Respectful Insolence

Was Nazi science good science?

I’ve long had an interest in World War II history. Ever since I was around 11 or 12 years old, a major portion of my reading diet has consisted of books and articles about World War II. Back when I was young, my interest was, as you might expect, primarily the battles. The military history of World War II fascinated me, and I build many, many models of World War II fighter aircraft and warships when I was in my early teens. (No cracks about how the airplane glue obviously affected me, although it is true that back then it was real airplane glue, chock full of toluene and lots of other organic chemicals–none of this citrus-scented stuff they sell now!) As I became older, I started to become interested more in the history of Nazi Germany and how a man like Hitler could become absolute ruler of what everyone would have considered a civilized and ancient European nation and drive it into barbarism, ultimately destroying it. I also started getting into the politics of the war, and as I did so I learned that things weren’t as simple as we had been taught in school. Whether that was due to a growing maturity, knowledge, or both, I don’t know.

More recently, I’ve become interested in Nazi science and medicine. Everyone knows about the abominations that Nazis carried out in the name of their racist and Aryan supremacist beliefs, the use of Jews and prisoners as human guinea pigs for horrific experiments, for instance; the use of pelvic radiation to try to sterilize Jews quickly, with the resultant predictable complications of bowel obstructions and fistulae; the killing of prisoners with direct injections of phenol into the heart; the experiments on twins by Dr. Josef Mengele; and the depressurization experiments using human subjects, to name a few. We all know that the experiments were brutal and cruel, but were they good science, or even science at all?

Historian Richard Evans argues that they were science:

We all have an image in our minds of the role of scientists in Nazi Germany: sinister, lab-coated figures who spent half their time conducting gruesome – and largely pointless – experiments on concentration‑camp inmates to gratify their own cruel impulses, and the other half devising futuristic weapons of mass destruction for Hitler to hurl at the advancing Allies in a last attempt to stave off defeat.

Yet once you dig a little deeper, what is so disturbing is how prosaic the reality was, how similar in form, if not content, their work was to the research of today. As I discovered when researching a history of the Nazis at war, much of what scientists did under the Third Reich was regarded as “normal science”, subject to standard protocols of peer review in conferences and journals. The infamous Dr Josef Mengele regarded himself as a normal scientist, held seminars to discuss his experiments, got research funds from the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, and reported regularly to his teacher, the eminent scientist Otmar von Verschuer, on his progress.

Richard Evans is one of my favorite historians of Nazi Germany. Indeed, his recent three volume history of the Nazi regime is probably the definitive history of Nazi Germany for this generation, just as Ian Kershaw’s two volume biography of Hitler is likely to be definitive for many years. I’ve read the first two volumes, but third volume unfortunately has not been released in the U.S. yet, although it is available in the U.K. He’s also written an excellent book, Lying About Hitler, that chronicles the libel trial David Irving brought against Deborah Lipstadt for referring to him as a Holocaust denier in one of her books.

However, as a scientist myself, I’m not sure why Evans would be so surprised at what he found, unless he bought into the stereotypes, too. However, as a historian he should know better. Before Hitler came to power, Germany was very strong in the sciences, having produced world-renowned scientists, especially in physics and chemistry. German medicine was similarly excellent. Consequently, there was a strong scientific tradition there, and an equally strong scientific establishment. That didn’t fall apart right away under Hitler. Indeed, if you read histories of Nazi Germany, what will amaze you is that the changes weren’t immediately apparent. Seemingly “normal” life went on for quite some time. Moreover, because there had been years of political violence between Communists and fascists before Hitler was made Chancellor to some it seemed that the new Nazi regime was an improvement over the chaos before. Although some changes were immediate (Swastikas everywhere, propaganda on the radio, the opening of Dachau, etc.), major changes that everyone noticed took months and years. Indeed, there were even Jews living in Germany right up to the end of the war, Victor Klemperor, for instance, who witnessed the Dresden bombing. Indeed, science went on intitially too.

Then, as Hitler’s hold tightened, academia came under his thumb. This control first took the form of a purge of Jewish scientists and faculty from the universities; later it involved the placement of committed Nazis in positions of authority. The effects were widespread and insidious. Many of the scientists who carried out atrocities in the name of their experiments during the war were trained in universities made ideologically pure in the 1930s. What was also not generally appreciated is that Nazi-ism was very attractive to physicians and scientists. Indeed, physicians found Nazi-ism particularly attractive, with its explicit appeal to make them the physicians for the volk rather than just individuals. Indeed, a frequent statement made by Nazi leaders is that Nazi-ism is “applied biology” designed to protect the health of the Aryan race. Consequently, it was easy for physicians and scientists to slip right back to seemingly normal endeavors and, as the war progressed, it became even easier for them to consider what they were doing science, as Dr. Mengele did:

Mengele’s research at Auschwitz, in particular, shows how the system worked. His experiments there were intended to be a contribution to his second doctorate, the Habilitation, which all German academics needed to qualify for a university professorship. Under Verschuer’s guidance, he selected twins from the trainloads of Jews who arrived and injected them with chemicals to see if they reacted differently from one another. He collected prisoners with physical abnormalities, such as heterochromia – having a different colour in each eye – to investigate if their condition was hereditary. He treated gipsy and other children for starvation-related diseases, using vitamins and sulphonamides, to see if there were hereditary differences in their response to the therapy.

Mengele’s work was pure research, without any obvious practical application. He gained his notoriety from his willingness to kill his subjects under certain circumstances – such as settling an argument about a diagnosis by executing patients and performing an autopsy. However, most survivors remembered him not for his experiments but for his ruthless and brutal behaviour on the selection ramp, or in the camp hospital, where he frequently consigned sick inmates to the gas chamber on the slightest of whims.

But was it science?

The answer is complicated. In some cases, it’s yes, even in experiments that inflicted atrocities. In other cases, it was clearly pseudoscience. However, some of Dr. Mengele’s would studied hypotheses that would not be so far removed from hypotheses studied today: For instance, what is the genetic contribution to response to therapy? However, the studies were carried out without any shred of ethics or humanity. The subjects, although human, were considered no better than experimental animals, to be used as the Nazis saw fit. This dehumanization was, not surprisingly, fed by the increasing brutality of both the war and the Holocaust. Indeed, many of the most brutal studies were conceived to study questions relevant to the war effort:

In a variety of camps, SS doctors used inmates to test treatments for injuries sustained in battle, cutting open their calves and sewing bits of glass or wood or gauze impregnated with bacteria into the wounds, sometimes even smashing the prisoners’ bones with hammers to create a more realistic effect; again, the results were presented to scientific conferences without anyone offering any criticism of the methods employed.

The reason no criticisms were offered was because the prisoners were viewed as no different than experimental animals. Of course, these days, we would not subject even experimental animals to such injuries without providing them analgesia. In any case, examined from a strictly scientific standpoint, if proper controls were used and experimental methods adhered to, even studies like the ones above could be considered “good” science. The reason is that science is amoral. It is a method, a tool, to discover answers about reality and to try to understand how nature works. As such it has no morality one way or the other. As a method or tool, it can be used for good or ill. The same scientific method whose fruits have produced antibiotics and vaccines; cured childhood leukemia; increased our lifespan enormously in the last 100 years; allowed us to launch space probes; and given us television, computers, and MP3 players has also been used to make ever more powerful weapons, including the nuclear bomb. How could it have come about in Germany that it was viewed as morally acceptable to use humans as experimental animals in horrific experiments, with no concern at all for their welfare? Ideological indoctrination:

How can we explain such obvious violations of basic medical ethics? How, indeed, did the doctors justify such work? The answer springs from the fact that medicine was both dominant in the world of science under the Third Reich, and closely allied to the Nazi project. By 1939, almost half of all students at German universities were studying medicine; the others were spread across the whole range of other subjects. The Nazis poured resources into medicine, increasing doctors’ pay, setting up new health care facilities for “Aryan” citizens, creating large numbers of new jobs in the rapidly expanding armed forces and opening new institutes for “racial hygiene” at many universities. By 1939, around two thirds of all German doctors had some connection or other with the Nazi Party.

Which encouraged:

What underpinned this behaviour was a widespread belief that some people were less than human, relegated to a lower plane of existence by their inherited degeneracy – or their race. For German doctors, a camp inmate was either a racially inferior subhuman, a vicious criminal, a traitor to the German cause, or more than one of the above. Such beings had no right to life or wellbeing – indeed, it was logical that they should be sacrificed in the interests of the survival and triumph of the German race, just as that race had to be strengthened by the elimination of the inferior, degenerate elements within it. After all, German medical science had uncovered the causes of several major diseases and contributed massively to improving the health of the population over the previous decades. Surely, therefore, it was justified in eliminating negative influences as well?

Professor Evans is talking about racial hygiene, which was closely aligned with eugenics, in which races were characterized as inferior and superior based on traits that scientists came to think of as indicating inferiority or superiority. Indeed, racial hygiene was very popular in Germany and many other European countries beginning decades before Hitler assumed power. Indeed, German eugenicist Alfred Ploetz first coined the phrase in 1895 to describe what is in essence race-based eugenics. Not surprisingly, the Nazis found racial hygiene to be very appealing and grafted it onto their ideology. These days, it is obvious that racial hygiene is pseudoscience, but in the 1920s and 1930s it was considered a perfectly reputable science, and indeed many universities had academic departments devoted to it, not just in Germany. Against this backdrop, with their nation engaged in total war and steeped in propaganda and ideology that proclaimed the Jews to be a “cancer” or an “infection” threatening the health of the volk, physicians and scientists really did come to believe that the enemies of the Nazi state were subhuman.

Oddly enough, despite their adherence to the dubious science of racial hygiene, Nazi medicine and science did produce some rather amazing advances. Indeed German physicists and engineers developed what was in essence the first Cruise missile (the V-1) and the precursor to the intercontinental missile (the V-2). German medical scientists identified the connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer more than two decades before the Surgeon General’s warning and undertook public health programs to help people quit smoking. Indeed, in his book, The Nazi War On Cancer, Robert Proctor describes, well, a Nazi War On Cancer in which many of the public health measures taken were both progressive even by today’s standards and decades ahead of their time. (Indeed, I keep meaning to do a post on this topic, and I keep somehow never getting around to it.) At the same time, the Nazi regime, while producing advances in scientific medicine, also was enamored of “alternative” medicine such as naturopathy, which in which they glorified German folk medicine as being more “natural.” (Another topic for a post that I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.) Still, it is a mistake to conclude that science suffered under the Nazis. In many ways it thrived, at least the areas of interest to the regime, including medicine and any physical science related to weapons.

So was Nazi science good science? Yes, some of it was. Was it bad science? Also yes, quite a bit of it was. Was it pseudoscience? Yes again, a lot of it was. It may not be bad science to take two groups of people, carefully match them and inject them with a deadly microbe, and then to test whether a new drug or treatment can save people compared to a no treatment control, but it’s profoundly immoral science. Indeed, science under the Nazis was a paradox. A regime that could figure out the link between smoking and lung cancer long before anyone else also viewed its enemies as subhuman and perpetrated the most horrific atrocities on them in the name of science. That they could do this is, again, because science is completely amoral. However, contrary to what the enemies of science, such as Ben Stein, say, science does not inevitably lead to killing people. That’s because it’s the people who do science who can be good or evil, who can use science for good or evil. There’s nothing about science that makes its use for evil inevitable. That failing, unfortunately, lies within us. It is we who choose whether science serves good or evil by how we choose to use it.

Comments

  1. #1 eikescholz
    December 4, 2008

    Well,

    as far as I’m informed, there was an other somewhat indirect huge impact on the quality on science in Nazi Germany. There where a lot of German Jewish scientists, that where forced out of Germany or worse killed. Just this brain drain alone significantly decreased Germany’s “scientific power”. Of course, this alone does not make the science of the remaining scientists less scientific. Unless they tried to get rid of all science which was denounced as Jewish.

  2. #2 Martin
    December 4, 2008

    Very interesting post – you should submit this to the Giants’ Shoulders carnival if you haven’t already.

  3. #3 Martin
    December 4, 2008

    Very interesting post – you should submit this to the Giants’ Shoulders carnival if you haven’t already.

    On the subject of Eugenics, I think it’s worth remembering that German views on it were not actually much different to those prevalent among scientists in Britain or the United States. Indeed, there was an American Journal of Eugenics, and American life scientists proudly boasted that every decent university would one day have a eugenics department.

  4. #4 DLC
    December 4, 2008

    Hm. I’ve often wondered what became of most of the non-weapon nazi research. Granted that much of it was junk, and that much of it was carried out by a bunch of immoral evil bastards. Was there still some data worth having there ?

    Meanwhile, because I’m not really in a serious mood:
    Dr Evil, paging Dr Evil to the Shark Tank, Please.

  5. #5 dean
    December 4, 2008

    Quite interesting. I’ve long wondered a similar thing (I’m a statistician) about how the folks at the University of Moscow (the Moscow School of Probability) could make such amazing contributions to probability theory in the midst of one of the most horrific times in history, the 20s-mid 50s.

  6. #6 Mojo
    December 4, 2008

    Of course, this alone does not make the science of the remaining scientists less scientific. Unless they tried to get rid of all science which was denounced as Jewish.

    Check out the history of the “Welteislehre“.

  7. #7 Calli Arcale
    December 4, 2008

    Very interesting, and quite reasonable post.

    I think a lot of folks conflate “amoral” and “immoral”, and this is why they think it’s so horrible that science is amoral. The fact is, it’s really not science’s job to indicate morals. I would argue that that’s society’s job. (Perhaps through the mechanism of religion, or perhaps not. Preferably not, in fact, but historically, that has been a popular vehicle for communicating morals.) At best, science can help us study whether certain moral values are associated with particular outcomes for society, but that’s about it. Science is a tool, nothing more. One might just as well expect a hammer to teach moral lessons.

    Many of the vilest Nazi researchers were very good (in the sense of being highly proficient) scientists. They were also tremendously unethical, immoral, and perhaps even evil by our standards, treating their prisoners worse than modern Western scientists would treat a lab rat. This seeming paradox offends many folks today, but it’s an important lesson from the past. The ends do not justify the means, in and of themselves, and evil can coexist quite happily with expertise.

  8. #8 Dianne
    December 4, 2008

    No, it was not good science. It was lousy science when it was science at all. First off, executing half your academics is never good for your science output. Second, every time I read about the Nazi experiments I get distracted (distract myself?) from their horrific nature because I’m too busy wincing at the hideous errors in the experimental protocols. Good science and poor ethics can co-exist (see Tuskeegee for one example), but this wasn’t it. They were idiots on all levels.

  9. #9 Dianne
    December 4, 2008

    Also the connection between smoking and cancer was known before the 1940s. It was observed as long ago as the 19th century. The public health programs to reduce the incidence of smoking may have been progressive as public health programs go, but the discovery was not new.

  10. #10 Christophe Thill
    December 4, 2008

    Dean, have you also wondered why all those radical contributions to mathematical statistics that were made in Britain in the first quarter of the 20th century, were the works of committed eugenists, believers in hereditary intelligence with just a little bit of sympathy for Nazi Germany? Gould’s “Mismeasure of man” tells a good part of the story, though it doesn’t give all the keys, and I was appalled to come across such names as Pearson and Spearman?

    Concerning Nazi science: I think that there are several problems with it. One is the approach of possibly legitimate scientific questions with atrociously unethical methods. Another one is the obsession with Germanic purity.

    As relativity was banned as a “Jewish invention”, there came back Hörbiger’s crazy theories (according to which the Earth periodically attracts a new Moon, that comes closer and closer until it crashes, and it’s back to start). Homeopathy was also considered, certainly because Hahnemann was German; but if I remember correctly, all the tests gave no interesting result (not quite unexpected…). Concerning wildlife (flora and fauna), the official belief was that native species were better suited to any environment, and that invasive ones could only die out (but had to be extirpated anyway). And of course the fields of history and anthropology were thoroughly wrecked.

  11. #11 Phoenix Woman
    December 4, 2008

    Dianne, the Tuskegee experiments and the Nazi ones operated on the same premise: Their test subjects didn’t count as fully-human beings.

  12. #12 Mu
    December 4, 2008

    The prime example of “immoral but good” science is still the work of the Japanese Army’s Unit 731, whose work was considered so important (and non-repeatable by the “good” guys) that the perpetrators got free passes for turning over their paperwork on germ warfare.
    A lot of the reports on Mengele’s work seem to be rather critical of the “scientific” basis of some of his assumptions. Even if you use scientific methods, if the assumptions are woo it doesn’t safe the program (independent of the morality).

  13. #13 marilove
    December 4, 2008

    A bastardized version of science, maybe. Certainlly not good science, even if it resulted in some good findings.

  14. #14 The Perky Skeptic
    December 4, 2008

    Food for thought, definitely.

    I, too, have a WWII obsession. For me it started with my little brother, whom I considered a total geek for being so into WWII stuff– but information seeped into my brain through proximity, and then when Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl was assigned reading in 8th grade, I became completely hooked on WWII and Holocaust history.

    One reason I think that period in history is so fascinating is the extremes of human conscience that war brought out. There are literally millions of stories of personal experiences of WWII, and all of them remarkable in some way.

    The cruelty of the Nazi experiments in the camps is simply staggering. That anyone could regard another human as mere fodder for “research” boggles the mind. Nonetheless, it’s a great question to consider, whether any of these tortures actually had scientific value. I don’t know whether I find “yes” or “no” to be the more disturbing answer. On the one hand, it would be nice to think that something was learned from the suffering of the human subjects, that global society might benefit in some way, other than as an example of the atrocities humans are capable of inflicting on one another. On the other hand, would that be seen as validating Nazi research? I hope the former could be elevated from the latter, if some good methodology is actually unearthed from the evil of torturing a fellow human being.

  15. #15 Dianne
    December 4, 2008

    the Tuskegee experiments and the Nazi ones operated on the same premise: Their test subjects didn’t count as fully-human beings.

    Indeed. But the Tuskegee experiments used careful observation and regular follow up to observe the exact effects of their evil whereas the Nazis were just careless and pretty sloppy in their lab technique. The reason I brought up Tuskegee was to point out that one can have good science with bad ethics. As far as I know, though, essentially all of the medical science of the Nazi era should never have been done because it was bad science–poor experimental technique, inappropriate or non-existant controls, etc–even if one ignores the ethics entirely. It is my suspicion that the Nazis were so anxious to get rid of the “Untermensch” that they didn’t really mind if their scientists did high school level science on them–it was all to the good if it got rid of a few undesirables, right? So they weren’t exactly careful about the peer review prior to funding.

    Maybe I’m a lunatic for even caring, but…well, if there’s anything worse than dying to become a data point it would have to be dying to become an inaccurate, unusable data point. Or so I think. Others may differ…

  16. #16 Pierce R. Butler
    December 4, 2008

    The US clandestinely imported a multitude of German rocket & weaponry scientists through “Operation Paperclip” after WWII, and a number of Japanese doctors who had conducted biological warfare experiments on Chinese (and a few American & British) POWs.

    Does anyone here know if any German MDs or biologists who’d taken part in Nazi atrocities walked this same red carpet?

  17. #17 The Perky Skeptic
    December 4, 2008

    “Maybe I’m a lunatic for even caring, but…well, if there’s anything worse than dying to become a data point it would have to be dying to become an inaccurate, unusable data point. Or so I think. Others may differ…”

    EXACTLY, Dianne! It’s like the final insult upon injury.

  18. #18 Neal Martin
    December 4, 2008

    Oh Ja Klaus, yhu know whats dey sa-ay: “Das ethics ist bad, das science ist gud, but das bratvurst ist da best!”

  19. #19 Ramel
    December 4, 2008

    I remeber reading about the concentration camps and experiments when I was a teenager. The worst part for me was the slowly dawning realisation the the german scientists were not some kind of inhuman demoinic creatures, but that they were just people like those around me, falible, deluded and with a twisted sense of reality but still people all the same. One serious problem I have with the way the allied countries discuss the war is the sense of moral certainty that we were the good guys, riding in like fairy tale knights, and that Nazi Germany was pure evil. The sense that some how the Nazis were something that was evil in a way we could never be. I think that the most important lesson of WW2 was that any society could head down that path, and we should be vigilant for those that would lead us there.

  20. #20 Calli Arcale
    December 4, 2008

    Along those lines, Ramel, if you ever visit Berlin, make sure you visit the “Story of Berlin” museum. It’s utterly fascinating, and explores that in great detail, chronicling the city’s long history but with particular emphasis on the 20th Century, especially the part from the 1930s through 1945 and then the Cold War years.

    Also interesting to visit in Berlin is the Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg concentration camp, established much earlier than the more famous camps such as Dachau and Auschwitz, and was never used as a place of mass extermination. In the camp clinic, there is an exhibit about Nazi medical experiments conducted at the camp. Very chilling to read about while standing in the very rooms where it happened.

  21. #21 Orac
    December 4, 2008

    Actually, Dachau was first opened for prisoners in March 1933, only a little more than a month after Hitler took power. It served as a template for many of the other concentration camps. The extermination camps didn’t come until much later, after the war started.

    Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg was not established until 1938:

    http://www.jewishgen.org/forgottencamps/Camps/SachsenhausenEng.html

    One thing that people not real familiar with the Holocaust often don’t realize is that most German camps were not extermination camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau but rather concentration camps designed to severely punish and extract the maximum of work out of the prisoners. That’s not to say that the death tolls in the “concentration camps” weren’t horrific. They were. Disease, starvation, and brutal overwork took their toll. However, concentration camps usually did not have gas chambers, certainly not mass gas chambers, and the casualties in concentration camps were usually an order of magnitude or more less than the extermination camps. One must also note that some camps served dual purposes. Auschwitz, for instance, had both an extermination camp, complete with gas chambers and crematoria, and a work camp with many subcamps and satellite camps scattered throughout a wide area.

    Holocaust deniers often take advantage of the public’s ignorance about this distinction in order to ask questions like, “Why were there so many survivors at Auschwitz?” Or why were there barracks at Auschwitz if it was an extermination camp?

  22. #22 Orac
    December 4, 2008

    But the Tuskegee experiments used careful observation and regular follow up to observe the exact effects of their evil whereas the Nazis were just careless and pretty sloppy in their lab technique.

    Got any specific examples?

    In any case, chillingly one area where Nazis were very, very thorough and careful in their observations was in developing the gas chambers and testing Zykon-B in the early days of the extermination program. Chillingly, clinically scientific, actually.

  23. #23 Dawn
    December 4, 2008

    I am not a history buff, but, have done some reading on WWII (yeah, Orac, part of that is thanks to some of your posts, btw…). What I will never forget is 24 years ago, my parents hosted a foreign exchange student for a year. She was from Germany (the northern part). She had NEVER heard about WWII. It was not mentioned in her home, her grandparents, nor taught in school. She had a terrible time coping when her US History class got to it. (WWI she had been taught a bit about. WWII was very glossed over, in the form of “we had some border skirmishes with other countries in the ’30s and ’40s”) I don’t know if the same is true today, or even true for other parts of Germany back then (and, we have to be accurate, for the time, West Germany). She won’t speak of it even today when she visits.

  24. #24 bob
    December 4, 2008

    Dawn, I have a very hard time believing that. My understanding is that Germany takes the ugly parts of its history extremely seriously, possibly to a fault … I’m thinking of holocaust denial being an actual crime. (Full disclosure: I think that holocaust denial is one of the most despicable things out there, but I still think said despicable people shouldn’t go to jail merely for saying despicable things.)

    Anyways, Orac, this post was interesting and of course it’s your blog so you have every right to post about things you find interesting. However, is it a good idea for a high-profile science blogger to say the Nazis were doing good science? Especially in light of Expelled’s use of Nazi imagery?

    Don’t get me wrong, I think folks like Nisbet and Mooney and their “framing” are largely full of sh*t, but they’re not 100% wrong. Everybody chided pro-science people for saying that Expelled was a success, even though it largely was, because it gave fodder to the anti-science folk. Well, if that’s fodder for the bad guys, then what the hell is the statement: “So was Nazi science good science? Yes, some of it was.”

  25. #25 Dawn
    December 4, 2008

    Bob…I understand. Believe me, my parents were quite appalled. (My mother IS a history buff, and we have tons of books on the Civil War and WWII in the basement). If it was another person, I would have thought she was pulling my parents’ legs, but she was too shy and sincerely upset to be doing that. And, I can’t say the she wouldn’t have gotten the history in her last few years of schooling (she was only 16 when she came to the US for a year). And,as I said, it was 24 years ago. I don’t know if things changed in the time period as far as schooling, nor do I know if it was just where she lived and the school she attended.

  26. #26 Ramel
    December 4, 2008

    @Bob: In modern Germany people do discuss the war, but if you go back two or three decades the majority of people rememberd the war as a personal experience and were very reluctant to talk about it. No one would want to answer questions like “where were you during the holocaust”.

    Secondly I think orac is right to make a reasoned post about this subject, the only way to learn form past horrors is to understand how and why they happened. The scientists who conducted these experiments were not doing them purely for the sake of sadistic pleasure, they actually thought they were good science for good reasons. There are many important lessons about scientific ethics that need to be learned from what happened, and it impacts important questions like exactly how far is too far to go for new knowlege.

    @Calli Arcale:If I ever make it to Germany I’ll definetly try to visit such places, thanks for the recomendations.

  27. #27 Frank Oswalt
    December 4, 2008

    Dawn,

    What I will never forget is 24 years ago, my parents hosted a foreign exchange student for a year. She was from Germany (the northern part). She had NEVER heard about WWII. It was not mentioned in her home, her grandparents, nor taught in school. She had a terrible time coping when her US History class got to it.

    That can’t be right. The Nazi era and the Second World War have been an obligatory part of the German curriculum since right after the war. 24 years ago is roughly when I was a high school student in Northern Germany, and believe me, we covered that period of our history in painstaking (and very painful) detail.
    More to the point of the original post, my high school teacher actually devoted quite a bit of time to the question of Nazi science, getting us thinking about the difference between good science and ethical science and about questions such as whether the results of Nazi research should be destroyed out of respect for the victims or whether it would be more respectful to use these results in positive ways.

  28. #28 Coriolis
    December 4, 2008

    Well look bob, we can’t subvert our scientific honesty just because it gives science a bad name. If the science was properly done in nazi germany, it was properly done, and we can’t deny that (if that’s true of course, I don’t know enough about medicine to be the judge of that). As Orac and many others pointed out, science is amoral, and we should be honest about it. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t smack down the idiots who willfully misunderstand the difference between immoral and amoral.

    In physics we certainly still use the results of Heisenberg’s research, even though he stayed and complied with the Nazi regime, because it was excellent work (how much of a willing participant he was is debatable and I don’t know).

    If there is actually one principle in science, which can be seen as “moral”, it is intellectual honesty.

  29. #29 cwfong
    December 4, 2008

    Is it good science to study supposedly inferior humans to learn more about superior humans without also studying the differences between the groups that would support the judgments as to which are indeed inferior?

  30. #30 bob
    December 4, 2008

    Not calling you a liar, Dawn, just very surprised. Perhaps this woman went to a private school or something, where they shielded the students from it?

    Ramel and Coriolis, fair enough. It is a “case study” in the amorality (not im-) of science, but a horrific one nonetheless. Btw, thanks for not just blowing me off as a “concern troll” … it’s the response I was expecting.

    Cwfong, interesting point. Makes you wonder how much they actually believed the superiority business. Of course, perhaps they thought it was beyond reproach? Or maybe they “knew” deep down that it was bogus, and thus didn’t want to do the basic tests lest they fail to find the results they wanted. (Analogous to a homeopath refusing to try and dowse–er, I mean, detect–a “remedy” from a collection of tap water bottles.)

  31. #31 Orac
    December 4, 2008

    Is it good science to study supposedly inferior humans to learn more about superior humans without also studying the differences between the groups that would support the judgments as to which are indeed inferior?

    But “studying the differences between the groups that would support the judgments as to which are indeed inferior” is exactly what the “science” of racial hygiene purported to do.

  32. #32 Mojo
    December 4, 2008

    @Christophe Thill:

    Homeopathy was also considered, certainly because Hahnemann was German; but if I remember correctly, all the tests gave no interesting result (not quite unexpected…).

    There’s a mention of the results, and why they are no longer available, in the last paragraph of this article by Edzard Ernst. I don’t think homoeopaths like this being mentioned.

  33. #33 Andreas Schaefer
    December 4, 2008

    What they teach in German schools:

    True, lessons about the war, its causes, the holocaust were written into the curricula of the states ( school oversight is by state not nation ) but controlling what was actually taught was/is weak. Of course teachers who were merely party members and had not personally killed any Jews were kept on the system – after all who else was qualified. With a little lip service they could go on teaching. ( like people who did open up towards the McCarthy committee could go on working ) I went to school ’61 to 74 – but was lucky in that all my secondary school teachers were very young. Had earned their degrees only a year earlier and had been part of the 68 student revolt. ( and part of that was about lack of teaching the full history and the continued employment of people who had started their careers under the Nazis ) but that was an exceptional school. Actually by the time we had finals we must have heard about 5 times about WW2 and the holocaust and nearly as often had had “segregated” ‘sex-instruction’ ( very boring black and white schematics and very general explanations by teachers who were not relaxed about it at all.) So both subjects had become boring by the time we reached finals ( age 18 to 19 in 1974 ).
    It is not difficult to imagine and consider plausible teachers who studied in the 30 being bad teachers on this subject. I bet a fair number of university graduates of the 50s ( and that exchange student might have had those as teachers ) had not being taught much about the war and the holocaust – not surprising if one considers that their professors certainly had learned their stuff before and during the war.


    I have not studied life sciences ( my background is physics if any ) but I wonder if many of the experiments were not bad science by being grossly uneconomical. Human subjects strike me as expensive to experiment on even if one ‘gets them for free’ also if one believes in the racial superiority of Aryans then experiments on ‘subhumans’ have little more relevance than experiments on animals. – And animals breed faster, need less food and can be made available in ‘standard’ quality. This points me toward thinking it was bad science. Certainly there was quite a bit of bad science about: Often in the form of the membership/loyalty to the party being more important than truth.

  34. #34 Austin Elliott
    December 4, 2008

    The excellent Edzard Ernst has written about the Nazi enthusiasm for, and examination of, CAM here, while Ben Goldacre talked briefly about the 1930s work on smoking and cancer a year or so back over at Badscience.net.

    The exodus of German (mainly Jewish) scientists in the 1930s crippled the German University system for generations afterwards, and the displaced scientists made incalculable contributions to science elsewhere. The Nobel Laureates Max Perutz and Bernard Katz are just two of the many examples who spring to mind in the UK alone.

    In Britain, the 1922 Nobel Laureate A.V.Hill protested at the Nazi “purging” of Jewish scientists from German University posts, and founded an organisation to help refugee scientists resettle in the UK. Hill clashed in the pages of Nature with the Nazi scientific “Gauleiter” Johannes Stark. Hill famously concluded the correspondence by remarking that since his last letter he had received many donations from people wanting to help the refugees. “But my eloquence cannot really take the credit” he said (paraphrasing slightly) “as I am sure Professor Stark’s arguments [i.e. Stark's Nazi ideology] have played a great part”.

    This exchange of letters was what prompted Bernard Katz to seek out a job in Hill’s lab. You can read more in Prof David Colquhoun’s excellent obituary of Katz here.

  35. #35 R. Hunt
    December 4, 2008

    Here’s a fun game: count the number of times the word “indeed” appears in this essay. ;-)

    Still, a good read on a fascinating topic, and in spite of its length, it leaves me wanting more. This topic by itself could make for an entire book.

  36. #36 Mu
    December 4, 2008

    I too went through the German educational system around that time, and part of the confusion about it can be summoned up as: We teach you how bad the Germans were, but more importantly, we don’t want to teach you anything you might see as positive. So while the Nazi time is usually excessively covered in regards to atrocities, the war itself is usually glossed over (other then as a background to more atrocities) as to not generate a feeling of “hey, we took on the whole world, and would have nearly made it with a bit of luck”. Of course, in the 70′s and 80′s you could still encounter “old school” teachers who just didn’t like to touch the subject at all, either due to sympathies or their own bad experience. A typical German youth born in the early 1920 would have gone through the war, and, if becoming a teacher afterward, not retired until 1985. I personally had two teachers with obvious or admitted war injuries (so not in the social sciences which dealt with history).

  37. #37 Dawn
    December 4, 2008

    I really don’t know what kind of schooling she had had (public, private) prior to coming to the states. She was a very shy, sheltered girl, so private school is possible. If questions about what she had actually been taught about WWII, when she was more comfortable with the family were discussed, I can’t say because I was away at college for 9 of the 12 months she lived with the family.

    All I honestly remember is that she claimed she had never been taught about WWII and that my parents were so shocked.

  38. #38 cwfong
    December 4, 2008

    Ortac,
    Good science would require an hypothesis involving the question of whether non-aryans were in fact inferior. But it appears to me that the goal was to prove that they were, rather than address the matter as an heretofore unanswered question.

  39. #39 Dianne
    December 4, 2008

    Got any specific examples?

    I’m basing my impression primarily on the book “The Nazi Doctors” which gave a number of examples of “science” being done in the KZ, most of which were utterly ridiculous without even considering ethics. They didn’t seem to believe in control groups, I remember in particular. (I don’t have the book with me so can’t really give the specific examples you asked for.)

    In any case, chillingly one area where Nazis were very, very thorough and careful in their observations was in developing the gas chambers and testing Zykon-B in the early days of the extermination program.

    Actually, I kind of thought that they were a bit random even there. They used amounts of ZB that killed in anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. I’ve even heard claims of people surviving the gas chambers and being shot afterwards–don’t know if that’s true or not. How hard could that be to standardize? On the other hand, they did seem to get the “keep the gas in the chamber” part down. At least I’ve never heard of any Bhopol type events taking place.

  40. #40 MikeB
    December 4, 2008

    A lot of ‘science’ in Nazi Germany was morally appalling, and some of it actually quite good (the anti-cancer campaign, for instance) or at least technically advanced (the V2), but because of the vacuum left by fleeing scientists, much of it was simply rubbish.

    Someone has already posted about World Ice Theory, but the twisting of German science goes much further than that. If you regard ‘Jewish’ science as bad, then ‘Aryan’ science is there to take its place. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), ‘Aryan’ science was often a mishmash of mystic mumbo-jumbo (Himmler being a particular fan), quack science and ignorant posturing by the politically connected.

    Want to find the British fleet by holding a pendulum over a map? Go for it. Try to develop a ‘death-ray’ to stop the engines of Allied aircraft? Why not? Want to lead an expedition to South America to find ‘Aryans’? The SS will sponsor it .It was meant to take place in 1939, but the outbreak of war killed it. The man on the ground in South America is actually the same chap quoted so much at the start of Hancock’s ‘Fingerprints of the Gods’ – something I suspect Mr Hancock prefers to keep quiet about. The list goes on.

    German science entered the twilight zone, where political considerations became far more important than either how or what was done. The generation of German scientists who got out helped ensure the Allied victory, while those who stayed behind often wasted their time on projects that stood no chance of helping to win the war (but wasted precious resources) or simply blacked both their own, and Germany’s name.

    What is truly frightening is that so many were more than happy to serve the Nazi state, for their own advancement or simply because they believed in its ideals.

  41. #41 Dianne
    December 4, 2008

    Re teaching about WWII in German schools: For what it’s worth, I have two German middle school textbooks, used in the public schools in Heidelberg. Both go into a good deal of detail about WWII, both in terms of the aggressive war Germany fought and of the Holocaust. However, it also mentioned the allied bombings of civilians, something that my middle school instruction on WWII somehow managed to miss mentioning altogether…I didn’t hear about it until HS…english class (thank FSM Falwell hated Vonnegut…it got Slaughterhouse 5 on the cirriculum.)

  42. #42 Brian
    December 4, 2008

    Dianne, the Tuskegee experiments and the Nazi ones operated on the same premise: Their test subjects didn’t count as fully-human beings

    Interestingly, the Tuskegee experiments actually operated on the opposite premise. A classic example of the road to Hell being paved with good intentions.

  43. #43 pinky
    December 4, 2008

    Very thought provoking. I applaud you.

  44. #44 Pierce R. Butler
    December 4, 2008

    A readable and well-done (though not “scholarly”) book touching on some of this is Heather Pringle’s The Master Plan: Himmler’s Scholars and the Holocaust. It’s a study of the SS chief’s Ahnenerbe research institute, which carried out -
    * archaeology in Sweden,
    * an expedition to Tibet,
    * lethal medical research in isolated German towns,
    * robbing of Jewish graveyards in Austria,
    * a search for every detail known about Thor’s hammer, thought by Himmler to be an electrical weapon used by the lost Aryan/Atlantean supercivilization,
    * and more.

    One laboratory had the job of finding some (any) consistent anatomical characteristic specific to Jews. Needless to say, they struck out.

  45. #45 ama
    December 4, 2008

    Orac, this book by Siegfried Bär digs deep into the Nazi science scene: “Der Untergang des Hauses Rascher”.

    The blurb in itself is a good description of the time, so I copy it here (I may do that):

    [*QUOTE*]
    —————————————————
    Der Untergang des Hauses Rascher

    “Der Untergang des Hauses Rascher” Sigmund Rascher war der Sproß begeisterter Anthroposophen, Walddorfschüler, Adept eines anthroposophischen Gurus, Medizinstudent, DFG-Stipendiat, Günstling Heinrich Himmlers, Unterdruck- und Kälteversuchsforscher im KL Dachau und KL-Insasse. Am Ende stand der Genickschuß.

    Siegfried Bär hat jahrelang das Leben dieses Massenmörders recherchiert. Er hat Verwandte von Rascher aufgetrieben, Familienfotos gesehen, Leute ausfindig gemacht, die Rascher gekannt haben, neue Akten entdeckt und ehemaligen Mitarbeitern Raschers nachgespürt.

    Das Ergebnis ist ein Dokumentarroman. Bär schält darin aus dem Wust von Rascher-Legenden den wirklichen Sigmund heraus, sein schräges Umfeld und seine Beweggründe. Ein schwieriges Unternehmen, denn Rascher war schwierig. Der gleiche Mann, der hunderte von KL-Häftlinge qualvollen Versuchen unterwarf, stand unter dem Pantoffel seiner Gattin, einer 15 Jahre älteren Konzertsängerin, behandelte Nachbarn umsonst, stellte sich schützend vor Häftlingsmitarbeiter und setzte sich gelegentlich für Juden ein.

    Bär fand keine Anhaltspunkte dafür, dass Rascher NS-Überzeugungen hegte. Obwohl seit 1936 SA-Mann und später Mitglied der SS hing Rascher vielmehr den anthroposophischen Lehren des Ehrenfried Pfeiffer an, eines Miterfinders der biodynamischen Landwirtschaft. Dieses okkult-esoterische System scheint Rascher tiefer beeindruckt zu haben als die NS-Rassenlehre. Es ist auch auffällig, das fast alle Förderer Raschers einen Hang zur Naturheilkunde hatten. Getrieben haben ihn der Glaube an seine Berufung als Forscher, die Sucht nach wissenschaftlicher Anerkennung und der Erfolg seines Bruders Sigurd Rascher, des berühmten Saxophonisten.

    Bär weist nach, dass Sigmund Rascher schon in seiner Doktorarbeit die Ergebnisse den Erwartungen anpasste. Das gleiche muß Rascher während seines Forschungsstipendiums getan haben, als es um eine universelle Krebsdiagnose ging. In beiden Fällen wollte er Pfeiffers Thesen beweisen.

    Diese auf der Grundlage okkult-esoterischer Denkweise entstandenen Versuche wurden zwar publiziert, gerieten aber in Vergessenheit. Auch Rascher wäre in Vergessenheit geraten, hätte ihn nicht der Zufall in die Arme einer ehemaligen Geliebten von Heinrich Himmler geführt. Bald stand Rascher in Himmlers Gunst und durfte Versuche an Häftlingen des KL Dachau machen. Diese, die berüchtigten Unterdruck- und Kälteversuche, gingen auf Raschers Initiative zurück. Sie waren “solider” als Raschers frühere Forschungen, denn er arbeitete in Dachau anfangs unter Aufsicht mehr oder weniger “seriöser” Wissenschaftler. Als Rascher ab 1943 eigene Versuche machen durfte, zeigte sich wieder der esoterisch-okkulte Grundzug, der schon seine Doktorarbeit charakterisiert hatte. Seine Karriere unter dem okkultgläubigen Himmler schien das nicht zu hemmen: Reichtum und Lehrstuhl standen in Aussicht. Dazu kam ein glückliches Familienleben. Zwischen Rascher und seiner Frau hatte sich die große Liebe entwickelt – nicht zuletzt weil sie ihm vier Söhne ins Haus brachte.

    Diesen familiären Rückhalt und Himmlers Gunst brauchte Rascher. Denn draußen im KL Dachau, in der SS-Hierarchie, selbst in der eigenen Arbeitsgruppe reihten sich Schlangengruben von Intrigen an Kessel mit kochenden Kabalen. Der Forschungsbetrüger Rascher wurde selber zum Opfer von Lug, Betrug und Unfähigkeit. Im Frühjahr 1944 kam es zur Katastrophe. Raschers Frau, die als Katalysator seines Aufstiegs gewirkt hatte, riß ihn in den Abgrund.

    Bärs Dokumentar-Roman über das Leben von Sigmund Rascher braucht starke Nerven.

    Das Buch hat 216 Seiten, Hardcover, Fadenheftung und kostet 19.90 Euro.
    —————————————————
    [*QUOTE*]

    source:
    http://www.laborjournal.de/rubric/ljbuch/index.html

    I hope that the digital translators will somehow make an understandable English version.

  46. #46 Calli Arcale
    December 4, 2008

    I was thinking Dachau was one of the later ones. My mistake, and thank you for the correction, Orac! Still, it was quite an experience to visit Sachenhausen. It was in the camp clinic where the experience really hit home for me. You read about the work of folks like Mengele, but it’s so inhumane it’s hard to really grasp that it happened. Somehow, standing on the spot brings it home.

  47. #47 Baratos
    December 5, 2008

    All I know about is the military side of Nazi science, which was decades ahead of the rest of the world. I suggest everyone look up the Wasserfall project. A surface-to-air missle which could have locked Allied planes out of the Third Reich, and its pretty advanced even by modern standards. The only reason Allied pilots did not live in fear of it is because the German leadership wanted offensive rockets like the V-2, not defensive ones.

    I think engineering did not suffer in Nazi Germany because it is hard to claim that a bunch of equations are Jewish or Aryan.

  48. #48 Ramel
    December 5, 2008

    Many people have pointed out that the Nazi goverment funded some truely aweful science (from a purely technical stand point), I have to ask who you think people 50 years from now will talk about some of the science being done today? GWB’s enviromental science, or universities giving Bsc’s in CAM? Sad truth is the science that gets don is the science that someone is willing to pay for, if a goverment wants to fund a search for atlantis there will allways be some scientist willing to take their money.

  49. #49 Christophe Thill
    December 5, 2008

    “Want to lead an expedition to South America to find ‘Aryans’? The SS will sponsor it.”

    There was also the expedition to find the entrance leading to the inside of the Hollow Earth.

  50. #50 docjack
    December 5, 2008

    How horrible, selective use of science to support ideology, suppression of opposing views, use of torture for national security… those Nazi’s aren’t the only evil ones. We could have been them very easily, that is the point of this excellent historical discussion.
    “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Walt Kelly, Pogo comic strip.

  51. #51 MikeB
    December 5, 2008

    Pierce – Thanks for reminding me about Pringle’s book (which is where I read about the Fingerprint of the Gods link) – its a good read, and points out both the stupid aspects of Nazi ‘science’ (the treks into Tibet) and the sinister (the use of ‘racial characteristics’ to determine who went to concentration camps). Well worth putting down on the Christmas list.

    Baratos – Wasserfall certainly looked impressive, but it actually shows perfectly the problems with the Nazi war-effort and its attitude towards science. Duxford http://duxford.iwm.org.uk/ has a fair collection of German rocketry http://www.warbirdsresourcegroup.org/LRG/Secweap.htm, but very little of it was anywhere near operational status at the end of the war. The V2 sucked all the materials and technicians needed to develop these defensive weapons. Which is why Wasserfall guidance system, was anything but reliable. Instead, cheaper simpler alternatives may have been more effective.

    If engineering did not suffer in Germany, why was the equation for the amount of material for an atomic bomb worked out in Manchester by two German scientists, not Germany?

  52. #52 Roger Briggs
    December 5, 2008

    I had this strange sense recently viewing the proceedings of a local dog show relative to eugenics and the holocaust. There was something about it that made me pause and wonder about the participants in dog shows, the special breeds and their owners. And then I thought of President Elect Obama and his self deprecating remark about himself at a news conference as a “mutt like me”. And then I think of my African American and Hispanic grandsons and the blending of races in their generation. And it brings me back to dog shows, best of the breeds and their celebration by participants.

    We are once again at the door step of science that can parse the genetic frontier to create “perfect” species, whether plant or animal. Recognizing that science is amoral, like business, should do more to help us recognize the dangers of our interest in scientific questions of genetic purity or in the theoretical sciences that have led to the now various weapons of mass destruction and their use or potential use to destroy life.

  53. #53 Dr Aust
    December 5, 2008

    Anyone needing reminding of how the V-2 design team were “appropriated” by the Western Powers at the end of WW2 (the Soviets were, of course, doing exactly the same with any weapons and nuclear engineers they could find) could do worse than read Wernher von Braun’s Wikipedia entry… or for a satirical take on the morality (or lack thereof) of weapons engineers and Govts try Tom Lehrer’s satirical song about Von Braun.

  54. #54 ama
    December 5, 2008

    Hi, docjack, Pogo is suuuuuuper! Like it since my childhood days.

  55. #55 DuWayne
    December 5, 2008

    bob -

    Anyways, Orac, this post was interesting and of course it’s your blog so you have every right to post about things you find interesting. However, is it a good idea for a high-profile science blogger to say the Nazis were doing good science? Especially in light of Expelled’s use of Nazi imagery?

    There are a couple of problems with that logic.

    One, it really is an interesting topic and one that Orac explains very nicely. Concern over how anti-intellectual morons are likely to take it, is not a reasonable excuse to keep people like me (and a lot of other readers, including apparently yourself) from having the pleasure of learning something new. I like learning new things and accept that ignorant morons are going to be ignorant morons and believe things that prove it.

    Two, I think that it’s important to understand exactly what Orac is saying, when it comes to the amoral nature of scientific inquiry. It behooves us, as members of our society, that science and it’s practitioners do not have some innate sense of right and wrong. That blindly allowing people to do as they will and research as they will, is no guarantee that everything done in the pursuit of knowledge will be done ethically.

  56. #56 TexDoc
    December 6, 2008

    Just as an aside, I was wondering if you are an executive producer of this little flick:

    http://www.iwatchstuff.com/2008/12/zombie_nazis_attacking_a_mount.php

  57. #57 Paul Murray
    December 7, 2008

    There are two errors to be avoided – each equally wrong
    1) It’s science, therefore it’s right and good
    2) It’s evil, therefore it’s not science.

    For a take on this same question in a different field, have a look at “The benefit of clergy”, by (I think) C S Lewis, in relation to the art of Salvador Dali.

  58. #58 Nomen Nescio
    December 8, 2008

    Orac,

    the following referenced paper goes into more detail about experiments that took place without informed consent on human subjects in German controlled lands during the period of the Nazi regime.

    http://www.jlaw.com/Articles/NaziMedEx.html

    From my memory, the most controversial, in terms of proposed subsequent use of the data, were the hypothermia experiments.

    Nomen Nescio

  59. #59 Nomen Nescio
    December 8, 2008

    there seem to be two separate N.N.’s commenting on scienceblogs. for the record, i’m the one with delusions of writing like e.e. cummings.

    (actually, i’m surprised it took this long for me to run into somebody else using this somewhat unimaginative ‘nym — several years already, on a lot of different blogs. hi there, whoever you are!)

  60. #60 grendelkhan
    December 8, 2008

    Nomen Nescio got to it first, but yes, apparently the hypothermia experiments were useful. And the Americans were very keen to get their hands on Unit 731′s results, which Mu already mentioned above. I remember hearing something about work done on the mammalian diving reflex by Nazi researchers, but that may be included in the results on hypothermia.

    Thinking of the Nazis and science reminds me always of David Hilbert and the purges at Göttingen. Hilbert was one of the most influential mathematicians of the early 20th century, but lived long enough to see his university, which had been the world center of mathematical learning for nearly two hundred years, heir to a lineage stretching back to Gauss and Riemann, reduced to the point where his funeral was attended by only two other mathematicians.

  61. #61 Nick
    December 8, 2008

    I suppose you put together a good argument that Nazi’s “followed the scientific method” very closely in their research, but that’s a far cry from calling “good science” and tacking on any of the meaning that the word “good” holds in our lives today.

  62. #62 joel
    December 8, 2008

    Don’t forget that the Japanese were doing the same thing to the Chinese, using them for extremely brutal experiments.

    Then, before your moral outrage boils over, reflect on the memory of American B29 airmen conducting the first firebombing of Tokyo. The smell of burning flesh made them vomit, and they could hear the screams of the 10′s of thousands being incinerated. (They were bombing from only 5,000 feet high).

    War, and the behavior it generates, is repulsive.

    Instead of Nazi science, you are really talking about Nazi science under war time conditions, when human life becomes almost worthless.

    To quote Stalin, “One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.”

  63. #63 Micha Elyi
    December 8, 2008

    Orac claimed, “contrary to what the enemies of science, such as Ben Stein, say, science does not inevitably lead to killing people.”

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, else the prudent will doubt the claimant. So, Orac, where’s the honestly sourced quote of Ben Stein’s that supports your two snarky claims, that (1) Ben Stein is an enemy of science, and (2) Ben Stein says science inevitably leads to killing people?

  64. #64 Orac
    December 8, 2008

    That Ben Stein starred in and heavily promoted the movie Expelled! is more than enough evidence that he is an enemy of science. The evidence in the movie and in the interviews in which he appeared to promote it are more than enough evidence that Stein is an enemy of science.

    As for his statement that science leads to killing people, he said it during an interview aired on Trinity Broadcast Network on April 21. I commented on it:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/05/ben_stein_and_jack_chick_two_more_crappy.php

    Ben Dreidel made a transcript of it:

    http://friendlyatheist.com/3052/scientists-are-murderers/

    But if you want to see the interview for yourself, go to the Trinity Broadcasting Network video portal here:

    http://tbn.org/video_portal/

    Search for “Ben Stein,” and pick the April 21 video.

  65. #65 George
    December 8, 2008

    I think this question can be restated as to whether the information can be separated from its creators.

    I think it can and should be. There is no such thing as fascist technology or knowledge. Knowledge and technology are simply means to an end. The good or badness the end being determined by the user. Consider an ordinary hammer, in one person’s hands can build housing for the homeless. In the hands of an other it can crack a man’s skull in half. The hammer doesn’t choose it owner or mission.

    True, the Nazis used the worst possible means to get information. Innocent people suffered indescribable pain before being murdered. Slave labor was common and more slaves died building the underground rocket factories of the Reich than died by rocket. But lets ask our selves, “If Hitler had prohibited these experiments and simply liquidated people would he be less evil”?

    The problem with the Nazi’s wasn’t poor science, or the dehumanization brought on by war (lots of people have seen combat with committing atrocities.) but that they were evil little sh*ts. Everything and everyone they touched became dirty. That Imperial Japan choose to wallow in the same depravity or that some technologies proved useful to the victors does not in anyway dilute the true awfulness of the Reich.

    Which brings me to my final thought, If information generated by the turd Reich is used to save lives have we not done a good thing? Likewise, if we allow people to suffer and die because we can’t bring ourselves to use all the tools at our disposal, are we not adding to the already long list of Hitler’s victims?

  66. #66 Dianne
    December 8, 2008

    We are once again at the door step of science that can parse the genetic frontier to create “perfect” species, whether plant or animal.

    To misquote George Bush, you misoverestimate us. We’re nowhere near to being able to make a plant or animal to exact phenotypical specifications and even further from knowing what the heck a “perfect” plant or animal would be.

  67. #67 Kathie
    December 9, 2008

    I think eugenics-inspired science always becomes bad science because it always is science done by a small tight circle of people with a social and political agenda. I see the scientific method as requiring replication of results and allowing dissent and the free play of thought while eugenicists regard dissent in about the same way as political party operatives do. Ultimately this leads to absurd science. For example, current eugenicists who study the genetics of IQ have proved to their own group satisfaction by that sub-Saharan Africans have an average IQ of 70 – a genetically based IQ deficit. (Jensen, Lynn, Rushton)
    It isn’t always so easy though. Otmar F Von Verschuer, who planned Josef Mengele’s experiments, evaded post-war prosecution and ran a scientific institute in Munster, Germany until the Seventies. He was succeeded by Widukind Lenz, son of a famous Nazi theoretician. Was the science from that Institute good or bad? At any rate it was not seen as bad science in its day – that’s a fact. Was there more eugenics in post-war genetics than anyone realizes – or what?
    Fast forward to now. Eugenicists are developing a new anthropological theory – (google search: “evolutionary ecology”, Robin Dunbar, Hillard Kaplan, and Michael Gurven.) Race is not mentioned but – possibly – fathers and intact family groups are genetically based and a sign of the fittest. Is it dangerous to say that social groups in which family break-up is far advanced are showing a lack of genetic fitness? Is it bad science – survival of the fittingest facts within a small tight circle of fact-selectors? How hard it is to know now what we will someday know we needed to know. For myself, I am absolutely certain that the eugenicists of today are, as always, doing bad science in the service of bad social policy.
    From The Eugenics Watch

  68. #68 bertieW
    December 9, 2008

    If you look at the the wikipedia entry (and believe it) it seems like the Tuskegee experiment was ok-ish for the first couple of decades. The hypothesis of the experiment was valid and the initial harm to subjects was probably limited, and probably par for the course at the time.

  69. #69 wkwillis
    December 9, 2008

    The Wizard War by Reg Jones notes that you could tell the difference between German and British radar by just turning the dial. The German radars had better engineering and tolerance control, the frequency was sharp. The British radar was much fuzzier. And if you kept turning the dial, the sharp German radars reached their frequency limit and disappeared, while the scientifically more advanced British radars (from cavity magnetrons) kept going.
    American technology was advanced both ways. They made radars so small they could put them inside artillary shells. The Germans did not even believe that was possible.

  70. #70 wkwillis
    December 9, 2008

    The Wizard War by Reg Jones notes that you could tell the difference between German and British radar by just turning the dial. The German radars had better engineering and tolerance control so the frequency was sharp. The British radar was much fuzzier. If you kept turning the dial the sharp German radars reached their frequency limit and disappeared while the scientifically more advanced British radars (from cavity magnetrons) kept going.
    American technology was advanced both ways. They made radars so small they could put them inside artillary shells. The Germans did not even believe that was possible.

  71. #71 Asher
    December 9, 2008

    I think eugenics-inspired science always becomes bad science because it always is science done by a small tight circle of people with a social and political agenda.

    Not necessarily so. There’s no logical reason why, for example, 51 percent of the population might not vote for a measure restricting breeding for the bottom, say, 10 percent of IQs. The basic human intuition that like produces like, and that some human traits have genetically heritable components, is nearly universal and does not exist only where it’s been rigorously suppressed. You are confusing human rights with democracy.

    I see the scientific method as requiring replication of results and allowing dissent and the free play of thought while eugenicists regard dissent in about the same way as political party operatives do.

    No, science is about providing the best theory that fits, explains and predicts the phenomena we see in the world around us, although this sometimes includes replicable experiments.

    Ultimately this leads to absurd science. For example, current eugenicists who study the genetics of IQ have proved to their own group satisfaction by that sub-Saharan Africans have an average IQ of 70 – a genetically based IQ deficit. (Jensen, Lynn, Rushton)

    Scientists like this are open to the possibility that human, easily being 5000 generations separated, has developed along divergent paths for a range of, still-human, traits. Again, science is about trying to provide a natural explanation for the phenomena that make up our world. You are saying a priori that it is fundamentally illegitimate to even consider that variations among humans, both within and between groups, might have some genetic contribution. That is explicitly anti-science.

    Fast forward to now. Eugenicists are developing a new anthropological theory – (google search: “evolutionary ecology”, Robin Dunbar, Hillard Kaplan, and Michael Gurven.) Race is not mentioned but – possibly – fathers and intact family groups are genetically based and a sign of the fittest. Is it dangerous to say that social groups in which family break-up is far advanced are showing a lack of genetic fitness?

    Here you’re either willfully ignorant or outright lying. Rushton, who is the primary target of the “scientific racist” label, explicitly denies that terms like “inferiority” or “superiority” have any scientific meaning, and that the term “fit” can only be intelligible when applied to a specific local environment. Rushton would say that current descendents from recent African ancestry are more developed to hunter-gatherer environments while recent descendents from European ancestry are more developed for advanced civilization, where you have things like formal legal codes and the scientific method. Rushton clearly thinks that the propensity toward polygyny/monogyny is distributed differently among different populations and that men of African ancestry are more suited to a polygynous social environement, while those of European ancestry are more suited to a monogamous environment. But in no way does Rushton ever make a claim that monogamy is evidence of some sort of universally elevated “fittness” versus polygyny, and Rushton would ridicule anyone making such a claim.

    Everywhere you look, where you have majority concentrations of people of African ancestry you will see de facto polygyny. Does this make those group “less fit” in some universal sense? No. However, polygyny is incompatible with the sort of social structures required for advanced civilization, since in a polygynous environment the males have to spend vast resources and effort vying for female sexual access.

    Are there monogamous people of AFrican origin? Aboslutely, but they only exist in social milieus that are dominated by non-Africans, where tremendous social pressure overrides the natural tendency toward polygyny. Again, this is not “inferior”, but is simply an acknowledgment of the challenges we face in a multi-ethnic society. Hell, one might even say that men of AFrican ancestry are superior to men of European ancestry, since it is obvious that all other things equal African men sexually out-compete European men for female sexual favors. This is clearly demonstrated in the inter-racial ratios of sexual interactions when comparing black male/white female with white male/black female pairings.

    I believe that a good rough estimate is that for every time a white man has sex with a black woman, there are somewhere around 15 times that a black man has sex with a white woman.

    So, which is “superior”. Neither, but you will get different results.

    Is it bad science – survival of the fittingest facts within a small tight circle of fact-selectors? How hard it is to know now what we will someday know we needed to know. For myself, I am absolutely certain that the eugenicists of today are, as always, doing bad science in the service of bad social policy.
    From The Eugenics Watch

    Eugenics Watch is run by catholic partisans, and it presents absolutely no evidence to counter claims about divergent evolution in the human species.

    Get rid of your a priorism and then get back to us.

  72. #72 Kathie
    December 9, 2008

    Responding to Asher
    There’s no logical reason why, for example, 51 percent of the population might not vote for a measure restricting breeding for [sic] the bottom
    A vote is not science.
    The basic human intuition that like produces like, and that some human traits have genetically heritable components, is nearly universal
    A “basic human intuition” is not science
    “science is about providing the best theory that fits, explains and predicts the phenomena we see in the world around us, … this sometimes includes replicable experiments”
    Science without replicable experiments is myth making – science always requires being able to repeat alleged experiments and being able to verify results. Without that you get into rubbish like your statements that:
    “current descendents from recent African ancestry are more developed to hunter-gatherer environments while recent descendents from European ancestry are more developed for advanced civilization”
    “men of African ancestry are more suited to a polygynous social environement … polygyny is incompatible with the sort of social structures required for advanced civilization”
    What about ancient Egypt? Islam in the Middle Ages? Ming China? Mormon Utah? Havelock Ellis?
    You are saying a priori that it is fundamentally illegitimate to even consider … variations among humans … Eugenics Watch is run by catholic partisans
    I’m not saying it’s illegitimate to raise questions about human variation; I’m saying that unacknowledged agendas are illegitimate science and become bad science and that’s what the eugenic society members are doing – now. I’m saying that Burt the fraud, a eugenic society member, went undetected by his fellow eugenic society member, Arthur Jensen. I’m saying that von Verschuer, Josef Mengele’s mentor, was a foreign member of the American Eugenics Society in the Fifties. I’m saying that a group which could not detect the biggest scientific fraud of the Twentieth Century or the presence of Josef Mengele’s mentor among them is now claiming that sub-Saharan Africans have an average IQ of 70. People who live in glass houses …
    That’s how I see it. It varies from what Asher thinks.
    From the Eugenics Watch

  73. #73 bianca steele
    December 9, 2008

    Dianne, If the experiments Evans looked at were so much more poorly carried out than we’d now find acceptable, I wonder how he concluded the opposite? Obviously, in a short newspaper article, he doesn’t cite his sources. But I wonder whether he came to that conclusion by way of his own analysis, or after having been told by scientists that was the case, or what?

  74. #74 Asher
    December 9, 2008

    @Kathie

    A vote is not science.

    For God’s sake, Kathie, please follow the discussion. Of course, science is not democratic, but then I was responding to your insinuation that there is a dichotomous choice between eugenics and democracy. “Eugenics” is simply looking at how breeding patterns affect future populations, and it has nothing to do with democracy, despite the silliness you read over at Eugenics Watch.

    A “basic human intuition” is not science

    Absolutely false. A staggering amount of fruitful research originated with intuitive hypotheses from researchers attempting to understand and explain the world around them. Now, if you’re saying that science is nothing more than intuition then you are, indeed, correct, but that has nothing to do with the issue at hand. The human mind is a calculative mechanism, and vast amounts of calculation occur outside the realm of explicit cognition, so, yes, we are engaging in science constantly as we go throughout our day addressing the challenges we find at hand.

    You are operating under a very, very old model of science, one that has been out of place for at least a century. Again, science is simply about trying to find explanations that best fit, explain and predict observed phenomena.

    Science without replicable experiments is myth making – science always requires being able to repeat alleged experiments and being able to verify results. Without that you get into rubbish like your statements that:
    “current descendents from recent African ancestry are more developed to hunter-gatherer environments while recent descendents from European ancestry are more developed for advanced civilization”
    “men of African ancestry are more suited to a polygynous social environement … polygyny is incompatible with the sort of social structures required for advanced civilization”

    No, no, no. Look, there are significant average differences between males of African and European origin in regards to sexuality, as well as to variances within those two groups. Something explains those differences, because we live in a world of natural explanations.

    But your objection is that, since we cannot definitively replicate experiments regarding human functioning, we are entirely precluded from drawing any conclusions by studying behavior. It’s all one big mystery. Your very premise of “replicable experiments” precludes any ability of science to say anything about human behavior.

    You are operating under a very antiquated notion of science.

    What about ancient Egypt?

    Not widespread and relegated to the upperclass. Also, despite some impressive unitary achievements, Egypt is not advanced civilization by any standards we’d use today.

    Islam in the Middle Ages?

    Islam was not advanced at all. What you had was a tightly knit warrior caste that conquered sendentary people’s and then appropriated their achievements under the banner of Islam.

    Ming China?

    Relegated to the upperclass. Not widespread at all. Also, it produced slavery, as you have to find something to do with the men who no longer can find wives. (btw, slavery will always accompany polygyny for this reason). So, now you’re de facto defending slavery. Great

    Mormon Utah?

    Silly, girl, the Mormons (I have a lot of mormon ancestry) were only polygynous for a short time. But this claim is silly given that the Mormons were completely immersed in a society that was otherwise monogamous, Protestant America, and for the short time they were polygamous lived on the legacy of that civilization.

    Today the Mormons are functionally indistinct from New England Puritans.

    Havelock Ellis?

    This is the name of one person, and not a complete civilization, so you’ll have to be more explicit here.

    `I’m not saying it’s illegitimate to raise questions about human variation; I’m saying that unacknowledged agendas are illegitimate science and become bad science and that’s what the eugenic society members are doing – now. I’m saying that Burt the fraud, a eugenic society member, went undetected by his fellow eugenic society member, Arthur Jensen. I’m saying that von Verschuer, Josef Mengele’s mentor, was a foreign member of the American Eugenics Society in the Fifties. I’m saying that a group which could not detect the biggest scientific fraud of the Twentieth Century or the presence of Josef Mengele’s mentor among them is now claiming that sub-Saharan Africans have an average IQ of 70. People who live in glass houses …

    You are engaging in several fallacies here, and I’ll just point out the genetic fallacy. Even if Burt was a fraud (that is actually open to serious debate) and Verscuer had ties to Mengele says nothing about the actual validity of studying differences between populations.

    That’s how I see it. It varies from what Asher thinks.

    What you “see” is irrelevant, because you’re not even attempting to explain the patterns we see in human behavior. We see massive differences in outcomes between both individuals and between different populations groups, but since we can’t create replicable experiments we can’t explain them at all in naturalistic, cause and effect terms. The reasons will forever remain a mystery because your premise is that all real knowledge must be capable of being replicated in a lab.

    “Replicable experiments” cuts off the entirety of human behavior to scientific research, if that were the standard. Thankfully, it is not.

  75. #75 Brad
    December 10, 2008

    Some of those physician scientists were tried in the Nazi Medical Trials. It is interesting that, when it became clear their lawyers were going to put American studies on trial for similar crimes, Professor A. C. Ivy returned to the U.S. When he returned and was put on the witness stand, he said that the US Trials had been looked at by an ethical committee, called the Green Committee, and had been found to be morally acceptable. There’s no evidence that the Green Committee ever met. That A.C. Ivy is the same A.C. Ivy involved in the Krebiozen scandal, documented in book called (I think) Fraudulent Science by the guy who used to write the mathematics section for Scientific American.

    If you want more examples of “unethical science can be good science,” you could turn to Henry Beecher’s article on Ethics in Science in the New England Journal of Medicine, in the early 1960′s. It is possible to identify each study by looking through textbooks and journals of the time, tracking the study down by tracing the references. I’ve done it. You can also get a book by Rothman on these articles. Rothman also wrote Beecher 25 years later for the New England Journal of Medicine. The editors wouldn’t let Beecher or Rothman list the exact articles. I think it was because one or more of the editors were on the Editorial Review Board of the magazine.

    It’s much rarer now I think, but similar studies go on today and are published. There was one study at a VA, I think in the late 1980′s, where patients undergoing cardiac catheterization for chest pain were given medicine to cause constriction of arteries, when the researchers couldn’t be sure the constriction could be reversed. The argument was that this study was ethical because it passed the institution’s review board and because the patients signed informed consent forms. This was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, so it passed their review as well.

  76. #76 Brad
    December 10, 2008

    It was Victor Klemperer (all e’s in the last name). He is in Wikipedia. He is related to the conductor Otto Klemperer, and to the actor Werner Klemperer, who was the German commandant in a TV show.

  77. #77 Kathie
    December 10, 2008

    Asher, You say you are responding to “Democracy vs. Eugenics” on the Eugenics Watch website, not just to my post here. Fair enough. My post here was drawing attention to a new eugenic initiative – an anthropology (Hillard Kaplan, Robin Dunbar, Michael Gurven) which seems to replace IQ as the key genetic ability in evolution with the ability to form families as the key.

    The African-American birth rate dropped below the replacement level in 2002 and the African-American family has shattered over the last thirty years so that they are threatened with extinction. Along comes a new anthropology which “shows” that Africans have a genetically based polgynous trait which weakens family formation so that this destruction is genetic inevitability. And The Eugenic Watch begins to say: This is eugenics – again – being ugly to the Africans – again.

    On the issue of human variation my position is that there are no niggers, wops, spicks, kikes, gooks or gringos. Any “science” which seems to scientifically confirm these prejudices is wrong and merely needs some investigation to show egregious errors or outright fraud.

    Eugenics claims to be “science” and perpetually puts forward new “proofs” for old prejudices, insisting we pay attention to their latest version of “science.” Actually eugenics is a great reservoir of filth and fraud feeding lesser sewers such as David Duke’s KKK website and the ramblings of the British Nationalist party. These groups use the eugenicists who are scientific racists (Burt, Jensen, Eyesenck, Lynn, Rushton, Brand).

    Here are three arguments against eugenic “science”:
    1 In Burt’s twin studies the coefficient of correlation was the same from study to study and no eugenic society member ever noticed this. It was an outsider, Kamin, who exposed the fraud.
    2 HJ Eyesenck thought that the stars we were born under determined us and he said that his astrological studies were proved by evidence of the same level and quality as his evidence for racial inequality. And on this he and I agree.
    3 Current eugenicists say their “science” shows that sub-Saharan Africans have an average IQ of seventy. Asher, do you agree?

    [What about] the actual validity of studying differences between populations ….you’re not even attempting to explain the patterns we see in human behavior.]
    I do research on eugenics, exposing their history and fallacies. I made the only sourced list of member (publically available at the Eugenics Watch website.) so I have something to say about eugenics. Explaining human behavior… not my mission.

    [Ming China? Relegated to the upperclass... Egypt? Not widespread and relegated to the upperclass
    I mentioned advanced societies that practiced polygyny, and you said it was only the upper classes who were advanced in Egypt, and Ming China. But still Egypy and China were advanced societies that practiced polygny. So you can't argue that polygyny is confined to hunter-gatherers and prevents advanced civilization.

    Islam was not advanced ...a tightly knit warrior caste ... conquered sendentary people's and then appropriated their achievements

    In my view there was a lively, advanced polygynous Islamic civilization before "the closing of the gates", a deliberate decision not to allow free discussion.

    I should have mentioned the Gullah of North Carolina. These African rice farmers were brought to the US as slaves because they knew how to grow rice in tidal lowlands. They built a system of dikes, canals, reservoirs, gates, valves, and embankments one hundred and fifty miles long and fifty miles wide that was the greatest engineering achievement of colonial America. They did the planning, organizing, and engineering as well as the digging. Then, because the planters feared malaria and were gone from the plantations from May to November, the Gullah also planted, flooded, drained, flooded, drained, hoed, flooded, drained, reaped, threshed and shipped the crop on their own while maintaining the whole complex irrigation system. The only thing they did not do was collect the profit, a profit that made the South Carolina planters the richest group in America. African-Americans built and maintained a big industry.

    we are engaging in science constantly as we go throughout our day addressing the challenges we find at hand,
    We simply don't agree at all about science except that I too think that A staggering amount of fruitful research originated with intuitive hypotheses from researchers . But I think that a real scientist goes on to prove the hypothesis with replicable experiments.

    Can science say anything about human behavior? So far science has presented constantly shifting hypotheses. What about the future? Asher, it is you who say that [requiring] replicable experiments precludes any ability of science to say anything about human behavior”.
    The Eugenics Watch

  78. #78 Asher
    December 10, 2008

    Asher, You say you are responding to “Democracy vs. Eugenics” on the Eugenics Watch website, not just to my post here. Fair enough. My post here was drawing attention to a new eugenic initiative – an anthropology (Hillard Kaplan, Robin Dunbar, Michael Gurven) which seems to replace IQ as the key genetic ability in evolution with the ability to form families as the key.

    Um, I doubt there is any one particular “key” in adducing human behavior. Again, you are studiously avoiding the evidence that divergent lineages in different environments produces divergent evolution among those lineages. We see differences, we look for causes for those differences and we try to apply what we know to social policy decisions.

    The African-American birth rate dropped below the replacement level in 2002 and the African-American family has shattered over the last thirty years so that they are threatened with extinction.

    And the white TFR is significantly below that of the black TFR, but neither is anywhere close to reaching extinction level, I mean we’re still talking about a TFR whose extinction horizon is several hundred generations in the future. You’re just talking out your ass, now. If you were so concerned about population extinction, you’d be more worried about whites than about blacks, but you’re not really concerned are you, Kathie.

    Along comes a new anthropology which “shows” that Africans have a genetically based polgynous trait which weakens family formation so that this destruction is genetic inevitability. And The Eugenic Watch begins to say: This is eugenics – again – being ugly to the Africans – again.

    Um, actually, most people, such as myself, who point out the social implications of black polygyny are interested in introducing social policy that addresses these problems. Also, most of these same people also agree that there is a tendency among whites for polygyny, just not as strongly instinctual as in blacks. Kathie, what you’re doing is taking a disingenuous straddle between saying that “well, africans aren’t really polygynous” and then “but if they are then that’s really okay because polygyny as no adverse social implications for advanced civilization”.

    Which is it Kathie? None of the researchers you’ve listed would consider polygyny “inferior”, although all would consider it incompatible with advanced civilization IF WIDESPREAD ENOUGH. Kathie, it is YOU who is making the value judgement to privilege monogamy over polygyn, and not the researchers you list, although you seem to reverse yourself later in this same post and defend polygyny.

    What if the evidence continues to mount for the assertion that blacks are naturally more polygynous than whites? Would you then consider black “inferior”? I wouldn’t. Why? Because the term “inferior” is analytically meaningless.

    On the issue of human variation my position is that there are no niggers, wops, spicks, kikes, gooks or gringos. Any “science” which seems to scientifically confirm these prejudices is wrong and merely needs some investigation to show egregious errors or outright fraud.

    Nice arguement. You pick language that is decades old and that is heavily emotionally loaded. Nice work Kathie. Are you trying to pack as much logically fallacious argumentation into as little space as possible? If so, you are doing a great job!

    Eugenics claims to be “science” and perpetually puts forward new “proofs” for old prejudices, insisting we pay attention to their latest version of “science.” Actually eugenics is a great reservoir of filth and fraud feeding lesser sewers such as David Duke’s KKK website and the ramblings of the British Nationalist party. These groups use the eugenicists who are scientific racists (Burt, Jensen, Eyesenck, Lynn, Rushton, Brand).

    No, “eugenics” does not “claim to be science”. First, the scientists you list aren’t scientiists of “eugenics”, they’re evolutionary geneticists, behavioral geneticists, etc. “Eugenics” is not a science, it is a scare term trumpeted by snivling little ninnies, such as yourself. The scientists you listed are interested in connecting genes, evolution and patterns in human behavior, the very study of which you find illegitimate. Kathie, this sort of study is going to happen and the only quesiton is whether people like you will deal with it rationally, or whether or not you’ll be dragged kicking and screaming into the future.

    Current eugenicists say their “science” shows that sub-Saharan Africans have an average IQ of seventy. Asher, do you agree?

    First of all, again, the people you’re talking about are not “eugenicists”, they’re evolutionary geneticists. Why the deliberate misrepresentation Kathie? I mean if your position is so unassailable, then why would you feel the need to so deliberately and willfully engage in such fraudulent language? You, Kathie, are a blatant intellectual fraud, as evidence by your willful misuse of language here in this comment section.

    But, yes, current SSA mean IQ is probably right around 70, although it’s possible that several points could be gained through better nutrition.

    Explaining human behavior… not my mission.

    So, you’re anti-science. Science is about finding natural explanations for the phenomena we see in the world around us. Your sole method of reasoning is to point out various features of certain researchers you dislike and then proclaim that rational inquiry can say nothing about human behavior.

    You are anti-reason and anti-science.

    n my view there was a lively, advanced polygynous Islamic civilization before “the closing of the gates”, a deliberate decision not to allow free discussion.

    Again, refusing to respond to my point and DELIBERATELY MISREPRESENTING my claims. I don’t deny that minimal amounts of polygyny exist even today in the US, although it is mainly confined to communities (blacks) that rely on other communities (whites) for the structure of civilization. My claim was that WIDESPREAD polygyny is incompatible with advanced civilization because in a polygynous environment men spend inordinate amounts of time, effort and resources competing for female sexual access. And you are simply wrong about Islamic “civilization”, as if you look at the specific individuals who are exemplars of “islamic” learning and science they are exclusively members of subjugated populations and not part of the arabic ruling warrior caste.

    BTW, if you take a description of the islamic “golden age” and present it to the average man on the street, today, I assure you that they would not consider it advanced civilization (I’d just start with massive and widespread slavery, that dwarfs what happened in the US).

    You also studiously avoid my point that polygyny is necessarily accompanied by slavery, as you have a bunch of pissed men not getting any sex, but then I guess you’re not too concerned with slavery.

    Again, Kathie, if your position were so strong why do you feel the need to deliberately misrepresent so often?

    You are anti-reason and anti-science.

    We simply don’t agree at all about science except that I too think that A staggering amount of fruitful research originated with intuitive hypotheses from researchers . But I think that a real scientist goes on to prove the hypothesis with replicable experiments.

    No, we don’t disagree, you have a horridly antiquated notion of science. You are wrong, ass-wrong. You are anti-reason and anti-science.

    Can science say anything about human behavior? So far science has presented constantly shifting hypotheses. What about the future? Asher, it is you who say that [requiring] replicable experiments precludes any ability of science to say anything about human behavior”.

    Yes, your very premise puts human behavior outside of the realm of science and reason. How in the world would you set up a lab experiment to test hypotheses like “widespread polygyny is incompatible with advanced civilization” or “Population A has a greater tendency to polygyn than Population B”? You can’t perform controlled experiments on individuals that isolated on particualr variable, so we’re left with multi-factor analysis and inferring from the things we know.

    And that’s science.

    Kathie, presumably, you’re morally opposed to treating human individuals like lab rats, and that is what replicable experiments would entail. So, you’re offering a catch 22 here, and saying that it’s only scientific if we treat individuals like isolated lab rats, however, that is impermissible because it is unethical.

    You, Kathie, are a dishonest, deceitful, anti-reason, anti-science, little turd. The bulk of your argumentation boils down to deliberately and willfully misrepresenting your opponents, and the rest is devoted to blatantly ignoring facts. Finally, you engage in amusing little intellectual straddles, such as the one I pointed out about polygyny, where “well different populations dont have different propensities to polygyny” but “even if they do it’s not a problem”. We dont’ disagree, you’re wrong, anti-reason, and anti-science. Kathie, you can’t make up your mind. Which is it? Is polygyny perfectly fine? Or is the breakup of the African American family a problem, because what you’re calling the “breakup of the African American family” is simply the polygynizing of the black american community. The breakup of the African American family IS an establishment of de facto polygyny, so is it a problem or not?

    The Eugenics Watch

    aka Catholic fan-boys, anti-reason and anti-science

  79. #79 Kathie
    December 10, 2008

    Asher, you say:
    the white TFR is significantly below that of the black TFR, but neither is anywhere close to reaching extinction level

    In the year 2003 the African-American TFR was1, 999.0; the white TFR was2,027.5. Most people think as you do that the African-American TFR is much higher than the white. It used to be. But now it is lower and it is lower than replacement level.- see http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr54/nvsr54_02.pdf Table 4. Total fertility rates and birth rates, by age of mother: United States, 1970-2003, and by age and race of mother: United States, 1980-2003.

    Martin Luther King’s niece, Alveda King, is going around the country warning anyone who will listen that we are now in the genocide zone. It won’t happen tomorrow but it won’t be hundreds of years. If nothing changes in society the African-American TFR which has been falling for thirty years will continue straight down and your children will see the end of the group.

    You ask: What is my overall outlook on polgyny?

    You know I am a Catholic so you know my attitude toward polygyny. But I have sensed in you a lack of vital interest in the Catholic point of view. So I stick to the history, aims and goals of the eugenics societies and their members, group which has strongly influenced you. I point out that they did not notice that the coefficient of correlation in Burt’s studies was the same from study to study. I point out that they let von Verschuer, the man who planned Josef Mengele’s “research,” into their society. I point out that they don’t like to be called eugenicists since that ties them to the Nazis but the eugenic societies are merely renamed (Society for the Study of Social Biology and Galton Institute) and so is eugenics. I say that their members currently promote eugenics under the guise of “evolutionary anthropology”, “evolutionary genetics”, and “evolutionary ecology”. You find it all most irritating and dip into your rather limited set of insults to supplement your failing thought processes.

    To continue: The people I’ve listed write for Social Biology, the journal of the Society for the Study of Social Biology, and The Journal of Biosocial Science, an outlet controlled by Galton Institute member, CGN Mascie Taylor and are connected in other ways. And as you say so well: The scientists you [Kathie] listed are interested in connecting genes, evolution and patterns in human behavior … the researchers you’ve listed … all would consider [polygyny] incompatible with advanced civilization …most people, such as myself, who point out the social implications of black polygyny are interested in introducing social policy that addresses these problems .

    “Non-advanced-society genes” among the African-Americans and a social policy to deal with the problem – what is that but eugenics? in the service of racism, as usual.

    Finally, Asher you say:
    “current SSA [Sub-Saharan African] mean IQ is probably right around 70, although it’s possible that several points could be gained through better nutrition

    You seem think that- “Africans have an average IQ of 70″ – is not a statement that Africans are inferior. Get out of your bubble and ask around.
    The Eugenics Watch

  80. #80 Asher
    December 10, 2008

    @Kathie

    In the year 2003 the African-American TFR was1, 999.0; the white TFR was2,027.5. Most people think as you do that the African-American TFR is much higher than the white. It used to be. But now it is lower and it is lower than replacement level.- see http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr54/nvsr54_02.pdf Table 4. Total fertility rates and birth rates, by age of mother: United States, 1970-2003, and by age and race of mother: United States, 1980-2003.

    Check it out again, Kathie, the correct numbers are on Table 9, not Table 4, which separates out hispanics, blacks and whites, but you knew that, didn’t you Kathie. Page 25 contains a simple list of tables, which clearly separates out the old method of racial grouping, where most hispanics are classified as white, versus the new method, which separates out hispanics. The only reason that the old method exists today is to allow for longitudinal comparison, and the real figures are found in Table 9. The white non-hispanic TFR is 1.86, while the black non-hispanic TFR is 2.03.

    Look, don’t try this pathetic sort of crap because you’re dealing with someone who is capable of analyzing staggering amounts of data at mind-blowing speed. It took me all of 3 minutes to spot your little deceit. So much for being a good, truthful Catholic, Kathie. At this point, your deceits are so numerous that it can no longer be considered honest error. You’re a deceiver.

    You know I am a Catholic so you know my attitude toward polygyny. But I have sensed in you a lack of vital interest in the Catholic point of view.

    I have zero interest in any ideology that first aims to establish a set of “first principles”, reserving my most utter contempt for so-called atheist groups who wish to implement a godless utopia. I look for a naturally-based explanation for everything, morality included, so, no, I have little interest in your a priori catholicism. What I do require from people is that they evince an ability to actually advocate policies that they think will produce outcomes they like.

    You bemoan the breakdown of the black family and yet you adamently refuse to address the possible reasons for this breakdown. Can the black, monogamous family be saved? Probably, but only through rigorous enforcement by white people, something that I’m quite willing to do. As it is, US social policy actually facilitates the natural inclination to polygyny you find in people of AFrican ancestry, and that you see in black populations all around the world.

    Frankly, Kathie, you don’t give a shit about black people, aside from your pristine catholic “first principles”.

    So I stick to the history, aims and goals of the eugenics societies and their members, group which has strongly influenced you

    So, not only do you persist in commiting the genetic fallacy, but you proudly acknowledge your rejection of logical reasoning.

    You find it all most irritating and dip into your rather limited set of insults to supplement your failing thought processes.

    I find irritating your utter refusal to adhere to the rules of informal logic and your repeated and brazen transgression of numerous rules of logic. Your affrontery is insulting, as you try and pass off your pathetic attempts to link current evolutionary geneticists to stuff that occurred 80 years ago. It’s like rejecting current methods of map-making based on the rudimentary methods of map-makers in 1500. It’s a brazen example of the genetic fallacy.

    “most people, such as myself, who point out the social implications of black polygyny are interested in introducing social policy that addresses these problems …”Non-advanced-society genes” among the African-Americans and a social policy to deal with the problem – what is that but eugenics? in the service of racism, as usual.

    There is no such thing as racism. All sorts of researchers have studied inter-group conflicts and the vast majority of opinion is that it is inherent and instinctual in our species, and that the prime motivating factor is direct male sexual competition. Again, there is no such thing as racism, at least not in any way resembling the sort foisted on us by “oppression theorists”. “Racism” is nothing more than inter-group competition driven by a few, mainly one, innate biological instincts. There is a great deal of research regarding assortive socialization, performed by people outside of your selective targeting, who conceded that “racial” preference is likely innate, or at least so embedded in a variety of instincts that it is something that is virtually innate.

    As for your assertion that I favor “eugenics” I simply have no idea what that really means. “Eugenics” covers a nearly infinite array of possible policies, and it’s impossible to know what you mean by it. I am interested in policies that are politically feasible, and rounding up and kill all black people isn’t even plausible, even if I wanted that, which I don’t (I actually have one black cousin, and I grew up in a majority black neighborhood). But, yes, I’d like to see fewer women having children by men with criminally-prone gene frequencies, and those are found disproportionately in black males, although I have no definitive measures that I’d like passed (well, I do have one but has nothing to do with forcing anyone to do anything).

    One thing to remember, Kathie, is that, as animals, killing is natural to us, we have done it in the past, and we will do it in the future.

    Finally, Asher you say:
    “current SSA [Sub-Saharan African] mean IQ is probably right around 70, although it’s possible that several points could be gained through better nutrition
    You seem think that- “Africans have an average IQ of 70″ – is not a statement that Africans are inferior. Get out of your bubble and ask around.

    It simply is not, and your inability to understand the category difference between factually investigation and normative evaluation is mind-boggling. It’s like saying that because I’m 5’6 and Michael Jordan is 6’6 that he’s “superior” to me, or do you think height is a social construct, too?

    Kathie, you are playing a very, very dangous game in basing human worth and equality on factual equality, and it is a loser. I easily have 30 IQ points on my next brother, but I assure you that not one of my parents, or 6 siblings, would even consider me “superior” to him, even though they would all agree that the disparity is not explicable by environmental differences. Kathie, it is people like yourself, who are fanatically committed to blank-slatist, social constructionism who are creating the environment where really nasty sorts of stuff can happen. Because as it gets more and more evident that there is a vast range of variability in human traits, both within and between populations, people will begin rejecting social equality, because its most ardent defenders are betting the farm on blank slate, factual equality.

    Kathie, the rule of law and legal equality was never predicated on a premise of factual equality between individuals, so I suggest you rethink your premises because they will fail you. Facts are not things that you can wish away.

  81. #81 Asher
    December 10, 2008

    One more thing relating to the TFR, is that the rate are by the race of the mother and not the race of the child. Given that far more inter-racial children have a black father and a white mother, versus the opposite, political effect is to mask the true TFR. There is a wealth of benefits to be had from having just a fraction of black ancestry, through preferential treatment, so people tend to indentify as black even if the majority of their ancestry is white.

    If you recalculate the TFR based on the ancestry of the child, using the one-drop rule (which is the political reality), then you’ll get an increase in the black TFR and a decrease in the white TFR.

  82. #82 Kathie
    December 11, 2008

    Asher, you are right that there are two tables at the link and the second table (Table 9) shows the black TFR slightly above the white and slightly above replacement level unlike Table 4, the one I used. The difference does indeed come from the inclusion or separation of the Hispanic TFR.

    But I think overall both tables back up my main point. My main point was that the black and the white total fertility rates (TFR) were now very close together because the black rate had been declining. We are moving into genocide territory as Alveda King has been saying, without people realizing it because they think the black rate is at 1980′s levels.

    Both Table 4 and Table 9 bear this out. Both show the black TFR declining and the white TFR rising. Inclusion or exclusion of Hispanics does not affect the overall trend – just slows it down some. In 1989 according to Table 9 the black TFR was 2,420.0, in 2003 it was 2,027.5. In 1989 the white TFR was 1,770.0 in 2003 it was 1,858.5.

    The rates have moved toward each other:
    1989 – 1,770.0, 2, 424.0 vs 2003 -1858.5, 2027.5.

    The black rate has fallen: 2,424.0 vs. 2,027.5

    So even if we go with Table 9 the African-American birth rate will soon be below replacement level. That’s how groups die out in classic Darwinian theory or indeed in any other.

    Asher, the only two things I like about you are that you go head on at big questions and you say what you think.

    But, you know, I thought you didn’t get the strength of the argument that Burt had the same coefficient of correlation in study after study, — the same to four places. You were so quick to find Table 9 and the reason why it was different from Table 4 that I now realize you must understand the coefficient of correlation argument. So how can you talk about Burt being right?

    It matters because the fraud was discovered in 1979, not so long ago. The people now at the top in the scientific racism field were Burt’s students or trained by Burt’s students. Thus the whole field up to the present day is tainted by the failure of this whole group to notice Burt’s fraud. They were complicit or idiots.

    Nazi science was eugenics and bad science. And eugenics is still producing bad science.

  83. #83 Jack
    August 17, 2010

    Are there today any type of medical treatment that derived from Dr. Josef Mengele “Research”?

  84. #84 Jack
    August 17, 2010

    Are there today any type of medical treatments that derived from Dr. Josef Mengele “Research”?

  85. #85 Cliff
    February 2, 2011

    Ethics is an interesting subject; a sort of list of things that we ought and ought not to do. Certainly we ought not treat fellow humans as Mengele did. So, isn’t it convenient to be able to condemn Dr. Mengele as an evil bastard but use the outcomes of his experiments anyway. Surely ethically (seemingly irrationally) we should not benefit from these experiments.

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