Barrett: Principles in fascist-lite evolution text enjoy scary respect

Barrett: Principles in fascist-lite evolution text enjoy scary respect

May 29th, 2011 by Steve Barrett in Opinion Columns

Writing a column on the not-so-subtle fascism in the evolution textbook that was part of the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tenn., was evidently like clashing a pair of cymbals near the head of a sleeping Doberman. But since Rover is awake anyway, how about a quick follow-up?

Even if casual observers in 1925 knew nothing about the horrors advocated in the book - "A Civic Biology" - the loaded phrasing of that title alone should have given someone pause. It creepily suggested a mutant, utilitarian cousin of what was supposed to be disinterested inquiry by biologists. (For comparison, see "social justice" vs. "actual justice," "real justice" and "justice.")

"A Civic Biology" was less interested in free and honest scientific inquiry than in bending science to achieve scary aims - and did it ever spell out those aims. Suffice it to say you wouldn't have wanted to be Asian, Hispanic, American Indian, black, an epileptic, "feeble-minded" or in some other regard what the author, George William Hunter, deemed inferior if the eugenic principles in the textbook had worked their way into government policy.

Oh wait. They did.

"About 90 percent of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion," The New York Times reported in 2007.

Yes, good reader, eugenics is alive and well. More than eight decades after the Scopes trial, the abortion and "genetic counseling" industries are on a roll.

Hunter would have been proud. We can't, after all, allow the propagation of what he would have called "parasites," can we? No indeed. So we tell ourselves that to spare those unfortunate lesser mortals a lifetime of suffering, we must snuff them out. Equating convenience for ourselves with compassion for them, we declare it to be in their interest that they not exist.

News flash: Life is in their interest. Protecting life is in ours.

Oh, and a historical note for those who assume the scientific community must have universally denounced Hunter for his teachings: Far from being ostracized, he remained frighteningly respected for decades after the Scopes trial. He was still writing textbooks when he died in 1948. Today, the biology wing of a facility at one of the schools where he taught, Knox College in Illinois, is named in Hunter's - quote - "honor."

shucks, y'all

One of the less bearable aspects of life in modern America is the annihilation of humility, even when it is manifestly the only appropriate attitude in a given situation. To wit:

-Vice President Joe Biden steers tens of millions of stimulus dollars to the renovation of an Amtrak station in his home state of Delaware. Amtrak renames the station in Biden's honor - because he was so noble as to use other people's money for a badly over-budget project. Instead of turning down the recognition at least until he is out of office, the vice president attends the renaming ceremony.

  • A transportation agency in Kentucky renames Daniel Boone Parkway for a sitting Republican congressman, Rep. Hal Rogers, after Rogers secured millions of dollars in federal pork for the road. Rather than reject the gutting of Kentucky's heritage, Rogers "humbly" embraces this miles-long shrine to his invisible heroism.

  • President Obama nonchalantly accepts a Nobel Peace Prize, instead of politely declining it on grounds that when he was nominated - at the latest, less than two weeks after he took office - he could not possibly have done anything to deserve it. Oh the burden of future greatness.

  • Entertainers and professional athletes indulge in limitless discussion of their wonderfulness - a trait that once might have been thought a sign of emotional retardation, if not quite psychosis.

Don't recall who said it, but it's still true: If you think meek is weak, trying being meek for a week.

To reach Steve Barrett, call 423-757-6329 or email