Era of Eugenics: Creating a Perfect Human through Science and Selective Breeding

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 47
  • Published : March 29, 2007
Open Document
Text Preview
Sir Francis Galton first used the word eugenics in his 1883 book titled, ‘Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development' (Wikipedia); it is derived from the Greek words eu (good) and gen (birth). Eugenics was historically used to refer to everything from forced sterilization and infanticide to prenatal care for mothers; present day eugenics includes reproductive genetics such as genetic counseling, genetic screening, preemptive abortions and "designer babies". Broadly speaking, eugenics is a study of selective breeding of "good" traits and improving human genetics. Eugenicists encouraged specific social policies that they believed would lead to an improvement of the human gene pool. The suggestion of selective breeding in humans is rooted as far back as Plato, whom in The Republic noted that "The best men must have intercourse with the best women as frequently as possible, and the opposite is true of the very inferior." (Wikipedia). Eugenics has strong roots in 19th Century's social Darwinism where inequalities of fitness, competition, and biological rationalizations were popular (Kevles 2001). Many social Darwinists, influenced by Darwin's "survival of the fittest" insisted that biology was destiny. Nature over nurture influenced the broad spectrum of socially deleterious traits, ranging from criminality and poverty to mental illness; that all of society's problems including the feebleminded and the licentious resulted from heredity (Marks). Sir Francis Galton, wanted to perfect the human race by, getting rid of its "undesirables" while multiplying its "desirables". Galton concluded that, since one could use artificial selection to exaggerate traits in other animals, one could expect similar results when applying such models to humans. At the core of eugenics, Mendel's law of heredity was applied to humans to trace traits via a pedigree. In America, the leading proponent of eugenics was Harvard-educated Charles B. Davenport. In his 1911 work Heredity in...
tracking img