Eugenics

Introduction

We’re committed to the sanctity of human life.  We’re each created equal in the image of God.  We have no right to decide one person has more intrinsic value that another.  Indeed, God conveyed his heart for the weak and vulnerable when he gave the Law to Moses:

(God) defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow and loves the foreigner, giving him food and clothing (Deut 10:18).

In Proverbs we are encouraged to:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy (Prov 31:9).

Throughout history however, man has taken it upon himself to decide who should live and who should die, and for what reason.  One manifestation of this ungodly attitude is the field of eugenics, which we explore in this article.

Francis Galton

Eugenics (meaning  ‘good in birth’ in Greek) captured the hearts and minds of America’s leading thinkers, including social scientists, educators, judges, philanthropists and clergy in the late 1800’s and on into the 20th century.  The father of the modern eugenics movement was Francis Galton, an English statistician.

Influenced by Darwin’s evolutionary theories

Galton was influenced by Darwin’s evolutionary theories, the rediscovered genetic experiments of Mendel, and the secularised philosophy of Herbert Spencer.  His belief that some people are superior to others, the core principle of eugenics, motivated him to see if the human gene pool could be improved by ‘positive eugenics,’ i.e. encouraging the procreation of the ‘best’ genetic stock.

Charles Davenport

Galton’s theories were implemented by American Charles Davenport, the director of the Station for Experimental Evolution in Cold Spring Harbor, NY, from 1904 onwards.  His vision was to create a superior Nordic race by forcibly sterilising untold thousands of Americans who were selected on the grounds of their ancestry, national origin, race or religion.

US states instigated mandatory sterilisation

At the beginning of the 20th century, 27 US states instigated mandatory sterilisation laws.  Marriage prohibition laws were passed to prevent racial mixing.  The ultimate plan was to systematically eradicate unsuitable people worldwide until only a pure Nordic super race remained. 

The victims

The victims in the US were initially poor urban dwellers, immigrants from across Europe, Blacks, Jews, Mexicans, Native Americans, epileptics, alcoholics, petty criminals, the mentally ill and anyone else who didn't resemble the blond and blue-eyed Nordic ideal. 

Limited procreation

Galton’s aim was to limit the procreation of anyone with developmental and physical disabilities and those with inheritable moral failings such as criminality, alcoholism, promiscuity and pauperism, for example.  By the time eugenic sterilisations ended in the US in the 1970’s, nearly 70,000 Americans had been sterilised on the basis of legislation.

Hitler and the Nazi movement

The international eugenics movement affected us here in the UK, but mostly shifted to Germany.  Between 1935 and 1945, 250,000 disabled Germans were murdered.  The eugenic vision caught the imagination of Hitler and the Nazi movement, fuelling Hitler’s Final Solution.  He took eugenics beyond the ‘superior Nordic race’ to striving for the ‘Aryan master race’ and this led to the Holocaust.

Carnegie Institute behind the eugenics movement

Without the backing of the intelligentsia and academic elite of the day, implementation of eugenics would not have made much progress.  The scientific rationales that drove the death camps in WW2 were conceived at Cold Spring Harbor and financed up until 1939 by the Carnegie Institute, which was openly racist, strongly anti-Semitic and anti-immigration.

The Rockefeller Foundation and Ivy League

The Rockefeller Foundation verified the research of the Carnegie Institute by giving massive research grants over many years.  Leading scholars from the Ivy League universities validated eugenics, financed by the special efforts of the Harriman railroad fortune.

After WW2

In his book, ‘War Against the Weak’, Edwin Black concludes with an ominous warning: 

After Hitler eugenics did not disappear.  It renamed itself.  What has thrived loudly for decades quietly took post-war refuge under the labels human genetics and genetic counselling.

Over the last 30 years, academics and bioethicists have embraced attitudes reminiscent of Davenport and others – ideas which equally threaten the most weak and vulnerable.  In an article in National Review, Wesley J Smith remarks:

As with the old eugenics, the new eugenics is led by the intelligentsia and academic elite.  Once again, the most respected foundations are funding it.  Today, the belief in the inherent moral equality of all human life has been badly undermined by advocates who would judge human moral worth upon subjective ‘quality of life’ criteria.

Modern genetic engineering

Since eugenics became known as genetics, we've become used to hearing about GM (genetically modified) foods, and cloning has also been a subject of speculation.  Scientists and policy makers began to take the prospect of cloning seriously in the 1960’s, when Nobel Prize winning geneticist Joshua Lederberg advocated it, sparking debates with conservative bioethicists.

Dolly the cloned sheep

Since Dolly, the most famous sheep in modern history, was born in 1997, the technology for cloning mammals has reached the point where its implementation has become inexpensive compared with many other scientific processes.  Some scientists argue that human cloning attempts will be made in the next few years and may well have already begun. 

Reproductive cloning

While reproductive cloning is a different branch of scientific research from cloning technology for curing diseases and prolonging life, it raises serious ethical issues.  For example, it would bring about a change in the family structure since a female donor would technically be the clone’s twin rather than their mother.  Man is now playing God.

Our response

We watch developments with interest and prayerful concern, mindful that there may well be a sinister agenda behind recent developments which are not being broadcast.  Eugenics is one outworking of an ugly, deceptive spirit which can keep reinventing itself.  Only when God’s kingdom comes in its fullness will we see the complete eradication of this kind of evil, but in the meantime we need to remain vigilant and expose the evil. 

Throughout history however, man has taken it upon himself to decide who should live and who should die, and for what reason. One manifestation of this ungodly attitude is the field of eugenics

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