The Controversy on Eugenics in the American Culture

Topics: Eugenics, Genetics, Race and Ethnicity Pages: 5 (1783 words) Published: October 24, 2006
Heredity improvement by genetic control. Why would people want to control heredity? What exactly is genetic control? These are some things that people have been questioning for decades. Eugenics can not be ignored because it is suddenly coming up everywhere. People are experimenting and taking huge risks not to their knowledge. At one point in time it was said that eugenics could change the world for the better. That is how some people could look at it, and others frightened that it would change the entire universe. Early in the twentieth century science had to deal with the conditions that improve the inborn qualities of a race. Eugenesists not only wanted to improve the well-being of others, but enclose to fewer races and religions. This was all a part of the American eugenics movement.

The eugenics movement advocated both positive and negative eugenics, which referred to attempts to increase reproduction by fit stocks and to decrease reproduction by those who were constitutionally unfit. Positive eugenics included eugenic education and tax preferences and other financial support for eugenically fit large families. Eugenical segregation and usually, sterilization restrictive marriage laws, including anti-miscegenation statutes, and restrictive immigration laws formed the three parts of the negative eugenics program. From the beginning, the eugenics movement was a racialist and elitist movement concerned with the control of classes seen to be socially inferior. In proposing the term eugenics, Galton had written, "We greatly want a brief word to express the science of improving the give the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable than they otherwise would have had.

Modern eugenics was rooted in the social Darwinism of the late 19th century, with all its metaphors of fitness, competition, and rationalizations of inequality. Indeed, Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin and an accomplished scientist in his own right, coined the word eugenics. Galton promoted the ideal of improving the human race by getting rid of the "undesirables" and multiplying the "desirables." Eugenics began to flourish after the rediscovery, in 1900, of Mendel's theory that the biological make up of organisms is determined by certain factors, later identified with genes. The application of mendelism to human beings reinforced the idea that we are determined almost entirely by our "germ plasm."

In the US, the eugenics movement started from a belief in the racial superiority of white Anglo-Saxons and a desire to prevent the immigration of less desirable racial stocks. In 1910, the Committee on Eugenics solicited new members with a letter that read, "The time is ripe for a strong public movement to stem the tide of threatened racial degeneracy....America needs to protect herself against indiscriminate immigration, criminal degenerates, and...race suicide." The letter also warned of the impending "complete destruction of the white race."

In the early 1900's when they were first discovering eugenics, they had a hard time defining traits. Eye color and blood groups were an easy trait to measure, but eugenisists looked for other things, such as behavioral traits, including epilepsy, intelligence, alcoholism, and criminality. In the early years there problem was wrongly accusing some traits, which sent some people to mental facilities, and in some cases prison. Not necessarily because they were doing something wrong, but because they were different from "normal standards."

Eugenics today is defined as efforts to improve the gene pool in a particular population. The word eugenics is very unfamiliar among intellectuals. So there might not be that much opposition among the ordinary voter about the topic. However, there are two different opinions when it comes to eugenics, and they are either for it or against it. A legislator in Texas took a poll and found that 3,533 to 2,604...
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