Eugenics Never Went Away


From Aeon: Eugenics was a mixture of science and social movement that aimed to improve the human race over generations. Those of good stock were to produce more children, and those of bad stock were to produce fewer (or no) children. The English polymath Francis Galton coined the term ‘eugenics’ in his Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development(1883), and by the early 20th century the eugenics movement was gaining steam on both sides of the North Atlantic.

“Both in popular culture and in academia, eugenics is thought of as long-past, going extinct shortly after 1945 due to the extreme forms it took in fascist Germany. The Nazi enthusiasm for eugenics led to concentration camps, involuntary euthanasia, and genocide. Once the rest of the world recognised this, eugenics was done — not simply as a social movement with state support, but as an endorsable idea guiding social policy.

But this view doesn’t capture what eugenics feels like from where I have stood for the past 20 years.”

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  1. I occasionally like to needle the eugenically inclined, by listing the positive aspects of schizophrenia, many of which are shared by close relatives; e.g., resistance to viruses, increased tolerance of wound shock, resistance to histamine, giving immunity to allergies, partial immunity to cancer (when unmedicated), slower aging, resistance to diabetes, resistance to pain (double edged). I haven’t used this as an opportunity to ask if these qualities should be eliminated to increase our genetic excellence, particularly because first order relatives of this “inferior” population have the benefits of these genetic qualities without being psychotic- perhaps they should be sequestered too, so as not to spread them throughout the population. (Read Hoffer and Osmond if you think I’m making this up).

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