Separating Sex from Reproduction, the School, and the State

From Gordon Rattray Taylor’s The Biological Time Bomb (1968) pgs 179-180.  This book was cited by the Majority in Roe vs. Wade.  Separating ‘sex from reproduction’ is an enduring goal of eugenics, most vividly portrayed in Huxley’s The Brave New World.  While the ‘school and the state’ have always been considered tools in the hands of the social planners, Taylor’s open admission to this fact, and the implications, is relatively rare.  Consider sentiments such as the ones below the next time you look at the curriculum for ‘sex education’ in public schools.   Gay marriage would certainly seem to be the kind of thing that Dr. Morison, quoted by Taylor, had in mind:

… it is difficult to see why the sterilized individuals should be held to monogamy, or even why those adjudged unsuitable to rear children should trouble to maintain any domestic life at all.  The family is already being eroded by the intervention of school and state, and this might be its coup de grace.

As Dr. Robert S. Morison of Cornell puts it: ‘Once sex and reproduction are separated, society will have to struggle with … defining the nature of interpersonal relationships which have no long-term social point … [and] seek new ways to ensure reasonable care for infants and children in an emotional atmosphere which lacks biological reinforcement. …’ The language is a bit abstract, but the point is a strong one.

But the fact is, people are very much committed to the maintenance of the family, which remains an important source of emotional rewards and of security.  They are unlikely to give voting approval for any plan which threatens to demolish it.  As Kingsley Davis says, ‘An effective system of eugenic control would involve profound changes in the very web of relations that organizes and expresses the personal lives of moderns.  It would overthrow the existing system of rewards and punishments, the present interpretations of reality, the familiar links between the person and social status.’ And he concludes, as I do, that the introduction of genetic control in the near future, though theoretically possible, is unlikely.

But that is not the whole story.  We are faced, as a result of medical progress, with a population explosion the violence of which is still not generally understood.  Many believe that new scientific methods of agriculture, including sea-farming and the conversion of inorganic substances like petroleum to protein, will suffice to feed the additional mouths.  But even if we leave aside the social consequences of an excessive population density, and the frustrations and disturbances of body-chemistry which result, it is clear that the projected populations cannot be fed.  In mid-1967 President Johnson received reports showing that world-wide famines are inevitable before food production can possibly catch up.  The question, therefore, of regulating the right to reproduce is certain to arise, quite apart from eugenic considerations.


Meanwhile, we have eliminated many of the forces which selected the strong from the weak, and we are coasting on the genetic selection of the past.

It is virtually certain that this total failure to face the biological realities created by our own scientific advances will cause such disaster that there will be a sudden reversal of policy.  And once the right to bear children comes under regulation, the use of those powers to improve the genetic stock rather than to degrade it could follow relatively easily. […] In short, it must be concluded that, sooner or later, genetic regulation will be adopted.


    • Mara on April 17, 2020 at 2:46 pm
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    I am not well versed on the knowledge of eugenics, other than what I’ve read here, so please, correct me if I’m wrong, but is the idea that sex and reproduction can be separated a bad thing?

  1. Hi Mara,

    That question can’t be answered easily. But let me explain to you how the eugenics angle would play into it. Let’s say that you were of the opinion that sex and reproduction were definitely connected, for whatever reasons you might have. The Eugenicist thinks he knows better than you, and instead of trying to argue out of whatever position you are, tries to trick you out of it, or manipulate you out of it, or, if you were stubborn about it, make it so that you were not allowed to have that position legislatively, or would shame you so you wouldn’t express it in public. Would you think THAT is wrong?

    Or, how about this: you have a particular viewpoint… let’s say you think they are more connected than not… and you go about your life with that assumption, but you don’t really feel the need to go around telling people they are wrong. You just mind your own business, go about your life, and so on. In the meantime, the eugenicist knows you have this view, and figures he can’t talk you out of it, so instead of talking with you, he tries to get at your children. He funds curriculum development aimed at 6 year old children and commissions children’s books which he successfully gets into your schools, without you even knowing it.

    By the time your child is 13, even though you have your views and live with your child, the eugenicist has successfully ‘persuaded’ your child that sex and reproduction can, and should, be separated. You have no idea where your child got this idea, but you discover your child does have this idea because you find out your child has been ‘experimenting’ with sex (what’s the harm?) and managed to get raped, get pregnant, got pregnant AND an abortion, without you knowing about either, got super intimate with someone who broke their heart, and in despair and depression overdoses on a drug, intentionally or not.

    Because, whether or not they ‘can’ be separated, there is no question that sexuality is a huge part of the human psyche, and messing with it has undeniably led to great traumas–a fact that a 13 year old doesn’t quite appreciate yet, because, well, s/he is only 13.

    But the eugenicist doesn’t care about all that. The eugenicist is not concerned about individuals, but rather populations. If your child ends up hurt by the eugenicist’s efforts to shape their views without your knowledge or consent, as a parent, do you think that would make you angry? Do you think what the eugenicist did was wrong?

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