Given the acceleration of change in society, more and more institutions feel the need to better understand the future. This leads to a growing popularity of futurology, future studies and other attempts to model and plan the development of humanity. However, most of these approaches are based on the naive extrapolation of certain existing trends, and lack any underlying theory. These supposedly scientific views are complemented by a number of popular visions of the future, inspired by literature, movies and social movements such as the hippies or punks.
We propose Metasystem Transition Theory (MSTT) as a general model of qualitative evolution. Since every model or piece of knowledge by definition functions to make predictions, it must be an essential task of this theory to make predictions about the future of evolution itself.
In the short term, our evolutionary philosophy sees a continuing progress towards increasing intelligence, life expectancy and general quality of life. However, because of the accelerating speed and complexity of the accompanying changes, this puts a heavy stress on individuals and society.
Paradoxically, the resulting anxiety fosters pessimism. In the somewhat longer term, MSTT predicts that we will undergo a new metasystem transition that will bring us to a higher evolutionary level. This level will be characterized by evolution at the level of memes rather than genes, by the cybernetic immortality of individuals, and by the emergence of social super-organism or “global brain”.
Difficulties of extrapolation
In making these predictions, a fallacy to avoid is the naive extrapolation of past evolution into the present or future. The mechanisms of survival and adaptation that were developed during evolution contain a lot of wisdom — about past situations. They are not necessarily adequate for present circumstances. This must be emphasized especially in view of the creativity of evolution: the emergence of new levels of complexity, governed by novel laws.
The breakdown of quantitative extrapolation from existing trends is illustrated most clearly by the concept of singularity: the place where the value of a mathematical function becomes infinite, so that normal mathematical operations (differentiation, integration, extrapolation) fail. An example of a singularity in the fabric of space-time is the inside of a black hole or the origin of the universe in the Big Bang. If variables describing progress (such as technological innovation, or total amount of scientific knowledge produced) are mapped on a diagram, it is remarkable how much their increase over time is accelerating. This increase seems at least exponential but perhaps even hyperbolic (implying that infinity will be reached within a finite time). Neither form of increase can be sustained in the same form, implying that some radical change of process must take place, e.g. like a technological singularity or phase transition.
The concept of metasystem transition, through the “law of the branching growth of the penultimate level”, includes such a phase of self-reinforcing acceleration of development of the last level of organization accompanied by the emergence of a next level. It seems likely that this is exactly what is happening in our present society, where the level of thinking is presently exploding, possibly to be supplemented by a “metarational” level characterized by a superhuman intelligence: the global brain.
These are the criteria that determine the overall fitness of a meme, i.e. whether it will maintain within an individual’s memory and spread to other individuals, or be eliminated (Heylighen, 1992, 1993). As meme spreading depends on different objective, subjective and intersubjective mechanisms, the criteria are sometimes contradictory. See also the general selection criteria for knowledge.
Contribution to individual fitness
A fit meme should help its carrier to survive and reproduce. That means the meme should not induce behaviors that are useless (wasting resources) or
Reliability of Predictions
Useful behaviors imply correct anticipations of the effect of actions. Memes producing predictions that turn out to be wrong will tend to be eliminated.
A meme should be easily assimilated to the cognitive system. This implies that it should not be too complex, and should not too directly contradict already established rules (coherency), which may be genetic or memetic of origin. In particular it means that rules that are consonant with genetic injunctions will be much easier to learn.
Ease of communication
Memes that are easily transmitted to another individual, either because they lead to a salient behavior that is easy to imitate, or can be clearly expressed in language or other media, will have a higher fitness.
Tendency to be transmitted
Memes that induce their carriers to actively “convert” or “teach” other individuals, thus stimulating their transmission, will be more fit.
Conformity pressure = “Meme selfishness”
As memory space is limited and cognitive dissonance tends to be avoided, it is difficult for inconsistent memes to have the same carriers. Cognitively dissonant memes are in a similar relation of competition as alleles: genes that compete for the same location in the genome. Memes that induce behavior in their carriers that tends to eliminate rival memes will be more fit, since they will have more resources for themselves. The concrete result is that a group of carriers with different memes will tend towards homogeneity, resulting from the imposition of the majority meme and elimination of all non-conforming memes (Boyd & Richerson, 1985).
Contribution to collective fitness
Memes that increase the fitness of the group or social system formed by their carriers are more likely to get more carriers, because succesful groups
expand or are imitated. Collective fitness is sometimes in contradiction with individual fitness because of the problem of suboptimization: what is best for an individual is not always best for the group.
Soviets Were Forced to “Withdrawl in Disgrace” from CIA-Ewen Cameron Founded World Psychiatric Congress
The first article below discusses historical Soviet and current Russian abuses of psychiatry. Following that, I discuss the irony of *American* psychiatric abuses which have been ignored and covered up for decades.
Psychiatry’s Painful Past Resurfaces in Russian Case Handling of Chechen Murder Reminds Many of Soviet Political Abuse of Mental Health System
By Susan B. Glasser Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, December 15, 2002; Page A37
The question is not whether Col. Yuri Budanov killed 18-year-old Elza Kungayeva in a Chechen village on March 27, 2000. He has long since admitted to that.
But for more than two years, Russia’s military justice system has been paralyzed by the case, unable to decide on Budanov’s culpability for a sensational crime that could undermine the government’s pledge to pursue the brutal Chechen war and its uncertain commitment to stopping the human rights abuses that have resulted.
Stuck on the matter of Budanov’s guilt, the state has turned to a familiar partner from Soviet times, a psychiatric profession that for decades followed orders to camouflage political problems behind the opaque curtain of mental illness. In doing so, however, officials have resurrected questions about psychiatry’s shameful past in the Soviet Union — and its highly politicized present.
Meanwhile, the case is awakening ugly memories. For years, Serbsky held political dissidents in the same wards where Budanov has been kept, dazing them with psychotropic drugs, subjecting them to fake diagnoses and forcing them to sit through inquisitions on their sanity whose outcomes had been predetermined by the KGB.
When the military court first ordered Serbsky to test Budanov, the panel conducting the inquiry was led by Tamara Pechernikova, the doctor who condemned poet Natalya Gorbanevskaya for protesting the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. When that evaluation of Budanov was criticized, the court next appointed a commission that
included Georgi Morozov, the former Serbsky director who had sat on many of the committees that declared prominent dissidents insane in the 1970s and 1980s.
“Practically nothing has changed. They have no shame at the institute about their role with the Communists,” said Yuri Savenko, head of the Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia. “They are the same people, and they do not want to apologize for all their actions in the past.”
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Soviet dissident and Nobel Prize-winning author, once wrote, “The incarceration of free-thinking healthy people in madhouses is spiritual murder.” In the West, the debate about Soviet misuse of psychiatry formed a centerpiece of human rights campaigns, eventually forcing the Soviet Union to withdraw in disgrace from the World Psychiatric Congress.
Founded in 1921, the Serbsky Institute played a leading role in such abuses. By the 1960s, Serbsky was famous for pioneering a diagnosis that complied with the KGB’s wishes to condemn mentally healthy dissidents. It was called “slow-developing schizophrenia,” and it provided convenient evidence of insanity in someone without obvious symptoms. Signs of the disease included “stubbornness and inflexibility of convictions” and “reformist delusions.”
The Serbsky Institute disavowed the diagnosis after the collapse of the Soviet Union, saying there was no such disease. There are laws today protecting the rights of Russia’s mental patients and seeming to limit Serbsky’s powers. But critics say the institute has merely evolved to suit changing times without genuinely reforming.
“The system is the same, the mentality is the same,” said Alexander Podrabinik, a one-time Soviet dissident. In 1977, he wrote “Punitive Medicine,” a secretly distributed work of samizdat documenting the horrors of the Soviet psychiatric system. For writing the book, he was exiled to Siberia for five years. Later, he received 31/2 years in prison camp — because the book was translated into English.
“If they didn’t tell me it’s the Russian Federation now, I wouldn’t know there was any difference at Serbsky Institute from Soviet times,” said the attorney, Karen Nersisyan. “Serbsky is not an organ of medicine. It’s an organ of power.”
Notice in the above article that because of psychiatric abuses, the Soviets were forced to “withdraw in disgrace from the World Psychiatric Congress.” This congress is a meeting run by the World Psychiatric Association:
It is encouraging the first World Psychiatric Congress of the 21st Century was held in Yokohama Japan. This was in fact the first time that this Congress has been held not just in Japan but in any country in Asia since the Foundation of the World Psychiatric Association in 1950.
The World Psychiatric Association was founded by none other than Ewen Cameron, who was also its first president. Cameron is infamous for the hideous, CIA-funded “psychic driving” and personality-erasing experiments he conducted on patients who came to him for treatment of ailments like depression. See the following article for more details of those abuses.
Ewen Cameron, former Head of the Quebec Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the World Psychiatric Association — in fact, the founder of the World Psychiatric Association — and also one-time President of the Association for Biological Psychiatry. As politically connected a guy as ever existed in the entire field of psychiatry in the 20th Century, with his obituary in the American Journal of Psychiatry, funded through MKULTRA and Human Ecology Foundation, did LSD and other hallucinogen research funded by Canadian military and the CIA and was successfully sued (he had already died) — the CIA settled out of court actually — it wasn’t a successful suit technically — with eight of his patients who had been victims of experimentation that was first funded directly by the CIA through the Human Ecology Foundation and then through the Canadian government. One of his papers, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry is on Psychic Driving, another is on Production of Differential Amnesia in Schizophrenia.
Isn’t it ironic that while the Soviets had to withdraw from a meeting run by the World Psychiatric Association, the US had for years covered up Cameron’s crimes (and many, many other psychiatric abuses)? Even when the information came out about about Cameron’s crimes, the CIA used every slimy legal trick it could to derail the lawsuits:
This review of the CIA’s actions in the United States and Canada demonstrates how completely unprincipled was the Agency’s original
brainwashing program, as well as its course of legal manoeuvers years later when it was required to answer for its misconduct.
In fact, the coverups of known abuses such as those in MKULTRA and BLUEBIRD *continue*, to this very day. See for example this _US News_ article:
http://www.datafilter.com/mc/coldWarExperiments.html …the government has long ignored thousands of other cold war victims,
rebuffing their requests for compensation and refusing to admit its responsibility for injuries they suffered.
Continued secrecy and legal roadblocks erected by the government have made it virtually impossible for victims of these cold war human experiments to sue the government successfully, legal experts say.
Many of the stories of people whose lives were destroyed by mind-altering drugs, electroshock “treatments” and other military and CIA experiments involving toxic chemicals or behavior modification have been known for almost 20 years. But U.S. News has discovered that only a handful were ever compensated — or even told what was done to them.
Admiral Turner, in his 1983 deposition, conceded that “a disappointingly small number” were notified but defended the agency’s continuing refusal to declassify the names of the researchers and universities involved. “I don’t think that would have been necessarily the best way,” Turner said. “Not in the litigious society we live in.”
These victims are in many cases nothing short of domestic torture victims –with the government as the perpetrator. When the *government* is the terrorist it apparently does not count when US citizens are victimized. The oversight committees barely skimmed the surface of the abuses back in the 1970s, but left the impression that all such nonconsensual behavior modification and “mind control” research and experiments were permanently halted. In fact, the abuses did not end, they only became more secretive and deniable. See for example:
In the decades since the last congressional investigations into these matters the technology and techniques for “mind control” have only improved. There are whole new generations of victims complaining of abuses and being officially ignored — as well as psychiatrically abused. For more information on the history of such abuses and the current technologies (such as those labeled “nonlethal” weapons) see, for example,
Mind Control: Technology, Techniques and Politics
The Stasi persecution syndrome
My new home page: http://www.datafilter.com/mc
However, it is by no means clear that a physician is behaving unethically if, against a person’s wishes, she treats a person who has mental illness to ameliorate a serious condition that happens to be manifested by political or religious expression. Coerced treatment may be a justified exercise of paternalism in such cases, especially if the patient has no capacity to make a rational treatment decision.
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 30:136–44, 2002
Likewise, works written at this time – most notably, Mafarka Le Futuriste – abound with images and nonsexual procreation, consistently eliminating the figure of the effeminizing mother. This tendency is expressed programmatically in Marinetti’s railings “Against Amore and Parliamentarism” in “War, the World’s Only Hygiene“: Well then: I confess that before so intoxicating a spectacle we strong Futurists have suddenly felt ourselves suddenly detached from women, who have suddenly become too earthly, or to express it better, have become a symbol of the earth that we ought to abandon. We have even dreamed of one day being able to create a mechanical son, the fruit of pure will, a synthesis of all the laws that science is on the brink of discovering.” (Marinetti SW, p75)
The regulation of sexuality envisaged in this early work, written in the heyday of the productive model of the machine metaphor, is extremely strict: sex serves the function of procreation. Desire is machinic insofar as it motivates (re-)production.
Again, it is with a reference to the organizing metaphor of the machine that one can begin to understand the shift to a degenitalized sensuality. If the early machine concentrates sexual energies on the act of procreation, then the dissociation of the machine from the act of production – its utilization as a model of order rather than as a principle of proliferation – results in a celebration of the technology of creation and necessarily dissociates sexuality from the act of procreation. Sexuality itself becomes the exercising of a power rather than the creation or regeneration of a power in the act of procreation. Thus the “dispersed” sexuality of the Tactilism Manifesto  – though subversive or progressive when viewed purely in terms of discursive divisions that take no account of the subjugation of ideology to the machine metaphor – corresponds to a shift in Marinetti’s understanding of the function of the machine and gives expression not to liberational impulses but to an ideology of control at the level of the body. The “efficiency” of the body as machine does not consist, here, in its productivity, but in its full utilization, its functioning at full capacity, every orifice plugged and every inch of epidermis aroused.
Fascist Modernism: Aesthetics, Politics and the Avant-Garde by Andrew Hewitt. Pg 150 – 51. ISBN#
Mecánico Hijo de Marinetti (traducción de texto en el progreso) Marinett Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (Alejandría, Egipto, 22 de diciembre de 1876 – Bellagio, Como, 2 de diciembre de 1944) — Las obras escritas en este momento – en particular, Mafarka Le Futuriste - abundan con de las imágenes a la procreación non sexual, de manera coherente en la eliminación de la figura de la madre feminiza. Esta tendencia se expresa mediante programación en duras críticas de Marinetti “Contra Amore y el Parlamentarismo”, en “La Guerra – única Higiene del Mundo” Bueno, entonces: Confieso que antes de un espectáculo tan embriagador de que pronto nos fuertes Futuristas, de repente nos encontramos separados de las mujeres, que de repente a ser demasiado terrenal, o por mejor decir, se han convertido en un símbolo de la tierra, que debemos abandonar. Incluso hemos soñado una día ser capaces de crear un hijo mecánico, fruto de la pura voluntad, una síntesis de todas las leyes que la ciencia está al borde de descubrir. “(Marinetti SW, p75)
In 1978, roboticist Dr. Masahiro Mori plotted emotional response against similarity to human appearance and movement in a study designed to provide insight into psychological reaction to robot design. The results were startling. The closer that robots, or indeed synthetic humans, come to resembling ourselves, the more positive our emotional response towards them – up to a point. But as the similarity of a robot to real human approaches 95 per cent, we suddenly start to describe its appearance as creepy – like a corpse brought to life. This sudden swing from positive to negative, referred to as the ‘Uncanny Valley,’ is even greater as the motion of a synthetic character approaches, but it doesn’t quite reach, a 100 per cent resemblance to human motion. Most video games today don’t engage players’ empathy to their full potential because their level of realism fall into this Uncanny Valley. George Borshukov, now at Electronic Arts, argues that through reconstructing virtual humans from real-life source data, we can climb out of the Uncanny Valley and set a new level of photorealism. (see boxout: ‘Digital cloning.’)
His latest work, with Electronic Arts’ Worldwide Studios, extends the technology developed for the Matrix sequels through its application to game design. In its concept demo for Fight Night Round 3, a next-gen game for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, real-life video and performance data is used to reconstruct two photoreal boxers as they fight head to head in the ring. What’s truly outstanding is that these fighters are rendered in real-time. Electronic Arts is guarded about revealing its product roadmaps, but when pressed, Borshukov admits that, within the next two years, we could see this kind of technology applied to primary characters in next-gen games.
Human 2.0: New Technologies
Hitler and his henchmen victimized an entire continent and exterminated millions in his quest for a so-called Master Race.
But the concept of a white, blond-haired, blue-eyed master Nordic race didn’t originate with Hitler. The idea was created in the United States, and cultivated in California, decades before Hitler came to power. California eugenicists played an important, although little-known, role in the American eugenics movement’s campaign for ethnic cleansing.
Eugenics was the pseudoscience aimed at “improving” the human race. In its extreme, racist form, this meant wiping away all human beings deemed “unfit,” preserving only those who conformed to a Nordic stereotype. Elements of the philosophy were enshrined as national policy by forced sterilization and segregation laws, as well as marriage restrictions, enacted in 27 states. In 1909, California became the third state to adopt such laws. Ultimately, eugenics practitioners coercively sterilized some 60,000 Americans, barred the marriage of thousands, forcibly segregated thousands in “colonies,” and persecuted untold numbers in ways we are just learning. Before World War II, nearly half of coercive sterilizations were done in California, and even after the war, the state accounted for a third of all such surgeries.
California was considered an epicenter of the American eugenics movement. During the 20th century’s first decades, California’s eugenicists included potent but little-known race scientists, such as Army venereal disease specialist Dr. Paul Popenoe, citrus magnate Paul Gosney, Sacramento banker Charles Goethe, as well as members of the California state Board of Charities and Corrections and the University of California Board of Regents.
Eugenics would have been so much bizarre parlor talk had it not been for extensive financing by corporate philanthropies, specifically the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Harriman railroad fortune. They were all in league with some of America’s most respected scientists from such prestigious universities as Stanford, Yale, Harvard and Princeton. These academicians espoused race theory and race science, and then faked and twisted data to serve eugenics’ racist aims.
Stanford President David Starr Jordan originated the notion of “race and blood” in his 1902 racial epistle “Blood of a Nation,” in which the university scholar declared that human qualities and conditions such as talent and poverty were passed through the blood.
In 1904, the Carnegie Institution established a laboratory complex at Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island that stockpiled millions of index cards on ordinary Americans, as researchers carefully plotted the removal of families, bloodlines and whole peoples. From Cold Spring Harbor, eugenics advocates agitated in the legislatures of America, as well as the nation’s social service agencies and associations.
The Harriman railroad fortune paid local charities, such as the New York Bureau of Industries and Immigration, to seek out Jewish, Italian and other immigrants in New York and other crowded cities and subject them to deportation, confinement or forced sterilization.
The Rockefeller Foundation helped found the German eugenics program and even funded the program that Josef Mengele worked in before he went to Auschwitz.
Much of the spiritual guidance and political agitation for the American eugenics movement came from California’s quasi-autonomous eugenic societies, such as Pasadena’s Human Betterment Foundation and the California branch of the American Eugenics Society, which coordinated much of their activity with the Eugenics Research Society in Long Island. These organizations — which functioned as part of a closely-knit network — published racist eugenic newsletters and pseudoscientific journals, such as Eugenical News and Eugenics, and propagandized for the Nazis.
Eugenics was born as a scientific curiosity in the Victorian age. In 1863,
Sir Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, theorized that if talented people married only other talented people, the result would be measurably better offspring. At the turn of the last century, Galton’s ideas were imported to the United States just as Gregor Mendel’s principles of heredity were rediscovered. American eugenics advocates believed with religious fervor that the same Mendelian concepts determining the color and size of peas, corn and cattle also governed the social and intellectual character of man.
In a United States demographically reeling from immigration upheaval and torn by post-Reconstruction chaos, race conflict was everywhere in the early 20th century. Elitists, utopians and so-called progressives fused their smoldering race fears and class bias with their desire to make a better world. They reinvented Galton’s eugenics into a repressive and racist ideology. The intent: Populate the Earth with vastly more of their own socioeconomic and biological kind — and less or none of everyone else.
The superior species the eugenics movement sought was populated not merely by tall, strong, talented people. Eugenicists craved blond, blue-eyed Nordic types. This group alone, they believed, was fit to inherit the Earth. In the process, the movement intended to subtract emancipated Negroes, immigrant Asian laborers, Indians, Hispanics, East Europeans, Jews, dark- haired hill folk, poor people, the infirm and anyone classified outside the gentrified genetic lines drawn up by American raceologists.
How? By identifying so-called defective family trees and subjecting them to lifelong segregation and sterilization programs to kill their bloodlines. The grand plan was to literally wipe away the reproductive capability of those deemed weak and inferior — the so-called unfit. The eugenicists hoped to neutralize the viability of 10 percent of the population at a sweep, until none were left except themselves.
Eighteen solutions were explored in a Carnegie-supported 1911 “Preliminary Report of the Committee of the Eugenic Section of the American Breeder’s Association to Study and to Report on the Best Practical Means for Cutting Off the Defective Germ-Plasm in the Human Population.” Point No. 8 was euthanasia.
The most commonly suggested method of eugenicide in the United States was a “lethal chamber” or public, locally operated gas chambers. In 1918, Popenoe, the Army venereal disease specialist during World War I, co-wrote the widely used textbook, “Applied Eugenics,” which argued, “From an historical point of view, the first method which presents itself is execution . . . Its value in keeping up the standard of the race should not be underestimated.” “Applied Eugenics” also devoted a chapter to “Lethal Selection,” which operated “through the destruction of the individual by some adverse feature of the environment, such as excessive cold, or bacteria, or by bodily deficiency.”
Eugenic breeders believed American society was not ready to implement an organized lethal solution. But many mental institutions and doctors practiced improvised medical lethality and passive euthanasia on their own. One institution in Lincoln, Ill., fed its incoming patients milk from tubercular cows believing a eugenically strong individual would be immune. Thirty to 40 percent annual death rates resulted at Lincoln. Some doctors practiced passive eugenicide one newborn infant at a time. Others doctors at mental institutions engaged in lethal neglect.
Nonetheless, with eugenicide marginalized, the main solution for eugenicists was the rapid expansion of forced segregation and sterilization, as well as more marriage restrictions. California led the nation, performing nearly all sterilization procedures with little or no due process. In its first 25 years of eugenics legislation, California sterilized 9,782 individuals, mostly women. Many were classified as “bad girls,” diagnosed as “passionate,” “oversexed” or “sexually wayward.” At the Sonoma State Home, some women were sterilized because of what was deemed an abnormally large clitoris or labia.
In 1933 alone, at least 1,278 coercive sterilizations were performed, 700 on women. The state’s two leading sterilization mills in 1933 were Sonoma State Home with 388 operations and Patton State Hospital with 363 operations. Other sterilization centers included Agnews, Mendocino, Napa, Norwalk, Stockton and Pacific Colony state hospitals.
Even the U.S. Supreme Court endorsed aspects of eugenics. In its infamous 1927 decision, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind . . . Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” This decision opened the floodgates for thousands to be coercively sterilized or otherwise persecuted as subhuman. Years later, the Nazis at the Nuremberg trials quoted Holmes’ words in their own defense.
Only after eugenics became entrenched in the United States was the campaign transplanted into Germany, in no small measure through the efforts of California eugenicists, who published booklets idealizing sterilization and circulated them to German officials and scientists.
Hitler studied American eugenics laws. He tried to legitimize his anti- Semitism by medicalizing it, and wrapping it in the more palatable pseudoscientific facade of eugenics. Hitler was able to recruit more followers among reasonable Germans by claiming that science was on his side. Hitler’s race hatred sprung from his own mind, but the intellectual outlines of the eugenics Hitler adopted in 1924 were made in America.
During the ’20s, Carnegie Institution eugenic scientists cultivated deep personal and professional relationships with Germany’s fascist eugenicists. In “Mein Kampf,” published in 1924, Hitler quoted American eugenic ideology and openly displayed a thorough knowledge of American eugenics. “There is today one state,” wrote Hitler, “in which at least weak beginnings toward a better conception (of immigration) are noticeable. Of course, it is not our model German Republic, but the United States.”
Hitler proudly told his comrades just how closely he followed the progress of the American eugenics movement. “I have studied with great interest,” he told a fellow Nazi, “the laws of several American states concerning prevention of reproduction by people whose progeny would, in all probability, be of no value or be injurious to the racial stock.”
Hitler even wrote a fan letter to American eugenics leader Madison Grant, calling his race-based eugenics book, “The Passing of the Great Race,” his “bible.”
Now, the American term “Nordic” was freely exchanged with “Germanic” or “Aryan.” Race science, racial purity and racial dominance became the driving force behind Hitler’s Nazism. Nazi eugenics would ultimately dictate who would be persecuted in a Reich-dominated Europe, how people would live, and how they would die. Nazi doctors would become the unseen generals in Hitler’s war against the Jews and other Europeans deemed inferior. Doctors would create the science, devise the eugenic formulas, and hand-select the victims for sterilization, euthanasia and mass extermination.
During the Reich’s early years, eugenicists across America welcomed Hitler’s plans as the logical fulfillment of their own decades of research and effort. California eugenicists republished Nazi propaganda for American consumption. They also arranged for Nazi scientific exhibits, such as an August 1934 display at the L.A. County Museum, for the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.
In 1934, as Germany’s sterilizations were accelerating beyond 5,000 per month, the California eugenics leader C. M. Goethe, upon returning from Germany, ebulliently bragged to a colleague, “You will be interested to know that your work has played a powerful part in shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals who are behind Hitler in this epoch-making program. Everywhere I sensed that their opinions have been tremendously stimulated by American thought . . . I want you, my dear friend, to carry this thought with you for the rest of your life, that you have really jolted into action a great government of 60 million people.”
That same year, 10 years after Virginia passed its sterilization act, Joseph DeJarnette, superintendent of Virginia’s Western State Hospital, observed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “The Germans are beating us at our own game.”
More than just providing the scientific roadmap, America funded Germany’s eugenic institutions.
By 1926, Rockefeller had donated some $410,000 — almost $4 million in today’s money — to hundreds of German researchers. In May 1926, Rockefeller awarded $250,000 toward creation of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Psychiatry. Among the leading psychiatrists at the German Psychiatric Institute was Ernst Rüdin, who became director and eventually an architect of Hitler’s systematic medical repression.
Another in the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute’s complex of eugenics institutions was the Institute for Brain Research. Since 1915, it had operated out of a single room. Everything changed when Rockefeller money arrived in 1929. A grant of $317,000 allowed the institute to construct a major building and take center stage in German race biology. The institute received additional grants from the Rockefeller Foundation during the next several years. Leading the institute, once again, was Hitler’s medical henchman Ernst Rüdin. Rüdin’s organization became a prime director and recipient of the murderous experimentation and research conducted on Jews, Gypsies and others.
Beginning in 1940, thousands of Germans taken from old age homes, mental institutions and other custodial facilities were systematically gassed. Between 50,000 and 100,000 were eventually killed.
Leon Whitney, executive secretary of the American Eugenics Society, declared of Nazism, “While we were pussy-footing around … the Germans were calling a spade a spade.”
A special recipient of Rockefeller funding was the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics in Berlin. For decades,
American eugenicists had craved twins to advance their research into heredity.
The Institute was now prepared to undertake such research on an unprecedented level. On May 13, 1932, the Rockefeller Foundation in New York dispatched a radiogram to its Paris office: JUNE MEETING EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS OVER THREE YEAR PERIOD TO KWG INSTITUTE ANTHROPOLOGY FOR RESEARCH ON TWINS AND EFFECTS ON LATER GENERATIONS OF SUBSTANCES TOXIC FOR GERM PLASM.
At the time of Rockefeller’s endowment, Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, a hero in American eugenics circles, functioned as a head of the Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics. Rockefeller funding of that institute continued both directly and through other research conduits during Verschuer’s early tenure. In 1935, Verschuer left the institute to form a rival eugenics facility in Frankfurt that was much heralded in the American eugenics press. Research on twins in the Third Reich exploded, backed by government decrees. Verschuer wrote in Der Erbarzt, a eugenics doctor’s journal he edited, that Germany’s war would yield a “total solution to the Jewish problem.”
Verschuer had a longtime assistant. His name was Josef Mengele.
On May 30, 1943, Mengele arrived at Auschwitz. Verschuer notified the German Research Society, “My assistant, Dr. Josef Mengele (M.D., Ph.D.) joined me in this branch of research. He is presently employed as Hauptsturmführer (captain) and camp physician in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Anthropological testing of the most diverse racial groups in this concentration camp is being carried out with permission of the SS Reichsführer (Himmler).”
Mengele began searching the boxcar arrivals for twins. When he found them,
he performed beastly experiments, scrupulously wrote up the reports and sent the paperwork back to Verschuer’s institute for evaluation. Often, cadavers, eyes and other body parts were also dispatched to Berlin’s eugenic institutes.
Rockefeller executives never knew of Mengele. With few exceptions, the foundation had ceased all eugenics studies in Nazi-occupied Europe before the war erupted in 1939. But by that time the die had been cast. The talented men Rockefeller and Carnegie financed, the great institutions they helped found, and the science they helped create took on a scientific momentum of their own.
After the war, eugenics was declared a crime against humanity — an act of genocide. Germans were tried and they cited the California statutes in their defense — to no avail. They were found guilty.
However, Mengele’s boss Verschuer escaped prosecution. Verschuer re- established his connections with California eugenicists who had gone underground and renamed their crusade “human genetics.” Typical was an exchange July 25, 1946, when Popenoe wrote Verschuer, “It was indeed a pleasure to hear from you again. I have been very anxious about my colleagues in Germany . . . I suppose sterilization has been discontinued in Germany?” Popenoe offered tidbits about various American eugenics luminaries and then sent various eugenics publications. In a separate package, Popenoe sent some cocoa, coffee and other goodies.
Verschuer wrote back, “Your very friendly letter of 7/25 gave me a great deal of pleasure and you have my heartfelt thanks for it. The letter builds another bridge between your and my scientific work; I hope that this bridge will never again collapse but rather make possible valuable mutual enrichment and stimulation.”
Soon, Verschuer again became a respected scientist in Germany and around the world. In 1949, he became a corresponding member of the newly formed American Society of Human Genetics, organized by American eugenicists and geneticists.
In the fall of 1950, the University of Münster offered Verschuer a position at its new Institute of Human Genetics, where he later became a dean. In the early and mid-1950s, Verschuer became an honorary member of numerous prestigious societies, including the Italian Society of Genetics, the Anthropological Society of Vienna, and the Japanese Society for Human Genetics.
Human genetics’ genocidal roots in eugenics were ignored by a victorious generation that refused to link itself to the crimes of Nazism and by succeeding generations that never knew the truth of the years leading up to war. Now governors of five states, including California, have issued public apologies to their citizens, past and present, for sterilization and other abuses spawned by the eugenics movement.
Human genetics became an enlightened endeavor in the late 20th century. Hard-working, devoted scientists finally cracked the human code through the Human Genome Project. Now, every individual can be biologically identified and classified by trait and ancestry. Yet even now, some leading voices in the genetic world are calling for a cleansing of the unwanted among us, and even a master human species.
There is understandable wariness about more ordinary forms of abuse, for example, in denying insurance or employment based on genetic tests. On Oct. 14,
the United States’ first genetic anti-discrimination legislation passed the Senate by unanimous vote. Yet because genetics research is global, no single nation’s law can stop the threats.
Edwin Black is author of the award-winning “IBM and the Holocaust” and the recently released “War Against the Weak” (published by Four Walls Eight Windows), from which this article is adapted.
Eugenics and the Nazis: The California Connection
9 November 2003
Social Darwinism is a philosophy proposed by Herbert Spencer which sought to apply the ideas of Darwin to a social realm. Its basic tenet is that “”Society advances where its fittest members are allowed to assert their fitness with the least hindrance.”, and that the unfit should “not be prevented from dying out” (1). It suffers from severe fallacies of both its own internal logic and its misinterpreting attempts to co-opt Darwin’s theory of evolution to further its own validity by false association. While Spencer’s attempts at applying the theories of biological evolution to the social realm fail miserably on an intellectual plane, they have actually been highly successful at being transferred onto a social plane: his idea has replicated and varied itself for almost two hundred years since being proposed, shaping American economic policy, immigration law, and political thinking up to today, while its variants have influenced everything from Hitler’s eugenics to various state-sponsored incidents of ethnic cleansing. Making a meta-analysis of the method by which his idea has been propagated provides a perfect example of how Darwin’s theories can, and in fact must, be applied to the social realm in order to understand the heritability, survivability, and variance of intellectually unsound ideas over time. In order to understand this, the flaws of Social Darwinism must first be expounded in detail, starting with its internal fallacies of logical coherence.
The three major fallacies it commits are the appeal to authority, retrospective determinism, and the naturalistic fallacy. It appeals to the scientific authority of Darwinism to deceptively associate scientific clout with a decidedly pseudo-scientific theory which, as will be subsequently explained, misinterprets a majority of Darwin’s own thinking. It relies upon circular reasoning and retrospective determinism, or the notion that because something happened it was therefore bound to happen, when it infers that since it may be possible for certain individuals to possess genetic characteristics (intelligence, drive, noble bloodlines) that elevate them from others in terms of wealth and societal status, that then all individuals with such wealth possess such superior genetic characteristics. Therefore all wealthy (or Aryan as used in Nazi eugenics, or any other denotation of privilege) people are justified in their superiority because of the natural selection of genetic factors. This retrospective determinism is used most damningly on the poor and underprivileged, because it assumes that since individuals were born into environments with poor educational resources, rampant crime and urban decay, and other symptoms of poverty, that they all must therefore possess inferior genetic characteristics. The naturalistic fallacy, or the inference that simply because something may be true makes it morally right, comes into play in the subsequent accusation that these people deserve their impoverished state because their genes were unable to adapt to the environment. Indeed, just as certain species which cannot adapt die and become extinct, so the higher death rate in impoverished areas helps to purify the genetic pool of humanity as a whole; thus, such inferior individuals should be allowed to “die out” for the greater good, as Spencer argues. While such internal contradictions are damning enough, when one realizes the extent to which the theory misinterprets Darwin’s own ideas, it becomes impossible to conclude that the heritability of ideas is based upon logic alone.
At first glance, however, it is possible to comprehend how Social Darwinism could be skewed as being justified by Darwinism. According to Mayr, survival of the fittest is an accurate term, because not all individuals have equal properties of survival, and those with the higher properties are “restricted and nonrandom” portions of the population, which oftentimes include groups. Yet ironically the aspect of the group which encourages survival is not that they all possess superior genetics, because such a grouping would be a “soft group” based on coincidence; rather, in these “hard groups”, it is their ability to cooperate with each other, to alert each other of predators, pool their resources, and so on, which better insures their own survival. (Mayr 119, 131-2). Rather than breaking off into factions and allowing each other to die out, the inter-species groups that are selected for are the ones who cooperate for the greater good, something which many consider to be the underpinnings of modern ethics. An ideal state of such group adaptation would be one in which the populations cooperate for the greater good of the species, helping each other obtain the resources necessary to survive, rather than lording over them to the exclusion of others. Furthermore, selection for genetic improvement is no longer exercised in humanity, and even if it were, it would take thousands, if not millions, of years before genetically altered results would be shown (261). Thus, it is clearly impossible for Social Darwinism to produce any genetic changes, and because “intelligence”, if it is even possible to typologically classify it as a singular entity, relies both upon genetic nature and environmental nurture, the notion that those who are rich have been genetically selected for this trait is even more ludicrous. Additionally, since another misinterpretation of Darwin’s theories, the Lamarckian theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics has been proved categorically false, the teleological aspect of Social Darwinism is additionally disproved. “Society” itself is not advancing at all through the process of selection, or, as Mayr puts it, “Elimination does not have the purpose or the teleological goal of producing adaptation” (150). Even the stereotypical characteristics of America’s wealthy, like business savvy or cultural sophistication or a hardworking belief in the American Dream, are acquired ones that cannot be heritable and therefore cannot be selected for. In biological evolution, species do not move toward some sort of greater perfection by eliminating their weaker counterparts; rather, individual populations move toward a majority of adaptable characteristics as a result of elimination (150). There is nothing inherently superior about a species of bird that has many children and a young age of fertility living in a territory of dangerous storms, compared to a species of bird with the opposite characteristics living in a placid environment where advanced age is not needed to navigate the dangerous waters and adeptly avoid predators. This distinction is especially critical as Social Darwinism employs typological thinking, lumping humans into types such as “rich” and “poor” which have fixed genetic characteristics that are respectively superior and inferior, rather than in the population thinking espoused by Darwin, where species are divided into populations with fluid characteristics that do not rely upon external value judgment.
Now that it is clear Social Darwinism suffers from both insurmountable internal logical flaws and is founded upon flimsy pillars of misinterpreted Darwinism, a major question arises: Why is it still relevant? To understand this, the three major tenets of Darwin’s theory of evolution, which are heritability, random variance, and differential reproductive selection, must be applied to the idea of Social Darwinism. The idea has been heritable, most recently showing up in numerous explanations of republican political policies. It has also experienced a type of random variation, since it has spawned numerous more extreme versions of its misinterpreted brand of Darwinism, most infamously the eugenics of Hitler’s Germany, and also of American immigration policy up until 1917. The only puzzling question is differential reproductive selection: since Spencer’s Social Darwinism is a misinterpretation that lacks the logical coherence of Darwin’s theory, in Darwin’s terms, it is not as adaptable as Darwinism, and in Spencer’s terms, it should ultimately become extinct due to survival of the fittest.
However, this is not the case. One is forced to re-examine the criteria by which a rational person would judge to be the most important one for an idea’s survival, which is logical coherence. While it is easy to attribute the spread of largely irrational ideas merely to the ignorance and uneducated nature of the masses, this is a cynical oversimplification which misses a more profound point. Even a cursory glance at the history of human ideas shows that the longest standing ones (religious beliefs, glorification of the in-group and demonization of the out-group, division of labor and social status between men and women, etc.) have not even relied primarily upon logical coherence. Rather, they possess a psychological coherence, in that they provide for needs of the human psyche rather than the logical intellect; religion satisfies our desire to find a purpose in this world and a place in the next, political demonification solidifies group ties and encourages cooperation in the war over resources, and so on. Perhaps a similar parallel to the seemingly contradictory but actually complementary processes of biological selection, which are physical survival and sexual reproduction, exists in the selection of ideas. It seems logical coherence is more necessary for an idea’s survival amongst its contemporary competitors, while psychological coherence is more necessary for its heritability, analogous to sexual reproduction, onto subsequent generations. Perhaps, following the form of the law of entropy, there is a tendency to lose of logical coherence at the gain of psychological coherence as these ideas are inherited over time, as is the case with the following examples. Even with the most insane or horrific ideologies, history has shown that they require at least some shred of logical coherence for them to even be considered. Or, more precisely, they require the heritability of ideas which in their time were considered to have logical coherence. Hitler’s eugenics relied on Spencer’s illogical bastardization of Darwin’s evolution, just as all religious terrorism relies on skewed interpretations of Judeo-Christian and Muslim thought which in turn stems from the metaphysics of Plato. While perhaps an initially shocking assertion, it has a very clear logical justification, which is that, in any given population, the majority of individuals are not mentally insane or intellectually stunted to the extent that they do not have the rational capacity to function productively and peacefully in their society. Before World War 2, Germany was not made up of a majority of racist psychotic killers who raped and pillaged as they pleased under the justification of some vague mandate. Whenever the sort of mass hysteria takes over a population as it did during Hitler’s Third Reich, it relies mostly upon environmental factors, such as the depressed economy and low national pride Germany experienced after their defeat in World War 1, and on certain charismatic individuals who are able to disseminate ideas and orders onto a majority of otherwise rational, peaceful citizens, creating what Hannah Arendt has termed “The banality of evil”. This is the case in most ethnic cleansing that occurs in seemingly civilized societies, and also, except in an initially non-violent manner, the creation of major world religions.
Though the logical idea of Social Darwinism is an example of an erroneous and destructive attempt to interpose biological evolution onto a social template, the propagation of the idea among generations in our society is a vivid example of how such interpretations can succeed. It has been shown that the idea is heritable, experiences random variance, and differential reproduction; thus, the term “idea” is no longer an adequate description. Rather, a more accurate term would be what Richard Dawkins termed “meme” . He writes, “Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passed it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain.” (2)
Rather than the survivability of its logic, it is the reproductive offer of its psychological coherence that has made it heritable for so long. While what this coherence entails is debatable and of course entirely un-provable, it is safe to suggest that Social Darwinism offers a typological justification for the oppression of an out-group by an in-group. For generations in America, it has helped everyone from factory owners to justify their ruthless exploitation of workers without health benefits or adequate pay to Republican presidents to cut welfare and privatize healthcare. The notion that the poor deserve their poverty because they have been evolutionarily selected to be weak and ultimately to die off in destitution relieves the privileged of any pesky responsibility towards charity or un-exploitative business practices. It also provides an artificial confidence boost and confidence cut to the respective groups, leading to a further disparity in performance which cyclically justifies the very philosophy which creates it. The fact that such a blatantly aristocratic philosophy could not only survive but flourish in America, a country supposedly founded in revolt against those very principles, for so long is a testament to the power of memes to overwhelm logical, and consequently moral, reasoning through their meretricious offer of psychological coherence veiled inside the remnants of a once a respectable idea.
Primary Sources: Mayr, Ernst. What Evolution Is. New York: Basic Books, 2001. Secondary Sources: (1) http://www.crf-usa.org/bria/bria19_2b.htm (2) Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene. First published 1976; 1989 edition: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-286092-5 (paperback)
“Survival of the Fittest”: The Flaws and Dissemination of Social Darwinism
Convened at the Sixth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
May 14-25, 2007
New York, New York
We, the undersigned Indigenous peoples and organizations, having convened during the Sixth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, from May 14-25, 2007, upon the traditional territory of the Onondaga Nation present the following declaration regarding our rights to genetic resources and indigenous knowledge:
Reaffirming our spiritual and cultural relationship with all life forms existing in our traditional territories;
Reaffirming our fundamental role and responsibility as the guardians of our territories, lands and natural resources;
Recognizing that we are the guardians of the Indigenous knowledge passed down from our ancestors from generation to generation and we reaffirm our responsibility to protect and perpetuate this knowledge for the benefit of our peoples and our future generations;
Strongly reaffirming our right to self-determination, which is fundamental to our ability to carry out our responsibilities in accordance with our cultural values and our customary laws.
Strongly reaffirming our commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as adopted by the Human Rights Council, including, Article 31, which establishes that:
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions.
2. In conjunction with indigenous peoples, States shall take effective measures to recognize and protect the exercise of these rights.
Recalling the Declaration of Indigenous Organizations of the Western Hemisphere, Phoenix, Arizona (February 1995), which asserted, “Our responsibility as Indigenous peoples is to ensure the continuity of the natural order of all life is maintained for generations to come…We have a responsibility to speak for all life forms and to the defend the integrity of the natural order. …We oppose the patenting of all natural genetic materials. We hold that life cannot be bought, owned, sold, discovered or patented, even in its smallest form.”
Recalling the Beijing Declaration of Indigenous Women, issued at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, which stated that “We demand that our inalienable rights to our intellectual and cultural heritage be recognized and respected. We will continue to freely use our biodiversity for meeting our local needs, while ensuring that the biodiversity base of our local economies will not be eroded. We will revitalize and rejuvenate our biological and cultural heritage and continue to be the guardians and custodians of our knowledge and biodiversity.”
Recalling the Ukupseni Declaration, at Kuna Yala, Panama, 12-13 November 1997, which declared that “We reject the use of existing mechanisms in the legalization of intellectual property and patent systems use of existing mechanisms including intellectual property rights and patents to legalize the appropriation of knowledge and genetic material, whatever their source, and especially that which comes from our communities.”
Recalling the INTERNATIONAL CANCUN DECLARATION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES at the 5th WTO Ministerial Conference – Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico, (12 September 2003), which stated, “Stop patenting of life forms and other intellectual property rights over biological resources and indigenous knowledge. Ensure that we, Indigenous Peoples, retain our rights to have control over our seeds, medicinal plants and indigenous knowledge.”
Concerned by the accelerated elaboration and negotiation of an international regime on access and benefit sharing under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the nation-states who are Parties to the Convention failure, to date, to recognize the rights of Indigenous peoples to control access to, and utilization of, the genetic resources that originate in our territories, lands and waters.
Therefore, we urge the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to
1. Prepare a legal analysis on States, peoples and sovereignty and their relationship, scope and application, to assist the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in understanding sovereignty in the context of the Convention and the role of sovereignty in developing an international regime on ABS;
2. Recommend to the Convention on Biological Diversity that, consistent with international human rights law, states have an obligation to recognize and protect the rights of Indigenous peoples to control access to the genetic resources that originate in their lands and waters, and associated traditional knowledge. Such recognition must be a key element of the proposed international regime on ABS.
3. Prepare a report on the social, cultural and economic impacts of commercialization of genetic resources and indigenous knowledge on Indigenous peoples.
4. Disseminate this Declaration and the above recommended reports to all relevant UN fora.
Indigenous Peoples and Organizations Supporting the Declaration on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to Genetic Resources and Indigenous Knowledge
1. Andes Chinchasuyo, Ecuador
2. Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth
4. Rapa Nui Parliament
5. Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)
6. International Indian Treaty Council (IITC)
7. Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism (IPCB)
8. Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development
9. Native Women’s Advocacy Center
10. Native Women’s Association of Canada
11. South Asia Indigenous Women Forum
12. Indigenous Peace Commission, Nepal
13. Indigenous Women Republic Front, Nepal
14. American Indian Law Alliance
15. Fundación Cholsamaj
16. Centro de Estudios Integrados para el Desariollo Comunal
17. Centro de Proyectos para el Desariollo Comunal
18. Turaga Nation
19. Vanuatu Indigenous Peoples Forum
20. Columbia River Education, Economic Development
21. Diné Care
22. Dewan Adat Papua Jayapura
23. Juventud Indigena Argentine
24. Call of the Earth Llamado de la Tierra
25. El Molo People
26. El Molo Eco-Tourism Rights and Development Forum
27. Tatanka Oyate (Buffalo Nations)
28. Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations
29. Instituto Indígena Brasileiro para Propriedade Intelectual (INBRAPI)
30. Sutsuin Jiyeyu Wayúu –Fuerza de Mujeres Wayúu
31. Red de Mujeres Indígenas Wayúu
32. Consejo Nacional de la Mujeres Indígena
33. Tob Qom Choco Argentine
34. Chirapaq, Centro de Culturas Indígenas del Peru
35. Ecuador CONAIE
36. Consejo de Todo los Tierra – Mapuche Chile
37. Corporacion de Mujeres Mapuche
38. Federacion de Pueblos de Pichincha
39. Nacionalidad Waorani Del Ecuador
40. Asociacion de Comunidades Indígenas
41. Fundacion Para la Promocion del Concimiento Indígena
42. Luz y Vida, Ecuador
43. Cultural Conservation Act (CCA)
44. International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests
45. United Confederation of Taino People
46. Indigenous Peoples Caucus of the Greater Caribbean
47. Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos
48. Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON)
..not only do we see biology being networked and distributed across the globe, but we are also seeing a hegemonic understanding of biological “life itself” that ceases to make a hard distinction between the natural and the artificial, the biological and the informatic. This is the twofold aspect of biotechnology that this book intends to explore. On the one hand, we witness a range of current events that readily display features of a globalizing industry. On the other hand, we also witness an ongoing integration of biology and informatics, genetics and computers, DNA chips and gene-finding software. The aim of The Global Genome is, then, to comprehend these two developments: to situate changes in the biotech industry within the larger context of globalization and political economy, and, conversely, to understand globalization as a core part of the practices and concepts of the biotech industry.
“Globalization” is a phenomenon that has been widely discussed in a number of contexts: economic (e.g., international organizations such as the World Trade Organization [WTO], the International Monetary Fund [IMF], and the World Bank), political (e.g., the so-called withering of the nationstate and the limits of geopolitical borders), and cultural (e.g., the hegemony of American culture or what some call “cultural imperialism”). But little attention has been given to the consideration of globalization as a biological phenomenon—that is, globalization in the context of biotechnology. The emergence of a biotech “industry” in the 1970s and the continued expansion of the pharmaceutical industry have arguably been global endeavors from the beginning. In this sense, biotechnology is coextensive with globalization. Similarly, “big science” projects such as the mapping of the human genome and events such as the emergence of new infectious diseases (the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome [SARS] outbreak) take place on a global level that includes networks of all kinds. Biological networks of infection (a novel virus strain) are contextualized by networks of transportation (the air-travel industry), which are then affected by governmental modes of regulation (travel restrictions, quarantine), which are countered by medical response efforts (disease surveillance networks), which are linked to medical-economic interventions (new vaccines, “fast-track” U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] drug approval), all of which have a palpable effect in terms of the mass media and a larger cultural impact (science fiction films or television programs featuring bioterrorist attacks or dirty bombs).
Thus, the primary aim of this book is to understand how the processes of globalization form a core component of biological knowledge and practice, without, however, simply determining it. In our contemporary context, biotechnology and globalization will be seen as indissociable, while not simply being identical. Indeed, it can even be stated that biotechnology and, by extension, a biotech “industry” are unthinkable without a globalizing context. The intersection of biology and informatics in this case is instructive. A largescale scientific endeavor such as the mapping of the human genome integrates genetic and computer codes at many different levels, from the agglomeration of information in databases, to the use of diagnostic technologies, to the development of novel genetic pharmaceuticals. In this increasing globalization of biotechnology, we witness the exchange of not only information, but, specifically, many types of genetic information. The “global genome” is the result
of what happens when biotechnology is globalized, when economic exchanges, political changes, and semiotic exchanges are coupled with biological exchanges.
The Global Genome
Biotechnology, Politics, and Culture
MIT Press 2006
Encoding / Production
The Global Genome
Bioinformatic Bodies and the Problem of “Life Itself”
A Political Economy of the Genomic Body
Recoding / Distribution
Biocolonialism, Genomics, and the Databasing of the Population
The Incorporate Bodies of Recombinant Capital
Bioinfowar: Biologically Enhancing National Security
Decoding / Consumption
The Thickness of Tissue Engineering
Regenerative Medicine: We Can Grow It for You Wholesale
Appendix A: Biotechnology Fields and Areas of Application
Appendix B: Techniques and Technologies in Biotechnology Research
Appendix C: A Brief Chronology of Bioinformatics 333
Appendix D: Biotechnology and Popular Culture; or, Mutants, Replicants, and Zombies