ETHICS The New Eugenics Movement Essay Research

ETHICS: The New Eugenics Movement Essay, Research Paper

Because of the new wave of genetic technology there has been a strengthening in the

eugenics movement. Although the ideals still generally remain the same, they have

morphed into a new movement that seems more convincing for many people who

live in this new century. Terms such as ?positive? and ?negative? eugenics are used to

try to differenciate between old and new ideas, but it seems that the bottom line still

remains the same and that raises many ethical questions. Things like prenatal

screening and genetic engeneering are strengthening and making eugenics a strong

force in the new millenium. So we must ask ourselves, what is it that makes someone

superior? Is it strength, intelligence, work ethic, good looks? What makes one life

more worth living?

When many people hear the word ?eugenics? they often think back to the

holocaust as the main example, but sadly enough, eugenics is something that has

been more widely practised and becoming more and more embedded in our society.

Even going as far back as Ancient Greece, it was decided when a child was only a

week old if they could be a good warrior. If the inspector felt that the infant was not

worthy, then he was left at the side of a mountain to be fed to the wild animals. More

recently, during the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of poor black women were

coercively sterilized by means of governmentally funded programs. Women were

threatened with termination of welfare or denial of medical services if they did not

?consent? to the procedures. So it was no surprise that when the birth control pill

was introduced to black women in the 1960s that it was seen as a form of racial

cleansing. Many claim that so many black women were sterilized without consent

and for no medical reason that it was called the Mississippi appendectomy. Teaching

hospitals in the northern American states also performed unnecessary

hysterectomies on poor black women as practise for their medical residents. This

practise was believed to have started on the basis that there were many black women

on government support and this would save the country a lot of money.

The use of prenatal testing is argued to be a form of eugenics in itself. If a

mother is aware that her child will have down?s syndrome when it is born then they

have the option of aborting that child so it will not have to live a painful, short life.

You could say that this is not being unfair and it is the ethical thing to do, but what if

you are only relying on a probability? If a mother finds out that her child has a

twenty-five per cent chance of her child having down?s syndrome, then is it ethical

for her to abort the fetus on that chance? Many would still say yes. How far can you

go? Is there a cut-off line? The fact is that the line will not just be drawn at down?s

syndrome, it could be any physical abnormality. And it could be less than twenty-five

per cent, it could be ten, or merely five. Bob Edwards, the scientist who created

Britain?s first test-tube baby states that, ?soon it will be a sin of parents to have a

child that carries the heavy burden of genetic disease?. He believes that with current

and growing technology, that people should use prenatal screening and fertility

treatment as a tool for ?social engineering?. And maybe they should, but the problem

with this is that the choice will soon be eliminated. It will be considered a ?sin? to

literally let nature take it?s course and even the refusal of prenatal screening can be

seen as unethical.

It might be easier to decide when talking about genetic diseases, but when you

have the technology of genetic engineering, what is stopping you from changing

merely natural features of a child. Many people find moles and freckles to be quite

the blemish to appearance and seeing that apperance is held very highly in our

society, it is not hard to believe that if parents had the choice to change ?unwanted?

physical attributes, they would. It is also not hard to imagine that if they would go

that far, then why wouldn?t they choose sexual preference or even gender or musical

talent or athletic ability. And according to the organization Future Generations2,

there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking evolution into our own hands. Their

main argument is that human intelligence is hereditary and that a high intelligence

quotient is the main factor in deciding who is superior than others. They also state

that intelligence is what progresses a society, but people with higher IQs have less

children, therefore, society is gradually deteriorating. They also claim that people

from ?inferior? or so-called ?less-intelligent? countries continue to immigrate to

countries like Canada and America, the so-called ?superior? countries because we

are more civilized and civilization is based soley on intelligence.

This organization has many ungrounded claims and theories that sometimes if

compared, comtraidct themselves and many of their arguments have little or no

evidence to support them. There is still not much proof that states that human

intelligence is inherited and above that, they are basing intelligence on IQ testing.

Many people would argue that IQ testing is not accurate because it is not universal,

and that many tests are biased. It is also proven according to IQ testing that a

person?s intelligence level can actually increase and that proves in itself that the

tests are illigitimate. To base whether or not someone should be sterilized according

to IQ tests is definately quite dangerous. Also, claiming that intelligence is the only

thing that progresses society is quite a statement. First you have to ask, what type of

intelligence? Is it conventional thinking, work ethic, linear or lateral thinking? It is

difficult to say that a civilization can be built just by relying on a room full of

thinkers. It takes a variety of skills and strengths as well as weaknesses to build a

strong society, because it is not only progress from good ideas, but progress from

bad ideas so as to learn from fault. Future Generations also claim that people with

?lower IQs? (or in translation: in poor countries) are having more children than rich

countries (or people with ?higher IQs?). This statement is unjustified for several

reasons. First, it is incorrect to say that people who have more money are more

intelligent because it is obvious that this is untrue. Also, it is not because they are

?stupider? that they are having more children, it is because of the needs of that

society. Having one more child in Ethiopia could mean the survival of it?s whole

family because of the increase in income. Also, to say that those countries are less

civilized is also false and in many cases, it is because of our so-called civilized

countries that theirs are in shambles.

So who should be sterilized? That is the question that comes to mind when

thinking about the major players in the eugenics movement. Future Generations, as I

stated before, soley bases this on intelligence, but to them only the white, rich and

unblemished are intelligent. Marian Van Court, the founder of this organization,

attempted to justify the sterilization of Swedish women from the 1930s to the

1970s. They claimed that for many reasons, this practise was justified and not only

in the interests of the human gene pool but in the interests of the women. Not only

does she state that Sweden is a more civilized society due to this practise she uses

their success and reputation as a progressive society to support her argument. Court

states that it was in the interest of the women because if they were raped in their

mental hospitals, they would have their babies taken away. Court also goes on to say

that pregnancy and child birth in itself is a burden that should be lifted from women

and that they would benefit from not ?being so fat?.

One of the mental illnesses she speaks about is Schizophrenia. To sterilize

someone on the grounds that they have an illness such as Schizophrenia or Sz is

unjustifiable. Not only is Sz treatable, it is still only a theory that it is a genetic

illness and even so, the chances of the child getting the disease from the mother is

very slim. Also, if it is the problem of rape, then why should a woman have her right

to bear children taken away from her based on the fact that someone is going to rape

and impregnate her. That is a problem in itself that deserves its own solution without

comprimising the rights of the victim. That just makes sense.

Another leader in the eugenics movement is Conscious Evolution3. They are

raising the idea of positive and negative eugenics. Positive eugenics is the idea that

people with the most desirable traits will form their own society and breed within

their own group. This is a way that they feel they can filter out the gene pool and not

cause harm to those with undesirable traits. The term negative eugenics is applied to

sterilization of people who have undesirable traits. This in a way sounds more

humane than other beliefs, but it still follows the main ideals and the fact is, in our

world, the amount of perfect people is so small that in effect, their gene pool would

become polluted with their own genetic disorders and imbreeding. Whether or not

you would be sterilizing the ?inferior? people, is it still not detremental to separate

into two societies, one that would be basically waiting to die out? The fact is that

eugenics is always negative. When you are putting a value on human life, you always

have someone on the other end that would be considered a waste. According to these

organizations, they are a waste of welfare, social programs, housing, food, space,

police and they over populate and consume what could be used for the more


The main question is, who is more worthy? It is not who is more beneficial to

society, it is who does not fit the status quo. It sounds rediculous to say that this is

based on looks or athletics or even eye colour, but is it really going that far? It is

based on skin colour, so why is it so hard to believe that people will not be sterilized

for simply having only four toes or even brown hair. Many of the followers in the

movement get attracted to the simplicity of the answers to such difficult questions.

Instead of questioning the faults of society which are deeply complex and difficult to

weave through, they look towards a scapegoat that stands in the way of their Utopia

and although the prospect of eliminating genetic illnesses is quite a tempting one,

the truth is that not only will the line between desireable and undesireable traits

extend further and further and further as time passes, the choice to let nature take it?s

course will be eliminated and it will soon be unethical to even refuse prenatal


Although many of the organizations cringe when you compare their ideals to

Hitler, the truth is that the parallels are still there the only difference is that todays

technology gives even more promise to the movement. Although things like prenatal

screening and genetic engineering and even birth control are not seen as tools of

eugenics, they very well could be. This question has been brought up before, but

deserves reiteration: what would happen if Hitler got his hands on today?s genetic

technology? The thought alone can scare anyone into seeing that this practise can

have unimaginable, detrimental effects.

In closing, the question of undesirable traits should still be addressed. My mother

told me a story about a man who each day carried water from the river back to his

house. He carried two pots, one in good shape but the other had a crack in its middle

so by the time that he got back to the house, the cracked pot was only half full. The

cracked pot felt sad that he made the man do more work and he couldn?t make him as

happy as the full pot, so on the way back from the river one day, the man pointed out

a row of beautiful flowers to the cracked pot to cheer him up. The pot thought that

the flowers were beautiful but he was still sad. The slave told the pot that he planted

those flowers and every time he came back from the river, the water that leaked from

the pot nourished the flowers and allowed them to grow where they wouldn?t have

been able to before. The man was able to pick the flowers to bring more beauty and

happiness to his house.


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