Konrad Lorenz was a very famous scientist, and he loved his dogs. You probably know him for basically inventing the field of ethology, the study of animal behaviour. Most famously, it was he who discovered that nidifugous birds, i.e. those that leave the nest early, imprint upon the first moving object they see. He was very proud of this discovery and so can be seen in many a picture, playing Mother Goose to a gaggle of birds who are convinced that uncle Konrad is their rightful guardian. Yes, Lorenz certainly knew a thing or two about animal behaviour, and he loved his dogs.

Konrad was also something of a pioneer when it came to green issues. In his 1973 book Civilised Man’s Eight Deadly Sins, he wrote:

“All the advantages that man has gained from his ever-deepening understanding of the natural world that surrounds him, his technological, chemical and medical progress, all of which should seem to alleviate human suffering… tends instead to favor humanity’s destruction.”

In fact, so convinced was Lorenz of the threat of ecological collapse posed by overpopulation that, in his later years, he joined the Austrian Green Party. So I think it is fair to say that he was no lover of the human project when it came to its ecological impact. But he loved his dogs.

Boy did he love his dogs! Here are just a few of the things he is on record as saying regarding Man’s best friend:

“The fidelity of a dog is a precious gift demanding no less binding moral responsibilities than the friendship of a human being.”

“There is no faith which has never yet been broken, except that of a truly faithful dog.”

“The bond with a dog is as lasting as the ties of this Earth can ever be.”

“Just thinking that my dog loves me more than I love him, I feel shame.”

All these pearls of wisdom came from his animal behaviour studies and his reflections upon how the bond between man and dog may have developed over the ages. These were documented in his book So kam der Mensch auf den Hund, which literally translates as “How Man Ended Up With Dog”. You can still buy it on Amazon under its modern title Man Meets Dog. However, be warned that not everyone was impressed. Take the following review, for example:

“When I read Man Meets Dog, I had no way of knowing that the caraway seeds in Konrad Lorenz’s sauerkraut had fermented and addled his brain. He put forth a theory that there are two races of dogs: Der Dogg, and Der Überdogg.”

Oh dear, that does sound a bit jackbooty clickety. And things get worse when one discovers that Konrad was one of those scientists who thought there was such a thing as a Jewish dog, i.e. a dog that can be discerned by dint of it having a Jewish owner and sharing its owner’s traits. Yes, dear reader, it is my sad duty to inform you that, during the Second World War, Konrad Lorenz was a fully paid up member of the Nazi Party.

Having emerged on the losing side, Lorenz was understandably keen to play this down, and for many years he denied ever signing up with Hitler’s happy gang of Übermensch. But the fact is that he couldn’t wait to enrol, and he signed up just as soon as Austrian citizens were allowed. Furthermore, he wasn’t in it just for the übercool uniforms. Lorenz was actually a central figure in the development of the pseudo-science that underpinned the Final Solution. That’s not just me saying this; in his application letter Konrad wrote:

“I’m able to say that my whole scientific work is devoted to the ideas of the National Socialists.”

True to his word, Lorenz made a number of practical contributions to the Nazis’ pursuit of racial hygiene whilst in his capacity as a member of the Office for Race Policy. In 1942, he participated in a study of 877 offspring of mixed German-Polish marriages to determine their potential for assimilation into German culture. Those considered asocial or of inferior genetic value were sent to concentration camps, while others were sent away to be “Germanized”.

And it wasn’t just in his professional life that Lorenz let his anti-Semitic feelings be known. In private letters to his mentor, Oscar Heinroth, his ornithological observations included the “ugly Jewish nose” of the shoveler duck.

But he loved his dogs.

The problem with all of this is, of course, that none of it got in the way of him becoming one of the most highly respected scientists of the 20th century. Okay, so some of this can be put down to his own lack of candour when it came to reporting upon his earlier scientific work, but a lot more has to be put down to a distinct lack of concern on the part of his scientific colleagues. After all, he wasn’t alone in his scientific musings on the dangers of inbreeding, domestication, and lack of racial purity. The father of modern statistics, Ronald Fisher, comes to mind as another bastion of science who harboured some pretty dodgy views on the subject. Rudyard Kipling was also a fan. In fact, one has to keep in mind that eugenics did not always have the bad press that it receives nowadays. Even so, the idea that someone who gave his practical support to genocide should be subsequently honoured as a Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine does leave a bad taste in the mouth.

All of that said, we have to learn to compartmentalize. Just because Lorenz was a very bad boy during the war, that doesn’t invalidate his scientific achievements in ethology. Similarly, just because Dr Phil Jones got up to some dirty tactics when trying to fend off criticism of his work, that doesn’t mean that his central ideas regarding the existence of anthropogenic climate change are any the less valid. Countless ‘independent’ enquiries have attested to this view and one has to take this on board — just as one takes on board how easy it was for the scientific community to sanitize the reputation of Konrad Lorenz.

I wonder if Phil Jones loves his dogs. I’m sure he does.

29 Comments

  1. These things are difficult, aren’t they? It’s very easy to seize on someone’s dodgy history (whether dodgy objectively speaking, or dodgy so far as one’s subjective assessment is concerned) and either use that to denigrate their work in another area, or alternatively to allow one’s views of their work to be tarnished by disapproval of their other work and views.

    We should strive not to do it, however difficult it might be. Otherwise we end up like DeSmog, putting people like Kate Hoey in the climate change Hall of Shame because they disapprove of her views on Brexit and don’t like the company she keeps (for some of the time), regardless of her long and proud record as a Labour MP on the side of the underdog (sorry, couldn’t resist it).

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  2. Mark,

    Precisely. I will admit that I wrote this article after reflecting upon the points you raised in your last. To add to the debate, I should point out that there are some elements of the scientific establishment that are belatedly swinging the judgement stick. For example, Salzburg University has posthumously stripped Lorenz of his honorary doctorate. That’ll teach him!

    https://www.worldjewishcongress.org/en/news/late-austrian-scientist-konrad-lorenz-stripped-of-doctorate-for-lying-about-nazi-past-12-5-2015

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  3. Wonder if Lorenz would have loved dogs so much if he knew that there is a strong possibility that they may have all originated from westward migrating Chinese grey wolves.

    Afraid I cannot enlighten you as to the extent of Phil Jones’ caniphillia. If he had a dog, at least it would still have loved him.

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  4. Mark:

    We should strive not to do it, however difficult it might be.

    Not sure that’s anything like adequate.

    Someone in Austria chose to become a fellow-traveller with the Nazi Party in 1938, then lied about this later. This should call anything else they do into question. Especially a scientist who then becomes a member of the Office for Race Policy.

    Dr Mengele no doubt discovered some real ‘scientific facts’ through his horrific experiments on young twins in Auschwitz.

    That’s the really hard bit. Whether either guy should get a Nobel Prize is the easy bit.

    DeSmog is happy to calls us deniers. It’s already totally out of court with that. No further discussion necessary. That again is an easy one. We can never be like them.

    Amazingly, Rudi Vrba believed in science all his life, despite what he had seen in Auschwitz of the most evil applications of science possible. Everyone should have heard of Vrba, by the way, just as they have of Anne Frank. But, even after Freedland’s breakthrough book has come out, it will take a while. And Freedland makes this point about his hero’s belief system. He rejected Judaism, he rejected God, at least until his eldest daughter committed suicide, he rejected the powers-that-be in the state of Israel (for very good reasons, in my book) but he continued to believe in science.

    Nevertheless I don’t think he would disagree with what I’ve just said about Konrad Lorenz.

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  5. To put it crudely (as they deserve) DeSmog and those like them smear us as Nazis or near-Nazis simply because we disagree with them. But that doesn’t of course make category 2 here something that doesn’t matter:

    Hitler would have recognised Lorenz as a Nazi. After the War he, like many others, got away with that. His science may have been ‘great’. But to have had any part in those disgusting applications of science of the Nazi era should rightly have disqualified him from all hints of favourable status, let alone a Nobel Prize.

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  6. I wrote this as an essay on compartmentalisation expecting that it raises more questions than answers. The Americans certainly managed to compartmentalize when they took the scientific findings of the concentration camp experiments and used them in their space programme. Not good. Then DeSmog fail to compartmentalize when they condemn someone for the company they have been seen with. Also not good. It’s not an inherently good or bad thing but I think we are agreed that the Nobel guys were either delinquent or inappropriately compartmentalising. I hope it was the former, but I have my doubts.

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  7. Alan,

    “Wonder if Lorenz would have loved dogs so much if he knew that there is a strong possibility that they may have all originated from westward migrating Chinese grey wolves.”

    Actually, it is because Lorenz suspected that possibility that he loved dogs so much, but his love was restricted to the Überdogg. He actually believed that there were two originations: the grey wolf and the jackal. The descendants of these he referred to as ‘lupus dogs’ and ‘aureus dogs’ respectively. This demarcation corresponded to the distinction between Semite and Aryan races. The aureus dog was essentially the Jewish dog. It lacked the nobility of the lupus dog, having failed to inherit the social skills of the grey wolf. All of this was explained in his book, ‘King Solomon’s Ring’. In the article I linked to, Boria Sax goes on to explain:

    “The parallelism goes much further. Lorenz’s descriptions were filled with romantic rhetoric reminiscent of the Nazi period. ‘The wolf pacts’, he declared, ‘roam far and wide through the forests of the North and as a sworn and exclusive band which sticks together through thick and thin and whose members will defend each other to the very death’. Anyone familiar with the Nazi period will recognize here a canine equivalent of the idealized descriptions of primeval Aryan tribes, whose putative qualities the Nazis and other nationalists endeavoured to emulate. The jackals and their descendants were, Lorenz claimed, not so much oriented toward the pack as solitary animals. While capable of absolute obedience, they were lacking the deeper traits of loyalty and affection. This corresponded to anti-Semitic propaganda which described Jews as superficially clever but lacking emotional refinement and creativity. In accord with his earlier theory about the difference between the races – animal and human – of North and South, Lorenz attributed the ‘infantile’ character of aureus dogs to ‘age-old domestication’.

    So I suspect the fact that the grey wolf originated in Asia will not have troubled Lorenz too much. The cult of the wolf was very strong in Nazi writings and all that concerned the pack-loving Aryan was that it was a far more noble beast than the jackal.

    I’m sorry to have taken so long to reply but yesterday I was on my mobile and it isn’t really the best tool to use when compiling a lengthy response.

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  8. I’ve realised that I partly missed the point in my article regarding the significance of the Jewish dog. It’s not just about ownership. I’ve corrected the article accordingly.

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  9. How interesting. Odd that the Staphylococcus that lives with the ears of dogs (including lupus dogs) is S. Aureus and it can cause infections in humans.

    What a pity Lorenz never knew the results of DNA studies on dogs, indicating a common origin for all of them from a now probably extinct variety of grey wolf.

    I feel sure that one of my dogs, a miniature schnauzer no less, would have caused Lorenz to reconsider; so clearly does it display aureusine characters.

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  10. I said in my article that Konrad Lorenz became famous as the father of the discipline of ethology, i.e. the study of animal psychology and behaviour. What I didn’t point out, however, is that the field’s existence was entirely due to the patronage of the Nazi Party. Ethology as a distinct field started with the German Society for Animal Psychology, founded in Berlin in 1936. Both the society and its associated journal were subject to the sponsorship of the Nazi government. Meetings of the society would be written up in reports that readily acknowledged Nazi support. For example, the 1937 annual report stated:

    “The Chair concluded the series of lectures…with the praise of our Fuhrer, the warm-hearted patron of German science.”

    Lorenz was one of the editors of the above journal and he received funding by Minister of Education, Bernard Rust, to start his own research Institute for Comparative Psychology at Albertus University in Konigsberg.

    The point I am making is that it wasn’t just Lorenz but the whole field of ethology that was put to work in the furtherance of a scientific underpinning of the Final Solution. Lorenz helped instigate it with Nazi funding, and subsequently became its figurehead.

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  11. Good point. So we should put it down to inappropriate compartmentalization.

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  12. Your 2.58pm set me pondering (and remembering (poorly)). Does a scientific advance made within and sponsored by an evil institution become itself contaminated by that evil? I recall that, at least in the 1950s and 1960s, medical advances and knowledge acquired by nazi experimentation was deliberately buried and not used because of how it was acquired. I never understood the rationale behind these decisions. What this ensured was that the sacrifices of the victims were for absolutely no gain. Their deaths were made completely pointless. Whatever benefit their deaths may have led to, was deliberately obscured.

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  13. Alan: As John has already mentioned, the sacrifices and indeed dreadful deaths of many prisoners working on von Braun’s rocketry developments (eg the V2 weapons) were not treated this way. Instead Operation Paperclip had its disgusting way and von Braun became an all-American hero with the successful landing of men on the moon. Allen Dulles gets an interesting series of mentions in Freedland’s book suggesting he was both extremely deceptive and wholly uncaring about the real possibility of saving Hungary’s Jews. He was also central to getting horrific war criminals off the hook to benefit the US (as he saw it – though what happened remains a stain on that proud land to this day).

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  14. Richard,

    Thanks for the heads up on the Darwall book. I think I will probably be buying it.

    The parallels between ethology and what may be going on in modern-day climate science are worth reflecting upon. Also, it is worth reflecting that many if not most of the scientists working in ethology back in the thirties would have been doing so in good faith, unaware of the extent to which their work had a political expedience. I guess the same is true today.

    In the meantime, you will note that there is still a Konrad Lorenz Institute operating out of Lorenz’s old mansion, busily undertaking research in the ‘life and sustainability sciences.’:

    https://www.kli.ac.at/content/en/the_kli/about-kli

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  15. John I have no need of another example of a moral cesspit for science, I have my own: the Tyndall Centre. An instition set up to examine the implications of (catastrophic) climate change, or rather that bit of it based at UEA. UEA has no engineering so those implications are done elsewhere. My experience of the main branch has not been favourable. I caught them out several times spreading lies and rumours and seemingly the main effort of many temporary employees is to influence undergraduate students into the path of climate catastrophic truth. I have in the years since they were established, lost count of propaganda items coming out of Tyndall that are highly dubious in the extreme. A highly financed collection of “superstars”, set up on a false premise. They are set up supposedly to inform society , in a timely fashion, ways to achieve a sustainable, low carbon, future. I mean really?

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  16. Alan: Very interesting to swing our attention on to the Tyndall Centre. Named after such a genuinely great scientist as well. That’s one of the things current corruption does, it besmirches the past. The whole thing raises so many questions. This from John I find very hard to evaluate:

    Also, it is worth reflecting that many if not most of the scientists working in ethology back in the thirties would have been doing so in good faith, unaware of the extent to which their work had a political expedience. I guess the same is true today.

    Well maybe. I was reminded of this on clicking on a Facebook message (something I very rarely do) last night from a church leader whom I like and respect. His son was shown, by an obviously proud parent, graduating in Climate and Atmospheric Science at Leeds University. Is this young man taking part in evil or operating in good faith? I’d obviously vote for the latter in this case. But in general it’s not at all easy.

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  17. Alan,

    As they say in America, shit happens. It’s just important that there are people such as yourself who are around to shine the torch.

    Richard,

    I’m sure the young gentleman had no reason to believe that he was doing anything but employing his talents in the pursuit of truth and mankind’s well-being. There was an article on the local news last night about people going into primary schools to encourage the children to take up a life in science, by which they meant join the sustainable energy business. The innocence was overwhelming.

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  18. To further complicate matters, what should we make of Lorenz’s fellow Nobel Prize winners? Niko Tinbergen was a Dutch biologist who was imprisoned by the Nazis. There was no love lost between Tinbergen and Lorenz. The other, Karl von Frisch, was part Jewish and was forced into retirement by the Nazis for employing too many Jewish assistants and for practising ‘Jewish science’. And yet both were at the forefront of ethology and published in Lorenz’s journal.

    Nothing is straightforward.

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  19. Just one more detail to belatedly throw into the mix: Svante Arrhenius, pioneer of global warming science, also served on the board of the Swedish Society for Racial Hygiene. That’s one for all good climate scientists to compartmentalize.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. John, it’s as well that we here don’t take the DeSmog line of damning by association (or family relationship). That’s not sarcastic, it’s sincerely meant.

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