The things one finds by blind luck! I'm linking to this TNR article on Cyril Darlington not out of any great interest in the man himself - though the description of his journey from the left to the extreme right does say a great deal about the intellectual dishonesty of many prominent 20th century thinkers when it came to facts which might have threatened the "progressive" cause of communism - but because of the following excerpt which caught my attention.
Undaunted by the negative reaction to The Facts of Life, Darlington continued to work on its contentious subjects, bringing the fruits of his labors together in The Evolution of Man and Society, a magnum opus of some seven hundred pages that was translated into many languages. Published in 1969 amid the turmoil over race in both the United States and Britain, including the National Front's anti-immigrant movement, it advanced a sweeping genetic determinism that identified the book and its author with the racist right. So, similarly, did his associations with various professional groups and journals, and so did his last book, The Little Universe of Man, which appeared in 1978, three years before his death, and railed against the welfare state, trade unions, communitarianism, and what he termed the "taboo on the study of hereditary differences."
The behavioral biologist Konrad Lorenz, an intellectual collaborator of the Nazis, praised the book, and so did Ernst Mayr, evidently a closet inegalitarian, who wrote to Darlington, "I am delighted you have said all these things which are so true but which are simply suppressed in the 'egalitarian' mass media. . . . I am frank to say, your bias, or I should say government policies based on your bias, should promise a far better future for mankind than the ruling bias." Revealingly, as Harman points out, these kudos were delivered privately. The public response of the critics ranged from intellectual condemnation to personal vituperation. Among most mainstream scientists the book sealed Darlington's reputation as a racist crank.
Now, opposition to the welfare state, trade unions and "communitarianism" hardly suffices to make one a racist, otherwise by that standard I and every other libertarian would qualify as "racists", but Daniel Kevles' review clearly hints that there was a lot more to Darlington's works than mere railing against some imaginary "taboo on the study of hereditary differences", extending to a full-fledged programme of the sort most decent people would have hoped the world had left behind after World War 2:
By the late 1940s, Darlington had become, in Harman's description, "a racialist scientific humanist, convinced that genes determine behavior, skill, and intelligence, and that if scientifically guided social planning were to ignore the inherent biological differences in capacity and function between people and races, it was bound to fail."
It is with all of the above in mind that one can't help wondering what exactly Ernst Mayr had in mind in to say "government policies based on your bias, should promise a far better future for mankind than the ruling bias"; what can this be interpreted as meaning, other than that Mayr believed that a government which acted along eugencist and racialist lines was to be preferred to the status quo, and why did Mayr prefer to deliver his approval of Darlington's book via private channels if he didn't think it would fail to meet with widespread approbation? To me, this is a give-away that Ernst Mayr knew quite well how badly most of his peers would take such an endorsement, but he was too much of a coward to wish to be associated with his true views in the public eye - making him as craven in his own way as all the scientific apologists for the Soviet Union whom Darlington loathed so much.
PS: For the sake of fairness, I should also point out that much of what Mayr did write for public consumption did not in any way indicate that he held to the sorts of views he seemed to be endorsing when he wrote to Darlington, nor did this bit of correspondence with Francis Crick which actually predates the letter in which he approved of Darlington's book. That Mayr did support "positive eugenics" - by which I mean the use of the power of government to decide who ought to be entitled to "reproductive freedom" - is crystal clear from the following passage from his letter to Crick, however.
I have been favoring positive eugenics as far back as I can remember. As I get older, I find the objective as important as ever, but I appreciate also increasingly how difficult it is to achieve this goal, particularly in a democratic western society. Even if we could solve all the biological problems, and they are formidable, there still remains the problem of coping with the demand for "freedom of reproduction", a freedom which fortunately will have to be abolished anyhow if we are not to drown in human bodies. The time will come, and perhaps sooner than we think, when parents will have to take out a license to produce a child ... A biologist will understand the logic of this argument, but how many non-biologists would? Obviously then, we need massive education. Such education would be paralyzed if it gets mixed up with racist and anti-racist arguments. This is why the Academy has to dissociate itself from Shockley's arguments.
So, then, perhaps Mayr wasn't a racist, at least not in the aggressive sense that Shockley was, but there's nothing in this letter to say that his opposition to racialist thinking stemmed from moral principle rather than a tactical desire not to see advocacy for "positive eugenics" be sunk in the quagmire of racial strife. What is beyond doubt from reading Mayr's letter, however, is that he was no friend of "democratic western society" with its queesiness about interfering with the reproductive decisions of individuals, and that he would definitely have welcomed a new order which put aside such wishy-washy principles of liberty in order that the programme of "positive eugenics" he favored be enacted. I suspect that Mayr really wouldn't have had much of a problem going along with the Nazi programme had he not already departed for the USA in 1931 - just as long as the Nazis had the good sense to defer to the wisdom of biologists like himself, of course.
One last thing: Mayr's views on the undesirability of unfettered individual freedom to make reproductive choices indicate just how meaningless the distinction made between "positive" and "negative" eugenics is in practice. I fail to see anything "positive" about a program which deigns to tell people whether they can have children and how many they can have with whom, and I'm sure that it wouldn't be difficult for the advocates of eugenics to file a scenario in which the state taxed all its citizens while withholding life-sustaining services from the "unfit" under the "positive eugenics" column, though the distinction would surely seem irrelevant to those poor wretches left to starve, waste away from illness, protect themselves from crime, or even to put out their own fires.