Friday, April 25, 2008

Expelled Exposed

Expelled Exposed

The National Center for Science Education has a website up now called Expelled Exposed, claiming that Stein's movie doesn't do a very accurate job of discussing the subject. As I mentioned in my review, there was one case in which I had done a bit of reading, involving Professor Gonzalez's denial of tenure at Iowa State University. As I also mentioned, I felt that Stein might have done a more complete job by pointing out Gonzalez's failure to get tenure might have had something to do with his inability to get research grants to Iowa State. Nonetheless, the surprise that Stein sprung on the department chair about his email referring to "religious nutcases" was pretty devastating. (And which NCSE didn't seem to mention. I guess Stein isn't the only person leaving out rather significant details.)

I should also mention that the NCSE also claims that perhaps Gonzalez's failure to get tenure was because, as stellar of a scientist as had been in his 20s, after he received his Ph.D., the volume of his published work in scholarly journals dropped. This raises several interesting possibilities:

1. That Gonzalez went from being a remarkable scientist to suddenly not all that good for no apparent reason.

2. That Gonzalez's decline in getting work published and obtaining research grants might have been been because he had gone off the reservation to ask serious philosophical questions that didn't fit with the conventional wisdom.

Hmmm. I wonder which it could be?

When it comes to how the NCSE website deals with a subject on which I have some expertise--racism and early 20th century America--well, they are at least out of their depth, and in some areas, engaging in some dishonest sleight of hand. (Your tax dollars at work.)

Expelled Exposed claims:
Expelled’s inflammatory implication that Darwin and the science of evolution “led to” eugenics, Nazis, and Stalinism is deeply offensive and detrimental to public discussion and understanding of science, religion, and history.


Since the 1920’s, a narrow group of Christians who rejected the modernizing changes made by mainstream Protestants, have wrongly tried to blame evolution for the ills of modern society. World War I, atheism, and communism have all been attributed to evolution. After World War II, this narrow group added Nazism and Fascism to the horrors supposedly caused by evolution. Such claims occur in the writings of the young-earth creationist Henry M. Morris, a founder of the modern creation science movement, and have been repeated by “intelligent design” promoters and creationist Christian organizations such as Answers in Genesis, the Institute for Creation Research, and Coral Ridge Ministries.
It is indeed deeply offensive (to the NCSE) but it wasn't a "narrow group of Christians" who drew the connection of evolution to eugenics. Read University of Chicago Zoology Professor Horatio Hackett Newman's Readings in Evolution, Genetics, and Eugenics (University of Chicago Press, 1921), starting at page 465 for a discussion of how governments have solved the problems of feeblemindedness by passing eugenics laws, and fear of how the inferior forms of humans were increasing in America.

Starting on p. 475:
4. The Restriction of Undesirable Germ Plasm

A negative way to bring about better blood in the world is to follow the clarion call of Davenport, and "dry up the streams that feed the torrent of defective and degenerate protoplasm." This may be partially accomplished, at least in America, by employing the following agencies: control of immigration; more discriminating marriage laws; a quickened eugenic sentiment; sexual segregation of defectives; and finally, drastic measures of asexualization or sterilization when necessary.

a) Control of Immigration

The enforcement of immigration laws tends to debar from the United States not only many undesirable individuals, but also incidentally to keep out much potentially bad germplasm that, if admitted, might play havoc with future generations.
Here's another book, by Southwestern College Biology Professor William M. Goldsmith, The Laws of Life: Principles of Evolution, Heredity and Eugenics (Boston: The Gorham Press, 1922). Again, all three of these are brought together, and starting on page 398 is a chapter whose title alone tells you where this is going: "Moulding the Super-Man." The topics to be covered are also pretty typical of where this stuff was headed:
Final "Evolution of Man"--A Broader View Necessary--Our Attitude--The Unfit Work an Injustice upon Society--Eugenic Responsiblity--Human Inheritance--The Jukes--The Edwards--the Kallikas--Relation of Degeneracy to the Community--Inequality of Men--Overproduction of Inferior--Limiting the Unfit--Sterilization...
I could keep going, but this is the sort of racist trash also appears repeatedly in Democratic newspapers of the period 1916-23 that I have read while researching other topics, such as the Sacramento Bee, and the San Francisco Chronicle. The Bee was quoting a prominent birth control advocate of the time about the dangers of the black race outreproducing the white race--and that was the reason why birth control had to be legal. The Chronicle article warned of the danger of "race suicide" if little (white) boys had to grow up in apartments instead of houses.

Now, the NCSE points out that after World War II, prominent evolutionist often argued against eugenics. Well, sure. The smoke rising from the ovens put something of a damper on the party. But when you compare Stein's careful observation that Darwinism wasn't the only component that created Naziism with the NCSE's false claim that this connection of evolution to eugenics and Naziism is "deeply offensive and detrimental to public discussion and understanding of science, religion, and history"--they are either in way over their heads, or lying.

If the NCSE is going to accuse Ben Stein of playing fast and loose with the truth, they better stop doing so themselves.

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