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Audie Fouracre

on 22 February 2011

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Transcript of Eugenics

Eugenics What is eugenics? What were the social orgins of eugenics? What were the scientific origins of eugenics? How did eugenics research impact American society? What research methods were used to study eugenics and what were their flaws? American eugenics developed in the middle of chaotic economic and social problems following the Civil War These problems included an increase of immigrants into the United States, a series of depressions, and the creation of militant labor union organizations This angered the weathly and in order to regain what they had they turned to eugenicists to help get rid of these people that were overcoming them There was also a declining birthrate among the rich, which showed that the captains of industry were losing the struggle for existence and the working class was taking over Eugenics was seen as the cure for the social problems, it would tackle the problem at its roots and change society It was a social movement, that inflicted human rights violations on people around the world Eugenics is a type of social engineering that promotes the use of practices to improve the genetic composition of a human population The main goal of eugenics was to get rid of certain people that harmed the society Examples of these so called harmful people included the poor, mentally ill, deaf, blind, homosexual, and even entire racial groups The pracitces undertook by eugenicists involved violations against the right to life, privacy, and freedom Francis Galton coined the term eugenics in 1883, and saw it as something positive that would encourage the healthiest and ablest to have more children Theroies similar to eugenics date back to the 1700's. One such theory is the degeneracy theory In the mid-19th century most scientists believed bad environments caused degenerate heredity, and good environments could change degenerates into good citizens within three generations However there isn't just positive eugenics, but also a negative eugenics Countries such as the United States and Germany favored negative eugenics The degeneracy theory stated that masturbation was the cause of degeneracy and led Harry Sharp (a prison physician in Indiana) to do vasectomies on prisoners to help eliminate degeneracy in 1899 This eventually led to an Indiana law mandating compulsory sterilization of "degenerates." It was enacted in 1907 and became the first eugenic sterilization law in the U.S. A pedigree was one method used to study eugenics Eugenics reseachers tried to trace the inheritance of a trait through a pedigree However this wasn't as easy as they thought because finding out whether the person had the trait or not was was a difficult problem and an even more difficult problem when they tried to find out if that person had a complex trait like intelligence Organizations such as the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) encouraged and organized eugenics research The information that eugenicists used to construct pedigrees came from the ERO Most of this information was submitted voluntarilly and wasn't always accurate Today we have DNA that can help us follow trait inheritance and make our pedigrees much more accuate There were many flaws in the reseach of eugenics These flaws included:
Treating complex traits as a single entity
Poor surverying and statistic methods
False quantification- which is the assumption that you can produce a numerical value then it must be a valid measure. An example of this is a score on an intelligence test
Not taking all social and environmental influences into account when trying to trace the inheritance of a trait Eugenic research impacted American society in three main ways It caused marriage laws, sterilization laws, and immigration restriction During colonial time and through the middle of the 20th century laws forbidded marriage between people of different races In the early 20th century, the eugenics movement helped supply arguments to support these laws. Such arguments included miscegenation As you can guess, these marriage laws impacted American society by restricting who you could marry Sterilization laws impacted American society greatly By 1924, about 3,000 people had been involuntarily sterilized in America. And eventually more than 60,000 Americans were involuntarily sterilized Eugenicists also influenced the immigration restrictions They did this by providing biological arguments to support the restrictions. These arguments would include information about how these feebleminded immigrants would impact society But soon this theory passed and scientists turned to believe that degeneracy was caused by an irreversibly degenerate germ plasma
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