Better for all the World and Eugenic Design

This recent book, the first one I have just finished is by a journalist, Harry Bruinius. What is most noticeable about this book, Better For All The World: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America's Quest for Racial Purity, 2006, is its utter lack of anything new or different from previous eugenics bashing books.

Bruinius, (henceforth HB), does spend a great deal of space discussing the lives of some of the key figures in the eugenics' movement, apparently trying to show how flawed they were—which was the same message eugenicists were telling about generations of degenerate families that were seen as holding America back from attaining its destiny for greatness (HB lamented the accounts of three major studies: the Jukes, the Kallikak family, and the Hill Folks—accounts "filled with subjective and impressionistic musings"—not unlike his own anecdotal analysis of eugenics). That struggle continues today, with different factions blaming competing other factions for imagined and real problems facing America and the World. Taking this into consideration, I will only comment on some of the more interesting distortions in this book.

First the title is not factual. HB tells in great detail the case of Carrie Buck. The state of Virginia wanted to take a test case all the way to the Supreme Court to check the legality of sterilizing defectives. In this case both the prosecution and the defense were in favor of sterilization, and Carrie Buck was used for the test case. Is this procedure in any way secretive? Of course not, because it is done all the time. When this case reached the Supreme Court, those opposed to sterilization could weigh in. HB tries to make the people behind this test case seem sinister, and yet it is a very common practice for different advocacy groups or governments to test say the legality of locking up beggars after passing a law to do so. It works like this: a person who is begging is locked up, and a lawyer contests it, and the test case begins its way to as high a court as possible. It is merely a test case, to see if a law is constitutional before other beggars are locked up, creating costly litigation should it be later found unconstitutional.

HB then claims that eugenics was all about America's Quest for Racial Purity. This and similar types of claims have been made against eugenics. However, he provides virtually no data to show this. First, racial purity and other racialized statements were extremely common up until the end of WWII, when political correctness crept in and racialized statements became taboo. So any statement about racial purity or the great White race, etc. were commonly heard and bantered about. It was commonly accepted that the United States had the right to remain primarily a European Christian country.

HB even states, "But the general use of this clanging word 'eugenics,' now becoming as ubiquitous as a sudden sneeze, was not arising from a single source. Though from the start it had been a theoretical science as well as a social proposal, eugenics was now proving surprisingly fungible, branching off into sometimes unforeseen fields, and utilized by a spectrum of people with varying motives. On the one hand, questions about evolution had become questions about heredity, and younger scientists, turning away from the merely descriptive and speculative methods practiced by the great Darwin himself, were being drawn to analytical, statistical, and experimental modes of research—like eugenics." Many books that try to show only sinister motives by eugenicists, are merely very selective about the people and events they write about, while the field was extremely large—permeating every facet of the culture.

The use of sterilization to reduce the number of defectives or the unfit had little to do with race, but with the understanding that hereditary traits, good and bad, ran in families, and the only way to eliminate these traits was to sterilize people—and virtually all of these families were Whites. Blacks for example were just ignored and not sterilized. The fear was that the White race, due to birth control on the one hand and charity towards the poor on the other, were producing too many White degenerates that would sap the strength of the nation. These were economically hard times, statistics were just beginning to be used to show trends that made the future look gloomy, and Americans were very concerned about the vitality of the work force. Sterilization of institutionalized borderline defectives—prostitutes, epileptics, the mildly retarded, etc.—seemed like a cost effective way to release them back into society while making sure they would not produce more defectives from their profoundly promiscuous natures.

Eugenics of a century ago has been linked for political reasons to sterilization and racial genocide, but this is a very inaccurate picture. Just like the concern over global warming, there was far more rhetoric than action. Only 65,000 people over the span of decades were ever sterilized in the United States. This is an extremely small number compared to the millions upon millions of people who were sent off to war to die for their countries over the last century. In addition, how bad is it to be sterilized and not be able to have children? Today, 30% of the women in Germany are foregoing motherhood for other pleasures. In the end then, eugenics died because there was not an effective way of controlling the dysgenic trend, the Allied nations won WWII, and they therefore wrote the history and it stuck: eugenics was born in England by Francis Galton, is was put into action in the United States because of White supremacists, it was adopted by the Nazis, and it led to the Holocaust. The fact is, Hitler clearly understood that the Jews were not considered unfit, but instead were superior to Germans and therefore they had to be eliminated as competitors. (Yes, you can find all kinds of Nazi propaganda about Jewish degeneracy. It would hardly serve the Nazis to praise them. That would be tantamount to our current propaganda machine fighting terrorism by calling suicide bombers courageous defenders of their faith, but just misguided. Instead, we state that they are evil.)

Positive eugenics was preached in the United States, but little evidence is provided to show that it worked. HB states: "Though the United States was the pioneer in the legal, administrative, and technical aspects of eugenic sterilization, Nazi Germany borrowed its ideas and applied them in an unprecedented way. One of the first laws passed by the National Socialist government of Adolf Hitler was the 'Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring,' and its language and structure closely followed Laughlin's Model Law. In less than two years, over 150,000 German citizens were forced to undergo the procedure, preparing the way for the genocide to come."

However, the genocide to come was precipitated by a war that found the Nazis with millions of new Jews in their midst from conquered lands, a war that was started to expand German territory and also a preventive war against the dangers of Communism. There is no connection between eugenics in Germany in the early years, the euthanasia during the war years to free up hospital beds for the wounded, and the genocide that both the Nazis and Communists engaged in during the war (and after the war by Communists).

HB in fact states clearly the only connection between eugenics and the Holocaust: "The industrial bureaucracy of mass murder in Germany required a measure of calm, rational ingenuity, including careful research, efficient organization, and effective engineering." And of course, a fascist regime that had a clear mission and control of all sectors of society.

HB hints at the real reason for implementation of sterilization during the 1920s and 30s: "
More significantly, however, when it came to care for the poor, the traditional stance of altruism began to shift toward that of efficiency. In an industrial age, efficient structure and organization were known to be the keys to success, and many reformers were now seeking to create centralized, state-run bureaucracies to focus on social problems in a systematic way. State boards and national conferences were being organized around the country, and a new class of scientifically trained experts was meeting to discuss poverty and crime. And as they began to worry that the poor were becoming a dangerous horde, placing greater burdens on society, they also began to wonder whether they could eliminate these problems altogether. Must the poor always be with us?"

That same question is asked today, and no one has yet found a solution. Perhaps that is because WWII interfered with the only reasonable solution for poverty—eliminate through eugenics those people who are not intelligent enough to be productive. Most social planners today are as bewildered as ever how to raise up the underclass, while dismissing the importance of genes on intelligence.

Statistics played another part in spreading fear, just like today. It was a new science, and it was just beginning to be publicized, showing an alarming rate of American degeneration due to a host of problems from the non-assimilation of immigrants to all kinds of deviant behaviors. It appeared we were a nation in deep distress. HB notes, "Indeed, as eugenic ideas began to spread in the United States, they often found their greatest grassroots allies among these types of American women—activists who were just beginning to form their own societies to fight for temperance and suffrage, and who were also actively involved in the reforms of organized charity." Doesn't sound like a bunch of White supremacists to me?

The book has a lot of factual data, but misstatements are strewn here and there, in an effort to stop current genetic engineering (today's eugenics). For example, HB states, "Attacking a notion that went back to Francis Galton, he added, 'Intelligence is not an abstraction like length and weight; it is an exceedingly complicated notion which nobody has as yet succeeded in defining.' By
1930, many scientists were beginning to agree. Even the Princeton psychologist Carl Campbell Brigham, the scientist who had been one of the leading proponents of the differential fecundity of smart and stupid families, now switched his position in an article for Psychological Review, arguing that intelligence could not, in fact, be so easily measured." HB fails to mention that the American psychological Association does not agree with this statement from a 1995 American Psychological Association Task Force that prepared the report "Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns." Science builds slowly over time.

When anyone makes statements that have later been overturned once again, and it is generally known, it is very disingenuous not to point that out. One of the best examples of this was Gould's two additions of "The Mismeasure of Man," where the first edition  (1981) seemed to show flaws with earlier brain size–IQ correlations, only to be confirmed by abundant later research. In his second edition (1996) he just ignores this embarrassing fact. "
The argument that helped make Gould's book famous and that left the strongest impression on many readers is certainly his criticism of the skull measurements undertaken by the nineteenth century scientist Samuel George Morton." (Sesardic 2000)

In the last chapter he tries to condemn eugenics by finding fault with three of its major players: Galton "suffered his own debilitating mental breakdowns"….
Davenport "had urged the best and brightest to bear many offspring," but his two daughters never had children, and Laughlin later had "epileptic seizures." Apparently he is trying to infer that anyone with any debilitating condition is a defective—but that was never the eugenicists' argument. They were concerned with those who could not be productive and these men were exceptionally productive. It seems like a rather childish argument, like finding three famous doctors from history that turned out be in some way flawed to claim that medicine is therefore a fraud.

He ends by admitting that "better breeding" is back again, and tries to argue that it is a dangerous path. These arguments are very similar to others who warn of catastrophe, but are there any reasons to think so? HB states, "The perfection ostensibly promised by the great god Science today is no different from the perfection promised by eugenics in the first half of the twentieth century. So the specter of better breeding is thrust upon us once again…. Indeed, contemporary debates over biotechnology tend to feature the calm, objective methods of science versus the deeply held moral commitments of religious communities."

I am not aware that science in itself guarantees any type of perfection, nor did the eugenics of 100 years ago strive for perfection—more correctly it was a movement to stop a perceived dystopia, not create a utopia. And does science alone drive the debate or human emotions? Virtually everyone that sits on The President's Council on Bioethics is hostile to genetic engineering, stem-cell research, etc. (Google Leon Kass and read some of his hysterics). The situation today is similar to the opposition to eugenics of before, when Catholics and Christian fundamentalists opposed the advancement of science on moral grounds. And again today, these moralists want to ban abortions, recreating the same situation where the less intelligent and less responsible will procreate without forethought, and only coercive sterilization will work—they get no government assistance unless they get sterilized.

HB in fact bemoans that there is no absolute moral system once secularism is accepted, as much as philosophers try to fabricate one. And, for that reason, individual rights do not exist outside of arbitrary laws and agreements between people. He admits, "Genocide can be a perfectly natural and even perfectly rational objective, in terms of the survival of the fittest." However, genocide can be administered by the unfit as well, as we are witnessing a billion Islamists that feel religiously justified to slaughter the other five billion non-believers.

HB claims, "The inherent danger in engineered enhancement, the inherent danger in ideas of evolutionary fitness—for those considered 'unfit,' at least—is the threat of an accompanying idea that there are 'undesirables' who, in the end, deserve to be got rid of. Eugenics naturally breeds contempt for 'those manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.'"

Eugenics breeds more desirable people—there is no evidence that it breeds contempt for anything. It is a scientific process, not a personally biased one. Contempt for others is commonplace—many hate capitalists, globalists, abortionists, Whites in general as racists, etc. There is no shortage of hate and contempt for all kinds of people by virtually all people. Hate, anger, fear, disgust and love are five of the most basic of human emotions.

Eugenicists do not believe in a perfect world, but rather believe from available data that a more intelligent population will be better able to compete without bloodshed by understanding how humans behave, and better able to establish more democratic and more tolerant societies—not less tolerant. There is no relationship between better breeding and intolerance.

HB concludes, "As human beings enter this new era considering the stunning promises of science and technology, as they contemplate the possibilities of directing their evolution and moving toward a more perfect state of being, the history of forced sterilization and
America's quest for racial purity is worth remembering. And as Americans consider again policies they believe will be better for all the world, they should remember, too, that the apex of civilization might actually spell its doom."

This seems to be the best case he has been able to formulate against eugenics. It seems he is very much like the eugenicists of 100 years ago that warned, without sterilization, doom was inevitable because the "unfit" would overwhelm the world. Today, it is global warming that will be our doom; or how about an overpopulated world where a new virus, owing to human density, will mutate into a killing scourge.

The fact is, there have been ups and downs in the world's hominid population, with a burst of humans over the last few hundred years because of science. Other than the sun finally burning out, humans will likely continue on in some form—especially the more intelligent and rational they become to behave more responsibly. And that means behaving in such a way as having compassion and concern for the quality of our "Future Generations." Eugenics is a highly probable means of bettering the world for all who come after.

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