This paper discusses the eugenics of Paul Kammerer (1880–1926), an Austrian biologist active from the early 20th century to the interwar period, in context of chance, population, and causality in science.
After World War I, selective eugenics permeated Western society. Kammerer, however, asserted that creating good characteristics was more important than eliminating bad characteristics. Kammerer gravitated to Eugen Steinach (1861–1944) and his discovery: "Stainach Operation." When their spermatic ducts are ligated, menʼs bodies accumulate hormones that generate musculature and vitality. According to the theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics, these patients might sire offspring who had improved abilities from their start. Kammerer advocated vasoligation as a method of his alternative claim: "productive eugenics."
Kammerer was led to this curious advocacy by his obsession with causality and insufficient understanding of "population thinking." Population thinking, a new way of scientific thinking that Francis Galton (1822–1911) established, considers population phenomena not from the accumulation of individuals but from the whole populations themselves. Galton introduced statistical methods to analyze population phenomena and gave science new statistical laws to replace old Newtonian.
Kammerer, however, resisted the concept of chance mutation and the application of statistics, and insisted that the highest aim of science was the clarification of the relationship between cause and effect. Kammererʼs bizarre productive eugenics and even his reappearance as the father of epigenetics show that the longing for causality is an inevitable trap for scientific thinking.