The dangers of (political) domestication

«The same individual geese on which we conducted these experiments, first aroused my interest in the process of domestication. They were F1 hybrids of wild Greylags and domestic geese and they showed surprising deviations from the normal social and sexual behaviour of the wild birds. I realised that an overpowering increase in the drives of feeding as well as of copulation and a waning of more differentiated social instincts is characteristic of very many domestic animals. I was frightened – as I still am – by the thought that analogous genetical processes of deterioration may be at work with civilized humanity. Moved by this fear, I did a very ill-advised thing soon after the Germans had invaded Austria: I wrote about the dangers of domestication and, in order to be understood, I couched my writing in the worst of nazi-terminology. I do not want to extenuate this action. I did, indeed, believe that some good might come of the new rulers. The precedent narrow-minded catholic regime in Austria induced better and more intelligent men than I was to cherish this naive hope. Practically all my friends and teachers did so, including my own father who certainly was a kindly and humane man. None of us as much as suspected that the word “selection”, when used by these rulers, meant murder. I regret those writings not so much for the undeniable discredit they reflect on my person as for their effect of hampering the future recognition of the dangers of domestication.»

– Konrad Lorenz, “Autobiography“, written at the time of the Nobel award and later published in the book series Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures.

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