bad recessive genes – which would in future generations cause problems. This claim was in response to the data that he himself had meticulously collected which found that the problems of immigrants, such as feeblemindedness, criminality and related, were in many cases actually lower than native born Americans.

The importance of studying the eugenics movement today is not just to help us understand history. A field which is growing enormously in influence and prestige, social biology, is in some ways not drastically different from the eugenics movement. This school also claims that not only biological, but many social traits have a genetic basis, and exist from the evolutionary process. Although many social biologists take pains to disavow any connections, ideologically or otherwise, with the eugenics movement, their similarity is striking. This fact is a point that its many critics, such as Stephen J. Gould of Harvard, have often noted.60

In the late nineteenth century, 'when so many thought in evolutionary terms, it was only natural to divide man into the fit and the unfit.' 61  Even the unfortunates who because of an unjust society or chance, failed in business or life and ended in poverty, or those who were forced to live from petty theft, were judged 'unfit' and evolutionarily inferior.62 There was little recognition of the high level of criminality among common men and women, nor of the high level of moral virtuousness among many of those who were labelled criminals. They disregarded the fact that what separates a criminal from a non-criminal is primarily criminal behaviour. Because they are far more alike than different is one reason why criminal identification is extremely difficult.

The eugenicists also usually ignored upper class crime and the many offenses committed by high ranking army officers and government officials, even Kings and Queens, all of whose crimes were often well known by the people. They correctly identified some hereditary concerns, but mislabelled many which are not (such as poverty) and ignored the enormous influence of the environment in moulding all of that which heredity gives us. They believed that since most social problems and conditions are genetic, they cannot be changed, but can only be controlled by sterilization.63, 64


<>In contrast, the teaching of Christianity presented quite a different picture. It declared that anyone who accepted Christ's message could be changed. The Scriptures gave numerous examples of individuals who were liars, thieves, and moral degenerates who, after a Christian conversion, radically turned their life around. The regeneration of reprobates has always been an important selling point of Christianity. From its earliest days, the proof of its validity was its effect on changing the lives of those who embraced the faith. Helping the poor, the weak, the downtrodden, the unfortunate, the crippled, and the lame was no minor part of Christianity. Indeed, it was the essence of the religion, the outward evidence of the faith within. If one wanted to follow Christ, one was to be prepared, if necessary, to 'go and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor' (Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21) Those who did not visit the sick and the poor, or help those in prison, and give drink and food to the needy were 'cursed', and were to be consigned to the everlasting fire 'prepared for the Devil and his angels' (Matthew 25:35— 45). And as to those who 'have worldly goods, if they see one in need and do no show compassion and help him, the love of God does not dwell in him' (1 John 3:17).

Nor was this attitude exclusive among the Christians, but was also required of the Jews:

'If there be among you a poor man…within any of the gates in thy land…thou should not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from [them]… But thou shall open thy hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need… For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy in thy land' (Deuteronomy 15:7-15, Leviticus 25:35-43).  

Another conflict was over the fact that the church stressed the role of helping the weak and afflicted. Almost all denominations concluded from Scripture and history that many who seem to be without hope can be 'reformed' and take responsible positions in society. While the churches may have exaggerated their success, they could easily point to many well-documented examples of this claim. Further, religious leaders often put the cause of physical and mental degeneracy to individual and societal sins.

Many schooled in the behavioural sciences argued that what we needed to halt was social, not racial decline, and what needed to be improved was not racial, but social factors. In a summary of the history of mental illness treatment, Sarason and Sarason conclude that

'during the Middle Ages the importance of the Christian spirit of charity, particularly towards stigmatized groups such as the severely mentally disturbed, cannot be over estimated. For example, in Gheel, Belgium, the church established a special institution for the care of retarded and psychotic children. As they improved, these children were often placed with sympathetic families in the neighborhood of the institution.' 65

Much of the opposition to the eugenics programmes came from the religious community. Conditions such as feeblemindedness and mental illness, they reasoned, could not have been inherited because these people were part of God's creation, and God stated in Genesis that when He created Adam and Eve they were perfect. The cause of these conditions must be something other than mankind's innate inherited genetic program. Catholics were especially critical in that they believed that man's spirit, not his body, is paramount, and God does not judge persons according to IQ tests or skull shapes, but according to his or her spiritual attributes. And many genuinely retarded persons were likeable, friendly, outgoing, and non-aggressive; a good example is many of those who are diagnosed with Down's Syndrome.66 Much of the criticism was against evolution itself; most eugenicists believed that humans came from lower 'beasts' and if this idea was wrong, then the very foundation of the eugenics movement was flawed.68

The conflict between Christianity and eugenics was also due to the latter's conflicts with the major doctrine of Christianity; that mankind through sin had fallen from his once high state, which markedly contrasts to the doctrine of eugenics, which teaches that mankind has risen from a lower state. The eugenics movement was directly at odds with both Christian and Jewish teachings, and this fact was not lost on those in the movement; many were openly critical of Christianity, and large numbers, including the Darwins (Erasmus, Charles and Leonard), Galton, Huxley, Davenport, Wells and Pearson were open agnostics. The founder of eugenics, Francis Galton, was not only an agnostic, but also openly hostile toward religion.
'While he tolerated Louise's (his wife) practice of religion in the home, he rarely missed an opportunity to gibe at the clerical outlook.'68  

Those who advocated the eugenic approach called their opposers 'sentimentalists' and the 'natural ally' of the sentimentalists was 'the preacher'. 69

The Darwinian view that the biological progress of mankind results from the selection of the most fit and the elimination of the unfit especially caused conflicts. The value of superior humans was such that Darwin was critical of all Christian attempts at helping the weak. In his Descent of Man and Selection In Relation to Sex, he said:

'We civilized men…do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick, we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed... We must therefore bear the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind.'70


As more and more empirical research by the scientists connected with the universities was completed, it became apparent that the conclusions of the eugenics movement were invalid. Slowly scientists turned against the movement, or at least against some of the major aspects of the mainline movement. Included were Herman J. Muller, J. B. S. Haldane, Herbert Jennings and even Julian Huxley.

Not only advances in science, but also political changes – most notably the abuses in Nazi Germany and elsewhere – once they became known, caused many to realize that many of the basic eugenic conclusions were incorrect. Many also saw the horrendous potential for its future abuses. One of the major conflicts was that, under German influence many eugenicists later included Jews as an inferior race – a problem in that many prominent biologists and anthropologists were Jewish. One, Franz Boaz of Columbia University, a German-Jewish immigrant, had become an eminent anthropologist. He was a well-respected scientist who wrote many books both for professionals as well as the lay public. When he attacked the movement, many listened. Once eugenic science turned on Jewish scientists, the latter rallied their colleagues against the movement as a whole.

As many of the supposed biologically inferior groups reached their second and third generation in America, such as the Jews, and Eastern Europeans, many did extremely well, empirically documenting that such groups were not biologically-defective. Another problem was that not only were Blacks and Jews singled out – but the Irish, Welsh and numerous other groups were also judged as racially inferior. It soon became apparent that many of the hodgepodge claims were tenuous. Research by anthropologists showed how incredibly important culture and learning are, even in shaping minor behaviour nuances. A major problem with their biological theory was that they ascribed even traits such as shyness to genes – and manypeople who were shy as youngsters came out of their shell to become confident, assertive adults. Such traits were obviously not biologically determined. These observations caused researchers to seriously question the validity of performance evaluations as a whole, consequently forcing a damaging peg in the wholesale conclusion that certain groups were totally intellectually inferior. These research studies showed that the effective intelligence of a person is highly influenced by the interaction of heredity and environment. Further, they found that more differences existed within a race than between the races.

Other researchers proved that diet and sanitary conditions were extremely important, especially in the so-called feeblemindedness condition. The irony of the assumption that feeblemindedness was inherited became apparent when it was found that many clearly mentally deficient persons produced offspring which were fully normal. This was especially true of those whose children were raised by relatives and had decent food and environments. The government's past practice of sterilizing feebleminded people because of their poor environmental conditions was now recognized as inhuman.

<> Later, even the theory of natural selection came under attack. It was realized more and more that the many supposed sources of natural selection, especially war, plagues, and disease, did not kill off primarily the weaker, but a major factor that influences who died was chance. And those who may have an innate disposition to resist a certain disease quite often had an innate weakness to succumb to others. More and more it was recognized that human differences were biologically imperative – as J. B. S. Haldane stated in 1932, a society of men that was uniformly perfect would produce an imperfect society. The enormous variety in humans – and among plants and animals as well – was important because different environmental changes will favour some individuals, but allow others to perish. When the Pilgrims came over to America, few had the genetic predispositions to survive the strange environment with its new germs and living requirements. If all those that came over were genetically identical, likely none of them would have survived.71

Although many prominent biologists in America and elsewhere remained committed to the basic eugenics programme and the idea of a pure race until they died, many others quietly dropped their race ideas. Unfortunately, most scientists did not discuss the errors of their past much, even when the public tide turned strongly against the blatant racism of the movement as a whole. For most researchers, it became more and more apparent that many of the wholesale conclusions of the eugenicists were simply wrong. Once some of them questioned, researchers began to question all of them. Soon the whole house of cards fell, and its fall was a near-total collapse.


1. Barzum, Jacques, 1958. Darwin, Marx, Wagner, Doubleday Anchor Books, Garden City, New York.
2. HaIler, Mark. H., 1984. Eugenics; Hereditarian Attitudes In American Thought, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, p. 3-4.
3. Haller, Ref. 2, p.17.
4. Chase, Allan, 1980. The Legacy of Malthus; The Social Costs of the New Scientific Racism, Alfred A. Knopf Company, New York, p. 118.
5. Cravens, Hamilton, 1978. The Triumph of Evolution; American Scientists and the Heredity-Environment Controversy 1900-1941, University of Pennsylvania Press,

6. Haller, Ref. 2, p. 33.
7. Kevles, Daniel 3., 1985. In the Name of Eugenics; Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity, Alfred A. Knopf Company, New York, p. 69.
8. Haller, Ref. 2, pp. 72-73.
9. Stanton, William, 1960. The Leopard's Spots; Scientific Attitudes Towards Race in America, 1815-1859, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois.
10. Haller, Ref. 2, p. 3.
11. Chase, Ref. 4.
12. Kevles, Ref. 7.
13. Haller, Ref. 2, p. 10.
14. Galton, Francis, 1869. Hereditary Genius, Watts, London, p. 1.
15. Kevles, Ref. 7, p. 4
16. Jones, Greta, 1980. Social Darwinism and English Thought; The Interaction Between Biological and Social Theory, The Humanities Press, New Jersey.
17. Kevles, Ref. 7, p. 2.
18. Jones, Ref. 16.
19. Haller, Ref. 2, p. 17.
20. Galton, Ref. 14, p.1
21. Kevles, Ref. 7, p. 8.
22. Haller, John S., Jr, 1971. Outcasts From Evolution: Scientific Attitudes to Racial Inferiority, 1859-1900, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, Illinois, p. x.
23. Haller. Ref. 2, p. ix.
24. Haller, Ref. 2, p. 198.
25. Haller, Ref. 2, p. 17.
26. Stigler, Stephen M., 1986. The History of Statistics; The Measurement of Uncertainty Before 1900. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, p. 272.
27. Galton, Ref. 14, p. 342.
28. Kevles, Ref. 7, p. 59.
29. Wiggam, Albert Edward, 1922. The New Dialogue of Science, Garden City Publishing Co., Garden City, New York.
30. Wiggam, Albert Edward, 1924. The Fruit of the Family Tree, Bobs Merrill Company, Indianapolis, Indiana.
31. Wiggam, Albert Edward, 1925. The Marks of an Educated Man, Bobs Merrill Company, Indianapolis, Indiana.
32. Wiggam, Albert Edward, 1927. The Next Age of Man, Bobs Merrill Company, Indianapolis, Indiana.
33. Stanton, Ref. 9.
34. Haller, Ref. 2, p. 6.
35. Haller, Ref. 2 p. 50.
36. Haller, Ref. 2, pp. 50-52.
37. Haller, Ref. 2, p. 52.
38. Kevles, Ref. 7. p. 22.
39. Kevles, Ref 7. p. 32-33.
40. Kevles, Ref. 7, p. 36.
41. Kevles, Ref. 7, p.36.
42. Stigler, Ref. 26.
43. Kevles, Ref. 7, p. 39.
44. Jones, Ref. 16.
45. Kevles, Ref. 7, p. 40.
46. Moses, George L, 1966. Nazi Culture; Intellectual, Cultural, and Social Life in the Third Reich. Schocken Books, New York.
47. Haller, Ref. 2, p. 20.
48. Chase, Ref. 4, p. 282.
49. Kevles, Ref.7, p. 32.
50. Chase, Ref. 4, pp. 354-335.
51 Haller, Ref. 2, p. 33.
32. Haller, Ref. 2, p. 30.
53. Hofstadter, Richard, 1955. Social Darwinism in American Thought, Bacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts.
54. Warner, Amos, 1994. American Charities, Thomas W. Crowell and Company, New York, pp.120-121.
55. Haller, Ref. 2, p. 61
56. Sahlins, Marshall, 1977. The Use and Abuse of Biology; An Anthropological Critique of Sociobiology, The University of Michigan Press. Ann Arbor, Michigan.
57. Haller, Ref. 22, p. xi,
38. Haller, Ref. 2.
39. Kevles, Ref. 7, p. 9.
60. Sahlins, Ref. 36.
61. Montagu, 1953. Man's Most Dangerous Myth; The Fallacy of Race, Harper and Brother Publishers, New York.
62. Haller, Ref. 2, pp. 35-36.
63. King, James, 1981. The Biology of Race. 2nd edition, University of California Pass, Berkeley.
64. Keith, Arthur, 1946. Evolution and Ethics. P. Putnam's Sons, New York.
65. Sarason and Sarason, 1989. Abnormal Psychology, 6th edition. Prentice .Hall Inc., New York, pp. 33-34.
66. Gould, Stephen Jay. 1981. The Mismeasure of Man, W. W. Norton Co., New York.
67. Proctor, Robert N., 1988. Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
68. Kevles, Ref.7, p. 11.
69. Haller, Ref. 2, p.46.
70. Darwin, Charles. 1896. The Descent of Man and Selection, in Relation to Sex; The Works of Charles Darwin, D. Appleton and Company, New York, pp. 133-134.
71. Jacquard, 1984. In Praise of Difference – Genetics and Human Affairs, Columbia University Press, New York.  


Birdsell, I. B., 1972. Human Evolution, Rand McNally and Co., Chicago, Illinois.

Doerner, Klaus. 1981. Madmen and the Bourgeoisie; A Social History of Insanity and Psychiatry, Bull Blackwell, Oxford.

Galton, Francis, 1880. Inquiries Into Human Faculty and its Development, 2nd edition, B, P. Dutton Inc., New York.

Goertzel, Victor and Mildred, 1962. Cradles of Eminence, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, Massachusetts.

Green, John C., 1981. Science, Ideology, and World View, University of California Press, Berkeley, California.

Himmelfarb, Gertrude, 1959. Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution, Doubleday. New York.

Shannon, T. W., 1920. Eugenics, Standard Publishing Company Inc., Topeka, Kansas.

Valenstein, Elliot S., 1956. Great and Desperate Cures, Basic Book Publishers Inc., New York.

Weiss, Sheila Faith, 1987. Race, Hygiene and National Efficiency, University of California Press, Berkeley.


(Investigator 73, 2000 July)

Bob Potter

I must confess my amazement at the latest contribution from Jerry Bergman – a lengthy article that is so unscholarly.

Like all Bergman articles, he relies exclusively upon secondary (even tertiary) sources. So it is to be expected that the reader is presented with an inaccurate and at times contradictory presentation of what eugenics is/was about. Followers had in common "a belief in evolution and a faith that science, particularly genetics [the term 'gene' arrived in 1909!], held the key for improving the life of humans" (p. 25) which, according to Jerry Bergman means "one saves only the best cows for breeding, slaughtering the inferior ones, and these laws of nature must be applied to human animals" (p. 26).

What a pity that Bergman didn't look at some primary sources! Leonard Darwin, for example, president of the British Eugenics Society for 27 years, in his What is Eugenics?, tells us: "The farmer may kill off his inferior stock; whilst no one advocates putting both the unwanted kitten and the inferior baby into the tub in the backyard…(such practices) will never be introduced into civilized countries. A highly developed moral sense and great freedom of choice are two of the most precious attributes of man, and the necessity for preserving them rules out these stockyard methods."  

As we shall see, his father Charles Darwin, was equally emphatic that any form of 'genocide' was quite unacceptable; but more on this later.

Bergman gives much space to Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton. The reportage fails to convey the extent to which the two men were not only related but interacted with one another, socially and in their research. The latter influenced Darwin during the writing of The Descent of Man; Dalton dismissed the theory of the 'inheritance of acquired characteristics'; Charles believed any suggestion of breeding a race of 'super men' was neither just ("all men are brothers, sharing a common ancestry") nor practical. Both men, along with Huxley and Wallace, were vigorous in their public support of the North, in the American civil war, ("the destruction of slavery would be well worth a dozen years war", wrote Charles) at the time when many Christian bishops continued to support the Southern system keeping the 'inferior blacks' on the plantations.

How odd that Bergman, who tells us so much trivia about Dalton and his colleagues, omits all this relevant material?!

Writing for the Eugenics Society, Leonard Darwin insisted: "…any group of supermen appearing in our midst would probably bully or harass their fellow citizens, until the mob rose up and drove them from power or exterminated them. The creation of supermen is to be condemned because it would lead to either tyranny or rebellion".  

Dalton's colleague, Karl Pearson, comes under special attack from Bergman. No less than three times we are told that he was an individual "without feeling and sympathy" or words to that effect. (pp 31, 34, 35) This repeated claim, however, comes from a single reference in a secondary source. Had Bergman looked at the massive output of Pearson on social matters, he might have arrived at a more accurate assessment. Here, for example, is Pearson talking to the Deptford working-men's club in 1884: "We hear of 40,000 people in Liverpool alone living in cellars underground. We are told that the annual number of deaths from fever, generated by uncleanliness and overcrowding in the dwellings of the poor, was then in England and Wales double the number of persons killed in the battle of Waterloo. We hear of streets without drainage, of workshops without ventilation, and of ten to twenty people sleeping in the same room, often five in a bed and rarely with any regard to sex."  

This "cold, remote" person who "treated any emotional pleasure as a weakness", according to Bergman's secondary source, extols all workers, of hand and brain, lists many categories of them – those who make shoes, those who teach the children, emphasizing that all forms of labour are equally honorable (his emphasis). "Feeling, as I do, the extreme misery which is brought about by the present state of society", he suggests those who do 'irksome forms of labour' are not only the more honourable and should be rewarded with shorter hours, but, more importantly, these people should not need envy those in more comfortable employment.

He continues: "But there is a matter for which I could wish the working classes would envy the wealthy even more than they might reasonably do for their physical luxury – namely their power to procure education. Leisure employed in education, in self improvement, seems to me the only means by which the difference in character between various forms of labour can be equalized."

He equates the education he would offer all with the new morality that must come from "the reconstruction of society", implicitly outlined by John Ruskin and William Morris – aspirations that are "precisely the teaching of the Paris Commune or again of the Anabaptist Kingdom of God in Munster". The reader will recall that, according to Bergman, this same Karl Pearson, "co-founder of the field" (of eugenics), led a movement believing that "providing educational opportunities and governmental benefits seemed a misplacement of resources"! (pp 26, 31)

Closer to the issue under discussion: If Dr Bergman finds the time to read Pearson's heavily-documented article Martin Luther, in the Westminster Review, January 1884, he will appreciate that Luther's calls for ill treatment and massacres of the Jewish people make the outbursts of Adolf Hitler on the same topic seem very mild!

I have discussed the questions of heredity vis-a-vis IQ in earlier contributions to the Investigator, and will not repeat this material here. The massive correlation data obtained in comparisons of MZ and DZ twins overwhelmingly supports the view that heredity accounts for 70% of the scores obtained. If this is part of the eugenic question, as Bergman insists, he has yet to tell us why IQ tests invariably show European Jews as scoring higher than whites; or to offer his explanation of why the measurement of intelligence was banned in Nazi Germany.

His arguments (pp 40-41, 46) that "a person without a genetic defect for hemophilia will be genetically inferior in some other way" makes no sense, as does the meaningless remark that a person with "below average intellect" (whatever that might mean) may as a whole be genetically superior (whatever that might mean"). What books can he be reading that he uses language like "the total number of 'inferior' and 'superior' genes?

Bergman cites Sahlins for his nonsensical claim that "the accumulation of mutations tends to result in all races becoming less perfect" — but Sahlins says no such thing and I hope Investigator readers will check this out for themselves, rather than take my word for it. His claim that people who "were shy as youngsters came out of their shell to become confident, assertive adults. Such traits were obviously not biologically determined" just does not follow. Type 2 diabetes, for example, which develops in later life, is significantly more strongly correlated with genetic factors than type 1 diabetes!

Likewise, if Bergman read some primary source material, he would understand that "mentally deficient persons produce offspring which were fully normal" due to the 'regression to the mean' – the outcome of the statistical 'regression analysis' he (correctly) accredited to Charles Pearson!

In the final pages of Bergman's Brief History, I was pleased to see a quotation from a 'primary source' – The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. But a disappointment lay in store for me! Three lines from the end of the extract quoted, we come to "…". What has Jerry Bergman omitted? Allow me to 'fill the gap':

The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature…if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.
The reason for my aforementioned disappointment is that it appears Dr Bergman did not take his quotation from the 'primary source', Darwin, after all. For a few paragraphs further on Bergman talks of the growing attack on 'the theory of natural selection' on the grounds that "It was realised more and more that the many supposed sources of natural selection, especially war, plagues and disease, did not kill off primarily the weaker…" However this is precisely the very point that Darwin himself makes in the very next paragraph of his Descent of Man! That Bergman is obviously unaware of this is only explainable if his quotation has been 'lifted' from a secondary source!

The Bergman article concludes in the same contradictory confusion that has been it's characteristic. In the final paragraph we are told that eugenics was soon seen to be "simply wrong"… "Soon the whole house of cards fell, and its fall was a near-total collapse". Yet, just a few pages previously, we are told,

"The importance of studying the eugenics movement today is not just to help us understand history. A field which is growing enormously in influence and prestige, social biology, is in some ways not drastically different from the eugenic movement. This school also claims that not only biological, but many social traits have a genetic basis, and exist from the evolutionary process…"  

So the eugenic/sociobiological approach is 'past history', in "near-total collapse" or "enormously growing in influence and prestige". Which is it, Dr Bergman?

Is the Orthodox History of Eugenics True?
A Reply to Bob Potter

Jerry Bergman

(Investigator 77, 2001 March)

My father was for years an active member of various humanist organizations, including the American Humanists Society. They stress that all people are basically good and that evil people are only the result of evil environments. This pervasive influence has colored the way I have viewed people ever since.

Unfortunately, I have found – especially in academia where most of my background and experience lie – that some people can be absolutely vicious and care little about interacting or debating, but behave like high school taunters who unmercifully pick on someone who is different (is short, wears glasses, and especially those who do not excel athletically). They can be merciless and are seemingly only concerned with hurting others. This response is especially common when interacting about religion and related topics.

A trait of this tendency is ad hominem attacks. Darwinists, when discussing articles written by creationists, overwhelmingly utilize name-calling. Examples that Potter uses includes the term "unscholarly," the claim that I include "so much trivia" but omitted all of the "relevant material," and if I find "the time to read," and my "nonsensical" claims and other such terminology. Many of his claims are absolutely without foundation. He claims that "all" my articles rely extensively upon secondary sources – which is not true as he would know if he had read my over five hundred in press and in print articles and papers.

Potter often infers that I am not aware of something of which I am fully aware, and thus the use of language "if Bergman read some primary source material, he would understand that..." which is derogatory and, at the least, presumptuous on Potter's part. Much is made out of relying upon secondary sources, but there is a very good reason for relying upon the existing body of scholarly knowledge. As Potter acknowledges, an enormous amount has been written about eugenics in many languages, and to read and assimilate even a small part of this literature would take a lifetime – and to conclude that one should not write about anything one hasn't spent a lifetime studying is foolish. Few of us could ever write about anything if this were the case. Actually, I did read a considerable number of primary sources, including several by Wiggam and Arthur Keith.

In my library alone I have over three hundred books on eugenics, many of them primary sources, such as the books by Hooton, Kammer, Popenoe and Johnson, and Wiggam. Rather than focus on primary sources, I chose, in the words of the great sociologist Robert K. Morton to "stand on the shoulders of giants," and rely upon the leading eugenic historians. My purpose in writing the paper was to try to summarize in a few pages what the leading researchers in this area took many thousands of pages to state.

For this reason, I devoured secondary sources written by men who have spent much of their life researching this topic, such as Robert N. Proctor who has published several volumes on eugenics (racial hygiene) and related. Proctor reads German and thus has access to a great amount of important original material (although I passed German for my Ph.D., my German is pretty rusty now). The many reviews of Proctor's works are most all laudatory, as are those of Daniel J. Kevles, professor of history at California Institute of Technology, a leading American College. Kevle's extensively documented book includes almost a hundred pages of notes and references. The many reviews and scholarly assessments of his work conclude it is excellent as is true with many of the other references that I utilized. I thus stood on the shoulder of not one, but many giants.

Although it is possible that the assessment of almost all the leading scholars is totally erroneous (which is what Potter implies since basically my work was a summary of many of the leading contemporary scholars in this area), I need evidence that all of these scholars are wrong before I will revise my views. Furthermore, I doubt if this evidence can be presented in a book that is much less than four or five hundred pages (and no doubt would be very controversial since it would contradict all of the scholars without exception that I consulted). My original article was about twice as long, and it was very apparent in shortening it that summaries by well-known scholars were much more useful than a larger number of quotes by individual eugenicists.

Much of what Potter notes simply adds to what I said, and no way detracts from it. For example he discussed Pearson's "heavily documented article on Martin Luther" in which Luther fumed against the Jews. I am very aware of this history (and also that Luther threw bottles of ink at the devil, and said and did many other things that we today regard as foolish), but I fail to see what relevance this has to my article. I am fully aware that many people in history have done many awful things, but my paper was on the eugenics movement and the tragic influence it had on many people. Also, a historian friend tells me that Luther never advocated killing Jews as commonly believed and actually condemned such behavior.

I am also very aware that many eugenicists did not advocate slaughtering inferior individuals — the goal of the Nazi movement at first was only to prohibit intermixing of the races to reduce interbreeding among them. This didn't work, and so they had to take more extreme measures. The mass extermination of Jews did not begin in earnest until 1942. Because some (or even many) of the early eugenicists were not in favor of slaughtering individual humans does not negate the fact that the movement led to this eventuality. I am also very aware that Darwin's family was opposed to slaughtering inferior humans, and Darwin himself was opposed to slavery (and even gave money to Christian missions). This, though, does not negate the fact that his teachings relative to the inferiority of certain races were the primary catalysts for the eugenic movement.

Part of the reason why Darwin and Galton took a constrained stand also has much to do with their very religious background — especially that of Emma Darwin who was a devout Christian (her letters clearly testify to her religiousness). Nonetheless, Darwin led the foundation which eventually led to the events that I discussed in this and other articles. Once eugenics was accepted, the evil that followed came much easier.

I was glad that Bob Potter noted that Darwin and his cousin Frances Galton interacted with one another extensively, both socially and in their research. In trying to absolve Darwin of the responsibility for the Eugenic movement some try to deny this. They claim that Frances Galton was responsible for what became the tragedy of the Eugenic movement, not Darwin, and argue that the two did not closely interact, which Potter notes is incorrect.

I'm also quite aware that Pearson and his colleagues wrote about, and seemed to be concerned about, the poor conditions in England and Wales at the time they were living. It appears they did this, though, to try to make a point about how they felt society should change, and not necessarily out of genuine concern for these people. Had they genuinely been concerned, it would seem they would have been much more active in directly trying to ameliorate these problems, such as was done by Mother Theresa.

My remark that persons without genetic defects or some genetic disease will usually be genetically inferior in some way has been well documented in many studies. No one person has all the genes which produce a complete set of idealistic characters – and typically the presence of some trait causes or results in (or is associated with) a lack in some other area. Extensive research on cognitive style mapping shows that some people learn best by listening, others by reading, others by doing, and rarely are all cognitive styles equally effective. Research on thousands of these maps has confirmed this, as anyone who has much experience in teaching knows.

Furthermore, I fail to see how the claim that accumulations of mutations tend to result in all races becoming less perfect is nonsensical – this is a fact, as a study of genetics has shown. When new mutations are introduced into the genome, a disease or condition is caused to exist which never before existed. We have now documented around five thousand mutations which are clearly deleterious in most all situations (Buyse, 1990). Some mutations are introduced to the human genome repeatedly, others only once or a few times in history.

Nonetheless, the human mutation load is increasing, not decreasing. The average human today is believed to contain five or six potentially deleterious mutations which fortunately often do not express themselves because they are recessive and are masked by a dominant normal gene.

As Potter correctly notes, mentally deficient persons can produce offspring which are fully normal due to the regression toward the mean tendency. Nonetheless, depending upon the cause of the retardation (often many cases of retardation are due to deleterious influences such as teratogens, and are not genetic) they tend to have lower IQ's than average. Potter's comment that some mentally defective persons produce offspring which are fully normal is, of course, a problem because the children are often the intellectual equals of their parents by the time the children reach the age of 11 or so. This often causes serious discipline problems, a concern that case-workers have to routinely deal with.

As to the primary source quote that Potter was "pleased to see" I have no idea where he obtained his quote from, as it was not the quote that I used (p. 45) although the type setters did leave off a line in my original Darwin quote. I have a 25-volume set (putatively the complete works of Charles Darwin), and thus quoted from the original (which I checked to confirm). As to Potter's question whether the eugenic social biological approach is past history and near total collapse, or is growing, I think Bob Potter knows the answer. Among most orthodox scientists it is past history and in total collapse, but among a relatively small number of renegades (who are heavily criticized and attacked in print) it is growing in influence and prestige. The two statements are not contradictory, but are referring to different populations as should be clear from the article.

Potter cites the figure that 70% of IQ is genetic, and 30% is environmental (a commonly cited proportion). This indicates that a person with an average IQ of 100 can, through appropriate environment stimulation and study, reach up to the gifted level (when I taught gifted education classes, our cut-off point was 130). This demonstrates that the environment has a major influence, given that this data is correct.

European Jews score higher than whites largely because education is often highly valued among Jewish families, both in Europe and America. In the area where I was raised lived a large number of European Jews, and it was very apparent that they valued education much more so than did my counterparts. When seeking warm fuzzes for my educational accomplishments, my goyim friends felt education was useful mainly to obtain a better job and make more money, but I was invariably overwhelmed by support from my Jewish friends.

Fortunately, most of my creationists friends likewise value education (which may also reflect the Biblical influence). Another theory is the better-educated Jews were less likely to convert or be totally assimilated, hence the current (remaining) Jewish population is enriched with intelligent people.

An excellent gauge of whether an article was effectively critiqued is, if the article critiqued was rewritten, how would it be different given the critique? In this case, the only thing I would change is to correct the typographical error (which I caught only because I was trying to find the quote which Potter incorrectly attributed to my article). None of the points that Potter made would change the article, except to make it longer with sidetracks (which probably would be edited out by an editor anyway). Most of my articles are reviewed by at least four or five persons before they are published, and thus, even though the article has my name on it, it is in fact the work of a number of people.

If Potter reviewed the article, I would have to conclude that his review was not very helpful (when the article was originally reviewed, all the reviewers found several points that could be clarified, and thus were helpful in producing the final product). I welcome and encourage critiques of my work, for by this means an author can grow. Unfortunately, Potter's critique did not help me do this.

If he feels that he nonetheless is able to, I would be glad to send him copies of articles I am presently working on for his review. My guess is he will not take me up on the offer (I wrote to him offering a copy of my latest book, which retails for $69.50, but he has not yet answered my letter, and thus I have no reason to believe he would answer this offer). I am fully willing to send him working copies of my articles for his critiques, for such is most valuable and required by all scholars because no one sees the universe perfectly. He appears to not want to facilitate the advance of knowledge or understanding, but like the schoolyard bully he only wants to hurt someone for reasons of maliciousness alone. If I am wrong, I will gladly apologize in print. One can be thankful that we have a few magazines like Investigator that allow a hearing from both sides — many journals simply censor the side they are opposed to, and so it is never heard by its readers.

In summary, most of Potter's criticisms are not about what I wrote, but are a result of reading between the lines, assuming much, and drastically misquoted or rephrasing many points which I am fully aware of but which are largely irrelevant to the basic arguments of my paper. Indeed, specifically what his argument is, is difficult to say. Is he saying that eugenics is the savior of humankind, and that we should indeed adopt eugenic programs as advocated by Galton, Hitler, or someone else? Or maybe he advocates a more benign approach, somewhat like Elmer Pendell in his book "Why Civilizations Self-Destruct."

A few years ago William Shockley, a noble laureate who was co-inventor of the transistor, advocated a somewhat benign approach which encouraged people with higher IQ's to have larger families, and those with lower IQ's to have smaller families (a position for which he was roundly condemned by many). I had a number of conversations with him about this (I did some consulting work for him at the time), and it seemed to me then that what he was advocating was fairly benign. Yet the press vociferously condemned him in the strongest terms – he was called a racist, a Hitlerist, etc. I thought he was a kind man with a lot of ideas, and although I didn't agree with him on his eugenic ideas, I could understand where he was coming from.

My guess is, if Bob Potter fully and openly expounded his ideas, he would also be vociferously condemned by academia and the press alike. Eugenics is not an idea that one can be very kindly toward without repercussions, at least in America. Jensen, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, reputedly has to be escorted by police when on campus, and in his own classroom to keep disruptions from turning violent. Maybe one can get away with this in Great Britain, but even mild eugenic ideas in this country are usually not tolerated.

The social biologists have not avoided these problems but have tried to focus on ants and similar critters, and have been very careful about implying that eugenic ideas should be translated into social policy and applied to humans. Nonetheless, some stinging criticisms of their work, such as Social Biology Examined edited by Ashley Montague (published by Oxford University Press) have strongly condemned their work. I am told that at professional meetings, people will stand up and denounce their work.

As a result many social biology writers are very careful as to how they phrase their ideas, stressing the positive side. The fact is:

Racism was only one step away from eugenics, a school of applied Darwinism founded by Francis Galton with the aim of improving the fitness of the human race by applying the "theory of heredity, of variations, and the principle of natural selection." From eugenics it was no large leap to genocide (Hsu, 1986, p. 11).


Buyse, Mary Louise. 1990. Birth Defects Encyclopedia. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Scientific Publications.

Hsu, Kenneth. 1986. The Great Dying; Cosmic Catastrophe, Dinosaurs and the Theory of Evolution. NY. Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.


Bob Potter

(Investigator 78; 2001 May)

I don't wish to make any further comments on the main theme of my critique of Jerry's Brief History of the Eugenics Movement. I am sure readers of the Investigator (who have an interest in this topic) are capable of re-reading Bergman's and my contributions and deciding for themselves the 'rights and wrongs' of our differing points of view. There is nothing in Bergman's Reply to Bob Potter on the history of the 'movement' that is not answered in my original essay.

There are, however, a few tangential points raised.

For example – Bergman, who has "over three hundred books on eugenics" (that's about 280 more than I have!) insists that he does use "a considerable number of primary sources", and to demonstrate this he provides a listing of seven of them on p. 13. Tragically, however, when one looks at the list provided, one soon discovers that not a single 'primary source' is included!

Anatomist, Sir Arthur Keith did indeed write about the topic, mostly in the early years of the last century, his Essays on Human Evolution appeared in 1946. Anthropologist, E A Hooton wrote Up from the Ape, first published in 1946: the other 'authorities' are authors unknown to me and to the library of the nearby University of Sussex, where evolutionary biology has been taught for decades under John Maynard Smith – the man who taught Richard Dawkins! [There is a sociologist David Popenoe, a physicist named Kammer but no Wiggam under any discipline.]

Whilst on the subject of source material, I am totally mystified by Jerry's 'having no idea where I got my Darwin quotation from'. As I made clear when I used it, I took it from the paragraph that immediately follows the one Bergman quoted from The Descent of Man – the only 'primary source he used!

Jerry tells us he was careful to check the quotation in his 25-volume set of the complete works of Charles Darwin (I only have five of these!), so how could he possibly have had such difficulty?

I was interested also to learn that Jerry has learned from "a historian friend" that "Luther never advocated killing Jews as commonly believed and actually condemned such behaviour". Although arguably not relevant to the eugenics question, academics usually settle disputes of this kind, not by hearsay reports from friends, but by reference to relevant documents. In Luther's Concerning the Jews and their Lies (1543), he tells us:     

"First, that the Jewish synagogues and schools be set on fire, and what will not burn be covered with earth, that no man ever after may see stick or stone thereof…
Secondly, that their houses in like fashion be broken down and destroyed, since they only carry on in them what they carry on in their schools. Let them content themselves with a shed or a stall like the gipsies, that they may know they are not lords in our land…

Thirdly, all their prayer-books and Talmuds must be taken from them, since in them idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught…

Fourthly, that their Rabbis, on penalty of death, be forbidden to teach…

Fifthly, that safe conduct on the highways be denied to Jews entirely, since they have no business in the country, being neither lords, officials, nor traders, or the like; they ought to remain at home…

Sixthly, usury shall be forbidden them. All that they have is stolen, and therefore it is to be taken from them, and used for pensioning converts."

Not only are their synagogues to be burnt, but: "let him, who can, throw pitch and sulphur upon them; if any one could throw hell-fire, it were good, so that God might see our earnestness, and the whole world such an example."  

I appreciate that Jerry's German is "pretty rusty now" although he passed German for his PhD. (Would that have been the PhD for Human Biology or the PhD for Evaluation, Research and Psychology?) He need not rely on his 'historian friend', but could look at Luther's texts, for himself, in the translations offered by Karl Pearson.

Just for the record: Bergman claims that he wrote to me "offering a copy of (his) latest book, which retails for $69.50, but (I have) not yet answered (his) letter…" I have never received any communication from Jerry Bergman.

In the unlikely event that any author believes my opinions of any value, I am always happy to review or make comments on any material published or in preparation.