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Eugenics - Science Gone Bad

Why It Still Matters for You


History

Eugenics is a group of theories and applications to improve a human population by improving their genetics through various techniques certain groups. This purported improvement of a particular group often was at the expense of other groups determined to be inferior.


Modern eugenics began in the early 20th century when it became popular in most developed countries with the espoused purpose of improving their populations. Governmental and other societal programs promoted reproduction of individuals determined as fit to reproduce along with marriage prohibitions and forced sterilization of people designated as unfit for reproduction (people with mental or physical disabilities, low IQ test results, criminals, and members of certain minority groups). Eugenics were used by the Nazis as justification for their genocidal atrocities.


Eugenics had broad support among the political, scientific and academic communities (although a few individuals were outspoken opponents). Even popular culture accepted eugenics as evidenced for example by the 1917 movie “The Black Stork” which grossly misrepresented reproductive related genetics to support a non-scientific opinion of reproduction.


Issues

Genetics related policies are susceptible to abuse by whichever group (or even all groups) is in political power at the time. In additional to being a violation of reasonable human self-determination, eugenic policies can result in loss of genetic diversity, and the practicality of eliminating genetic traits is very limited.


As the abuses became apparent, eugenics lost support over the second half of the 20thcentury. Subsequent reproductive assistance and direct gene editing techniques, however, have created concerns about genetic related abuses once again.


Very little regulation of human genetic modification exists in any country (except for bans on human cloning in several dozen countries). As genetic modification techniques advance, we all should stay aware of the situation and determine the reasonable use of those techniques.


Individual self-determination should be the main principle with state mandated limitations minimized to avoid political abuse. Some regulation, however, is needed to help avoid misuse by individuals and by the state.


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