Eugenics is undoubtedly one of the most sickening uses of scientific knowledge to come about since the invention of the modern field of biological science. Eugenics is the practice of what is essentially “selective breeding” humans by forcing the presumed “mentally deficient” members of society to be sterilized against their will. The progenitors of this field took Darwin’s idea of biological fitness, and turned it into the idea that anyone who did fit into niches that were relatively high on the social hierarchy or class hierarchy were clearly not biologically fit enough to reproduce, and should be prevented from reproducing at all costs, leading to the cases of forced sterilization, such as Carrie Buck.
Of course, we all know the most infamous cases of eugenics were carried out by Nazi scientists during the Second World War at the numerous concentration camps scattered across Germany and Eastern Europe. The examples the Nazis give us of the true horror of the eugenics movement and the ideology that fuels it really makes one wonder: Should science take a step back from its role in society and be more discreet in its application of certain concepts? The fact is that there isn’t an easy answer to that question. As we know, eugenics is still legal in the United States, considering the forced sterilization of female prisoners in California in 2013, and there will not be repercussions for those who implement eugenic policies. For that reason, I do feel like science should take a step back from society and politics. However, I also believe that certain advancements in science and certain theories are absolutely crucial to human understanding of the world and of ourselves, such as data pertaining to climate change, or understanding the way in which our bodies fight diseases. As previously stated, there isn’t a definite answer for the question of whether science should or should have an important role in society, despite the sometimes sickening implementation of misunderstood ideas. Finding a balance between explaining ideas and theories to society and allowing society and policymakers to use that information is something that scientists should actively seek out, lest we see more egregious misunderstandings of science used to a depraved end.