Eugenics

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Eugenics is a social movement that reached its peak in the 20th C, however, proponents still exist today.

(1) Define eugenics in your own words.

It is not difficult to decipher the meaning of the word eugenics if a person gives it some thought. There are three parts to the word: eu gene ics. The first part of the word means “good,” and a person does not have to study Latin to know this, but it helps. If we know that Euthanasia is the “good death” or that Europe means “good land,” then we can figure it out. Of course, the second part of the word means “genes,” and any good student of biology knows that “genes” are the codes found in the alleles that determine particular traits such as hair color, skin color, and other factors that affect the way that a creature or being will be manifest when fully grown or mature. And finally “ics” means the study of or the practice of something. In fact, we actually see the core of the word in practice itself. For example, the practice of aerobics would mean the practice of exercising the body vigorously, and so on. Thus, eugenics would mean that it is the study of or the practice of “good genes.” This is the literal definition of the word, and it is the denotation of the word—the way that the word can be broken down and analyzed for what it literally means.

(2) A negative connotation surrounds eugenics. Explain if eugenics can be practiced ethically if at all.

Words, of course, are tricky units of meaning, and in addition to their denotation, one does have to consider the connotation of the word in order to understand how one’s expressions and efforts to discuss certain issues are going to be understood. This is especially true of scientific endeavors where one might want to express something on a scientific level and consider certain issues from that perspective, but the words themselves can get in the way because they acquire particular histories in the human language. That is one of the problems one encounters with the word eugenics.

Historically, eugenics has been abused as a scientific practice and as an idea. It is fraught with the history of the Nazi regime’s idealization of the Germanic race and the “final solution” in which Joseph Mengele promoted the theory that all “unclean races” could be removed from the genetic pool. The practice of eugenics in that era demanded that a racial cleansing would have to occur in order for humanity to evolve properly.

Eugenics became a terribly destructive and inhumane practice which led to one of the worst genocides documented in human history. The worst of what occurred is clearly documented in such a cold, scientific manner that it is not difficult to trace the writings of this mad doctor, and the philosophies that it embraced or the policies that it followed. This historical background for the word is most famously known, and it makes it virtually impossible to even say the word “eugenics” without invoking this sad and demented historical era. It was a time in which the idea of promoting whatever is the “best” of human tendencies became a nightmare that exposes whatever is the worst of human science and the mobilization of a twisted ideology that was so disastrous that it nearly destroyed human civilization.

Of course, the idea of eugenics did not begin there. Animal husbandry is based upon it, and we certainly do breed livestock to be bigger, stronger, more productive creatures that can be harvested for their meat, milk, and eggs. However, should this be done with human beings? Some would say it occurred in the American South when slave-masters bred their slaves for the very same purposes. However, most people find that this practice was absolutely inhumane and objectionable—women were raped, traded, and forced to have children it the most horrific manner. Men were treated like champion horses or bulls and sent to have sex with particular females just because they were considered good...
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