Sociology Index



Eugenics means racial improvement, controlled or selective breeding and planned evolution. Eugenics deals with factors that influence the hereditary qualities, and the ways of improving these qualities. According to William Henry Beveridge, a member of the Eugenics Society, the whole idea of eugenics is to improve the human race by controlling reproduction.

Beveridge proposed that men who could not work should be supported by the state, but with loss of civil freedom and fatherhood. Eugenics is the science dealing with factors that influence the hereditary qualities of a race. Eugenics means good genes. Eugenicist is an expert in eugenics.

Francis Galton coined the term Eugenics. The theory of eugenics is that we can improve future generations of humans through selective breeding. Eugenic means hereditarily endowed with noble qualities or more simply wellborn. “The eugenic principle is, that ‘the fit only shall live.’ This does not mean that the unfit must die, but that only the fit shall be born,” announced one pamphlet, The Eugenic Marriage, in 1914, a sentiment still audible over a century later. In recent weeks, the critical response to right-wing readings of desirable action or inaction in the context of COVID-19 has repeatedly been framed on social media in terms of eugenics.

Eugenics Movement

The eugenics movement is unfortunately associated with Adolf Hitler, whose quest to build an Aryan master race during the 1930s resulted in the extermination of millions. Charles Darwin's theories about "survival of the fittest" inspired Francis Galton to start the eugenics movement in the late 19th century. The aim of eugenics movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was to perfect the American populace by getting rid of its genetically "defective" members.

The eugenics movement is active in many parts of the Western world. The eugenics movement was driven by the belief that social intervention should occur in order to protect the best gene pool. This was achieved by encouraging people who were considered to represent ‘good’ genes to breed, and prevent those considered to have ‘bad’ genes from breeding. Supporters of early eugenics movement believed that people inherited traits like weak mind and poverty. Western eugenics movement grew because of racist and colonialist ideologies.

“You have good genes, you know that, right?” Trump told the crowd of overwhelmingly white supporters. “A lot of it is about the genes, isn’t it, don’t you believe?” he added. “The racehorse theory. You think we’re so different? You have good genes in Minnesota.” The “racehorse theory” of genetics holds that some human beings are born genetically superior to others. Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, characterized Trump’s remarks as “eugenics” — basing a human being’s worth on genes. “It was used by Nazis to justify genocide,” she tweeted.

Steve Silberman "As a historian who has written about the Holocaust, I'll say bluntly: This is indistinguishable from the Nazi rhetoric that led to Jews, disabled people, LGBTQ, Romani and others being exterminated. This is America 2020."

Distinguishing genetics and eugenics on the basis of fairness - F D Ledley, J Med Ethics. 1994 Sep; 20(3): 157–164.
Abstract: There is concern that human applications of modern genetic technologies may lead inexorably to eugenics abuse. To prevent such abuse, it is essential to have clear, formal principles as well as algorithms for distinguishing genetics from eugenics. This work identifies essential distinctions between eugenics and genetics in the implied nature of the social contract and the importance ascribed to individual welfare relative to society. This analysis also illustrates how simple deviations from first principles in Rawls' formulation could countenance eugenics application of genetic technologies.

In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity - by Daniel J. Kevles.
The book provides the full story right from the beginning of Eugenics with Francis Galton and all the way to modern and I think even predicted ideas such as gene therapy and genetic engineering and all the while providing insight into the constant debate upon the usage and ethics of the movement. Both the good the bad and indeed the ugly are weighed up and mentioned in the way of how Eugenics has been used. In the 19th century, the idea of eugenics was invited off the farm and into the parlor. But at the end of the 20th century, biotechnological techniques and other agendas are making forms of human eugenics plausible.

“A revealing study of the tangled history of the eugenics movement and its relation to the science of human genetics...Kevles makes clear the symbiotic relations between the genuine science of genetics, and the political programs and prejudices of the eugenicists.” - Leon J. Kamin, New York Times Book Review.

“The finest of all books on the history of eugenics.” - Stephen Jay Gould, Harvard University.

Review By K. L Sadler - Anyone interested in U.S. eugenics movement, must have this book!
This was one of the most widely recommended and referenced books by those who disagree or agree with the eugenics movement in the United States. Those who lambasted the scientific idiots running the eugenics movement as being prejudiced and biased in their science, lauded this book as one of the most complete of all recent books written on this topic. Those who support the motives behind eugenics, fixed upon this particular book and author as the one they needed to tear apart. That gives readers an idea of how accurately Kelves pushed the buttons of those who would practice eugenics, euthanasia, and doctor-assisted suicide.

"THE AMERICAN BREED" - NAZI NAZISM EUGENICS AND THE ORIGINS OF THE PIONEER FUND by Paul A. Lombardo. ABSTRACT: Filling the existing gap in the history of eugenics by presenting an analysis of the origins of the Pioneer Fund which chartered in 1937 to support and publicize study on heredity and eugenics.

Carving up Population Science - Eugenics, Demography and the Controversy over the ‘Biological Law of Population Growth - Edmund Ramsden - Social Studies of Science, Vol. 32, No. 5-6, 857-899 (2002).

"In the civilized world, human rights cannot include the right to procreate, and only those who are genetically fit must be allowed the privilege." - rajratnamvp.

Publications on Eugenics

Miscegenation, Eugenics & Racism: Historical footnotes to Loving v. Virginia. University of California, Davis Law Review, 21 (1988) 422-452.

Taking Eugenics Seriously
: 30 Florida State University Law Review 191 (2003).

A Life of Sir Francis Galton: From African Exploration to the Birth of Eugenics, by Nicholas Wright Gillham, New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 347, (Nov, 2002).

The American Breed: Nazi Eugenics and the Origin of the Pioneer Fund, 65 Albany Law Review (May, 2002).
Eugenics at the Movies A Review of the Black Stork, by Martin Pernick, The Hastings Center Report, vol 27 (March-April 1997) p. 43.

Medicine, Eugenics and the Supreme Court: From Coercive Sterilization to Reproductive Freedom - Journal of Contemporary Health Law and Policy 1996.

Involuntary Sterilization in Virginia: From Buck v. Bell to Poe v. Lynchburg. Developments in Mental Health Law 3 no. 3, (1983).
Increasing attention is being paid to issues of human heredity. The Human Genome Project has kindled renewed interest in the possibility of amending our genetic legacy through preventive reproductive strategies. There is a renewed awareness of eugenics movement. Since Kevles, several more focused investigations have been completed, and the study of eugenics from a variety of disciplinary perspectives continues to yield new volumes every year.

The Surgical Solution(1991); a study of the linkages between the American and German eugenics movements by Stefan Kuhl.

The Science and Politics of Racial Research (1994); a regional history of eugenics in the American South: Edward J. Larson.

Controlling Human Heredity (1995); a close analysis of the making of an American film on eugenics: Martin Pernick.

Sex, Race, and Science (1995); a study that connects trends in evolution and eugenics to modern genetic study: Diane B. Paul.

The Rhetoric of Eugenics in Anglo-American Thought (1996); a history of psychiatry and eugenics in North America: Ian Robert Dowbiggin.

The Black Stork: Eugenics and the Death of Defective Babies in American Medicine and Motion Pictures Since 1915 (1996); a cultural and linguistic analysis of U.S. eugenics: Marouf A. Hasian.

Creating Born Criminals: Biological Theories of Crime and Eugenics (1997); an analysis of education and eugenics: Steven Selden.

Keeping America Sane: Psychiatry and Eugenics in the United States and Canada 1880-1940 (1997); a study of eugenic criminology: Nicole H. Rafter.

The Wellborn Science : Eugenics in Germany, France, Brazil and Russia by Mark Adams (1993).

Nancy Leys Stephan's The Hour of Eugenics: Race, Gender and Nation in Latin America (1991).

Gunar Broberg and Nils Roll-Hansen's collection on Eugenics and the Welfare State: Sterilization Policy in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland (1996).

Inheriting Shame (New York: Teachers College Press, 1999); and a study of the eugenics movement in Vermont: Nancy L. Gallagher.

Race Hygiene and National Efficiency: The Eugenics of Wilhelm Schallmayer by Sheila Faith Weiss(1987).

Numerous works covering the German history of eugenics as the science of "racial hygiene" have also been published, notably.

The Racial State: Germany 1933-1945 (1991) by Michael Burleigh and Wolfgang Wipperman.

Paul Weindling’s Health, Race and German Politics Between National Unification and Nazism, 1870-1945 (1989).