Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Me & my science

The popular science publication, New Scientist, has just published a series of articles and editorials addressing "The decline and fall of science in America." What is being called into question is the rejection-- by knuckle dragging, God fearing, gun-tottin' morons, imbeciles, and idiots-- of settled science. 

I love science-- which I will loosely define as the objective systematic activities associated with learning about the world. (I did not consult a dictionary on this.) But as with any other activity, science can be bastardized by the individuals engaged in doing science. Thus, it is right to be skeptical of all science. Skepticism is not rejection. A healthy dose of commonsense skepticism should be-- but often isn't-- welcome among scientists. Here's why:

From General Zoology by Tracy I. Storer, published in 1943 by McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. New York and London.
From the Preface
This text is a general introduction to zoology, primarily for students in colleges and universities. It comprises a general account of animal biology and a systematic survey of the animal kingdom from protozoans to man...
In other words, this text presents settled science. Please click on the photos to enlarge and read that, for example,
... the most serious of these [heritable defects] are mental ones such as feeble-mindedness and insanity.
In the United States there are seven million persons with an intelligence quotient of 70 or lower, from high grade morons to imbeciles and idiots.
The feeble-minded become juvenile delinquents, problem children, and cases for public relief and charity. They breed early and often and so tend to increase their kind.
Although 29 states have laws that permit insane and feeble-minded persons to be sterilized, only about 35,000 have been so dealt with up to 1941.
And what's to be done about all this?


Call me a moron, imbecile or idiot-- or all three-- but me & my science are skeptical that "legislation to prevent matings between obviously defective persons" is a good idea.


  1. Probably isn't a good idea, but Californians thought it good enough to pass the first state law in 1909 that went mostly unchallenged for 70 yrs until it was repealed in 1979 after sterilizing over 20,000 people - mostly Blacks and Hispanics. The last sterilization was in, I think, 1963.

  2. Shaking my head. Thanks for the info, IR.

  3. My major was Animal Husbandry. Eugenics makes a lot of sense to me. But.

    It assumes a few things - the most important of which is that you know the characteristics you're breeding for. They also usually have to be simply transmitted - color, for instance. Many characteristics have multiple genes that affect them, and may not be simple dominant/recessive genes. That pretty much messes up the whole picture. You also can't eliminate - or control - the "nurture" factor...which has a significant effect.

    Of course, the other just slightly more important element is that you need to be able to eliminate the total failures. And there's that moral thing that sort of throws a monkey wrench into the works.

    Doesn't it seem ironic, though, that the philosophy goes from sterilization to maintaining those who are socially unsuccessful with welfare? Why not just let nature take its course?

  4. "Why not just let nature take its course?"

    We are waaay too smart for that, don't you know? ;-)

  5. Yeah...way too smart!

    The biggest problem is that what's "best" for the human condition changes over time - and you really don't know what characteristics are going to ensure human "success" until you get there. We need lots of "experimental" models, so to speak - because you never know what the next challenge is going to require.

    I was reading just the other day that we have to stop considering autism a disability and find ways to make use of the unique abilities that autistic individuals have. For now, they're a problem, but who knows! maybe 50 years from now, they'll be running things!


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