China Is Building Its First Huge Battery Storage Facility

The Chinese government just approved plans for a massive energy storage grid that will help the Gansu Province better rely on renewable electricity.

Batteries Not Included

The Chinese government approved the plans for a massive energy storage grid in Gansu Province on Monday, according to a statement by the Gansu Provincial Development & Reform Commission.

The project is scheduled to be completed this coming year according to Bloomberg — a colossal infrastructure investment that underscores China’s growing financial commitment to clean, renewable energy.

Biggest Yet

The proposed energy storage grid, also known as a virtual power plant because it serves as a source of energy even if the batteries store rather than generate it, would be the largest in the country — the first phase of construction is expected to cost 1.2 billion yuan ($174 million.)

As of September, China generated 706 gigawatts of solar and wind electricity, Bloomberg reports. But without infrastructure to support the power being generated, some of it went to waste.

More Flexible

According to the government statement, the virtual power plant would have a capacity of 720 MWh and could store unused electricity for four hours. For comparison, that’s almost two thirds the capacity of Tesla’s proposed “Megapack” energy storage system, which would bring a 1,200 MWh virtual power plant to California.

With a large-scale battery storage facility, people in Gansu will be able to rely on clean energy as needed rather than having to revert to fossil fuels when the sun goes down or the wind stops blowing.

READ MORE: China Approves Its 1st Big Power Storage Pilot in Renewable Push [Bloomberg]

More on virtual power plants: Tesla Gets Green Light To Create The World’s Largest Virtual Solar Plant In South Australia

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China Is Building Its First Huge Battery Storage Facility

Startup Claims Its Underwear Stay Odor-Free Through Weeks of Wear

Startup Organic Basics claims its silver-coated underwear remain odor-free after weeks of wear, but several testers disagree.

Under Where?

Want to wear the same pair of underwear for weeks at a time? Go right ahead.

A Danish startup called Organic Basics claims its underwear remain fresh through weeks of wear, eliminating the need for frequent washing. And this could be a boon for the environment — if it’s actually true.

Silver Skivvies

When your sweat meets your clothing, it creates an ideal environment for bacteria. It’s this bacteria that actually produces a foul-smelling odor. Silver is antimicrobial, meaning it kills bacteria and other microorganisms.

By treating their underwear with Polygiene, a product that uses silver chloride to control smells, Organic Basics says it can prevent the growth of 99.9 percent of this bacteria, which it claims prevents the underwear from smelling bad as quickly.

“It works,” CEO Mads Fibiger told Business Insider Nordic in May. “You can wear our underwear much longer before washing.”

Smell Test

Fibiger might claim the coating “works,” but not everyone agrees.

A reporter for New York magazine claimed she noticed a “less-than-fresh scent” on just the second day wearing Organic Basics’s women’s briefs, noting that she “didn’t feel comfortable pushing [her] luck with a third day of testing.” Her male colleague also tossed his Organic Basics boxer briefs in the laundry hamper after just 48 hours.

Even if the underwear did maintain the desired level of freshness, though, people might not be able get over the mental hurdle of wearing the same undergarments for weeks at a time — just this week, Elle reporter R. Eric Thomas wrote that reading about the undies made him want to “bleach [his] eyes.”

Futuristic Fashion

Organic Basics isn’t just trying to help people avoid laundry day, though. “The traditional way of buying, wearing, washing, and throwing away overpriced underwear is…extremely harmful to the environment,” Fibiger told Business Insider.

And he’s right. Washing and drying clothing requires water and energy, so the more often you clean your underwear, the greater the garment’s impact on the environment.

Still, the environmental benefits of wearing the same pair of underwear for weeks at a time might not be enough to get even the most environmentally conscious among us to wear Organic Basics’s underwear if they don’t actually smell fine on day three and beyond.

READ MORE: A Danish Startup Invented Underwear You Can Wear for Weeks Without Washing [Business Insider Nordic]

More on sustainable fashion: These Clothes Grow With Your Child and Are a Step Towards Sustainable Fashion

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Startup Claims Its Underwear Stay Odor-Free Through Weeks of Wear

Microorganisms That Eat Seaweed Can Create Biodegradable Plastic

bioplastic

Ocean of Opportunity

Earth’s oceans contain tens of millions of tons of plastic pollution. But a new technique that creates biodegradable plastics out of seaweed could finally give the oceans relief.

Bioplastics are plastics manufactured from biomass sources instead of fossil fuels. Many degrade far more quickly than traditional plastics, but creating them typically requires fertile soil and fresh water, which aren’t available everywhere.

Now, researchers have found a way to create a bioplastic using seaweed, a far more accessible resource — a promising new approach that could both reduce strain on the plastic-clogged oceans and reduce the Earth’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Scarfing Seaweed

Researchers from the University of Tel Aviv describe their new bioplastic production process in a study published recently in the journal Bioresource Technology.

Certain microorganisms naturally produce a polymer called polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA). Some factories already create plastics from PHA, but they do so using microorganisms that feed on plants that grow on land using fresh water.

Through their experiments, the team found it was possible to derive PHA from Haloferax mediterranei, a microorganism that feeds on seaweed.

“We have proved it is possible to produce bioplastic completely based on marine resources in a process that is friendly both to the environment and to its residents,” researcher Alexander Golberg said in a press release.

Plastic Problem

Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic finds its way into the Earth’s oceans, and researchers estimate that plastic will outweigh fish by 2050. That plastic is killing marine life, destroying coral reefs, and even affecting human health.

Efforts are already underway to remove plastic from the ocean, and several governments are banning certain plastics altogether. But plastic pollution is a huge problem that will require a multi-pronged solution — and a biodegradable plastic could be one of those prongs.

READ MORE: Sustainable “Plastics” Are on the Horizon [Tel Aviv University]

More on plastic pollution: The EU Just Voted to Completely Ban Single-Use Plastics

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Australian Autonomous Train Is The “World’s Largest Robot”

A mining corporation says an autonomous rail system it's been developing in Australia is fully operational, making it the

Robot Train

Mining corporation Rio Tinto says that an autonomous rail system called AutoHaul that it’s been developing in the remote Pilbara region of Australia for several years is now entirely operational — an accomplishment the company says makes the system the “world’s largest robot.”

“It’s been a challenging journey to automate a rail network of this size and scale in a remote location like the Pilbara,” Rio Tinto’s managing director Ivan Vella told the Sidney Morning Herald, “but early results indicate significant potential to improve productivity, providing increased system flexibility and reducing bottlenecks.”

One Track Minded

The ore-hauling train is just one part of an ambitious automation project involving robotics and driverless vehicles that Rio Tinto wants to use to automate its mining operations. The company conducted its first test of the train without a human on board earlier this year, and it now claims that the system has completed more than a million kilometers (620,000 miles) of autonomous travel.

In response to concerns from labor unions, Rio Tinto promised that the autonomous rail system will not eliminate any existing jobs in the coming year — though it’s difficult to imagine the project won’t cut into human jobs in the long term.

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Chinese Scientists Reportedly Lost Track of Gene-Edited Patients

gene-editing

The Case of the Missing Patients

China is finally looking into its scientists’ human gene-editing trials — but some patients are already out of view.

According a newly published Wall Street Journal story, Chinese scientists using CRISPR technology provided by the startup Anhui Kedgene Biotechnology have lost touch with at least some of the late-stage cancer patients whose DNA they altered.

That means no one knows for sure how the editing may have affected the patients in the longer term — and according to experts, that lack of follow-up could affect CRISPR research far beyond China’s borders.

Keeping Tabs

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration recommends that researchers follow up with patients involved in gene therapy trials for 15 years. No such recommendation exists in China, however, and Chinese CRISPR researchers’ lack of extended follow-up could prove disastrous as the nascent technology finds its footing.

Feng Zhang, one of the inventors of CRISPR, told The WSJ that gene-editing trials “hinge upon rigorous trial design and follow-ups.” Jennifer Doudna, another CRISPR inventor, said it’s “vital” that researchers conduct long-term monitoring of gene-edited patients.

“Since we do not fully understand the human genome and are still developing knowledge of CRISPR-Cas technology, we need to monitor the intended and unintended consequences over the lifespan of patients,” Doudna told The WSJ.

Closer Look

The Chinese government has thus far remained fairly hands-off with regards to CRISPR research — it hasn’t even tasked any one federal body with overseeing its gene-editing trials — but that could be changing.

On Thursday, the South China Morning Post reported that China is asking hospitals and universities to submit thorough reports on all human gene-editing trials conducted since 2013.

This closer look at human gene editing is likely due to the international backlash the nation faced in the wake of Chinese researcher He Jiankui announcing he’d modified the genes of human embryos. Those embryos were then implanted into a woman, who gave birth to twin girls.

While it might be too late to find out what sort of long-term effect CRISPR may have had on the missing patients from that cancer trial, China’s newfound interest in what’s happening within the walls of its labs could at least ensure that current and future trials don’t make the same mistakes — and hopefully, it’ll prevent any other researchers from following in He’s reckless footsteps.

READ MORE: Chinese Gene-Editing Experiment Loses Track of Patients, Alarming Technology’s Inventors [The Wall Street Journal]

More on human gene editing: Chinese Scientists Claim to Have Gene-Edited Human Babies For the First Time

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Chinese Scientists Reportedly Lost Track of Gene-Edited Patients

Netflix’s Bandersnatch Teases the Future of Entertainment

Bandersnatch

CYOA Grows Up

The choose-your-own-adventure story format is no longer just for books. It’s also no longer only for kids.

In October, an anonymous source told Bloomberg that Netflix planned to release an interactive episode of its dystopian sci-fi series “Black Mirror.” Rather than pushing play and sitting back to watch a linear story unfold before their eyes, viewers would need to make choices at various points throughout the episode, sending the plot in a new direction with each decision.

At 3:01 a.m. ET on Friday, Netflix confirmed that report with the release of the “Black Mirror” episode Bandersnatch — and the overwhelmingly positive response to the episode looks like a sign that adult viewers are ready to embrace interactive storytelling.

Choose Wisely

The general — and spoiler-free — plot of Bandersnatch is this: Young computer coder Stefan, portrayed by “Dunkirk” actor Fionn Whitehead, is hired to help create a computer game inspired by a choose-your-own-adventure novel.

How that experience plays out, however, depends on the viewer’s decisions, which they input using their TV remote, game controller, smartphone, or tablet. Netflix execs claimed during a November media event, as reported by The New York Times, that Bandersnatch has “five main endings with multiple variants of each.”

The interactive format works on pretty much any device you’d use to watch Netflix, including most TVs, game consoles, web browsers, smartphones, and tablets. The primary platforms that don’t support it are Chromecast and Apple TV, according to Netflix.

Striking Gold

This isn’t Netflix’s first foray into interactivity. In June 2017, the platform released “Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale,” an interactive short animated film for children.

However, this is Netflix’s first test of the format with adult viewers, and though Bandersnatch hasn’t even been out for 12 hours yet at the time of writing, it’s already receiving an overwhelmingly positive response — it quickly became a trending topic on Twitter, and a reviewer for The Guardian even went so far as to call it a “meta masterpiece.”

According to The Independent, Netflix is already asking producers to submit proposals for other interactive content in a variety of genres. Given the breathless response to Bandersnatch, it’s hard to imagine that Netflix won’t green light at least a few.

Equally hard to imagine is other platforms not attempting to replicate the platform’s success themselves. So with the release of just one creepy episode of “Black Mirror,” Netflix may have ushered in an entirely new era in entertainment.

READ MORE: ‘Black Mirror’ Gives Power to the People [The New York Times]

More on Netflix: Netflix Plans to Try out “Interactive” Shows

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Netflix’s Bandersnatch Teases the Future of Entertainment

Musk: Tesla’s Fully Autonomous Capabilities “About to Accelerate”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk pledged this week that the electric car maker is about to kick its fully autonomous self-driving vehicle ambitions up a notch.

“About to Accelerate”

Tesla appears ready to kick its vehicles’ fully autonomous capabilities up a notch.

In an email to employees this week, obtained by Inverse, CEO Elon Musk pledged that Tesla’s fully autonomous driving system was “about to accelerate significantly.”

Musk hasn’t always delivered on his ambitious public promises, but the email signals that he is positioning himself against the autonomous car hype trough — pushing for a future in which self-driving cars are a key aspect of transportation and not a glorified cruise control for luxury models.

Hype Trough

Just a few years ago, a growing number of experimental autonomous cars on public roads gave the impression that the arrival of safe and reliable self-driving vehicles was only a matter of time.

But a growing sense of the remaining engineering challenges — not to mention the March 2018 death of a pedestrian run down by a self-driving Uber vehicle — have chipped away at that confidence.

The evidence that self-driving vehicle manufacturers aren’t always upfront with the public hasn’t helped either. An excoriating October New Yorker investigation into the early years of the Google self-driving research project that eventually became Waymo found that the company had performed reckless road tests early in its work — and hadn’t always reported accidents.

Road Ahead

Musk’s promise to accelerate fully autonomous research, along with a call for more internal Tesla testers for the program, run precisely counter to that narrative. That’s not surprising: the eccentric Musk is known for imagining futures that are still years away — and using his wealth and influence to attempt to steer history toward or away from them.

Maybe the real question is political, rather than technological: Whether the relentless will of one person enough to pull an entire industry onto a different track.

READ MORE: Elon Musk Calls for More Testers Ahead of Tesla Full Self-Driving Launch [Inverse]

More on Tesla: Elon Musk Pledges Tesla Superchargers For All of Europe Next Year

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An App That Does Your Homework for You Is Now Worth $3 Billion

Homework Machine

Extracurricular education is big business in China.

One futuristic example: Yuanfudao, an online tutoring platform that includes an app that uses artificial intelligence to give students answers to their homework after they snap a photo of it.

Yuanfudao claims it now has 200 million users, and that interest from parents and students has translated into major interest from investors. If it lives up the hype, it could represent a new path forward for educational technology — not just in China but for students across the globe.

Fully Invested

On Tuesday, Yuanfudao announced another $300 million in funding, bringing its valuation to more than $3 billion. Chinese social networking and gaming giant Tencent led the round, with an international squad of investment firms including Warburg Pincus and IDG Capital also joining in.

Yuanfudao told TechCrunch it plans to use these funds for AI research and development, and to improve the user experience of its homework app.

Practice Makes Perfect

While being able to snap a photo of your homework and instantly get answers to problems sounds like a lazy student’s dream come true, the homework app actually isn’t Yuanfudao’s main moneymaker — the company told TechCrunch most of its revenue comes from selling live courses.

Rather than using the app to get out of doing their homework in the first place, it’s more likely that Chinese students use the app to check that their homework answers are correct. After all, the ultimate goal of paying for Yuanfudao is to improve exam scores, so skipping out on doing the homework that prepares a student for those exams would be counterintuitive.

Chinese parents probably wouldn’t be too happy about that use of the app, either. All told, they spend an average of $17,400 every year on extracurricular tutoring for their children — and based on Yuanfudao’s latest round of funding, investors are as willing to pump money into tutoring companies as Chinese parents are.

READ MORE:  Tencent-Backed Homework App Jumps to $3B Valuation After Raising $300M [TechCrunch]

More on Chinese education: Not Paying Attention in Class? China’s “Smart Eye” Will Snitch on You

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An App That Does Your Homework for You Is Now Worth $3 Billion

Virtual Reality Tumors Could Help Lead to New Cancer Treatments

A new virtual reality simulation built by Cambridge University scientists gives a high-resolution detail view into the cells of a breast cancer tumor.

Oculus Oncologists

Doctors have a new weapon in the fight against cancer: detailed maps of the cells in a tumor that can be explored and analyzed in a virtual reality simulation that its creators say provides researchers with an intuitive new way to examine complex medical data that could lead to unexpected breakthroughs.

Built by doctors at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute (CRUK), the new virtual lab takes detailed scans of breast cancer tissues and turns them into detailed simulations that doctors around the world can explore, the BBC reports.

The simulation lets doctors analyze every single cell of a tumor, something they’ve never been able to do before. And because that data is stored in a simulation rather than microscope slides, doctors around the world can explore and study the cancer without having to prepare their own samples.

“Understanding how cancer cells interact with each other and with healthy tissue is critical if we are going to develop new therapies,” CRUK Chief Scientist Karen Vousden told the BBC. “Looking at tumors using this new system is so much more dynamic than the static 2D versions we are used to.”

Dive in Headfirst

The Cambridge scientists and peers from around the world who helped develop the virtual lab won two separate 20 million pound grants ($25.3 million each) to build up their project from Cancer Research UK last year.

Now they have a functional simulation built up from highly-detailed scans of a cubic millimeter-sized sample of breast cancer tissue. In that sample, each of the roughly 100,000 cells was marked to highlight its molecular and genetic characteristics.

Enhance! Enhance!

With that information, the resulting VR map highlights which cells are cancerous which have certain genetic variations, and how developed the tumor was at the time of the biopsy. All of this is information that was laborious to obtain from samples that were easily contaminated.

Moving the analysis to VR makes tumor research much more user friendly and lets doctors analyze cells in greater detail than ever before.

Not only does that let scientists literally immerse themselves in their work as they look for new cancer treatments, but it can also open the door to more collaborative diagnosis and patient care among teams that are spread around the world.

These simulations don’t guarantee that doctors will find new ways to treat or prevent breast cancer, but at least it makes the search much easier.

READ MORE: ‘Virtual tumour’ new way to see cancer [BBC]

More on virtual reality: VR TREATMENT, EVEN WITHOUT A THERAPIST, HELPS PEOPLE OVERCOME FEAR OF HEIGHTS

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Virtual Reality Tumors Could Help Lead to New Cancer Treatments

New Multi-Sensory Mask Lets You Smell and Feel the Virtual World

multi-sensory mask

Talk Sense

More than three years ago, we first caught a whiff of an odor-delivering virtual reality mask. Now, the device is a step closer to hitting the market.

Last week, Brooklyn-based tech company Feelreal announced the pre-release of its Feelreal Multi-Sensory Mask. The company claims the device is the first of its kind — and even as VR struggles to gain mainstream traction, it provides a far-out vision of immersive virtual worlds that no longer end at what you can see and hear.

All the Feels

Feelreal’s Multi-Sensory Mask includes a “scent generator” that holds up to nine replaceable cartridges, each loaded with one of 255 available scents. An ultrasonic ionizing system provides the feeling of water mist on the wearer’s face, while micro-heaters, micro-coolers, and haptic motors provide the sensations of heat, wind, and vibration, respectively. 

The system is compatible with five VR headsets — Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR — and it’s already capable of enhancing the experience of several existing VR games.

If gaming’s not their thing, users can also watch 360-degrees videos or custom-built VR experiences via the mask’s built-in Feelreal player, or they can use it as a standalone device to facilitate meditation or aromatherapy.

Funding Not Secured

This isn’t the first device designed to add new senses to the VR experience, of course. We’ve already seen gadgets that let you feel like you’re smellingtouching, and even tasting the virtual world.

The number of games and movies currently compatible with the Feelreal Multi-Sensory Mask is also limited, but obviously that could change if the device caught on with users.

Feelreal has yet to reveal a price for its multi-sensory mask or even when the device will be available. According to the press release, the company will be “announcing a Kickstarter [c]rowdfunding campaign to help bring Feelreal products to the next level,” so right now, it appears the future of the device — and potentially the future of VR — is in the public’s hands.

READ MORE: Feelreal Multi-Sensory VR Mask Lets You Smell the Virtual Roses [New Atlas]

More on VR: Add Another Sense to Virtual Reality

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New Multi-Sensory Mask Lets You Smell and Feel the Virtual World

New Fiber Could Be the Foundation for Futuristic Smart Garments

Chinese engineers just figured out how to manufacture a self-assembling silver nanowire that can be woven into high-tech clothing.

Smart Garments

Designers of smart garments have a vision: that we’ll come to use electronics woven into the clothes we wear not just as dazzling new ways to express ourselves, like the light-up prom dress that went viral in 2017, but as extensions of our digital lives that could collect biometric data or even grant wearers superhuman senses.

The problem is that today’s old-fashioned textiles are already the result of thousands of years of innovation, and versions that incorporate wearable computing tech need to be just as hardy. Smart garments will have to be resilient in the face of everything from wash-and-fold to sweaty workouts, not to mention as long-lasting as a trusty t-shirt.

One key challenge has always been creating conductive wires that can carry current between components in a smart garment without breaking down over time as it flexes, twists, and gets wet. Now, Chinese scientists say they’ve invented a new type of self-assembling silver nanowire, inspired by the capillaries in your cardiovascular system, that could be the most practical attempt yet.

Wirehead

The new research, published Thursday in the journal Nano by researchers at the Chinese Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications, describes silver-based wiring that’s cheap to make and could lead to more comfortable and durable smart textiles than ever before.

Here’s how it works. The engineers behind this silver fiber found a way to manufacture tiny wires without much of the headache that normally comes with nanotech assembly. Instead of painstakingly crafting the tiny wires that transport electricity throughout their fabric, the scientists concocted a silver-based solution that automatically soaks into tube-like fibers, drawing into the tube like blood into a capillary.

As the solution evaporates, it leaves behind flexible, durable, and highly-conductive silver nanowires, according to the research. Compared to traditional copper wires, they can withstand much more abuse without breaking. That could mean a future with smart clothes that survive everyday wear and tear — or maybe, if we’re lucky, invisibility cloaks or the water-harvesting suit from “Dune.”

Déjà vu

Like so many other smart textile projects that have popped up over the past few years, this research is still at the proof-of-concept stage. For all of the progress scientists have made, very few attempts to integrate that tech into clothing have taken off.

But the consistency with which researchers, makers, and hackers — not to mention sci-fi writers — have imagined smart garments over the decades suggests a genuine demand for the concept that we could see within a lifetime. At least, that is, if it can survive 40 minutes in a clothes dryer.

READ MORE: Silver nanowires promises more comfortable smart textiles [World Scientific]

More on smart textiles: A NEW BATTERY CAN BE STITCHED INTO CLOTHES TO POWER WEARABLES

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New Fiber Could Be the Foundation for Futuristic Smart Garments

Eugenics – Wikipedia

Eugenics (; from Greek eugenes ‘well-born’ from eu, ‘good, well’ and genos, ‘race, stock, kin’)[2][3] is a set of beliefs and practices that aims at improving the genetic quality of a human population.[4][5] The exact definition of eugenics has been a matter of debate since the term was coined by Francis Galton in 1883. The concept predates this coinage, with Plato suggesting applying the principles of selective breeding to humans around 400BCE.

Frederick Osborn’s 1937 journal article “Development of a Eugenic Philosophy”[6] framed it as a social philosophythat is, a philosophy with implications for social order. That definition is not universally accepted. Osborn advocated for higher rates of sexual reproduction among people with desired traits (positive eugenics), or reduced rates of sexual reproduction and sterilization of people with less-desired or undesired traits (negative eugenics).

Alternatively, gene selection rather than “people selection” has recently been made possible through advances in genome editing,[7] leading to what is sometimes called new eugenics, also known as neo-eugenics, consumer eugenics, or liberal eugenics.

While eugenic principles have been practiced as far back in world history as ancient Greece, the modern history of eugenics began in the early 20th century when a popular eugenics movement emerged in the United Kingdom[8] and spread to many countries including the United States, Canada[9] and most European countries. In this period, eugenic ideas were espoused across the political spectrum. Consequently, many countries adopted eugenic policies with the intent to improve the quality of their populations’ genetic stock. Such programs included both “positive” measures, such as encouraging individuals deemed particularly “fit” to reproduce, and “negative” measures such as marriage prohibitions and forced sterilization of people deemed unfit for reproduction. People deemed unfit to reproduce often included people with mental or physical disabilities, people who scored in the low ranges of different IQ tests, criminals and deviants, and members of disfavored minority groups. The eugenics movement became negatively associated with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust when many of the defendants at the Nuremberg trials attempted to justify their human rights abuses by claiming there was little difference between the Nazi eugenics programs and the U.S. eugenics programs.[10] In the decades following World War II, with the institution of human rights, many countries gradually began to abandon eugenics policies, although some Western countries, among them the United States and Sweden, continued to carry out forced sterilizations.

Since the 1980s and 1990s, when new assisted reproductive technology procedures became available such as gestational surrogacy (available since 1985), preimplantation genetic diagnosis (available since 1989), and cytoplasmic transfer (first performed in 1996), fear has emerged about a possible revival of eugenics.

A major criticism of eugenics policies is that, regardless of whether “negative” or “positive” policies are used, they are susceptible to abuse because the criteria of selection are determined by whichever group is in political power at the time. Furthermore, negative eugenics in particular is considered by many to be a violation of basic human rights, which include the right to reproduction. Another criticism is that eugenic policies eventually lead to a loss of genetic diversity, resulting in inbreeding depression due to lower genetic variation.

Seneca the Younger

The concept of positive eugenics to produce better human beings has existed at least since Plato suggested selective mating to produce a guardian class.[12] In Sparta, every Spartan child was inspected by the council of elders, the Gerousia, which determined if the child was fit to live or not. In the early years of ancient Rome, a Roman father was obliged by law to immediately kill his child if they were physically disabled.[13] Among the ancient Germanic tribes, people who were cowardly, unwarlike or “stained with abominable vices” were put to death, usually by being drowned in swamps.[14][15]

The first formal negative eugenics, that is a legal provision against the birth of allegedly inferior human beings, was promulgated in Western European culture by the Christian Council of Agde in 506, which forbade marriage between cousins.[16]

This idea was also promoted by William Goodell (18291894) who advocated the castration and spaying of the insane.[17][18]

The idea of a modern project of improving the human population through a statistical understanding of heredity used to encourage good breeding was originally developed by Francis Galton and, initially, was closely linked to Darwinism and his theory of natural selection.[20] Galton had read his half-cousin Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which sought to explain the development of plant and animal species, and desired to apply it to humans. Based on his biographical studies, Galton believed that desirable human qualities were hereditary traits, although Darwin strongly disagreed with this elaboration of his theory.[21] In 1883, one year after Darwin’s death, Galton gave his research a name: eugenics.[22] With the introduction of genetics, eugenics became associated with genetic determinism, the belief that human character is entirely or in the majority caused by genes, unaffected by education or living conditions. Many of the early geneticists were not Darwinians, and evolution theory was not needed for eugenics policies based on genetic determinism.[20] Throughout its recent history, eugenics has remained controversial.

Eugenics became an academic discipline at many colleges and universities and received funding from many sources.[24] Organizations were formed to win public support and sway opinion towards responsible eugenic values in parenthood, including the British Eugenics Education Society of 1907 and the American Eugenics Society of 1921. Both sought support from leading clergymen and modified their message to meet religious ideals.[25] In 1909 the Anglican clergymen William Inge and James Peile both wrote for the British Eugenics Education Society. Inge was an invited speaker at the 1921 International Eugenics Conference, which was also endorsed by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York Patrick Joseph Hayes.[25]

Three International Eugenics Conferences presented a global venue for eugenists with meetings in 1912 in London, and in 1921 and 1932 in New York City. Eugenic policies were first implemented in the early 1900s in the United States.[26] It also took root in France, Germany, and Great Britain.[27] Later, in the 1920s and 1930s, the eugenic policy of sterilizing certain mental patients was implemented in other countries including Belgium,[28] Brazil,[29] Canada,[30] Japan and Sweden.

In addition to being practiced in a number of countries, eugenics was internationally organized through the International Federation of Eugenics Organizations. Its scientific aspects were carried on through research bodies such as the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics, the Cold Spring Harbour Carnegie Institution for Experimental Evolution, and the Eugenics Record Office. Politically, the movement advocated measures such as sterilization laws. In its moral dimension, eugenics rejected the doctrine that all human beings are born equal and redefined moral worth purely in terms of genetic fitness. Its racist elements included pursuit of a pure “Nordic race” or “Aryan” genetic pool and the eventual elimination of “unfit” races.

Early critics of the philosophy of eugenics included the American sociologist Lester Frank Ward,[39] the English writer G. K. Chesterton, the German-American anthropologist Franz Boas, who argued that advocates of eugenics greatly over-estimate the influence of biology,[40] and Scottish tuberculosis pioneer and author Halliday Sutherland. Ward’s 1913 article “Eugenics, Euthenics, and Eudemics”, Chesterton’s 1917 book Eugenics and Other Evils, and Boas’ 1916 article “Eugenics” (published in The Scientific Monthly) were all harshly critical of the rapidly growing movement. Sutherland identified eugenists as a major obstacle to the eradication and cure of tuberculosis in his 1917 address “Consumption: Its Cause and Cure”,[41] and criticism of eugenists and Neo-Malthusians in his 1921 book Birth Control led to a writ for libel from the eugenist Marie Stopes. Several biologists were also antagonistic to the eugenics movement, including Lancelot Hogben.[42] Other biologists such as J. B. S. Haldane and R. A. Fisher expressed skepticism in the belief that sterilization of “defectives” would lead to the disappearance of undesirable genetic traits.[43]

Among institutions, the Catholic Church was an opponent of state-enforced sterilizations.[44] Attempts by the Eugenics Education Society to persuade the British government to legalize voluntary sterilization were opposed by Catholics and by the Labour Party.[45] The American Eugenics Society initially gained some Catholic supporters, but Catholic support declined following the 1930 papal encyclical Casti connubii.[25] In this, Pope Pius XI explicitly condemned sterilization laws: “Public magistrates have no direct power over the bodies of their subjects; therefore, where no crime has taken place and there is no cause present for grave punishment, they can never directly harm, or tamper with the integrity of the body, either for the reasons of eugenics or for any other reason.”[46]

As a social movement, eugenics reached its greatest popularity in the early decades of the 20th century, when it was practiced around the world and promoted by governments, institutions, and influential individuals. Many countries enacted[47] various eugenics policies, including: genetic screenings, birth control, promoting differential birth rates, marriage restrictions, segregation (both racial segregation and sequestering the mentally ill), compulsory sterilization, forced abortions or forced pregnancies, ultimately culminating in genocide.

The scientific reputation of eugenics started to decline in the 1930s, a time when Ernst Rdin used eugenics as a justification for the racial policies of Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler had praised and incorporated eugenic ideas in 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. Some common early 20th century eugenics methods involved identifying and classifying individuals and their families, including the poor, mentally ill, blind, deaf, developmentally disabled, promiscuous women, homosexuals, and racial groups (such as the Roma and Jews in Nazi Germany) as “degenerate” or “unfit”, and therefore led to segregation, institutionalization, sterilization, euthanasia, and even mass murder. The Nazi practice of euthanasia was carried out on hospital patients in the Aktion T4 centers such as Hartheim Castle.

By the end of World War II, many discriminatory eugenics laws were abandoned, having become associated with Nazi Germany.[50] H. G. Wells, who had called for “the sterilization of failures” in 1904,[51] stated in his 1940 book The Rights of Man: Or What are we fighting for? that among the human rights, which he believed should be available to all people, was “a prohibition on mutilation, sterilization, torture, and any bodily punishment”.[52] After World War II, the practice of “imposing measures intended to prevent births within [a national, ethnical, racial or religious] group” fell within the definition of the new international crime of genocide, set out in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.[53] The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union also proclaims “the prohibition of eugenic practices, in particular those aiming at selection of persons”.[54] In spite of the decline in discriminatory eugenics laws, some government mandated sterilizations continued into the 21st century. During the ten years President Alberto Fujimori led Peru from 1990 to 2000, 2,000 persons were allegedly involuntarily sterilized.[55] China maintained its one-child policy until 2015 as well as a suite of other eugenics based legislation to reduce population size and manage fertility rates of different populations.[56][57][58] In 2007 the United Nations reported coercive sterilizations and hysterectomies in Uzbekistan.[59] During the years 2005 to 2013, nearly one-third of the 144 California prison inmates who were sterilized did not give lawful consent to the operation.[60]

Developments in genetic, genomic, and reproductive technologies at the end of the 20th century have raised numerous questions regarding the ethical status of eugenics, effectively creating a resurgence of interest in the subject.Some, such as UC Berkeley sociologist Troy Duster, claim that modern genetics is a back door to eugenics.[61] This view is shared by 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 pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) 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”.[62] In a 2006 newspaper article, Richard Dawkins said that 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. He believes that it is not physically different from breeding domestic animals for traits such as speed or herding skill. Dawkins felt that enough time had elapsed to at least ask just what the ethical differences were between breeding for ability versus training athletes or forcing children to take music lessons, though he could think of persuasive reasons to draw the distinction.[63]

Lee Kuan Yew, the Founding Father of Singapore, started promoting eugenics as early as 1983.[64][65]

In October 2015, the United Nations’ International Bioethics Committee wrote that the ethical problems of human genetic engineering should not be confused with the ethical problems of the 20th century eugenics movements. However, it is still problematic because it challenges the idea of human equality and opens up new forms of discrimination and stigmatization for those who do not want, or cannot afford, the technology.[66]

Transhumanism is often associated with eugenics, although most transhumanists holding similar views nonetheless distance themselves from the term “eugenics” (preferring “germinal choice” or “reprogenetics”)[67] to avoid having their position confused with the discredited theories and practices of early-20th-century eugenic movements.

Prenatal screening can be considered a form of contemporary eugenics because it may lead to abortions of children with undesirable traits.[68]

The term eugenics and its modern field of study were first formulated by Francis Galton in 1883,[69] drawing on the recent work of his half-cousin Charles Darwin.[70][71] Galton published his observations and conclusions in his book Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development.

The origins of the concept began with certain interpretations of Mendelian inheritance and the theories of August Weismann. The word eugenics is derived from the Greek word eu (“good” or “well”) and the suffix -gens (“born”), and was coined by Galton in 1883 to replace the word “stirpiculture”, which he had used previously but which had come to be mocked due to its perceived sexual overtones.[73] Galton defined eugenics as “the study of all agencies under human control which can improve or impair the racial quality of future generations”.[74]

Historically, the term eugenics has referred to everything from prenatal care for mothers to forced sterilization and euthanasia.[75] To population geneticists, the term has included the avoidance of inbreeding without altering allele frequencies; for example, J. B. S. Haldane wrote that “the motor bus, by breaking up inbred village communities, was a powerful eugenic agent.”[76] Debate as to what exactly counts as eugenics continues today.[77]

Edwin Black, journalist and author of War Against the Weak, claims eugenics is often deemed a pseudoscience because what is defined as a genetic improvement of a desired trait is often deemed a cultural choice rather than a matter that can be determined through objective scientific inquiry.[78] The most disputed aspect of eugenics has been the definition of “improvement” of the human gene pool, such as what is a beneficial characteristic and what is a defect. Historically, this aspect of eugenics was tainted with scientific racism and pseudoscience.[79][80][81]

Early eugenists were mostly concerned with factors of perceived intelligence that often correlated strongly with social class. Some of these early eugenists include Karl Pearson and Walter Weldon, who worked on this at the University College London.[21]

Eugenics also had a place in medicine. In his lecture “Darwinism, Medical Progress and Eugenics”, Karl Pearson said that everything concerning eugenics fell into the field of medicine. He basically placed the two words as equivalents. He was supported in part by the fact that Francis Galton, the father of eugenics, also had medical training.[82]

Eugenic policies have been conceptually divided into two categories.[75] Positive eugenics is aimed at encouraging reproduction among the genetically advantaged; for example, the reproduction of the intelligent, the healthy, and the successful. Possible approaches include financial and political stimuli, targeted demographic analyses, in vitro fertilization, egg transplants, and cloning.[83] The movie Gattaca provides a fictional example of a dystopian society that uses eugenics to decided what people are capable of and their place in the world. Negative eugenics aimed to eliminate, through sterilization or segregation, those deemed physically, mentally, or morally “undesirable”. This includes abortions, sterilization, and other methods of family planning.[83] Both positive and negative eugenics can be coercive; abortion for fit women, for example, was illegal in Nazi Germany.[84]

Jon Entine claims that eugenics simply means “good genes” and using it as synonym for genocide is an “all-too-common distortion of the social history of genetics policy in the United States”. According to Entine, eugenics developed out of the Progressive Era and not “Hitler’s twisted Final Solution”.[85]

According to Richard Lynn, eugenics may be divided into two main categories based on the ways in which the methods of eugenics can be applied.[86]

The first major challenge to conventional eugenics based upon genetic inheritance was made in 1915 by Thomas Hunt Morgan. He demonstrated the event of genetic mutation occurring outside of inheritance involving the discovery of the hatching of a fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) with white eyes from a family with red eyes. Morgan claimed that this demonstrated that major genetic changes occurred outside of inheritance and that the concept of eugenics based upon genetic inheritance was not completely scientifically accurate. Additionally, Morgan criticized the view that subjective traits, such as intelligence and criminality, were caused by heredity because he believed that the definitions of these traits varied and that accurate work in genetics could only be done when the traits being studied were accurately defined.[123] Despite Morgan’s public rejection of eugenics, much of his genetic research was absorbed by eugenics.[124][125]

The heterozygote test is used for the early detection of recessive hereditary diseases, allowing for couples to determine if they are at risk of passing genetic defects to a future child.[126] The goal of the test is to estimate the likelihood of passing the hereditary disease to future descendants.[126]

Recessive traits can be severely reduced, but never eliminated unless the complete genetic makeup of all members of the pool was known, as aforementioned. As only very few undesirable traits, such as Huntington’s disease, are dominant, it could be argued[by whom?] from certain perspectives that the practicality of “eliminating” traits is quite low.[citation needed]

There are examples of eugenic acts that managed to lower the prevalence of recessive diseases, although not influencing the prevalence of heterozygote carriers of those diseases. The elevated prevalence of certain genetically transmitted diseases among the Ashkenazi Jewish population (TaySachs, cystic fibrosis, Canavan’s disease, and Gaucher’s disease), has been decreased in current populations by the application of genetic screening.[127]

Pleiotropy occurs when one gene influences multiple, seemingly unrelated phenotypic traits, an example being phenylketonuria, which is a human disease that affects multiple systems but is caused by one gene defect.[128] Andrzej Pkalski, from the University of Wrocaw, argues that eugenics can cause harmful loss of genetic diversity if a eugenics program selects a pleiotropic gene that could possibly be associated with a positive trait. Pekalski uses the example of a coercive government eugenics program that prohibits people with myopia from breeding but has the unintended consequence of also selecting against high intelligence since the two go together.[129]

Eugenic policies could also lead to loss of genetic diversity, in which case a culturally accepted “improvement” of the gene pool could very likelyas evidenced in numerous instances in isolated island populations result in extinction due to increased vulnerability to disease, reduced ability to adapt to environmental change, and other factors both known and unknown. A long-term, species-wide eugenics plan might lead to a scenario similar to this because the elimination of traits deemed undesirable would reduce genetic diversity by definition.[130]

Edward M. Miller claims that, in any one generation, any realistic program should make only minor changes in a fraction of the gene pool, giving plenty of time to reverse direction if unintended consequences emerge, reducing the likelihood of the elimination of desirable genes.[131] Miller also argues that any appreciable reduction in diversity is so far in the future that little concern is needed for now.[131]

While the science of genetics has increasingly provided means by which certain characteristics and conditions can be identified and understood, given the complexity of human genetics, culture, and psychology, at this point no agreed objective means of determining which traits might be ultimately desirable or undesirable. Some diseases such as sickle-cell disease and cystic fibrosis respectively confer immunity to malaria and resistance to cholera when a single copy of the recessive allele is contained within the genotype of the individual. Reducing the instance of sickle-cell disease genes in Africa where malaria is a common and deadly disease could indeed have extremely negative net consequences.

However, some genetic diseases cause people to consider some elements of eugenics.

Societal and political consequences of eugenics call for a place in the discussion on the ethics behind the eugenics movement.[132] Many of the ethical concerns regarding eugenics arise from its controversial past, prompting a discussion on what place, if any, it should have in the future. Advances in science have changed eugenics. In the past, eugenics had more to do with sterilization and enforced reproduction laws.[133] Now, in the age of a progressively mapped genome, embryos can be tested for susceptibility to disease, gender, and genetic defects, and alternative methods of reproduction such as in vitro fertilization are becoming more common.[134] Therefore, eugenics is no longer ex post facto regulation of the living but instead preemptive action on the unborn.[135]

With this change, however, there are ethical concerns which lack adequate attention, and which must be addressed before eugenic policies can be properly implemented in the future. Sterilized individuals, for example, could volunteer for the procedure, albeit under incentive or duress, or at least voice their opinion. The unborn fetus on which these new eugenic procedures are performed cannot speak out, as the fetus lacks the voice to consent or to express his or her opinion.[136] Philosophers disagree about the proper framework for reasoning about such actions, which change the very identity and existence of future persons.[137]

A common criticism of eugenics is that “it inevitably leads to measures that are unethical”.[138] Some fear future “eugenics wars” as the worst-case scenario: the return of coercive state-sponsored genetic discrimination and human rights violations such as compulsory sterilization of persons with genetic defects, the killing of the institutionalized and, specifically, segregation and genocide of races perceived as inferior.[139] Health law professor George Annas and technology law professor Lori Andrews are prominent advocates of the position that the use of these technologies could lead to such human-posthuman caste warfare.[140][141]

In his 2003 book Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age, environmental ethicist Bill McKibben argued at length against germinal choice technology and other advanced biotechnological strategies for human enhancement. He writes that it would be morally wrong for humans to tamper with fundamental aspects of themselves (or their children) in an attempt to overcome universal human limitations, such as vulnerability to aging, maximum life span and biological constraints on physical and cognitive ability. Attempts to “improve” themselves through such manipulation would remove limitations that provide a necessary context for the experience of meaningful human choice. He claims that human lives would no longer seem meaningful in a world where such limitations could be overcome with technology. Even the goal of using germinal choice technology for clearly therapeutic purposes should be relinquished, since it would inevitably produce temptations to tamper with such things as cognitive capacities. He argues that it is possible for societies to benefit from renouncing particular technologies, using as examples Ming China, Tokugawa Japan and the contemporary Amish.[142]

Some, for example Nathaniel C. Comfort from Johns Hopkins University, claim that the change from state-led reproductive-genetic decision-making to individual choice has moderated the worst abuses of eugenics by transferring the decision-making from the state to the patient and their family.[143] Comfort suggests that “the eugenic impulse drives us to eliminate disease, live longer and healthier, with greater intelligence, and a better adjustment to the conditions of society; and the health benefits, the intellectual thrill and the profits of genetic bio-medicine are too great for us to do otherwise.”[144] Others, such as bioethicist Stephen Wilkinson of Keele University and Honorary Research Fellow Eve Garrard at the University of Manchester, claim that some aspects of modern genetics can be classified as eugenics, but that this classification does not inherently make modern genetics immoral. In a co-authored publication by Keele University, they stated that “[e]ugenics doesn’t seem always to be immoral, and so the fact that PGD, and other forms of selective reproduction, might sometimes technically be eugenic, isn’t sufficient to show that they’re wrong.”[145]

In their book published in 2000, From Chance to Choice: Genetics and Justice, bioethicists Allen Buchanan, Dan Brock, Norman Daniels and Daniel Wikler argued that liberal societies have an obligation to encourage as wide an adoption of eugenic enhancement technologies as possible (so long as such policies do not infringe on individuals’ reproductive rights or exert undue pressures on prospective parents to use these technologies) in order to maximize public health and minimize the inequalities that may result from both natural genetic endowments and unequal access to genetic enhancements.[146]

Original position, a hypothetical situation developed by American philosopher John Rawls, has been used as an argument for negative eugenics.[147][148]

Notes

Bibliography

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eugenics | Description, History, & Modern Eugenics …

Eugenics, the selection of desired heritable characteristics in order to improve future generations, typically in reference to humans. The term eugenics was coined in 1883 by British explorer and natural scientist Francis Galton, who, influenced by Charles Darwins theory of natural selection, advocated a system that would allow the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable. Social Darwinism, the popular theory in the late 19th century that life for humans in society was ruled by survival of the fittest, helped advance eugenics into serious scientific study in the early 1900s. By World War I many scientific authorities and political leaders supported eugenics. However, it ultimately failed as a science in the 1930s and 40s, when the assumptions of eugenicists became heavily criticized and the Nazis used eugenics to support the extermination of entire races.

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biological determinism: The eugenics movement

One of the most prominent movements to apply genetics to understanding social and personality traits was the eugenics movement, which originated in the late 19th century. Eugenics was coined in 1883 by British explorer and naturalist Francis Galton, who was influenced by the

Although eugenics as understood today dates from the late 19th century, efforts to select matings in order to secure offspring with desirable traits date from ancient times. Platos Republic (c. 378 bce) depicts a society where efforts are undertaken to improve human beings through selective breeding. Later, Italian philosopher and poet Tommaso Campanella, in City of the Sun (1623), described a utopian community in which only the socially elite are allowed to procreate. Galton, in Hereditary Genius (1869), proposed that a system of arranged marriages between men of distinction and women of wealth would eventually produce a gifted race. In 1865 the basic laws of heredity were discovered by the father of modern genetics, Gregor Mendel. His experiments with peas demonstrated that each physical trait was the result of a combination of two units (now known as genes) and could be passed from one generation to another. However, his work was largely ignored until its rediscovery in 1900. This fundamental knowledge of heredity provided eugenicistsincluding Galton, who influenced his cousin Charles Darwinwith scientific evidence to support the improvement of humans through selective breeding.

The advancement of eugenics was concurrent with an increasing appreciation of Darwins account for change or evolution within societywhat contemporaries referred to as social Darwinism. Darwin had concluded his explanations of evolution by arguing that the greatest step humans could make in their own history would occur when they realized that they were not completely guided by instinct. Rather, humans, through selective reproduction, had the ability to control their own future evolution. A language pertaining to reproduction and eugenics developed, leading to terms such as positive eugenics, defined as promoting the proliferation of good stock, and negative eugenics, defined as prohibiting marriage and breeding between defective stock. For eugenicists, nature was far more contributory than nurture in shaping humanity.

During the early 1900s eugenics became a serious scientific study pursued by both biologists and social scientists. They sought to determine the extent to which human characteristics of social importance were inherited. Among their greatest concerns were the predictability of intelligence and certain deviant behaviours. Eugenics, however, was not confined to scientific laboratories and academic institutions. It began to pervade cultural thought around the globe, including the Scandinavian countries, most other European countries, North America, Latin America, Japan, China, and Russia. In the United States the eugenics movement began during the Progressive Era and remained active through 1940. It gained considerable support from leading scientific authorities such as zoologist Charles B. Davenport, plant geneticist Edward M. East, and geneticist and Nobel Prize laureate Hermann J. Muller. Political leaders in favour of eugenics included U.S. Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, Secretary of State Elihu Root, and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall Harlan. Internationally, there were many individuals whose work supported eugenic aims, including British scientists J.B.S. Haldane and Julian Huxley and Russian scientists Nikolay K. Koltsov and Yury A. Filipchenko.

Galton had endowed a research fellowship in eugenics in 1904 and, in his will, provided funds for a chair of eugenics at University College, London. The fellowship and later the chair were occupied by Karl Pearson, a brilliant mathematician who helped to create the science of biometry, the statistical aspects of biology. Pearson was a controversial figure who believed that environment had little to do with the development of mental or emotional qualities. He felt that the high birth rate of the poor was a threat to civilization and that the higher races must supplant the lower. His views gave countenance to those who believed in racial and class superiority. Thus, Pearson shares the blame for the discredit later brought on eugenics.

In the United States, the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) was opened at Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, New York, in 1910 with financial support from the legacy of railroad magnate Edward Henry Harriman. Whereas ERO efforts were officially overseen by Charles B. Davenport, director of the Station for Experimental Study of Evolution (one of the biology research stations at Cold Spring Harbor), ERO activities were directly superintended by Harry H. Laughlin, a professor from Kirksville, Missouri. The ERO was organized around a series of missions. These missions included serving as the national repository and clearinghouse for eugenics information, compiling an index of traits in American families, training fieldworkers to gather data throughout the United States, supporting investigations into the inheritance patterns of particular human traits and diseases, advising on the eugenic fitness of proposed marriages, and communicating all eugenic findings through a series of publications. To accomplish these goals, further funding was secured from the Carnegie Institution of Washington, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the Battle Creek Race Betterment Foundation, and the Human Betterment Foundation.

Prior to the founding of the ERO, eugenics work in the United States was overseen by a standing committee of the American Breeders Association (eugenics section established in 1906), chaired by ichthyologist and Stanford University president David Starr Jordan. Research from around the globe was featured at three international congresses, held in 1912, 1921, and 1932. In addition, eugenics education was monitored in Britain by the English Eugenics Society (founded by Galton in 1907 as the Eugenics Education Society) and in the United States by the American Eugenics Society.

Following World War I, the United States gained status as a world power. A concomitant fear arose that if the healthy stock of the American people became diluted with socially undesirable traits, the countrys political and economic strength would begin to crumble. The maintenance of world peace by fostering democracy, capitalism, and, at times, eugenics-based schemes was central to the activities of the Internationalists, a group of prominent American leaders in business, education, publishing, and government. One core member of this group, the New York lawyer Madison Grant, aroused considerable pro-eugenic interest through his best-selling book The Passing of the Great Race (1916). Beginning in 1920, a series of congressional hearings was held to identify problems that immigrants were causing the United States. As the countrys eugenics expert, Harry Laughlin provided tabulations showing that certain immigrants, particularly those from Italy, Greece, and Eastern Europe, were significantly overrepresented in American prisons and institutions for the feebleminded. Further data were construed to suggest that these groups were contributing too many genetically and socially inferior people. Laughlins classification of these individuals included the feebleminded, the insane, the criminalistic, the epileptic, the inebriate, the diseasedincluding those with tuberculosis, leprosy, and syphilisthe blind, the deaf, the deformed, the dependent, chronic recipients of charity, paupers, and neer-do-wells. Racial overtones also pervaded much of the British and American eugenics literature. In 1923 Laughlin was sent by the U.S. secretary of labour as an immigration agent to Europe to investigate the chief emigrant-exporting nations. Laughlin sought to determine the feasibility of a plan whereby every prospective immigrant would be interviewed before embarking to the United States. He provided testimony before Congress that ultimately led to a new immigration law in 1924 that severely restricted the annual immigration of individuals from countries previously claimed to have contributed excessively to the dilution of American good stock.

Immigration control was but one method to control eugenically the reproductive stock of a country. Laughlin appeared at the centre of other U.S. efforts to provide eugenicists greater reproductive control over the nation. He approached state legislators with a model law to control the reproduction of institutionalized populations. By 1920, two years before the publication of Laughlins influential Eugenical Sterilization in the United States (1922), 3,200 individuals across the country were reported to have been involuntarily sterilized. That number tripled by 1929, and by 1938 more than 30,000 people were claimed to have met this fate. More than half of the states adopted Laughlins law, with California, Virginia, and Michigan leading the sterilization campaign. Laughlins efforts secured staunch judicial support in 1927. In the precedent-setting case of Buck v. Bell, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., upheld the Virginia statute and claimed, It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.

During the 1930s eugenics gained considerable popular support across the United States. Hygiene courses in public schools and eugenics courses in colleges spread eugenic-minded values to many. A eugenics exhibit titled Pedigree-Study in Man was featured at the Chicago Worlds Fair in 193334. Consistent with the fairs Century of Progress theme, stations were organized around efforts to show how favourable traits in the human population could best be perpetuated. Contrasts were drawn between the emulative presidential Roosevelt family and the degenerate Ishmael family (one of several pseudonymous family names used, the rationale for which was not given). By studying the passage of ancestral traits, fairgoers were urged to adopt the progressive view that responsible individuals should pursue marriage ever mindful of eugenics principles. Booths were set up at county and state fairs promoting fitter families contests, and medals were awarded to eugenically sound families. Drawing again upon long-standing eugenic practices in agriculture, popular eugenic advertisements claimed it was about time that humans received the same attention in the breeding of better babies that had been given to livestock and crops for centuries.

Anti-eugenics sentiment began to appear after 1910 and intensified during the 1930s. Most commonly it was based on religious grounds. For example, the 1930 papal encyclical Casti connubii condemned reproductive sterilization, though it did not specifically prohibit positive eugenic attempts to amplify the inheritance of beneficial traits. Many Protestant writings sought to reconcile age-old Christian warnings about the heritable sins of the father to pro-eugenic ideals. Indeed, most of the religion-based popular writings of the period supported positive means of improving the physical and moral makeup of humanity.

In the early 1930s Nazi Germany adopted American measures to identify and selectively reduce the presence of those deemed to be socially inferior through involuntary sterilization. A rhetoric of positive eugenics in the building of a master race pervaded Rassenhygiene (racial hygiene) movements. When Germany extended its practices far beyond sterilization in efforts to eliminate the Jewish and other non-Aryan populations, the United States became increasingly concerned over its own support of eugenics. Many scientists, physicians, and political leaders began to denounce the work of the ERO publicly. After considerable reflection, the Carnegie Institution formally closed the ERO at the end of 1939.

During the aftermath of World War II, eugenics became stigmatized such that many individuals who had once hailed it as a science now spoke disparagingly of it as a failed pseudoscience. Eugenics was dropped from organization and publication names. In 1954 Britains Annals of Eugenics was renamed Annals of Human Genetics. In 1972 the American Eugenics Society adopted the less-offensive name Society for the Study of Social Biology. Its publication, once popularly known as the Eugenics Quarterly, had already been renamed Social Biology in 1969.

U.S. Senate hearings in 1973, chaired by Sen. Ted Kennedy, revealed that thousands of U.S. citizens had been sterilized under federally supported programs. The U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare proposed guidelines encouraging each state to repeal their respective sterilization laws. Other countries, most notably China, continue to support eugenics-directed programs openly in order to ensure the genetic makeup of their future.

Despite the dropping of the term eugenics, eugenic ideas remained prevalent in many issues surrounding human reproduction. Medical genetics, a post-World War II medical specialty, encompasses a wide range of health concerns, from genetic screening and counseling to fetal gene manipulation and the treatment of adults suffering from hereditary disorders. Because certain diseases (e.g., hemophilia and Tay-Sachs disease) are now known to be genetically transmitted, many couples choose to undergo genetic screening, in which they learn the chances that their offspring have of being affected by some combination of their hereditary backgrounds. Couples at risk of passing on genetic defects may opt to remain childless or to adopt children. Furthermore, it is now possible to diagnose certain genetic defects in the unborn. Many couples choose to terminate a pregnancy that involves a genetically disabled offspring. These developments have reinforced the eugenic aim of identifying and eliminating undesirable genetic material.

Counterbalancing this trend, however, has been medical progress that enables victims of many genetic diseases to live fairly normal lives. Direct manipulation of harmful genes is also being studied. If perfected, it could obviate eugenic arguments for restricting reproduction among those who carry harmful genes. Such conflicting innovations have complicated the controversy surrounding what many call the new eugenics. Moreover, suggestions for expanding eugenics programs, which range from the creation of sperm banks for the genetically superior to the potential cloning of human beings, have met with vigorous resistance from the public, which often views such programs as unwarranted interference with nature or as opportunities for abuse by authoritarian regimes.

Applications of the Human Genome Project are often referred to as Brave New World genetics or the new eugenics, in part because they have helped to dramatically increase knowledge of human genetics. In addition, 21st-century technologies such as gene editing, which can potentially be used to treat disease or to alter traits, have further renewed concerns. However, the ethical, legal, and social implications of such tools are monitored much more closely than were early 20th-century eugenics programs. Applications generally are more focused on the reduction of genetic diseases than on improving intelligence.

Still, with or without the use of the term, many eugenics-related concerns are reemerging as a new group of individuals decide how to regulate the application of genetics science and technology. This gene-directed activity, in attempting to improve upon nature, may not be that distant from what Galton implied in 1909 when he described eugenics as the study of agencies, under social control, which may improve or impair future generations.

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Eugenics – HISTORY

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Eugenics is the science of improving the human species by selectively mating people with specific desirable hereditary traits. It aims to reduce human suffering by breeding out disease, disabilities and so-called undesirable characteristics from the human population. Early supporters of eugenics believed people inherited mental illness, criminal tendencies and even poverty, and that these conditions could be bred out of the gene pool.

Historically, eugenics encouraged people of so-called healthy, superior stock to reproduce and discouraged reproduction of the mentally challenged or anyone who fell outside the social norm. Eugenics was popular in America during much of the first half of the twentieth century, yet it earned its negative association mainly from Adolf Hitlers obsessive attempts to create a superior Aryan race.

Modern eugenics, more often called human genetic engineering, has come a long wayscientifically and ethicallyand offers hope for treating many devastating genetic illnesses. Even so, it remains controversial.

Eugenics literally means good creation. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato may have been the first person to promote the idea, although the term eugenics didnt come on the scene until British scholar Sir Francis Galton coined it in 1883 in his book, Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development.

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In one of Platos best-known literary works, The Republic, he wrote about creating a superior society by procreating high-class people together and discouraging coupling between the lower classes. He also suggested a variety of mating rules to help create an optimal society.

For instance, men should only have relations with a woman when arranged by their ruler, and incestuous relationships between parents and children were forbidden but not between brother and sister. While Platos ideas may be considered a form of ancient eugenics, he received little credit from Galton.

In the late 19th century, Galtonwhose cousin was Charles Darwinhoped to better humankind through the propagation of the British elite. His plan never really took hold in his own country, but in America it was more widely embraced.

Eugenics made its first official appearance in American history through marriage laws. In 1896, Connecticut made it illegal for people with epilepsy or who were feeble-minded to marry. In 1903, the American Breeders Association was created to study eugenics.

John Harvey Kellogg, of Kellogg cereal fame, organized the Race Betterment Foundation in 1911 and established a pedigree registry. The foundation hosted national conferences on eugenics in 1914, 1915 and 1928.

As the concept of eugenics took hold, prominent citizens, scientists and socialists championed the cause and established the Eugenics Record Office. The office tracked families and their genetic traits, claiming most people considered unfit were immigrants, minorities or poor.

The Eugenics Record Office also maintained there was clear evidence that supposed negative family traits were caused by bad genes, not racism, economics or the social views of the time.

Eugenics in America took a dark turn in the early 20th century, led by California. From 1909 to 1979, around 20,000 sterilizations occurred in California state mental institutions under the guise of protecting society from the offspring of people with mental illness.

Many sterilizations were forced and performed on minorities. Thirty-three states would eventually allow involuntary sterilization in whomever lawmakers deemed unworthy to procreate.

In 1927, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that forced sterilization of the handicapped does not violate the U.S. Constitution. In the words of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes, three generations of imbeciles are enough. In 1942, the ruling was overturned, but not before thousands of people underwent the procedure.

In the 1930s, the governor of Puerto Rico, Menendez Ramos, implemented sterilization programs for Puerto Rican women. Ramos claimed the action was needed to battle rampant poverty and economic strife; however, it may have also been a way to prevent the so-called superior Aryan gene pool from becoming tainted with Latino blood.

According to a 1976 Government Accountability Office investigation, between 25 and 50 percent of Native Americans were sterilized between 1970 and 1976. Its thought some sterilizations happened without consent during other surgical procedures such as an appendectomy.

In some cases, health care for living children was denied unless their mothers agreed to sterilization.

As horrific as forced sterilization in America was, nothing compared to Adolf Hitlers eugenic experiments during World War II. And Hitler didnt come up with the concept of a superior Aryan race all on his own. In fact, he referred to American eugenics in his 1934 book, Mein Kampf.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler declares non-Aryan races such as Jews and gypsies as inferior. He believed Germans should do everything possible, including genocide, to make sure their gene pool stayed pure. And in 1933, the Nazis created the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring which resulted in thousands of forced sterilizations.

By 1940, Hitlers master-race mania took a terrible turn as Germans with mental or physical disabilities were euthanized by gas or lethal injection. Even the blind and deaf werent safe, and hundreds of thousands of people were killed.

During World War II, concentration camp prisoners endured horrific medical tests under the guise of helping Hitler create the perfect race. Josef Mengele, an SS doctor at Auschwitz, oversaw many experiments on both adult and child twins.

He used chemical eyedrops to try and create blue eyes, injected prisoners with devastating diseases and performed surgery without anesthesia. Many of his patients died or suffered permanent disability, and his gruesome experiments earned him the nickname, Angel of Death.

In all, its estimated eleven million people died during the Holocaust, most of them because they didnt fit Hitlers definition of a superior race.

Thanks to the unspeakable atrocities of Hitler and the Nazis, eugenics lost momentum in after World War II, although forced sterilizations still happened. But as medical technology advanced, a new form of eugenics came on the scene.

Modern eugenics, better known as human genetic engineering, changes or removes genes to prevent disease, cure disease or improve your body in some significant way. The potential health benefits of human gene therapy are staggering since many devastating or life-threatening illnesses could be cured.

But modern genetic engineering also comes with a potential cost. As technology advances, people could routinely weed-out what they consider undesirable traits in their offspring. Genetic testing already allows parents to identify some diseases in their child in utero which may cause them to terminate the pregnancy.

This is controversial since what exactly constitutes negative traits is open to interpretation, and many people feel that all humans have the right to be born regardless of disease, or that the laws of nature shouldnt be tampered with.

Much of Americas historical eugenics efforts such as forced sterilizations have gone unpunished, although some states offered reparations to victims or their survivors. For the most part, though, its a largely unknown stain on Americas history. And no amount of money can ever repair the devastation of Hitlers eugenics programs.

As scientists embark on a new eugenics frontier, past failings can serve as a warning to approach modern genetic research with care and compassion.

American Breeders Association. University of Missouri.Charles Davenport and the Eugenics Record Office. University of Missouri.Forced Sterilization of Native Americans: Late Twentieth Century Physician Cooperation with National Eugenic Policies. The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity.Greek Theories on Eugenics. Journal of Medical Ethics.Josef Mengele. Holocaust Encyclopedia.Latina Women: Forced Sterilization. University of Michigan.Modern Eugenics: Building a Better Person? Helix.Nazi Medical Experiments. Holocaust Encyclopedia.Plato. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.Unwanted Sterilization and Eugenics Programs in the United States. PBS.

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Eugenics – HISTORY

Eugenics – definition of eugenics by The Free Dictionary

Why, man, that is a box of books on biology and eugenics.The only vexation he suffered was the death of Nalasu and the disappearance of Jerry–his two experiments in primitive eugenics.This was especially true of the sciences which we know as biology and eugenics.His remarks about the unemployed being “wasters” who should have vasectomies stink of the abhorrent Nazi doctrine of eugenics.Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era, by Thomas C.Compulsory sterilization laws, which were passed in 32 states from 1907 to 1937, and resulted in more than 60,000 reproductive surgeries, overwhelmingly performed on poor, undereducated, and minority women and men, epitomize this egregious facet of eugenics.The Nazi-era Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Human Heredity and Eugenics was also known to have a collection of bones from German colonies, among others.Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie BuckIlliberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics & American Economics in the Progressive EraMears falls for the orphaned daughter of the murdered woman, has a long meeting with Virginia’s lawyer (a former slave), is attacked by the KKK, and discovers first-hand the existence of eugenics sterilization camps.Given the historical relationship between genetic counseling and eugenics movements–as well as the hostility toward black reproduction that characterized reproductive medicine for much of the twentieth century–there is reason to question the quality and nature of the counseling these women will receive.The histories contained in these files were gathered and archived by the now defunct Eugenics Records Office, an American organization that helped to shape the international eugenics movement through activities carried out in these juvenile reformatories (primarily at the Whittier State School, founded in 1891).

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Eugenics – definition of eugenics by The Free Dictionary

Eugenics | Definition of Eugenics by Merriam-Webster

: the practice or advocacy of controlled selective breeding of human populations (as by sterilization) to improve the population’s genetic composition In 1883 Francis Galton, in England, coined the term “eugenics” to encompass the idea of modification of natural selection through selective breeding for the improvement of humankind Jeremiah A. Barondess A half-century ago, eugenics became associated with Hitler, genocide and master-race theories, and its reputation has never recovered. Dan Seligman After the Second World War, “eugenics” became a word to be hedged with caveats in Britain and virtually a dirty word in the United States, where it had long been identified with racism. Daniel J. Kevles The new advocates of biotechnology speak approvingly of what they term “free-market eugenics.” Dinesh D’Souza

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Eugenics | Definition of Eugenics by Merriam-Webster

Eugenics | definition of eugenics by Medical dictionary

eugenics[u-jeniks]

the study and control of procreation as a means of improving hereditary characteristics of future generations. The concept has sometimes been used in a pseudoscientific way as an excuse for unethical, racist, or even genocidal practices such as involuntary sterilization or certain other practices in Nazi Germany and elsewhere.

macro eugenics eugenics policies that affect whole populations or groups. This has sometimes led to racism and genocide, such as the Nazi policies of sterilization and extermination of ethnic groups.

micro eugenics eugenics policies affecting only families or kinship groups; such policies are directed mainly at women and thus raise special ethical issues.

negative eugenics that concerned with prevention of reproduction by individuals considered to have inferior or undesirable traits.

positive eugenics that concerned with promotion of optimal mating and reproduction by individuals considered to have desirable or superior traits.

1. Practices and policies, as of mate selection or of sterilization, which tend to better the innate qualities of progeny and human stock.

2. Practices and genetic counseling directed to anticipating genetic disability and disease.

[G. eugeneia, nobility of birth, fr. eu, well, + genesis, production]

The study or practice of attempting to improve the human gene pool by encouraging the reproduction of people considered to have desirable traits and discouraging or preventing the reproduction of people considered to have undesirable traits.

eugenic adj.

eugenically adv.

Etymology: Gk, eu + genein, to produce

the study of methods for controlling the characteristics of populations through selective breeding.

1. Practices and policies, as in mate selection or sterilization, which tend to better the innate qualities of progeny and human stock.

2. Practices and genetic counseling directed to anticipating genetic disability and disease.

[G. eugeneia, nobility of birth, fr. eu, well, + genesis, production]

A social movement in which the population of a society, country, or the world is to be improved by controlling the passing on of hereditary information through mating.

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Eugenics | definition of eugenics by Medical dictionary

Introduction to Eugenics – Genetics Generation

Introduction to Eugenics

Eugenics is a movement that is aimed at improving the genetic composition of the human race. Historically, eugenicists advocated selective breeding to achieve these goals. Today we have technologies that make it possible to more directly alter the genetic composition of an individual. However, people differ in their views on how to best (and ethically) use this technology.

History of Eugenics

Logo of the Second International Congress of Eugenics, 1921. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1883, Sir Francis Galton, a respected British scholar and cousin of Charles Darwin,first used the term eugenics, meaning well-born. Galton believed that the human race could help direct its future by selectively breeding individuals who have desired traits. This idea was based on Galtons study of upper class Britain. Following these studies, Galton concluded that an elite position in society was due to a good genetic makeup. While Galtons plans to improve the human race through selective breeding never came to fruition in Britain, they eventually took sinister turns in other countries.

The eugenics movement began in the U.S. in the late 19th century. However, unlike in Britain, eugenicists in the U.S. focused on efforts to stop the transmission of negative or undesirable traits from generation to generation. In response to these ideas, some US leaders, private citizens, and corporations started funding eugenical studies. This lead to the 1911 establishment of The Eugenics Records Office (ERO) in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. The ERO spent time tracking family histories and concluded that people deemed to be unfit more often came from families that were poor, low in social standing, immigrant, and/or minority. Further, ERO researchers demonstrated that the undesirable traits in these families, such as pauperism, were due to genetics, and not lack of resources.

Committees were convened to offer solutions to the problem of the growing number of undesirables in the U.S. population. Stricter immigration rules were enacted, but the most ominous resolution was a plan to sterilize unfit individuals to prevent them from passing on their negative traits. During the 20th century, a total of 33 states had sterilization programs in place. While at first sterilization efforts targeted mentally ill people exclusively, later the traits deemed serious enough to warrant sterilization included alcoholism, criminality chronic poverty, blindness, deafness, feeble-mindedness, and promiscuity. It was also not uncommon for African American women to be sterilized during other medical procedures without consent. Most people subjected to these sterilizations had no choice, and because the program was run by the government, they had little chance of escaping the procedure. It is thought that around 65,000 Americans were sterilized during this time period.

The eugenics movement in the U.S. slowly lost favor over time and was waning by the start of World War II. When the horrors of Nazi Germany became apparent, as well as Hitlers use of eugenic principles to justify the atrocities, eugenics lost all credibility as a field of study or even an ideal that should be pursued.

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Introduction to Eugenics – Genetics Generation

What is eugenics? pgEd

Eugenics is the philosophy and social movement that argues it is possible to improve the human race and society by encouraging reproduction by people or populations with desirable traits (termed positive eugenics) and discouraging reproduction by people with undesirable qualities (termed negative eugenics). The eugenics movement began in the United States in the early part of the 20th century; the United States was the first country to have a systematic program for performing sterilizations on individuals without their knowledge or against their will. It was supported and encouraged by a wide swath of people, including politicians, scientists, social reformers, prominent business leaders and other influential individuals who shared a goal of reducing the burden on society. The majority of people targeted for sterilization were deemed of inferior intelligence, particularly poor people and eventually people of color.[1]

In the early 20th century, many scientists were skeptical of the scientific underpinnings of eugenics. Eugenicists argued that parents from good stock produced healthier and intellectually superior children. They believed that traits such as poverty, shiftlessness, criminality and poor work ethic were inherited and that people of Nordic ancestry were inherently superior to other peoples, despite an obvious lack of evidence and scientific proof. However, eugenicists were able to persuade the Carnegie Institution and prestigious universities to support their work, thus legitimizing it and creating the perception that their philosophy was, in fact, science.

The eugenics movement became widely seen as a legitimate way to improve society and was supported by such people as Winston Churchill, Margaret Sanger, Theodore Roosevelt and John Harvey Kellogg. Eugenics became an academic discipline at many prominent colleges, including Harvard University, among many others. From the outset, the movement also had critics, including lawyer and civil rights advocate Clarence Darrow as well as scientists who refuted the idea that purity leads to fewer negative gene mutations. Nevertheless, between 1927 and the 1970s, there were more than 60,000 compulsory sterilizations performed in 33 states in the United States; California led the nation with over 20,000. Experts think many more sterilizations were likely performed, but not officially recorded.[2]

Adolf Hitler based some of his early ideas about eugenics on the programs practiced in the United States. He was its most infamous practitioner; the Nazis killed tens of thousands of disabled people and sterilized hundreds of thousands deemed inferior and medically unfit. After World War II and the Holocaust, the American eugenics movement was widely condemned. However, sterilization programs continued in many states until the mid-1970s.

Today, safeguards have been established to ensure that the ethical implications of new technologies are discussed and debated before being employed on a large scale. In this way, the benefits and advances arising from scientific research and medical procedures can be achieved both ethically and humanely. Examples of the efforts of the United States government to ensure that progress in science, research and technology proceeds in an ethical and socially acceptable manner include the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, well known for the development of the Belmont Report, and the Ethical, Legal and Social Issues (ELSI) program housed in the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Many people fear that new advances in genetics could lead to a new era of eugenics. However, these advances lead to sometimes difficult ethical questions, particularly related to reproductive technologies and embryo screening. As science advances, what traits might people be able to choose or select against? Is it acceptable for prospective parents to have a say in which embryos are implanted in a womens uterus for non-medical reasons? Is it acceptable for society to dictate this decision to prospective parents? Many of the breakthroughs have saved lives and will continue to do so on a grander scale, and we, as a society, need to discuss the complex issues related to genetic technologies. Debate and discussion can be illuminating even though complete consensus about the intersection of genetics and society will be difficult.

This lesson provides students with a historical overview of the American eugenics movement and highlights some of the advances and breakthroughs that have been achieved through genetic and genomic research. Many people fear that new advances in genetics, particularly embryo screening and analysis of fetal DNA, could lead to a new era of eugenics. The goal of this lesson is for students to start discussing these topics so that they can understand the complexity of the issues and engage in conversations that contrast the dangers of eugenics with the benefits that can come from genetic information.

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Vermont Eugenics: A Documentary History

This lesson uses primary source documents to explore issues of race, gender and class in the 20th century. It is intended to extend the ideas explored in History, eugenics and genetics. The goal of this lesson is for students to use original sources to understand how the eugenics movement used propaganda to enter mainstream America to promote its agenda, and use critical thinking skills to analyze and interpret the sources.

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What is eugenics? pgEd

Eugenics – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Eugenics is a social philosophy which advocates the improvement of human hereditary traits through various forms of intervention.[1] The purported goals have variously been to create healthier, more intelligent people, save society’s resources, and lessen human suffering. Earlier proposed means of achieving these goals focused on selective breeding, while modern ones focus on prenatal testing and screening, genetic counseling, birth control, in vitro fertilization, and genetic engineering. Opponents argue that eugenics is immoral and is based on, or is itself, pseudoscience. Historically, eugenics has been used as a justification for coercive state-sponsored discrimination and human rights violations, such as forced sterilization of persons with genetic defects, the killing of the institutionalized and, in some cases, genocide of races perceived as inferior.

Selective breeding of human beings was suggested at least as far back as Plato, but the modern field, and term, was first formulated by Sir Francis Galton in 1865, drawing on the recent work of his cousin Charles Darwin. From its inception eugenics was supported by prominent thinkers, including Alexander Graham Bell, George Bernard Shaw, and Winston Churchill. Eugenics was an academic discipline at many colleges and universities. Its scientific reputation started to tumble in the 1930s, a time when Ernst Rdin began incorporating eugenic rhetoric into the racial policies of Nazi Germany. After the postwar period, both the public and the scientific community generally associated eugenics with Nazi abuses, which included enforced racial hygiene, human experimentation, and the extermination of undesired population groups.

Developments in genetic, genomic, and reproductive technologies at the end of the 20th century, however, have raised many new ethical questions and concerns about what exactly constitutes the meaning of eugenics and what its ethical and moral status is.

The word eugenics etymologically derives from the Greek words eu (good) and gen (birth), and was coined by Francis Galton in 1883.

Eugenics has, from the very beginning, meant many different things to many different people. Historically, the term has been used to cover everything from prenatal care for mothers to forced sterilization and euthanasia. Much debate took place in the past, and takes place today, as to what exactly counts as eugenics.[2] Some types of eugenics, such as race-based eugenics and class-based eugenics, are sometimes called ‘pseudo-eugenics’ by proponents of strict eugenics that deals only with beneficial and detrimental intrinsic traits.

The term eugenics is often used to refer to movements and social policies that were influential during the early 20th century. In a historical and broader sense, eugenics can also be a study of “improving human genetic qualities”. It is sometimes broadly applied to describe any human action whose goal is to improve the gene pool. Some forms of infanticide in ancient societies, present-day reprogenetics, preemptive abortions and designer babies have been (sometimes controversially) referred to as eugenic.

Because of its normative goals and historical association with scientific racism, as well as the development of the science of genetics, the western scientific community has mostly disassociated itself from the term “eugenics”, although one can find advocates of what is now known as liberal eugenics. Ideological social determinists, some of which have obtained college degrees in fields relevant to eugenics, often describe eugenics as a pseudoscience. Modern inquiries into the potential use of genetic engineering have led to an increased invocation of the history of eugenics in discussions of bioethics, most often as a cautionary tale. Some ethicists suggest that even non-coercive eugenics programs would be inherently unethical, though this view has been challenged by such thinkers as Nicholas Agar.[3]

Eugenicists advocate specific policies that (if successful) would lead to a perceived improvement of the human gene pool. Since defining what improvements are desired or beneficial is by many perceived as a cultural choice rather than a matter that can be determined objectively (e.g., by empirical, scientific inquiry), eugenics has often been deemed a pseudoscience. The most disputed aspect of eugenics has been the definition of “improvement” of the human gene pool, such as what is a beneficial characteristic and what is a defect. This aspect of eugenics has historically been tainted with scientific racism.

Early eugenicists were mostly concerned with perceived intelligence factors that often correlated strongly with social class. Many eugenicists took inspiration from the selective breeding of animals (where purebreds are often strived for) as their analogy for improving human society. The mixing of races (or miscegenation) was usually considered as something to be avoided in the name of racial purity. At the time this concept appeared to have some scientific support, and it remained a contentious issue until the advanced development of genetics led to a scientific consensus that the division of the human species into unequal races is unjustifiable. Some see this as an ideological consensus, since equality, just like inequality, is a cultural choice rather than a matter that can be determined objectively.

Eugenics has also been concerned with the elimination of hereditary diseases such as haemophilia and Huntington’s disease. However, there are several problems with labeling certain factors as “genetic defects”:

Similar concerns have been raised when a prenatal diagnosis of a congenital disorder leads to abortion (see also preimplantation genetic diagnosis).

Eugenic policies have been conceptually divided into two categories: positive eugenics, which encourage a designated “most fit” to reproduce more often; and negative eugenics, which discourage or prevent a designated “less fit” from reproducing. Negative eugenics need not be coercive. A state might offer financial rewards to certain people who submit to sterilization, although some critics might reply that this incentive along with social pressure could be perceived as coercion. Positive eugenics can also be coercive. Abortion by “fit” women was illegal in Nazi Germany.

During the 20th century, many countries enacted various eugenics policies and programs, including:

Most of these policies were later regarded as coercive, restrictive, or genocidal, and now few jurisdictions implement policies that are explicitly labeled as eugenic or unequivocally eugenic in substance (however labeled). However, some private organizations assist people in genetic counseling, and reprogenetics may be considered as a form of non-state-enforced “liberal” eugenics.

There are 3 main ways by which the methods of eugenics can be applied. They are:

There are also different goals of eugenics [4]. They are:

Selective breeding was suggested at least as far back as Plato, who believed human reproduction should be controlled by government. He recorded these ideals in The Republic: “The best men must have intercourse with the best women as frequently as possible, and the opposite is true of the very inferior.” Plato proposed that the process be concealed from the public via a form of lottery. Other ancient examples include the polis of Sparta’s purported practice of leaving weak babies outside of city borders to die. However, they would leave all babies outside for a length of time, and the survivors were considered stronger, while many “weaker” babies perished.

During the 1860s and 1870s, Sir Francis Galton systematized these ideas and practices according to new knowledge about the evolution of man and animals provided by the theory of his cousin Charles Darwin. After reading Darwin’s Origin of Species, Galton noticed an interpretation of Darwin’s work whereby the mechanisms of natural selection were potentially thwarted by human civilization. He reasoned that, since many human societies sought to protect the underprivileged and weak, those societies were at odds with the natural selection responsible for extinction of the weakest. Only by changing these social policies, Galton thought, could society be saved from a “reversion towards mediocrity”, a phrase that he first coined in statistics and which later changed to the now common “regression towards the mean”.[5]

Galton first sketched out his theory in the 1865 article “Hereditary Talent and Character”, then elaborated it further in his 1869 book Hereditary Genius.[6] He began by studying the way in which human intellectual, moral, and personality traits tended to run in families. Galton’s basic argument was that “genius” and “talent” were hereditary traits in humans (although neither he nor Darwin yet had a working model of this type of heredity). He concluded that, since one could use artificial selection to exaggerate traits in other animals, one could expect similar results when applying such models to humans. As he wrote in the introduction to Hereditary Genius:

According to Galton, society already encouraged dysgenic conditions, claiming that the less intelligent were out-reproducing the more intelligent. Galton did not propose any selection methods; rather, he hoped that a solution would be found if social mores changed in a way that encouraged people to see the importance of breeding.

Galton first used the word eugenic in his 1883 Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development, a book in which he meant “to touch on various topics more or less connected with that of the cultivation of race, or, as we might call it, with ‘eugenic’ questions.” He included a footnote to the word “eugenic” which read:

In 1904 he clarified his definition of eugenics as “the science which deals with all influences that improve the inborn qualities of a race; also with those that develop them to the utmost advantage.”[9]

Galton’s formulation of eugenics was based on a strong statistical approach, influenced heavily by Adolphe Quetelet’s “social physics”. Unlike Quetelet, however, Galton did not exalt the “average man” but decried him as mediocre. Galton and his statistical heir Karl Pearson developed what was called the biometrical approach to eugenics, which developed new and complex statistical models (later exported to wholly different fields) to describe the heredity of traits. However, with the rediscovery of Gregor Mendel’s hereditary laws, two separate camps of eugenics advocates emerged. One was made up of statisticians, the other of biologists. Statisticians thought the biologists had exceptionally crude mathematical models, while biologists thought the statisticians knew little about biology.[10]

Eugenics eventually referred to human selective reproduction with an intent to create children with desirable traits, generally through the approach of influencing differential birth rates. These policies were mostly divided into two categories: positive eugenics, the increased reproduction of those seen to have advantageous hereditary traits; and negative eugenics, the discouragement of reproduction by those with hereditary traits perceived as poor. Negative eugenic policies in the past have ranged from attempts at segregation to sterilization and even genocide. Positive eugenic policies have typically taken the form of awards or bonuses for “fit” parents who have another child. Relatively innocuous practices like marriage counseling had early links with eugenic ideology.

Eugenics differed from what would later be known as Social Darwinism. While both claimed intelligence was hereditary, eugenics asserted that new policies were needed to actively change the status quo towards a more “eugenic” state, while the Social Darwinists argued society itself would naturally “check” the problem of “dysgenics” if no welfare policies were in place (for example, the poor might reproduce more but would have higher mortality rates).

State policies in some Latin American countries advocated the whitening of society by increased European immigration and the eradication of indigenous populations[citationneeded]. This can be seen particularly in Argentina and Brazil; in these countries this process is known as blanqueamiento and branqueamento, respectively.

One of the earliest modern advocates of eugenic ideas (before they were labeled as such) was Alexander Graham Bell. In 1881 Bell investigated the rate of deafness on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. From this he concluded that deafness was hereditary in nature and recommended a marriage prohibition against the deaf (“Memoir upon the formation of a deaf variety of the human Race”) even though he was married to a deaf woman. Like many other early eugenicists, he proposed controlling immigration for the purpose of eugenics and warned that boarding schools for the deaf could possibly be considered as breeding places of a deaf human race.

Though eugenics is today often associated with racism, it was not always so; both W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey supported eugenics or ideas resembling eugenics as a way to reduce African American suffering and improve their stature.[citationneeded] Many legal methods of eugenics include state laws against miscegenation or prohibitions of interracial marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned those state laws in 1967 and declared antimiscegenation laws unconstitutional.

Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler was infamous for eugenics programs which attempted to maintain a “pure” German race through a series of programs that ran under the banner of “racial hygiene”. Among other activities, the Nazis performed extensive experimentation on live human beings to test their genetic theories, ranging from simple measurement of physical characteristics to the horrific experiments carried out by Josef Mengele for Otmar von Verschuer on twins in the concentration camps. During the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazi regime forcibly sterilized hundreds of thousands of people whom they viewed as mentally and physically “unfit”, an estimated 400,000 between 1934 and 1937. The scale of the Nazi program prompted American eugenics advocates to seek an expansion of their program, with one complaining that “the Germans are beating us at our own game”.[11] The Nazis went further, however, killing tens of thousands of the institutionalized disabled through compulsory “euthanasia” programs.[12]

They also implemented a number of “positive” eugenics policies, giving awards to “Aryan” women who had large numbers of children and encouraged a service in which “racially pure” single women were impregnated by SS officers (Lebensborn). Many of their concerns for eugenics and racial hygiene were also explicitly present in their systematic killing of millions of “undesirable” people including Jews, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals during the Holocaust (much of the killing equipment and methods employed in the death camps were first developed in the euthanasia program). The scope and coercion involved in the German eugenics programs along with a strong use of the rhetoric of eugenics and so-called “racial science” throughout the regime created an indelible cultural association between eugenics and the Third Reich in the postwar years.[13]

The second largest eugenics movement was in the United States. Beginning with Connecticut in 1896, many states enacted marriage laws with eugenic criteria, prohibiting anyone who was “epileptic, imbecile or feeble-minded” from marrying. In 1898 Charles B. Davenport, a prominent American biologist, began as director of a biological research station based in Cold Spring Harbor where he experimented with evolution in plants and animals. In 1904 Davenport received funds from the Carnegie Institution to found the Station for Experimental Evolution. The Eugenics Record Office opened in 1910 while Davenport and Harry H. Laughlin began to promote eugenics.[14]

During the 20th century, researchers became interested in the idea that mental illness could run in families and conducted a number of studies to document the heritability of such illnesses as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. Their findings were used by the eugenics movement as proof for its cause. State laws were written in the late 1800s and early 1900s to prohibit marriage and force sterilization of the mentally ill in order to prevent the “passing on” of mental illness to the next generation. These laws were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1927 and were not abolished until the mid-20th century. By 1945 over 45,000 mentally ill individuals in the United States had been forcibly sterilized.

In years to come, the ERO collected a mass of family pedigrees and concluded that those who were unfit came from economically and socially poor backgrounds. Eugenicists such as Davenport, the psychologist Henry H. Goddard and the conservationist Madison Grant (all well respected in their time) began to lobby for various solutions to the problem of the “unfit”. (Davenport favored immigration restriction and sterilization as primary methods; Goddard favored segregation in his The Kallikak Family; Grant favored all of the above and more, even entertaining the idea of extermination.)[15] Though their methodology and research methods are now understood as highly flawed, at the time this was seen as legitimate scientific research. [citationneeded] It did, however, have scientific detractors (notably, Thomas Hunt Morgan, one of the few Mendelians to explicitly criticize eugenics), though most of these focused more on what they considered the crude methodology of eugenicists, and the characterization of almost every human characteristic as being hereditary, rather than the idea of eugenics itself.[16]

The idea of “genius” and “talent” is also considered by William Graham Sumner, a founder of the American Sociological Society (now called the American Sociological Association). He maintained that if the government did not meddle with the social policy of laissez-faire, a class of genius would rise to the top of the system of social stratification, followed by a class of talent. Most of the rest of society would fit into the class of mediocrity. Those who were considered to be defective (mentally retarded, handicapped, etc.) had a negative effect on social progress by draining off necessary resources. They should be left on their own to sink or swim. But those in the class of delinquent (criminals, deviants, etc.) should be eliminated from society (“Folkways”, 1907).

With the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, eugenicists for the first time played a central role in the Congressional debate as expert advisers on the threat of “inferior stock” from eastern and southern Europe. This reduced the number of immigrants from abroad to 15 percent from previous years, to control the number of “unfit” individuals entering the country. The new act strengthened existing laws prohibiting race mixing in an attempt to maintain the gene pool.[17] Eugenic considerations also lay behind the adoption of incest laws in much of the U.S. and were used to justify many antimiscegenation laws.[18]

Some states sterilized “imbeciles” for much of the 20th century. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1927 Buck v. Bell case that the state of Virginia could sterilize those it thought unfit. The most significant era of eugenic sterilization was between 1907 and 1963, when over 64,000 individuals were forcibly sterilized under eugenic legislation in the United States.[19] A favorable report on the results of sterilization in California, by far the state with the most sterilizations, was published in book form by the biologist Paul Popenoe and was widely cited by the Nazi government as evidence that wide-reaching sterilization programs were feasible and humane. When Nazi administrators went on trial for war crimes in Nuremberg after World War II, they justified the mass sterilizations (over 450,000 in less than a decade) by citing the United States as their inspiration.[20]

Almost all non-Catholic Western nations adopted some eugenic legislations. In July 1933 Germany passed a law allowing for the involuntary sterilization of “hereditary and incurable drunkards, sexual criminals, lunatics, and those suffering from an incurable disease which would be passed on to their offspring.”[21] Canada carried out thousands of forced sterilizations, and these lasted into the 1970s. Many First Nations (native Canadians) were targeted, as well as immigrants from Eastern Europe, as the program identified racial and ethnic minorities to be genetically inferior. Sweden forcibly sterilized 62,000 people, primarily the mentally ill in the later decades, but also ethnic or racial minorities early on, as part of a eugenics program over a 40-year period. As was the case in other programs, ethnicity and race were believed to be connected to mental and physical health. While many Swedes disliked the program, politicians generally supported it; the ruling left supported it more as a means of promoting social health, while amongst the right it was more about racial protectionism. (The Swedish government has subsequently paid damages to those involved.) Besides the large-scale program in the United States, other nations included Australia, the UK, Norway, France, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, and Switzerland with programs to sterilize people the government declared to be mentally deficient. Singapore practiced a limited form of eugenics that involved encouraging marriage between university graduates and the rest through segregation in matchmaking agencies, in the hope that the former would produce better children.[22]

Various authors, notably Stephen Jay Gould, have repeatedly asserted that restrictions on immigration passed in the United States during the 1920s (and overhauled in 1965) were motivated by the goals of eugenics, in particular, a desire to exclude races considered to be inferior from the national gene pool. During the early 20th century, the United States and Canada began to receive far higher numbers of Southern and Eastern European immigrants. Influential eugenicists like Lothrop Stoddard and Harry Laughlin (who was appointed as an expert witness for the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization in 1920) presented arguments that these were inferior races that would pollute the national gene pool if their numbers went unrestricted. It has been argued that this stirred both Canada and the United States into passing laws creating a hierarchy of nationalities, rating them from the most desirable Anglo-Saxon and Nordic peoples to the Chinese and Japanese immigrants, who were almost completely banned from entering the country.[23] However, several people, in particular Franz Samelson, Mark Snyderman and Richard Herrnstein, have argued that, based on their examination of the records of the congressional debates over immigration policy, congress gave virtually no consideration to these factors. According to these authors, the restrictions were motivated primarily by a desire to maintain the country’s cultural integrity against a heavy influx of foreigners.[24] This interpretation is not, however, accepted by most historians of eugenics.

Some who disagree with the idea of eugenics in general contend that eugenics legislation still had benefits. Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood of America) found it a useful tool to urge the legalization of contraception. In its time eugenics was seen by many as scientific and progressive, the natural application of knowledge about breeding to the arena of human life. Before the death camps of World War II, the idea that eugenics could lead to genocide was not taken seriously.

After the experience of Nazi Germany, many ideas about “racial hygiene” and “unfit” members of society were publicly renounced by politicians and members of the scientific community. The Nuremberg Trials against former Nazi leaders revealed to the world many of the regime’s genocidal practices and resulted in formalized policies of medical ethics and the 1950 UNESCO statement on race. Many scientific societies released their own similar “race statements” over the years, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, developed in response to abuses during the Second World War, was adopted by the United Nations in 1948 and affirmed, “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family.”[25] In continuation, the 1978 UNESCO declaration on race and racial prejudice states that the fundamental equality of all human beings is the ideal toward which ethics and science should converge.[26]

In reaction to Nazi abuses, eugenics became almost universally reviled in many of the nations where it had once been popular (however, some eugenics programs, including sterilization, continued quietly for decades). Many prewar eugenicists engaged in what they later labeled “crypto-eugenics”, purposefully taking their eugenic beliefs “underground” and becoming respected anthropologists, biologists and geneticists in the postwar world (including Robert Yerkes in the U.S. and Otmar von Verschuer in Germany). Californian eugenicist Paul Popenoe founded marriage counseling during the 1950s, a career change which grew from his eugenic interests in promoting “healthy marriages” between “fit” couples.[27]

High school and college textbooks from the 1920s through the ’40s often had chapters touting the scientific progress to be had from applying eugenic principles to the population. Many early scientific journals devoted to heredity in general were run by eugenicists and featured eugenics articles alongside studies of heredity in nonhuman organisms. After eugenics fell out of scientific favor, most references to eugenics were removed from textbooks and subsequent editions of relevant journals. Even the names of some journals changed to reflect new attitudes. For example, Eugenics Quarterly became Social Biology in 1969 (the journal still exists today, though it looks little like its predecessor). Notable members of the American Eugenics Society (192294) during the second half of the 20th century included Joseph Fletcher, originator of Situational ethics; Dr. Clarence Gamble of the Procter & Gamble fortune; and Garrett Hardin, a population control advocate and author of The Tragedy of the Commons.

Despite the changed postwar attitude towards eugenics in the U.S. and some European countries, a few nations, notably, Canada and Sweden, maintained large-scale eugenics programs, including forced sterilization of mentally handicapped individuals, as well as other practices, until the 1970s. In the United States, sterilizations capped off in the 1960s, though the eugenics movement had largely lost most popular and political support by the end of the 1930s.[28]

Beginning in the 1980s, the history and concept of eugenics were widely discussed as knowledge about genetics advanced significantly. Endeavors such as the Human Genome Project made the effective modification of the human species seem possible again (as did Darwin’s initial theory of evolution in the 1860s, along with the rediscovery of Mendel’s laws in the early 20th century). The difference at the beginning of the 21st century was the guarded attitude towards eugenics, which had become a watchword to be feared rather than embraced.

A few scientific researchers such as psychologist Richard Lynn, psychologist Raymond Cattell, and doctor Gregory Stock have openly called for eugenic policies using modern technology, but they represent a minority opinion in current scientific and cultural circles.[29]

Because of its association with compulsory sterilization and the racial ideals of the Nazi Party, the word eugenics is rarely used by the advocates of such programs.

Only a few governments in the world have anything resembling eugenic programs today, the most notable being China. In 1993, the Chinese government announced a law, “On Eugenics and Health Protection,” designed to “avoid new births of inferior quality and heighten the standards of the whole population.”[2] In 1994 they passed the “Maternal and Infant Health Care Law”, which included mandatory premarital screenings for “genetic diseases of a serious nature” and “relevant mental disease”. Those who were diagnosed with such diseases were required either not to marry, agree to “long-term contraceptive measures” or to submit to sterilization. (See also: One-child policy)

A similar screening policy (including prenatal screening and abortion) intended to reduce the incidence of thalassemia exists on both sides of the island of Cyprus. Since the program’s implementation in the 1970s, it has reduced the ratio of children born with the hereditary blood disease from 1 out of every 158 births to almost zero.

Dor Yeshorim, a program which seeks to reduce the incidence of Tay-Sachs disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Canavan disease, Fanconi anemia, Familial Dysautonomia, Glycogen storage disease, Bloom’s Syndrome, Gaucher Disease, Niemann-Pick Disease, and Mucolipidosis IV among certain Jewish communities, is another screening program which has drawn comparisons with liberal eugenics. [3] In Israel, at the expense of the state, the general public is advised to carry out genetic tests to diagnose these diseases before the birth of a baby. If an unborn baby is diagnosed with one of these diseases among which Tay-Sachs is the most commonly known, the pregnancy may be terminated, subject to consent. Most other Ashkenazi Jewish communities also run screening programs because of the higher incidence of genetic diseases. In some Jewish communities, the ancient custom of matchmaking (shidduch) is still practiced, and in order to attempt to prevent the tragedy of infant death which always results from being homozygous for Tay-Sachs, associations such as the strongly observant Dor Yeshorim (which was founded by a rabbi who lost four children to Tay-Sachs in order to prevent others suffering the same tragedy) test young couples to check whether they carry a risk of passing on fatal conditions. If both the young man and woman are Tay-Sachs carriers, it is common for the match to be broken off. Judaism, like numerous other religions, discourages abortion unless there is a risk to the mother, in which case her needs take precedence. The effort is not aimed at eradicating the hereditary traits, but rather at the occurrence of homozygosity. The actual impact of this program on gene frequencies is unknown.

In modern bioethics literature, the history of eugenics presents many moral and ethical questions. Commentators have suggested the new “eugenics” will come from reproductive technologies that will allow parents to create so-called “designer babies” (what the biologist Lee M. Silver prominently called “reprogenetics”). It has been argued that this “non-coercive” form of biological “improvement” will be predominantly motivated by individual competitiveness and the desire to create “the best opportunities” for children, rather than an urge to improve the species as a whole, which characterized the early 20th-century forms of eugenics. Because of this non-coercive nature, lack of involvement by the state and a difference in goals, some commentators have questioned whether such activities are eugenics or something else altogether. But critics note [citationneeded] that Francis Galton, did not advocate for coercion when he defined the principles of eugenics. In other words, eugenics does not mean coercion. It is, according to Galton who originated the term, the proper label for bioengineering of “better” human beings.

Daniel Kevles argues that eugenics and the conservation of natural resources are similar propositions. Both can be practiced foolishly so as to abuse individual rights, but both can be practiced wisely.

Some disability activists argue that, although their impairments may cause them pain or discomfort, what really disables them as members of society is a sociocultural system that does not recognize their right to genuinely equal treatment. They express skepticism that any form of eugenics could be to the benefit of the disabled considering their treatment by historical eugenic campaigns.

James D. Watson, the first director of the Human Genome Project, initiated the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications Program (ELSI) which has funded a number of studies into the implications of human genetic engineering (along with a prominent website on the history of eugenics), because:

Distinguished geneticists including Nobel Prize-winners John Sulston (“I don’t think one ought to bring a clearly disabled child into the world”)[31] and Watson (“Once you have a way in which you can improve our children, no one can stop it”)[32] support genetic screening. Which ideas should be described as “eugenic” are still controversial in both public and scholarly spheres. Some observers such as Philip Kitcher have described the use of genetic screening by parents as making possible a form of “voluntary” eugenics.[33]

Some modern subcultures advocate different forms of eugenics assisted by human cloning and human genetic engineering, sometimes even as part of a new cult (see Ralism, Cosmotheism, or Prometheism). These groups also talk of “neo-eugenics”. “conscious evolution”, or “genetic freedom”.

Behavioral traits often identified as potential targets for modification through human genetic engineering include intelligence, depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism, sexual behavior (and orientation) and criminality.

Most recently in the United Kingdom, a court case, the Crown v. James Edward Whittaker-Williams, arguably set a precedent of banning sexual contact between people with “learning difficulties”. The accused, a man suffering learning disabilities, was jailed for kissing and hugging a woman with learning disabilities. This was done under the 2003 Sexual Offences Act, which redefines kissing and cuddling as sexual and states that those with learning difficulties are unable to give consent regardless of whether or not the act involved coercion. Opponents of the act have attacked it as bringing in eugenics through the backdoor under the guise of a requirement of “consent”.[34]

A current line of thought correlates the legalization of abortion in the USA with the current drop in crime rate and thus is an unintended eugenics experiment on a grand scale. The book Freakonomics expounds this theory. The chain of reasoning is that the typical person getting an abortion in the USA comes from lower economic classes and have an unwanted pregnancy due to poor choices and risky behavior. Such attributes are passed on through genetics, thus abortion is selecting strongly against such genes. This results in a drop in criminals being produced. See [4] and [5] for typical articles. There may also be a similar selection against high intelligence genes due to women with such genes postponing reproduction due to career conflict.

While the science of genetics has increasingly provided means by which certain characteristics and conditions can be identified and understood, given the complexity of human genetics, culture, and psychology there is at this point no agreed objective means of determining which traits might be ultimately desirable or undesirable. Eugenic manipulations that reduce the propensity for criminality and violence, for example, might result in the population being enslaved by an outside aggressor it can no longer defend itself against. On the other hand, genetic diseases like hemochromatosis can increase susceptibility to illness, cause physical deformities, and other dysfunctions. Eugenic measures against many of these diseases are already being undertaken in societies around the world, while measures against traits that affect more subtle, poorly understood traits, such as criminality, are relegated to the realm of speculation and science fiction. The effects of diseases are essentially wholly negative, and societies everywhere seek to reduce their impact by various means, some of which are eugenic in all but name. The other traits that are discussed have positive as well as negative effects and are not generally targeted at present anywhere.[citationneeded]

A common criticism of eugenics is that it inevitably leads to measures that are unethical (Lynn 2001). In the hypothetical scenario where it’s scientifically proven that one racial minority group making up 5% of the population is on average less intelligent than the majority racial group it’s more likely that the minority racial group will be submitted to a eugenics program, opposed to the 5% least intelligent members of the population as a whole. For example, Nazi Germany’s eugenic program within the German population resulted in protests and unrest, while the persecution of the Jews was met with silence.

H. L. Kaye wrote of “the obvious truth that eugenics has been discredited by Hitler’s crimes” (Kaye 1989). R. L. Hayman argued “the eugenics movement is an anachronism, its political implications exposed by the Holocaust” (Hayman 1990).

Steven Pinker has stated that it is “a conventional wisdom among left-leaning academics that genes imply genocide.” He has responded to this “conventional wisdom” by comparing the history of Marxism, which had the opposite position on genes to that of Nazism:

But the 20th century suffered “two” ideologies that led to genocides. The other one, Marxism, had no use for race, didn’t believe in genes and denied that human nature was a meaningful concept. Clearly, it’s not an emphasis on genes or evolution that is dangerous. It’s the desire to remake humanity by coercive means (eugenics or social engineering) and the belief that humanity advances through a struggle in which superior groups (race or classes) triumph over inferior ones.[35]

Richard Lynn argues that any social philosophy is capable of ethical misuse. Though Christian principles have aided in the abolition of slavery and the establishment of welfare programs, he notes that the Christian church has also burned many dissidents at the stake and waged wars against nonbelievers in which Christian crusaders slaughtered large numbers of women and children. Lynn argues the appropriate response is to condemn these killings, but believing that Christianity “inevitably leads to the extermination of those who do not accept its doctrines” is unwarranted (Lynn 2001).

Eugenic policies could also lead to loss of genetic diversity, in which case a culturally accepted improvement of the gene pool may, but would not necessarily, result in biological disaster due to increased vulnerability to disease, reduced ability to adapt to environmental change and other factors both known and unknown. This kind of argument from the precautionary principle is itself widely criticized. A long-term eugenics plan is likely to lead to a scenario similar to this because the elimination of traits deemed undesirable would reduce genetic diversity by definition.

Related to a decrease in diversity is the danger of non-recognition. That is, if everyone were beautiful and attractive, then it would be more difficult to distinguish between different individuals, due to the wide variety of ugly traits and otherwise non-attractive traits and combinations thereof that we use to recognize each other.

To the contrary, some studies have shown that dysgenic trends lead to a decrease of genetic diversity, a development that in theory could be countered by a eugenic program.[citationneeded]

The possible elimination of the autism genotype is a significant political issue in the autism rights movement, which claims autism is a form of neurodiversity. Many advocates of Down Syndrome rights also consider Down Syndrome (Trisomy-21) a form of neurodiversity, though males with Down Syndrome are generally infertile.

In some instances efforts to eradicate certain single-gene mutations would be nearly impossible. In the event the condition in question was a heterozygous recessive trait, the problem is that by eliminating the visible unwanted trait, there are still as many genes for the condition left in the gene pool as were eliminated according to the Hardy-Weinberg principle, which states that a population’s genetics are defined as pp+2pq+qq at equilibrium. With genetic testing it may be possible to detect all of the heterozygous recessive traits, but only at great cost with the current technology. Under normal circumstances it is only possible to eliminate a dominant allele from the gene pool. Recessive traits can be severely reduced, but never eliminated unless the complete genetic makeup of all members of the pool was known, as aforementioned. As only very few undesirable traits, such as Huntington’s disease, are dominant, the practical value for “eliminating” traits is quite low.

One website on logic has used the statement “Eugenics must be wrong because it was associated with the Nazis” as a typical example of the association fallacy known as a Reductio ad Hitlerum.[36] The stigmatization of eugenics because of its association, on the other hand, has not at all slowed the application of medical technologies that decrease the incidence of birth defects, or to slow the search for their causes.

Supporters of eugenics are often concerned about the dysgenic decline in intelligence which they believe will lead to the collapse of the current civilization and has been the cause of the collapse of past civilizations. This decline would make eugenics a necessary evil because the possible human suffering caused by eugenics would pale in comparison to such an event.

Small differences in average IQ at the group level might theoretically have large effects on social outcomes. Herrnstein and Murray altered the mean IQ (100) of the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth’s population sample by randomly deleting individuals below an IQ of 103 until the population mean reached 103. This calculation was conducted twice and averaged together to avoid error from the random selection. This test showed that the new group with an average IQ of 103 had a poverty rate 25% lower than a group with an average IQ of 100. Similar substantial correlations in high school drop-out rates, crime rates, and other outcomes were measured.

Whether a global increase in intelligence would actually increase a nation’s wealth remains disputed since IQ is partially correlated to one’s socialeconomic status, which might not change at all.

Eugenics is a recurrent theme in science fiction, often with both dystopian and utopian elements. The novel Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley is usually taken as an expression of the fear that the control of human biology by the state might result in permanent social stratefication, a theme which also plays a role in the 1997 film Gattaca, whose plot turns around reprogenetics, genetic testing, and the social consequences of liberal eugenics. Boris Vian (under the pseudonym Vernon Sullivan) takes a more light-hearted approach in his novel Et on tuera tous les affreux (“And we’ll kill all the ugly ones”).

Novels touching upon the subject include The Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri S. Tepper and That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis. The Eugenics Wars are a significant part of the background story of the Star Trek universe (episodes “Space Seed”, “Borderland”, “Cold Station 12”, “The Augments” and the film The Wrath of Khan). Eugenics also plays a significant role in the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy where eugenics practicing Neanderthals from a near-utopian parallel world create a gateway to earth. Cowl (novel) by Neal Asher describes the collapse of western civilization due to dysgenics.

In Frank Herbert’s Dune series of novels, selective breeding programs form a significant theme. Early in the series, the Bene Gesserit religious order manipulates breeding patterns over many generations in order to create the Kwisatz Haderach. In God Emperor of Dune, the emperor Leto II again manipulates human breeding in order to achieve his own ends. The Bene Tleilaxu also employed genetic engineering to create human beings with specific genetic attributes.

There tends to be a eugenic undercurrent in the science fiction concept of the supersoldier. Several depictions of these supersoldiers usually have them bred for combat or genetically selected for attributes that are beneficial to modern or future combat.

In the novels Methuselah’s Children and Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein, a large trust fund is created to give financial encouragement to marriage among people (the Howard Families) whose parents and grandparents were long lived. The result is a subset of Earth’s population who has significantly above-average life spans. Members of this group appear in many of the works by the same author.

In Eoin Colfer’s book the The Supernaturalist, Ditto is a Bartoli Baby, which is the name for a failed experiment of the famed Dr. Bartoli. Bartoli tried to create a superior race of humans, but they ended in arrested development, with mutations including extra sensory perception and healing hands.

In Gene Roddenberry’s science-fiction television series Andromeda, the entire Nietzschean race is founded on the principals of selective breeding.

In Larry Niven’s Ringworld series, the character Teela Brown is a result of several generations of winners of the “Birthright Lottery”, a system which attempts to encourage lucky people to breed.

In season 2 of Dark Angel, the main ‘bad guy’ Ames White is a member of a cult known as the Conclave which has infiltrated various levels of society to breed super-humans. They are trying to exterminate all the Transgenics, including the main character Max Guevara, whom they view as being genetically unclean for having some animal DNA spliced with human.

In the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City a fictional character called Pastor Richards, who is a caricature of an extreme and insane televangelist, is featured as a guest on a discussion radio show about morality. On this show he describes shooting people who do not agree with him and who are not “morally correct”, the show’s host describes this as “amateur eugenics”.

See also Genetic engineering in fiction.

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Eugenics – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia