A resurgence of eugenics: From Chance to Choice

In a book that seeks to re-assert the importance of the government in charting humanity’s genetic course without avoiding the abuses that are associated with eugenics, there are nonetheless some contentions made that are consistent with the goal of this website. 

From pages 9-10:

The Shadow of Eugenics

Even the brightest aspirations of the new genetics are from time to time dimmed by the shadow of eugenics.  The very term has been in such bad odor since the era of Nazi “racial hygiene” (Proctor 1988) that few people today wish to be associated with eugenics.  Indeed, controversies over the new genetics often proceed as if the rival parties assume that if it can be shown that someone’s views are “eugenics,” they are thereby discredited.  Much energy is then spent in trying to attach the label to an opponent or avoid being labeled a eugenicist.

Such exercises tend to be long on rhetoric and short on cognitive content.  Attitudes toward eugenics are much like the common view of Marx’s Das Capital — people know it is wrong though they know little about it – or, more charitably, like the attitude toward Freud’s theory of the unconscious:  “He was on to something but he went too far.”

From page 25

Those who scoff at the suggestion that our society is in danger of a resurgence of eugenic thinking should ask themselves two questions.  Is genetic determinist thinking significantly less prevalent today than it was in the heyday of eugenics?  And are the interests in avoiding the conclusion that most of society’s problems are to a significant degree rooted in our institutions any less powerful today than they were a hundred years ago?  Unfortunately, the answer to both questions seems to be “no” (Hubbard and Wald 1993; Lewontin 1992).

From Chance to Choice: Genetics & Justice by Allen Buchanan, Dan W. Brock, Norman Daniels, & Daniel Wikler (2000).

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