Eugenics Essay

Submitted By ijones4217
Words: 2183
Pages: 9

Ian Jones

Eugenics is defined in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as “a science that deals with the improvement (as by control of human mating) of hereditary qualities in a race or breed.” What was interesting about this definition is that this concept is so involved and yet can be defined in one simple sentence. The human reaction to the science of eugenics to most people is instantly a negative feeling. Most people only have a vague notion of what the practice truly is. The word eugenics has acquired an evil reputation based on its perceived history. There are always exceptions, but for the general population it is not accepted. DJ Galton stated “if your aim is to use scientific methods to make the best of the inherited component for the health and well-being of the children of the next generation, it is by definition eugenics” (133-136). Maybe there is a positive side getting lost in this concept. If this belief in the possibility of being able to improve the quality of humans was only used as that, to improve only proven faulty negative features, people may see a different side to eugenics. If scientifically proven qualities could be controlled to eradicate horrible diseases, or genes that have been shown without doubt to cause mental illnesses could be altered to help individuals afflicted how could there not be a positive side to eugenics. There are two different ideas in the concept of eugenics. Negative eugenics is discouraging reproduction of people having genetic defects or undesirable traits. The opposite is positive eugenics which is encouraging reproduction of people having advantageous traits. When the concept of eugenics first arose science did not have anywhere near the advancements that are available in the present day. The only way to stop the breeding of said defined “undesirable” traits would presumably be to have individuals afflicted with these traits not to breed. With the advancements of today’s scientific achievements it would be possible to take the offspring of these individuals and alter the specific genes on their DNA that are afflicted. This right here is where the moral and ethical dilemma comes in to play. Who is the judge of these undesirable traits and how is the line drawn to control that this practice does not fall into the wrong hands. Is even the thought of this practice crossing over the line into forbidden knowledge? The history of eugenics dates all the way back to Plato in 378 BC. Plato believed in “a society where efforts would be made to improve the human population by selective breeding” (Encyclopædia Britannica). He believed that marriage should be controlled and arrange by government and state. This was one of the earliest known attempts at mathematically studying inherited genes. The one thing that is important is to understand the culture in which the common conceived idea of eugenics came from. Social Darwinism became popular and was used in history to explain social inequalities. It used the concept of natural selection, more fittingly described as “natural elimination” (Shattuck 302) from Charles Darwin and applied it to society. It explained how survival depended on the more fit individuals. In this theory the most fit and wealthy were more like to reproduce more offspring that would survive over the weak and poor. In the late 1800’s this social elimination process was not occurring. The wealthy fit and elite birthrate was steadily declining while the birthrate of the poor and perceived unfit was increasing. Government programs and aid were doing little to help this. The government started using science to manage this perceive problem and called it progressivism. These progressivisms relied on science to manage nature and societal views. With the science of genetics on the rise this method of reform became known as-Eugenics. Sir Francis Galton is known as the father of eugenics. He is the cousin of Charles Darwin.