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Logo of the Second International Congress of Eugenics, 1921.

Eugenics was a movement which tried to eliminate "dangerous human pests" and "the rising tide of imbeciles" through what has been euphemistically called "selective breeding". What this meant, in actual practice, was forced sterilization of American immigrants and minorities (particularly in California).[1]

The idea of Eugenics was first developed by Sir Francis Galton in 1865.[2] He based his ideas on the work of his cousin Charles Darwin.

The liberal American Medical Society provided this summary:[3]

"The publication of Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859 led to the rise of the eugenics movement in Europe. Eugenics supporters believed that races could be improved by selective breeding. The Nazi Party adopted this belief and began a campaign against the Jews. Many physicians joined the Nazi Party because they needed jobs."



Many genocides have been commited in the name of Eugenics, most notably the Holocaust. Adolf Hitler was a strong believer in eugenics and evolution and believed that Jewish people were closest to apes, followed by Africans, Asians, non-Aryan Europeans, and finally Aryans, who he believed were most evolved.

Pat Milmoe McCarrick and Mary Carrington Coutts, reference librarians for the National Reference Center for Bioethics Literature at Georgetown University, were more succinct: "The Nazi racial hygiene program began with involuntary sterilizations and ended with genocide." [4]

Liberal Eugenics

Some argue that parents who abort infants with genetic mutation or other disabilities are practicing a form of eugenics.[5] Some doctors and scientists have defended this practice and named it "liberal eugenics" in order to differentiate it from traditional forms of eugenics such as Nazi eugenics.[6] Eugenicists in the United States and elsewhere have been known to employ or advocate abortion as a method of eugenics.

Historical Eugenics

The Spartans in ancient Greece practiced a primitive form of eugenics, wherein babies which were judged to be too "weak" or "sickly" would be left to die.

American scientists and Nazi Germany

From The Nazi Connection[1]:

When Hitler published Mein Kampf in 1924, he held up a foreign law as a model for his program of racial purification: The U.S. Immigration Restriction Act of 1924, which prohibited the immigration of those with hereditary illnesses and entire ethnic groups. When the Nazis took power in 1933, they installed a program of eugenics—the attempted "improvement" of the population through forced sterilization and marriage controls—that consciously drew on the U.S. example. By then, many American states had long had compulsory sterilization laws for "defectives," upheld by the Supreme Court in 1927. Small wonder that the Nazi laws led one eugenics activist in Virginia to complain, "The Germans are beating us at our own game."

In The Nazi Connection, Stefan Kuhl uncovers the ties between the American eugenics movement and the Nazi program of racial hygiene, showing that many American scientists actively supported Hitler's policies. After introducing us to the recently resurgent problem of scientific racism, Kuhl carefully recounts the history of the eugenics movement, both in the United States and internationally, demonstrating how widely the idea of sterilization as a genetic control had become accepted by the early twentieth century. From the first, the American eugenicists led the way with radical ideas. Their influence led to sterilization laws in dozens of states—laws which were studied, and praised, by the German racial hygienists. With the rise of Hitler, the Germans enacted compulsory sterilization laws partly based on the U.S. experience, and American eugenists took pride in their influence on Nazi policies. Kuhl recreates astonishing scenes of American eugenicists travelling to Germany to study the new laws, publishing scholarly articles lionizing the Nazi eugenics program, and proudly comparing personal notes from Hitler thanking them for their books. Even after the outbreak of war, he writes, the American eugenicists frowned upon Hitler's totalitarian government, but not his sterilization laws. So deep was the failure to recognize the connection between eugenics and Hitler's genocidal policies, that a prominent liberal Jewish eugenicist who had been forced to flee Germany found it fit to grumble that the Nazis "took over our entire plan of eugenic measures."

By 1945, when the murderous nature of the Nazi government was made perfectly clear, the American eugenicists sought to downplay the close connections between themselves and the German program. Some of them, in fact, had sought to distance themselves from Hitler even before the war. But Stefan Kuhl's deeply documented book provides a devastating indictment of the influence—and aid—provided by American scientists for the most comprehensive attempt to enforce racial purity in world history.

Eugenics in film

In the 2006 satirical comedy Idiocracy, the entire movie is premised on the idea that the out-breeding of the stupid over the intelligent will lead to a uniformly stupid world run by advertisers, marketers, and anti-intellectualism.

See Also


  1. Crichton, Michael (2004). "Why politicized science is dangerous". Excerpt from State of Fear (New York: Harper). Retrieved from March 15, 2007 archive of at Internet Archive on September 17, 2014.
  2. Cavanaugh-O'Keefe (2000). "Chapter two: Francis Galton and the Eugenics Society". Roots of Racism and Abortion: An Exploration of Eugenics. Retrieved from February 4, 2012 archive of Eugenics Watch at Internet Archive on September 17, 2014.
  3. Barondess, Jeremiah A. (November 27, 1996). "Medicine against society: lessons from the Third Reich". The Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 276, vol. 20, p. 1657(5).
  4. McCarrick, Pat Milmoe and Coutts, Mary Carrington et al. (June 1995). "Introduction". Eugenics, Scope Note series, no. 28. Georgetown University/The Joseph and Rose Kennedy Institute of Ethics/National Reference Center for Bioethics Literature website. Retrieved from October 13, 2004 archive at Internet Archive on September 18, 2014.
  5. Kristof, Nicholas D. (July 4, 2003). "The new eugenics". The New York Times. Reprinted at International/U. S. webpage. Retrieved on September 18, 2014.

External References

Stephen Jay Gould, "The Mismeasure of Man", W.W. Norton and Co., 1981, 1996.

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