Eugenics is increasingly being presented by the media as a study which can only benefit mankind, but it has a sinister side which Christians need to be warned about. I am presenting here the Introduction to John Cavanaugh-O'Keefe's article 'The Roots of Racism and Abortion' The full (very long) article is available at John's website. Link given at article ending.
An Exploration of Eugenics
by John Cavanaugh-O'Keefe
The principal manifestations of eugenics are racism and abortion. Eugenics is the driving force behind euthanasia, artificial or assisted insemination, environmental extremism, genetic engineering and coercive population policies. It shapes debate over welfare reform and health care reform. It is found in anthropology, sociology, psychology -- in all the social sciences. It is found in many works of modern literature, especially science fiction. Such a potent force deserves some study. Eugenics is a deadly serious effort to take charge of evolution and drive the human race forward into a new and improved world. The key idea is simple: We breed better roses, better tomatoes, better dogs, better horses. Why do we hesitate to breed better humans?
Most people have never heard of eugenics. When you talk about it, most people think at first that you are mispronouncing "euthanasia." And then among that small handful of people who have heard of it, nearly all are confident that it is a thing of the past.
The idea of breeding a better race bothers people in our time. But often, people are disturbed about human breeding because it sounds too much like something that Hitler did, not because they have any specific well-informed objections to it. In other words, when people hear about eugenics separate from the horrors of Nazism, it can sound good.
In fact, there are a few scholars who know what it is, and know that it is part of today's world -- and consider it a good thing. They know about Hitler's eugenics, a serious effort to achieve a master race by controlling birth, but they think that today's eugenics movement is different from the 1940s movement, and believe that this time eugenics is benign.
This book will help you see what eugenics is, to see that it is widespread in our time, and to understand that it is grave assault on humanity. Once you understand what it is and how it works, you will find it in many places, and wonder why others don't see it also.
After World War II, the eugenics movement had a public relations problem. Hitler was serious about building a master race, and anything that resembles his ideas too closely smells bad. So the leaders of the eugenics movement continued their work under other names, and tracing their work takes a little effort.
Eugenics has a curiously effective disguise. The leaders of the post-war eugenics movement talked about "crypto-eugenics." That makes it easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the eugenics movement is some kind of conspiracy. This turns out to be one of the best defenses that the eugenics movement has. If a movement ever looked like a conspiracy, even briefly, then some potential critics will decide that it didn't exist, because conspiracies don't exist.
Despite the secrets, eugenics is an ideology, a movement, not a conspiracy. You can find it in the morning paper. You can find it in many social programs. You can find it in the novels you read. You may be able to find it in your own family, and very likely in the mirror.
Once you see how eugenics works, you will never let go of the knowledge. The plain fact in history is, there have been several different truly evil schemes that put the value of life on a sliding scale. One was racism: white people are better than yellow people, who are better than red or brown people, who are better than black people. At the beginning of the 21st century, it is easy for most people to reject any such scheme as evil. We can hope that as soon as people understand that the same kind of sliding scale can be built in other ways, they will be ready to resist those schemes also.
Another sliding scale is based on IQ testing. The idea there is that people with a high intelligence level are better than normal people, who are better than "morons" with a lower IQ, who are better than "imbeciles" with a still lower IQ. Using this scale, eugenicists made a serious effort from the 1920s through 1960s to sterilize "imbeciles," to persuade "morons" to use birth control, to win the support and encouragement of normal people, and to increase the population of the above-average. Today, IQ tests are still used in schools everywhere, but they are not used to decide who should have children (at least not openly). Peter Singer, now a professor at Princeton, may bring back the old pattern, since he proposes infanticide for humans with a low IQ, and better protection for dolphins and apes with high IQs.
There is another sliding scale, based on a twisted theory of evolution. The idea is that protozoa led to vegetables, vegetable life evolved into animal life, animals evolved until there were mammals, mammals evolved until there were primates, primates evolved into savage humans, and some (not all) of the savages evolved into civilized humankind. The idea shows up in jokes ("How can you date that Neanderthal?"), but also in serious discrimination against aboriginal peoples.
The sliding scale that kills people today is a developmental theory, similar to the evolutionary scheme. The idea is that sexual activity produces a clump of cells, the clump gives rise to a valuable embryo, which becomes a still more valuable fetus, which becomes a truly precious infant. Then the infant becomes a child, the child becomes an adult, and the adult declines into an old person, and the old person becomes a corpse. This idea -- of humanity accumulating over months until you get a real person -- almost died in the beginning of the 19th century, when scientists were able to see sperm and eggs under a microscope, able to observe fertilization, able to understand the explosive moment in which life begins.
From the Greeks until the 19th century, philosophers and scientists had discussed the beginnings of life without any understanding of fertilization. For example, both Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas believed there was a sharp dividing line somewhere in the early days of life, separating something pre-human from a real though small human being. Before that point, what happened was interesting but did not involve the life of a new human being. They guessed that the critical event -- "ensoulment" -- took place during the first trimester of pregnancy.
The microscope almost ended such speculation permanently, showing that the critical event is fertilization. Unfortunately, before the new science of embryology took hold in people's minds, Darwin's theories strengthened the old developmental theory. The explosive moments at the beginnings of life did not seize the imagination of the modern biologist.
Darwin's theories encouraged biologists to cling to the ancient Greek picture, with stages of pre-human development over a period of time, with gradual changes leading slowly up to some point at which there was finally a real human being. Ideas like this allow biologists to ignore the moment of fertilization, and to apply a sliding scale of value to humans.
As the field of biology laid the foundations for the 20th century, Darwin's theories triumphed over the microscope. As a result, the old idea survived, that size and weight and complexity and value and rights all accumulate gradually, that the beginning of physical life is different from the beginning of truly human life.
Today, the theory of eugenics still plagues us -- evaluating human life on a sliding scale, and devaluing some lives. To defeat it, you must first understand it.
March 25, 2000
This is just the Introduction to John's complete article which is on his own website. Go here for the full article.