The You in Eugenics

January 6, 2012
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Throughout early and modern history there have been countless political leaders and scientific advances that have aimed to modify the human race. These modifications have been completed through controlling reproduction and the natural selection of genes and parents. This manipulation of future generation is called eugenics. In modern society, the practice of eugenics is unethical because it is discriminatory against certain populations, aims to create a “perfect”, or “superhuman” race and it causes an unnecessary and unnatural population increase. Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin whom coined the term; defined eugenics as “the science of improvement of the human race germ plasm through better breeding”. Although “better breeding” sounds like a positive advancement, it is not up to one human to decide which genes or races are “better”. These statements are discriminatory just like most areas of this unethical strategy for a better species.

Eugenics in the form of racial and genetic hygiene is discriminatory. A more extreme case of racial and genetic hygiene takes place between the years 1933-1945 during World War II when six million Jews and millions of other groups of people were killed by acts of genocide by Nazi Germany. Also, the creation of their euthanasia project called Action T4 was the cause of the deaths of 70,000 “incurably ill” people such as the mentally or physically disabled. They believed that this extermination of their own citizens would ameliorate the human race because there would be no Jews, homosexuals, mentally handicapped, or other unwanted people to contaminate the gene pool. Going back to Galton’s definition of eugenics, the Nazi party believed that some groups of people were better than others and it was their role to improve the race. They would exterminate all (in their own words) “life unworthy of life”. Thankfully, these thoughtless murders seeking to “purify” the human race are now considered one of the lowest points in the history of society. Unfortunately, there are still many cultures that are indirectly following in Hitler’s devastating footsteps. In modern times, many societies have laws that prevent the mentally and physically disabled from reproducing. These laws make it legal for the countries’ governments to force sterilization on people who have unwanted diseases or handicaps. Such laws are present in Cyprus, China, Japan, Israel and even the United States where, in some states, couples must undergo a blood test before getting married in order to reduce the spread of hereditary disease. These laws are unethical and are a violation of basic human rights. Article 16 of the United Nation’s Declaration of Human rights states that “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution”. By putting restrictions on whom can bear children with whom, these governments are not abiding by article 16. Furthering the restrictions of marriage, some countries – most notably Korea – do not approve of their citizens marrying outside of their race. Their goal is to protect the purity of the Korean race and to prevent the “melting pot effect”. This is discriminatory against other races because it says that the Korean race is superior to others. If history provides a good lesson of what to do in the future, eugenics in the form of racial and genetic hygiene should not be practiced any further.

Today’s much celebrated unnatural reproduction is unethical and causes and unnatural population increase. In our North American society, many women without the ability to naturally conceive children or do not have a partner to conceive with will opt for an artificial pregnancy through artificial insemination. With these scientific advances, women can choose the father of their future child based on his genetic makeup. According to Cynthia R. Daniels and Janet Golden of the scientific journal Popular Eugenics, “consumers can peruse donor catalogues listing the race, ethnicity, height, weight, hair color, hair texture, skin tone, facial structure, IQ, hobbies, talents, and interests of the men whose sperm is for sale”. There are even certain resources called “high IQ sperm banks” that will only take sperm donations from men with an IQ over a certain point. A popular trend among women is to pick their children’s traits based on society’s idea of beauty and intelligence – for example, a tall Caucasian child with blond hair, blue eyes, tanned skin and a high IQ. This ridiculous but very real concept is called “designer babies”. The whole concept of choosing the traits of future generations is unethical because it readily gives in to the society’s ideals of a perfect human species sans flaws and may eventually lead to a species of identical beings without differing characteristics. Not only is artificial fertilization unethical, but it also creates a dangerous, unnecessary and unnatural population growth which is already leading to the downfall of the earth as we know it. In the United Kingdom alone there were 41, 932 individuals who conceived via artificial insemination in 2004. Those numbers were up 6% from the year before and have only increased dramatically since then. In 2004, 24% of the births in the UK were twins or triplets. All these children who were unnaturally conceived contribute to the growing population. Also, thanks to eugenics, these children will probably be healthy and able to have children themselves, which increases the population even further. Also, these treatments are generally used by wealthier individuals, who tend to contribute more to environmental problems like climate change through increases in carbon dioxide. If the inability to conceive children is considered natural selection and a natural way to keep population down, these scientific advances ignore nature’s intentions and make an even bigger problem for the environment. Although nature generally does its job right, things can go wrong and people can develop diseases. This could be considered another natural way of population control but eugenics has found a way around that. Artificial insemination done to create resources for existing human beings is unethical and unfair to the produced child. Now, parents of children with certain diseases can create another child with the same genes as the existing one in order to harvest body parts for the sick child. It is completely against all human rights to force a human being to go through medical operations for another human being, especially if they were brought into the world to do just that. According to the University of Maryland’s Medical Center, an individual must be over the age of eighteen to donate an organ. This should not change and it should be one’s choice to go through these medical procedures. It should not be forced and should not be considered to bear a child in order to save another. This, along with every other aspect of unnatural reproduction is unnecessary, unethical and dangerous.

Scientific advances aimed at creating a “superhuman” race are dangerous to both the species and the environment. With science attempting to identity the “perfect” human genome, in the future this could lead to modifying each new child that is conceived in order to perfect the species. The Human Genome Project is aiming to be able to assess the genetic makeup of future children before they are conceived and/or born in order to manipulate what diseases and traits would be passed down. Although it is an interesting concept, it is also very dangerous new ground. With the ability to prevent diseases from appearing, one would predict that every new parent would want their child to be as healthy as possible. If every new child conceived was rid of their predicted hereditary diseases, it could increase the life span of the average individual. It would also increase the rate of reproduction, since most people would be healthy and fertile. Population would increase dramatically which would again lead to climate change, which would lead to more natural disasters and a loss of resources due to a larger demand. Another issue present is also a new form of eugenics called “gene doping”. This involved adding certain chemicals and growth factors into genes in order to enhance physical and mental capabilities. Although not yet experimented on in humans, it has been experimented on in mice. The mice’s genes were injected with insulin-based growth factors and ended up developing enlarged muscles and a heightened ability to run. This could be devastating not only to the sports world where athletes could be genetically modified to perform better, but also to everyday people who would be subject to gene doping if their parents would so choose. Since these resources would most likely be only available in wealthier countries, there could be an eventual division between the faster, stronger, more attractive, healthier and smarter humans and the normal, natural humans. Even new diseases could be created because of the new capabilities of the first group that could wipe out the latter group because of their weaker immune systems. These scientific advances are dangerous not only humans but also the earth we live on.

Eugenics is dangerous to both the human species and the natural earth. In the form of unnatural reproduction, it is unethical and creates an unnecessary population increase. In history it has proved to be discriminatory and in violation of human rights. If government continues to go forth with these studies and laws, human civilization could find itself amidst a very Brave New World-esque society where humans are bred specifically for certain societal classes and talks. There must be a line drawn somewhere in the science labs and the government offices or else there will be very serious consequences for the climate, general health and peace of mind of all human beings.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

BethKanellAuthor said...
May 23, 2012 at 11:39 am
Great approach to the flaws in eugenics! Same reasoning that pulled me into writing my 2008 YA novel on this ... we have to speak up for justice.
APLangHiGuy replied...
Mar. 18, 2015 at 4:17 pm
Nah, ya' know that even with the points made they are points made that are countered. In fact the point with all these perfect children and the portion with the latter population being killed due to their weak immune systems. Also resources won't be dragged to a low, due to the fact that a lot less medicine and time used to care for those would be used.
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