Darwinism and the American Eugenics Movement
By the late s, the phrase 'social Darwinism' began to be heard and, in the . Women must be well educated to make rational choices about marriage. So- called 'positive' eugenics tried to encourage middle-class women to have more. How does Darwin's Darwinism relate to social Darwinism and eu- genics? Like many The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, in In the Descent . how the resultant swamping of these good elements by bad is to be prevented, Greg Today, as in the past, rhetoric can be a potent resource. notes. 1. To call someone a social Darwinist was to insult them by implying that they had promoted positive eugenic programs (such as regular health check-ups) to.
Social Darwinism, poverty, and eugenics Social Darwinian language like this extended into theories of race and racism, eugenics, the claimed national superiority of one people over another, and immigration law.
Many sociologists and political theorists turned to Social Darwinism to argue against government programs to aid the poor, as they believed that poverty was the result of natural inferiority, which should be bred out of the human population.
As a massive number of immigrants came to the United States during the Second Industrial Revolution, white, Anglo-Saxon Americans viewed these newcomers—who differed from earlier immigrants in that they were less likely to speak English and more likely to be Catholic or Jewish rather than Protestant—with disdain. Many whites believed that these new immigrantswho hailed from Eastern or Southern Europe, were racially inferior and consequently "less evolved" than immigrants from England, Ireland, or Germany.
Political cartoon showing Uncle Sam lecturing a group of childlike caricatures depicting the people of Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.
The "more advanced students" of Texas, California and Alaska sit in the back of the classroom, while the African American student is forced to clean the windows, the Native American student is confined to a corner, and the Chinese student is halted outside the door.
Art by Louis Dalrymple, Puck magazine, Image courtesy Library of Congress.
Social Darwinism - Wikipedia
During and after World War IIthe arguments of Social Darwinists and eugenicists lost popularity in the United States due to their association with Nazi racial propaganda. Modern biological science has completely discredited the theory of Social Darwinism. What do you think?
How does it differ from Herbert Spencer's idea of Social Darwinism? How did the ideas of Social Darwinism influence politics and society in the Gilded Age? Article written by John Louis Recchiuti. University of Pennsylvania Press, ; Carl N. Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, is credited with being the father of eugenics, but Darwin himself hinted broadly at the idea and gave it his strong support, especially later in his life.
In The Descent of Man he wrote, With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health.
We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick; we institute poor-laws and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox.
Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.
He believed that natural selection could be replaced by human selection so as to insure that those he defined as being more fit would be the ones who left most offspring. He expressed the hope that eugenics would become the religion of the twentieth century.
Since man did not have a free will, something must cause him to act in certain ways, and that could only be his heredity. This assumption was to shape the eugenics movement in important ways. In a sterilization law passed one house of the Michigan legislature but was defeated in the other house.
Social Darwinism in the Gilded Age (article) | Khan Academy
The eugenicists were persistent, and in a compulsory sterilization law passed both houses of the Pennsylvania legislature—only to be vetoed by the governor. The chief leader of the campaign that had come just short of making Pennsylvania the first state to adopt a sterilization law was Dr. In that capacity, Barr had already been performing at least some sterilizations on residents of the training school for nearly a decade.
The chief advocate of the eugenics cause in that state was Dr. Harry Sharp, who had since been the physician at the state reformatory in JeffersonvilleIndiana. Prior to the passage of the law, Sharp had already performed illegal sterilizations on inmates of the reformatory. Sharp was strongly influenced by the writings of another physician named Albert J.
Ochsner, who argued that criminal behavior was hereditary and that most crime could be eliminated simply by preventing criminals from reproducing. Founded in as an agricultural organization, the American Breeders Association was originally concerned with the scientific improvement of animals and plants. Inhowever, the American Breeders Association established a Committee on Eugenics, within its organization, to investigate the possibility of applying the rules of animal breeding to human beings.
This committee in turn, using a large financial grant from Mary W. Harriman, widow of railroad magnate E. Laughlin in close cooperation with Charles B. Laughlin and Davenport went on to become two of the foremost proponents of eugenics in the United States.
Laughlin eventually came to boast a collection ofnote cards in a fireproof safe, storing information on thousands of families and individuals. Davenport and Laughlin became enthusiastic advocates of compulsory sterilization and urged states to adopt laws for that purpose. Persons found unfit to reproduce were to be sterilized.
- Darwinism and the American Eugenics Movement
- Social Darwinism in the Gilded Age
Like the animal breeders of the American Breeders Association, they thought it perfectly appropriate to approach man as simply one more animal, since Darwinism taught them that that is all man is. Unless people accept this simple truth and let it influence marriage selection, human progress will cease. Another prominent eugenicist whose original rise to prominence had come through his work with animals was Madison Grant.
A wealthy New Yorker, Grant had previously helped found the American conservation movement as well as the Bronx Zoo, and he had helped to save both the California redwoods and the American bison from extinction and had been one of the first to recognize that the continued health of the elk herd in Yellowstone National Park required occasional culling of some of the animals.
In Grant abandoned his work on animals and turned his attention instead to human beings. He now proposed to apply to human beings the same concepts he had used in dealing with animal populations, including the need for selective breeding and, more ominously, the occasional culling of the herd. Ripley was an economist who dabbled in anthropology.
In he had published a lengthy book entitled The Races of Europe, and his idea of what threatened the further evolution of the humanity added another element to the eugenics movement. The idea that there were separate races of humans and the idea that the influx of immigrants to America was threatening to overwhelm the cultural influence of the native population were not new, but Ripley added the element of Darwinian evolution and the survival of the fittest. The underlying problem in his view was that civilization now protected the unfit, whom he defined as races, and prevent the more fit from driving them out of existence.
Whereas the belief of most Americans in human descent from Adam and Eve required a belief in the brotherhood of all mankind, Grant and others like him believed that the different races had evolved separately and were fundamentally different from each other.
He insisted that the human race contained three entirely separate species, and that each of these species was divided into numerous subspecies. Interbreeding between these groups would be detrimental, especially to what Grant perceived to be the most highly evolved subspecies, his own, consisting of persons from northwestern Europe and their descendents.
Together these writers provided a mix of racism and eugenics with an underlying evolutionary basis to make such an amalgam possible. Like Grant, Osborn was a New Yorker born to extreme wealth and privilege. Grant served on the board of the museum, and Osborn served on the board of the New York Zoological Society, which Grant came to head.
In the two were involved in an incident that revealed much about their views of human beings and their place in the order of living things. In that year they placed an African pygmy named Ota Benga on display in the primate house of the Bronx Zoo.