Eugenics is a term referring to the movement aimed to improve our species through breeding. In the United States, it was used by selecting who would get to produce offspring and who would not. The criteria were mostly based mental capacity, criminal tendency, and unfortunately societal status, often leading to discrimination. The word eugenics was invented by Charles Darwin’s half-cousin who thought the movement was full of hopefulness for a better society.

As we went through the semester, we have talked a lot about societal issues that have implications in science, religions, economics, politics, and more. There is always a certain balance that needs to be found between all of these aspects of society, which can be hard and even nearly impossible to do. Some aspects work together better than others, like economics and politics, for examples. However, science has been challenging all aspects of society on many instances throughout history. During the Scientific Revolution, society had a very hard time accepting new discoveries and ideas. Climate science has been the target of many skeptics and has cause conflicts. In the issue of eugenics, science and society must work together in order to come out with the best outcome. If we only focus on the societal aspect of the issue, we end up with a movement that is motivated by discrimination and prejudice. Without really bringing up real scientific evidence for the need of eugenics, people start bringing up loose interpretations of outdated scientific theories to justify their thinking. Interpretation of Darwin’s research has led people to conclude that the wrong kind of people were ruining society and that they had to be sorted out and taken out of future generations with the help of eugenics. Many of the people supporting eugenics would cherry pick what would serve as valid justifications for the movement, being mostly motivated by their idea of a perfect society. When we bring real science into eugenics, we realize that there is much more to it than what was thought. Many illnesses and disabilities, of course, are transmitted genetically, but it would be extremely hard to eradicate all of it and prevent it for reappearing. Many people carry them in their DNA without actively showing signs of it. Furthermore, many traits eugenic supporters saw as negative were not genetically passed on. Although variations in IQ has been shown to be correlated with genetics, our DNA does not have to do with all of it. It is also clear today that homosexuality is not passed down in our genes, and that poverty does not come from a certain mental disability. Overall, many things would have been proven wrong by science if they had been truly researched and science truly had an important role in the issue.

We can also look at this issue under a completely different perspective. We could say people supporting eugenics only focus on science, wanting to perfect our species by selecting the best genes and making sure the “good genes” are the only ones being passed down from generation to generation. Only focusing on science, the societal aspect of the issue is left out. Eugenic supporters don’t think about the diversity of our species, the discrimination the process would cause, and the lives they would affect by preventing people from having children. Focusing to much on the science of eugenics takes away our morals, values, and humanity. Only thinking about ways to perfect our species and eliminate what is seemed as bad completely takes away the humanity and potential of people deemed harmful to society.

Whatever we think is prioritized in eugenics, the issue cannot justify the separation of science and society. We have seen the impact of an unbalance between the two in our country and globally.

2 thoughts on “Eugenics

  1. First of all, your synthesis of eugenics was so well written, I loved how thorough and idea orientated it was! I agree that there needs to be a balance between science and society. In some cases we have not found that yet. On one side society can overpower science (like we saw in our climate science study with Exxon) and on the other, science can overpower society (with eugenics). I wonder if there will ever be a balance between the two? I think they need to somehow work together to achieve it, but that is still hard to say how.


  2. This is an excellent description of Eugenics and I like that you have touched on the ethical issues underlying the practice. In class we mostly talked about the interaction between science and society as it relates to Eugenics, but what about ethics? How would different schools of ethics approach Eugenics? Would the utilitarians be in favor of it? Is the use of IVF, for example, a eugenic practice?


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