Eugenics: Past & Future

So far, I’ve written five posts where I mention or discuss race and eugenics, although I may have briefly touched on the idea of eugenics in other earlier posts: Race & Racism,  Slavery & Eugenics, Part 2, Black Superiority, and Racial Reality Tunnel. The first post listed (and the first in order of being posted) only briefly mentions eugenics so as to dismiss it from the central point of my thoughts. The other four posts directly consider eugenics and its implications for the American racial order.

Out of curiosity, I Googled these search terms: slavery, eugenics, and miscegenation. You might think that hundreds or even thousands of results might come up. But that isn’t the case. Only 22 results were given. Of these, there was an interesting Wikipedia article on slave breeding in the United States and a few other articles worth reading (here, here, here, and here). On a related note, there is also a thorough Wikipedia article on eugenics in the United States and a small section of a Wikipedia article about compulsory sterilization in the United States.

The last of the anti-mescegenation laws were overturned only in 1967. That is 8 years before I was born, 22 years after my mom was born, 25 years after my dad was born, and 2 years after my parents were married. Just imagine that. When my parents married, it would still have been illegal in some states for them to have been married if they had been legally determined to have been of different races. My parents are old enough to remember what America was like during the height of Jim Crow in the 1950s. My dad even remembers Jim Crow laws from when he visited his maternal grandmother in the Deep South where he and his brother wondered about the water fountains with signs that said “Colored”.

Also, consider that the last forced sterilization happened in 1981. Prior to that, over 65,000 forced sterilizations were done all across the United States. These weren’t just done to minorities, but that was one of their major targets.

This is all still fresh in the minds of many Americans. Many blacks who voted for the first black president didn’t even have the right to vote for much of their early life. The victims of Jim Crow, of anti-miscegenation laws and forced sterilizations are still with us today and they are a significant portion of the population. Heck, the last Civil War veteran was still alive when my parents were growing up (around when my dad would have been starting high school) and there still is a child of a Civil War veteran who is presently living (last I heard) and receiving a Civil War pension.

One point I made in my posts about race and eugenics is how it applies to the human biodiversity (HBD) view of recent human history and evolution. I mention how HBDers like hbdchick like to discuss the manorial system which allowed feudal lords to decide who could marry and so was one of the earliest somewhat systematic attempt at eugenics. I don’t know that it was the intention of feudal lords to breed a better human, but HBDers believe that was the result in the creation of a specific genetic inheritance for large areas of Western Europe.

I must give credit to hbdchick. Her posts are heavy on the data and she makes a very strong case for this, intentional or not, (proto-)eugenics practice of social/genetics engineering. HBDers like hbdchick, however, are less upfront about how this eugenics past could or should apply to our present. I doubt most of them are willing to go back to a time of anti-miscegenation laws and forced sterilizations (whether in terms of slavery or Jim Crow), but it is less than clear what they see as the practical implications of their racialist ideology. I would guess that some of them at least favor heavy-handed segregation through isolationist or semi-isolationist immigration laws and maybe some old school repatriation of unwanted or ‘illegal’ populations.

Vagueness or obfuscation aside, I do think HBDers make a good argument and I think it should be taken very seriously. I take it so seriously that I extend their argument into even more recent history. I see all of slavery and Jim Crow as a centuries-long eugenics program. It wasn’t always systematic in its application and its success is questionable at best, but it must be considered in its totality. As I’ve pointed out, the highly atypical bimodal distribution of racial genetics in the United States offers strong evidence for at least partial success of this state-sanctioned eugenics.

I honestly don’t know what to think of a lot of this. I’m a proponent of civil rights, both in terms of social freedoms and individual liberties. Yes, oppressive laws and practices are bad. But the world is becoming increasingly complex.

Between GMOs and DNA screening, we are truly entering a brave new world of genetic engineering. It always comes down to who is making the choice and who is suffering (or benefiting) from the consequence. Is embryonic eugenics all that much different from Spartans throwing their unwanted babies off of cliffs? I don’t know. But just imagine if feudal lords and slave-owners had the genetic knowledge and ability we have today. When HBDers look at the data about the past, the present real world implications are stark.

It gets me wondering, as it gets many people wondering. Certainly, it has caused more than a few fiction writers to wonder, from Philip K. Dick to Margaret Atwood.

How do our potential futures reflect our past? If we don’t learn from the past, what might we repeat? What if society finally succeeded in creating separate races of humans, what would that mean? And if some powerful nation such as China took up such a project, who would stop them? Is this dystopian vision an inevitable reality? Is a genetically engineered future necessarily dark and oppressive? Will humans ever learn to use our power responsibly?

What motivates my thinking is a single insight that, as far as I can tell, is original. Like others, I keep repeating that race isn’t biologically real. However, unlike others, I argue that race could be made biologically real. It matters not if it merely began as a social construct and opponents are naive to dismiss the power of beliefs such as these.

I wonder why I haven’t come across this insight before. What is so unusual about it? Why does it go against so much of the polarized debate about race and racism? To my mind, this insight naturally follows from the disagreement between the race realists and social constructionists, a bridging of the divide that may not make either side happy. To argue that there was an at least partially successful American eugenics project to create a black race is about as taboo as it gets when it comes to political correctness.

Eugenics in general rarely gets much attention in the mainstream media. There is something in all of this that our society is still afraid to face, even as it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore. It is the territory of the dark imagination, of unmentionable possibilities.

Black Superiority

Now that I caught your attention with my title…

An interesting thing happened the other day. After writing my second post on slavery and eugenics, I came across a passage from a book that spoke directly to my stated hypothesis. I was just conjecturing for the fun of it. I wanted to see how human biodiversity (HBD) logic could be turned on its head, but I wasn’t thinking in terms of actual evidence.

The book I was reading is The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America by Steven Fraser. The passage covers various studies and so it is a longer passage. I won’t quote the passage in full. Instead, I’ll just give you the conclusion (Kindle Locations 501-509):

There are a total of seven studies providing direct evidence on the question of a genetic basis for the B/W IQ gap. Six of them are consistent with a zero genetic contribution to the gap (or with very slight African superiority) based just on the raw IQ numbers, and though all of these six suffer from some interpretive difficulties, they mostly boil down to a single objection. If it was very low IQ whites who mated with blacks (or very high IQ blacks who mated with whites), the results could be explained away. (One study, which compared blacks and whites in the same institutional environment, is free from this objection.) The self-selection factor would have had to be implausibly great, however, and would have had to be present under a variety of circumstances, in several very different locales, at several different time periods. The remaining study-the only one that the authors write about at any length-is at least on the face of it consistent with a model assuming a substantial genetic contribution to the B/W gap. But that study has as many interpretive problems as the others, including the two studies which the authors mention only to dismiss. Any reader would surely reach very different conclusions about the likely degree of genetic contribution to the B/W gap by virtue of knowing the facts just presented than by reading the highly selective review presented in The Bell Curve.

Here is the hypothesis from my previous post:

Several centuries of black women were impregnated by upper class whites (slaveholders, aristocrats, business owners/employers, etc). According to HBD logic, these upper class white men carried superior genetics in terms of social and economic success, including higher average IQs. The continuous infusing of these supposed superior genetics, if HBD theory is correct, should lead to an increasing concentration of superior qualities among blacks. Thus, a super black race should have been created.

I was just playing around with this notion. It was fun to think of an alternative perspective. I didn’t think that I would come across a conclusion of the evidence as I found in the above quote. Let me repeat it because the key assertion is so mind-blowing:

“There are a total of seven studies providing direct evidence on the question of a genetic basis for the B/W IQ gap. Six of them are consistent with a zero genetic contribution to the gap (or with very slight African superiority) based just on the raw IQ numbers”

Basically, when you control for all the confounding factors, blacks aren’t shown to have inferior genetic-based intelligence and if anything they show some superiority. If you support HBD theory, this is a challenging conclusion, to say the least. It is the absolute polar opposite of what standard HBD logic leads one to conclude, as based on preconceived premises and cherrypicked data.

Of course, I’m wary of this style of thinking. Science is complex, especially about genetics. I’ve yet to meet an HBDer who seems to fully comprehend this compexity. As far as I can tell, the research hasn’t yet reached a level where a fair conclusion can be made with any great degree of certainty. So, even the evidence referred to in the above quote is just more data. It is interesting, but I wouldn’t take any conclusion too seriously. It merely proves that HBD theory is more conjecture than anything else at this point.

Anyone can hypothesize anything they want, but they are near impossible to prove or disprove, mostly non-falsifiable. I’m not against speculating on evidence. It is fun. I just think people should be very upfront that is all they are doing. Also, people should be honest with themselves why they continually argue for certain hypotheses while dismissing equally or even more plausible hypotheses. HBDers should ask themselves why they feel so drawn to try to prove blacks are inferior, especially considering the evidence is so weak.

Slavery and Eugenics: Part 2

In my last post about slavery and eugenics, I used the logic of human biodiversity advocates (HBDers) in order to come to the opposite conclusion about the most probable expected results.

The alternate premise I used for the HBD-style logic was that of how for most of US history defiant blacks were more often imprisoned, killed or otherwise removed from the breeding pool. Hence, defiance-related genetics would have been severely lessened in the African-American population. As I concluded in that post, if the HBD theory is applicable to how genetics and society actually interact in terms of human behavior, American blacks should be the least defiant (and so most submissive, obedient, rule-following, law-abiding, non-violent, non-criminal, etc) demographic among all Americans. My point was that this is the opposite of the conclusions of HBD theory, at least as presented by the typical HBDer.

There is another argument that HBDers (and race realists) often present. I wish to turn it on its head as well.

This other argument is that blacks are so aggressive and criminal because generations of black women were raped by aggressive and criminal white men. So, the premise is that the white genetics that American blacks possess (on average 20% with 1/10 having +50%) is disproportionately the worst possible white genetics. Let me reverse this premise by pointing out that many of the white men impregnating black women throughout history have been white men with power (slaveholders or friends of slaveholders, employers, etc). So, actually the white genetics would quite likely be disproportionately from whites who were the most successful, often from Southern aristocracy or other elites (e.g., Thomas Jefferson).

I began thinking about this second line of thought because another book I’m reading: Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. Here is the relevant passage (The Definitive Griffin Estate Edition, Kindle Locations 1906-1928):

He told me how all of the white men in the region craved colored girls. He said he hired a lot of them both for housework and in his business. “And I guarantee you, I’ve had it in every one of them before they ever got on the payroll.” A pause. Silence above humming tires on the hot-top road. “What do you think of that?”

“Surely some refuse,” I suggested cautiously.
“Not if they want to eat – or feed their kids,” he snorted. “If they don’t put out, they don’t get the job.”
I looked out the window to tall pine trees rising on either side of the highway. Their turpentine odor mingled with the soaped smells of the man’s khaki hunting clothes.
“You think that’s pretty terrible, don’t you?” he asked.
I knew I should grin and say, “Why no – it’s just nature,” or some other disarming remark to avoid provoking him.
“Don’t you?” he insisted pleasantly.
“I guess I do.”
“Why hell – everybody does it. Don’t you know that?”
“No, sir.”
“Well, they sure as hell do. We figure we’re doing you people a favor to get some white blood in your kids.”

I wondered what moral and ethical difference there was between this sort of rape by coercion that threatened to starve a person, and rape by coercion that threatened to knife or shoot a person. Newspapers play up as sensational every attempt by a Negro to rape a white woman. Yet this white rape of Negro women is apparently a different matter. But it is rape nonetheless, and practiced on a scale that dwarfs the Negro’s defaults.

The grotesque hypocrisy slapped me as it does all Negroes. It is worth remembering when the white man talks of the Negro’s lack of sexual morality, or when he speaks with horror about mongrelization and with fervor about racial purity. Mongrelization is already a widespread reality in the South – it has been exclusively the white man’s contribution to the Southern Way of Life. His vast concern for “racial purity” obviously does not extend to all races.

(Later I encountered many whites who freely admitted the same practices my companion described. In fairness, however, other Southern whites roundly condemned it and claimed it was not as typical as my informants suggested. None denied that it was widespread.)

Now combine several centuries of decreasing defiance-related genetics with several centuries of superior white genetics. What we’d expect is, according to mainstream American standards, a superior African-American population (whether or not you want to conjecture this constitutes a separate breed of human). African-Americans should share more of the genetics of these upper class whites which, as HBDers argue, would include a stronger genetic predisposition toward higher IQ and such.

However, HBDers argue that the average lower IQ and higher criminalization rates of blacks is primarily genetic. But what is the basis of the HBD argument? Why doesn’t generation after generation of infusing supposed superior white genetics lead to an above average black population on various measures? Maybe because it isn’t primarily about genetics.

In reality, American blacks don’t seem all that different than any other group of people when all other confounding factors are controlled for. The only main difference is the racism/racial-bias with which they are treated.

Slavery and Eugenics

I was reading a book about racism which I just started: Racial Paranoia by John L. Jackson jr. In one passage, the author discussed slavery and the abuse of slaves. This was in the context of violence by slaves in defiance, whether revolts or poisonings, along with the broader context of mistrust and paranoia that continues to pervade our society. But that isn’t the point of this post.

The author’s standard description of slaveholder violence wasn’t unusual, besides the context of the book’s analysis. What got me thinking was an entirely different context, that of human biodiversity (HBD) that originally inspired my reading all these books on race and racism. I was reminded of how much impact such violence would have had.

HBDers speak of social orders acting as intentional or unintentional eugenics/breeding programs. A common example is that of feudal lords deciding who could marry whom. Another example would be Spartans throwing deformed babies off cliffs to their deaths. These weren’t systematic eugenics in the modern sense and for most societies this would have been haphazard.

In the modern era, there are no known eugenics programs that could be declared as successful. The problem is that potentially creating a breed of humans would take centuries to accomplish, without invasive genetic engineering. It takes many generations to create a breed of dog, but it takes less amount of time because dogs have shorter lives and so reach breeding age more quickly; plus, dogs have large litters at a time from which to choose for the next generation of breeding a particular line.

Nonetheless, the closest humans have come to systematically trying to create a new breed of humans was slavery. Slaveholders chose who was allowed to impregnate their slaves and which slaves were allowed to live. Plus, any slave with negative traits such as defiance would have been likely killed, whether intentionally or not. A slave can only defy so often before the whippings, beatings or other abuse takes him or her out of the breeding pool. Even after slavery, through the enforcement of the KKK and Jim Crow, whites continued to eliminate defiant blacks and their genetics. So, combined that is more than three centuries of controlling which black genetics gets passed on the most.

This got me thinking. If HBDers were correct about their theory, a new breed of blacks should have been created. Three centuries is probably more than enough time to create a new breed of humans, assuming such is likely to happen through normal social means as HBDers conjecture.

This breed of blacks would be submissive, obedient and law-abiding for these were the slaves most likely to live long lives and hence have the most children and pass on more of their genetics. It makes no sense that HBDers instead argue that genetics are what cause blacks to be more violent and criminal (i.e., less submissive, obedient and law abiding). If HBDers were correct, blacks would on average be the most loyal patriots, most lawful citizens and most obedient workers who would always do what authorities told them to do. This hypothetical breed of American blacks would be superior to American whites on all these behavioral traits.

What this proves is that either genes aren’t that powerful by themselves in determining behavior or social forces aren’t that effective in creating genetic-determined behavioral traits. Humans, societies and genetics are more complex than HBDers are allowing for in their theorizing.

Healthcare: Right vs Responsibility

Insurance and Social Security…Pet Peeves (blog post by gina from Gaia.com)

Steve said in the comments section:

However, as a Libertarian, I do not see my healthcare as a responsibility of the Federal Government, nor do I consider it a “right”.

I don’t necessarily disagree with this on a philosophical level because it’s a rational perspective.  However, I disagree with it for reasons of compassion which aren’t precisely rational… although I would add that I believe compassion supports rationality when discussing issues specifically pertinent to the human condition.

When I hear statements like this, I immediately wonder about the background of the person making the statement.  I doubt someone who has spent their life in poverty would hold such a belief.  It seems to me a belief of convenience that justifies the person’s position in society.

I’m not picking on Steve for maybe he is just being honest about what he believes.  We all justify our lives with our beliefs.  Even poor people hold beliefs of convenience.  My main complaint is the word “responsibility” in his statement which is a moral judgment which implies poor people are to blame for their own lack of healthcare.  What I’m judging is the tendency in we humans to judge eachother from an assumed position of moral superiority.

I’ve noticed this kind of moral superiority in many people.  It always bugs me.  I know people who have lived righteous lives and who feel justified in their moral superiority, but this is in the context of their being middle to upper class people born into a stable and wealthy society.   What I think many of these people don’t realize is how many advantages they’ve had in life compared to the average person in the world and particularly compared to those on the bottom of society.

And Steve further commented:

But as for me, I do not look toward any other individual or institution to pay my way.  If I get sick and cannot afford my treatments, then all that hope is that I will reach around deep inside myself, find some dignity, and die with it.

This sounds rather convenient.  If he was a poor person born with a disability or who got an illness at a young age, he wouldn’t say something like this.  This is an example of ideology losing contact with human reality.  What is even worse about this statement is that it is one step away from eugenics.  Actually, it is eugenics using a passive methodology.  Just let the poor and needy die of illness and malnutrition.  That way, there is no blood on anyone’s hands.

Could you just imagine all of the sick and dying people crowded around the hospital doors.  No one would let them in because they couldn’t pay and yet they’d have no where else to go.  It would lead to riots and hospitals would become police fortresses and there’d be a black market of stolen hospital drugs.  If the the the chasm between the haves and have nots got too large, walled cities would have to be created and the lower classes would be isolated into ghettoes.

It could end up in some weird kind of Plutocratic Fascism.  Any ideology pushed to an extreme (meaning when the ideologues gain control of political power) ends up with some kind of oppressive political system.  You can start off with Libertarianism, but where you end up may not look so Libertarian.

This is a rather dark vision that I portrayed based on the extreme views of Steve, but it’s far from preposterous.  Many conservatives believe as Steve does.  Conservatives at least used to at least pretend to be compassionate, but that has fallen out of favor.  Since the Republican party has lost much of it’s power, it’s showing more of it’s ruthless nature.  The problem with taking away power from big government is it usually just means instead giving it to big business.  Libertarianism sounds like a good ideal, but sadly small governments seem to be no longer a possibility in the present globalized world.  There will always be some big dog in power, but the best we can do is try to keep it on a short leash.  If you ask me, a big business fascism wouldn’t be a pleasant world to live in unless you were one of the small percentage of wealthy elite.  Then again, Socialism taken to its extremes can also lead to some equally dark ends.  Maybe it’s better to keep all of the big dogs around so that they’ll fight with eachother.  Just tie them to the same leash that way when they try to go in opposite directions they won’t actually get anywhere. 

But that is just me being cynical.  I just get tired of ideologies no matter what they are.  Why is it so difficult to create a socio-political system that actually encourages people to care about and help eachother?  Is our only choice simply to try to curtail people’s selfishness by making laws and hoping that social darwinism will somehow lead to a greater good?