Darwin, Sanger, and Obamacare: A Trumpet Blast from the Backwoods

Our little corner of the Adirondacks has no daily newspaper but two weekly advertisers that carry a small amount of local news.  Most of the content is written by perhaps a dozen regular columnists, who write mostly about nature, or life in or near the woods, or local history; rarely are they polemical.

But this week’s column by a local mental health counselor struck me as unusually hard-hitting, and worth passing along. The title is “Thoughts on Eugenics,” and it’s by Elizabeth Szlek of Utica (which is about 55 miles from here).  She draws a fairly straight line from Charles Darwin to Margaret Sanger to Adolf Hitler, seeing in their animating philosophies the common idea that the death of some can be justified by the benefit it brings to the living.

There are a few little problems with Darwin, however, which few among us today care to contemplate. Here is a quote from “The Descent of Man:” “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.” Oops! What? Do I hear a rationale for genocide here?

Once these ideas started to circulate throughout society, they really took off. One of the first movements to get going was Eugenics, which was the “science” of racial purity. For you feminists out there, it is no big secret that your patron saint, Margaret Sanger, was a rabid eugenist. Of course, her big work, “The Pivot of Civilization” (1922), has been largely suppressed, because it is an embarrassment to those who are trying to polish her halo as a protector of women’s rights. Sorry, though, that just doesn’t fly. She proposed sterilization for sub-standard humans and wanted the inferior types of women to use birth control. By the way, the “inferior” types of women today are the ones she would be proud to see lining up at Planned Parenthood to prevent their having babies. Atheism has so penetrated our culture that women are now self-selecting themselves for eugenic programs.
[. . . ]
We know that sterilization didn’t work fast enough for the Germans, however. They began to consider, under the Nazis, the elimination of those whose lives they considered “not worth living.” So, they began a program of killing mental patients, the infirm, and those with limited intelligence. After all, these inferior types were using up vast state resources, which “the fit” could use to create more superior types. We all know where this led: the Holocaust.

She sees the same philosophy at work in certain health care reform proposals, and she is alarmed.

The mention of Hitler’s name compels me to say that I think this goes too far — that is, I do not think we should draw a straight line from Darwin to Sanger to Hitler to Obamacare.   And this exaggeration is particularly regrettable in light of popular hysteria about “death panels” and the like.

But the fact is that when health care expenses are the public’s responsibility, then whether or not to pay for this or that treatment becomes a public question.  It is absurd for town hall protesters to say things like “Get your government hands off my Medicare!”  But it is also absurd for advocates of “health care reform” to pretend that the government’s role in this area will be all on the side of making sure Americans get whatever medical treatment they need.  Not even the government is going to sign up to pay for whatever you happen to want.  Decisions will have to be made about who gets coronary bypass surgery and who does not.  To avoid arbitrariness, there will need to be rules and the rules will be neither perfectly drawn nor perfectly administered.  We have every right to fear those rules and their administration before we take even the first step down this path.  You can call it rationing or not, but the government will be saying no to people, and certain groups are rightly jumpy about a program that will make their access to medical care depend on whether some agency thinks it would be a good public investment.

Thus, as we consider making a large chunk of medical expenses public — possibly up to and including all medical expenses in the long run, if single-payer advocates get their way — I also think it is right to notice even vague echoes of the eugenics movement in our modern debate, to be alarmed by them, and to deplore them publicly.  Many readers of Ms. Szlek’s column (and of this blog) will probably be alarmed to learn that forced sterilizations took place right here in the United States, and were upheld by the Supreme Court (8-1, in Buck v. Bell, with Justice Holmes writing the infamous justification, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”)  It can happen here.

Because I suspect the link may stop working when the next issue comes out, I’m pasting the entire text below.

Last week, one of the champions for the sanctity of human life passed away. I am referring to Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who worked tirelessly to bring all Americans to full acceptance and dignity. This went against the grain of American programs that flourished in the early decades of this century, and these same types of programs are raising their ugly heads now, as we debate the health care reforms proposed by Congress and President Obama. Maybe it’s time to revisit those bad old ideas so that those who believe something different can arm themselves for the fight.

I have just finished reading a heavy duty book on the effects of Darwin in late nineteenth century Germany, but looking around me, it’s déjà vu all over again.

WHAT IS DARWINISM ALL ABOUT?
Charles Darwin produced a couple of books in mid-nineteenth century England. He hesitated to release his first book, “On the Origin of Species” (1859), because he fully understood the ramifications of his work: It provided a new foundation for an atheistic, or quasi-scientific worldview. This simply means that any belief in a spiritual world was now passé, since the material world is the only real one. He knew he would be excoriated by any thinking religious person, but he was impelled to go forward and thrust his theory onto the world stage. Following this bombshell came “The Descent of Man” in 1871, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Up to this time, while the atheists were busy toppling monarchies and supposedly uniting the workers of the world to revolution, there was a problem. While they could point out the corruption of the clergy, and other faults of those professing to believe in God, the rebels couldn’t exactly come up with a compelling alternate worldview. Now Darwin had handed it to them, seemingly, on a silver platter. No one, save a few ardent nihilists, really wants to contemplate living in a chaotic and meaningless world. Darwin, though certainly not scientific in any real way, gave the materialists a plausible theory that they could hang their atheism on. He proposed, with little in the way of actual proof, that the development of all life on earth came by way of the process of evolution. Now, this might sound rather harmless, as crackpot theories go, but the main change in human thinking was created by the fact that men, like animals, had also evolved. Darwin speculated that since men and apes looked similar, they had a common ancestry, and that men, far from being made in the image and likeness of God, were mere animals, and soulless ones at that. Another important corollary to this was that only the fit among animals survive in nature. Death is seen as a good thing, since it provides more room for the fit to live and procreate, thus weaning out the inferior specimens. This is evolutionary theory, and when applied to humans, it has had grave consequences.

Men, who formerly had been considered “a little lower than the angels,” were now just a little higher than the apes. Morality, in Darwin’s scheme, was a hereditary component, passed on through evolution as a mutable trait. Because men evolved into social animals, the trait of altruism, or of putting others’ welfare first, was a desirable trait, and so those who possessed it were fitter, and survived long enough to pass it on, or something like that. Contrast that with the traditional belief that men are given a conscience by God, and when they draw closer to Him, they develop virtues that draw them always closer, leading to ultimate union with Him. One view is entirely mechanistic, the other sublime.

WHY CHOOSE DARWIN’S VIEW?
For those with little affinity to apes, or those who perceive spiritual realities, this desire to believe one is merely a cleverer simian is not very appealing. But what kinds of men would want to pursue this line of thinking? Only those who refuse to submit to a power greater than themselves. As the great psalm states, “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.” But, being freed from any moral constraints upon one’s behavior is a heady thing, and when someone like Darwin comes along with a minimally plausible worldview that supports ultimate Me-ness, well, lots of people are going to sign up pronto.

There are a few little problems with Darwin, however, which few among us today care to contemplate. Here is a quote from “The Descent of Man:” “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.” Oops! What? Do I hear a rationale for genocide here?

Once these ideas started to circulate throughout society, they really took off. One of the first movements to get going was Eugenics, which was the “science” of racial purity. For you feminists out there, it is no big secret that your patron saint, Margaret Sanger, was a rabid eugenist. Of course, her big work, “The Pivot of Civilization” (1922), has been largely suppressed, because it is an embarrassment to those who are trying to polish her halo as a protector of women’s rights. Sorry, though, that just doesn’t fly. She proposed sterilization for sub-standard humans and wanted the inferior types of women to use birth control. By the way, the “inferior” types of women today are the ones she would be proud to see lining up at Planned Parenthood to prevent their having babies. Atheism has so penetrated our culture that women are now self-selecting themselves for eugenic programs.

THE POINT OF EUGENICS
Eugenics actually translates into “good birth,” but I don’t want you to think this means anything other than a birth that “civilized” people think should have happened. That is to say, those judged inferior, by reason of disability, race, moral fitness, or any other criteria, are to be prevented from reproducing. This included, from the Darwinian perspective of late 19th or early 20th century Europe, such groups as the feeble-minded (Margaret Sanger’s personal bete noire), alcoholics, Australian aborigines, Asiatics, gypsies, and a host of others. However, it was found quite difficult to get people to voluntarily agree not to procreate. The next logical step was sterilization of the designated inferiors. To our great shame, America was a leader in the field of eugenics, and thousands of American citizens were involuntarily sterilized right here in America in the early decades of the 20th century.

We know that sterilization didn’t work fast enough for the Germans, however. They began to consider, under the Nazis, the elimination of those whose lives they considered “not worth living.” So, they began a program of killing mental patients, the infirm, and those with limited intelligence. After all, these inferior types were using up vast state resources, which “the fit” could use to create more superior types. We all know where this led: the Holocaust.
Darwin knew what he was talking about. The Germans systematically attempted to exterminate an entire race of people, the Jews, plus many millions of others who were considered unfit. That’s Darwinism for you.

The other arm of eugenics has recently been raising its ugly head here in America: Euthanasia. There has been a great debate about the recent “end of life counseling” that had been a part of the new health care plan. To many, it smacked of euthanasia-planning, which it certainly was. Euthanasia is not about the sick person. It is about getting rid of the sick person, as unfit and unworthy of life, since that life is draining resources away from those who are fit. Since this kind of thinking springs from a materialistic worldview, i.e., atheism, we can see how far Darwin’s grasp has reached. Americans are now being nudged in the direction of taking steps to end their lives. All I can say is: Don’t do it!
All of us who believe that we have souls and are created by God must stand together to fight these atheistic developments in our nation. Euthanasia, which means “good death” is anything but that. It is a dreadful and terrible sin. We cannot control what the atheists do to themselves, but we can refuse to participate in a system of death that flies in the face of our deeply held beliefs about the sanctity of human life.

Elizabeth Szlek is the Director of The Door Counseling Center of Utica. Questions and comments can be directed to her at (315) 768-8900 or at info@thedoorcounseling.com.

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9 Responses to “Darwin, Sanger, and Obamacare: A Trumpet Blast from the Backwoods”

  1. Ken Metcalfe Says:

    What better support for liberty could there be?

    Putting economics and one’s freedom to achieve one’s happiness aside (even as extremely important as they are), the truly overwhelming benefit is to have and live under a life/political system that best promotes the sanctity of each individual human life over the collective.

    ANYthing else will ultimately result in the some who are in power deciding on the value of the lives of those who are not–and dealing with them accordingly. As we continue down our collectivist path, supporting it even if just by silence, let us not be surprised when we get the only result it can truly deliver…

  2. Mark Esswein Says:

    I don’t know where to start with this one…

    My gut reaction is that it is a brilliant usage of the same sort of flawed argument the got the eugenics movement going in the first place. I think that the quote from Darwin is not a rationale for eugenics, but a prescient understanding where human nature might run with his theories.

    Skipping ahead to the euthanasia part: “To many, it smacked of euthanasia-planning, which it certainly was.” Just a more polished rendering of Palin’s death panels.

    End-of-life planning does not mean “How do I end my life?” It means “I’m going to die. How can I do that with dignity. with my family, with my friends?”

    The rector of my church just wrote an eloquent entry on his own blog about the very recent death of his father. I’ll not post the link here, but will gladly provide it to anyone interested.

  3. David Fitzgerald Says:

    But Mark, aren’t those types of rationing choices already being made every day about who has access to gold plated health care and who does not? I know you fear the imposition of “the government” in terms of deciding who gets what care. Perhaps rightly so. Even you acknowledge however, that that imposition will be rule bound in an attempt to combat arbitrariness. Isn’t the purpose of democratic government to construct rules for the distribution of public goods, like the health of its citizens?

    The main moral indictment of the health care system we have now, in my view, is the fundamental arbitrariness with which resouces are distributed, generally an accident of birth. A child born to parents with good healthcare is far less likely to have chronic asthma, malnutrition, ilnesses that cause them to miss school, etc, etc… and will therefore be far more likely to have the resources in adulthood to maintain his healthcare and pass it onto his children.

    The principle philosophical/moral question in the healthcare debate is whether as a society, we can construct rules for delivering equitable and adequate healthcare to all our citizens and, more importantly, whether we are willing to pay for it?

    If the answer to those questions is “no” then that may be a indictment against the possibility of democratic government itself.

  4. Mark Grannis Says:

    Briefly, because it’s late:

    Jim, the anecdotal observations in the Post article are interesting, and since I’m no student of the problem I won’t even try to say whether Reid’s examples are more or less representative of reality than the generalizations he calls “myths.” But in general, I think one of the reasons the “myth-busting” article is so popular with commentators is because you can toss out a few counterexamples and call it a day without settling the question of what is more likely than not to be true. For example:

    Myth 1: Canadians are happy with their health care. Actually, many Canadians come to the U.S. for health care, particularly elective procedures.

    Because I’ve framed the first statement as a ridiculously broad generalization (and called it a myth), the second statement seems to contradict it. Using “actually” as a transition signal enhances the effect. But “actually,” both statements are true. By the way, leaving the Post article aside, what is the system in Qatar?

    Mark Esswein, yes please on the blog post.

    Fitz, you are certainly correct to observe that factors other than government fiat already “ration” care; poverty kills. But poverty is not the only thing that kills. In this field, a bureaucratically inspired mediocrity can also kill, as can undue parsimony or even prudent limitations on expenses. Your central insight — that high prices, restrictive government rules, and long waiting lists can be considered three alternative ways of “rationing” — is true. But we must also recognize that a very egalitarian and universally mediocre health care system can be just as disastrous in individual cases. We do not eliminate the possibility of death based on accidents of birth simply by covering everyone if the coverage we’re providing is the wrong solution.

    While I do not agree that “the purpose of democratic government [is] to construct rules for the distribution of public goods,” I do believe a society as rich as we are should be caring for its weakest and most vulnerable citizens. The question is how, and I am convinced that the public way is not nearly the best. What makes my argument hard is how horribly the ostensibly private system we currently have is functioning. In an upcoming post, I’ll explain what I think is wrong with the “insurance” system we have, and why I think nationalizing it will only make it worse. That’s not for tonight, though.

  5. David Fitzgerald Says:

    I have two thoughts, though I am not sure either is directly on point.

    1. Having recently moved back from England, I have recent personal experience with a universal, single payor system (though fortunately, we were all reasonably healthy while living with it, which is no longer the case (see below)). That experience is instructive regarding what could be considered “universal mediocre” care. My experience of the National Health Service was that, on average, it consistently delivers adequate healthcare in an efficient manner, and does so pretty much universally and equally. If that is not qualified high praise, nothing is because it is also my experience that the medical care we receive in the US is more efficient and of a higher quality than what we obtained through the NHS. That is particularly true regarding the quality and professionalism of the medical professionals. Our doctors remain, hands down, the best in the world.

    What gives me pause however, is that our experience of the healthcare system in the US is by no means “average”. Fortunately, we have “gold-plated” healthcare. As such, the average Brit, not to mention the average Frenchman or, heaven forfend, Scandanavian is far better served by his healthcare system, more of the time, than a US citizen would be. There is national shame in that and the trick with reform will be to make coverage universal, while raising the quality of care for most Americans, most of the time.

    That may be a tall order, but is it really beyond our legislative, administrative and scientific capacity? I would hope not. I remain convinved however that we have got to get a system in place which reigns in the abusive practices off the insurance companies and universalizes coverage as a first step. We can improve on the system once we have a rational system to improve on.

    2. Which brings me to today’s healthcare anecdote. Back in March, our elder son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I’ll spare you the details but, sice then he has had to take four to five insulin injections a day. Understandably, he is growing weary of that routine. Until he is ready for an insulin pump, his doctor perscribed a new device called an insulin port. It essentially injects a tube under his skin which can remain in place for two or three days at a time. The insulin is injected directly into the tube and therefore, he is spared daily injections.

    My wife called the pharmacy where his doctors told us we could get this device and asked if they took our insurance. They assured that they did. When she went to pick up the device this morning, she was told, not surprisingly, no they did not. Undaunted and because she had made an appointment with the doctors to show her how to inject the new device today, she paid $100 for a twenty day supply and, in the manner of wives everywhere, called me at work and told me to deal with the insurance company.

    I am a member of Cigna. Cigna contracts out prescription drug coverage to CVS. I called CVS and, after being on hold for 10 minutes, was told that I needed to call Cigna because CVS was not contracted to purchase medical supplies for Cigna, only drugs. I called Cigna and they told me that, indeed, and thankfully, they would cover the device, but that I needed to call their national medical supply distributor, Apria Healthcare. When I called Apria I was told that although they did contract with Cigna they did not do their diabetic supplies. That was another company called Edgepark. I called Edgepark. They finally did take my order however, I await word from them as to whether or not my Cigna coverage will actually cover this device (fingers crossed) and that they will call me, before shipping of course, if any balance is owed on my new account. An 8 year old’s comfort be damned.

    At every step, I had to navigate a customer service menu, wait for a representative, provide copious amounts of information and generally waste a good part of my day. This, mind you, to get a medical device that retails for only $150 a month. I cannot wait to have to obtain approval for an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor that each run in $15,000 category.

    Of course, I am one of the lucky ones. I have “gold-plated” healthcare (I cannot tell you the number of sleepless nights I have had since March fearing a layoff). I can’t imagine navigating this system if I were poor or ignorant or even not a lawyer who is professionally trained to deal on a daily basis with inanity and stupidity. There must be another way?

  6. Timothy Peach Says:

    Darwin’s central theorem is vacuous, by the way. “Survival of the fittest” is a tautology — fitness is defined in terms of survival. The phrase postulates nothing.

    There are a number of things unique about America that make these sorts of debates really difficult. We can’t have a rational discussion about gun control because guns are so pervasive you can’t “back them out” in any analysis of the effectiveness of banning them. Same thing with healthcare. We can’t even envision a system without all the attachments and vested, entrenched interests.

    In a rational system, we’d have reasonable gun control and a state-provided basic healthcare system like most civilized nations. Deadly firepower in the hands of individuals is lunacy, and medical care isn’t insurance in any reasonable sense, it’s a basic service like roads and bridges.

    But the status quo is an unbelievably powerful source of inertia, and we are a selfish and stubborn nation drunk on entitlements and comfortable with the ridiculous equation of our enfranchisement with the quality of our stupid, uninformed opinions.

    Nothing important changes incrementally. All interesting and lasting change occurs violently. We will never have state-run healthcare until the private system completely collapses, which it will, eventually. You don’t need to be a genius to figure this out — it’s a simple matter of compound interest.

    I did get laid off, by the way (technically, I resigned knowing the layoff was coming anyhow, so I could get out a few days earlier and avoid the rush). It’s a sobering experience to be unplugged from the Matrix, but there is air out here. But it’s a stressful transition, let me tell you.

    Hi Granulous.

    • Ken Metcalfe Says:

      One can always tell a socialist’s response. There’s that pervasive “whiny” undertone. There’s just oh so many people doing “bad” things (e.g., owning guns) and oh so few doing good things (e.g., making sure everyone gets “free” healthcare at the expense of those who have more than enough).

      “In a rational system (AS DEFINED BY, WELL, ME OF COURSE), we’d have reasonable gun control (DITTO) and a state-provided (I.E., BY STEALING FROM THOSE SAME FOLKS WHO HAVE ‘MORE THAN ENOUGH’–AS DECIDED BY…YOU GUESSED IT…) basic healthcare system like most civilized nations (I.E., THOSE THAT TREAT THEIR CITIZENS AS SO MANY SLAVES TO THE COLLECTIVE). Deadly firepower in the hands of individuals is lunacy (SAYS I), and medical care isn’t insurance in any reasonable sense, it’s a basic service like roads and bridges (AND THEREFORE A ‘RIGHT’, OF COURSE–PUTTING ASIDE THE FACT THAT BOTH ROADS AND BRIDGES CAN BE, HAVE BEEN AND IF IN PLACES WHERE NEEDED, EASILY PAID FOR BY USERS’ FEES).”

      In a country with, allegedly, 100 million firearms (or maybe around 3 billion according to the Brady foundation), we have scant few gun-related deaths in the scheme of things. (Far, far fewer than the 10’s of millions of government-sanctioned/promulgated gun deaths in even our more recent conflagrations around the world.)

      And do you really believe we have or have had in any near-past a “private” health system??

      And so what next? A right to “good” food? (No “fast food” or trans fats for the trodden masses.) Maybe a right to a decent car (much, much more effective than cash for clunkers–since it’s each day becoming just more like paper anyway, why not simply use the fiat currency to buy everyone a car?? The heck with deficits–we only owe it to ourselves…) Ahh–if only people in power would listen to the world improvers out there. Alas Plato, where be the Philosopher Kings when we so desperately need them??

      “…we are a selfish and stubborn nation drunk on entitlements and comfortable with the ridiculous equation of our enfranchisement with the quality of our stupid, uninformed opinions.” CERTAINLY NO BITTERNESS HERE…

      I do hope things get better, Mr. P. Based on this last posting, it seems as though you should get plugged back into the matrix as soon as realistically possible. (“Why didn’t I take the blue pill?”)

      Ken

  7. Mark Esswein Says:

    On re-reading, the “brilliant” superlative isn’t applicable…

    As for the link to the blog post here it is: http://www.ricklord.org – see “On the Death of my Father”.

    Mark G.: now that he has written again on the subject, I think my reticence is moot.


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