Sunday 25 October 2015

Eugenics: Scientific Reproduction.

Wir stehen nicht allein: we do not stand alone. 1936. [A]

Guess who wrote this:
"If we were right in supposing that the scientific society will have different social grades according to the kind of work to be performed, we may assume also that it will have uses for human beings who are not of the highest grade of intelligence. It is probable that there will be certain kinds of labour mainly performed by negroes, and that manual workers in general will be bred for patience and muscle rather than for brains. The governors and experts, on the contrary, will be bred chiefly for their intellectual powers and their strength of character. Assuming that both kinds of breeding are scientifically carried out, there will come to be an increasing divergence between the two types, making them in the end almost different species.
"Scientific breeding, in any truly scientific form, would at present encounter insuperable obstacles both from religion and from sentiment. To carry it out scientifically it would be necessary, as among domestic animals, to employ only a small percentage of males for purposes of breeding. It may be thought that religion and sentiment will always succeed in opposing an immovable veto to such a system. I wish I could think so. But I believe that sentiment is quite extraordinarily plastic, and that the individualistic religion to which we have been accustomed is likely to be increasingly replaced by a religion of devotion to the State. Among Russian Communists this has already happened."

The author of the passage above (taken from "The Scientific Outlook", George Allen & Unwin Ltd. 2nd edition, 1954, pp. 259-260: link) is a light of the British bourgeoisie: Bertrand Arthur William, 3rd Earl Russell (here and here).

A philosopher, logician, and mathematician, Russell was a Fabian socialist and -- like his friend John Maynard, 1s Baron Keynes -- a bourgeois, a liberal, a critic of Marxism, and eugenicist.

Apart from Russell's views on blacks and on the need to breed a separate caste/quasi-species of docile workers (which he -- a somewhat reluctant eugenicist -- shared with other much more enthusiastic British notables, like Frederick Lindemann, 1st Viscount Cherwell, here and here), there is the common belief among the scientifically educated English bourgeoisie that the devotion to "Communism" in the Soviet Union was a kind of new religion, therefore, antithetical to everything good, wise, bourgeois, and English.


A page or so after that, Russell adds:
"If the simultaneous regulation of quantity and quality is taken seriously in the future, we may expect that in each generation some 25 percent of women and some 5 percent of men will be selected to be parents of the next generation, while the remainder of the population will be sterilized".
Ten or twelve years earlier, other more determined and hands-on eugenicists conducted large-scale experiments on real-life mass sterilisation (see herehere, and here), among other eugenic ideas.

Sterilisation experiments begin in Auschwitz-Birkenau: 1942. [B]
Writing in 1954, "Bertie" (as his friends knew him) seems deliberately unaware of what his philosophically abstract proposal entailed in practice.


As far as I know, Bertie's friend, "Pozzo" Keynes never advocated mass sterilisation, not as a matter of principle (always the pragmatist/technocrat, for him questions of principle were "metaphysics", therefore, anti-scientific), but because aggregate demand had to be maintained (here). Pozzo, the bleeding heart, preferred mass deportations (here).

Incidentally, for all his crimes and "religious" devotion to "Communism", Stalin never attempted mass sterilisation in "Leninist Russia".


Maybe that's just me, but I find there is something chilling when people born to the purple, like "Bertie" Russell and "Pozzo" Keynes, are presented as examples for working class socialists.

Image Credit:
[A] "Nazi propaganda poster from 1936. The woman is holding a baby and the man is holding a shield inscribed with the title of Nazi Germany's 1933 Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring (their compulsory sterilization law). The couple is in front of a map of Germany, surrounded by the flags of nations which had enacted (to the left) or were considering (bottom and to the right) similar legislation. Scan taken from Robert Proctor, Racial Hygiene: Medicine under the Nazis (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), page 96. Originally from Neues Volk, March 1, 1936, p.37." Source: Wikipedia.
Alternative source:
Payzer, Genevieve. March 27, 2017. Nazi Sterilization Experiments.
Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2017

[B] "Monday, December 28, 1942. Sterilization experiments begin on women prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau". Source: here.


  1. It may be thought that religion and sentiment will always succeed in opposing an immovable veto to such a system. I wish I could think so. The last sentence implies Russell opposed rather than advocated these ideas.

    1. Doctor: "I am sorry, but we will have to amputate your arm. It's gangrenous. If we don't amputate, I'm afraid you will die."
      Patient: "Are you sure? I think perhaps we could wait a little...".
      Doctor: "I wish I could think so."

      Does that imply the doctor opposes -- rather than advocates -- for the amputation?

  2. But since Russell doesn't previously advocate eugenics as the doctor advocated amputation - "we will have to" - before the "I wish I could think so", this argument assumes what is to be proven. Even in this story, the "I wish I could think so" does express mild, insufficient opposition to amputation.

    A better amputation parallel:
    Some people advocate amputation as a means to lose weight. It may be thought that religion and sentiment will always succeed in opposing an immovable veto to such a system. I wish I could think so.

    This opposes amputation, just as Russell opposes eugenics above.

    1. Give me a break …