Kolbe Report 4/8/23

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Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Any member of the Kolbe Center’s leadership team can testify to the fact that the Kolbe Center is a work of God and that Our Lord and the Blessed Mother continually oversee and direct our apostolate.  One manifestation of this special providence can be seen in the way that individuals all over the world are independently inspired to pursue research projects which fill in specific gaps in our knowledge or which answer specific unanswered challenges to the traditional doctrine of creation.  A good example of this occurred when a friend of the Kolbe Center with a strong background in law was inspired to write an outstanding critique of progressive creationism—the view that God did not use an evolutionary process but created the different kinds of creatures at intervals over billions of years.  We look forward to publishing this work in the next few months, but, in the meantime, I would like to share an excerpt with you, as a prelude to next week’s newsletter which will examine the evidence for evolution presented at what many consider to be “the trial of the [twentieth] century,” the 1925 Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee.

Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan at the Scopes Trial

The international mass media generally portrayed the trial as a contest between the evolution-believing forces of Enlightenment, represented by super-attorney Clarence Darrow, and the forces of darkness, led by the ignorant Bible-thumper, William Jennings Bryan.  Moreover, the Scopes Trial centered around a textbook that taught human evolution and the desirability of state-enforced eugenics as an application of evolutionary theory.  In our soon-to-be-published book, the author shows that blind faith in microbe to man evolution led directly to the imposition of evolution-based eugenics science by force of law in the United States, through the court-ordered sterilization of tens of thousands of human beings deemed “unfit” to reproduce.  As the author explains:

The sad [story] begins . . . with Charles Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton. It is Galton who deserves the most ‘credit’ for propagating eugenics theory as an absolute scientific conclusion. Galton published his articles on eugenics just six years after Darwin’s Origin of Species.  The premise of the theory is “that the human race can be gradually improved and social ills simultaneously eliminated through a program of selective procreation.” Eugenic science promised societal improvement by encouraging procreation of the “fit” over the “unfit;” and by preventing, through use of force, those deemed undesirable from ever giving birth to the “unfit.”  Galton pioneered the technique of “equating high levels of ‘fitness’ with inclusion in ‘who’s who’ directories,” for which he drew “a parallel to breeding methods used with animals.” That model continued to be used in scientific research for nearly a century. Those touting eugenics urged the government to allow procreation only by those possessing desirable qualities of body and intellect, insisting this would produce better specimens and more productive subjects for the state. For example, Galton proclaimed that: if talented men were mated with talented women, of the same mental and physical characteristics as themselves, generation after generation, we might produce a highly bred human race, with no more tendency to revert to meaner ancestral types than is shown by our long-established breeds of racehorses and foxhounds.

To really “cleanse the race” of undesirable genes, and thus weed-out the “socially inadequate defectives,” required forced sterilization. The stated goal was to rid society of “idiocy, imbecility, feeble-mindedness [and] epilepsy.” Doctors, of course, typically represent the most respected members of science. And the physicians who accepted eugenics emphasized it as “genetic science.” Those physicians, in turn, convinced legislatures that eugenics was far more than just valid science, and that implementing eugenic goals was critical for the good of the state and public health. They ignited fervor among lawmakers to curb “unchecked procreations among the ‘socially inadequate.’” Galton’s eugenics theory raged right alongside the theories of Lyell and Darwin for much of the 20th century. The famous Scopes “Monkey Trial” epitomized the battle of science versus Creationism, and it was fought in the arena of law. Although the nation was captivated by it, few knew that this fight also included the teaching of eugenics. What Tennessee sought to prohibit John Scopes from teaching was the “explicitly eugenics-favoring biology textbook” by George Hunter, A Civic Biology.  One passage in this book concerned the socially undesirables, i.e., those targeted by eugenicists, and instructed Tennessee’s students that: If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe and are now meeting with success in this country.

The Scopes trial was in 1925. As early as 1907, Indiana had already adopted eugenics laws. It was the first state to do so. The preamble to Indiana’s law decreed that “[h]eredity plays a most important part in the transmission of crime, idiocy, and imbecility.” Eventually, many other states would follow Indiana’s lead. And those states, through their eugenics laws, imposed forced sterilization upon persons that state doctors diagnosed as undesirable, prohibited those persons from marriage, confined them to state institutions, or barred them from the country. President Theodore Roosevelt declared that “society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce their kind.” Future president Woodrow Wilson, while he was governor of New Jersey, signed its forced sterilization act into law.  Virginia joined the pack when it passed “The Racial Integrity Act” in 1924, which declared that: “the health of the patient and the welfare of society may be promoted . . . by the sterilization of mental defectives.” The law empowered physicians to sterilize all persons either diagnosed as defective or whom the state identified as undesirable. Under the law, a patient could appeal the doctors’ decision to a circuit court.

Carrie Buck

One doctor, Albert Priddy, while resident physician at the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-minded, was particularly zealous in the enforcement of Virginia’s eugenic laws.  Even before passage of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, he “had performed hundreds of forced sterilizations.” Priddy did this “by creatively interpreting laws which allowed surgery to benefit the ‘physical, mental or moral’ condition” of those in the institution.  And, while operating on females “to relieve ‘chronic pelvic disorder,’” he would also surgically sterilize them. Priddy justified his actions by explaining that the women he sterilized were “immoral” due to their having proclivities for a “fondness for men,” or otherwise had exhibited “promiscuity.” He sterilized one sixteen-year-old girl simply for repeatedly “talking to the little boys.” Carrie Buck was one of the unfortunate patients under Dr. Priddy’s ‘care’ in Virginia’s institution. Among Carrie’s transgressions was that, while in grammar school, she had written notes to some of the boys in her class. For Priddy, that alone was sufficient grounds to inflict sterilization but, nonetheless, he also felt it important to stress that Carrie’s face was “rather badly formed.” And so he diagnosed her as feeble-minded and then ordered that she be forcibly sterilized. Carrie Buck appealed. The question presented to the court was framed as if based solely on science, not natural law. Aubrey Strobe was the attorney representing both the Virginia institution and Dr. Priddy. Strobe, too, was a fervent believer in eugenic science. Strobe’s “uniquely qualified” witnesses included teachers, other than Carrie’s, who “had observed the Buck family in school.” Strobe also brought in “social workers from welfare agencies” to testify about “similar problem families in the community,” and also some “neighbors of the Buck family to show how ordinary people viewed the Bucks.”

But Carrie’s teachers were not called as witnesses. It is reported that they would have testified—and had  documented—that Carrie was “very good” at “deportment and lessons.” Of course, of all Strobe’s witnesses, the most important by far were the scientific experts, each with the title of “Doctor” and “well versed in eugenic theory.” After five hours, which included the time recessed for lunch, the trial was over: Carrie was ordered to be sterilized. That, however, was not enough. The eugenics scientists, and Strobe, seized upon Carrie’s case as an opportunity to advance and validate eugenics theory without facing much risk of challenge. The attorney who had been appointed to represent Carrie during the trial was Irving Whitehead. Whitehead, while supposedly Carrie’s attorney, told Strobe: “This case is in the best shape it could be to go to the United States Supreme Court.” Whitehead, it turns out, was many things. Aside from being Carrie’s attorney, he was Strobe’s best friend. He was also a founding member of the Virginia State Colony’s board of directors— the same institution who had sought Carrie’s sterilization in the first place.  Science sometimes needs a little help from its friends. Anyway, this set the stage for eugenics to obtain the highest judicial recognition possible. Carrie’s case was first appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court, which affirmed.  Next, the United States Supreme Court accepted the appeal.

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935)

Oliver Wendell Holmes, that promoter-ofscience against mediaeval theology, wrote for an 8-to-1 majority of the court in what became Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927). Holmes’ opinion coldly recites: “Carrie Buck is a feebleminded white woman who was committed to the State Colony above mentioned in due form. She is the daughter of a feeble-minded mother in the same institution, and the mother of an illegitimate feeble-minded child. . .” Five months after Buck v. Bell was decided, Carrie was forcibly sterilized. Before Carrie was ordered sterilized, however, she had given birth to a daughter that she named Vivian. Within months of Carrie’s sterilization, and just before Christmas of 1927, Virginia also ordered Carrie’s sister, Doris, to be sterilized. For Holmes, the crassness of his ruling was neither new nor difficult. Six years before Buck v. Bell, he shared with Felix Frankfurter that he would have no hesitation in “restricting propagation by the undesirables,” even if that meant “putting to death infants that didn’t pass the examination.” Holmes’ opinion in Buck v. Bell has been called, “one of the most callous and elitist statements in Supreme Court history”  In that opinion, Holmes analyzed the science underlying the eugenics statute, justifying the court’s finding on the ‘scientific’ basis that “heredity plays an important part in the transmission of insanity, [and] imbecility[.]” Holmes’ opinion in Buck further declared that: ‘[i]t is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.’” As an analogy, Holmes insisted that “[t]he principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.” Perhaps Holmes’ most striking phrase in the opinion was his infamous declaration: “three generations of imbeciles are enough.” The third imbecile in Holmes’s reference was Carrie’s 8-month old daughter, Vivian.

Science had a “regular mental test” to diagnose imbecility in this small child as well: “just wave a coin in front of her face and see if the infant’s eyes track it to a satisfactory degree.”  Holmes assured posterity that, on the certainty of the science adjudicated by the power of his court, little Vivian failed the test. But Vivian would prove the fallibility of Holmes, his court, and the eugenics science he so avowed. For in the ensuing years, Vivian would be placed on the honor roll at her school in Charlottesville. Nonetheless, after the Supreme Court endorsed eugenic science in Buck, more than thirty states passed sterilization laws. Thankfully, Kentucky was not among them. Approximately 60,000 persons were sterilized under these laws in the United States. In January 1938, the number was near 28,000. But for America’s “genetic scientists,” this was not enough. They expressed envy at Nazi Germany, pointing out it had sterilized 80,000 of its undesirables when its population was only half that of the United States. And America’s eugenicists were desperate to catch up.

The Judges’ Bench at the Nuremberg Trial

In 1947, however, their ambition proved embarrassing by the goings-on in the Nuremburg War Crimes Trial. Germany’s judges were on trial for having ordered sterilization, imprisonment and euthanasia under their eugenics laws. The attorney defending the German judges pointed to Holmes and the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Buck v. Bell. He read Holmes’ words verbatim in answer to the charges brought by the American prosecutor. Incidentally, the American prosecutor at that trial was Justice Robert H. Jackson, a sitting United States Supreme Court Justice. We can be sure the irony was not lost on him, and we can only hope it will not be lost on posterity. Holmes never expressed any regret. On the contrary, he boasted Buck v. Bell as being among his greatest achievements, no doubt for his love of ‘science.’ Holmes said it was “[o]ne decision that . . . gave me pleasure, establishing the constitutionality of a law permitting the sterilization of imbeciles.” But, before any of this, G.K. Chesterton saw it coming. Of course, it came more quickly in Europe. In 1922, Chesterton warned against giving improper deference to the claims of ‘science,’ saying:

The thing that really is trying to tyrannize through government is Science. The thing that really does use the secular arm is Science. And the creed that really is levying tithes and capturing schools, the creed that really is enforced by fine and imprisonment, the creed that really is proclaimed not in sermons but in statutes, and spread not by pilgrims but by policemen—that creed is the great but disputed system of thought which began with Evolution and has ended in Eugenics.

In our next newsletter, we will see that the eugenics propaganda in the textbook that prompted the Scopes Trial represents only one of many pseudo-scientific evolutionary claims made by Darrow’s team during the course of the trial.  Indeed, we will see that it is high time that Catholics in the U.S. acknowledge our Catholic forefathers’ failure to critically examine the anti-scientific claims of the Scopes Trial defense—a failure that helped to pave the way for a long series of catastrophic abuses of science that continue to the present day.

Through the prayers of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, may the Holy Ghost grant us the wisdom to restore theology as the queen of the sciences and to abolish scientism!

In Domino,

Hugh Owen

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