One of the unambiguous tenets of a conservetarian is that collectivism, in any of its forms, is a gateway to human suffering and eventual tyranny. Collectivists, under whichever banner they assemble – progressive, liberal, national socialist, international socialist (communist), … - will first seek to silence their foes by whatever means they are able to muster, from public proscription, government censorship, and finally by marching them to the wall.
On the path to such draconian ends, much demonstrated during the 20th century, they will attempt to justify their attacks on ideas not suitable to their agenda, they will fashion their arguments and present them in the guise of scientism – the collection of convenient unscientific assertions disguised as science. The birth of progressivism in America used scientism – specifically in what was then called eugenics - as a companion to their social justice apologetics.
America’s union schools have carefully obliterated the history of eugenics from the history of progressivism. Their only mention of it today is to give the lie that it was a politically motivated error of the Right seeking to establish a ruling society of the Űbermenchen. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Amity Schlaes reminds us of the details in her ‘The Progressive History of Eugenics’ wherein she also reviews two recent books on the subject. In it she writes about how the certitude of ideology driven scientism has been used by our central planners and social engineering elites –
And that’s the trouble with reformers. They are so sure, and so wrong. How often comes clear in two new books. The first, Adam Cohen’s compelling “Imbeciles,” focuses on Buck v. Bell, the 1927 case in which the Supreme Court upheld Virginia’s right to sterilize citizens it deemed mentally ill, somehow deficient or, indeed, shiftless. In the second book, “Illiberal Reformers,” Thomas C. Leonard also treats the horrifying rise of compulsory sterilization and, in a deft analysis, goes on to compare the thinking behind eugenics to other forms of supposedly enlightened policy.
Nowadays eugenics is portrayed as an unfortunate detail in the story of an otherwise glowing movement, Progressivism. What these two volumes, especially “Illiberal Reformers,” reveal is that eugenics served as a key tool of the Progressive policy makers of the 1920s. “Darwin’s ambiguity on the question of whether evolution resulted in progress or merely change left enough leeway for progressives to claim society must take charge of its own evolution,” Mr. Leonard notes. The consequences of Progressive Darwinism were policies as imprecise, superstitious and inhumane as any they superseded.
Eugenics was received by our polity as a gift from science the application of which to broad populations would immeasurably improve society. Famous adherents of scientistic eugenics were thought leaders of the day like President Teddy Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw, H.L. Mencken, Margaret Sanger, Helen Keller. All of them celebrated the consensus of scientists that eugenics was the real deal.
(For completeness we must include Frances Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, in that list with an asterisk. Crick decried the National Socialists’ (Nazis’) use of eugenics to justify the Holocaust and engineering humans. Crick really saw how his discovery would lead to the new science of genomics which could use genetics to battle diseases (in- and ex-utero), benefit agriculture, and, yes, even provide designer babies. We leave the discussion of society and genomics to another time.)
Today the Rosemary’s Baby of eugenics - the new scientism that has been introduced to compel the compliance of those lovable “poorly educated” in the sciences - is preventable global warming or climate change or some other fashionable label that histrionically calls for a controlled and massive global response that will be overseen by the progressive elites.