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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Social Darwinism: Canada's firewall of silence on eugenics human rights abuses has been breached

Jane Harris-Zsovan's book, Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada`s Nasty Little Secret (J. Gordon Shillingford, 2010) is now in print. It details the surprising reach of the compulsory sterilization movement in early twentieth century Canada. Many across the political spectrum participated, until the practice was finally derailed by informed public opinion and the courts.

The book's national launch will be Wednesday, November 17, 2010, 1:30-3:30, Galt Museum & Archives Store, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Harris-Zsovan chose that locale because "the Galt archives have been helping me from time I wrote my first history paper at University."

Harris-Zsovan, who spent many hours poring over decades-old newspaper clippings, is bracing herself for controversy:
I'm inviting everyone I know and that includes people on the left, right and centre in Canada. I can't wait to see them all chit-chatting in the gallery at the Galt! I've warned them all that they will be uncomfortable with parts of this book. They seem okay with that so far. But I hope that discomfort leads to a healthy discussion.
Well, I hope so too. Many of us have found that discussion of eugenic sterilization - discussion that includes any mention of the social Darwinism that underlies it - often leads to the frantic defense of some Shrine to Evolution. To say nothing of attacks on anyone who offers evidence. Indeed, the spin now turns so fast that in the United States, museum goers are informed that Darwin was not a racist or eugenicist, when there is simply no escaping the facts of the case.

Anyway, Jane's is hardly a "take no prisoners" approach to unsavoury history:
I treat my home province, Alberta, B.C., and the architects of the only Sexual Sterilization Acts in the British Empire fairly gently. They made bad decisions, but we make worse ones. This behaviour continued from 1928 until 1972. (Actually it continued well after that until the Supreme Court put a stop to it.)
My sense is that too many people in Canada, generally a"low threat" society, assumed that it Couldn't Be Happening Here. Surprise, surprise.

Harris Zsovan is confident that
The lesson of the book: As bad as our past was, especially in Western Canada, we can be an example to other countries, most particularly the U.S. and Western Europe, if we own up to this.
Sure, Jane, if all Hull doesn't break loose first.

And if you think what happened in Canada was bad, consider what happened when social Darwinism hit Africa ...

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When Social Darwinism found Africa ...

Well, the Social Darwinists did not find Africa as it was. But they sure found the Africa they were looking for.

In his Telegraph review (August 16, 2010) of David Olusoga and Casper W Erichsen's The Kaiser's Holocaust: Germany's Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism, "an impressively researched account of the killing fields of Namibia," Ian Thomson admits he is "chilled":
Hitler’s murder of Jews and Slavs was, the authors concede, “unique” in its scale and industry, yet they manage to find many connections between the Nazis’ murderous social Darwinism and the Kaiser’s barbarism in Namibia. Hermann Göring's father, Dr Heinrich Ernst Göring, served as the first Commissioner of German South West Africa, orchestrating that barbarity, before becoming the Kaiser’s ambassador to Haiti in 1893. The notorious brown shirts worn by the Nazi storm troopers had originally served as uniforms in Namibia.

[ ... ]

A great deal of the book is devoted to the social Darwinists and eugenicists in late-19th-century Germany who helped to create new values of totalitarian dominance. Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, with its brutally materialist account of nature as bleak survivalism, was made to serve as justification for the extermination of Namibian tribes and, later, for Hitler’s biological anti-Semitism. In a racist age, nature was seen as a competitive market place, where black people were born to be mastered and the fittest survived. Armed with callipers and craniometry charts, the Kaiser’s race engineers were keen to measure the severed heads of Nama tribesmen: handle-shaped ears, prehensile feet and other “apish” stigmata were considered telltale atavisms. Civilisation, according to these pseudo-scientists, depended on the separation of races, not on their harmonious integration.

Read more here.
It's nice to see that Richard Weikart has some company in carefully researching the social Darwinist roots of Nazism and other fascisms.

To those Darwinists who yawn, “Why can’t people forget this?,” I am afraid the answer is, we never really remembered it until recently. Whitewash wears off eventually, you know. It's better just to acknowledge the role popular Darwinism played in the bloody utopias of the twentieth century. Many churches have learned this in recent decades, with respect to their own sins.

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Coffee: But then cats use a more subtle method for EVERYTHING!!

This from the Beeb: How cats lap water:
... cats use their tongues to delicately draw up water without breaking the surface of the liquid.

The scientists, who published their study in the journal Science, say this differs from dogs, who employ a messy scooping action to quench their thirst.

[ ... ]

While humans and animals such as sheep or horses use suction to draw liquid upwards, and dogs curl their tongue into a cup-like shape to ladle liquid in, the footage revealed that cats use a more subtle mechanism to drink.

The study was inspired by Cutta Cutta the cat The scientists found that the tip of the cat's tongue curls backwards, not forwards, as it darts down towards its bowl.

Then, instead of penetrating the surface of the liquid, the tongue just lightly touches it.

Dr Stocker explains: "The fluid comes in contact with the tongue and sticks to it, then the action of the tongue being drawn upwards very rapidly creates a liquid column.

"I would say cats know more about fluid mechanics than dogs." - Roman Stocker, MIT

The team thinks cats may have adopted this more complex but neater approach because it means they are less likely to be splashed with water as they drink.

- Rebecca Morelle, "Mystery of how cats lap is revealed" (BBC 11 November 2010)

A cat graciously demonstrates:

Here is the method for faucets:

More catnip?

Monkeys making monkeys out of their elders (and how cats play tricks on you too)

Animal mind: One way that animals teach

Do animals have souls?

Animal minds: How well can we understand a cat ... or a bat?

Medical journal publishesarticle on cat's death predictions


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