Eugenics

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Francis Galton, an early advocate of eugenics

Eugenics is a social philosophy which advocates the improvement of human hereditary traits through various forms of intervention.

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  • One of the effects of civilisation is to diminish the rigour of the application of the law of natural selection. It preserves weakly lives that would have perished in barbarous lands.
    • Francis Galton, 1865. Hereditary talent and character. MacMillan's Magazine, 12, 157-166; 318-327.
  • There is a steady check in an old civilisation upon the fertility of the abler classes: the improvident and unambitious are those who chiefly keep up the breed. So the race gradually deteriorates, becoming in each successive generation less fit for a high civilisation.
    • Francis Galton, 1869 (p.414). Hereditary Genius. London: MacMillan.
  • We civilised men do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick .... There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands... Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man itself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.
    • Charles Darwin, 1871 (p. 501). The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. London: MacMillan.
  • To aid the bad in multiplying is, in effect, the same as maliciously providing for our descendants a multitude of enemies. Institutions which 'foster good-for-nothings' commit an unquestionable injury because they put a stop to that natural process of elimination by which society continually purifies itself.
  • In one of my last conversations with Darwin he expressed himself very gloomily on the future of humanity , on the ground that in our modern civilisation natural selection had no play and the fittest did not survive... It is notorious that our population is more largely renewed in each generation from the lower than from the middle and upper classes.
  • While modern social conditions are removing the crude physical checks which the unrestrained struggle for existence places on the over-fertility of the unfit, they may at the same time be leading to a lessened relative fertility in those physically and mentally fitter stocks, from which the bulk of our leaders have hitherto been drawn.
    • Karl Pearson, 1901. National Life from the Standpoint of Science. London, Methuen.
  • The only remedy, if one be possible at all, is to alter the relative fertility of the good and the bad stocks in the community.
    • Karl Pearson, 1903. On the inheritance of the mental and moral characters in man. Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 33, 179-237.
  • Eugenics is dead.
    • Daniel Kevles, 1985. In the Name of Eugenics. New York: A. A. Knopf.
  • We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind....Three generations of imbeciles are enough.
  • But I see a third motive which unconsciously plays an important part; it is the idea of sacrifice. A lunatic may cause the mental and economic decay of a family and also ruin it morally. If healthy human beings make great sacrifices for the community and lay down their lives by order of the state, the insane person, if he could arouse himself mentally and make a decision, would choose a similar sacrifice for himself. Why should not the state be allowed to enact this sacrifice in his case and impose on him what he would want to do himself?"
    • Nazi rationale for euthanizing the "unfit": Dr. Robert Servatius, attorney for Nazi war criminal Karl Brandt at Nuremberg, summing up the argument presented to the court in defense of the Nazi euthanasia program and Dr. Brandt's role therein. "Final Plea for Defendant Karl Brandt, by Dr. Servatius," July 14, 1947, "The Medical Case" in Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law, (1949), No. 10, vol. II, October 1946 - April 1949, Nuenberg, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., p. 136. [1] This 15-volume series, also known as “The Green Series,” focuses on the 12 trials of almost 200 defendants [2] [3] (Scholars have noted similarities between the language of Buck v. Bell and that of Dr. Robert Servatius, defense attorney for Dr. Karl Brandt at Nuremberg: "Brandt's attorney introduced documents quoting extensively from the eugenics literature. He cited Harry Laughlin's 1914 proposal calling for the sterilization of fifteen million Americans and also quoted a translation of the Buck v. Bell opinion from a German text on eugenics. Brandt's defense of Nazi experiments resulting in the death of concentration camp prisoners seemed to echo the Holmes opinion. Other Nuremberg defendants also cited Buck, and a translation of the Holmes opinion appeared again as a defense example in the exhibit 'Race Protection Laws of other Countries'." Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck V. Bell, 2008, Paul A. Lombardo, Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN 0801898242 ISBN 9780801898242 p. 239. [4]) See also: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race, Edwin Black, Dialog Press; 2003, expanded edition, 2012, ISBN 0914153293 ISBN 9780914153290 [5][6]
  • In the same way as the state demands the death of its best men as soldiers, it is entitled to order the death of the condemned in its battle against epidemics and diseases. No antique sacrifices to gods and demons are demanded any longer, only a well considered expiation as a help for the community and indeed exclusively in its interest.

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