Reader-land, I have said many times that history matters. I am going to give a little history lesson on where we are, and how we got here.
This is a difficult post.
Eugenics, in its purest form and definition, is merely:
“The science of improving a population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics.”
Wikipedia, in fact, has under their alternative and pseudomedicine section. So what is the deal? If we want to evolve, to pass on the traits that encourage survival of the fittest, eugenics as first coined by Francis Galton, a relative of and student of Charles Darwin, has a good role to play! And by good, I mean the enhancing of traits indicative of survival in the context of Darwin’s natural selection. The human intervention into the process allows for specific desired traits to be selected and further generated.
We can explore this further with research done by Dr Marie Stopes, an early 1900s proponent of eugenics. One of her organization’s main goals was,
“In short, we are profoundly and fundamentally a pro-baby organisation, in favour of producing the largest possible of healthy, happy children without detriment to the mother, and with the minimum wastage of infants by premature deaths. In this connection our motto has been ‘Babies in the right place,’ and it is just as much the aim of Constructive Birth Control to secure conception to those married people who are healthy, childless, and desire children, as it is to furnish security from conception to those who are racially diseased, already overburdened with children, or in any specific way unfitted for parenthood.”
The summary is, healthy babies for people we want to reproduce, no babies for
people who have diseases or defects. In fact, Stopes had advocated for birth control in the tuberculosis-ridden areas of England, trying to stem the spread of the disease from infected adults to their babies, particularly mothers. She fought a libel case with Halliday Sutherland, which I will get to later. Her desire to stop the spread of diseases and genetic defects is in line with Darwinism, and the organization that bears her name continues that work.
Stopes was a contemporary and communicated with Margaret Sanger, a similar minded woman in the US who founded planned parenthood. Sanger also desired to passes along the strongest genes and advocated for government regulations on who could have children, and how many. While that may sound extreme, remember that she and Stopes were encountering the poor, the diseased, and wanted to ensure humanity would be able to continue on without these diseases.
I should also point out that both women publicly opposed abortion, believing contraception and sterilization the proper methods to ensure healthy offspring. It should be recognized that both of their organizations now promote and or perform a large amount of abortions. I will tie this in later, with Hitler.
Eugenics was also seen as beneficial by many politicians and high minded people of that time, such as Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the great dissenter of the Supreme Court of the US, John Maynard Keynes of Keynesian economic fame, Woodrow Wilson, HG Wells, and Alexander Graham Bell, to name names most are familiar with. This shows that it wasn’t some small group of extremists that were pushing for this, but well-established people, some of whom helped enact forced sterilization in the US. I can provide the quotes, context, and laws upon request.
Of course, eugenics now has a bad name, mostly due to Hitler and the Nazis. When Adolf wrote Mein Kampf, he laid out his plan and groundwork for what he eventually was most famous for, the Holocaust, and the coining of a new term, genocide. But were Hitler’s methods any different from Sanger or Stopes or Holmes or Wilson? Contraception, sterilization, and encouragement of the so-called Nordic features to reproduce? In Germany proper, one might say no. Hitler took the next logical steps in the Darwinian theory. To decrease negative genetic traits it isn’t enough to prevent pregnancy, because the failure rate of birth control is high. Sterilization and abortion are needed to complete the cycle, else there is always the chance that the “unfit” will reproduce, and then the cycle continues.
But to quote Eddie Izzard, “Hitler killed people next door”. He encouraged abortions and euthanasia in the countries he conquered and tried to reduce their population because they were inferior. I tremble to think if he had merely enacted these ideas in Germany.
Ponder this, Reader-land. Why would any country interfere with another country’s inner politics if the leaders of both countries are in agreement? It stands to reason that if Hitler had waited and stuck to eugenics principles in his own country, he would have been far more successful in his quest for “racial purity” and survival of the fittest. Ironically, Francis Crick, of discovering DNA fame, makes this point.
“The main difficulty is that people have to start thinking out eugenics in a different way. The Nazis gave it a bad name and I think it is time something was done to make it respectable again.”
What Hitler did was implement eugenics at its natural conclusion. People like me, with ALS, or Md, or MS, we would have been euthanized under the Aktion T4 program in Germany. Joe and Mike Grimberg with me. Down Syndrome babies or adults, same thing. People with genetic diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, or dementia, would have been sterilized, which also was supported by Holmes, Sanger, and Stopes. Hitler in fact built up his eugenics programs based on the studies and papers done by the west, the Stopes and Sangers, even while they quickly distanced themselves from him when he started killing people next door.
The modern-day advocates for abortion often talk about the disability of the baby as a reason for legal abortion. 90% of babies with Downs Syndrome are aborted, and many other life-altering conditions are examples of a reason to abort. The potential suffering of that child and the extra burden on the family are reason to abort. Could it also be that underlying this rationale there is an unstated reason of “only the fit should live”? If you read Stopes and Sanger, this is what they advocated for, just without abortions at first. If you study Hitler and his ideas, it was the same thing. So we are in a modern day eugenics environment!
In addition, by embracing the teachings of Darwin, Galton, Sanger, Stopes, Hitler, and the others I named, we reveal a very real prejudice to the people living with those conditions. If muscular dystrophy is hereditary, should the couple not have more children? If there is a desire to expunge MD by natural selection, how do we treat the heroes living with this disease? Do they become second class citizens? What about the young man and woman with Downs Syndrome, through no fault of their own? Do we shut them away from the outside world,? The way we treat these people before they are born shows how much prejudice we have against those who have been born.
Then, I bring up euthanasia and assisted suicide. The urge to end the suffering of the afflicted and terminal seems compassionate enough, but it echoes the same discussion as abortion of the sick child. Burden on the family, and unwanted suffering, it’s a merciful thing, but it has the same underlying theme, only the fit should live. Hitler would not be a monster in modern-day Netherlands and Belgium, who have the least restrictive laws on euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Ironically, recently a video circulated with Jon Stewart lambasting Congress for not doing their jobs because they weren’t helping the first responders of 9/11, who are dying from the work they did to try and save lives and offer hope to America. Even though there are nine territories in the US that permit assisted suicide, the country, the majority anyway, still recognizes the value of human life. We are confused, yes, and blinded by masked eugenics policies, but sometimes someone pulls the curtain back to let some light in!
I mentioned about Stopes and a libel case with Halliday Sutherland. I would like to now expound on this topic. Dr Marie Stopes was in favor of eugenics via birth control to rid England of tuberculosis. Dr Halliday Sutherland was a physician who studied tuberculosis, its cause, and cure. Stopes had a Ph.D. in Botany, Sutherland was an MD. She sued him for libel because he opposed her birth control centers in poor areas. After several appeals, Stopes lost.
But think about this. A medical doctor is providing a method of bringing people out from disease, educating others on the cause of the disease, and fighting against those who would let the disease take its toll due to natural selection. Think about the scientific breakthroughs that happen when brilliant minds study a disease and bit by bit overcome it? Even in my case, the best minds are trying to find a cure for a terminal disease. Why not let me die out due to natural selection? That is what Sanger and Stopes and Holmes and Roosevelt and Wilson and Hitler wanted. It’s in their writing and work.
Eugenics, under the Darwinian theory, seeks to eradicate by elimination, while science seeks to eradicate by innovation. Dr Lejeune spent a lifetime researching Downs Syndrome, to make a better life for the blessed people with that condition. Now, neo-eugenicists use his research to kill 90% of them before they are born. Sutherland sought to cure tuberculosis and to raise those people out of squalor, Stopes wanted them sterile and to die off. By studying the disease and the causes, and developing solutions to address those causes. Think about tuberculosis today. In large part because of Dr Sutherland, we have it contained. What about polio? What about Spina Bifida? They operated on a baby in the uterus to correct Spina Bifida, and the baby has since been born and is thriving. Darwinian eugenics would not have provided these breakthroughs.
That is where we are, and how we got here. The only question now is, where do we go from here? The slippery road to a Hitlerian society where we decide who lives and dies, gene splicing to remove the unfit, diseased, or disabled? Or do we choose compassion and equality of human life because we are human, no matter our conditions?