Conservative Eugenics

Remember this?:

Michael Medved, nationally syndicated talk radio host and bestselling author, has joined the Discovery Institute in the role of senior fellow. The position cements a longstanding friendship and recognizes a commonality of values and projects across a spectrum of issues.

?Michael Medved is an intellectual entrepreneur, a political and cultural polymath with great insights, judgment and wit. We are delighted to have this new relationship with him,? said Discovery Institute president Bruce Chapman. ?

Chapman saluted Medved ?as the national radio host?make that ?media host??who is best able to understand science issues, including the current conflict over Darwinism and intelligent design. He?s very smart, quick and resourceful. Yet he also is respectful of those he disagrees with.?

That was last November. Some time in the intervening months, Medved silently dropped off of the list of Disco. fellows. That doesn’t seem to have stopped him yammering incoherently on the Disco. Inst. party line.

For instance, Improbable Research highlights his foray into eugenics:

In today?s ruthlessly competitive international economy, the United States may benefit from a potent but unheralded advantage: the aggressive edge sustained by the inherited power of American DNA.

The radical notion that our national character stems from genetics as well as culture has always inspired angry controversy; many observers scoff at the whole idea of a unifying hereditary component in our multi-racial, multi-cultural society.?

The idea of a distinctive, unifying, risk-taking American DNA might also help to explain our most persistent and painful racial divide ? between the progeny of every immigrant nationality that chose to come here, and the one significant group that exercised no choice in making their journey to the U.S. Nothing in the horrific ordeal of African slaves, seized from their homes against their will, reflected a genetic predisposition to risk-taking, or any sort of self-selection based on personality traits. Among contemporary African-Americans, however, this very different historical background exerts a less decisive influence, because of vast waves of post-slavery black immigration.?

the insight carries crucial political implications. Senators Obama, Clinton and other leaders who seek to enlarge the scope of government face more formidable obstacles than they realize. Their desire to impose a European-style welfare state and a command-and-control economy not only contradicts our proudest political and economic traditions, but the new revelations about American DNA suggest that such ill-starred schemes may go against our very nature.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the modern eugenics. Following in the footsteps of Bell Curve by Herrnstein and Murray, Medved is making the foolish reductionist assumption that some entity called “national identity” can be ascribed to genes, and that government policy ought to be set in a way that promotes those favored genetic traits to the disadvantage of others. In other words, eugenics.

Conservative eugenics has taken many forms. Consider the nutbar natalist or “Quiverful” movement, in which fundamentalist families seek to bear as many children as possible. Why?

Population is a preoccupation for many Quiverfull believers, who trade statistics on the falling white birthrate in European countries like Germany and France. Every ethnic conflict becomes evidence for their worldview: Muslim riots in France, Latino immigration in California, Sharia law in Canada. The motivations aren’t always racist, but the subtext of “race suicide” is often there.

Disco.’s Bruce Chapman has thrown his hat half-heartedly into that ring, writing last Christmas eve: “I am only partly joking when I say that our employment policy is ‘pro-natalist’. It seems that hardly a month goes by without the announcement of a new marriage or a new birth among our fellows, staff and members. That gives me hope because I know the fine quality of these people. Darwinists, Malthusians, materialists of all stripes and dimensions don’t get it.”

Since then, he has continued to adopt the label “pro-natalist” in his writings. Whether this constitutes eugenics is hard to tell, since he doesn’t seem to be distinguishing groups of people who should or should not have larger families. Arguing for higher birth rates across the board would not be eugenic (though it is a dubious policy position). Other Disco. fellows and staff are less careful.

Consider Hitler-sympathizing Disco. fellow David Klinghoffer, as he praises Christian natalists, then adding:

This is of special relevance for Jews, of all denominations. I?ve written before in this space about Jewish fertility and how it is impacted by worldview. As the statisticians Antony Gordon and Richard Horowitz have shown, every 100 Reform Jews will be reduced within four generations to only 10 Jews. Every 100 Conservative Jews will be reduced to 29.

In the struggle between rival worldviews that characterizes modern times, the Hebraic view is on the ropes, under constant attack from secularism. As in war, the number of soldiers on the ground matters no less than the qualities of the combatants.

A Jew who believes in Judaism cannot have too many children.

The recent passing of Mildred Loving reminds us of yet another bit of conservative eugenic policy: anti-miscegenation laws. Many states (including Loving’s Virginia) passed those laws as part of a package with compulsory sterilization laws. Preventing marriage is a powerful way of encouraging the production of certain types of offspring and discouraging others, a fact not lost on the judge who convicted the Lovings and exiled them from Virginia for daring to marry. He wrote in his decision:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and He placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with His arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that He separated the races shows that He did not intend for the races to mix.

This is notable not only because of its racism and its eugenic overtones, but because of its clearly creationist language. However much Ben Stein might like to believe otherwise, there were lots of bogus race theories predating and independent of Darwin, and people like Judge Leon Bazile and Adolph Hitler were just a few of the creationists who happily appropriated eugenic language to justify their racist policy preferences.

Much of the conservative worry about immigration can be traced to similar eugenic roots. The concern with “anchor babies,” and the obsession with differential birth rates between Hispanics and non-Hispanics is a mainstay of right-wing fearmongering over immigration. I’ve written before that I don’t see a non-racist, non-xenophobic basis for using “national heritage” to justify restrictions on immigration, and I don’t see a non-racist, non-xenophobic basis for whining about “American DNA,” “national character,” or any of the other guff being tossed around by the modern eugenicists. Populations change over time, and the world doesn’t end.

As Pete says in The Muppets Take Manhattan, “Peoples is peoples. OK?”

Comments

  1. #1 Boo
    May 30, 2008

    There’s also Steve Sailor’s wacky “Human Biodiversity Institute” (google for it) featuring the likes of John Derbyshire, Michael “let’s abort gay babies” Bailey, and the Bell Curve guy.

  2. #2 Martin
    May 30, 2008

    I completely agree with the content of your post, but I think the title is a bit ridiculous – I fail to see a link between conservatism and eugenics. Possibly this is because I’m from Britain, and we don’t have this wildly polarized “left vs. right” nonsense you see in the States these days (well not quite at least).

  3. #3 Joel
    May 30, 2008

    we don’t have this wildly polarized “left vs. right” nonsense you see in the States these days

    You can just chaulk that up to our DNA, I guess we’re just born crazy.

  4. #4 Tyler DiPietro
    May 30, 2008

    “I completely agree with the content of your post, but I think the title is a bit ridiculous – I fail to see a link between conservatism and eugenics.”

    What I get from the post title is that it is intended to be a counter-point to those attempting to make a connection between liberalism and eugenics, and more specifically evolutionary biology and eugenics. Many of the people who are peddling such silly notions (e.g., Klinghoffer) are quoted as voicing what was essentially the rationale for eugenics in the first place.

  5. #5 Tyler DiPietro
    May 30, 2008

    “What I get from the post title is that it is intended to be a counter-point to those attempting to make a connection between liberalism and eugenics, and more specifically evolutionary biology and eugenics.”

    And of course there is the attempt to politicize evolutionary biology by attempting to make it appear exclusively liberal. Shouldn’t have forgotten that.

  6. #6 Turcano
    May 31, 2008

    I completely agree with the content of your post, but I think the title is a bit ridiculous – I fail to see a link between conservatism and eugenics.

    I’ve said repeatedly that conservatism is, at heart, the belief that people inherently deserve their lot in life, so some degree of biological determinism is the logical extension of that belief. From that point, eugenics isn’t very far away.

  7. #7 Martin
    May 31, 2008

    @Turcano: “I’ve said repeatedly that conservatism is, at heart, the belief that people inherently deserve their lot in life”

    Fiscal conservatism simply means reducing government size and spending, and social conservatism simply means siding with traditional/religious values. I’m both liberal and conservative – socially liberal, but I believe in reducing the size and cost of government where sensible. You seem to be saying from this article that if I vote Conservative in the 2010 UK election, I’ll be, what, one step away from eugenics?

    @Tyler: “And of course there is the attempt to politicize evolutionary biology by attempting to make it appear exclusively liberal.”
    Does it not occur to you that articles like this simply reinforce that perception of “liberal scientists vs. conservatives”?

    @Joel: “You can just chaulk that up to our DNA, I guess we’re just born crazy.”
    I would chalk it up to your two-party system, and the massively polarizing effect that it seems to have had on your national debates. I mean, in Britain, the idea that things like climate change or religion are “right vs. left” issues is bewildering.

    I’m not what you Americans would call “Conservative”, there’s no way I’d vote Republican, although as far as I can see your Democrat party are actually just as insane. I just don’t see how you can have a sensible debate in the kind of atmosphere of intolerance that posts like this generate.

  8. #8 Oldfart
    May 31, 2008

    Martin. You DO realize don’t you that the questioning of your Prime Minister by the House of Commons is seen over here as just another British comedy?

  9. #9 Martin
    May 31, 2008

    It’s seen over here as comedy too… your point is?

  10. #10 Turcano
    May 31, 2008

    Fiscal conservatism simply means reducing government size and spending, and social conservatism simply means siding with traditional/religious values. I’m both liberal and conservative – socially liberal, but I believe in reducing the size and cost of government where sensible. You seem to be saying from this article that if I vote Conservative in the 2010 UK election, I’ll be, what, one step away from eugenics?

    I’m not really in a position to make comparisons with conservative parties abroad, but on this side of the pond, fiscal conservatives tend to believe that people should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps — regardless of their ability to actually do so — and that they do so individually (attempting to improve one’s lot collectively is severely frowned upon, as it smacks of godless socialism). The actual policy doesn’t matter in this regard so much as why that policy is supported; one could be supporting, say, efficiency in government without holding these attitudes (but I don’t really see a lot of that over here).

  11. #11 Martin
    May 31, 2008

    Ultimately though it all depends on your version of what conservatism means*, and that’s kind of my point. This guy isn’t expressing conservative views, he’s expressing mentalist views. I mean, if we’re going to go down this sort of path, you might as well start referring to the Burmese junta as “socialist”, rather than a bunch of military dictators.

    The reason it bothers me to see posts like this, is that I think in terms of framing the debate this just plays into the hands of people who want to portray science as rabid liberal/leftist.

    * For what it’s worth, my attitude is that we should help people to pull themselves up. As an example, I believe in the welfare state and universal healthcare, but I think it’s ridiculous to pay capable adults unemployment benefit to sit around all day, when they could be out doing something to help the community or charities for the money. I’m not what you would call conservative, and if I had to vote in America I’d go Democrat, but nonetheless in Europe that sort of position is a conservative one.

  12. #12 Josh Rosenau
    June 1, 2008

    The title was selected not to suggest that all conservatives are eugenicists, but to indicate that there are conservative advocates of eugenics. It’s unfortunate that this needs to be mentioned, but now and then it’s a useful reminder to folks who’d like to tar one part of the political spectrum while ignoring their own complicity in the same thing.

    I’m particularly interested in the Discovery Institute’s flirtation with eugenics, since they claim that such thinking is a consequence of evolution, and that their ideas are a corrective for eugenic influences. Turns out, they deal in eugenics much more clearly than any modern evolution supporter I know of.

  13. #13 Oldfart
    June 1, 2008

    Martin. Pot. Kettle. Black. That is the meaning of my comment. I can’t stand America bashing by Euros who have nothing to talk about. Their history is repleat with savagery against their own and against others.
    And their political process is just as silly as ours.

  14. #14 Martin
    June 1, 2008

    @Oldfart: “I can’t stand America bashing by Euros”

    What on Earth are you talking about? What “America-bashing”? How is pointing out that the Republics and Democrats are just as bad as each other (as the Tories and Labour are here) “America-bashing”? You need to be a bit less sensitive mate.

    @Joshua: “it’s a useful reminder to folks who’d like to tar one part of the political spectrum while ignoring their own complicity in the same thing.”

    I understand your explanation, and I agree with your sentiment, I just think it’s a bit fortunate that the title seems to do precisely what we’re trying to avoid…

  15. #15 Josh Rosenau
    June 1, 2008

    Well, I think you’re reading too much into the title. Saying that there is a conservative eugenics doesn’t mean that all eugenics is conservative, nor that all conservatives are eugenicists.

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