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Transcript of Eugenics
After the eugenics movement was well established in the US, it moved to Germany. Hitler had a very different idea than we did, in wanting to wipe out an entire race of people, but many ideas engineered by the Nazis were inspired from the American eugenics movement.
Many scientists followed eugenics because is was based upon gene inheritance. But in 1915 the first challenge of that theory was made by Thomas Hunt Morgan. He experimented with fruit flies to show that genetic changes could occur outside of inheritance.
What is eugenics?
The word eugenics is derived from the Greek word "eu" meaning good and "genos" meaning offspring.
The real meaning is very close; by definition eugenics is a social philosophy promoting the improvement of human hereditary traits. This is made possible by advocating higher reproduction of more desired people and traits and reduced reproduction of less desired people and traits.
In extreme cases such as Nazi Germany, it can mean the extermination of races that are found unfit.
Eugenics in the United States
Hitler & Nazi Germany
The American eugenics movement was based on the ideas of Sir Francis Galton. He believed that the social positions of the upper class people were due to superior genetic makeup.
This movement received extensive funding from corporate foundations like The Carnegie Institution and The Rockefeller Foundation.
Immigration laws seemed to be the first sign of eugenics in the US. The Immigration Restriction League was the first American group to be officially associated with eugenics.
Founded by 3 Harvard graduates
Mission was to keep "inferior races" from entering
Immigration Act of 1924
This was the first time that eugenics played a role in the Congressional debate.
After this law was passed, there was a clear hierarchy of nationalities Anglo-Saxon/Nordic people to Chinese & Japanese, who were almost banned from the country
"Fit" vs "Unfit"
Both class and race were factors in who was considered fit and unfit. Eugenicists determined that someones social status was an indicator of their genetic fitness.
Middle-Upper class was usually white
Middle & upper class women were encouraged to have more children.
Denied birth control of any kind
Lower class women were deemed "unfit"
Discouraged from having children
Encouraged, sometimes forced to use birth control
Sterilization is using varying medical procedures to inhibit both men and women from having children
In 1927 the Virginia Law was passed, which allowed compulsory sterilization of state mental patients. Virginia was the first state to allow this, but 30 more would later follow.
From 1907-1963 over 65,000 people were forcibly sterilized, around 38,000 of these were women.
Men and women were sterilized for completely different reasons
eliminate criminal behavior
control results of offspring
Several physicians were found to be sterilizing patients without their knowledge. These patients were usually poor, non-white, or mentally handicapped women. No abuses against white or middle-class women were recorded
Euthanasia or "mercy killings" were a recommended solution to cleanse the society of unwanted genetic qualities.
Milk infected with tuberculosis
Criticism on Eugenics
Eugenics in Science
Conventional eugenics has been performed on crops and livestock for thousands of years. In the early 20th century some scientists believed that behaviors like alcoholism or social dependency were only the product of genes.
After WwII a new form of eugenics was called "human genetic engineering." It was focused of repairing faulty genes that were associated with disease or other health conditions.
It is the science of manipulating a persons genotype with the intention of altering his or her phenotype.
Negative & positive genetic engineering
A big issue that people had with eugenics is that it could very quickly lead to a loss of genetic diversity.
Increased vulnerability to disease
Reduced ability to adapt to environmental change
Elimination of traits
Only minor changes should be made to a small fraction of the gene pool.
Heterozygous Recessive Traits
In some instances, removing a certain single-gene mutation would be next to impossible because of heterozygous recessive genes.
Normally it's only possible to remove a dominant allele from the gene pool.
Recessive traits can be severely reduced but never completely eliminated.
Only very few undesirable traits, like Huntington's disease, are dominant.
Black, Edwin. "The Horrifying American Roots of Nazi Eugenics." History News Network. N.p., 25 Nov. 2003. Web. 24 Mar. 2013.
Hix, Laura. "Modern Eugenics: Building a Better Person?" Science in Society Main. N.p., 22 July 2009. Web. 23 Mar. 2013.
Horsman, Reginald. "Science and Inequality." Race and Manifest Destiny. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1981. 56-59. Print.
Smith, S.E., and Bronwyn Harris. "What Are Eugenics?" WiseGeek. Conjecture, n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.