The “science” of eugenics refers to the desire to improve the human race by selectively encouraging individuals identified as genetically desirable to reproduce and discouraging those deemed genetically undesirable from reproducing. The latter is referred to as “negative eugenics” while the former is known as “positive eugenics. ” 2. A eugenics program in the United States took the form of various state laws supporting the compulsory sterilization of individuals judged to be unfit for the future of America’s hereditary well-being.
Over thirty states passed such laws, though Gould (1984) notes were continuously challenged and rarely enforced in most occasions, save for in the states of California and Virginia. The intent of such laws was to improve American stock by restricting the reproductive capacity of imbeciles, ne’er do wells, the disabled and the feeble-minded, to name a few. 3. In the early 20th century, eugenics took the shape of programs and laws that lapsed in morals and ethics.
Beyond that, eugenics when practiced as such, rests on faulty premises. First, it presumes that its dependent variables – individual traits such as intelligence, physical robustness – are easily quantified when they often are not. Second, it presumes that controlling such variables is a simple matter of cause and effect, discounting entirely the mitigating factors of environment, upbringing, health care, etc. 4. Eugenics today is a dirty word, due to its historical connotations.
Still, it has not prevented institutions and individuals from attempting to develop and employ practices to harness the genetic destiny of man, whether as individuals or as a collective. Pre-nuptial blood tests for engaged couples is used to determine any likely complications such as hereditary disorders that may arise in their potential offspring. Furthermore, the development of alternative reproduction technologies have also enabled parents to select the gender of their child, and many biofuturists predict that such trait selection options are likely to expand and become commonplace in the near future.
While laws and ethics have definitely placed organized eugenics into taboo territory, inevitable technological advances mean modern eugenics will take the form of individual decisions rather than state regulations.
REFERENCES Carlson, E. (2004, December 14) “Scientific Origins of Eugenics. ” Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement. Retrieved May 8, 2009 from: http://www. eugenicsarchive. org/html/eugenics/essay2text. html Gould, S. J. (1984, July) “Carrie Buck’s Daughter. ” Natural History.