Grannies and Genes: A Set of Blogs
At various public meetings, the Vermont Yankee "Raging Grannies" hand out a quote from Alice Stewart. This quote is basically a summary of eugenics. Over the past week I have had four blog posts on the subject. The first post described the grannies. The next three posts talked about how the quote fits into the eugenics agenda, and why we should care.
My first post, Older and Unthinking, described the Grannies trespassing and arrest at Vermont Yankee. Some of the women have been arrested at the plant nine times, but charges are never brought against them. I suggested that being old shouldn't give you a pass on repeated lawbreaking.
My next three posts were about the Alice Stewart quote and its implications. The quote is distributed at public meetings by the grannies. Stewart claims that any mutation will spread through the population and contaminate the gene pool. A "bad seed" will build "defective genes into the population" and these will "never be rooted out."
This is the standard form of the eugenics argument: discrimination against people who are "defective" and have "defective genes." The argument has been used to forcibly sterilize imbeciles. Often, "imbecile" is defined as "person of another race" (such as the Abenaki First Nation in Vermont).
When I objected to receiving the eugenics handout at a Public Service Board meeting, I was roundly booed by the plant opponents.
My first post on this topic described the prinicples of eugenics: Grannies and Eugenics, the Cruelty of Ignorance.
The second post talked a little about Alice Stewart and her philosophy, and also explained why Vermonters, especially, should avoid making the eugenics argument. Eugenics frequently starts by trying to rid the world of "defective" genes and people, but it usually moves on to outright racism. That is what happened in Vermont with the Abenakis. My post: Alice Stewart's Work. Also, How Eugenics Affected Vermont.
My third post described modern genetics, and why "defective" genes don't actually build up in a population: Genes in Populations: A More Modern View.
The bottom line on all of this: The eugenics model is not how genes spread. Believing that eugenics is the correct model is cruel and eventually racist. The grannies should stop handing out eugenics literature at public meetings.
A Retrospective on the Posts: What About the Grannies Themselves?
There is another bottom line. Do I think the Grannies themselves are racist? No. I think they are ignorant of what they are doing, rather than racist.
They found a quote from Alice Stewart, and it fit with their ideas about how bad radiation is: "See, one bad gene can ruin the whole gene pool!"
I think that the Grannies:
- know very little about science (modern genetics)
- know even less about the history of science (the rise and fall of eugenics)
- know very little about many aspects of regular history (Hitler and eugenics, Vermont and the Abenaki and eugenics).
I think they simply don't know they are distributing a quote that summarizes the world-view of eugenics, from a person (born in 1906) who may have written these words during the hey-day of eugenics in the 30s. That's why I titled my first post: the cruelty of ignorance, rather than the cruelty of racism. That's also why I refer to them as the "eugenics grannies" not the "racist grannies."
Ignorance can lead to very bad results, however. Including racism.
I announced the Fifteenth Blog Carnival of Nuclear Energy in one of the eugenics posts. It was pretty well buried in the post, so I repeat it here.
The Fifteenth Blog Carnival of Nuclear Energy is up at Next Big Future. Nuclear Townhall notes that the Bellefonte plant at TVA is set to move forward again (construction was stopped in the 70s). Dan Yurman discusses the license process for Small Modular Reactors, and Charles Barton has a post about Australian climate scientist Barry Brook and his move to nuclear. Steve Aplin reviews the movie Countdown to Zero, about nuclear proliferation, including important insights about Iran's program. Brian Wang has put together a very interesting and eclectic mix of blog posts. Thank you Brian.
Come to the carnival! You always learn something, and it's fun, too!
The Atomic Show Podcast
I was honored and flattered to be on Rod Adams Podcast yesterday evening. Three of us discussed various topics, including the slowdown of the nuclear renaissance in this country. The three participants were Rod Adams of Atomic Insights blog, Charles Barton of Nuclear Green Revolution blog, and myself.
Download Atomic Show Podcast #160, Bumps in the Renaissance Road to hear what we said about the Renaissance, nuclear art, and more.
Yes. I'm off topic and talking about our daughter again.
In a previous post I noted that our daughter Julia Angwin is a Wall Street Journal tech editor. She just finished spearheading a major WSJ investigative project on "What They Know." This project explores what Internet marketers know about you. The WSJ web site for the project has databases and interactive graphics so you can explore your own experience.
Since then, Julia has been on several radio and television programs, talking about the project. Here is a link to see her on C-Span (forty minute interview). And here's a link to her appearance on the the NPR radio show On Point. This episode had the intriguing title of Creepy Commerce. In this program, Julia was on a panel that included an internet advertising executive. Nothing like controversy to make a show exciting!
Carnival Image is the Carousel in the square at Avignon.