Archive for the ‘Debate’ Category

Scientists Answer Hoke Smith’s Attack On Negroes

From September 24, 1911

SCIENTISTS ANSWER HOKE SMITH'S ATTACK ON NEGROES

SCIENTISTS ANSWER HOKE SMITH’S ATTACK ON NEGROES: Produce Figures to Show Him Not Well Posted on Conditions in His Own State — Professor Boas Tells of the Race’s Achievements in Africa. (PDF)

A rebuttal to this article from last week claiming that “the negro is the South’s drawback.”

Leave a comment

Written by David

September 19th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Debate,Life,Politics

Electric Machine To Tell Guilt Of Criminals

From September 10, 1911

ELECTRIC MACHINE TO TELL GUILT OF CRIMINALS

ELECTRIC MACHINE TO TELL GUILT OF CRIMINALS: If It Is Perfected So As to Be Infallible It Will Make Expert Testimony Unnecessary and May Eliminate Juries in Trials. (PDF)

The “psychometer” described in this article works in the same way as modern polygraph machines. As the article puts it, “the human body’s resistance to an electrical current increased with the increase of the motions.” Skin conductivity, along with blood pressure, pulse, and respiration, can all be indicators that a person is lying.

But the technology is still far from being “perfected so as to be infallible.” You needn’t look hard to find harsh criticism of lie detectors including tips on how to beat one. In an episode of Penn & Teller’s Showtime program Bullshit, they talked to “people whose lives were ruined by faulty lie detector results.”

Leave a comment

Written by David

September 7th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Activity Of Modern Woman A Racial Problem

From August 13, 1911

ACTIVITY OF MODERN WOMAN A RACIAL PROBLEM

ACTIVITY OF MODERN WOMAN A RACIAL PROBLEM: Dr. Max G. Schlapp, Specialist in Mental Diseases, Believes that Present Conditions Tend Toward Increase in Insanity, Divorce, Race Suicide. (PDF)

Taking the evidence as it comes to him from records of daily experience which are written into the public documents of all countries, [Dr Schlapp] finds unmistakable evidence of deterioration in the human race. This does not mean that men and women to-day are not physically and mentally as well endowed as ever they were, but that there are more abnormal men, women, and children now than at any time since the establishment of the present civilization.

There are more insane, more criminals, more divorced people, and fewer children born to each one thousand of population, and this he traces directly to modern conditions. All civilizations that have gone before have had precisely the same experience that the world is passing through now, and for precisely that reason Dr. Schlapp believes that this civilization will go the way they have gone until the point of exhaustion is reached. Then there will be a resting period, and the human family will begin to advance once more.

The energetic, enterprising woman, he says, is not at all new. The suffragist or suffragette is as old as organized government. When the Grecian Empire was at its highest stages of development its advanced women were clamoring for the right of suffrage, and so it was in Rome before its fall, and Dr. Schlapp, who calls attention to this by way of illustration, has no doubt that the same condition existed in Egypt in some form or other about the time Egypt passed into the darkness.

If I understand the argument correctly, Dr. Schlapp is saying that when a civilization reaches a point where women begin to seek more duties outside the home, it suffers in other ways: fewer children, more divorces, and more insane people. If Dr. Schlapp can show a causal relationship, then it raises more questions: is it better to have a civilization where women are relegated to the home and have no authority but there are more traditional households, or one where women have more freedom, rights, and responsibilities, but there’s a higher number of divorces and fewer kids?

2 comments

Written by David

August 9th, 2011 at 10:00 am

A French Scientist Of The Sorbonne Attacks Darwinism

From August 6, 1911

A FRENCH SCIENTIST OF THE SORBONNE ATTACKS DARWINISM

A FRENCH SCIENTIST OF THE SORBONNE ATTACKS DARWINISM: Gaston Bonnier Declares that the Great English natrualist Was Imaginative and Careless In His Observations. (PDF)

To say that Gaston Bonnier “attacks” Darwinism in this article is a bit of a stretch. Today we think of such attacks as coming from a religious point of view, but here it is one scientist taking issue with certain assumptions and observations of another scientist. He doesn’t argue theology. He argues science. Societally, I’d much prefer we get back to that kind of discussion.

Leave a comment

Written by David

August 5th, 2011 at 9:30 am

Posted in Debate,Science

Youth No Bar To Sending Geidel To The Electric Chair

From August 6, 1911

YOUTH NO BAR TO SENDING GEIDEL TO THE ELECTRIC CHAIR

YOUTH NO BAR TO SENDING GEIDEL TO THE ELECTRIC CHAIR: Under the Law, a Child of Eight May Suffer Capital Punishment — The Law Concerning Murder. (PDF)

The arrest of seventeen-year-old Paul Geidel for the brutal murder of William Jackson in the Hotel Iroquois has caused many people to ask, “What can they do with him? They can’t send a boy of seventeen to the electric chair, can they?”

These people would be surprised to know that under the law of this and of many other States a child of eight may suffer capital punishment. It should be added, however, that it is extremely doubtful if this extreme penalty would be exacted from a child of such tender years, though the record of England contain a number of cases where children of eight and nine years of age were hanged, and in this country children of ten and eleven have been condemned to the gallows.

New York’s death penalty was reinstated by Governor Pataki in 1995, but found unconstitutional by the State’s Appellate Court in 2004. Nobody has been executed here in 35 years.

In 1988 the Supreme Court banned executions of people under 16, and there are still 19 states which allow for executions of 16 and 17 year olds.

One comment

Written by David

August 4th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Debate,True Crime

What Is The Most Beautiful Spot In New York?

From June 18, 1911

WHAT IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SPOT IN NEW YORK?

WHAT IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SPOT IN NEW YORK? Well Known Artists Express Their Preferences and Show an Astonishing Lack of Unanimity, No Two Selecting the Same Place — But They Upset the Popular Opinion That Skyscrapers Are Ugly. (PDF)

What’s the most beautiful spot in New York City? Answers in this article from a variety of artists include The Ramble in Central Park, Madison Square Park, Broad Street in the financial district, and the Brooklyn Bridge.

What do you think is the city’s most beautiful spot?

One comment

Written by David

June 15th, 2011 at 10:15 am

Is Woman Fit For Suffrage? Perhaps Not. Well, Is Man?

From May 21, 1911

IS WOMAN FIT FOR SUFFRAGE? PERHAPS NOT. WELL, IS MAN?

IS WOMAN FIT FOR SUFFRAGE? PERHAPS NOT. WELL, IS MAN? The Office Radical Thinks Not, and He Overwhelms the Philosopher by Some Cases in Point. (PDF)

The Office Radical and the Office Philosopher were two otherwise unidentified debaters who took on various topics in the Sunday Magazine. I’ve posted one of their debates here before. This one is about suffrage.

The rest of this post is unwritten because I’m a brand new dad and need to focus on that for a bit. But please feel free to read the article and make your own comments.

Leave a comment

Written by David

May 18th, 2011 at 10:45 am

Posted in Debate,Politics

Gov. A. E. Willson On The Income Tax Amendment

From February 26, 1911

GOV. A. E. WILLSON ON THE INCOME TAX AMENDMENT

GOV. A. E. WILLSON ON THE INCOME TAX AMENDMENT: “Most Serious Encroachment on State Rights Since Organization of Our Government,” Says Kentucky’s Chief Executive. (PDF)

The Sixteenth Amendment, which gave the Federal Government the power to tax income without apportioning it among the states, was passed by Congress in 1909. It was then sent to the states for ratification. Three fourths of the states need to ratify an Amendment for it to become part of the Constitution, and there were 48 states at the time, so the Amendment would need support of at least 36 of them.

On the day this article was published, 24 states had already ratified the Amendment. Kentucky Governor Augustus E. Willson wrote this article explaining why he thinks the Amendment is a bad idea for the states, and for the average American. Meanwhile, his own state’s legislature had already ratified the amendment. In fact, they were the second state to do so.

Ultimately, the amendment got more than enough support, and officially became part of the Constitution in 1913.

But that’s not where the story ends. There is a tax resistance movement today which contends that the federal government has no right to tax income. Their arguments say that either the Sixteenth Amendment was not properly ratified, or that the wording of the Amendment does not actually grant the power the government says it does. These arguments have been rejected in several courts, but there are still people who believe Federal income tax is illegal. This view is held by several people of prominence, including Congressman Ron Paul.

Leave a comment

Written by David

February 21st, 2011 at 11:30 am

Posted in Debate,Politics

Mrs. John A. Logan Criticises The Man Of The Period

From January 22, 1911

MRS. JOHN A. LOGAN CRITICISES THE MAN OF THE PERIOD

MRS. JOHN A. LOGAN CRITICISES THE MAN OF THE PERIOD: If Women Are Deteriorating, Men Are Doing So Still More Rapidly — Fatally Infected by Selfishness and Greed. (PDF)

About a month ago, the Sunday Magazine ran an article by Mrs. John A. Logan in which she criticized the women of the era for how they dressed, raised their kids, and generally behaved. There was such an overwhelming response that she’s back again to criticize the men.

For the most part, she sees men as too motivated by money and vanity in ways that earlier generations were not. I can see that as a valid criticism, I suppose. But then she brings this out:

“Another growing trait, and one which is not admirable, is evidenced continually here in Washington. I suppose Department clerks are normal samples of the young man of the period. Well, there is a practice common among Department clerks which seems significant of real degeneration to me. Plenty of them marry young co-clerks in secret, so that the girls may keep on working, retain their clerical positions, and continue to draw salary. If the marriages were public the girls would lose their clerical positions. Young men, it seems to me, are more and more willing to let their wives earn money, and to accept the half-home of a boarding-house, or the no-home of an ill-kept flat in consequence, for the sake of the salaries they draw. It is another and a striking symptom of chivalry’s decline in the United States. The boy in high-school takes it for granted that his girl sweetheart is to learn stenography, or something, by which to earn a living for herself. Yes, you men are rapidly forgetting all the chivalry of your grandfathers. The man who lets his wife earn money shows by doing so a definite deterioration peculiar to the time. He, himself, by doing so, has made a long step toward becoming a mere weakling, and such weaklings are getting to be as characteristic of American men, as the fine and chivalrous type was in the days one by. There was a time when the American man would have been horrified, as long as he was strong and well, at the mere thought of letting his wife go out to earn, but that time has, apparently gone by.

“This has had a most unfortunate effect on the male character and has increased the American woman’s desire for independence. The Creator intended women to be dependent; people should not marry if each does not expect to take a rightful share of the responsibility — the man’s to earn, the woman’s to keep up the home.”

Independent women in the workplace? That’s crazy! For more curmudgeonly views on the topic, see Andy Rooney and this 1944 training film from the U.S. Office of Education about working women.

Leave a comment

Written by David

January 20th, 2011 at 11:27 am

Posted in Debate,Life

Sir Oliver Lodge Teaches The Soul’s Pre-Existence

From November 20, 1910

SIR OLIVER LODGE TEACHES THE SOULS PRE-EXISTENCE

SIR OLIVER LODGE TEACHES THE SOUL’S PRE-EXISTENCE: Famous Physicist Announces His Belief, Gained Through Scientific Research, in Immortality, the Gift of Prophecy, and Christ’s Incarnation. (PDF)

Why the Magazine has become infatuated with this debate in recent weeks is beyond me. It’s an interesting topic, but I’m surprised to see so many articles about it. It all started when Thomas Edison proclaimed there is no soul, and now they keep writing about some expert or other who is sure that there is or isn’t a soul. Add this one to the pile.

Sir Oliver Lodge was a scientist whose inventions aided in developing wireless technology. He was also a member of The Ghost Club, an organization in the UK that still exists and whose “prime interest is that of paranormal phenomena associated with ghosts and hauntings.” Other notable Ghost Club members include Charles Dickens, W. B. Yeats, and Peter Cushing. If you’d like to join, you can find a membership application on their website, but please note that the Ghost Club does not perform clearances or exorcisms, and the use of Ouija Boards is strictly prohibited.

Leave a comment

Written by David

November 19th, 2010 at 9:45 am

Posted in Debate,Religion,Science

Readers Of The Times Take Issue With Edison’s Statements

From October 9, 1910

READERS OF THE TIMES TAKE ISSUE WITH EDISONS STATEMENTS

READERS OF THE TIMES TAKE ISSUE WITH EDISON’S STATEMENTS (PDF)

100 years ago last week, the Times Magazine ran a front page article in which Thomas Edison states his belief that there is no soul, and no life after death. This week, the Magazine printed several articles in response.

Here, the Times prints several letters to the editor in response to the article. They show a cross section of views from the public.

Some readers, like Adele Malette, disagreed with Edison. She says, “I firmly believe there is a supernatural being, and I thoroughly believe of life after death, life in this same world; that the soul reappears in the shape of another body, and that the soul is in the brain.” She also believes that animals have souls, but she doesn’t believe there is a heaven.

But a reader named Lurana Sheldon wrote to praise Edison for speaking out:

The “amazing” part, it seems to me, is that Mr. Edison is willing to give his views to the world and take the petty furor of undeveloped minds that will doubtless rage at his statements.

This is not an age of martyrdom, and few people will bother to expound their faiths, especially if by so doing they are bound to joggle the pedestal of some mythological belief, unless in the words of commercialism “there is something in it.”

Mr. Edison does not need to preach even the most intelligent faith; he can go right on eating, without telling any one what he thinks, but the fact that he has “put himself on paper” so fearlessly is certainly “amazing” — delightfully so, in fact — now who else in his rank and file will follow his example?

If Lurana were around today, she might be interested in the Celebrity Atheist List, a wiki that chronicles notable individuals who have publicly stated their own lack of belief in deities.

One comment

Written by David

October 8th, 2010 at 10:30 am

Posted in Debate,Religion,Science

Author Of “Brain And Personality” Replies To Edison

From October 9, 1910

AUTHOR OF BRAIN AND PERSONALITY REPLIES TO EDISON

AUTHOR OF “BRAIN AND PERSONALITY” REPLIES TO EDISON: Dr W. H. Thompson, Whose Book the Inventor Quoted, Says That Any One Denying the Immortality of the Soul Is Either Abnormal or Pathological. (PDF)

100 years ago last week, the Times Magazine ran a front page article in which Thomas Edison states his belief that there is no soul, and no life after death. This week, the Magazine printed several articles in response.

In the original article, Edison said that our brains are nothing more than bundles of cells. In reply, Dr W. H. Thompson, author of a book called “Brain and Personality” (Google Books), says that Edison doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He correctly points out that “the fact that he is prominent in one branch of science does not entitle him to pass on other branches of science.” Often a person who is an expert in one area oversteps their bounds by speaking authoritatively in another area. So it’s good of Thompson to call out Edison on that point. But with no concrete evidence of immortality, does Thompson, an expert on the brain, commit the same infraction when he states, “People who do not believe in immortality are abnormal, if not pathological”? Where did he get his expertise on immortality?

He goes on to say interesting things about the brain and how it relates to personality, as was understood in 1910. I’d like to see a recent look at the subject for comparison. How much more do we know about the brain and personality now than we knew a hundred years ago?

Leave a comment

Written by David

October 8th, 2010 at 10:15 am

Is There A World Of Spirit Behind Matter?

From October 9, 1910

IS THERE A WORLD OF SPIRIT BEHIND MATTER?

IS THERE A WORLD OF SPIRIT BEHIND MATTER? (PDF)

100 years ago last week, the Times Magazine ran a front page article in which Thomas Edison states his belief that there is no soul, and no life after death. This week, the Magazine printed several articles in response.

In this one, Dr. Isaac Heysinger recounts the evidence for life after death as he published in his book “Spirit and Matter Before the Bar of Modern Science” (Google Books). If what he says in the article is any indication, it seems to be just a lot of anecdotal evidence.

He starts by listing a full page of scientists who believe in the spirit world. He goes on to say:

“The basis of all religions,” he declares, “of whatever race, country, or age, is the same, and this basis is precisely identical with the claims and practices of modern Spritualism” — meaning by that term the Spiritualistic conception of the universe. “This universal belief,” he goes on, “in all times and ages, and among all people, is valid evidence of its truth.”

In other words, if enough people believe in something it must be true!

One comment

Written by David

October 8th, 2010 at 10:00 am

Posted in Debate,Religion,Science

“No Immortality Of The Soul” Says Thomas A. Edison

From October 2, 1910

NO IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL SAYS THOMAS A. EDISON

“NO IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL” SAYS THOMAS A. EDISON: In Fact, He Doesn’t Believe There Is a Soul — Human Beings Only an Aggregate of Cells and the Brain Only a Wonderful Machine, Says Wizard of Electricity. (PDF)

On the occasion of a Harvard Professor’s death, Edward Marshall asked Thomas Edison about his views on life after death.

Searching the inner structure of all things for the fundamental, Edison told me he had come to the conclusion that there is no “supernatural,” or “supernormal,” as the psychic researchers put it — that all there is, that all there has been, all there ever will be, can or will, soon or late, be explained along material lines…

“I cannot believe in the immortality of the soul,” he said to me.. “Heaven? Shall I, if I am good and earn reward, go to heaven when I die? No — no. I am not I — I am not an individual — I am an aggregate of cells, as for instance, New York City is an aggregate of individuals. Will New York City go to heaven?

“No, all this talk of an existence for us, as individuals, beyond the grave is wrong. It is born of our tenacity of life — our desire to go on living — our dread of coming to an end as individuals. I do not dread it, though. Personally I cannot see any use of a future life.”

“But the soul!” I protested. “The soul–”

“Soul? Soul? What do you mean by soul? The brain?”

“Well, for the sake of argument, call it the brain, or what is in the brain. Is there not something immortal of or in the human brain — the human mind?”

“Absolutely no,” he said with emphasis. “There is no more reason to believe that any human brain will be immortal than there is to think that one of my phonographic cylinders will be immortal. My photographic cylinders are mere records of sounds which have been impressed upon them…

“Yet no one thinks of claiming immortality for the cylinders or the phonograph. Then why claim it for the brain mechanism or the power that drives it? Because we don’t know what this power is, shall we call it immortal?”

If you’re guessing that this article, which appeared on the front page of the Times Magazine, caused some controversy among the Times readers, you’re guessing correctly. In this weekend’s entries, I’ll publish letters from Times readers in response to this article.

2 comments

Written by David

October 6th, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Posted in Debate,Religion,Science

When Future Historian Comes To 1910

From August 7, 1910

WHEN FUTURE HISTORIAN COMES TO 1910

WHEN FUTURE HISTORIAN COMES TO 1910: Will He Look Us Up with Interest, or Pass Us by with a Grunt (PDF)

Back in 1910 the New York Times Sunday Magazine had a regular weekly column in which two characters known as the Office Radical and the Office Philosopher debate two sides of an issue. I’ve read a few of their debates while doing research for this blog, but I haven’t published any of their columns here so far. But this one was too good to pass up.

In this week’s column, they debate whether or not anything interesting has happened in 1910 that would be worth future historians looking at, especially as compared to all the interesting stuff their own historians have to look back on.

The Office Radical is sure that “some future historian will be ransacking the newspaper files and official records of 1910 the same way our present-day historians are ransacking those of, say, 1859 or 1770.”

The Office Philosopher says, “I’ll bet you 10 to 6 he doesn’t look at them for anything but Peary and the airships.”

I read this as I sat in the microforms room of the New York Public Library, doing research for this blog. I’d been researching the other 1910 articles I’ve posted over the last couple months, on topics that do indeed include Robert Peary and airships. And when I saw this discussion my eyes got wide and I thought, “They’re talking about me!”

I felt like Bastian in The NeverEnding Story when he realizes that the book he’s reading is talking specifically about him. Maybe this means I should write a post in which I wonder if future historians will ever look back at blogs of today with the same fascination I have in looking at newspapers of 1910.

So, obviously, I side with the Radical on this one.

One comment

Written by David

August 6th, 2010 at 9:45 am