Eugenics is a set of beliefs and practices that aims at improving the genetic quality of the human population. It is a social philosophy advocating the improvement of human genetic traits through the promotion of higher rates of sexual reproduction for people with desired traits (positive eugenics), or reduced rates of sexual reproduction and sterilization of people with less-desired or undesired traits (negative eugenics), or both.
Alternatively, gene selection rather than “people selection” has recently been made possible through advances in gene editing (e.g. CRISPR). The exact definition of eugenics has been a matter of debate since the term was coined. The definition of it as a ‘social philosophy’.
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 and spread to many countries, including the United States and most European countries.
In this period, eugenic ideas were espoused across the political spectrum. Consequently, many countries adopted eugenic policies meant to improve the genetic stock of their countries. Such programs often 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.
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
A major criticism of eugenics policies is that, regardless of whether “negative” or “positive” policies are used, they are vulnerable to abuse because the criteria of selection are determined by whichever group is in political power. Furthermore, negative eugenics in particular is considered by many to be a violation of basic human rights, which include the right to
The idea of eugenics to produce better human beings has existed at least since Plato suggested selective mating to produce a guardian class. The idea of eugenics to decrease the birth of inferior human beings has existed at least since William Goodell (1829-1894).
However, the term “eugenics” to describe the modern concept of improving the quality of human beings born into the world was originally developed by Francis Galton. 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. Galton believed that desirable traits were hereditary based on biographical studies, Darwin strongly disagreed.
Eugenics became an academic discipline at many colleges and universities and received funding from many sources. Organisations formed to win public support, and modify opinion towards responsible eugenic values in parenthood, included 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. 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. It has roots in France, Germany, Great.
The scientific reputation of eugenics started to decline in the 1930s, a time when Ernst Rüdin used eugenics as a justification for the racial policies of Nazi Germany. Nevertheless, in Sweden, the eugenics program continued until 1975. In addition to being practised 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. Its political aspects involved advocating laws allowing the
As a social movement, eugenics reached its greatest popularity in the early decades of the 20th century. At this point in time, eugenics was practiced around the world and was promoted by governments and influential individuals and institutions.
Many countries enacted various eugenics policies and programmes, including: genetic screening, birth control, promoting differential birth rates, marriage restrictions, segregation (both racial segregation and segregation of the mentally ill from the rest of the population), compulsory sterilization, forced abortions or forced pregnancies, and genocide.
Most of these policies were later regarded as coercive or restrictive, and now few jurisdictions implement policies that are explicitly labelled as eugenic or unequivocally eugenic in substance. The methods of implementing eugenics varied by country; however, some early 20th century methods involved identifying and classifying individuals and their families, including the poor.
By the end of World War II, many of the discriminatory eugenics laws were largely abandoned, having become associated with Nazi Germany. After World War II, the practice of “imposing measures intended to prevent births within [a population] 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.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union also proclaims “the prohibition of eugenic practices, in particular those aiming at selection of persons”. In spite of the decline in discriminatory eugenics laws, government practices of compulsive sterilization continued into the 21st century. During the ten years President Alberto Fujimori led Peru from 1990 to 2000, allegedly 2,000 persons were involuntarily sterilized. China maintained its coercive.
Developments in genetic, genomic, and reproductive technologies at the end of the 20th century are raising 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.
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”.
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
Some, such as 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. 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.” Others, such as bioethicist Stephen Wilkinson of Keele University and Honorary Research Fellow Eve Garrard at the
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
Meanings and types
The term eugenics and its modern field of study were first formulated by Francis Galton in 1883, drawing on the recent work of his half-cousin Charles Darwin. Galton published
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 -genes (“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. Galton defined eugenics as “the study of all
Historically, the term has referred to everything from prenatal care for mothers to forced sterilization and euthanasia. To population geneticists, the term has included the avoidance of inbreeding without altering allele frequencies; for example, J. B. S. Haldane
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. The most disputed aspect of eugenics has been the definition of
Early eugenists were mostly concerned with perceived intelligence factors that often correlated strongly with social class. Some of these early eugenists include Karl Pearson and
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
Eugenic policies have been conceptually divided into two categories. 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. The movie Gattaca provides a fictional example of positive eugenics done voluntarily. Negative eugenics aimed to eliminate, through sterilization or.
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
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.
1. Classical Eugenics
1. Negative eugenics by provision of information and services, i.e. reduction of unplanned pregnancies and births.
1. “Just say no” campaigns.
2. Sex education in schools.
3. School-based clinics.
4. Promoting the use of contraception.
5. Emergency contraception.
6. Research for better contraceptives.
2. Negative eugenics by incentives, coercion and compulsion.
1. Incentives for sterilization.
2. The Denver Dollar-a-day program, i.e. paying teenage mothers for not becoming pregnant again.
3. Incentives for women on welfare to use contraceptions.
4. Payments for sterilization in developing countries.
5. Curtailment of benefits to welfare mothers.
6. Sterilization of the “mentally retarded”.
7. Sterilization of female criminals.
8. Sterilization of male criminals.
3. Licences for parenthood.
4. Positive eugenics.
1. Financial incentives to have children.
2. Selective incentives for childbearing.
3. Taxation of the childless.
4. Ethical obligations of the elite.
5. Eugenic immigration.
2. New Eugenics
1. Artificial insemination by donor.
2. Egg donation.
3. Prenatal diagnosis of genetic disorders and pregnancy terminations of defective fetuses.
4. Embryo selection.
5. Genetic engineering.
6. Gene therapy.