The United States–I believe–is no longer at the crossroads of whether or not we will be a society that holds to a culture of life. Rather, over the last 120 years or so, we have become a society that holds to a culture of death. It is something that happened gradually. It should come as no surprise to us at this juncture that this culture of death exists. When you consider where we have been and who we are as a Nation, you cannot help but look to history to see why we are where we are. Roe v. Wade didn’t happen overnight. It was a long time coming and once you allow abortion, it stands to reason that infanticide, and then euthanasia are quick to follow. But where did this culture of death begin?
I believe it began with the idea of eugenics. This is the study or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population, especially by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits. The problem is that this is very subjective. In Frederick Osborn’s 1937 journal article Development of a Eugenic Philosophy, he framed this as a social philosophy. In other words, this was to bring social order. If those whose genes are of positive traits–such as leadership qualities in the family line, good health, good cognitive skills, etc.–then these families should propagate their family lines. They should be having more and more babies because the society as a whole would be better for it.
Now for the negative traits, the people whose traits may not be desirable–such as those who have downs syndrome, or those of lower cognitive skills, or those whose lineage is not sophisticated or are from poverty-stricken families, etc.–these should be eliminated. The way to limit the reproduction of these less desirables are to create and exercise sterilization laws which took place here in the United States of America in early 1920s. It was advocated by the International Federation of Eugenics Organizations, the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics, the Cold Spring Harbour Carnegie Institution for Experimental Evolution, and the Eugenics Record Office.
The moral dimension of those who held to these philosophies of eugenics rejected the doctrine that all human beings are born equal and redefined moral worth purely in terms of genetic fitness. Concerning its racist elements, these included the pursuit of pure Nordic race or Aryan genetic pools and the eventual elimination of unfit races. Of course, there were those who stood against such an idea as American sociologist Lester Frank Ward, the English writer G.K. Chesterton, the German-American anthropologist Franz Boas. Boas argued that advocates of eugenics greatly overestimated the influence of biology. Boas harshly criticized eugenics in his 1916 article published in The Scientific Monthly entitled Eugenics. Chesterton wrote in 1917 his book entitled Eugenics and Other Evils. All of these wrote extensive articles and books speaking against this moral evil.
And why would I call this a moral evil? The scientific reputation of eugenics started to decline in the 1930s, except in one country who had a son by the name of Ernst Rudin, He wrote about eugenics as a justification for the racial policies of Nazi Germany. Through his writings, the dictator Adolf Hitler praised the ideology of eugenics in his book Mein Kampf in 1925 and emulated eugenic legislation for the sterilization of defectives that had been pioneered in the United States once he took power. Did you just read that last sentence? These ideas were pioneered in the United States. Early in Hitler’s regime, those who were identified as defectives included the poor, mentally ill, blind, deaf, developmentally disabled, promiscuous women, homosexuals, and racial groups–mainly the Jews who lived in Nazi Germany, Poland, and anywhere else he could dispose of them. And this he did with a vengeance! Over six million Jews perished at the hands of Nazi Germany under Hitler’s dictatorial regime. Under Hitler, the eugenics policies ended with the Final Solution to rid the world of all Jews if at all possible. Thus, the Nazi practice of euthanasia was carried out in hospitals, concentration camps, on roads and city streets, wherever and whenever Nazis thought it was alright to kill: for this was the final solution to what Hitler deemed as the scourge of the ages–Jews.
Has eugenics gone away for good? No, not really. There is a renewed interest in eugenics as developments in the genetic, genomic, and reproductive technologies have advanced at the end of the 20th century. Today, modern genetics is believed by many to be a backdoor to eugenics. This view is shared by former White House Assistant Director for Forensic Sciences, Tania Simoncelli, who stated in a 2003 publication by the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College that advances in preimplantation genetic diagnosis are moving society to a “new era of eugenics”, and that, unlike the Nazi eugenics, modern eugenics is consumer driven and market based “where children are increasingly regarded as made-to-order consumer products.” Richard Dawkins, the famed atheist said that the discussion regarding eugenics was inhibited by the shadow of Nazi misuse, to the extent that some scientists would not admit that breeding humans for certain abilities is at all possible. Dawkins believes that it is not physically different from breeding domestic animals for traits such as speed or herding skills.
In essence, those who are advocating for a renewed presence of eugenics in society–whether they are publicly advocating for it or not publicly advocating but in secret–are using different terms than the term eugenics. They would rather use terms such s human genetic engineering or germinal choice or reprogenetics. They change the verbiage so as to hide what they really mean and so they will not be associated with the early 20th century eugenic movements.
Whatever you call it is not the issue. The issue is that someone–as subjective as they are and can be and will be–will decide who is worthy of being reproduced and who will not be. What is the dilemma? The dilemma is who will that person or persons or group or groups be? And who will give them the authority to practice human genetic engineering or eugenics? The answer to this is still unclear, but more and more of this human genetic engineering is happening right now where we live through the chemicals that are used to purify water, the medications that people take on a daily basis, and through the chemicals in foods that we eat. Make no mistake, those with weaker constitutions will be weeded out while those with better constitutions will lead the way. Modern eugenics is happening everyday…right under our noses.