Introduction To Eugenics
INTRODUCTION TO EUGENICS
by John Cavanaugh-O'Keefe
[This document is a condensation of a booklet from A.L.L. In its
digital form it is an ASCII file, with no footnotes, and with some
stylistic changes (e.g., no italics). The original is available on
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CRNET Tracey Casale.]
The principal manifestations of eugenics are racism and
abortion. Eugenics is the driving force behind euthanasia,
in vitro fertilization, and embryo and fetal research. It is
the driving force in global population policy, and affects
American foreign policy. It is the force driving much of the
environmentalist movement, welfare policy and welfare reform,
and health care. It is found in anthropology, sociology,
psychology all the social sciences. Further, it is
reflected in much literature, especially science fiction. So
it is worth some study.
Eugenics is the study of methods to improve the human race by
controlling reproduction. The word was coined in 1883 by Francis
Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin. Galton believed that the
proper evolution of the human race was thwarted by philanthropic
outreach to the poor when such efforts encouraged them to bear
more children. Charity upset the mechanism of natural selection.
Hence, the human race needed a kind of artificial selection:
eugenics. The word is from Greek for good birth. Galton wanted
eugenics to develop from a science to a policy to a religion.
A Study ...
Galton defined eugenics as "the science of improvement of the
human race germ plasm through better breeding." He also said:
"Eugenics is the study of agencies under social control that may
improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations,
whether physically or mentally." This definition was used for
years on the cover of the Eugenics Review, a journal published by
the Eugenics Education Society.
A Program ...
The American Journal of Eugenics (1906) defined it as "the
science of good generation" and noted that the Century Dictionary
defined it (rather primly) as "the doctrine of Progress, or
Evolution, especially in the human race, through improved
conditions in the relations of the sexes."
In 1970, I. I. Gottesman, a director of the American Eugenics
Society, defined it in this way: "The essence of evolution is
natural selection; the essence of eugenics is the replacement of
'natural' selection by conscious, premeditated, or artificial
selection in the hope of speeding up the evolution of 'desirable'
characteristics and the elimination of undesirable ones."
A Religion ...
Eugenics has had a religious dimension. Galton suggested
that it should function as a religion, and this proposal was echoed by
George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russel and others. In the United
States shortly after the turn of the century, the American Journal
of Eugenics advertised itself by noting that it was "formerly
known as Lucifer the Light Bearer."
A pungent assertion of the religious character of eugenics
comes from Julian Huxley, the first Director-General of UNESCO and a
member of the : "We must face the fact that now, in this year of
grace, the great majority of human beings are substandard: they
are undernourished, or ill, or condemned to a ceaseless struggle
for bare existence; they are imprisoned in ignorance or
superstition. ... We must see to it that life is no longer a hell
paved with unrealized opportunity. ... In this light, the highest
and most sacred duty of man is seen as the proper utilization of
the untapped resources of human beings."
Huxley continued, "I find myself inevitably driven to use the
language of religion. For the fact is that all this does add up
to something in the nature of a religion: perhaps one might call
it Evolutionary Humanism. The word religion is often used
restrictively to mean belief in gods; but I am not using it in
this sense ... I am using it in a broader sense, to denote an
overall relation between man and his destiny, and one involving
his deepest feelings, including his sense of what is sacred. In
this broad sense, evolutionary humanism, it seems to me, is
capable of becoming the germ of a new religion, not necessarily
supplanting existing religions but supplementing them."
The Population Council, one of the new eugenic organizations
that emerged after World War II, no longer spoke of eugenics as a
religion (in fact, avoided the word eugenics altogether), but
launched "studies relating to the social, ethical and moral
dimensions" of population studies, recognizing that these
questions involve matters "of a cultural, moral and spiritual
nature." The new field of bioethics is a response to issues
raised by eugenics. Bioethics is based on situation ethics, which
was developed largely by Joseph Fletcher, a member of the American
HISTORY OF EUGENICS
In 1798, an English clergyman and economist named Thomas
Robert Malthus published the Essay on the Principle of Population.
The central idea of the book is that population increases
exponentially and will therefore eventually outstrip food supply.
If parents failed to limit the size of their families, then war or
famine would kill off the excess. The idea has been remarkably
resilient, although the specific predictions that Malthus made
were wrong. Malthus argued that the island of Britain could not
sustain a population of 20 million, but 150 years later the
population was more than triple Malthus' ceiling.
Charles Darwin, the biologist, was immensely impressed by
Malthus' ideas, and the Malthusian theories are embedded in
Darwin's theory of evolution and natural selection (The Origin of
Species, 1859, and the Descent of Man, 1871). But after Darwin
borrowed ideas from economics and inserted them into biology, his
cousin reversed the process and discovered ideas in biology that
could be applied to humans. This is one of the first tricks that
amateur magicians learn, like "finding" a coin in a child's ear.
The amazing thing about Galton's stunt is that it has fooled so
many people for so long.
At least one contemporary understood what Galton was doing.
Friedrich Engels, a collaborator with Karl Marx, was contemptuous
of the way Malthus' ideas about economics were inserted into
biology and then retrieved as gospel: "The whole Darwinist
teaching of the struggle for existence is simply a transference
from society to living nature of Hobbes' doctrine of bellum omnium
contra omnes and of the bourgeois doctrine of competition together
with Malthus' theory of population. When this conjurer's trick
has been performed ... the same theories are transferred back
again from organic nature into history and it is now claimed that
their validity as eternal laws of human society has been proved.
The puerility of this proceeding is so obvious that not a word
need be said about it."
It is noteworthy that this ideology of arrogance proved to be
appealing on the right (Galton), then the left (British
Socialists), then the right (German National Socialists),
then the left (American environmentalists), then the right (see
The Bell Curve debate).
Galton's work is still used today. He used statistical
methods, including the now-famous "bell curve," to describe the
distribution of intelligence within a population. He devised
various methods for measuring intelligence, and concluded that
Europeans are smarter than Africans, on average. And he suggested
systematic studies of twins to distinguish the effects of heredity
from the effects of environment.
Galton's work was carried on, especially at the University of
London, where he endowed a Chair of Eugenics. According to
eugenics scholar J. Philippe Rushton, Galton's work was carried on
especially by: Karl Pearson and Charles Spearman, then by Cyril
Burt, and in our time by Raymond Cattell, Hans Eysenck and Arthur
Jensen. However, these academics were carrying on work that was
built specifically on Galton's theories. The eugenics ideology
spread far beyond this core of true believers.
In 1904, Galton endowed a research chair in eugenics at
University College, London University.
In Germany in 1905, Dr. Alfred Ploetz and Dr. Ernst Rudin
founded the Gesellschaft fur Rassenhygiene, or Society of Race-
In 1907 in England, the Eugenic Education Society (later the
Eugenics Society) was founded.
In 1910, the Eugenic Record Office (ERO) was founded in the
United States. The ERO had a different emphasis from the Birth
Control League which sought "fewer children for laboring classes."
The ERO felt that "ultimate economic betterment should be sought
by breeding better people, not fewer of the existing sort."
The First International Eugenics Congress was held was held
at London University in 1912. Although representatives came from a
number of nations, the congress was revealed the strength of the
movement especially in England, Germany and the United States.
In October 1916, Margaret Sanger opened the first birth
control clinic in the United States. Several months later, she founded
the Birth Control Review. She and her co-workers incorporated the
American Birth Control League in 1922. (The organization was
renamed the Birth Control Federation of America in 1939, and in
1942 was renamed the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.)
She wrote: "Birth control is thus the entering wedge for the
Eugenic educator ... the unbalance between the birth rate of the
'unfit' and the 'fit' is admittedly the greatest present menace to
civilization ... The most urgent problem today is how to limit and
discourage the overfertility of the mentally and physically
In 1922, the American Eugenics Society was founded. Founders
included: Madison Grant, Henry H. Laughlin, Irving Fisher,
Fairfield Osborn, and Henry Crampton. Grant was the author of The
Passing of the Great Race (1916) and wrote the preface to The
Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy. Laughlin was
the Superintendent of the Eugenics Record Office from 1910 to
1921; he was later President of the Pioneer Fund, a white
supremacist organization that is still functioning today. Fisher,
who taught economics and political economy and economics at Yale
University for 40 years, said that the purpose of the society was
to "stem the tide of threatened race degeneracy" and to protect
the United States against "indiscriminate immigration, criminal
degenerates, and race suicide." Fairfield Osborn was the
president of the American Museum of Natural History from 1908 to
1933; he wrote about evolution in From the Greeks to Darwin. In
1923, during a national debate on restricting immigration, Osborn
spoke enthusiastically about the results of intelligence testing
carried out by the Army: "I believe those tests were worth what
the war [World War I] cost, even in human life, if they served to
show clearly to our people the lack of intelligence in our
country, and the degrees of intelligence in different races who
are coming to us, in a way which no one can say is the result of
prejudice. ... We have learned once and for all that the negro is
not like us."
This list of organizations is far from exhaustive. The point
here is simply that eugenics in the first part of the 20th century
was not an academic exercise. Eugenicists were organizing,
particularly in Germany, England and the United States, to
implement policies consistent with their theories.
The work of the eugenicists included: racism and white
supremacy, promoting birth control among the dysgenic, restricting
immigration, sterilizing the handicapped, promoting euthanasia,
and seeking for ways to increase the number of genetically well-
A key program of the eugenicists was cleansing the human race
by sterilizing the "unfit." By 1931, sterilization laws had been
enacted in 27 states in the United States, and by 1935
sterilization laws had been enacted in Norway, Sweden, Denmark,
Switzerland and Germany. But the efficiency of the German
eugenicists caused trouble.
Galton's ideas had been taken up in Germany by Friedrich
Nietzsche in the 19th century. Then Ploetz and Rudin laid the
foundations of an effective eugenics program in Germany. In 1922,
two men a lawyer and a psychiatrist, Karl Binding, J. D., and
Alfred Hoche, M.D. cooperated on a short book entitled Die
Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens (Permission to
Destroy Life Devoid of Value). The book encouraged Austrian
physicians who were beginning to practice euthanasia illegally.
And then Adolf Hitler, who had described his own eugenic ideas in
Mein Kampf, came to power.
Hitler's determination to establish his "Master Race" was
embraced by German eugenicists. And eugenicists elsewhere
failed to criticize the Germans. In the United States, the Birth
Control Review praised the effectiveness of the Germans, and
published articles by Rudin and others.
In the United States today, there is a great deal of
confusion about Hitler's view of abortion. Pro-lifers denounce
abortionists furiously for imitating Hitler, who legalized abortion, and
proponents of abortion denounce pro-lifers furiously for imitating
Hitler, who outlawed abortion. In fact, both sides are half
right. Hitler was a eugenicist, and he outlawed aborting Aryan
babies for eugenic reasons, but encouraged aborting Slavs and Jews
also for eugenic reasons.
After Hitler had killed millions of people, including one
third of the Jews in the world, he lost the war. The name of his
political party became and remains one of the most offensive words
in the language, and ideas that are tightly associated with him
are universally condemned. So the idea of building a master race
became extremely unpopular. However, the eugenics movement did
EUGENICS AFTER WORLD WAR II
Most people have never heard of eugenics, and most of those
who have heard of it think it died with Hitler. Of the few people who
are aware that eugenics was still a force after World War II, many
believe that its remnants were reformed. In fact, the eugenics
movement continued to thrive, without reform. The development and
promotion of birth control was a major eugenic success. The
discovery of the population explosion and the hysteria about the
need to control it was a major eugenic success. The field of
genetics grew faster than fruit flies in the 1950s, and although
the accumulating knowledge was valuable, the field was dominated
by eugenicists, who could use their knowledge for eugenic
purposes. UNESCO, founded in 1948, was directed by Julian Huxley,
a determined eugenicist who used his global platform very
effectively. The welfare state in Britain was based largely of
the work of Richard Titmuss, John Maynard Keynes and William Henry
Beveridge, members of the Eugenics Society.
Historians who rely too heavily on the eugenicists themselves
will overlook a great deal. Daniel Kevles, for example, makes the
post-war eugenics movement sound like a group of dusty academics.
But one of their activities in Britain beginning in the 1960s was
running a flourishing abortion business. Beginning in the 1960s,
a few members of the Eugenics Society built and controlled almost
the entire private abortion industry. Whether you think abortion
is killing a child or exercising a fundamental liberty, this
bloody and emotional activity is not the work of dusty academics:
at least some of the eugenicists were activists.
The influence on the eugenicists on abortion in America is
perhaps best seen by comparing Roe v. Wade and a book by Professor
Glanville Williams, The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law.
The book is cited repeatedly in the 1973 abortion decision, but
the numerous citations do not reveal the full extent of the
influence. Justice Blackmun lifted his whole argument from
Williams, including the history of abortion, ancient attitudes,
the influence of Christianity, common law, Augustine's and
Aquinas' teaching, canon law and English statutory law. And
Williams was a member of the Eugenics Society. Roe v. Wade was
based on eugenics.
Even in Germany, the eugenics movement did not die out. The
most offensive example of its resurgence after Hitler was the
rehabilitation of Professor Dr. Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer.
In 1935, von Verschuer said that he was "responsible for
ensuring that the care of genes and race, which Germany is leading
worldwide, has such a strong base that it will withstand any
attacks from outside." In 1937, he was Director of the Third
Reich Institute for Heredity, Biology and Racial Purity.
Von Verschuer was Josef Mengele's mentor before the Nazi
holocaust, and his collaborator during the holocaust.
Mengele's horrific experiments at Auschwitz have put his name alongside
those of Hitler and Eichmann. And yet, a few years after the war,
von Verschuer founded the Institute of Human Genetics in Munster,
where he worked educating another generation until his death in
1969. He had not turned away from his old ideas: was an adviser
for the Mankind Quarterly, and a member of the American Eugenics
The rehabilitation of Mengele's mentor and collaborator was
not an accidental oversight. Eugenicists in America were aware of von
Verschuer; several stories about him appeared in English in the
Eugenical Neews in the 1930's. The first, review of his book
Erbpathologie, said: "Race culture, the selection of proposed cases for
sterilization or marriage advice [i.e., genetic counseling] are impossible
without the ernest collaboration of the entire medical profession . . .
In this book the author clearly outlines the duties of the physician
to the nation. The word 'nation' no longer means a number of citizens
living within certain boundries, but a biological entity. This point of
view also changes the obligation of the physician . . .Dr. von Verschuer
has succesfully bridged the gap between medical practice and theoretic
Another article about von Verschuer appeared in the Eugenical News May/
June 1936, which specifically mentioned that Von Vershcuer intended to
use twin studies to test a racist idea (Mengele's horror's at Auschwitz
were twin studies), and there was a follow-up article in October 1937.
In 1968, the Eugenics Review ran an article summarizing some
of the activities of the Eugenics Society. The article quoted a
proposal made by in the late 1950s by Dr. Carlos Paton Blacker,
who had been an officer in the Eugenics Society since 1931
(Secretary, then General Secretary, then Director, then Chairman):
That the Society should pursue eugenic ends by less obvious
means, that is by a policy of crypto-eugenics, which was
apparently proving successful in the US Eugenics Society.
In 1960, Blacker's proposal was adopted by the Eugenics
A resolution which was accepted stated (in part):
The Society's activities in crypto-eugenics should be pursued
vigorously, and specifically that the Society should increase
its monetary support of the FPA [Family Planning Association,
the English branch of Planned Parenthood] and the IPPF
[International Planned Parenthood Federation] and should make
contact with the Society for the Study of Human Biology,
which already has a strong and active membership, to find out if
any relevant projects are contemplated with which the Eugenics
Society could assist.
At the time this resolution was adopted by the Eugenics
Society, Blacker was the Administrative Chairman of IPPF. When IPPF was
founded in 1952, it was housed in the offices of the Eugenics
The dominant figure in the eugenics movement in the United
States, considered by the English to be a model of crypto-
eugenics, was Major General Frederick Osborn, a master
propagandist. In 1956, he said people "won't accept the idea that
they are in general, second rate. We must rely on other
motivation." He called the new motivation "a system of voluntary
unconscious selection." The way to persuade people to exercise
this voluntary unconscious selection was to appeal to the idea of
"wanted" children. Osborn said, "Let's base our proposals on the
desirability of having children born in homes where they will get
affectionate and responsible care." In this way, the eugenics
movement "will move at last towards the high goal which Galton set
Osborn stated the public relations problem bluntly: "Eugenic
goals are most likely to be attained under a name other than
eugenics." He pointed to genetic counseling as a prime example:
"Heredity clinics are the first eugenic proposals that have been
adopted in a practical form and accepted by the public. ... The
word eugenics is not associated with them."
Osborn is often credited with reforming the eugenics movement
after World War II, and purging the racism. However, during the
time of this reform, he was President of the Pioneer Fund, holding
that office secretly from 1947 to 1956. The Pioneer Fund is a
notorious white supremacist organization. Obviously, a secret
racist wouldn't purge racism; he would purge open racism, leaving
a policy that critics might call "crypto-racism."
In 1960, a member of the Eugenics Society, Reginald Ruggles
Gates, founded a new periodical to advance racist ideas. The
Advisory Council of the new journal, Mankind Quarterly, included
yet another member of the Darwin family, Charles Galton Darwin.
One idea advanced in the journal is the belief that anthropology,
if it is understood honestly, shows that mankind is divided into
four species. The first issue stated that desegregation happened
because "American anthropologists were responsible for introducing
equalitarianism into anthropology, ignoring the hereditary
differences between races, ...until the uninstructed public were
gradually misled. Equality of opportunity, which everyone
supports, was replaced by a doctrine of genetic and social
equality, which is something quite different."
THE SHIFT TO GENETICS
Before the war, the American Eugenics Society laid out its
research aims, including many investigations in sociology,
psychology, anthropology and biology. But they noted especially
the important new fields: population study and genetics.
After the war, research in genetics was led by one of the
German eugenicist besides von Verschuer who had continued his work, Dr.
Franz J. Kallmann. He had been "associated with Dr. Ernst Rudin,
investigating in genetic psychiatry." He was half Jewish, so he
was driven out of Germany in 1936 by Hitler. Nonetheless, he
testified on behalf of von Verschuer after the war. Kallmann
taught psychiatry at Columbia, and in 1948 he founded the American
Society of Human Genetics. He became a member of the American
Eugenics Society. This Society developed hundreds of prenatal
tests but did not look for cures, although every test was hyped as
a potential lead towards a cure.
Over the next years, at least 124 people were members of both
Kallmann's American Society of Human Genetics and the American
Eugenics Society. The overwhelming evidence of a commitment to
eugenics at the American Society of Human Genetics is especially
troubling when you note that members of this society promoted,
developed and now lead the multi-billion dollar Human Genome
Negative eugenics, or ending the over-production of the
"unfit," is obviously well underway with widespread contraception,
sterilization and abortion. But positive eugenics, or the
increased production of the "fit," can be advanced through
artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and genetic
engineering. The Human Genome Project would certainly help in a
scheme of positive eugenics.
SECOND NEW FIELD: POPULATION CONTROL
After World War II, the eugenics movement discovered (or
invented) the population explosion, and whipped up global hysteria
about it. From 1952 on, a major part of the eugenics movement
was the population control movement. The population explosion
made it possible for eugenics movement to continue its work more
from the fit, less from the unfit with the same people to do the
same things, but with a new public rationale.
The transformation from open eugenics to population planning
is described well by Germaine Greer: "It now seems strange that men
who had been conspicuous in the eugenics movement were able to
move quite painlessly into the population establishment at the
highest level, but if we reflect that the paymasters were the same
Ford, Mellon, Du Pont, Standard Oil, Rockefeller and Shell are
still the same, we can only assume that people like Kingsley
Davis, Frank W. Notestein, C. C. Little, E. A. Ross, the Osborns
Frederick and Fairfield, Philip M. Hauser, Alan Guttmacher and
Sheldon Segal were being rewarded for past services." That is,
the population control movement was the same money, the same
leaders, the same activities with a new excuse.
One of the organizations that promoted eugenics under the new
population rubric was the Population Council. It was founded in
1952 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd, and spent $173,621,654 in its
first 25 years. That is not a bad budget for one of the
organizations in a dead movement! Clearly, the people who think
the eugenics movement died in the rubble in Berlin do not
understand crypto-eugenics, genetics or population control!
The extent of the population control movement is hard to
imagine, and harder to exaggerate. During the past 25 years,
there have been approximately 1.5 billion surgical abortions
globally. The United Nations Population Fund has sponsored three
meetings bringing together the heads of state from most of the
world to develop a global population strategy, in Bucharest in
1974, Mexico City in 1984, and in Cairo in 1994. No other global
problem has been the occasion for meetings comparable to these
three. The World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International
Development, and governmental agencies from nearly all the
industrialized nations have contributed billions of dollars to
campaigns designed to decrease population growth.
The population control movement has not been noted for
respect for human rights. In 1972, for example, essays by members of the
American Eugenics Society appeared in Readings in Population.
Kingsley Davis explained the need for genetic control, and
examined the obstacles, including a widespread attachment to the
ideal of family life. But he saw some hope of developing a more
effective program of improving the human race, although
improvement would be slow:
Under the circumstances, we shall probably struggle along
with small measures at a time, with the remote possibility that
these may eventually evolve into a genetic control system.
The morality of specific techniques of applied genetics
artificial insemination, selective sterilization, ovular
transplantation, eugenic abortion, genetic record keeping,
genetic testing will be thunderously debated in theological
and Marxian terms dating from ages past. Possibly, within
half a century or so, this may add up to a comprehensive
What he wanted, though was "the deliberate alteration of the
species for sociological purposes," which would be "a more fateful
step than any previously taken by mankind. ... When man has
conquered his own biological evolution he will have laid the basis
for conquering everything else. The universe will be his, at
In the same book, Philip M. Hauser, also a member of the
American Eugenics Society, explained the difference between family
planning, which relies on the voluntary decisions of individuals
or couples, and population control, which would include abortion,
a commitment to zero population growth, coercion, euthanasia and
restrictions on international migration.
Perhaps the clearest example of the power of the eugenics
movement today is in China, with its one-child-only family policy.
This policy is an assault on prenatal life and on women's privacy,
both. The program was described and praised in 16 articles in a
remarkable issue of IPPF's quarterly journal, People, in 1989, on
the eve of the massacre in Tiananmen Square. But this anti-
life, anti-choice policy is not unique to China; most of the
nations of Asia have some coercive elements in their population
The coercive Chinese policy has a great deal of acceptance
and support in the United States, including from feminist leaders like
Eleanor Smeal and Molly Yard. When the Reagan administration cut
off funds for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) because
of its support for the Chinese population program, two American
organizations sued to restore funds: Rockefeller's Population
Council and the Population Institute in Washington. A 1978 survey
of members of the Population Association of America found that 34
percent of members agreed that "coercive birth control programs
should be initiated in at least some countries immediately."
In fact, the United States government is responsible for much
of the global population control. In 1976, a formal definition of
national security interests, NSSM 200, described the major threats
to the United States. Some of these are obvious. The first, of
course, was Communism in Europe, with the military charged with
principal responsibility for defending American national security
from this threat. In the Pacific, the threat was the possibility
of losing bases; the military was charged with the principal
responsibility for defending this national interest. In Latin
America, there was the threat of incipient Communism; the CIA had
principal responsibility for our defense. In Africa, according to
the American government in 1976 and ever since, the threat to
American national security interests is population growth. The
Agency for International Development was given the responsibility
of defending America from this grave threat. This document was
classified until 1992; when it was de-classified, the Information
project for Africa distributed it, and the covert depopulation
policy tucked into the American foreign aid program caused a great
deal of resentment.
In late 1994, the publication of The Bell Curve made the word
"eugenics" known again. The research quoted in the book is drawn
overwhelmingly from members of the American Eugenics Society and
other eugenic groups. Curiously, most commentators focused on one
chapter in the lengthy book, and debated whether it was racist.
The conclusion of the book is that men are not equal, and that the
Declaration of Independence is badly worded. This lengthy
restatement of eugenics was on the bestseller list for weeks.
The book was generally praised by conservatives (see The
National Review, December 5, 1994, an issue devoted to The Bell
Curve) and attacked by liberals (see The New Republic, October 31,
1994, which included a lengthy defense of the book by its authors
and 21 critical or hostile responses).
One excellent way to understand the eugenics movement in our
time is to read through a list of the members of the Eugenics
Society and its successor, the Society for the Study of Social
Biology. Eugenics is not a conspiracy, it is a movement and an
ideology. But the pieces of it are often considered in isolation,
perhaps because of the success of the strategy of crypto-eugenics.
Reading through the list of members helps to see the whole
picture. (A list of members of the American Eugenics Society,
with notes, is available from American Life League.)
In 1925, John Thomas Scopes was charged with teaching
evolution in a public school in Tennessee, in violation of state law.
The trial became a highly visible confrontation between Fundamentalist
views of Scripture and the theory of evolution. Shaping the
debate this way allowed the proponents of evolution to score a
tremendous public relations victory. Nonetheless, the questions,
then and now, are theological and moral, not just scientific.
Darwin and the evolutionists and eugenicists had indeed
precipitated a religious crisis, and were debating the existence
of God and the meaning of human life.
From the beginning, the great obstacle to the eugenics
movement has been the Roman Catholic Church, and the Church's position
has been repeatedly distorted. A sketch of the Church's position can
be found in:
Gaudium et Spes or The Church in the Modern World the
Vatican II document explaining to all people of good will why
the Church wants to be involved in discussions of the problems
facing the world and what she thinks she offers;
Humanae Vitae- Pope Paul VI's letter on human life, best
known for his re-statement of the Church's unwavering assertion that
contraception is objectively and cannot be made moral, but also
contains a sharp warning about the threat of coercive population
Populorum Progressio- Pope Paul VI's powerful letter on
development, urging the wealthy nations to help the poor
generously, and calling development the "new name for peace";
Laborem Exercens- Pope John Paul II's letter on work,
offering a radically new approach to the place of work in the life
of an individual and a society; and Familiaris Consortio
Pope John Paul II's letter on family life, best known for re-stating
opposition to contraception, but defends the rights of families,
including the right to migrate in search of a better economic life;
Sollicitudo Rei Socialis- one of Pope John Paul II's letters
on the crises facing the modern world, stating that the measure of a
social program is its impact on the dignity of the individual, and
stating that the route to freedom from social evil is solidarity
with the victims of the evil.
The social sciences in our time are thoroughly imbued with
eugenic theory. It would be a noble work to rescue them, to
work through the basic texts and theories of each field,
identifying the eugenic taint and replacing it with an
unswerving devotion to the dignity of the individual,
including the poor.
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