Monday, November 08, 2004

Selective Memory

See if you can identify the source of this passage:

The Races of Man. — At the present time there exist upon the earth five races or varieties of man, each very different from the other in instincts, social customs, and, to an extent, in structure. These are the Ethiopian or negro type, originating in Africa; the Malay or brown race, from the islands of the Pacific; The American Indian; the Mongolian or yellow race, including the natives of China, Japan, and the Eskimos; and finally, the highest type of all, the caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America.
Ku Klux Klan recruitment brochure? Hitler Youth propaganda?

Nope. George Hunter's Civic Biology which was at the heart of the Scopes Monkey Trial. This is the book that the Fundamentalists didn't want taught in public schools and the Liberals did. Makes you think doesn't it?

Jim Lindgren at the Volokh Conspiracy comments:
For me, this irony cuts many different ways. The ACLU and Darrow were right in principle that the legislature shouldn't be determining what is or is not good science, but the version of evolution (white genetic superiority) that was being taught in Scopes would be viewed as very bad science today. This also illustrates that the spirit of free inquiry works, not because it is always right, but because people are free to put ideas out and have them refined and corrected. [UPDATE: Here 1920s science was right about the basics of evolution, but was wrong about social Darwinism and white genetic supremacy and was immoral to advocate eugenics.] It also reminds us that eugenics was a "progressive" idea in the 1920s. Last, of course, it suggests that the enlightened are often much less enlightened than they think they are. Sometimes neither the enlightened nor the supposed unenlightened are right.
I happen to think he is wrong about the scientific worth of the evolutionary hypothesis, but his point about enlightenment is well worth noting.

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