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James Brody
January 30th, 2005, 10:16 AM
Crichton on Global Warming & Frank Galton

Michael Crichton, on eugenics and pseudo science: "Francis Galton, a respected British scientist, first speculated about this area but his ideas were taken far beyond anything he intended." (State of Fear, p. 576).
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I encountered a subthreshold stimulus when Nature announced a web site that tries to refute the stance that Crichton takes on global warning in his latest novel. Next, one of my clients asked if I knew anything about eugenics. He remembered the word from the back of Crichton's book and recognized Galton's name when I mentioned it. Now well-past threshold, I searched at Barnes and was so pleased by Crichton's remarks that I dropped $17.61 for five of nearly 600 pages rather than wait for the paperback edition of those same five pages! (Barnes lists the hardcover for 30% off and gives another 10% discount to members.)
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The Almost Last Five Pages

Erasmus Darwin indirectly sired two giants in his mix of 25 grandchildren: Charles Darwin who taught us about similarities, Francis Galton about individual differences. Ironically, we praise the former but whisper about the latter. Charles and his allies taught us that environment (Darwin, 1859), like liberalism (Sowell, 1987; Limbaugh, any day of the week) tends to make all of us the same. Galton's work complements Darwin's, addresses the order that we can find in individual differences, and provides a powerful foundation for contemporary medicine. And all teens when mixing gametes follow Galton even though they never heard of him.

Francis (Frank) Galton was born February 16th, 1822 and he constantly tallied events. For example, he recorded that London had more beautiful women than Aberdeen. (There was also more money in London!) Galton kept track of these things by pin-and-paper counters in each of his pockets. Further, and nearly as important, he discovered, refined, or invented fingerprinting, meteorology, the correlation coefficient, regression to the mean, composite images, and biometrics (Gillham, 2001). We still hide him, however, when we write about his favorite child, behavior genetics.

Crichton talks about Galton and eugenics on pp. 575-580 in State of Fear and amplifies themes that Matt Ridley announced in Genome. That is, mass sterilization and execution were viruses carried by social LIBERALS and resisted, at least in the U.K., by libertarian MPs such as Josiah Wedgwood, one more brilliant hybrid that sprouted from Darwin and Wedgwood partnerships.
Sterilization's fans included the National Academy of Science, the American Medical Association, the National Research Council, and the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations. "Important work" was done at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Hopkins, and Princeton for nearly 50 years. Supportive legislation to sterilize Jews, blacks, and the feebleminded passed in states from New York to California. "It was said that if Jesus were alive, he would have supported this effort." Karl Pearson, born Carl Pearson, was one of several prominent evolutionists (Fisher, Haldane, and Maynard-Smith) who, like Jesus, were also Marxists. Pearson's own slogan: "Whatever is social is right." (Stalin, however, killed perhaps 13 million without citing Galton or Pearson.)

Individual boosters included Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, Louis Brandeis (!), Oliver Wendell Holmes, Alexander Graham Bell, Margaret Sanger, Luther Burbank, Leland Stanford (founded Stanford University), H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, and "hundreds of others." The American Cattle Breeder's Association (Sarason & Doris, 1969), in an ironic replay of the soirees that Darwin enjoyed in pubs with pigeon farmers, helped to spread the virus: stop the snotty offspring of the unfit from bankrupting all of us. (Arthur Balfour, not a geneticist, questioned at the first eugenics conference in 1910, if the poor newcomers are so unfit and if education and prosperity are so adaptive, why do the former out breed the latter? Balfour was ignored and there was, and there is still, no good answer to his question. Even Richerson & Boyd, 2005, who devote great attention to this puzzle but don't solve it.)

Crichton also mentions Lysenkoism (1928-1960s) and our dogma about global warming as more examples of "pseudoscience." He references Carl Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World" and could have added Charles Mackay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Aldous Huxley's Devils of Loudun, or Rodney Stark's For the Glory of God. Pseudoscience and fads, like religions, are evolutionary products. Supply fuel to any emergent network and observe self-interest (Kauffman, 2000; Camazine et al, 2001). Further, swarms often grow because each creature monitors only what his immediate neighbor does. The next step should be that of defining the genetic sensitivities that make us watch and copy our neighbor. (Some revelations about evolution and statistical physics may be as close as the country and western top-40!) Whatever your favorite explanations, we swarm and flock in fields, Walmarts, or churches and reveal our deep kinship with bees, ants, termites, lemmings, Congregationalists, Catholics, and Baptists, scientists, rave participants, and even people who put other people in ovens.

About the First 575 Pages

Galton found that an average bloke in an auditorium seat fidgets twice a minute but five times as often when thoroughly bored. Crichton cleverly gives us one book that should please both audiences: bricks of real data mortared by a lively story. For those cursed with Attention Surplus Disorder, debates abound via graphs on ocean temperature while, at the same time, a legal Hamlet sorts the black hats around him from the white. State of Fear is not Maxim: the pictures signal us restless ones to skip ahead for high-testosterone California babes and surprises. The women, beautiful, courageous, inventive, libidinous, and combative often rescue themselves; for surprises Crichton gives us vehicles that fall into ice canyons, target-seeking lightning bolts, several assassin octopi, a man-made tsunami, and, best of all, a news anchor eaten alive by old ladies and young boys. (On his way to dinner, he thought they smiled at him because they knew him from television!) The lawyer and an undercover Laertes go from Antarctica to Arizona to California to Borneo at a frantic clip: beaten, bitten, burned, and frozen but always recovered before the next landing. Success raises Hamlet's testosterone to match that of the women; at the same time, he finds decision, his future, and a mate and he discards his beliefs in global warming.

As for Galton: Happy Birthday, Frank...

James Brody

More Reading:

Camazine, S., Deneubourg, J-L., Franks, N., Sneyd, J., Theraulaz, G., & Bonabeau, E. (2001) Self-Organization in Biological Systems. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.
Crichton, M. (2004) Why politicized science is dangerous. Appendix I, State of Fear. NY: Harper Collins, pp. 575-580.
Gillham, N. W. (2001) A Life of Sir Francis Galton: From African Exploration to the Birth of Eugenics. NY: Oxford.
Huxley, A. (1952) The Devils of Loudun: A Study in the Psychology of Power, Politics, and Mystical Religion in the France of Cardinal Richelieu. NY: Harper.
Kauffman, S. (2000) Investigations. NY: Oxford.
Mackay, C. (1841/1980) Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. NY: Three Rivers Press.
Richerson, P., & Boyd, R. (2005) Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Ridley, M. (2000) Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters. NY: Harper Collins.
Sagan, C. (1995) The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. NY: Random House.
Sarason, S. & Doris, J. (1969) Psychological Problems in Mental Deficiency. NY: Harper.
Sowell, T. (1987) A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles. NY: Quill.
Stark, R. (2003) For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witchhunts, and the End of Slavery. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ Press.

Copyright, James Brody, 2005, all rights reserved.