Tag Archives: biological essentialism

Visibility of nazi medical experiments

Visibility and awareness above all.  What are the stakes?  Many German medical professionals gained subjects for experiments from the Nazi murder machine. Take this one example:

The most startling breakthrough comes from German journalist and Tübingen culture professor Hans-Joachim Lang. He has identified all of the Jews selected for gassing by August Hirt, director of the anatomical institute in Strasbourg who had a singularly ghoulish plan for their remains.

Hirt was interested in adding to a collection of skulls at the University of Strasbourg. “Although extensive skulls collections existed from nearly all races and peoples,” the Jews were missing, he wrote to the director of an SS research group established to prove Aryan superiority. “From the Jewish-Bolshevik commissars, who embody a disgusting, but characteristic type of subhuman, we have the opportunity to acquire a tangible scientific document by securing their skulls.”

Hirt was essentially competing with the Natural History Museum in Vienna, which procured Jewish skulls from another anatomist, Hermann Voss. In consultation with the staff of Heinrich Himmler, Hirt received permission to go ahead. Two staff members were sent to Auschwitz to separate out a group of Jews, 30 women and 79 men. They were examined according to the standards for racial typing of the time: Their skin, hair, and eye color were noted and coded using special tables, and the shapes of their heads, foreheads, noses, mouths, and ears measured. Fifty-seven of the men and 29 of the women were chosen. They were gassed in a special chamber and their bodies delivered to Hirt at his anatomical institute.

Hirt stored the bodies in the basement. In the end, he didn’t work on them—he lacked the equipment during the course of the war. At the war’s end, Himmler ordered the bodies destroyed. But in January 1945, after the liberation of Strasbourg, the London Daily Mail reported their discovery in the anatomical institute.

via Nazi anatomy history: The origins of conservatives’ anti-abortion claims that rape can’t cause pregnancy..

Oh yeah, the bogus idea that rape doesn’t lead to conception traces back to some grotesque nazi scientists.

Whether they know it or not, Stieve’s work is the source for their discredited claim. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists warned that saying rape victims rarely get pregnant was “medically inaccurate, offensive, and dangerous.” But the anti-abortion doctor Jack Willke, former head of the National Right to Life Committee, insisted otherwise. \”This goes back 30 and 40 years,” he told the Los Angeles Times in the midst of the Akin furor. “When a woman is assaulted and raped, there\’s a tremendous amount of emotional upset within her body.\” Willke has written that \”one of the most important reasons why a rape victim rarely gets pregnant” is “physical trauma.\”

Where did he get this idea? In 1972, another anti-abortion doctor, Fred Mecklenburg, wrote an essay in a book financed by the group Americans United for Life in which he asserted that women rarely get pregnant from rape. Mecklenburg said that:

The Nazis tested the hypothesis that stress inhibits ovulation by selecting women who were about to ovulate and sending them to the gas chambers, only to bring them back after their realistic mock killing, to see what effects this had on their ovulatory pattern. An extremely high percentage of these women did not ovulate.

via Nazi anatomy history: The origins of conservatives’ anti-abortion claims that rape can’t cause pregnancy..

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Filed under disaster, genocide, human rights, memorial, propaganda, representation, sexual assault

Heteronormativity and penguins

Buddy and Pedro are two male penguins who bond and nest together.  The Toronto zoo is breaking up this male/male relationship to force the penguins to reproduce with female penguins.

Buddy and Pedro are originally from a zoo in Toledo, Ohio, and were bonded before the reached the Metro Zoo. Twenty-one year old Buddy had a female partner for ten years with whom we produced offspring but she is now deceased. Ten year old Pedro has never produced offspring and the zoo feels it’s their job to ensure that the penguins are matched with females and bred.

Buddy and Pedro are not the first same-sex animal pair, nor even the first same-sex penguin couple. In 2004 a pair of same-sex chinstrap penguins named Roy and Silo at New York City’s Central Park zoo incubated, hatched and raised a chick together, a female named Tango. Tango’s birth was the subject of a popular and controversial children’s book called And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.

A pair of male penguins at a zoo in Germany also successfully hatched a chick. It is almost rarer to find an animal species wherein there is not same-sex pairing than it is to find a completely heterosexual animal species. Same-sex pairings have been observed in elephants, giraffes, dolphins, apes, lions, sheep, swans, hyenas and vultures. The list of same-sex pairings in insects and marine species is too long to list.

via » Marriage of the Penguins Gender Focus – A Canadian Feminist Blog.

Humans like to use specific animal case studies to help confirm their own stories about how humans have to act.   In essence by finding animals in the world who act in certain manners, humans extrapolate that there is a universal drive or that particular behavior is natural in other species. This is biological essentialism.

Considering this case of same-sex animals, one might ask if the science is being used by leftists to support the naturalness of human homosexuality?

Sure, I guess that is probably true in this case.  Humans are story-loving animals, and we generally want to gather information which supports our prevailing points of view.  But how we get the stories which are the foundations of our own beliefs — in this case nature or nurture — is the real question. Schools, clergy, parents, books, authority figures, and anecdotes we’ve collected invite us to invest in some particular ways of understanding.   Some communications corrode against other communications.   One example is same-sex coupling in animals:

For more than a century, this kind of observation was usually tacked onto scientific papers as a curiosity, if it was reported at all, and not pursued as a legitimate research subject. Biologists tried to explain away what they’d seen, or dismissed it as theoretically meaningless — an isolated glitch in an otherwise elegant Darwinian universe where every facet of an animal’s behavior is geared toward reproducing. One primatologist speculated that the real reason two male orangutans were fellating each other was nutritional.

via Can Animals Be Gay? – NYTimes.com.

Sexuality in nature appears to be quite diverse and hard to map out in any deterministic fashion.  Language, words and the human desire for classification spin stories from observations.  These lived realities then influence how we exist in the world.

Communications give birth to us.  They also mark the ideas of the past, making visible our often embarrassing intellectual histories.  The desire to open up those old ideas with more thoughtful understandings is valuable.  More importantly, it is fruitful to be reflective about how we self-constitute our ideas about sexuality.


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Filed under Animals, communication, human rights, learning, nature