American Eugenics Movement

Topics: Eugenics, Genetics, Human genome Pages: 6 (1915 words) Published: September 18, 2006
The eugenics movement began in the 20th century by a man named Francis Galton. As the cousin of Charles Darwin, Galton believed that eugenics was a moral philosophy to improve humanity by encouraging the ablest and healthiest people to have more children (Carlson). This Galtonian ideal of eugenics is often thought of as positive eugenics. Eugenics can be defined as the outgrowth of human heredity aimed at "improving" the quality of the human stock (Allen and Bird). At the other end of the spectrum is what can be classified as negative eugenics and is presently in disrepute. Negative eugenics entails selective breeding in which the least able from the population is taken out of the reproduction pool to preserve humanity's best traits. The United States along with Germany and Scandinavia favored this negative approach and was seen in 1907, and 1911-1930 when the U.S. implemented forced sterilization on various social "misfits" which included the mentally retarded, criminals, and the insane (Allen and Bird). In Germany, during WWII, the Nazi's used a twisted form of eugenics to create an Aryan race. By the mid 1920s eugenicists were seen as biased and prejudiced; their racial preferences obstructed any real scientific findings which led to the public questioning the validity of eugenics and thus forcing eugenics underground.

In the early 1900s Eugenics seemed as the perfect cure-all solution for the ever-growing population of the world. Eugenics was a key player in the methods used to control reproduction rates. In many countries the lower class was reproducing in such a fast manner that they were usurping the upper class. In order to stabilize this sort of social Darwinism these countries implemented methods of forced sterilizations for two purposes, one of which was to weed out the unwanted human and social behaviors which included "pauperism, feeblemindedness, alcoholism, rebelliousness, nomadism, criminality, and prostitution" (Allen "Social Origins of Eugenics"); and secondly to re-stabilize the ratio of lower class to upper class. It was society's belief that if sterilization was forced upon those "defective" individuals, than the money that would have been spent for the care of these future individuals, could be utilized to better the society rather than inhibit it.

Although eugenics seemed as the perfect resolution for society, this proposed plan contained many flaws. One major flaw seen as a problem with eugenicists is the issue of abuse. When patients are deemed "mentally unstable" certain criteria must be met. Eugenicists are those individuals who decide in a judge and jury manor as to which patients are unfit for society. The problem with this is defining the criterion for every highly complex trait. This problem was seen by many "including geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan, who wrote in 1932: ‘the main difficulty is one of definition… Accurate work in heredity can only be obtained where the diagnosis of the elements [trait]… is known'" (Allen "Flaws in Eugenics Research"). Another abuse of eugenics is the sterilization of individuals. Many were forced to undergo sterilization procedures for "official reasons ranging from mental handicap to promiscuity" (Sinderbrand). These methods of controlling the unwanted characteristics or personality traits are often seen as barbaric and outdated. Present day eugenicists believe that achieving utopia through society's future generations, living without ailments to inhibit the society, can be done best through selective breeding rather than sterilization through urging those with the best genetics to reproduce.

In foresight eugenics can possibly be a way to rid the world of all diseases. Yes, it is a farfetched idea but with rapidly growing technology and knowledge it is becoming a great probability. Possible worries and fears for future eugenics is the abuse of knowledge. In the future if this information falls into the wrong hands such as...

Cited: Allen, Garland E., and Randy Bird. "Eugenics." 1997. Encarta on Line Encyclopedia. 5 May 2006 .
Allen, Garland E. "Flaws in Eugenics Research." Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement. Dolan DNA Learning Center Cold Harbor Spring Laboratory. 5 May 2006
Allen, Garland E. "Flaws in Eugenics Research." Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement. Dolan DNA Learning Center Cold Harbor Spring Laboratory. 5 May 2006
Allen, Garland E. "Social Origins of Eugenics." Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement. Dolan DNA Learning Center Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. 5 May 2006
Carlson, Elof. "Scientific Origins or Eugenics." Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement. Dolan DNA Learning Center Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. 5 May 2006
Dorsey, Michael. "The New Eugenics." World Watch os 15.4 (2002): 21-25. MSN Encarta. 5 May 2006 .
"Genetics," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2006. 1997-2006 Microsoft Corporation.
Sinderbrand, Rebecca. "Eugenics: Clearing the Collective Conscience." Newsweek 2 June 2003: 12. MSN Encarta. 5 May 2006 .
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