Bertrand Russell: A eugenicist scumbag’s quotes

BERTRAND RUSSELL— AO says: Please, send in any quotes you may have via the comments section below this post.

Almost all will be normal, happy, healthy boys or girls. Their diet will not be left to the caprices of parents, but will be such as the best biochemists recommend. They will spend much time in the open air, and will be given no more book-learning than is absolutely necessary. Upon the temperament so formed, docility will be imposed by the methods of the drill-sergeant, or perhaps by the softer methods employed upon Boy Scouts. All the boys and girls will learn from an early age to be what is called “co-operative,” i.e. to do exactly what everybody is doing. Initiative will be discouraged in these children, and insubordination, without being punished, will be scientifically trained out of them.”
— Bertrand Russell, The Scientific Outlook (p. 182)


From a letter to Gilbert Murray … “I have been merely oppressed by the weariness, tedium and vanity of things lately, nothing seems worth doing or having done. The only thing that I strongly feel worthwhile would be to murder as many people as possible so as to diminish the amount of consciousness in the world.”


“Anaxagoras maintained that snow is black but no one believed him. The social psychologists of the future will have a number of classes of school children on whom they will fay different methods of producing an unshakable conviction that snow is black. Various results will soon be arrived at: First, that the influence of the home is obstructive; second, not much can be done unless indoctrination begins before age ten; third, that verses set to music and repeatedly intoned are very effective; fourth, that the opinion that snow is white must be held to show a morbid taste for eccentricity. But I anticipate it is for future scientists to make these maxims precise and discover exactly how much it costs per head to make children believe that snow is black and how much less it would cost to make them believe it is dark grey. ”
— Bertrand Russell, The Impact of Science on Society (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1953)


“I do not pretend that birth control is the only way in which population can be kept from increasing. There are others, which, one must suppose, opponents of birth control would prefer. War, as I remarked a moment ago, has hitherto been disappointing in this respect, but perhaps bacteriological war may prove more effective. If a Black Death could be spread throughout the world once in every generation survivors could procreate freely without making the world too full. There would be nothing in this to offend the consciences of the devout or to restrain the ambitions of nationalists. The state of affairs might be somewhat unpleasant, but what of that? Really high-minded people are indifferent to happiness, especially other people’s.”
— Bertrand Russell, The Impact of Science on Society (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1953), pp.103-104


“In extreme cases there can be little doubt of the superiority of one race to another[…] It seems on the whole fair to regard Negroes as on the average inferior to white men, although for work in the tropics they are indispensable, so that their extermination (apart from the question of humanity) would be highly undesirables.”
— Bertrand Russell, Marriage and Morals, pg. 266 (1929)

One response

  1. In every instance which you quote here attempting to portray Russell as a ‘eugenicist scumbag’, he is speaking ironically from the point of view of his opponent, the ‘eugenicist scumbag’. This is obvious even from the quotes themselves, but more so when read in context. The exceptions are the quote from his personal correspondence & the passage from *Marriage and Morals*. The statement to Gilbert Murray is readily understood as hyperbole emphasizing a moment of Weltschmerz–& a reduction of ‘the amount of consciousness’ in the world has never been a motive for eugenicists as far as I am aware. I have felt & expressed myself almost the same way, & yet I am in complete disagreement with any sort of eugenics!

    As to the oft-quoted passage from *Marriage and Morals*: From Wikipedia: ‘Responding in 1964 to a correspondent’s inquiry, “Do you still consider the Negroes an inferior race, as you did when you wrote Marriage and Morals?”, Russell replied:

    ‘I never held Negroes to be inherently inferior. The statement in Marriage and Morals refers to environmental conditioning. I have had it withdrawn from subsequent editions because it is clearly ambiguous.
    —Bertrand Russell, letter dated 17 March 1964 in Dear Bertrand Russell… a selection of his correspondence with the general public, 1950–1968. edited by Barry Feinberg and Ronald Kasrils.(London: Allen & Unwin, 1969, p. 146)’

    Moreover, the whole arc of Russell’s journalistic writing–& what is so fascinating about it–shows a man progressively casting off the prejudices of the society into which he was born. From Wikipedia: ‘As with his views on religion, which developed considerably throughout his long life, Russell’s views on the matter of race did not remain fixed. By 1951, Russell was a vocal advocate of racial equality and intermarriage; he penned a chapter on “Racial Antagonism” in New Hopes for a Changing World (1951), which read:

    ‘ It is sometimes maintained that racial mixture is biologically undesirable. There is no evidence whatever for this view. Nor is there, apparently, any reason to think that Negroes are congenitally less intelligent than white people, but as to that it will be difficult to judge until they have equal scope and equally good social conditions.
    —Bertrand Russell, New Hopes for a Changing World (London: Allen & Unwin, 1951, p. 108)’

    This page is intellectually & morally dishonest. Russell was a commendable human being–& no eugenicist.


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