Eugenics is Darwinism and Evolution Applied

In the essay on the definition of eugenics hosted on this site, it is shown that eugenics was merely seen as Darwinism intelligently applied to the human race.  On this page, further corroboration of this will be provided in the words of the eugenicists themselves.  Emphasis is added.


R.Z. Mason, mayor of Appleton, WI, “The Duty of the State in its Treatment of the Deaf and Dumb, the Blind, the Idiotic, the Crippled and Deformed, and the Insane.” [Reference]

If the doctrine is true, that the fittest only should live, then it follows as a rational corollary that, in a society of rational men, where the interests of a race capable of indefinite development are blended, that “the fittest only should be born.” To reproduce and fill the world with posterity is not always a duty.   Certainly not always a privilege.  The law makes it a crime where the parties have not taken the legal steps to provide, as far as may be for the protection, the education and general well being of future offspring.  Why should not the law adopt the sound maxim, that no person has the right to throw upon the charities of the world, his diseased, deformed and insane offspring.


Max Nordau, 1895, as quoted in From Darwin to Hitler, a book by Richard Weikart:

[Equality] stands in contradiction to all the laws of life and evolution in the organic world. We, who stand on the ground of the scientific world view, recognize in the inequality of living things the impetus for all evolution and perfection. For what is the struggle for existence, this source of the beautiful variability and the many forms of nature, other than a constant confirmation of inequality? A better equipped organism makes its superiority felt by the other members of its species, diminishes their portion at the meal provided by nature, and stunts their possibility for the full development of their individuality, in order to win more space for its own [progeny]… The least perfect individuals will be destroyed in the struggle for first place and will disappear. … Inequality is therefore a natural law.


Helene Stöcker, founder of the League for the Protection of Mothers, c. 1890-1910 as quoted in From Darwin to Hitler, a book by Richard Weikart:

If the mere existence of inferior people is a danger and a hindrance for the state, then to hinder this, with all the means of science, is not only our right, but our duty.” [emphasis original, bolded added].


Karl Pearson, in “Darwinism, Medical Progress, and Eugenics” (found in Eugenics Lab. Lect. Series, IX, Cavendish Lecture for 1912) [source]

But, because I state that the infantile death rate is selective, and assert that it by no means follows that a low infantile death rate will compensate racially for a falling birth rate, why should I be described as a Herod, and those who hold the same views as supporters of the better-dead doctrine? I feel sure that many of you who have, by your skill, helped into the world the cripple, or the child of diseased or deformed parents, must have said to yourselves, when you found it viable, better it had not been born. Many of you, I take it, hold with me the ‘better-not-born’ doctrine, but the recognition of the fact that the infantile death rate is selective cannot of itself justify the charge that we wish the weakling killed off.

[…] These are individual illustrations of what is happening, because the intensive selection of the old days has been suspended. That suspension is partly due to medical progress; you are enabling the deformed to live, the blind to see, the weakling to survive—and it is partly due to the social provision made for these weaklings that the feeble-minded woman goes to the workhouse as a matter of course for her fourth or fifth illegitimate child, while the insane man, overcome by the strain of modern life, is fed up and restored, for a time, to his family and paternity. In our institutions we provide for the deaf-mute, the blind, the cripple, and render it relatively easy for the degenerate to mate and leave their like. In the old days, without these medical benefits and without these social provisions the hand of Nature fell heavily on the unfit. Such were numbered, as they are largely numbered now, among the unemployables; but there were no doctors to enable them to limp through life; no charities to take their offspring or provide for their own necessities. A petty theft meant the gallows, unemployment meant starvation, feeble-mindedness meant persecution and social expulsion; insanity meant confinement with no attempt at treatment.. To the honor of the medical profession, to the credit of our social instincts, be it said, we have largely stopped all this. We have held out a helping hand to the weak, but at the same time we have to a large extent suspended the automatic action whereby a race progressed mentally and physically.

Surely here is an antinomy—a fundamental opposition between medical progress and the science of national eugenics, or race efficiency. Gentlemen, I venture to think it is an antinomy, and will remain one until the nation at large recognizes as a fundamental doctrine the principle that everyone, being born, has the right to live, but the right to live does not in itself convey the right to everyone to reproduce his kind.

Our social instincts, our common humanity, enforce upon us the conception that each person born has the right to live, yet this right essentially connotes a suspension of the full intensity of natural selection. Darwinism and medical progress are opposed forces, and we shall gain nothing by screening that fact, or, in opposition to ample evidence, asserting that Darwinism has no application to civilized man.


It is commonly argued that Charles Darwin did not at all see his theory as logically entailing eugenics and that he rejected it.  Naturally, the people who make this argument usually don’t even know that Charles Darwin died before the term was coined (in 1882; Galton coined the term in 1883.)  Thus, in order to understand what Charles Darwin actually thought on the matter, one must turn to the ‘content’ of the term ‘eugenics.’  We have testimony, from Charles Darwin’s own son, Francis, that his father did in fact support eugenics, and precisely along the lines that Francis Galton, so-called ‘father of eugenics’, presented it.  The following is from the “Galton Lecture” delivered by Francis Darwin in 1914.  In the essay below, Francis Darwin repeatedly describes eugenics as a science, and, in particular, the ‘science of heredity’, that is, evolution.

Francis Darwin in Francis Galton (the Galton Lecture) as found in The Eugenics Review, 1914:

From page 1: I should like to express my appreciation of the honour done me in asking me to give the first Galton lecture.  In many ways I am a bad choice, since I have had no share in his science of eugenics, neither has my research-work been directly connected with evolution.

From page 7-8:  […] the estimation of human characteristics especially in relation to heredity was in Galton’s mind several years earlier, and in 1865 he wrote the two papers in Macmillan’s Magazine which contain the germs of his later work on heredity and eugenics.  It is unfortunate that the research on heredity, together with its practical application to human welfare in the new science of eugenics, should not have have more space given to it in his autobiographical Memories; there are but thirty-seven pages–or 11 percent of the whole book. [pg 7]

[…] Galton attributes his work in heredity in some measure to the publication of the Origin of Species which, he says, “made a marked epoch” in his “mental development as it did in that of human thought generally.”   […] in our day the name of Galton is intimately connected in our minds with the science of heredity, and we forget that he, like lesser men, was as a mine fired by the Origin.  He was “encouraged,” he says, “by the new views pursue many inquiries which had long interested” him “and which clustered around the central topics of heredity.”  This was the charge with which the mine had been loaded,–the Origin was the fuse.

From page 13: This side of Galton’s work is, in the judgment of many, his greatest claim to distinction as a master in the science of heredity.

Also from page 13:  But it is time to speak of Galton as a eugenist–on which if we look to the distant future his fame will reset.  For no one can doubt that the science of eugenics must become a great and beneficent force in the evolution of man.

From page 16: From the first, [Galton] had the support of Charles Darwin who never wavered in his admiration of Galton’s purpose, though he had doubts about the practicality of reform.  His hesitation in regard to eugenic method is expressed with a wise proviso as to future possibilities:  “I have lately been led,” he says, “to reflect a little … on the artificial checks, but doubt greatly whether such would be dangerous to the world at large at present, however it may be in the distant future.”  In the first edition of the Descent of Man, 1874, he distinctly gives his adherence to the eugenic idea by his assertion that many might by selection do something for the moral and physical qualities of the race.


Lewellys F. Barker, writing in the preface in a compilation of 12 lectures on eugenics (1914)

The problems of eugenics are as old certainly as historically recorded human life. They were discussed, in some of their fundamental features at least, among the Hebrews at the time when the Bible was written. Plato deals with them in a famous chapter in the Republic. But the attempt to create an actual science of eugenics was first made toward the end of the nineteenth century after the principle of evolution had become widely accepted and thoughtful men and women had adopted the creed that man himself, like all other objects, animate and inanimate, is subject to the reign of natural law.

The progress of physics, chemistry, and biology has made possible so many beneficial practical applications of these sciences that human beings, more than ever before in the world’s history, have come to appreciate the value of accurate knowledge as a guide to conduct. Wherever man has begun to know scientifically, he has found himself also, better than before, able to predict; he has gained the power to control. This increase in power to control has only whetted an appetite which appears to be insatiable ; man now strives for ends which his ancestors would have regarded as presumptuous in him to try to reach. Thus, to-day, he not only utilises these forces of nature to improve the conditions under which he lives, but he is determined, if possible, to beget a better and a nobler race to succeed him.

H.J. Muller, in the first annual address to the American Society of Human Genetics (1949)

Motivations and criteria for genetically acceptable practices [pg 162-163]

Despite our insistence in the foregoing that indefinitely prolonged continuance of the present patter of reproductive behavior along with a continuance of modern medical practices and of the now prevailing attitude toward radiation, would eventually lead to grave genetic consequences if not to complete disaster for mankind [there is time to address the situation.]

[…] Only after opposition [of people more interested in the immediate than the future of mankind and in ‘powerful groups, whose interests lie in the preservation of antiquated ideologies in general’] of these last, more especially, has become sufficiently weakened to allow the conception of evolution, including that of its genetic mechanism, to become as much a cornerstone of elementary education as the rotundity of the earth, and after the processes and consequences of genetic change throughout the ages have been visualized and dramatized for people in general from their early years on through their later development, can we expect the arguments, calculations and recommendations of geneticists to take on sufficiently concrete meaning for the average man, the medical man, and the man in public life, so as to influence them adequately in their conduct of practical matters.  To work for this modernization of educational policy and methods, with a view to reshaping the average man’s view of his place in nature, is therefore one of the first duties of those who appreciate the significance of genetics in human affairs.


Frederick Osborn, The Future of Human Heredity:  An Introduction to Eugenics in Modern Society, pages 1-2.

Eugenics is concerned with the changes which may be taking place in human heredity.  In more scientific language, it is concerned with the frequency and distribution of different types of genetic factors in successive generations of human populations.  Essentially eugenics seeks to understand and ultimately to direct the forces that control human inheritance through matings, births, and deaths.

The idea of eugenics derived from Darwin’s theory of evolution, first established in The Origin of Species.  If man is the product of a long evolutionary process, there is every reason to believe that man in his present form is only at a certain stage in his development, and still subject to change.  The direction that change will take depends on which of many different types of man survive n our modern, highly controlled environments.


Theodosius Dobzhansky, The Future of Human Heredity:  An Introduction to Eugenics in Modern Society, page vi.

Even worse, eugenics has been and, in places, is still being used as an apology for race and class biases.  Eugenics in America has unfortunately not escaped this misuse.  […] And yet eugenics has a sound core.  The real problem with mankind which mankind will not be able to evade indefinitely is where evolutionary process is taking man, and where man himself wishes to go.


Paul Popenoe and Roswell H. Johnson in an essay called “Eugenics and Euthenics” found on page 494-495 of  Readings in Evolution, compiled by Horatio Hackett Newman.  First published in 1921.

Every euthenic measure should be scrutinized from the evolutionary standpoint; if it is eugenic as well as euthenic it should be whole-heartedly favored; if it is dysgenic but euthenic it should be condemned or adopted, according to whether or not the gain in all ways from its operation will exceed the damage.

In general, euthenics, when not accompanied by some form of selection (i.e., eugenics) ultimately defeats its own end.  If it is accompanied by rational selection, it can usually be indorsed.

It may make the situation clearer to state it in the customary terms of biological philosophy.  Selection does not necessarily result in progressive evolution.  It merely brings about the adaptation of a species or a group to a given environment.  The tapeworm is the stock example.  In human evolution, the nature of this environment will determine whether adaptation to it means progress or retrogression, whether it leaves a race happier and more productive, or the reverse.  All racial progress, or eugenics, therefore, depends on the creation of a good environment, and the fitting of the race to that environment.  Every improvement in the environment should bring about a corresponding biological adaptation.  The two factors in evolution must go side by side, if race is to progress in what the human mind considers the direction of advancement.  In this sense, euthenics and eugenics bear the same relation to human progress as a man’s two legs do to his locomotion.


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