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Letter to the Editor   |    
Which Image for Lorenz?
LEON EISENBERG, M.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2005;162:1760-1760. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.162.9.1760

To the Editor: The Journal’s photo of Konrad Lorenz with the geese who behaved toward him as if he were their mother (1) is charming indeed, but Lorenz’s politics were anything but charming. Because those politics were unknown to the author, Francine M. Benes, M.D., Ph.D. (who was horrified to learn of them), I call those views to the attention of readers.

Lorenz was explicit in his defense of Nazi concepts of racial purity (2). He wrote in 1940 that

the only resistance which mankind of healthy stock…can offer against being penetrated by degeneracy is based on the existence of certain innate schemata.…Our species-specific sensitivity to the beauty and ugliness of members of our species is intimately connected with the symptoms of degeneration caused by domestication, which threaten our race.…Decadent art provides many examples of such a change of signs.…The immensely high reproduction rate in the moral imbecile has long been established.…This phenomenon leads everywhere to the fact that socially inferior human material is enabled…to penetrate and finally to annihilate healthy stock. This selection for toughness, heroism, and social utility…must be accomplished by some human institution, if mankind, in default of selective factors, is not to be ruined by domestication-induced degeneracy. The racial idea as the basis of our state has already accomplished much in this respect. (3, p. 2)

Lorenz justified Nazi legal restrictions against intermarriage with non-Aryans as a social measure to correct for "domestication-induced degeneracy." After the war, Lorenz no longer referred to his 1940 article, but his Nazi past should never be forgotten—notwithstanding his Nobel Prize.

Benes FM: Konrad Lorenz, 1903–1989 (image, psych). Am J Psychiatry  2004; 161:1767
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Eisenberg L: The human nature of human nature. Science  1972; 176:123–128
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Lorenz K: Dutch Domestikation verursachte Storungen arteigenen Verhaltens (German). Z Angew Psychol Charakterkunde  1940; 59:1–81
 
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References

Benes FM: Konrad Lorenz, 1903–1989 (image, psych). Am J Psychiatry  2004; 161:1767
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Eisenberg L: The human nature of human nature. Science  1972; 176:123–128
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Lorenz K: Dutch Domestikation verursachte Storungen arteigenen Verhaltens (German). Z Angew Psychol Charakterkunde  1940; 59:1–81
 
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