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EUGENICS: Past, Present, and Future   [Copy link] 中文

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EUGENICS

PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE


by Richard Lynn


The Occidental Quarterly
Vol. 2, No. 1

_________________________________


During the last century there has been a complete turnabout in public

attitudes to eugenics. In the first two thirds ofthe twentieth century,

most scientists and social scientists supported eugenics. In the United

States, advocates of eugenics included the Nobel Prize winning scientists

Herman Muller, Linus Pauling, Joshua Lederberg, and William Shockley, and

leading psychologists Edward Thorndike, LewisTerman, and William

McDougall. Many prominent public figures also supported eugenics, including

President Theodore Roosevelt; Charles Wilson, president of Harvard; Irving

Fisher, president of Yale; David Starr Jordan, president of Stanford University;

and Oliver Wendell Holmes, associate justice of the U. S. Supreme Court.


The European scientific community widely supported eugenics throughout

the early twentieth century. In Britain, supporters of eugenics included the

philosopher Bertrand Russell; geneticists Sir Ronald Fisher and Sir Julian

Huxley; psychologists Charles Spearman and Sir CyrilBurt; economists John

Maynard Keynes and Sir William Beveridge; Fabian socialists Sidney and

Beatrice Webb; writers H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw; and politicians

Arthur Balfour and Winston Churchill. In France, the Nobel Prize winner Alexis

Carrell was a keen supporter of eugenics, and in Scandinavia and Germany

eugenics had many supporters.


The tide of opinion began to turn against eugenics during the 1960s. In 1969

the American Eugenics Society ended publication of its journal Eugenics

Quarterly and replaced it with Social Biology. Eugenics societies in Britain and

continental Europe also put themselves into voluntary liquidation. Since 1970

eugenics has become in essence universally condemned.


How did such a change come about? And what exactly is eugenics? The

word eugenics was coined in 1883 by the British social scientist Sir Francis Galton

to mean good-breeding and consists primarily of attempts to improve the genetic

quality of the population in respect of health, intelligence and moral character.

The concept of moral character embraced law-abidingness, self-discipline, a

strong work ethic, and a sense of social obligation.The eugenicists believed

that health, intelligence, and moral character are partly under genetic control

and could therefore be improved by increasing the numbers of genes for them or,

conversely, reducing the numbers of genes for genetic diseases, low intelligence,

and weak moral character. To the eugenicists of the first half of the twentieth

century, it seemed obvious that health is better than disease, high intelligence is

preferable to low intelligence, and strong moral character preferable to weak

moral character. And therefore, if the numbers of genes for health, intelligence,

and strong moral character could be increased and those for disease, low

intelligence, and weak moral character could be reduced, it would be desirable

to do so.


To Galton and other eugenicists, there was a further reason for attempting to

introduce eugenic measures. This was that they understood that in the second

half of the nineteenth century, the populations of the economically developed

nations had begun to deteriorate genetically. There were two reasons for this.

The first was that improvements in general health,medical treatments, and

welfare were reducing the mortality of those with genetic diseases, low

intelligence, and weak moral character. Many of those who would formerly

have died in childhood were surviving and having children, to whom they

transmitted their undesirable genes. The second reason was that the more

intelligent and those with stronger moral character had begun to have relatively

few children, with the result that the genes for these qualities were being

reduced in the population. The principal reason forthis dysgenic fertility, as it

came to be called, was that once the modern condom was invented and marketed

in the early 1870s, the more intelligent and those with stronger moral character

used this to limit their numbers of children more efficiently than those with low

intelligence and weak moral character.


The eugenicists believed that the quality of civilization depended on the

intelligence and moral character of the population. If the genetic quality of the

population in respect of these qualities continued to deteriorate, they believed

the quality of civilization would inevitably decline. Some of them, such as Sir

Ronald Fisher, the professor of genetics at the University of Cambridge during

the 1920s and 1930s, believed that the declines of classical Greece and Rome were

partly due to a genetic deterioration of this kind, caused by the failure of the

patrician class to reproduce itself.


[continued below]

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Eugenics was both a developing body of scientific knowledge and a

political program. Its scientific basis lay in the selective breeding of animals

and plants that had been successfully practiced for centuries. In the middle

ages, larger and stronger horses were bred to carry soldiers in heavy armor.

Sheep and cattle were bred for greater weight and leaner meat. Different

strains of dogs were bred for specialized functions, such as sheep dogs,

hounds, retrievers and so forth. Race horses were bred for faster running

speeds. Fruits and vegetables were also bred for improved quality. The

modern strawberry we know today was bred in a London garden in the first

decade of the nineteenth century.


The scientific research program of eugenics consisted of the demonstration

that intelligence and moral character are important determinants of scientific,

cultural, and economic achievement, that these qualities tend to be transmitted

in families from generation to generation, and that they are partly determined

genetically. None of these was well established in the early decades of the

twentieth century, but during the course of the century research in the social

sciences and genetics showed they were all true. Eugenics was also an applied

science with a policy agenda. This was to apply to humans the same techniques

of selective reproduction that had been so successfully used for centuries to

produce improved strains of animals and plants. In practical terms, this meant

finding politically acceptable ways of reducing the numbers of children of those

who were considered to have genetically undesirable qualities, who in those

days were called the undeserving poor and are today known as the underclass.

This was negative eugenics. Part of this program consisted of the establishment

of birth control clinics for the provision of contraception to those who did not

practice it.


Another component of this program, more controversially, consisted of the

sterilization of the mentally retarded and criminals. The sterilization program

was first introduced in Indiana in 1907. During the next three decades similar

programs were introduced throughout the United States, in Canada, in Japan,

and in most of continental Europe including Scandinavia, France, and Germany.


Both of these eugenic policy programs achieved considerable successes in

the first half of the twentieth century. The knowledge and practice of

contraception spread from the professional and middle classes to blue collar

workers and then to unskilled workers and the underclass. This considerably

reduced the dysgenic fertility of the closing decades of the nineteenth century

and the early decades of the twentieth, although it was not entirely eliminated.

There is still some dysgenic fertility throughout the economically developed

nations and most of the remainder of the world. The sterilization programs also

achieved a considerable measure of success. The mentally retarded tend to have

mentally retarded children, so the sterilization of large numbers of the mentally

retarded inevitably reduced the birth incidence of mental retardation.


The second policy objective of eugenics was to find ways of persuading

genetic elites to have greater numbers of children.This was known as positive

eugenics and the principal method proposed was the provision of financial

incentives for elites to have children. It proved impossible in the western

democracies to introduce any practical measures to further this objective. The

only country where significant measures of this kind have been introduced and

have had some success has been Singapore, where the former prime minister,

Lee Kuan Yew was and still is a keen eugenicist.


From the 1960s, eugenics became increasingly attacked in the western

democracies although there remain committed eugenicists in China, as well as in

Singapore. In the western democracies eugenics was attacked on a number of

grounds. Otherwise sensible geneticists asserted that all genes are equally

valuable, that disease is just as good as health, or possibly better because

Beethoven might not have composed his late works if he had not suffered from

a hereditary form of deafness; it was asserted that intelligence and moral

character have no genetic basis but are wholly environmentally determined; that

Hitler believed in eugenics and this proves that eugenics leads ultimately to the

gas chambers. It was even asserted that the eugenicists did not understand

genetics and if they had done so they would have realized that eugenic programs

would not work because eugenics is a pseudo-science, like astrology. When it is

considered that the majority of the most eminent geneticists of the first two

thirds of the twentieth century endorsed eugenics,the assertion that the

eugenicists did not understand genetics was ridiculous. In fact, all of these

assertions were nonsense. Nevertheless, they were confidently advanced and

books containing them were favorably reviewed in the literary pages of journals,

newspapers, and magazines. No one dared contradict them for fear of being

accused of supporting eugenics.


[continued below]

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By the end of the twentieth century eugenics had become universally

rejected and at the beginning of the twenty-first century a position has been

reached that is unique in the history of science. From time to time scientists

have advanced theories that are deeply unpalatable to contemporary beliefs.

Galileo’s heliocentric theory of the rotation of the planets and Darwin’s

theory of evolution are the leading examples. These theories were bitterly

opposed by the church and by many others, but they were quite quickly

accepted by experts and soon became part of the accepted body of

knowledge. This is not what has happened with eugenics. The eugenicists

established a body of knowledge that is indisputably correct. The core

propositions of this body of knowledge are that throughout most of the

world populations are deteriorating genetically in regard to their health,

intelligence, and moral character, and that this is a serious problem that

needs to be recognized and ways found of overcoming it. Yet this is no

longer mentioned in textbooks of genetics, psychology, demography, or

sociology, or discussed in serious magazines or papers. Eugenics has

become the truth that dare not speak its name.


Nevertheless, from the 1960s, at the same time as eugenics was becoming

rejected, a new eugenics was appearing and was to make considerable progress

in the next three decades. This was the eugenics of medical technology. The

three most important developments of the new eugenics have been the prenatal

diagnosis of fetal genetic disorders, in vitro fertilization, and gene therapy.

Prenatal diagnosis followed by the abortion of fetuses with genetic disorders

began with the development of amniocentesis and was initially used for the

detection of Down’s syndrome. Later, other techniques of prenatal diagnosis

have been developed including ultrasound scan, maternal serum screening,

fetal biopsy, and chorion villus sampling. From the early 1970s, pregnant

women in the United States and throughout the economically developed world

have been given these prenatal tests and been offered pregnancy terminations

when genetic abnormalities have been identified.


The great majority of women have opted to have genetically impaired

fetuses terminated and this has had a considerable impact in reducing the birth

incidence of a number of genetic disorders. There have been huge reductions in

the birth incidence of anencephaly (the absence of a brain), spina bifida (in which

the vertebrae fail to develop properly), and Tay-Sachs disease (formerly known

as amaurotic familial idiocy), and significant reductions in the birth incidence of

cystic fibrosis, which is the commonest single-gene genetic disorder in European

populations. The impact of prenatal diagnosis is likely to increase, as methods

for diagnosing genetically impaired fetuses are improved. These procedures

have had a eugenic impact in so far as they have reduced the genes for genetic

disorders in the population.


The other medical technologies that are beginning to have a eugenic impact

are in vitro fertilization and gene therapy. The eugenic application of in vitro

fertilization consists of growing a number of embryos, carrying out genetic tests

on them, discarding those that carry genes for genetic disorders and implanting

those that are disease free. The eugenic application of gene therapy consists of

implanting new healthy genes to take over the functions of those that are

defective.


These techniques are still in their infancy but are likely to be developed in the

future. In vitro fertilization is likely to be used to grow a number of embryos, test

them for their genetic characteristics including not only possible genetic

disorders but also intelligence, personality qualities, sporting abilities, and

appearance, and implant those that the mothers consider most desirable. As

these technologies become available, it can be anticipated that initially, they will

only be used by a small number of affluent couples that can afford them. This

will lead to more class-divided societies in which affluent couples who use

embryo selection will have children with much higher IQs and sounder

personality qualities than the rest of the population. Because IQ and sound

personality qualities of a strong work ethic, motivation, self discipline, and the

like are important determinants of educational and occupational achievement,

the children of the affluent who are conceived by embryo selection will do much

better than others in school and will fill almost all the places in the more

prestigious universities and secure most of the top jobs.


[continued below]

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This post was edited by Scolecite at 2012-8-30 06:53

In time, we should anticipate that embryo selection and possibly also gene

implantation will come to be used by increasing numbers of couples to produce

genetically superior children. However, we cannot envisage a time when it will

be used by the entire population. There will always remain some who continue

to have children by what will increasingly be regarded as the old fashioned way.

These will become a genetic underclass of unskilled workers and

unemployables. This will heighten class inequalities and tensions.


In the more distant future, we should anticipate that new genes will be

constructed for greater intelligence, and possibly for certain personality traits

such as creativity and greater persistence, and for enhanced longevity.

Eventually these will produce a new species of humans capable of solving

problems beyond our present capacities. Among these will be the colonization

of other planets in anticipation of the time when the earth is no longer habitable

and is pulled into the sun.


All these developments should be regarded as inevitable because once

technologies become available that fulfill human needs, they are invariably

used. The twenty-first century will be recognized as the time when humans took

control of their genetic destiny, and this will be regarded as one of the greatest

advances in history. It will be seen as the period in which the vision of the

eugenicists of producing a genetically improved race of humans came to be

realized, not by the selective reproduction methods of classical eugenics but by

medical technology.

__________________________________________________


Richard Lynn is professor emeritus of psychology at the University of

Ulster. This article is based on his book Eugenics: A Reassessment

(Praeger, 2001). His most recent book, co-authored with Tatu

Vanhanen, is IQ and the Wealth of Nations (Praeger 2002).

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Post time 2012-8-30 07:09:54 |Display all floors
I went ahead and fixed all the typos and errors in this article, so now all of you can go back and read it!  It took me a long time, and I sure hope this article gets designated Editor's Pick since it is so well written!

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Post time 2012-8-30 07:19:37 |Display all floors
This post was edited by Scolecite at 2012-8-30 07:20
There will always remain some who continue to have children by what will increasingly be regarded as the old fashioned way. These will become a genetic underclass of unskilled workers and unemployables.


So, will China be the biologically advanced people of the world, or the old-fashioned genetic underclass who are unskilled and unemployable?  Time to make a choice, China!

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Post time 2012-9-6 10:01:44 |Display all floors
And what good does it do posting this article here?  China wants MacDonalds, not eugenics.

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