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Eugenics in the US April 29, 2016

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
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A review of what looks like an interesting book on The Eugenics movement in The US
The first two paragraphs of the review in The New Yorker

Carrie Buck was nobody you would have heard of. She was born in 1906 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Soon afterward, her father either abandoned the family or died—there’s no reliable record—leaving Carrie and her mother, Emma, in dire poverty. As a toddler, Carrie was taken in, with the approval of a municipal court, by a well-to-do couple, John and Alice Dobbs, who asked to become her foster parents after seeing Emma on the street. Carrie lived with the Dobbses and went to school through the sixth grade, after which they pulled her out of school so that she could do housework full time. She cleaned their house and was hired out to clean neighbors’ homes, until, at seventeen, she was discovered to be pregnant—she later said that she’d been raped, by Alice Dobbs’s nephew—at which point her guardians moved to have her declared mentally deficient, although there was no prior evidence that this was the case. They then had her committed to the Virginia Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-Minded.

When Carrie was sent to the Virginia Colony, in 1924, the forward thinkers of America were preoccupied by the imagined genetic threat of feeblemindedness, a capaciously defined condition that was diagnosed using often flawed intelligence tests and by identifying symptoms such as moral degeneracy, an overactive sex drive, and other traits liberally ascribed to poor people (especially poor women) who were seen as having stepped out of line. (Just a few years before Carrie was committed to the Virginia Colony, Emma was also sent there. It seems that she had turned to drug use and prostitution—although it’s hard to say, since many female vagrants were labelled prostitutes.) A sloppy reading of Gregor Mendel’s pea pods and Charles Darwin’s theories gave a scientific veneer to the conclusion that many social ills were caused by the proliferation of the wrong sort of people and that they could be neatly nipped in the bud with the intervention of eugenics—a term coined, in 1883, by Darwin’s half-cousin Francis Galton, who declared it “a virile creed, full of hopefulness.” Soon, the United States, along with Germany, was at the forefront of the movement to improve the human species through breeding. Scientific American ran articles on the subject, and the American Museum of Natural History hosted conferences. Theodore Roosevelt, Alexander Graham Bell, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and many other prominent citizens were outspoken supporters. Eugenics was taught in schools, celebrated in exhibits at the World’s Fair, and even preached from pulpits. The human race, one prominent advocate declared in 1909, was poised “to dry up the springs that feed the torrent of defective and degenerate protoplasm.”

The full review is here

Comments»

1. Ivorthorne - April 29, 2016

It’s strange how eugenics became mainstream. Most people think eugenics is a bad word but at the same time would not object to say people looking for certain racial/height/eye colour etc. profiles with regard to sperm/egg donations. Similarly, they would not object to abortions in cases where autism or Down Syndrome have been noted.

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2. EWI - April 29, 2016

It’s the same kind of monkeys-playing-with-fire thinking that led to lobotomies being ceing concluded as a good thing.

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3. FergusD - April 29, 2016

Even in Social Democratic Sweden:

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/1999/03/euge-19m.html

Misuse and misunderstanding (deliberate in many cases) of Darwinism and genetics has been an ongoing problem. And still is:

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/11/genetics-teaching-gove-adviser

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4. Gerryboy - April 29, 2016

Homosexuals were medically treated for their orientation into the 1960s. Medical science, like other sciences, has made serious mistakes. Should medical science be aiming at head transplants in the long term? Or on ethical grounds and for the sake of social priorities should medical researchers worldwide and nationwide agree to park some research topics and concentrate resources on pressing matters?

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5. CL - April 29, 2016

-Yet what looks kooky or sinister in 2012 struck the prewar British left as solid and sensible. Harold Laski, stellar LSE professor, co-founder of the Left Book Club and one-time chairman of the Labour party, cautioned that: “The time is surely coming … when society will look upon the production of a weakling as a crime against itself.” Meanwhile, JBS Haldane, admired scientist and socialist, warned that: “Civilisation stands in real danger from over-production of ‘undermen’.” –
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/feb/17/eugenics-skeleton-rattles-loudest-closet-left

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6. ivorthorne - April 29, 2016

It seems that where progressive types in the past have found themselves on the wrong side of history, it is because they absorbed questionable views that were common at the time and thought them fact.

It was obvious that some people were more evolved than others. It was obvious that anybody who wanted to have sex with somebody of the same sex was ill and crazy.

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7. Jim Monaghan - April 30, 2016
8. roddy - April 30, 2016

I read somewhere recently that the two groups most strongly opposed to eugenics were the catholic church and the communist party.

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Gerryboy - April 30, 2016

Why? Did the RCC and the CPSU share a common ethical framework with regard to a science of genetic improvement that entailed elimination of ‘weak’ forms of human life? Why did the two organizations part company on the topic of abortion then?

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9. CL - April 30, 2016

“In recent decades, the Pioneer Fund has supported mostly American and British race scientists, including a large number of those cited in The Bell Curve, a widely criticized 1994 book that claimed that differences in intelligence were at least partly determined by race. According to Barry Mehler, a leading academic critic of the fund, these race scientists have included Hans Eysenck, Robert A. Gordon, Linda Gottfredson, Seymour Itzkoff, Arthur Jensen, Michael Levin, Richard Lynn, R. Travis Osborne, J. Philippe Rushton, William Shockley and Daniel R. Vining Jr.”
https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/pioneer-fund

“Since the 1970s, Richard Lynn has been working tirelessly to place race, genes, and IQ at the center of discussions surrounding inequality. Through his own writings and those published by his Ulster Institute for Social Research, in Northern Ireland, Lynn argues that members of different races and nations possess innate differences in intelligence and behavior, and that these are responsible for everything from the incarceration rate of black Americans to the poverty of developing nations.”
https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/richard-lynn

http://www.academia.edu/836113/The_American_Breed_Nazi_Eugenics_and_the_Origins_of_the_Pioneer_Fund_2002_

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10. roddy - April 30, 2016

Gerryboy,they both opposed it but for different reasons I’m sure.

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