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Transcript of Eugenics
Alexander Graham Bell
John D. Rockefeller
John Harvey Kellogg
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Negative Eugenics in America
"Progressives saw sterilization as having natural advantages over traditional methods of helping the poor, such as charity. Sterilization was 'scientific' -- its rationale could be found in the writings of Charles Darwin's cousin Francis Galton, the father of eugenics, who mused that superior people, like superior crops and farm animals, were the product of good breeding." -Farhad Manjoo, Progressive Genocide, Mar 4 2006
Negative eugenics supported by a great number of American scientists.
The term refers to the ways to reduce numbers of "unfit" humans in society.
Possible implementations of negative eugenics include forced or coerced sterilization or abortion, abandonment of welfare programs, euthanasia, and even genocide.
These efforts to promote an "ethnic cleansing" of sorts were the defining reasoning behind the Holocaust committed by Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s.
Buck vs. Bell
What evidence did the Supreme Court claim in order to justify sterilizing Carrie Bell?
The Demise of Eugenics?
By the time WWII ended, the United States had mostly withdrawn support for the eugenics movement. This was partly due to a number of reasons:
The scientific community had experienced difficulty defining and isolating hereditary feeble-minded characteristics
The Holocaust of WWII had proven the large-scale destruction eugenics could cause
New discoveries in legitimate genetic research
Many eugenics policies still continued in quiet. One of the most famous examples is North Carolina:
Sterilization started in 1929 and was last documented in 1973
1933-Eugenics Board of North Carolina created to determine recipients of sterilization proposed by social workers
State allowed social workers to recommend people for sterilization, dramatically increasing numbers of people forcibly sterilized
EBNC dissolved in 1977, after having authorized sterilization of over 8,000 "feeble" victims since 1933
In 1977 NC General Assembly repealed laws authorizing the Board's existence, but laws allowing sterilization were not overturned until 2003
From the documentary War on the Weak: Eugenics in America:
>Elaine Riddick, a victim of sterilization in North Carolina, fought vigorously for compensation for the crimes committed against her and her fellow victims
Positive Eugenics in America
Factors That Encouraged the
Development of Eugenics in America
Rapid city expansion
Large increase in immigration from Europe in the late 1800s
Failure of social reform movements
Increase in crime and poverty in cities
Evidence found by scientists backing their claims
Margaret Springman and Lana Gordy
What is Eugenics?
A set of beliefs and practices intended to achieve a more "fit" human population.
Those deemed "unfit" are cut out of the gene pool through various methods.
Human "fitness"= determining factors like race, social class, sexual promiscuity, mental abilities
Origins of Eugenics
As early as the 18th century, the theory of degeneracy was prevalent in American and European society.
To combat the spread of degeneracy (traits believed to be hereditary), eugenics became a school of thought among American scientists and theorists.
"Eugenics is the science which deals with all influences that improve the inborn qualities of a race; also with those that develop them to the utmost advantage...The aim of eugenics is to represent each class or sect by its best specimens; that done, to leave them to work out their common civilization in their own way. "- Francis Galton, Eugenics: Its Definition, Scope, and Aims 1904
Positive eugenics, promoted by Galton, looked to improve the health of the population by
the rate of reproduction among "
" members of society.
Examples of positive eugenics: encouraging marriage among well-to-do families, restricting interracial marriages, eugenic exhibits at fairs
coined the term "eugenics" in 1883.
His influence came from Charles Darwin, who was coincidentally his second cousin.
Galton applied these concepts to humans in the branch of thinking that became known as "positive eugenics".
Led to two different types of eugenics, positive and negative
Francis Galton: Two Sides of Eugenics
Fitter Family Contests
The "Better Baby" contest at the 1911 Iowa State Fair and the famous "Fitter Family Contests" held across the United States.
Families submitted an "Abridged Record of Family Traits" and each member took a psychological and physical exam, with letter grades. The family with the highest grade would receive a silver trophy with "Yea, I have goodly heritage".
Eugenic Policies Prior to WWII
To what extent did the policies of the "Old Eugenics" movement die out after WWII? What elements of prevailing eugenic ideology can be seen in modern American society?
1894-Immigration Restriction League first American organization officially associated with eugenics
1907-Indiana passes first law enacting sterilization on eugenic grounds
by 1914-12 states have already passed sterilization laws; Harry Laughlin publishes model Eugenical Sterilization Law
late 1920s-eugenic sterilization gained widespread approval in America
by 1924-3,000 people had been involuntarily sterilized in America (2,500 in California)
in 1924-Virginia passes Eugenical Sterilization Act as a money-saver in upkeep of mental institutions
1927-Buck v Bell, "Three generations of imbeciles are enough" first eugenic ruling by Supreme Court
1933-German Nazi gov'ts take Laughlin's model law as a basis for systematic sterilization of more than 350,000 people
Eugenic Policies During and After WWII
1939-Carnegie Foundation discontinues funding for the Eugenic Records Office, and the ERO subsequently shuts down
1942-Skinner v Oklahoma; strikes down sterilization law in Oklahoma, rules that sterilization cannot be forced as a punishment for a crime
1965-Immigration Act of 1965 abolishes National Origins Quota, allows for non-formulaic immigration
1976-Genentech, the first genetic engineering company, opens; focus on helping rather than eliminating genetic deficiencies
Compensation efforts for the victims of unethical sterilization in North Carolina were attempted. The sterilization laws were unanimously overturned in 2003, and Gov. Mike Easley signed a law that officially ended forced sterilizations before issuing a public apology to all of North Carolina's victims.
This marked the end of the traditional "Old Eugenics" in America.
The Emergence of "New Eugenics"
Human Genome Project
Prenatal screening and diagnostic testing
Flaw vs. Characteristic
Stem cell research/gene therapy
"The Perfect Human Being"-lack of genetic diversity
In addition, there continues to be some evidence of Old Eugenics in modern society:
California illegal sterilization lawsuit (2013)
Although the traditional "Old Eugenics" movement tapered off after WWII, advances in new technology have given rise to an all-new form of eugenics in the modern world. This "New Eugenics" focuses less on sterilization and more on the prevention of genetic diseases, but also of undesired characteristics.
From a speech by
Margaret Sanger in 1921
Controversy of Eugenics
Franz Boas-nature of people's upbringing is the true indicator of their future position in life, not their "inherited qualities"
Franz Boas, Scientific Monthly, 1916, 473
Even at the height of its influence, eugenics was a controversial approach to societal improvement.
The Human Genome Project
Culmination of genetic research meant to completely "map out" the human genome
Successfully found location and function of most human genes
Potential danger: new opportunities to alter human genes; What is a "good" vs a "bad" gene?
Prenatal Screening and Diagnostic Testing
An estimated 92% of women who discover their babies have Down Syndrome abort the pregnancy
Concern about loss of funding to research Down Syndrome as cases drop due to new prenatal screening tests, same issue for many other birth defects
Conclusion? The poor were poor because their inheritable traits, like laziness and immorality, were flaws that made them poor.
Flaw vs. Characteristic
What makes a characteristic a flaw?
Who decides whether a characteristic needs to be removed or altered?
People in the future could be able to remove cancer and heart disease tendencies, diabetes and obesity, and mental disorders
BUT they would also be able to remove any other trait that they find undesirable such as genes for hair color, weight predispositions, certain personality traits, or sexual orientation
Stem Cell Research and Gene Therapy
Similar to the human genome project, raises questions of genetic engineering
Non-medical uses imply possibility of "designing" a type of perfect human being
1980-1999: Repository for Germinal Choice: "genius" sperm bank, created by eugenicist Robert Graham to better population
230 children conceived
Most well-known donor Nobel Prize winner William Shockley
Attempt to "select" whichever characteristics are desired in a child/future man or woman
Even Today, Some Presence of "Old Eugenics"...
At least 148 women received unlawful sterilizations at the California Institution of Women in Corona between 2006-2010, with probably 100 more cases dating back through the 1990's
Many individual cases of sterilization in prisons throughout the last 3 decades
People of color or people in jail are particularly at risk for forced sterilization
The advocacy of eugenics by even social revolutionaries such as Margaret Sanger who had a positive impact on society shows the depth with which eugenic ideology had permeated American culture.
<California Institution of Women in Corona
Jack T. Skinner
Wikler, Daniel. "Can We Learn from Eugenics?" Journal of Medical Ethics 25.2 (1999): 183-94. JSTOR. Web. 22 May 2014.
"This very general, yet morally crucial, requirement ought to guide us now, as we decide which programmes of genetic testing and screening to undertake, and also in the future, as we contemplate the possibility of refashioning the human genome to engineer a new, perhaps improved version of homo sapiens. Done justly, the genetic wellbeing of "the group" is a proper object of concern. The question of moral importance is not whether this constitutes eugenics; it is whether it can be done fairly and justly. It wasn't, the last time it was tried."
In this article, Wikler claims that eugenics is not inherently evil, but the past methods of achieving the "better" race have been unethical and immoral.