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Tag Archives: supreme-court
Posted: July 14, 2016 at 4:35 pm
His disgusting politics are well known, but the many other ways he is disgusting have always been a matter of speculation. Until now.
Here is Bernie endorsing Hillary and Hillarys speech immediately after (which was one of her better speeches this campaign). It was as if I had written the endorsement speech myself, and I give much credit to the Senator for writing and delivering it. Yes, I have, in Danas words, trashed the Senator throughout the campaign, much as Dana and others have trashed Hillary. But it is time to move on, to let it go (cue Frozen soundtrack), and to come together. And thanks to Hillary and Bernies combined efforts in reaching agreement on the platform, we have the beginnings of a Democratic juggernaut that shall obliterate all Republicans.
Dont you just hate it when youre a Democratic candidate for US Congress from Delaware, and something like this happens?:
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has ramped up her criticism of Donald Trump in recent days, going so far as to say late Monday that the businessman is a faker who must release his tax returns. He is a faker, Ginsburg said in an interview with CNN. He has no consistency about him. He 
The News Journal released the results of their poll last night, which shows the race being much closer than the common wisdom (including mine) would have suggested. Heres the numbers:
Kevin Kelly 18% Mike Purzycki 14% Dennis Williams 13% Theo Gregory 11% Eugene Young 9% Norm Griffiths 8% Robert Marshall 2% Maria Cabrera 2% Undecided 21%
The margin of error on this poll is 5.8 and reached landlines only. This surveyed likely Democratic voters. This polly also asked about registration and primary practices where we find that this group of likely Democratic voters think that it should be easier to switch parties to vote and that primaries should be open.
I may return to my old haunt just to see this:
Progressive Democrats for Delaware Democratic Primary Candidate Forum New Castle County 7 p.m. Wednesday, August 3rd 19 E. Commons Blvd, 2nd Fl. New Castle DE 19720
For NCC Executive: Tom Gordon and Matt Meyer.
NCC Council President: Penrose Hollins, Dave Roberts and Karen Hartley-Nagle.
Come out and bring your questions for county government!
Mark your calendars!
I remember saying this some weeks ago and being laughed at by the Sanderistas here. Now that Bernie agrees with me that the Democratic Party has the most progressive platform ever, who is laughing now? Hell, even Jeff Weaver is on board.
Here is more on just how liberal and progressive the Democratic platform is, and that we do have Bernie to thank for it. His campaign, in the end, did exactly what I wanted it to do: keep Hillary on the left by giving her the incentive to stay there. Without Sanders or any serious challenge from progressive quarters, I am not sure Hillary would have moved dramatically to the center or right because American politics doesnt work like that anymore. There are no moderates to win over in that middle ground. Everyone is polarized and turning out your own base is the way to win. But the Sanders challenge helped Hillary shed the last vestiges of 90s caution and to be vocal about her progressive positions.
Carney inexplicably STILL wants to cut the state budget, not grow it. In spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, he still views debt as an anathema, and growth killing austerity as a virtue. He basically still believes in the utter failed Republican economics of trickle down. It makes no sense, and in the era of very cheap borrowing, it is the exact opposite of what we should actually be doing.
And whats worse, the markets have taken notice.[See Swiss Negative Yield Bonds] Smart money is beginning to adjust to the new normal and accept the fact that deficit hawks and austerity evangelists like Carney are determined to strangle economic growth with their wrongheadedness which would be simply goofy at this point, were it not so pernicious. Here is Paul Krugman on the topic:
I dont think Im reading between the lines to say that Carneys plan is more of the same giveaways (both monetary and regulatory) to large corporations: John understands that the role of government in promoting a strong economy is to create an environment where businesses can thrive and invest in Delaware. That means moving faster 
He had a poll done by Public Policy Polling and the result (as reported in the NJ) is at Gordon 33%, Meyer at 30%, Undecided at 38? This is a statistical tie.
The filing deadline is this Tuesday, July 12 at 12 noon. After Tuesday, parties may file candidates, but individuals cannot file on their own separate from the party. The deadline for withdrawing ones candidacy and getting ones filing fee returned is this Friday, July 15 at 4:30 pm. Friday is also the deadline for candidates to switch from one race to another. Ill likely be out campaigning for the candidate of my choice (Bryan Townsend) at the Tuesday deadline, so please keep us posted on any last minute developments.
Dallas police were doing everything right and then the shooting started
The Dallas PD have been doing the hard work to engage their communities, to up the training for officers (especially in de-escalation skills), be more open and less of an occupying army:
As the Dallas Morning News reported last year, Dallas police have shifted to a stronger focus on deescalation techniques since David Brown became police chief in 2010, with dramatic results. In 2009, there were 147 excessive force complaints against police officers; by 2014, those complaints dropped by 64 percent. And as of November, when the article was published, there had been just 13 such complaints in 2015.
Ive been too depressed to read much, but this is so worth it. (Thanks to Dorian Gray for the link) And yet, two pieces of writing published on conservative news sites on Friday morning, as well as an extraordinary Facebook Live chat with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, suggest that the combination of Thursday nights 
This was all prepared in advance, but it shrinks and fades into specs of trivia and meaningless gossip in view of our ongoing inhumanity toward each other. I ask myself what I can do to try and stand up against a world that seems on a trajectory toward less decency and less humanity, and I come up empty.
John Daniellos bulk mail form letter was the kind of move one would expect an 84 year old man to make. He may have been the winningest, most effective, most Republican-hating Chair in the world, but it is time to move on. According to Mike Matthews (via FB) it has been time for him to 
See the original post here:
Posted: at 4:17 pm
Trevor Burrus: Welcome to Free Thoughts from Libertarianism.org and the Cato Institute. Im Trevor Burrus.
Tom Clougherty: And Im Tom Clougherty.
Trevor Burrus: Joining us today is Randal OToole, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, specializing in urban growth, public land and transportation issues. Welcome to Free Thoughts, Randal.
Randal OToole: Hey, Im glad to be here.
Trevor Burrus: So the first question is the big one as we often do on Free Thoughts. How is transportation important to human freedom and flourishing?
Randal OToole: Well mobility is really important because mobility gives people access to more economic resources, more social resources, more recreation opportunities. Mobility of course has completely transformed in the 20th century. Before 1800, hardly anybody in the world had ever traveled faster than a horse could run and lived to tell about it. Although during the
Trevor Burrus: Lived to tell about it, its like people who fell out of hot air balloons and
Randal OToole: Or off a cliff.
Trevor Burrus: So they got a quick moment of OK.
Randal OToole: Yeah. So by 1900, we had developed steam trains and bicycles and streetcars and cable cars and those things accelerated the pace of life for many people and yet by 1910, most Americans were no more mobile than they had been in 1800 because frankly streetcars and steam trains and things like that were more expensive than the average American could afford.
Most Americans still lived in rural areas and they didnt have access to those, to streetcars or bicycles. Even Americans in urban areas, only middle class people could afford streetcars. Pretty much working class people had to walk to work. It was only when Henry Ford developed a moving assembly line that allowed him to both double worker pay and cut the cost of his cars in half, which made automobiles affordable to the working class that suddenly mobility was democratized and suddenly travel speed is accelerated from an average of 3 miles an hour to an average of 30 miles an hour or more.
That gave people access to far more jobs. If you were producing something, it gave you access to a far bigger consumer market. If you wanted to socialize with people who were like you, you didnt have to live right next door to them. You could get into your car and be near them. You have access to recreation opportunities. Things like national parks became popular only after the car became popular. Before cars the number of people visiting Yellowstone and people like places like that were numbered in the hundreds or low thousands each year. Now its the millions.
Trevor Burrus: Now you certainly have no Disneyland without people being able to drive to it and
Randal OToole: You dont have Costco. You dont have supermarkets. You dont have Wal-marts. You dont have a lot of things that we take for granted today. Shopping malls, a lot of things. So the auto mobility transform lives for many people. For example, the only way blacks were able to boycott buses in Montgomery, Alabama after Rosa Louise Parks refused to get walk to the back of the bus was because they had enough cars that they could transport each other to work.
So cars were called by Blacks freedom vehicles. Cars play a huge role in womens liberation. It was only when families became two-car families and both the husband and the wife could own it, could have a car and become wage or salary earners that womens liberation became truly an important change in our lives.
So cars have transformed everybodys lives. Cars have transformed farming for example. Before cars, at least a quarter, perhaps a third of all of our farmland was dedicated to pasture for the horses and other livestock needed to power the farms.
By releasing that land, we ended up getting 100 million acres of forest lands, 100 million acres of crop lands. We have far more lands available for growing crops than we had before because of the internal combustion engine, powering tractors and trucks and other farm vehicles.
Trevor Burrus: Well, if you talk to people now though, its kind of I mean it is this mind-blowing thing when you start thinking about the effect that the car had on American life. But now a lot of people want to say that cars are bad for a variety of reasons, not seeming to understand the effect on this and a lot of the kind of urban planning and ideas of what a city should look like, it seems to be kind of anti-car in some basic level.
Randal OToole: Thats absolutely right. Theres a huge anti-automobile mentality out there, especially among urban planners and curiously, every city in the country has urban planners on their staff because they think theyre the experts. But its actually because the Supreme Court has made decisions that have said that the property rights clause or the Fifth Amendment of the constitution can be amended if you have an urban can be ignored if you have an urban planner on your staff. Basically, you dont have to worry about that if you have an urban planner who has written an urban plan for your city.
Trevor Burrus: This is like Kelo pursuant
Randal OToole: Every single Supreme Court decision that has taken away peoples property rights has mentioned in that decision that the city or other entity that wanted to take away peoples property rights had written an urban plan. So if you have an urban planner on your staff, you can ignore property rights. You can take land by eminent domain. You can regulate land without compensation if you have an urban planner on your staff.
So they all have urban planners and urban planners all go to the same schools and most of these schools are architecture schools where they learn that we shape our buildings and our buildings shape up.
So if we want to shape society, we have to design our cities in a way to shape the way people live. Well, it has been proven over and over again that it doesnt work. It doesnt get people out of their cars, to force people to live in high densities.
San Francisco for example, the San Francisco Bay area increases population density by two-thirds between 1980 and 2010 and per capita driving increased. Per capita transit ridership declined by a third. It didnt change anything at all except for it made a lot more congestion.
So theres an anti-automobile mentality and the reality is most of the virtually all of the problems with automobiles can be solved by treating the problem, not by treating the automobile.
Trevor Burrus: Like congestion you mean.
Randal OToole: Well, congestion, air pollution, greenhouse gases, energy, traffic accidents, whatever. In 1970, people drove about 40 percent as much as they do today and we had 55,000 people killed per year. So today were driving 150 percent more and we only had 33,000 people killed last year. So fatalities are going down because they made both automobiles and highways safer. Thats only going to increase.
In 1970, many of our cities were polluted. You had a mile of visibility or less. In Portland, you couldnt see Mount Hood. In Seattle, you couldnt see Mount Rainier because the pollution is so bad. So we created the Environmental Protection Agency to solve the problem and they said lets do two things. Lets put pollution control requirements on new cars but lets also encourage cities to discourage driving by spending more on transit and increasing densities to encourage people to live closer to work.
Well, they did both things and today, pollution has gone down by more than 90 percent. Total pollution has decreased by more than 90 percent from what it was in 1970 and 105 percent of that decline is due to the pollution controls they put on cars. Negative 105 because
Trevor Burrus: More than 100 percent.
Randal OToole: Right, because the other thing they did that investing in transit and increasing densities to get people out of their cars failed. Instead what that did is it increased traffic congestion and cars pollute more in congested traffic than they do in free flowing traffic. So we ended up having more pollution thanks to the policy of trying to get people out of their cars. It failed miserably and yet were still pursuing that policy in many places supposedly to reduce greenhouse gases, to save energy and so on. It wont work but were doing it anyway.
Tom Clougherty: So I think one of the interesting, maybe disturbing things about transportation policy is that you have an obvious problem in congestion, a problem which is very costly. You also have a solution that virtually every economist is going to agree on and thats congestion pricing.
You also have on top of that a widespread perception that its politically impossible, that it will never happen. So therefore we have to go into a lot of these other things, which as youve pointed out may not be effective.
Do you see any future for congestion pricing? Could you maybe elaborate on that principle a little bit?
Randal OToole: Well, there are two things that are going to happen in the next 10 years. First of all, a lot of cars are going to become self-driving cars and thats going to be a very rapid transformation because starting in about 2020, you will be able to buy a car that will be able to drive itself on the vast majority of American streets and roads without your input at all.
Pretty soon you will be able to drive a car buy a car that will drive itself everywhere and they wont even have steering wheels. Well, a lot of congestion happens because of slow human reflexes and as soon as we get self-driving cars which have much faster reflexes, the capacity of roads is going to increase tremendously. Its typical that an urban freeway lane can move about 2000 vehicles an hour at speed.
With self-driving cars, we will be able to increase that to 6000 or more vehicles an hour. So thats going to take care a lot of the congestion problem right there. The other parallel development is that were moving away from gas guzzlers.
Cars that burn gas are burning less and less gas all the time and a lot of cars are not burning gasoline. That means that gas taxes which have paid for our roads have really paid for 80 percent of all the roads weve built and 100 percent of all the state highways that have been built in the country and interstate roads.
Those gas taxes arent going to be around anymore. So were going to have to find a new way of paying for roads. My home state of Oregon was the first state to have a gas tax to pay for roads in 1919 and today my home state of Oregon is experimenting with mileage-based user fees. Its the first state to experiment with them and what theyve done is theyve asked people to volunteer to pay a mileage-based user fee rather than a gas tax and I was one of the first people to volunteer.
They opened up volunteers at midnight on July 1st and at 12:01, I sent in my application and they sent me a little device that I plug into my car and now it keeps track of how many miles I drive and if I leave the state, I dont pay anything. In the state I pay a penny and a half per mile and they refund me all my gas taxes that I pay when I buy gas.
So the intention is to phase this in over time. So if you buy an electric car, you will have to get a mileage-based user fee device. If you buy a gasoline-powered car, you will be encouraged to do it and over time, we will transition from all gasoline or all gas taxes to all mileage-based user fees.
Well, with mileage-based user fees, it will be real, real easy to make a congestion fee, to make it a variable fee. Presumably the device you plug into your car when you say I want to go to work, you will tell your car take me on this to this address. The car will say, well, here are three different routes. If you go this way, youre going to have to pay this fee. If you go this way, you will have to pay this fee and it will take you five minutes longer. If you go this way, you will have to pay a lower fee and it will take you 10 minutes longer or whatever. You will have a choice of which route, which fee you pay and you will make that choice and that will encourage people to avoid congested routes and eventually solve that $200 billion congestion problem.
Trevor Burrus: This is interesting because you see all these technologies which werent even thought about a few years ago, whether its the device to measure how much your car is driving or a driverless car.
It kind of reminds me were talking about urban planners and who these people are and were and to sort of whether or not any urban planners in 1980 thought about driverless cars or the possibility of having something to measure how much youre driving and that and they probably did and so
Randal OToole: Well, the real question is are any urban planners in 2016 thinking about
Trevor Burrus: Yeah, so thats a better at the Car History Museum, I know you at one point were in Denver for the light rail fight. In the car museum, they have a Denver urban plan from 1955 or something like that. Its a 50-year urban plan. So this was what Denver looked like in 2005, which is just ludicrous. I mean it seems absolutely ludicrous.
Tom Clougherty: You mean they didnt get it right?
Randal OToole: In 1950, nobody had ever taken a commercial jet airline flight. Nobody had ever direct dialed a long distance phone call. To make a long distance call, you had to call the operator and have them dial it for you. Of course almost nobody had ever programmed a computer. There was certainly no internet. Nobody could predict in 1950 what was going to happen in 2000.
Well today we can see driverless cars on the horizon but nobody can predict what is going to happen. Is everybody going to use an Uber-like car or are we going to own our own cars? Is it going to make people drive more because more people are going to be driving? Because you can be nine years old and drive a driverless car. I can put my dogs in the car and send them to the vet. I dont need to go with them.
Trevor Burrus: Thats going to be a service. It could be like Bark Car and they just put them in there and it drives them to the vet, yeah.
Randal OToole: Or is it going to lead to less driving because everybody is going to be not owning a car but Uber-ing their car? The thing about that is when if you own a car, when you say Im going to go to the store now, you figure Im going to pay the marginal cost to driving, the cost of gasoline. But if youre renting a car, you have to pay the average cost which is a much higher per mile cost. So thats going to change the calculus. Those people who decide not to own a car will probably travel less themselves than they would have traveled if they had owned a car because of that.
So is it going to lead to more or less driving? Nobody knows the answers to these questions. Urban planners, they know they dont know the answers to these questions. So their solution is to ignore the problem, to ignore the issue, design for the past because they know the past. So they design for streetcars. They design for light rail because those are the past forms of travel. They know how people lived when those were the forms of travel that people used.
So they designed cities to be streetcar cities. Thats really the urban planning fad today is to design cities to be like they were in the 1920s when the people who got around not on foot took streetcars.
Of course there were still a lot of people who got around on foot because they couldnt afford the streetcars and that of course is going to be a complete failure. Its not going to work. Its going to impose huge costs on those cities because theyre going to be designing for the wrong thing. Its going to put a huge cost on the people in those cities but theyre doing it anyway because thats the urban planning fad.
Trevor Burrus: So theyre thinking of sort of high density urban development with a lot of public transportation like streetcars and light rail and things like this, which is odd but it kind of makes you wonder if the entire concept of urban planning is just kind of silly. Are you kind of saying that?
Randal OToole: It doesnt make me wonder that. Its not kind of saying. Urban planning is a profession that doesnt deserve to exist. Thats why I call myself the antiplanner and I have a blog called The Antiplanner. Look up antiplanner and Im the first thing on the list. I write about this every day.
Urban planning always fails. They cant predict the future. So instead of predicting it, they try to envision it and they envision a past that they understand. Then they try to impose that on the future by passing all kinds of regulations and all kinds of laws.
Trevor Burrus: As I went to Tom being British, a town called Milton Keynes in or Keynes I think is how they say it.
Tom Clougherty: Milton Keynes. Its a must-see.
Trevor Burrus: In England, which is one of these post-war, fully-planned towns. I mean down to especially in England. They were really big on this. Have urban planners become less hubristic? I mean in England, they were just planning entire towns, entire blocks, trying to figure out everything that people wanted. Have they become less hubristic and a little bit more respectful of human freedom or are they just as planning as ever?
Randal OToole: Absolutely not. They have not become less hubristic and a lot of places a lot of private developers have built what are called master plan communities. The private developers did the planning and they were planning for the market. They were trying to figure out what do people want to live in and will build them a community like they want to live in.
They figure out, well, they want to be somewhat close to stores. So they have to have as many enough people in their community to convince a supermarket to open up a store, to come into Costco or something like that, to open up a store. They like to be near some nice restaurants. But they also like to have a yard. They also like to have wide streets to drive on.
So they plan for what people want. The urban planners that Im talking about are government planners and they plan for what they think people should have. They plan for what they think people should want, not what they do want. They think people should want to live in higher densities, that they should want to get around on transit, rather than driving, and so thats what they planned for even though nationwide only about two percent of travel is by well, one percent of travel and about two percent of commuting is by mass transit. Its insignificant outside of New York City, Washington and about four other urban areas. Transit is irrelevant really.
Tom Clougherty: Yeah. I mean its interesting that youre talking a lot about how contemporary urban planning is certainly anti-car, anti-automobility and yet I wonder whether the darkest era of urban planning was excessively pro-car. If you think of a lot of post-war development, the interstate highway system often driving major roads through established neighborhoods. Really trying to change peoples lives and the whole way they lived in the opposite direction of what theyre trying to do now. Is what we have now in urban planning almost a reaction to some of the mistakes of the past?
Randal OToole: No. I think what you have to whats consistent about urban planning is that its pro-middle class and anti-working class, anti-low income people. They call working class neighborhoods slums. This has been the trend for 125 years. Working class neighborhoods are slums. So we have to clear out those slums as if if we move the people out so that we dont have to look at them, they dont exist anymore.
Urban renewal in the 1950s was called by some negro removal because a million people were displaced by the urban renewal movement and most of them were Blacks, so 80 percent of them were Blacks.
They had to move from places that they could afford to places that were less affordable because they werent slums anymore. So the problem that urban that cities had in the 1940s and 50s that they saw they had is that the middle class people had moved to the suburbs and the people who were left were had lower incomes and they said, OK, these are slums. We have to get them out of here. You get the middle class people back into the cities and they looked at the interstates as a way of doing it.
The original interstate highway system as planned by the transportation engineers was going to bypass all the cities, was not going to enter the cities. They brought this proposal before congress and the cities went to congress and said, No, we want our share of the interstate money.
So they rewrote the system. They added 10 percent more miles all of which were in the inner cities and came back to congress in 56 and congress passed it with the endorsement of the urban mayors because the mayors wanted to use interstate highways as a vehicle for slum clearance.
They were to clear out the slums that the highways were built on. They would clear out the neighborhoods around those highways with eminent domain. That was all approved by the Supreme Court in the famous 1952 case here in Washington DC. Yeah.
And forced the people out and then build nice middle class neighborhoods. Today its the same thing. The whole complaint about urban sprawl is not a complaint about wealthy people moving in suburbs. Wealthy people started moving to the suburbs in the 1830s and nobody complained about urban sprawl then.
Middle class people started moving to the suburbs in the 1890s and nobody complained about it then. Weve had suburban sprawl for almost 200 years.
It was only when middle class people or simply when working class people started moving to the suburbs in the 1920s because they were able to buy Henry Fords affordable cars that people started complaining about urban sprawl.
The early complaints about urban sprawl were very class-oriented. You have these inelegant people out there in all stages of dress playing this ridiculous music on their Victor-Victrolaphones and dancing wildly and gesticulating and eating weird food.
Trevor Burrus: Showing their ankles.
Randal OToole: Doing all kinds of things that were horrible and it was very class-oriented and their prescription Im reading to you from a book called the Town and Country Plan. It was written by a British author and the prescription was we will pen all those people up in high-rises in the cities and in 1947, Britain passed the parliament passed a Town and Country Planning Act that put greenbelts around the cities for bidding development and then put high-rises in the cities that people lived in for a few years but was really only acceptable because a lot of housing had been palmed out. But as soon as people lived in it for more than 10 years, they realized we dont want to live like this. These are awful places to live in. So they revolted but
Trevor Burrus: This racial class part of the story seems to be I mean its you cannot separate it from the whole history of urban planning. Its about class and race and we have red lining. We have zoning. We have all these different things and its about the powerful who happen to be politically powerful in a given time trying to impose their view upon their fellow citizens and what the kind of city that they would like to live in which may not include you and your kind at least in my neighborhood.
Randal OToole: Well, I have a friend in California named Joseph Perkins whos a black radio talk show host and he says that he looks at urban planning smart growth as the new Jim Crow. He says the Sierra Club is the new KKK because theyre promoting these ideas and he goes to some place like Marin County, California which is just north of San Francisco and has very strict urban growth boundaries and low density zoning and he says he goes there and they he goes to these hearings and people are saying, We want to keep those people out.
He said, Well those people are people like me. But it isnt just people of color. Its a class thing. They want to keep the working class out. We dont like to talk about class in this country much but there definitely is a class structure.
You look at the progressives. They say, Well, we care about the working class. Well you might care about the working class but you dont like their values. They play country Western music which you hate. They drive around in big pick-ups.
Trevor Burrus: They drink soda.
Randal OToole: Yeah, they drink soda.
Trevor Burrus: They smoke cigarettes.
Randal OToole: They smoke cigarettes. They drink beer, not wine.
Trevor Burrus: Budweiser
Randal OToole: And they support Donald Trump and they oppose abortion and they do all the things that you say you care about them and yet your actual attitude is one of seething contempt.
Really zoning has always been about keeping working class people out of middle class neighborhoods and the whole planning today is about OK, were going to design transportation systems for the working class that will take them to work so that they can serve us and then take them home to places different from where we live and they can live a nice lifestyle in their high density apartment and walk down the stairs and go shopping so they dont have to shop in the same stores that we drive to. It sounds very idyllic if you
Trevor Burrus: Can afford it.
Randal OToole: No. If you can afford to not live that way, if youre a middle class person. But its not idyllic for the working class.
Trevor Burrus: So lets talk about some of these public transportation issues because I have this great classic Onion article because its tied in with all these ideas that public transportation is something that well, the headline is Report: 98 Percent Of US Commuters Favor Public Transportation for Others and weve had a spate of light rail, weve had streetcars and all these things have come up which it seems like the people who make them are not really theyre not using them. I expected them to probably not use them. They think other people should be using them. That seems to be a big story of public transportation.
Randal OToole: Well, theres a recent story that unfortunately it wasnt in the Onion but it was an authentic story in the Los Angeles Times that said despite the fact that were spending billions of dollars on transit, transit ridership is declining and thats true here in Washington DC as well. Transit ridership seems to have peaked about just before the financial crash and its not really recovering since the financial crash.
Really transit has been on a downhill since 1960 or 1950, the end of World War Two. What were seeing is people plowing more and more money into it and productivity is going down. The number of transit riders carried per transit worker is steadily declining.
The amount of money we spend to get one person out of their car has gone from a dollar in 1960 to $25 or more today just to get one person out of their car for one trip. We build transit lines that are so expensive that it would have been cheaper to give every single daily round trip rider on that transit line a new Toyota Prius every single year for the rest of their lives than to keep running that
Trevor Burrus: Im laughing and crying at the same time.
Randal OToole: And there are a lot of forces at work here. It started out in the 1970s. Congress had given cities the incentive to take over private transit. In 1965, almost all transit in America was private. By 1975, it was almost all public. Congress had said to cities you take over transit. We will pay for your new buses. We will pay for your capital costs. You just have to pay the operating costs.
So cities took them over and then in 1973, congress said, Oh by the way, if you have an interstate freeway thats planned in your city and you decide to cancel it, you can take the capital cost of that freeway and use it for transit capital investments. Well, cities thought that was great except for buses are so cheap that they couldnt afford to operate all the buses that you could buy for the cost of an interstate freeway.
Posted: July 12, 2016 at 6:20 am
Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason. We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake.
Atheism, from the Greek a-, meaning “without”, and theos, meaning “god”, is the absence of belief in the existence of gods. Theos includes the Abrahamic YHWH(s), Zeus, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and every other deity from A to Z (and 0-9,!, “, #, $ or any other character, obviously). For the definition of atheism, the terms “God” and “a god” are used interchangeably as there is no difference between a monotheistic deity and a polytheistic pantheon of deities when it comes to complete disbelief in them. This also has the deliberate intent of ignoring the privileged position Yahweh has held in English grammar. Most atheists also do not believe in anything supernatural or paranormal (someone like this would be considered a naturalist).
We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.
Tied up with some of the more awkward aspects of defining the term “atheist” is the question of what god, or type of god, is being denied. This is particularly important for those who claim that atheism is supported by evidence (more specifically, the lack of evidence for a theistic case).
If the god being denied is the interventionist God, which most theists hold to exist, then the argument against the existence of this being is easy; the lack of any demonstrable interventions demonstrates the god’s lack of existence. In this case, absence of evidence is evidence of absence. However, if the god being denied is of a less interventionist, or deist, type god, then the above argument regarding evidence doesn’t work. Indeed, the only possible “evidence” for a deist god is the very existence of the universe, and most sane people don’t tend to deny the universe exists. On the other hand as said “evidence” is simply asserted and isn’t testable in any way, it is a lot less than wholly convincing and we return to “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”
Whether atheism also requires a person to disbelieve in all other forms of magic, or ghosts, or psychic powers is also a question. These are not “gods” in the conventional sense at all, but they are still supernatural entities or powers. More “hardline” atheists would insist that disbelief in all things supernatural is mandatory for the label of “atheist.” They would argue that this follows from the fact that atheism is a rational position, and that therefore atheists should take rational positions on other matters also. What does and what does not constitute a “god” in the case of atheism can often be very subjective; the definition could be restricted to monotheistic “creator” gods, or expanded to include all supernatural entities, or used to describe only things that are worshipped or idolised. The variables that arise when trying to perfectly codify “atheism” are numerous, and this is fitting with its position as specifically a lack of belief.
However, atheism only makes sense in the context of the ubiquity of religion and theistic belief worldwide. If religions didn’t exist, atheism wouldn’t exist and any discussion of the subject would be inherently meaningless – the world doesn’t feature books, internet debates and billboard campaigns saying that it’s fine to disbelieve in Bertrand Russell’s celestial teapot precisely because few, if any, people believe in the teapot. Therefore a working, albeit still slightly subjective, definition of what constitutes a “god” can be developed based on the beliefs of self-declared religions of the world. As a thought experiment we can conceive of a religion that achieves literal overnight success by promoting some god, Athkel, who will become a worldwide phenomenon tomorrow. An atheist would simply not believe in Athkel tomorrow, despite the fact they had no belief in him/her yesterday because it is a self defined religious deity.
There are many ways to describe different types of atheism and some of these are explained below. These shouldn’t be read as factions or sects within atheism in the same way as denominations and sects within religion, Protestant/Catholicism in Christianity, Sunni/Shiite in Islam, and their multiple sub-groups for example. One does not “join” a group of implicit atheists. Instead of being sects that dictate people’s beliefs, these should be taken as models to, at least roughly, describe people’s beliefs and their attitudes towards belief itself. There are many similarities, all of which are included in the blanket term “atheist.” However – as is typical in atheist thought – not all atheists consider these divisions particularly relevant, worthwhile, or meaningful.
The commonality among these various modes of atheism is the statement that no god or gods created natural phenomena such as the existence of life or the universe. Instead, these are usually explained through science, specifically without resort to supernatural explanations. Morality in atheism is also not based on religious precepts such as divine commandments or revelation through a holy text – many alternative philosophies exist to derive or explain morality, such as humanism.
Implicit atheism is simply the state of not believing in any gods.
Explicit atheism is a conscious rejection, either of the belief in gods or of their existence. Explicit atheists can be weak or strong atheists, but all strong atheists are explicit atheists.
Weak atheism (sometimes equated with “pragmatic atheism” or “negative atheism”) describes the state of living as if no gods exist. It does not require an absolute statement of God’s non-existence. The argument is based on the fact that as there is no evidence that gods, spatial teapots or fairies exist, we have no reason to believe in them. This argument could also be classified as extreme agnosticism, or “agnostic atheism” – as it is an acknowledgment of the lack of evidence but acting as if there were no gods.
Pragmatic atheists however are frequently reluctant to make outright statements like “Gods (or fairies) do not exist”, because of the great difficulties involved in proving the absolute non-existence of anything – the idea that nothing can be proved is held in the philosophy of pyrrhonism. Consequently many pragmatic atheists would argue that the burden of proof does not lie with them to provide evidence against the extraordinary concept that gods exist. They would argue that it is up to the supporters of various religions to provide evidence for the existence of their own deities, and that no argument is necessary on the atheist’s part.
Christopher Hitchens put it another way when he said: “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”
Strong atheism (sometimes equated with “theoretical atheism”) makes an explicit statement against the existence of gods. Strong atheists would disagree with weak atheists about the inability to disprove the existence of gods. Strong atheism specifically combats religious beliefs and other arguments for belief in some god (or gods), such as Pascal’s Wager, and argument from design. These arguments tend to be geared toward demonstrating that the concept of god is logically inconsistent or incoherent in order to actively disprove the existence of a god.Theological noncognitivism, which asserts the meaninglessness of religious language, is an argument commonly invoked by strong atheists. In contrast, weak atheist arguments tend to concentrate on the evidence (or lack thereof) for god, while strong atheist arguments tend to concentrate on making a positive case for the non-existence of god.
An apatheist has no interest in accepting or denying claims that a god or gods exist or do not exist. An apatheist considers the very question of the existence or non-existence of gods or other supernatural beings to be irrelevant and not worth consideration under any circumstances.
In short: they simply don’t care. (Well, OK, they care enough to give themselves a name – so that people explicitly know what it is they don’t care anything about. But that’s it.)
Antitheism is, perhaps surprisingly, technically separate from any and all positions on the existence or non-existence of any given deity. Antitheism simply argues that a given (or all possible) human implementations of religious beliefs, metaphysically “true” or not, lead to results that are harmful and undesirable, either to the adherent, to society, or – usually – to both. As justification the antitheists will often point to the incompatibility of religion-based morality with modern humanistic values, or to the atrocities and bloodshed wrought by religion and by religious wars. Religious moderation as compared to religious extremism is an example of theistic anti-theism, also known as dystheism. Dystheism also encompasses questioning the morals even of a deity you believe in, e.g. chosing to obey commandments on nonviolence over calls to violence from God, despite them both being clearly put forward by this alleged giver of all morals.
We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.
Not all atheists are “disaffected with religion” some were just never raised with or indoctrinated with religious beliefs in the first place. Hence a substantial number have nothing to become disaffected with. However, in areas where religious belief is essentially taken as normal, there is a high chance that a person will have been religious before “coming out” as an atheist. As the term “atheist” only really means something in the context of ubiquitous religious belief, being disaffected or unconvinced by religion is certainly a factor in most, if not all, people who declare themselves as an atheist. As has been said previously, there is debate in the atheist community and not all atheists would agree with all of these reasons or even consider them relevant to atheism.
One of the major intellectual issues regarding disenchantment with religion is the fact that most world religions insist that all other faiths are wrong. While some moderate believers may like to take a stance that “all religions are right, they’re just different interpretations”, it’s undeniable that heresy and apostasy are looked down upon very harshly in many faiths. This suggests the possibility that no religion is right, and further suggests that, because the vast majority of believers in any faith are born into it, being a member of the “correct” group or “the elect” is merely an accident of birth in most cases. There is also historical evidence that organized religion, while professing a peaceful moral code, is often the basis for exclusion and war as well as a method to motivate people in political conflicts. The enmity among different religions and even among sects within the same religion adds credibility to this idea.
Other reasons may be more directly to do with a religion or its specifics – namely (1) the evils that the concept of religion has produced over the ages, (2) the hypocrisy of professed believers and religious leaders who exhort their followers to help the poor, love their neighbors and behave morally but become wealthy through donations to the church and carry love for certain neighbors to an immoral extreme as defined by their own professed religious beliefs, and (3) the contradiction between talk of a loving god and a world in which children starve to death and innocent people are tortured and killed. Issues with religion may arise due to the nature of fundamentalists – insisting that their holy texts are literally true. This leads to attempts by such fundamentalists to undermine education by censoring scientific knowledge that seems to contradict their beliefs. Intelligent design is a prominent case of this (see Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District). Often this doesn’t sit well with moderate believers and especially those who may be on the verge of losing their faith, especially when the evidence provided by daily experience suggests that there may be no events that cannot be explained by common sense and scientific study.
Other issues that atheists have with religion involve the characteristics of supposed gods. Atheists sometimes view the idea that a supreme all-knowing deity would have the narcissistic need to be worshiped, and would punish anyone for worshiping a different god (or none at all), to be perverse.
Lastly, formerly religious atheists often report to have had their belief system unsettled by lack of evidence supporting the notion of the supernatural.
Arguments related to the burden of proof deal with whether atheists must disprove theism or theists must prove theism. Conventionally, the burden of proof lies with someone proposing a positive idea – or as Karl Popper fans would put it, those who are proposing something falsifiable. By this standard, atheists have no need to prove anything, and just need to render arguments for the existence of God as non-compelling. However, the ubiquity of religion in society and history have often shifted the burden of proof to atheists, who must subsequently prove a negative. Assuming that God exists is known as presuppositionalism and has always been a key tenet of Christian apologetics but is usually rejected by more sensible scholars. The absurdity of being asked to prove a negative is demonstrated in Bertrand Russell’s teapot thought experiment – where no matter how hard you look, you can’t thoroughly disprove the belief that a teapot is out there in space, orbiting the sun somewhere between Earth and Mars. This sort of presuppositional thinking is illogical, so asking an atheist to disprove God is an unreasonable request.
Occam’s razor can also be invoked as a guide to making the fewest assumptions, and assuming God exists a priori is a major assumption that should be avoided. Combining these thoughts to lay the burden of proof on theists indicates that without supporting evidence, the default position on God must be either weak-ish atheism or agnosticism rather than theism. Proponents of atheism argue that the burden of proof has not been met by those proposing that a god exists, let alone the specific gods described by major religions.
If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove that they should value it? If someone doesnt value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance of logic?
Logical arguments try to show that God cannot possibly exist (at least as described). Barring any escape hatch arguments like Goddidit, some properties of God are not compatible with each other or known facts about the world, and thus a creator-god cannot be a logically consistent and existent entity. These arguments are heavily dependent on the use of common descriptions of the Abrahamic God as a target: things such as omnipotence, omnipresence, and omnibenevolence. As a result, they are not as useful in trying to refute the claims of, say, Neopaganism, and are also vulnerable to the tactic of moving the goalposts by changing the descriptions of God.
The omnipotence paradox postulates that true omnipotence is not logically possible or not compatible with omniscience. This is primarily a logical argument based on the general question of whether an omnipotent being could limit its own power – if yes, it would cease to be omnipotent, if no, it wouldn’t be omnipotent. Hence the paradox that shows, through contradiction, that God cannot exist as usually described.
Other logical arguments try to prove that god is not compatible with our scientific knowledge of reality. The Problem of evil states that a good god wouldn’t permit gratuitous evil, yet such evil occurs, so a good god does not exist. The argument from design is often given as proof of a creator, but it raises the following logical question: if the world is so complex that it must have had a creator, then the creator must be at least as complex and must therefore have a creator, and this would have to have had a more complex creator ad infinitum. Also, the argument from design does not offer evidence for any specific relgion; while it could be taken as support for the existence of a god or gods, it doesn’t argue for the Christian God any more than, say, the Hindu pantheon.
While believers hasten to point out that their gods don’t need to follow logic, let alone the known laws of physics, this is really a case of special pleading and doesn’t so much prove anything itself. Atheists therefore tend to reject these counters to the logical arguments as they mostly beg the question of a creator’s existence and, very arbitrarily, plead that a creator can be exempt from the same logic that was used to “prove” its existence.
I know of no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too desirous of evidence in support of their core beliefs.
At the root of the worldview of most atheists is evidence, and atheists point out that sufficient evidence for the existence of gods is currently very lacking, and thus there is no reason to believe in them. Evidential arguments are less ambitious than logical arguments because, rather than proving that there is reason not to believe in a god, they show that there is no reason to believe in a god (See Burden of proof above). It is important to remember that what constitutes sufficient evidence can be quite subjective, although rationalism and science do offer some standardization. Various “holy books” exist that testify to the existence of gods, and claim that alleged miracles and personal experiences all constitute evidence in favor of the existence of a god character of some sort. However, atheists reject these as insufficient because the naturalistic explanations behind them (tracing authors of the holy texts, psychological experiments, and scientific experiments to explain experiences, and so on) are more plausible – indeed, the very existence of plausible naturalistic explanations renders the supernatural explanations obsolete. In addition these books make claims for a variety of faiths, so to accept the Bible’s stories as evidence, one would also have to accept as evidence the miracle stories from other religions’ holy books.
Atheists often cite evidence that processes attributed to a god might also occur naturally as evidential arguments. If evolution and the big bang are true, then why would a creator god have needed them?Occam’s razor makes theistic explanations less compelling.
Many atheists argue, in similar vein to the born-again Christian who “just knows” that God exists, that the day-to-day experience of the atheist demonstrates quite clearly that God does not. This is because they have an image in their heads of what this “God” would have to look like, viz., an entity in the vein of the God of the Old Testament who runs around zapping entire cities, turning people into pillars of salt, and generally answering people’s prayers in flashes of fire and brimstoneor, answering prayers for the victory of a given football team, but not answering those made on behalf of starving children in disadvantaged parts of the world.
Nobody knows for sure how many clergy members are secretly atheists (or are secretly on the fence, with serious doubts about their religion). But almost everyone I’ve spoken with in Clergy Project strongly suspects that the numbers are high.
Studying religion in depth during training for clerical work can lead a person to examine religious ideas critically. The study of Christian theology will include the whole of the Bible, and include historical background which can lead to rational doubt. 
In 2011, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason launched a confidential support group for clergy who no longer believe, the Clergy Project, and by December 2012 the group had almost 400 members. One of the founders of Clergy Project is Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who was an evangelical preacher for nineteen years before becoming an atheist.Gretta Vosper is openly atheist as a minister and her congregation supports her. Former Methodist pastor Teresa MacBain received online support from Clergy Project before coming out as an atheist dramatically at an atheist convention in spring 2012. She became Public Relations Director of American Atheists.  MacBain currently works helping atheist groups to build communities with what she sees as the positive aspects of religion like music, ritual and community service without God.
Freethought Blogger Greta Christina articulates a possible effect of clergy openly leaving Christianity on their parishioners’ beliefs. The more traditional position of clergy is that they are somehow endowed with answers to all questions of faith. If these trained religious authorities start saying they have no answers to normal “Crises of Faith”, even more if some of them suggest the most reasonable answer is atheism, lay Christians will find continuing with their belief more difficult.  It is worth noting, however, that modern clergy trained in most US or UK universities are discouraged from claiming to be exempt from such crises of faith, and to encourage people to share a “journey of spiritual discovery”. Perhaps atheism must simply be accepted as an outcome of that endeavor.
Because atheism is effectively a lack of inherent religious or political ideology, there is very little that unifies all atheists.
That said, atheists do tend to fit a certain profile.
Specific research on atheists conducted in 2006 suggests that the true proportion of atheists is 2% to 4% in the United States, 17% in Great Britain and 32% in France. A 2004 Telegraph poll found that 44% of Britons believed in a god, 35% did not, and 21% did not know.
According to a 2012 WIN-Gallup International poll, 13% of the world identifies as “atheist”, 23% identifies as “not religious”, and 59% identifies as “religious”; these results were 3% more “atheist”, 9% less “religious”, and 6% more “non-religious” than 2005. Of note, in the United States 13% fewer people identified as “religious”.
Many studies have shown that groups with higher intelligence or more education have significantly more atheists. A recent meta-analysis of 39 eligible studies from 1927 to 2002 was published in Mensa Magazine, and concluded that atheists are more likely to be of higher intelligence than their religious counterparts. According to an article in the prestigious science journal Nature in 1998 the belief in a personal god or afterlife was very low among the members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Only 7.0% believed in a personal god as compared to more than 85% of the general U.S. population. A 2012 WIN-Gallup International poll found that people with college education were 16% less likely to describe themselves as religious than those without complete high school education. A survey conducted by the Times of India in 2015 revealed that 22% of IIT-Bombay graduates do not believe in the existence of God, while another 30% do not know. According to a Harvard survey, there are more atheists and agnostics entering Harvard University, one of the top ranked schools in America, than Catholics and Protestants. According to the same study, atheists and agnostics also make up a much higher percentage of the students than the general public.This may suggest that the more intelligent subjects are more unlikely to believe in god or supernatural powers. An alternative interpretation is that having completed the kind of education that makes you likely to do well in IQ tests is also likely to have either divested you of religiosity or at least made you less susceptible to the kind of beliefs in a personal god which characterise Christian fundamentalism. Yet another possibility is that those with more education are simply more likely to have thought seriously about religion and scrutinized the things they were brought up to believe; the higher intelligence among atheists may simply be because those who achieve high levels of education tend to be smarter than average (meaning that it’s not so much that smart people are atheists as that atheists tend to be smart people). If so, then if atheism were to become mainstream, we could expect the average age of atheists to go down, eventually approaching the average age of religious people.
The Programme for International Student Assessment notes that the best education is present in China and Singapore, while the poorest is present in Peru, Colombia, Qatar and Indonesia. China is noted for having an atheist majority and Singapore is noted for having a religious majority of Buddhists. Peru and Colombia have an overwhelming religious Catholic Christian majority and Qatar and Indonesia have an overwhelming religious Islamic majority.
Education professor Yong Zhao asserts that the reason why countries with such differing religious attitudes succeed, while countries with other differing religious attitudes fail is simply due to the excessive workload and testing present in the Confucian cultural circle, the students within which make for outstanding test takers.
Studies have shown that groups with more income have significantly more atheists. A 2012 WIN-Gallup International poll found that people in the highest quintile of income were 17% less likely to describe themselves as religious than the bottom quintile. This is likely because those with more education tend to have higher incomes.
A recent study published in the Annals of Family Medicine suggests that, despite what some may think, religiousness does not appear to have a significant effect on how much physicians care for the underserving.
The Pew Research Center (2014) reports that in the US:
The Pew report also reported that 57% of “unaffiliated” were male and 43% were female.
Atheists are becoming more numerous but also more diverse. White middle-class men such as Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens no longer define the movement. One blogger argues that
Other atheists [Who?] strongly disagree and want to see the atheist movement focus on philosophical arguments against religion and pseudoscience.
African American atheists are a small minority (2% of the American population) facing severe prejudice.
In most African-American communities, it is more acceptable to be a criminal who goes to church on Sunday, while selling drugs to kids all week, than to be an atheist who … contributes to society and supports his family.
Despite this black atheists are getting together in online groups and giving each other confidence, also online groups progress to arranging offline meetings.  Atheists of color frequently feel they have different priorities from white atheist groups; they may be allied to faith groups that help poor blacks and fight racial discrimination. Atheists of color also form their own groups focusing more on economic and social problems their communities face and hope general atheist groups will focus more on these issues in the future. Sikivu Hutchinson is one of many atheists of color campaigning against injustice faced by poor people, black people, LGBT people, women and other oppressed groups. 
Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it, too?
There has been a long history of rational people who have not accepted superstitious or magical explanations of natural phenomena and who have felt that “gods” are not necessary for the working of the world. The Eastern philosophy of Buddhism is broadly atheistic, explicitly eschewing the notion of a creation myth. In the Western world, there have been atheists almost as long as there has been philosophy and writing. Some of the most famous thinkers of the ancient world have been critical of belief in deities or eschewed religion entirely – many favouring logic and rationality to inform their lives and their actions, rather than religious texts. Democritus, who originally conceived of the atom, hypothesized a world without magic holding it together. Critias, one of the Thirty Tyrants of Athens, preceded Marx when he called religion a tool to control the masses.
Perhaps the best example of an explicitly atheistic ancient philosophy is the Carvaka school of thought, which originated in India in the first millennium BCE. The Carvakas posited a materialistic universe, rejected the idea of an afterlife, and emphasized the need to enjoy this life.
Modern atheism in the Western world can be traced to the Age of Enlightenment. Important thinkers of that era who were atheists include Baron d’Holbach and Denis Diderot. The Scottish philosopher David Hume, though not explicitly avowing atheism, wrote critical essays on religions and religious beliefs (his most famous being a critique of belief in miracles), and posited naturalistic explanations for the origins of religion in The Natural History of Religion as well as criticizing traditional arguments for the existence of God in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.
Not until recently, however, did the term known as “atheism” begin to carry its current connotation. In an increasing number of countries around the world it is a neutral or unimportant label. The nation of New Zealand, for example, has thrice elected an agnostic woman (Helen Clark) as Prime Minister, followed by its current agnostic leader (John Key). Several Prime Ministers of the UK have been atheists, including Clement Attlee, and the current deputy PM, Nick Clegg. Also, the former Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, is openly atheist, and at least one other former Australian PM was atheist. However, in more religious areas such as the United States or Saudi Arabia the term carries a heavy stigma. Indeed, prejudice against atheists is so high in the United States that one study found that they are America’s most distrusted minority.
The reason for such attitudes towards atheists in these nations is unclear. Firstly, there is no stated creed with which to disagree (except perhaps for “strong” atheists, whose only belief is that there are no gods). Nor are atheists generally organized into lobbies or interest groups or political action committees (at least none that wield massive power), unlike the many groups that lobby on behalf of various religions. And yet an atheist would be the least likely to be elected President of the United States. According to the American Values Survey, about 67% of all voters would be uncomfortable with an atheist president, and no other group including Mormons, African Americans, and homosexuals would lose so much of the potential vote based on one single trait alone. One potential reason for this is that in the United States, Christian groups have managed to push and implant the concept that without religion there can be no morality – often playing to people’s needs for absolutes and written rules – absolute morality is presented as something inherently true and achievable only by believers.
The mistrust of atheism is often accompanied by snarl words, straw man arguments and various other myths and legends in order to denigrate the idea of disbelief in established gods. Some misconceptions about atheism should be addressed:
Atheism is a religion in the same way as ‘off’ is a television station.
One of the widest misconceptions, often used as a strong criticism, is that atheism is a religion. However, while there are secular religions, atheism is most commonly defined as “no religion.” To expand the definition of “religion” to include atheism would thus destroy any use the word “religion” would have in describing anything. It is quite often pointed out that if atheism is a religion it would be akin to stating that the act of not collecting stamps is a hobby, or that being unemployed is an occupation. Following from this, atheists do not worship Charles Darwin or any other individual. Although some think that atheism requires evolution to be a complete worldview, there is no worship of anything or anyone in atheism, and acceptance of evolution isn’t exclusive to atheists – for that matter there is no necessity for an atheist to accept the evidence for evolution (Stalin is a good example: he rejected Darwinian evolution, promoting Lysenkoism instead, and he consistently purged evolution biologists in favor of Lysenkoists). By definition, if atheists worshiped Darwin as a god, they wouldn’t be atheists. Basically, “atheism” is a word for a negative. However, this leads to a few semantic issues.
This confuses the religious because they are used to terms of religious identity being a declaration of allegiance to a view, rather than of separation from. This confusion then leads them to assert that a denial of their religion must be an avowal of another. They then do things like declare the so-called New Atheists as hypocrites for denigrating religion while sticking to an unstated one of their own, or declare that because science has an epistemology and religion has an epistemology, therefore science is just another faith (when religion’s problem is that science’s epistemology provably works much better than religion’s).
Atheism is actually a religion – indeed, much like “not collecting stamps” might be called a hobby, or “not smoking” might be called a habit.
A standard response is to note that if atheism is a religion, then “bald” is a hair color, “not kicking a kitten” is a form of animal abuse, and so on. Another is to note that if the definition of religion was expanded enough to legitimately include atheism – say, by defining a religion as “any philosophy on life” – then practically everything in the world would be a religion, such as socio-economic policies or views on equality. (British law has come close to finding this in employment discrimination cases.)
A new movement of atheist churches appears to be developing (such as Sunday Assembly), but what they do is not worship; rather, they are places where like-minded people get together on Sunday mornings to have fun, celebrate life and whatever. This is a relatively new phenomenon, and its prospects for the future are unclear.
Atheists, as a whole, are not a unified group, so accusation that “atheists” are doing x, y and z hold little water. In fact, a disaffection with organized religion, and the potential for groupthink, is what causes many believers to abandon faith and come out as atheists. It doesn’t follow that such individuals would happily join another organised group. Debate within the atheistic community is robust – debates even about whether there is even an “atheistic community” at all, for instance – and the fact that this debate exists presupposes no dogmatic mandate (or at least not a widely followed one) from an organized group. It does follow from this lack of organisation that there is no atheist equivalent of the Bible, Koran, or other holy text. There are, of course, atheist writings, but one does not need to adhere to opinions held by, say, Friedrich Nietzsche, Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens to be considered an atheist. Some atheists will actively oppose what these kinds of authors do and say. In fact, some atheists wish they could believe.
Believers sometimes denigrate atheists on the grounds that they “hate God.” This, however, makes no sense. People who make such assertive claims towards atheists are confusing atheism with misotheism.
What I’m asking you to entertain is that there is nothing we need to believe on insufficient evidence in order to have deeply ethical and spiritual lives.
Morality is one of the larger issues facing the world, and many religions and believers openly express the notion that they have the monopoly on deciding, explaining, and enforcing moral judgments. Many religious people will assume that since morals rise from (their) god, without (their) god one cannot have morals. Contrary to the claims of such people, “no gods” does not equal “no morality.” There are strong humanistic, cultural, and genetic rationales for the existence of morality and ethical behavior, and many people, not just atheists, recognize this fact.
Some atheist groups are doing charitable work traditionally done by religious organizations like funding scholarships as an alternative to faith based scholarships  and at least one atheist group volunteers to do environmental protection work.
In the US, where criticism of atheism is common, it often works well for politicians and evangelists to compare atheism to the “evils” of communism, or even to Communism itself. These “evils” are not inextricably fused with the values of atheism in reality. Although most orthodox Marxists are atheists (Marxism treats religion as a “false consciousness” that needs to be eliminated), the atrocities wrought by Stalin and others were not on account of their being atheists, but on account of their being totalitarians and authoritarians. Additionally, there have been many anti-communists who were atheists or agnostics, such as Ayn Rand and the computer pioneer John von Neumann. In North Korea, one of the only 4 countries where communism still exists (the others being China, Vietnam and Cuba), it is mandatory to believe that the Kim-dynasty consists of supreme omnipotent deities.
Atheism and agnosticism are not entirely mutually exclusive, and atheists are not “actually agnostic because no one can ever know whether God exists.” This is a highly contested point among religious believers and atheistic philosophers alike, as most, if not all, thinking atheists would happily change their minds given the right evidence, and thus could be considered “agnostic” in this sense. However, this conflates the ideas of belief and knowledge. Atheism is a statement of a lack of belief, and not a lack of knowledge – which is often accepted on all sides of the theistic debate. Atheism takes the position that it is rational to think that gods don’t exist, based on logic and lack of evidence. Agnostics, on the other hand, state that the lack of knowledge cannot inform their opinion at all. There are agnostic atheists, who can be either weak or strong. It is at least logically possible for a theist to be an agnostic (e.g., “I believe in a pantheon of lobsterish zoomorphic deities, but cannot prove this with evidence, and acknowledge and embrace that my belief is rooted in faith”)but it is markedly difficult to find anyone who will fess up to such a position.
Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious. In fact, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist.” We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.
One difficulty with the term “atheism” is that it defines what its adherents do not believe in, rather than in what they do believe in. The lack of positive statements of belief has led to the fact that there is really no overarching organisation that speaks for atheists (some would regard this as a good thing, keeping atheism from becoming an organised religion) and has led to the comparison that organising atheists is like “herding cats”, i.e., impossible. It is possible that the only thing which does really unite atheists is a lack of belief in gods; thus an overarching organisation to represent them would be physically impossible.
Primarily because of the prevalence of extreme discrimination against atheists, people have tried to come up with more positive terms or campaigns to get the godless philosophy noticed and respected. This allows atheists to feel more united and happy with their beliefs (or lack of), but has also led to organisations that will help them in situations, such as legal cases, where individuals couldn’t do it on their own. The most prominent examples:
To date, none of these alternative descriptions seems to have taken hold a great deal and the term of choice for most people remains “atheist.” “Freethinker” is probably the term with most support, as it dates back at least to the 19th Century. “Naturalism” may be the second most popular, although the name may lead people to confuse it with naturism or with some kind of eco-hippy ideal. “Bright” is the most recent term invented, and as a result is currently the most controversial and divisive. Supporters of the Brights movement see it as a positive and constructive redefinition (on par with the re-branding of homosexuality with the word “gay”, which until then primarily meant “happy” or “joyous”) while its detractors see it as nothing more than a shameless attempt to turn atheism into an organized religion, and the use of “bright” as a cynical attempt to appear more intellectual.
In some contexts words such as “rationalist” and “skeptic” may also be code words for “atheist.” Although not all atheists need to be rationalists, and not all rationalists need to be atheists, the connection is more in the method a person uses to derive their beliefs rather than what their beliefs actually are.
As in the quote above, some who have expressed criticism to religion, among them Richard Dawkins, have pointed out that the word atheism enforces theism as a social norm, as modern languages usually have no established terms for people who do not believe in other supernatural phenomena (a-fairyist for people who do not believe in fairies, a-unicornist, a-alchemist, a-astrologer, etc).
With the existence of deities being central belief of almost all religious systems, it is not surprising that atheism is seen as more threatening than competing belief systems, regardless of how different they may be. This often manifests in the statement that “freedom of religion” doesn’t include freedom from religion. It is also important for theists that the political hierarchy, the priesthood, should do their utmost to discourage dissent – as true believers make better tithe givers. Most religious codes are more than a bit irritated with those who do not believe. The Bible, for example, includes clear ad hominem attacks on non-believers, The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm14:1 and Psalm53:1), while the penalty for apostasy in Islamic law is death – and this is still endorsed today. One author has proposed a correction to Psalm 53, as follows:
In the USA the increased public visibility of atheism – what some commentators call the “New Atheism”, seen in the popularity of books like The God Delusion – has brought renewed energy to the debate between believers and non-believers. As part of that debate, some believers have put considerable effort into trying to stop what they think of as the irresponsible promotion of atheism. Their efforts range from material that has academic pretensions to arguments that are plainly abusive, focusing on “smacking” atheists with PRATT arguments regarding how great the Bible isn’t is – and, of course, a heavy bias towards their own religion being true. What these arguments tend to have in common is that they are less about providing arguments for religious belief and more about keeping atheists quiet, with questions such as “don’t you have anything better to do than talk about the God you don’t believe in?” or arguing that “faith is better than reason so shut up”. It’s not entirely unexpected that this would be the thrusts of several anti-atheist arguments – after all, according to several Christians in influential positions, mere knowledge that atheism exists can be dangerous.
Atheists may view the Bible and other religious works as literature, fiction, mythology, epic, philosophy, agit-prop, irrelevant, history, or various combinations thereof. Many atheists may find the book repulsively ignorant and primitive, while other atheists may find inspiration from certain passages even though they don’t believe in the supernatural events and miracles mentioned in the Bible. Many atheists see religious works as interesting historical records of the myths and beliefs of humanity. By definition atheists do not believe any religious text to be divinely inspired truth: in other words, “Dude, it’s just a book” (or, in fact, a somewhat random collection of different books).
There are several types of evidence to support the idea that “it’s just a book.” Textual analysis of the various books of the Bible reveals vastly differing writing styles among the authors of the individual books of the Old and New Testaments, suggesting that these works represent many different (human) voices, and not a sole, divinely inspired voice. The existence of Apocrypha, writings dating from the time of the Bible that were not included into official canon by Jews or Christians (and peppered with mystical events such as encounters with angels, demons, and dragons), further suggests that “divine authorship” is not a reliable claim. Within Christianity, there are even differences among sects regarding which books are Apocrypha and which are included in the Bible, or which are included under the heading “Apocrypha”, indicating that they constitute holy writings but are not meant to be taken as literally as the other books. The Book of Tobit, for example, is included in the Catholic Bible but considered Apocrypha by Protestants and is wholly absent from the Jewish Bible.
Another problem with the “divine authorship” of the Bible is the existence of texts that pre-date it but contain significant similarities to certain Biblical stories. The best-known among these is the flood story, found in numerous versions in texts from across the ancient Middle East, including the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, which bears textual similarities with the Biblical account. Another such story with apparent Babylonian origin is that of the Tower of Babel. It has been suggested that some of these stories were appropriated by the Jews during the Babylonian Exile.
Studies of the history of the Bible, although not undertaken with the intent of disproving it (in fact, many Biblical historians set out to prove the Bible’s veracity), shed light on the Bible’s nature as a set of historical documents, ones which were written by humans and were affected by the cultural circumstances surrounding their creation. It should be noted that this type of rational discourse neither proves nor requires an atheistic worldview: one can believe that the Bible is not the infallible word of God either because one adheres to a non-Judeo-Christian religion or because one is a Christian or Jew but not a Biblical literalist. These criticisms of Biblical “truth” serve mainly to counter the arguments of fundamentalists, who are among atheism’s most vociferous critics.
Atheists and the nonreligious face persecution and discrimination in many nations worldwide. In Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait, Pakistan and Jordan, atheists (and others) are denied free speech through blasphemy laws. In Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan being an atheist can carry the death penalty. In many nations citizens are forced to register as adherents of a limited range of religions, which denies atheists and adherents of alternative religions the right to free expression. Atheists can lose their right to citizenship and face restrictions on their right to marry.  In many parts of the world atheists face increasing prejudice and hate speech like that which ethnic and religious minorities suffer. Saudi Arabia introduced new laws banning atheist thought in any form; there a Muslim expressing religious views the government disliked was falsely called an atheist, sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. In Egypt young people talking about their right to state atheist ideas on television or on YouTube were detained.
I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.
Research in the American Sociological Review finds that atheists are the group that Americans least relate to for shared vision or want to have marry into their family. 
From the report’s conclusions
To be an atheist in such an environment is not to be one more religious minority among many in a strongly pluralist society. Rather, Americans construct the atheist as the symbolic representation of one who rejects the basis for moral solidarity and cultural membership in American society altogether.
A 2012 Gallup poll shows presidential candidates who are open atheists are the least likely demographic to be voted into office. 
In some parts of the United States people who are openly atheist may be attacked, spat on, turned out of the family home, sent to Bible camp and forced to pretend religiosity. 
In the US, atheists are the least trusted and liked people out of all social groups, possibly because of their cracker-stealing banana fetishes and their superior knowledge of actual religious content. They top the charts when people are asked “who would you least trust to be elected President” or “who would you least want to marry your beautiful, sweet, innocent Christian daughter.” It probably doesn’t help that the U.S. is one of the most religious developed countries in the world.
Many have lost jobs and been harassed out of their homes for what is essentially a lack of any belief that could act as motivation to cause harm. Chuck Norris infamously claimed that he would like to tattoo “In God We Trust” onto atheist foreheads before booting them out of Jesusland[citationneeded], possibly to work as slaves in the Mines of Mora (he claims this is a joke, but few actually laughed). More extreme fundamentalists seem to want them outright banned from existence; blogger Andrew Schlafly seriously considered banning them from his website and George H. W. Bush declared “I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God,” questioning whether anyone who disbelieves in God should even be allowed to vote (or at least be allowed to vote themselves out of persecution). A creationist group has refined this way of thinking, stating that atheists and other “evolutionists” should be disenfranchised, as anyone who believes the theory of evolution is clearly mentally incompetent.
Six US states have laws on the books that prohibit atheists from holding public office. This despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling — Torcaso v. Watkins (1961) — that prohibits discrimination against atheist officeholders. These states are:
If atheism isn’t a hanging offense in these places, they probably wish it were.[citationNOT needed] (Ok, maybe not Maryland, but you get the point.)
In some European countries being an atheist is unremarkable.
France has an entirely secular culture, with a suitably large proportion of the population declaring “no religion.” In Scandinavia, while the majority of the population are members of their respective national churches, irreligiosity is nevertheless widespread and being openly atheist is completely unremarkable. In the UK, Tony Blair’s spin-doctor Alistar Campbell was led to declare that “we don’t do god” and Tony himself said that he kept quiet about religion because people would think he was “a nutter”. The previous deputy Prime Minister was an atheist, while the Prime Minister himself has said that his Church of England faith “comes and goes”. Overall, atheists in Europe aren’t demonized as they are in America and other countries led by fundamentalists. Despite this, British Muslims who become atheists can face ostracism, threats and even physical abuse.
Read more from the original source:
Atheism – RationalWiki
Posted: at 6:19 am
Miller was subject to two possible interpretations. One, that the Second Amendment is an individual right, but that the right only extends to weapons commonly used in militias (the defendants in Miller were transporting sawed-off shotguns). The second–broader–view of Miller is that the Amendment guarantees no rights to individuals at all, and the defendants lost the case as soon as it was obvious that they were not members of a state militia.
In 2008, the U. S. Supreme Court, in District of Columbia vs. Heller, struck down a Washington, D.C. ban on individuals having handguns in their homes. Writing for a 5 to 4 majority, Justice Scalia found the right to bear arms to be an individual right consistent with the overriding purpose of the 2nd Amendment, to maintain strong state militias. Scalia wrote that it was essential that the operative clause be consistent with the prefatory clause, but that the prefatory clause did not limit the operative clause. The Court easily found the D. C. law to violate the 2nd Amendment’s command, but refused to announce a standard of review to apply in future challenges to gun regulations. The Court did say that its decision should not “cast doubt” on laws restricting gun ownership of felons or the mentally ill, and that bands on especially dangerous or unusual weapons would most likely also be upheld. In the 2008 presidential campaign, both major candidates said that they approved of the Court’s decision.
Heller left open the question of whether the right to bear arms was enforceable against state regulation as well as against federal regulation? In 1876, the Supreme Court said the right–if it existed–was enforceable only against the federal government, but there was a wholesale incorporation of Bill of Rights provisions into the 14th Amendment since then. In 2010, in the case of McDonald v Chicago, the U. S. Supreme Court held (5 to 4) that the 2nd Amendment right has been incorporated through the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause and is fully enforceable against the states. The Court, in an opinion written by Justice Alito, proceeded to strike down Chicago’s gun regulation insofar as it prohibited the private possession in the home of handguns for self-defense. Justice Thomas, concurring, would have held the right to bear arms to be a right protected by the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment, an approach to applying Bill of Rights protections against the states first rejected in the 19th-century Slaughter-House Cases and never used since.
Cases United States vs. Miller (U.S. 1939) District of Columbia vs Heller (U.S. 2008) McDonald v Chicago (U.S. 2010)
Justice Antonin Scalia, for the majority in District of Columbia v Heller (U. S. Supreme Court 2008)
The Supreme Court votes 5 to 4 to strike down a Washington, D. C. ban on the private possession of handguns. Justice Scalia authors majority opinion.
Read the rest here:
The Right to Bear Arms
Posted: July 9, 2016 at 8:18 pm
[Greek, good death.] The term normally implies an intentional termination of life by another at the explicit request of the person who wishes to die. Euthanasia is generally defined as the act of killing an incurably ill person out of concern and compassion for that person’s suffering. It is sometimes called mercy killing, but many advocates of euthanasia define mercy killing more precisely as the ending of another person’s life without his or her request. Euthanasia, on the other hand, is usually separated into two categories: passive euthanasia and active euthanasia. In many jurisdictions, active euthanasia can be considered murder or Manslaughter, whereas passive euthanasia is accepted by professional medical societies, and by the law under certain circumstances.
Hastening the death of a person by altering some form of support and letting nature take its course is known as passive euthanasia. Examples include such things as turning off respirators, halting medications, discontinuing food and water so as to allowing a person to dehydrate or starve to death, or failure to resuscitate.
Passive euthanasia also includes giving a patient large doses of morphine to control pain, in spite of the likelihood that the painkiller will suppress respiration and cause death earlier than it otherwise would have happened. Such doses of painkillers have a dual effect of relieving pain and hastening death. Administering such medication is regarded as ethical in most political jurisdictions and by most medical societies.
These procedures are performed on terminally ill, suffering persons so that natural death will occur sooner. They are also commonly performed on persons in a persistent vegetative state; for example, individuals with massive brain damage or in a coma from which they likely will not regain consciousness.
Far more controversial, active euthanasia involves causing the death of a person through a direct action, in response to a request from that person. A well-known example of active euthanasia was the death of a terminally ill Michigan patient on September 17, 1998. On that date, Dr. Jack Kevorkian videotaped himself administering a lethal medication to Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old Michigan man with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. CBS broadcast the videotape on 60 Minutes less than a week later. Authorities subsequently charged Kevorkian with first-degree premeditated murder, criminal assistance of a suicide, and delivery of a controlled substance for administering lethal medication to a terminally ill man. There was no dispute that the dose was administered at the request of Mr. Youk, nor any dispute that Mr. Youk was terminally ill. A jury found Kevorkian guilty of second-degree murder in 1999. He was sent to prison.
Somewhat of a hybrid between passive and active euthanasia is physician-assisted suicide (PAS), also known as voluntary passive euthanasia. In this situation, a physician supplies information and/or the means of committing suicide (e.g., a prescription for lethal dose of sleeping pills, or a supply of carbon monoxide gas) to a person, so that that individual can successfully terminate his or her own life.
Physician-assisted suicide received greater public attention after Dr. Kevorkian, a retired pathologist from Michigan, participated in his first such procedure in 1990. Kevorkian set up a machine that allowed a 54-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (a degenerative neurological condition) to press a button that delivered a lethal poison into her veins. Kevorkian went on to assist in the suicides of dozens of individuals suffering from terminal, debilitating, or chronic illnesses. In 1992, Michigan passed an assisted-suicide bill (Mich. Comp. Laws 752.1021) that was specifically designed to stop Kevorkian’s activities, but technicalities and questions as to its constitutionality delayed its implementation, thus allowing Kevorkian to continue assisting suicidesoften in direct opposition to court injunctions.
Kevorkian was charged with murder several times but was not initially found guilty. When murder charges were brought against him for his first three assisted suicides, for example, they were dismissed because Michigan, at that time, had no law against assisted suicide. In 1994, Kevorkian was tried and found not guilty of assisting in the August 1993 suicide of Thomas W. Hyde Jr. In December 1994, however, Michigan’s supreme court ruled in People v. Kevorkian, 447 Mich. 436, 527 N.W. 2d 714, that there is no constitutional right to commit suicide, with or without assistance, and upheld the Michigan statute that made assisted suicide a crime. The following year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Kevorkian’s appeal from the state supreme court’s ruling.
Observers disagree about the humanity of Kevorkian’s activities. Some see him as a hero who sought to give suffering people greater choice and dignity in dying. Others point to his lack of procedural precautions and fear that the widespread practice of assisted suicide will lead to the unnecessary death of people who could have been helped by other means, including treatment for depression. Many opponents of assisted suicide find the same faults in the practice that they see in other forms of euthanasia. They envision its leading to a devaluation of human life and even to a genocidal killing of vulnerable or so-called undesirable individuals.
The U.S. Supreme Court has made two important rulings on assisted suicide. In washington v. glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 117 S.Ct. 2258, 138 L.Ed.2d 772, 65 (1997), three terminally ill patients, four physicians, and a non-profit organization had brought action against the state of Washington for Declaratory Judgment, that a statute banning assisted suicide violated due process clause. On June 26, 1997, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the right of states to prohibit assisted suicide, holding that: (1) asserted right to assistance in committing suicide was not a fundamental liberty interest protected by due process clause, and (2) Washington’s ban on assisted suicide was rationally related to legitimate government interests. In Vacco v. Quill, 521 U.S. 793, 117 S.Ct. 2293, 138 L.Ed.2d 834 (1997), physicians challenged the constitutionality of New York statutes making it a crime to aid a person in committing suicide or attempting to commit suicide. The Supreme Court held that New York’s prohibition on assisting suicide did not violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The term involuntary euthanasia is used to describe the killing of a person who has not explicitly requested aid in dying. This term is most often used with respect to patients who are in a persistent vegetative state and who probably will never recover consciousness.
Euthanasia is a divisive topic, and different interpretations of its meaning, practice, and morality abound. Those who favor active euthanasia and a patient’s right to die, do not acknowledge a distinction between active and passive euthanasia. They assert that the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment cannot be distinguished in principle from affirmative steps to hasten a patient’s death. In both situations, they argue, a person intends to cause the patient’s death, acts out of compassionate motives, and causes the same outcome. In their view, turning off a life-sustaining respirator switch and giving a lethal injection are morally equivalent actions.
Opponents of active euthanasia argue that it undermines the value of, and respect for, all human life; erodes trust in physicians; desensitizes society to killing; and contradicts many
people’s religious beliefs. Moreover, they maintain that the intentions and natures of active and passive euthanasia are not essentially the same. In active euthanasia, a person directly intends to cause death and uses available means to achieve this end. In passive euthanasia, a person decides against using a certain form of treatment and then directs that such treatment be withdrawn or withheld, accepting but not intending the patient’s death, which is caused by the underlying illness.
While people cite differing reasons for choosing to end their own lives, those suffering from a terminal illness typically state that a serious disorder or disease has adversely affected their quality of life to the point where they no longer wish to continue living. Under such circumstances, patients may have been diagnosed with a degenerative, progressive illness such as ALS, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, or Alzheimer’s disease. Patients with such illnesses often fear, with good reason, a gradual loss of the quality of life in the future as the disease or disorder progresses, or they might already have lost a good deal of their independence and thus might require continuous care. Some feel that this loss of autonomy causes an unacceptable loss of personal dignity. Others realize that they will be dying in the near future and simply want to have total control over the process. Some point out that in addition to physical considerations, they do not want to diminish their assets by incurring large medical costs as their death approaches. They feel that they ought to have the option to die sooner and to pass on their assets to their beneficiaries.
Imagine that you are suffering from a disease that is terminal, debilitating, and very painful. Should you have the right to die when you wish rather than live in continued agony? Should your doctor be legally free to help you take your own life, perhaps by prescribing some pills and telling you their fatal dosage? Or should the law forbid anyoneincluding doctorsto assist in the suicide of another human being? These are just some of the questions that surround the issue of physician-assisted suicide, a widely debated ethical issue in modern medicine.
Physician-assisted suicide is a form of voluntary euthanasia. In other words, it involves a patient voluntarily acting to end his or her life. Physician-assisted suicide differs from conventional suicide in that it is facilitated by a physician who confirms the patient’s diagnosis, rules out conditions such as depression that may be clouding the patient’s judgment, and finally provides the means for committing suicide. Such action usually consists of taking a lethal overdose of prescription medication. However, the over 130 patients who were assisted by Dr. Jack Kevorkian between 1990 and 1998 chose to press a button which delivered a lethal poison into their veins, or to put on a mask that emitted carbon monoxide into their lungs. Assisted suicide is a felony offense in most states and is also expressly forbidden in the American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) Code of Medical Ethics. In 1999, Kevorkian was found guilty of second-degree murder in an assisted suicide case. He was sentenced to serve 10 to 25 years.
The debate surrounding physician-assisted suicide in the United States has been influenced by medical practices in other countries, particularly the Netherlands, which legalized both active euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, in April 2001 (effective 2002). Physician-assisted suicide in the Netherlands is conducted within strict guidelines that include the following requirements: the patient’s request for assisted suicide must be voluntary, the patient must be experiencing intolerable suffering, all other alternatives for treatment must have been explored, and the physician must consult another independent physician before proceeding. A study commissioned by the Dutch government indicated that, in 2001, about 3,500 deaths, or 2.5 percent of the 140,000 death cases that were reported in the Netherlands that year, occurred by active euthanasia. The study, known as the Remmelink Report, defined euthanasia as the termination of life at the patient’s request. Figures also indicated that 300 deaths, or 0.2 percent, were caused by physician-assisted suicide.
In the United States, the debate on legalizing assisted suicide began in earnest in the 1970s. On one side of the debate have been Patients’ Rights groups who have lobbied for what they call the right to dieor the right to choose to die, as some have clarified it of terminally ill patients. The strongest opposition to the legalization of physician-assisted suicide has come from physicians’ groups such as the AMA and from religious groups that are morally opposed to the practice.
One person who has done much to make the case for physician-assisted suicide is Derek Humphry, a former journalist who founded the Hemlock Society, in 1980, after seeing the pain and suffering his first wife experienced when she died from cancer. In 2003, the organization changed its name to End-of-Life Choices, which encompasses more clearly the issues supported by its members. With a new name and a new motto, “Dignity Compassion Control,” the organization continues to advocate for the right of terminally ill people to choose voluntary euthanasia, or what Humphry has termed self-deliverance.
Humphry has written several books on the subject of voluntary euthanasia, including Jean’s Way (1978), which recounts his struggle to assist his wife’s death in 1975; Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying (1991), a controversial book that gives detailed advice on how terminally ill people may take their own life; and Lawful Exit: The Limits of Freedom for Help in Dying (1993), which contains Humphry’s own recommendations for legislation that would legalize physician-assisted suicide and active voluntary euthanasia. In Humphry’s words, the “right to choose to die” is “the ultimate civil liberty.”
Humphry presents physician-assisted suicide as a merciful, dignified option for people whose illness has eroded their quality of life beyond the limits of tolerance. He also points out that what he calls beneficent euthanasia occurs every day in medical facilities as physicians make decisions regarding the end of life. Others, including some medical ethicists, go so far as to claim that a decision to withhold antibiotics, oxygen, or nutrition from a terminally ill patient is no less “active” a form of euthanasia than is administering a fatal dose of morphine. Indeed, they see the common practice of withholding life support as more open to potential abuse than the practice of physician-assisted suicide. The former, they argue, is a less visible, less easily regulated decision. Proponents of physician-assisted suicide also claim that diseases kill people in far more cruel ways than would any means of death that a physician might provide for an irreversibly ill patient. As a result, they see the action of assisting in suicide as entirely compatible with the physician’s duty to the patient.
However, Humphry has been an open critic of Kevorkian’s work. He has described Kevorkian’s theory and practice of assisted suicide as open-ended euthanasia. Noting Kevorkian’s lack of precautionary measures such as the use of waiting periods and second opinions, Humphry sees any wider application of Kevorkian’s methods as potentially leading to abuse and tragedy. “The thinking people in our movement are appalled by it,” Humphry said. “If you have Kevorkian’s type of euthanasia, it will be a slippery slope. Kevorkian’s is a recipe f
or skiing down a glacier.”
Detractors of physician-assisted suicide also use the familiar “slippery slope” argument, proposing that once physician-assisted suicide is legalized, other forms of euthanasia will more likely be practiced as well. They see assisted suicide as potentially leading to situations in which elderly, chronically ill, and handicapped people, along with others, are killed through active, nonvoluntary euthanasia. Related to this idea is the view that widespread practice of physician-assisted suicide might claim the lives of those whose intolerable suffering is caused by treatable depression. They point out that terminally ill people or others in pain are often also suffering from depression, and that despite their illness, their feelings of hopelessness can often be addressed through means such as counseling and antidepressant medication.
The Catholic Church is one of many religious organizations that opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide. In Pope John Paul II’s words, medical killings such as those caused by assisted suicide are “crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize.” Basing its arguments on passages from the Bible, Catholic theology has for many centuries opposed all forms of suicide. Catholicism argues that innocent human life may not be destroyed for any reason whatsoever.
The debate over physician-assisted suicide eventually reached the Supreme Court. In 1994, an advocacy group known as Compassion in Dying filed two lawsuits (Compassion in Dying et al v. Washington and Quill et al v. Vacco) challenging the constitutionality of state laws banning assisted dying in Washington and New York. Compassion in Dying won in the District Court in Washington. Chief Judge Barbara Rothstein wrote, “There is no more profoundly personal decision, nor one which is closer to the heart of personal liberty, than the choice which a terminally ill person makes to end his or her suffering and hasten an inevitable death.” In New York, Compassion in Dying lost and filed an appeal in the Second Circuit.
In 1995, Washington’s Compassion ruling was overturned by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, reinstating the anti-suicide law. In 1996, however, after reconsideration, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a reversal decision in Compassion v. Washington. That decision held that assisted dying was protected by liberty and privacy provisions of the U.S. Constitution. The majority wrote that, “Those who believe strongly that death must come without physician assistance are free to follow that creed, be they doctors or patients. They are not free, however, to force their views, their religious convictions, or their philosophies on all the other members of a democratic society, and to compel those whose values differ with theirs to die painful, protracted, and agonizing deaths.”
In April 1996, the Second Circuit joined the Ninth in recognizing constitutional protection for assisted dying in the Quill case, holding that the New York statutes criminalizing assisted suicide violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. However, on June 26, 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed both the Ninth and Second Circuit Court in washington v. glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 117 S.Ct. 2258, 138 L.Ed.2d 772 (1997) and Vacco v. Quill, 521 U.S. 743, 117 S.Ct. 2293, 138 L.Ed.2d 834 (1997). The Court ruled that state laws against assisting a suicide are not unconstitutional, but also stated that patients have a right to aggressive treatment of pain and other symptoms, even if the treatment hastens death. The Court wrote, “Throughout the Nation, Americans are engaged in an earnest and profound debate about the morality, legality and practicality of physician assisted suicide. Our holding permits this debate to continue, as it should in a democratic society.”
Ultimately then, the voters and representatives of the states and the legal system itself will have to decide whether or not physician-assisted suicide will be legalized. Regardless of what side prevails in the debate, the exchange of ideas that it creates may lead to a greater understanding of the difficult choices surrounding death in our time.
Cohen-Almagor, Raphael. 2001. The Right to Die With Dignity: An Argument in Ethics, Medicine, and Law. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers Univ. Press.
End of Life Choices. Available online at
Hendin, Herbert. 2002. “The Dutch Experience.” Issues in Law & Medicine (spring).
Death and Dying; Physicians and Surgeons.
Some patients who decide that they wish to commit suicide are unable or unwilling to accomplish the act without assistance from their physician. Physician-assisted suicide helps them to die under conditions, and at the time, that they wish. PAS is currently legal in the U.S., only in the state of Oregon, under severe restrictions. In other states, a terminally ill patient who wishes to die must continue living until their body eventually collapses, or until a family member or friend commits a criminal act by helping them to commit suicide.
Traditional Christian beliefs concerning all forms of suicide were well documented by Thomas Aquinas during the thirteenth century. He condemned all suicide (whether assisted or not) on the theory that it violated one’s natural desire to live. Among European writers, Michel de Montaigne was the first major dissenter on this issue. During the sixteenth century, he wrote a series of essays arguing that suicide should be a matter of personal choice, a human right. He concluded it to be a rational option under certain circumstances.
Attempting to commit suicide was once a criminal act. It has been decriminalized for many decades in most jurisdictions. However, assisted suicide remains a criminal act throughout the United States, with the exception of the state of Oregon. In that state, it is permitted under tightly controlled conditions.
In 1994, voters in the state of Oregon approved a ballot measure that would have legalized euthanasia under limited conditions. Under the Death With Dignity law, a person who sought physician-assisted suicide would have to meet certain criteria:
Under the proposed law, a person who met all requirements could receive a prescription of a barbiturate that would be sufficient to cause death. Physicians would be prohibited from inducing death by injection or carbon monoxide.
The National Right to Life Committee, supported by the Roman Catholic Church, obtained a court Injunction to delay implementation of the measure. The law stalled in the appeals process. In the meantime, the measure was not enacted. In 1997, there was a second public Referendum, and the law was enacted. Within 24 hours of the announcement of the results, state officials had forms for physicians to record instances of assisted suicide. These were later distributed to physicians in the state. The form is entitled “Request for Medication to End My Life in a Humane and Dignified Manner.”
Immediately after the law was affirmed, Thomas Constantine, the administrator of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), wrote a policy statement which said that prescribing drugs to help terminally ill patients kill themselves would be a violation of the Controlled Substances Act. Nevertheless, on March 26, 1998, a woman in her mid-eighties died from a lethal dose of barbiturates, which had been prescribed by her doctor under the Oregon law. She was the first person to publicly use the law to commit suicide. She had been fighting breast cancer for 20 years and recently had been told by her doctor tha
t she had less than two months to live. She had been experiencing increased difficulty breathing. She made a tape recording in which she stated, “I’m looking forward to it. I will be relieved of all the stress I have.” Her personal doctor would not help her end her life, so she turned to an advocacy group, Compassion in Dying. That group located a doctor to assist her. She fell into a deep sleep about five minutes after taking the lethal dose of pills, and she died peacefully about 25 minutes later. Attorney General Janet Reno officially reversed Constantine’s ruling a few weeks later, stating that doctors who use the law to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients will not be prosecuted and that drug laws were intended to block illegal trafficking in drugs, not to cover situations like the Oregon suicide law.
Despite significant controversy, by the end of 1998, one prediction of the anti-choice forces had not materialized: there was no rush of people to Oregon to seek an easy end to life. While it was predicted that many would take advantage of the law, of the 23 terminally ill individuals who applied to end their own lives in 1998, 15 committed suicide, usually within a day of receiving the prescription. Six died from their illnesses without using the medication. Two remained alive at the end of 1998. From 1998 to 2002, 129 people have opted for physician assisted suicide.
In early 2001, Oregon state senator Ron Wyden wrote Attorney General john ashcroft asking that the george w. bush administration not mount an attack on the state law permitting assistance in suicide. Ashcroft wrote a letter to Asa Hutchinson, chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration. He declared that assisting a terminally ill patient to commit suicide is not a “legitimate medical purpose” for federally controlled drugs. He said that physicians who use drugs to help patients die face suspension or revocation of their licenses to prescribe federally controlled drugs. This was contrary to the position taken by Janet Reno, his predecessor. The attorney general of Oregon, Hardy Myers, quickly initiated a lawsuit to have the Ashcroft’s directive declared unconstitutional. The federal district court in Oregon issued a temporary injunction, which prevents the federal government from enforcing Ashcroft’s interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The state of Oregon requested that the court block the federal department of justice from taking legal action against Oregon doctors who prescribe medication to help their patients commit suicide. A federal judge ruled in favor of the state law in 2002, and the Department of Justice appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Both sides have stated that they will appeal the decision if they lose.
According to the online website, Euthanasia.com, 35 states have legislated against assisted suicide, while nine other states have cited it as a crime under Common Law. Still more states have introduced or passed statutes criminalizing assisted suicide. These statutes forbid a person to knowingly assist or aid another in committing suicide. Some also prohibit soliciting, advising, or encouraging another to commit suicide. Some statutes penalize assisted suicide under guidelines established for murder or manslaughter, whereas others make it a unique offense with separate penalties. Few courts have interpreted the assisted-suicide statutes, because prosecutions for assisted suicide are rare. In cases of assisted suicide, a state usually prosecutes individuals for murder or manslaughter. The Ohio state supreme court, however, ruled in 1996 that assisted suicide is not a crime.
Behuniak, Susan M. 2003. Physician-Assisted Suicide: The Anatomy of a Constitutional Law Issue. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield.
Dyck, Arthur J. 2001. When Killing Is Wrong: Physician-Assisted Suicide and the Courts. Cleveland, Ohio: Pilgrim Press.
Euthanasia.com. Available online at
Palmer, Larry I. 2000. Endings and Beginnings: Law, Medicine, and Society in Assisted Life and Death. Westport, Conn.: Praeger.
Death and Dying.
Continue reading here:
Posted: June 29, 2016 at 6:28 pm
Eugenics is a social philosophy which advocates the improvement of human hereditary traits through various forms of intervention. The purported goals have variously been to create healthier, more intelligent people, save society’s resources, and lessen human suffering.
Earlier proposed means of achieving these goals focused on selective breeding, while modern ones focus on prenatal testing and screening, genetic counseling, birth control, in vitro fertilization, and genetic engineering. Opponents argue that eugenics is immoral and is based on, or is itself, pseudoscience. Historically, eugenics has been used as a justification for coercive state-sponsored discrimination and human rights violations, such as forced sterilization of persons with genetic defects, the killing of the institutionalized and, in some cases, genocide of races perceived as inferior. Today, however, the ideas developed from eugenics are used to identify genetic disorders that are either fatal or result in severe disabilities. While there is still controversy, some of this research and understanding may prove beneficial.
The word eugenics etymologically derives from the Greek words eu (good) and gen (birth), and was coined by Francis Galton in 1883.
The term eugenics is often used to refer to movements and social policies that were influential during the early twentieth century. In a historical and broader sense, eugenics can also be a study of “improving human genetic qualities.” It is sometimes broadly applied to describe any human action whose goal is to improve the gene pool. Some forms of infanticide in ancient societies, present-day reprogenetics, preemptive abortions, and designer babies have been (sometimes controversially) referred to as eugenic.
Eugenicists advocate specific policies that (if successful) would lead to a perceived improvement of the human gene pool. Since defining what improvements are desired or beneficial is, by many, perceived as a cultural choice rather than a matter that can be determined objectively (by empirical, scientific inquiry), eugenics has often been deemed a pseudoscience. The most disputed aspect of eugenics has been the definition of “improvement” of the human gene pool, such as what comprises a beneficial characteristic and what makes a defect. This aspect of eugenics has historically been tainted with scientific racism.
Early eugenicists were mostly concerned with perceived intelligence factors that often correlated strongly with social class. Many eugenicists took inspiration from the selective breeding of animals (where purebreds are valued) as their analogy for improving human society. The mixing of races (or miscegenation) was usually considered as something to be avoided in the name of racial purity. At the time this concept appeared to have some scientific support, and it remained a contentious issue until the advanced development of genetics led to a scientific consensus that the division of the human species into unequal races is unjustifiable. Some see this as an ideological consensus, since equality, just like inequality, is a cultural choice rather than a matter that can be determined objectively.
Eugenics has also been concerned with the elimination of hereditary diseases such as haemophilia and Huntington’s disease. However, there are several problems with labeling certain factors as “genetic defects.” In many cases there is no scientific consensus on what a “genetic defect” is. It is often argued that this is more a matter of social or individual choice. What appears to be a “genetic defect” in one context or environment may not be so in another. This can be the case for genes with a heterozygote advantage, such as sickle cell anemia or Tay-Sachs disease, which in their heterozygote form may offer an advantage against, respectively, malaria and tuberculosis. Many people can succeed in life with disabilities. Many of the conditions early eugenicists identified as inheritable (pellagra is one such example) are currently considered to be at least partially, if not wholly, attributed to environmental conditions. Similar concerns have been raised when a prenatal diagnosis of a congenital disorder leads to abortion.
Eugenic policies have been conceptually divided into two categories: Positive eugenics, which encourage a designated “most fit” to reproduce more often; and negative eugenics, which discourage or prevent a designated “less fit” from reproducing. Negative eugenics need not be coercive. A state might offer financial rewards to certain people who submit to sterilization, although some critics might reply that this incentive along with social pressure could be perceived as coercion. Positive eugenics can also be coercive. Abortion by “fit” women was illegal in Nazi Germany.
During the twentieth century, many countries enacted various eugenics policies and programs, including:
Most of these policies were later regarded as coercive, restrictive, or genocidal, and now few jurisdictions implement policies that are explicitly labeled as eugenic or unequivocally eugenic in substance (however labeled). However, some private organizations assist people in genetic counseling, and reprogenetics may be considered as a form of non-state-enforced “liberal” eugenics.
Selective breeding was suggested at least as far back as Plato, who believed human reproduction should be controlled by government. He recorded these ideals in The Republic: “The best men must have intercourse with the best women as frequently as possible, and the opposite is true of the very inferior.” Plato proposed that the process be concealed from the public via a form of lottery. Other ancient examples include the polis of Sparta’s purported practice of infanticide. However, they would leave all babies outside for a length of time, and the survivors were considered stronger, while many “weaker” babies perished.
During the 1860s and 1870s, Sir Francis Galton systematized his ideas and practices according to new knowledge about the evolution of humans and animals provided by the theory of his cousin Charles Darwin. After reading Darwin’s Origin of Species, Galton noticed an interpretation of Darwin’s work whereby the mechanisms of natural selection were potentially thwarted by human civilization. He reasoned that, since many human societies sought to protect the underprivileged and weak, those societies were at odds with the natural selection responsible for extinction of the weakest. Only by changing these social policies, Galton thought, could society be saved from a “reversion towards mediocrity,” a phrase that he first coined in statistics and which later changed to the now common “regression towards the mean.”
According to Galton, society already encouraged dysgenic conditions, claiming that the less intelligent were out-reproducing the more intelligent. Galton did not propose any selection methods; rather, he hoped that a solution would be found if social mores changed in a way that encouraged people to see the importance of breeding.
Galton first used the word eugenic in his 1883 Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development, a book in which he meant “to touch on various topics more or less connected with that of the cultivation of race, or, as we might call it, with ‘eugenic’ questions.” He included a footnote to the word “eugenic” which read:
That is, with questions bearing on what is termed in Greek, eugenes namely, good in stock, hereditarily endowed with noble qualities. This, and the allied words, eugeneia, etc., are equally applicable to men, brutes, and plants. We greatly want a brief word to express the science of improving stock, which is by no means confined to questions of judicious mating, but which, especially in the case of man, takes cognisance of all influences that tend in however remote a degree to give to the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable than they otherwise would have had. The word eugenics would sufficiently express the idea; it is at least a neater word and a more generalized one than viriculture which I once ventured to use.
Eugenics differed from what would later be known as Social Darwinism. This school of thought was developed independently of Darwin by such writers as Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner. Social Darwinism includes a range of political ideologies which are held to be compatible with the concept that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution of biological traits in a population by natural selection can also be applied to competition between human societies or groups within a society. It is based on ideas of the “survival of the fittest” (a term coined by Herbert Spencer) to human society, saying that those humans with superior genes would be better placed to succeed in society, as evidenced by wealth and status. Social Darwinism, like eugenics, fell out of favor as it become increasingly associated with racism. While both claimed intelligence was hereditary, eugenics asserted that new policies were needed to actively change the status quo towards a more “eugenic” state, while the Social Darwinists argued society itself would naturally “check” the problem of “dysgenics” if no welfare policies were in place (for example, the poor might reproduce more but would have higher mortality rates).
The United States was home to a large eugenics movement in the 1890s. Beginning with Connecticut, in 1896, many states enacted marriage laws with eugenic criteria, prohibiting anyone who was “epileptic, imbecile, or feeble-minded” from marrying. In 1898, Charles B. Davenport, a prominent American biologist, began as director of a biological research station based in Cold Spring Harbor, where he experimented with evolution in plants and animals. In 1904, Davenport received funds from the Carnegie Institution to found the Station for Experimental Evolution. The Eugenics Record Office opened in 1910, while Davenport and Harry H. Laughlin began to promote eugenics.
Though eugenics is today often associated with racism, it was not always so; both W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey supported eugenics or ideas resembling eugenics as a way to reduce African American suffering and improve their stature. Many legal methods of eugenics include state laws against miscegenation or prohibitions of interracial marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned those state laws in 1967, and declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.
During the twentieth century, researchers became interested in the idea that mental illness could run in families and conducted a number of studies to document the heritability of such illnesses as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and clinical depression. Their findings were used by the eugenics movement as proof for its cause. State laws were written in the late 1800s and early 1900s to prohibit marriage and force sterilization of the mentally ill in order to prevent the “passing on” of mental illness to the next generation. These laws were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1927, and were not abolished until the mid-twentieth century. By 1945, over 45,000 mentally ill individuals in the United States had been forcibly sterilized.
With the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, eugenicists for the first time played a central role in the Congressional debate as expert advisers on the threat of “inferior stock” from eastern and southern Europe. This reduced the number of immigrants from abroad to 15 percent of previous years, to control the number of “unfit” individuals entering the country. The new act strengthened existing laws prohibiting race mixing in an attempt to maintain the gene pool. Eugenic considerations also lay behind the adoption of incest laws in much of the U.S. and were used to justify many antimiscegenation laws.
Some states sterilized “imbeciles” for much of the twentieth century. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1927 Buck v. Bell case that the state of Virginia could sterilize those it thought unfit. The most significant era of eugenic sterilization was between 1907 and 1963, when over 64,000 individuals were forcibly sterilized under eugenic legislation in the United States. A favorable report on the results of sterilization in California, by far the state with the most sterilizations, was published in book form by the biologist Paul Popenoe and was widely cited by the Nazi government as evidence that wide-reaching sterilization programs were feasible and humane. When Nazi administrators went on trial for war crimes in Nuremberg after World War II, they justified the mass sterilizations (over 450,000 in less than a decade) by citing the United States as their inspiration.
Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler was infamous for eugenics programs which attempted to maintain a “pure” German race through a series of programs that ran under the banner of “racial hygiene.” Among other activities, the Nazis performed extensive experimentation on live human beings to test their genetic theories, ranging from simple measurement of physical characteristics to the horrific experiments carried out by Josef Mengele for Otmar von Verschuer on twins in the concentration camps. During the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazi regime forcibly sterilized hundreds of thousands of people whom they viewed as mentally and physically “unfit,” an estimated 400,000 between 1934 and 1937. The scale of the Nazi program prompted American eugenics advocates to seek an expansion of their program, with one complaining that “the Germans are beating us at our own game.” The Nazis went further, however, killing tens of thousands of the institutionalized disabled through compulsory “euthanasia” programs.
They also implemented a number of “positive” eugenics policies, giving awards to “Aryan” women who had large numbers of children and encouraged a service in which “racially pure” single women were impregnated by SS officers (Lebensborn). Many of their concerns for eugenics and racial hygiene were also explicitly present in their systematic killing of millions of “undesirable” people including Jews, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals during the Holocaust (much of the killing equipment and methods employed in the death camps were first developed in the euthanasia program). The scope and coercion involved in the German eugenics programs along with a strong use of the rhetoric of eugenics and so-called “racial science” throughout the regime created an indelible cultural association between eugenics and the Third Reich in the postwar years.
After the experience of Nazi Germany, many ideas about “racial hygiene” and “unfit” members of society were publicly renounced by politicians and members of the scientific community. The Nuremberg Trials against former Nazi leaders revealed to the world many of the regime’s genocidal practices and resulted in formalized policies of medical ethics and the 1950 UNESCO statement on race. Many scientific societies released their own similar “race statements” over the years, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, developed in response to abuses during the Second World War, was adopted by the United Nations in 1948, and affirmed, “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family.” In continuation, the 1978 UNESCO declaration on race and racial prejudice states that the fundamental equality of all human beings is the ideal toward which ethics and science should converge.
In reaction to Nazi abuses, eugenics became almost universally reviled in many of the nations where it had once been popular (however, some eugenics programs, including sterilization, continued quietly for decades). Many pre-war eugenicists engaged in what they later labeled “crypto-eugenics,” purposefully taking their eugenic beliefs “underground” and becoming respected anthropologists, biologists, and geneticists in the postwar world (including Robert Yerkes in the U.S. and Otmar von Verschuer in Germany). Californian eugenicist Paul Popenoe founded marriage counseling during the 1950s, a career change which grew from his eugenic interests in promoting “healthy marriages” between “fit” couples.
High school and college textbooks from the 1920s through the 1940s often had chapters touting the scientific progress to be had from applying eugenic principles to the population. Many early scientific journals devoted to heredity in general were run by eugenicists and featured eugenics articles alongside studies of heredity in nonhuman organisms. After eugenics fell out of scientific favor, most references to eugenics were removed from textbooks and subsequent editions of relevant journals. Even the names of some journals changed to reflect new attitudes. For example, Eugenics Quarterly became Social Biology in 1969 (the journal still exists today, though it looks little like its predecessor). Notable members of the American Eugenics Society (192294) during the second half of the twentieth century included Joseph Fletcher, originator of Situational ethics; Dr. Clarence Gamble of the Procter & Gamble fortune; and Garrett Hardin, a population control advocate and author of The Tragedy of the Commons.
Despite the changed postwar attitude towards eugenics in the U.S. and some European countries, a few nations, notably, Canada and Sweden, maintained large-scale eugenics programs, including forced sterilization of mentally handicapped individuals, as well as other practices, until the 1970s. In the United States, sterilizations capped off in the 1960s, though the eugenics movement had largely lost most popular and political support by the end of the 1930s.
Despite the ill repute of eugenics, there still exists a debate regarding its use or abuse.
While the science of genetics has increasingly provided means by which certain characteristics and conditions can be identified and understood, given the complexity of human genetics, culture, and psychology, there is at this point no agreed objective means of determining which traits might be ultimately desirable or undesirable. Eugenic manipulations that reduce the propensity for criminality and violence, for example, might result in the population being enslaved by an outside aggressor it can no longer defend itself against. On the other hand, genetic diseases like hemochromatosis can increase susceptibility to illness, cause physical deformities, and other dysfunctions. Eugenic measures against many of these diseases are already being undertaken in societies around the world, while measures against traits that affect more subtle, poorly understood traits, such as criminality, are relegated to the realm of speculation and science fiction. The effects of diseases are essentially wholly negative, and societies everywhere seek to reduce their impact by various means, some of which are eugenic in all but name.
In modern bioethics literature, the history of eugenics presents many moral and ethical questions. Commentators have suggested the new “eugenics” will come from reproductive technologies that will allow parents to create so-called “designer babies” (what the biologist Lee M. Silver prominently called “reprogenetics”). It has been argued that this “non-coercive” form of biological “improvement” will be predominantly motivated by individual competitiveness and the desire to create “the best opportunities” for children, rather than an urge to improve the species as a whole, which characterized the early twentieth century forms of eugenics. Because of this non-coercive nature, lack of involvement by the state, and a difference in goals, some commentators have questioned whether such activities are eugenics or something else altogether.
Some disability activists argue that, although their impairments may cause them pain or discomfort, what really disables them as members of society is a sociocultural system that does not recognize their right to genuinely equal treatment. They express skepticism that any form of eugenics could be to the benefit of the disabled considering their treatment by historical eugenic campaigns.
James D. Watson, the first director of the Human Genome Project, initiated the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications Program (ELSI) which has funded a number of studies into the implications of human genetic engineering (along with a prominent website on the history of eugenics), because:
In putting ethics so soon into the genome agenda, I was responding to my own personal fear that all too soon critics of the Genome Project would point out that I was a representative of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory that once housed the controversial Eugenics Record Office. My not forming a genome ethics program quickly might be falsely used as evidence that I was a closet eugenicist, having as my real long-term purpose the unambiguous identification of genes that lead to social and occupational stratification as well as genes justifying racial discrimination.
Distinguished geneticists including Nobel Prize-winners John Sulston (“I don’t think one ought to bring a clearly disabled child into the world”) and Watson (“Once you have a way in which you can improve our children, no one can stop it”) support genetic screening. Which ideas should be described as “eugenic” are still controversial in both public and scholarly spheres. Some observers such as Philip Kitcher have described the use of genetic screening by parents as making possible a form of “voluntary” eugenics.
Some modern subcultures advocate different forms of eugenics assisted by human cloning and human genetic engineering, sometimes even as part of a new cult (see Ralism, Cosmotheism, or Prometheism). These groups also talk of “neo-eugenics.” “conscious evolution,” or “genetic freedom.”
Behavioral traits often identified as potential targets for modification through human genetic engineering include intelligence, clinical depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism, sexual behavior (and orientation), and criminality.
In a 2005 United Kingdom court case, the Crown v. James Edward Whittaker-Williams, arguably set a precedent of banning sexual contact between people with “learning difficulties.” The accused, a man suffering learning disabilities, was jailed for kissing and hugging a woman with learning disabilities. This was done under the 2003 Sexual Offences Act, which redefines kissing and cuddling as sexual and states that those with learning difficulties are unable to give consent regardless of whether or not the act involved coercion. Opponents of the act have attacked it as bringing in eugenics through the backdoor under the guise of a requirement of “consent.”
A common criticism of eugenics is that it inevitably leads to measures that are unethical. In the hypothetical scenario where it’s scientifically proven that one racial minority group making up 5 percent of the population is on average less intelligent than the majority racial group it’s more likely that the minority racial group will be submitted to a eugenics program, opposed to the five percent least intelligent members of the population as a whole. For example, Nazi Germany’s eugenic program within the German population resulted in protests and unrest, while the persecution of the Jews was met with silence.
Steven Pinker has stated that it is “a conventional wisdom among left-leaning academics that genes imply genocide.” He has responded to this “conventional wisdom” by comparing the history of Marxism, which had the opposite position on genes to that of Nazism:
But the twentieth century suffered “two” ideologies that led to genocides. The other one, Marxism, had no use for race, didn’t believe in genes and denied that human nature was a meaningful concept. Clearly, it’s not an emphasis on genes or evolution that is dangerous. It’s the desire to remake humanity by coercive means (eugenics or social engineering) and the belief that humanity advances through a struggle in which superior groups (race or classes) triumph over inferior ones.
Richard Lynn has argued that any social philosophy is capable of ethical misuse. Though Christian principles have aided in the abolition of slavery and the establishment of welfare programs, he notes that the Christian church has also burned many dissidents at the stake and waged wars against nonbelievers in which Christian crusaders slaughtered large numbers of women and children. Lynn argued the appropriate response is to condemn these killings, but believing that Christianity “inevitably leads to the extermination of those who do not accept its doctrines” is unwarranted.
Eugenic policies could also lead to loss of genetic diversity, in which case a culturally accepted improvement of the gene pool may, but would not necessarily, result in biological disaster due to increased vulnerability to disease, reduced ability to adapt to environmental change and other factors both known and unknown. This kind of argument from the precautionary principle is itself widely criticized. A long-term eugenics plan is likely to lead to a scenario similar to this because the elimination of traits deemed undesirable would reduce genetic diversity by definition.
Related to a decrease in diversity is the danger of non-recognition. That is, if everyone were beautiful and attractive, then it would be more difficult to distinguish between different individuals, due to the wide variety of ugly traits and otherwise non-attractive traits and combinations thereof that people use to recognize each other.
The possible elimination of the autism genotype is a significant political issue in the autism rights movement, which claims autism is a form of neurodiversity. Many advocates of Down Syndrome rights also consider Down Syndrome (Trisomy-21) a form of neurodiversity, though males with Down Syndrome are generally infertile.
In some instances, efforts to eradicate certain single-gene mutations would be nearly impossible. In the event the condition in question was a heterozygous recessive trait, the problem is that by eliminating the visible unwanted trait, there are still as many genes for the condition left in the gene pool as were eliminated according to the Hardy-Weinberg principle, which states that a population’s genetics are defined as pp+2pq+qq at equilibrium. With genetic testing it may be possible to detect all of the heterozygous recessive traits, but only at great cost with the current technology. Under normal circumstances it is only possible to eliminate a dominant allele from the gene pool. Recessive traits can be severely reduced, but never eliminated unless the complete genetic makeup of all members of the pool was known, as aforementioned. As only very few undesirable traits, such as Huntington’s disease, are dominant, the practical value for “eliminating” traits is quite low.
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Posted: June 28, 2016 at 2:55 am
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We will make free votes in the House of Commons standard practice. We will give Canadians a stronger…
We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny. Stephen Harper has used prorogation to a…
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We will make it easier for Canadians to access their own personal information. Canadians have a righ…
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We will not interfere with the work of government watchdogs. Our Officers of Parliament do important…
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We will make the Supreme Court appointment process more transparent. Under Stephen Harper, the all-p…
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We will make the Parliamentary Budget Officer truly independent. The decisions that government makes…
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We will provide better oversight of taxpayer dollars. Canadians understand the importance of saving,…
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We will deliver stronger national security oversight. At present, Parliament does not have oversight…
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We will strengthen Parliamentary committees so that they can better scrutinize legislation. Better g…
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We will make the Canada Revenue Agency fairer, more helpful, and easierto use. The Canada Revenue …
We will save home mail delivery. By ending door-to-door mail delivery, Stephen Harper is asking Cana…
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We will build a government as diverse as Canada. Our country is stronger, and our government more ef…
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We will involve young people in government. At its highest levels, our government needs to do a bett…
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We will consider the gender impacts of the decisions we make. Public policies affect women and men i…
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We will deliver easy online access to government services. Accessing government services online shou…
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We will establish new performance standards for federal services. Busy Canadians deserve better serv…
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We will involve Canadians in policy-making. Technology makes it easier for citizens and government t…
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We will value science and treat scientists with respect. We will appoint a Chief Science Officer who…
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We will restore the long-form census. Without accurate and reliable data, Canadas communities can…
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We will make Statistics Canada fully independent. Data collected by Statistics Canada helps the priv…
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We will make decisions using the best data available and will invest only in programs proven to offe…
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We will make it easier for Canadians to vote, and harder for election lawbreakers to evade punishmen…
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We will give families more money to help with the high cost of raising theirkids. We will cancel t…
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We will cancel income splitting and other tax breaks and benefits for thewealthy. We will not end …
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We will give middle class Canadians a tax break, by making taxes more fair. When middle class Canadi…
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Posted: June 27, 2016 at 6:32 am
On behalf of U.S. Embassy Nassau, I extend our deepest condolences to the family of Cassandra Butts, who passed away on May 24, 2016. Cassandra Butts was honored that President Obama had asked her to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. She was greatly looking forward to forging even stronger ties between our two nations.
The U.S. Embassy, through the U.S. Department of State sponsored a subregional International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) professional exchange program focused on Combating Corruption from March 6 16, 2016. Supreme Court Judge, Justice Bernard Turner and Tribune reporter Khrisna Virgil represented The Bahamas in the program. Other countries represented included Guyana, Jamaica, and Suriname.
U.S. Embassy Charg dAffaires a.i. Lisa A. Johnson toured the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) Police Training College and Canine Unit with Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage and Commissioner of Police Mr. Ellison Greenslade. The purpose of the visit was to see the results of several ongoing projects funded by the Embassys International Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) Section through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI).
Continuing corrections reform cooperation under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), the U.S. Embassys International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) Section presented the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services with three state-of-the-art cell contraband detection devices, valued at approximately $46,000.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration has announced that on February 19, 2016 all handwritten Bahamians passports will be canceled and become null and void. The Bahamas Information Service additionally advised that all Bahamians, in possession of those passports should immediately surrender them and obtain an electronic passport.
On Friday, January 29th, the U.S. Embassys Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Neda Brown hosted a reception at the U.S. Ambassadors Residence in honor of the 2015-2016 Bahamas Fulbright Scholar Dr. Amelia Moore, PhD. Dr. Moore currently serves as the Assistant Professor in the Department of Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island. On hand for the event was President of The College of The Bahamas Dr. Rodney Smith and a cross-section of the community representing the fields of education, tourism, environmental NGOs, government and the arts.
The U.S. Embassys International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) Section and Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre marked the end of a joint 15-month, $500,000 project to provide train-the-trainer training for substance use treatment professionals on January 29 at the Public Hospital Authority. As part of the project, a cadre of 22 substance use treatment professionals from across government and civil society received train-the-trainer training in the comprehensive Universal Treatment Curriculum (UTC) for Substance Use Disorders.
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Posted: at 6:27 am
In August 1912, Harvard president emeritus Charles William Eliot addressed the Harvard Club of San Francisco on a subject close to his heart: racial purity. It was being threatened, he declared, by immigration. Eliot was not opposed to admitting new Americans, but he saw the mixture of racial groups it could bring about as a grave danger. Each nation should keep its stock pure, Eliot told his San Francisco audience. There should be no blending of races.
Eliots warning against mixing raceswhich for him included Irish Catholics marrying white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, Jews marrying Gentiles, and blacks marrying whiteswas a central tenet of eugenics. The eugenics movement, which had begun in England and was rapidly spreading in the United States, insisted that human progress depended on promoting reproduction by the best people in the best combinations, and preventing the unworthy from having children.
The former Harvard president was an outspoken supporter of another major eugenic cause of his time: forced sterilization of people declared to be feebleminded, physically disabled, criminalistic, or otherwise flawed. In 1907, Indiana had enacted the nations first eugenic sterilization law. Four years later, in a paper on The Suppression of Moral Defectives, Eliot declared that Indianas law blazed the trail which all free states must follow, if they would protect themselves from moral degeneracy.
He also lent his considerable prestige to the campaign to build a global eugenics movement. He was a vice president of the First International Eugenics Congress, which met in London in 1912 to hear papers on racial suicide among Northern Europeans and similar topics. Two years later, Eliot helped organize the First National Conference on Race Betterment in Battle Creek, Michigan.
None of these actions created problems for Eliot at Harvard, for a simple reason: they were well within the intellectual mainstream at the University. Harvard administrators, faculty members, and alumni were at the forefront of American eugenicsfounding eugenics organizations, writing academic and popular eugenics articles, and lobbying government to enact eugenics laws. And for many years, scarcely any significant Harvard voices, if any at all, were raised against it.
Harvards role in the movement was in many ways not surprising. Eugenics attracted considerable support from progressives, reformers, and educated elites as a way of using science to make a better world. Harvard was hardly the only university that was home to prominent eugenicists. Stanfords first president, David Starr Jordan, and Yales most acclaimed economist, Irving Fisher, were leaders in the movement. The University of Virginia was a center of scientific racism, with professors like Robert Bennett Bean, author of such works of pseudo-science as the 1906 American Journal of Anatomy article, Some Racial Peculiarities of the Negro Brain.
But in part because of its overall prominence and influence on society, and in part because of its sheer enthusiasm, Harvard was more central to American eugenics than any other university. Harvard has, with some justification, been called the brain trust of twentieth-century eugenics, but the role it played is little remembered or remarked upon today.It is understandable that the University is not eager to recall its part in that tragically misguided intellectual movementbut it is a chapter too important to be forgotten.In part because of its overall prominence and influence on society, and in part because of its sheer enthusiasm, Harvard was more central to American eugenics than any other university.
Eugenics emerged in England in the late 1800s, when Francis Galton, a half cousin of Charles Darwin, began studying the families of some of historys greatest thinkers and concluded that genius was hereditary. Galton invented a new wordcombining the Greek for good and genesand launched a movement calling for society to take affirmative steps to promote the more suitable races or strains of blood. Echoing his famous half cousins work on evolution, Galton declared that what Nature does blindly, slowly, and ruthlessly, man may do providently, quickly, and kindly.
Eugenics soon made its way across the Atlantic, reinforced by the discoveries of Gregor Mendel and the new science of genetics. In the United States, it found some of its earliest support among the same group that Harvard had: the wealthy old families of Boston. The Boston Brahmins were strong believers in the power of their own bloodlines, and it was an easy leap for many of them to believe that society should work to make the nations gene pool as exalted as their own.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.A.B. 1829, M.D. 36, LL.D. 80, dean of Harvard Medical School, acclaimed writer, and father of the future Supreme Court justicewas one of the first American intellectuals to espouse eugenics. Holmes, whose ancestors had been at Harvard since John Oliver entered with the class of 1680, had been writing about human breeding even before Galton. He had coined the phrase Boston Brahmin in an 1861 book in which he described his social class as a physical and mental elite, identifiable by its noble physiognomy and aptitude for learning, which he insisted were congenital and hereditary.
Holmes believed eugenic principles could be used to address the nations social problems. In an 1875 article in The Atlantic Monthly, he gave Galton an early embrace, and argued that his ideas could help to explain the roots of criminal behavior. If genius and talent are inherited, as Mr. Galton has so conclusively shown, Holmes wrote, why should not deep-rooted moral defectsshow themselvesin the descendants of moral monsters?
As eugenics grew in popularity, it took hold at the highest levels of Harvard. A. Lawrence Lowell, who served as president from 1909 to 1933, was an active supporter. Lowell, who worked to impose a quota on Jewish students and to keep black students from living in the Yard, was particularly concerned about immigrationand he joined the eugenicists in calling for sharp limits. The need for homogeneity in a democracy, he insisted, justified laws resisting the influx of great numbers of a greatly different race.
Lowell also supported eugenics research. When the Eugenics Record Office, the nations leading eugenics research and propaganda organization, asked for access to Harvard records to study the physical and intellectual attributes of alumni fathers and sons, he readily agreed. Lowell had a strong personal interest in eugenics research, his secretary noted in response to the request.
The Harvard faculty contained some of nations most influential eugenics thinkers, in an array of academic disciplines. Frank W. Taussig, whose 1911 Principles of Economics was one of the most widely adopted economics textbooks of its time, called for sterilizing unworthy individuals, with a particular focus on the lower classes. The human race could be immensely improved in quality, and its capacity for happy living immensely increased, if those of poor physical and mental endowment were prevented from multiplying, he wrote. Certain types of criminals and paupers breed only their kind, and society has a right and a duty to protect its members from the repeated burden of maintaining and guarding such parasites.
Harvards geneticists gave important support to Galtons fledgling would-be science. Botanist Edward M. East, who taught at Harvards Bussey Institution, propounded a particularly racial version of eugenics. In his 1919 book Inbreeding and Outbreeding: Their Genetic and Sociological Significance, East warned that race mixing would diminish the white race, writing: Races have arisen which are as distinct in mental capacity as in physical traits. The simple fact, he said, was that the negro is inferior to the white.
East also sounded a biological alarm about the Jews, Italians, Asians, and other foreigners who were arriving in large numbers. The early settlers came from stock which had made notable contributions to civilization, he asserted, whereas the new immigrants were coming in increasing numbers from peoples who have impressed modern civilization but lightly. There was a distinct possibility, he warned, that a considerable part of these people are genetically undesirable.
In his 1923 book, Mankind at the Crossroads, Easts pleas became more emphatic. The nation, he said, was being overrun by the feebleminded, who were reproducing more rapidly than the general population. And we expect to restore the balance by expecting the latter to compete with them in the size of their families? East wrote. No! Eugenics is sorely needed; social progress without it is unthinkable.
Easts Bussey Institution colleague William Ernest Castle taught a course on Genetics and Eugenics, one of a number of eugenics courses across the University. He also published a leading textbook by the same name that shaped the views of a generation of students nationwide. Genetics and Eugenics not only identified its author as Professor of Zoology in Harvard University, but was published by Harvard University Press and bore the Veritas seal on its title page, lending the appearance of an imprimatur to his strongly stated views.
In Genetics and Eugenics, Castle explained that race mixing, whether in animals or humans, produced inferior offspring. He believed there were superior and inferior races, and that racial crossing benefited neither. From the viewpoint of a superior race there is nothing to be gained by crossing with an inferior race, he wrote. From the viewpoint of the inferior race also the cross is undesirable if the two races live side by side, because each race will despise individuals of mixed race and this will lead to endless friction.
Castle also propounded the eugenicists argument that crime, prostitution, and pauperism were largely due to feeblemindedness, which he said was inherited. He urged that the unfortunate individuals so afflicted be sterilized or, in the case of women, segregated in institutions during their reproductive years to prevent them from having children.
Like his colleague East, Castle was deeply concerned about the biological impact of immigration. In some parts of the country, he said, the good human stock was dying outand being replaced by a European peasant population. Would this new population be a fit substitute for the old Anglo-Saxon stock? Castles answer: Time alone will tell.
One of Harvards most prominent psychology professors was a eugenicist who pioneered the use of questionable intelligence testing. Robert M. Yerkes, A.B. 1898, Ph.D. 02, published an introductory psychology textbook in 1911 that included a chapter on Eugenics and Mental Life. In it, he explained that the cure for race deterioration is the selection of the fit as parents.
Yerkes, who taught courses with such titles as Educational Psychology, Heredity, and Eugenics and Mental Development in the Race, developed a now-infamous intelligence test that was administered to 1.75 million U.S. Army enlistees in 1917. The test purported to find that more than 47 percent of the white test-takers, and even more of the black ones, were feebleminded. Some of Yerkess questions were straightforward language and math problems, but others were more like tests of familiarity with the dominant culture: one asked, Christy Mathewson is famous as a: writer, artist, baseball player, comedian. The journalist Walter Lippmann, A.B. 1910, Litt.D. 44, said the results were not merely inaccurate, but nonsense, with no more scientific foundation than a hundred other fads, vitamins, or correspondence courses in will power. The 47 percent feebleminded claim was an absurd result unless, as Harvards late professor of geology Stephen Jay Gould put it, the United States was a nation of morons. But the Yerkes findings were widely accepted and helped fuel the drives to sterilize unfit Americans and keep out unworthy immigrants.The Yerkes findings were widely accepted and helped fuel the drives to sterilize unfit Americans and keep out unworthy immigrants.
Another eugenicist in a key position was William McDougall, who held the psychology professorship William James had formerly held. His 1920 book The Group Mind explained that the negro race had never produced any individuals of really high mental and moral endowments and was apparently incapable of doing so. His next book, Is America Safe for Democracy (1921), argued that civilizations declined because of the inadequacy of the qualities of the people who are the bearers of itand advocated eugenic sterilization.
Harvards embrace of eugenics extended to the athletic department. Dudley Allen Sargent, who arrived in 1879 to direct Hemenway Gymnasium, infused physical education at the College with eugenic principles, including his conviction that certain kinds of exercise were particularly important for female students because they built strong pelvic muscleswhich over time could advantage the gene pool. In giving birth to a childno amount of mental and moral education will ever take the place of a large well-developed pelvis with plenty of muscular and organic power behind it, Sargent stated. The presence of large female pelvises, he insisted, would determine whether large brainy children shall be born at all.
Sargent, who presided over Hemenway for 40 years, used his position as a bully pulpit. In 1914, he addressed the nations largest eugenic gathering, the Race Betterment Conference, in Michigan, at which one of the main speakers called for eugenic sterilization of the worthless one tenth of the nation. Sargent told the conference that, based on his long experience and careful observation of Harvard and Radcliffe students, physical educationis one of the most important factors in the betterment of the race.
If Harvards embrace of eugenics had somehow remained within University confinesas merely an intellectual school of thoughtthe impact might have been contained. But members of the community took their ideas about genetic superiority and biological engineering to Congress, to the courts, and to the public at largewith considerable effect.
In 1894, a group of alumni met in Boston to found an organization that took a eugenic approach to what they considered the greatest threat to the nation: immigration. Prescott Farnsworth Hall, Charles Warren, and Robert DeCourcy Ward were young scions of old New England families, all from the class of 1889. They called their organization the Immigration Restriction League, but genetic thinking was so central to their mission that Hall proposed calling it the Eugenic Immigration League. Joseph Lee, A.B. 1883, A.M.-J.D. 87, LL.D. 26, scion of a wealthy Boston banking family and twice elected a Harvard Overseer, was a major funder, and William DeWitt Hyde A. B. 1879, S.T.D. 86, another future Overseer and the president of Bowdoin College, served as a vice president. The membership rolls quickly filled with hundreds of people united in xenophobia, many of them Boston Brahmins and Harvard graduates.
Their goal was to keep out groups they regarded as biologically undesirable. Immigration was a race question, pure and simple, Ward said. It is fundamentally a question as towhat races shall dominate in the country. League members made no secret of whom they meant: Jews, Italians, Asians, and anyone else who did not share their northern European lineage.
Drawing on Harvard influence to pursue its goalsrecruiting alumni to establish branches in other parts of the country and boasting President Lowell himself as its vice presidentthe Immigration Restriction League was remarkably effective in its work. Its first major proposal was a literacy test, not only to reduce the total number of immigrants but also to lower the percentage from southern and eastern Europe, where literacy rates were lower. In 1896the league persuaded Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, A.B. 1871, LL.B. 74, Ph.D. 76, LL.D. 04, to introduce a literacy bill. Getting it passed and signed into law took time, but beginning in 1917, immigrants were legally required to prove their literacy to be admitted to the country.
The league scored a far bigger victory with the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924. After hearing extensive expert testimony about the biological threat posed by immigrants, Congress imposed harsh national quotas designed to keep Jews, Italians, and Asians out. As the percentage of immigrants from northern Europe increased significantly, Jewish immigration fell from 190,000 in 1920 to 7,000 in 1926; Italian immigration fell nearly as sharply; and immigration from Asia was almost completely cut off until 1952.
While one group of alumni focused on inserting eugenics into immigration, another prominent alumnus was taking the lead of the broader movement. Charles Benedict Davenport, A.B. 1889, Ph.D. 92, taught zoology at Harvard before founding the Eugenics Record Office in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, in 1910. Funded in large part by Mrs. E.H. Harriman, widow of the railroad magnate, the E.R.O. became a powerful force in promoting eugenics. It was the main gathering place for academics studying eugenics, and the driving force in promoting eugenic sterilization laws nationwide.Davenport explained that qualities like criminality and laziness were genetically determined.
Davenport wrote prolifically. Heredity in Relation to Eugenics, published in 1911,quickly became the standard text for the eugenics courses cropping up at colleges and universities nationwide, and was cited by more than one-third of high-school biology textbooks of the era. Davenport explained that qualities like criminality and laziness were genetically determined. When both parents are shiftless in some degree, he wrote, only about 15 percent of their children would be industrious.
But perhaps no Harvard eugenicist had more impact on the public consciousness than Lothrop Stoddard, A.B. 1905, Ph.D. 14. His bluntly titled 1920 bestseller, The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy, had 14 printings in its first three years, drew lavish praise from President Warren G. Harding, and made a mildly disguised appearance in The Great Gatsby, when Daisy Buchanans husband, Tom, exclaimed that civilizations going to piecessomething hed learned by reading The Rise of the Colored Empires by this man Goddard.
When eugenics reached a high-water mark in 1927, a pillar of the Harvard community once again played a critical role. In that year, the Supreme Court decided Buck v. Bell, a constitutional challenge to Virginias eugenic sterilization law. The case was brought on behalf of Carrie Buck, a young woman who had been designated feebleminded by the state and selected for eugenic sterilization. Buck was, in fact, not feebleminded at all. Growing up in poverty in Charlottesville, she had been taken in by a foster family and then raped by one of its relatives. She was declared feebleminded because she was pregnant out of wedlock, and she was chosen for sterilization because she was deemed to be feebleminded.
By an 8-1 vote, the justices upheld the Virginia law and Bucks sterilizationand cleared the way for sterilizations to continue in about half the country, where there were similar laws. The majority opinion was written by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., A.B. 1861, LL.B. 66, LL.D. 95, a former Harvard Law School professor and Overseer. Holmes, who shared his fathers deep faith in bloodlines, did not merely give Virginia a green light: he urged the nation to get serious about eugenics and prevent large numbers of unfit Americans from reproducing. It was necessary to sterilize people who sap the strength of the State, Holmes insisted, to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. His opinion included one of the most brutal aphorisms in American law, saying of Buck, her mother, and her perfectly normal infant daughter: Three generations of imbeciles are enough.
In the same week the Supreme Court decided Buck v. Bell, Harvard made eugenics news of its own. It turned down a $60,000 bequest from Dr. J. Ewing Mears, a Philadelphia surgeon, to fund instruction in eugenics in all its branches, notably that branch relating to the treatment of the defective and criminal classes by surgical procedures.
Harvards decision, reported on the front page of The New York Times, appeared to be a counterweight to the Supreme Courts ruling. But the Universitys decision had been motivated more by reluctance to be coerced into a particular position on sterilization than by any institutional opposition to eugenicswhich it continued to embrace.
Eugenics followed much the same arc at Harvard as it did in the nation at large. Interest began to wane in the 1930s, as the field became more closely associated with the Nazi government that had taken power in Germany. By the end of the decade, Davenport had retired and the E.R.O. had shut down; the Carnegie Institution, of which it was part, no longer wanted to support eugenics research and advocacy. As the nation went to war against a regime that embraced racism, eugenics increasingly came to be regarded as un-American.
It did not, however, entirely fade awayat the University, or nationally. Earnest Hooton, chairman of the anthropology department, was particularly outspoken in support of what he called a biological purge. In 1936, while the first German concentration camps were opening, he made a major plea for eugenic sterilizationthough he emphasized that it should not target any race or religion.
Hooton believed it was imperative for society to remove its worthless people. Our real purpose, he declared in a speech that was quoted in The New York Times, should be to segregate and to eliminate the unfit, worthless, degenerate and anti-social portion of each racial and ethnic strain in our population, so that we may utilize the substantial merits of its sound majority, and the special and diversified gifts of its superior members.Our real purposeshould be to segregate and to eliminate the unfit, worthless, degenerate and anti-social portion of each racial and ethnic strain in our population, so that we may utilize the substantial merits of its sound majority.
None of the news out of Germany after the war made Hooton abandon his views. There can be little doubt of the increase during the past fifty years of mental defectives, psychopaths, criminals, economic incompetents and the chronically diseased, he wrote in Redbook magazine in 1950. We owe this to the intervention of charity, welfare and medical science, and to the reckless breeding of the unfit.
The United States also held onto eugenics, if not as enthusiastically as it once did. In 1942, with the war against the Nazis raging, the Supreme Court had a chance to overturn Buck v. Bell and hold eugenic sterilization unconstitutional, but it did not. The court struck down an Oklahoma sterilization law, but on extremely narrow groundsleaving the rest of the nations eugenic sterilization laws intact. Only after the civil-rights revolution of the 1960s, and changes in popular views toward marginalized groups, did eugenic sterilization begin to decline more rapidly. But states continued to sterilize the unfit until 1981.
Today, the American eugenics movement is often thought of as an episode of national follylike 1920s dance marathons or Prohibitionwith little harm done. In fact, the harm it caused was enormous.
As many as 70,000 Americans were forcibly sterilized for eugenic reasons, while important members of the Harvard community cheered andas with Eliot, Lowell, and Holmescalled for more. Many of those 70,000 were simply poor, or had done something that a judge or social worker didnt like, oras in Carrie Bucks casehad terrible luck. Their lives were changed foreverBuck lost her daughter to illness and died childless in 1983, not understanding until her final years what the state had done to her, or why she had been unable to have more children.
Also affected were the many people kept out of the country by the eugenically inspired immigration laws of the 1920s. Among them were a large number of European Jews who desperately sought to escape the impending Holocaust. A few years ago, correspondence was discovered from 1941 in which Otto Frank pleaded with the U.S. State Department for visas for himself, his wife, and his daughters Margot and Anne. It is understood today that Anne Frank died because the Nazis considered her a member of an inferior race, but few appreciate that her death was also due, in part, to the fact that many in the U.S. Congress felt the same way.
There are important reasons for remembering, and further exploring, Harvards role in eugenics. Colleges and universities today are increasingly interrogating their paststhinking about what it means to have a Yale residential college named after John C. Calhoun, a Princeton school named after Woodrow Wilson, or slaveholder Isaac Royalls coat of arms on the Harvard Law School shield and his name on a professorship endowed by his will.
Eugenics is a part of Harvards history. It is unlikely that Eliot House or Lowell House will be renamed, but there might be a way for the University community to spare a thought for Carrie Buck and others who paid a high price for the harmful ideas that Harvard affiliates played a major role in propounding.
There are also forward-looking reasons to revisit this dark moment in the Universitys past. Biotechnical science has advanced to the brink of a new era of genetic possibilities. In the next few years, the headlines will be full of stories about gene-editing technology, genetic solutions for a variety of human afflictions and frailties, and even designer babies. Given that Harvard affiliates, again, will play a large role in all of these, it is important to contemplate how wrong so many people tied to the University got it the first timeand to think hard about how, this time, to get it right.
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