Eugenics in America

Eugenics in America

This entry updated throughout. Originally posted on 9/19/03.

In some ways Adolf Hitler won the Second World War. Or at least his philosophy did, and it’s alive and well in the US. Or perhaps it’s just the chickens coming home to roost.

I was reading a review of a new book today, War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race. It chronicles the thinking behind the eugenics movement, whose goal was to create a superior form of human being by breeding people with good genes. Of course, you also have to prevent people of bad genes from breeding. The review makes the point that while seeking to improve the species sounds good at first, it depends on the immoral concept that some people are superior to others. That’s a real problem for Christian humanism, but it was the basis for Hitler’s Master Race. It was also the basis for Margaret Sanger’s belief that the “inferior races,” i.e. blacks, Hispanics, Mediterraneans, any of the “dark” peoples, needed to be prevented from conceiving children, and if they did, convinced to abort them.

Presented in that light, the eugenics idea seems abhorrent. Yet, that thinking pervades our society. We hear it all the time in arguments for abortion. We even have people suing doctors for failing to diagnose unborn children with handicaps so they could abort. Their reasoning: the child won’t have a “quality of life.” We hear the same in arguments for euthanasia. The judge in Florida determines that Terri Schiavo wouldn’t want to have continue to live like she is, even though she does continue to live, able to respond to stimulus, reacting to people around her.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli