Eugenics: Then and Now

A Brief History

The term Eugenics was first used by Francis Galton in 1883 to denote the study of socially controllable elements that can improve or impair, physically or mentally, the racial qualities of future generations.

In a novel written by Galton, he described an island governed by a eugenic council whose goal was to enhance the biological quality of the inhabitants. To be admitted to the island, immigrants had to pass a test. The results of the test determined the number of children they were allowed to have. Authority was in the hands of members of the university. The guiding principles of Galton’s utopia were individual biological quality and scientific power.

Galton also created biometrics in the 1870′s to track racial traits and genetic histories in order to issue a license to breed.

Much of the focus was on the “good of society”. Eugenicists advocated a society where, in order to maintain the best social order, individual choice needed to be completely eliminated. In Britain, starting around 1907 and reaching full practice from the 1930s to the 1950s, social workers were required to act as enforcers for the eugenics movement. They had the power to decide who would keep their children, who would be sterilized, and who would be killed. Similar laws went into effect here in the U.S.

As Eugenics began to develop, the general public became aware of what it was and what it intended. Those ideas were abhorrent to most, and eugenics lost favor. But not among its proponents. They fell back and changed their strategy, evoking the Fabian Societies: “a slow and progressive tactic”, instead of direct effort. They changed the names.

We know this occurred because it is in their writings.

They realized a failing in their initial approach: You can’t just tell whole populations of women that you intend to sterilize them so they can’t reproduce. They began to employ the newly developed propaganda techniques pioneered by Edward Bernays (more on him in a later article) to convince the public that what they were doing was in the best interests of society, and create personal choices and desires where these options would seem appealing.

Here is where it gets complicated. Because they now wrapped their message in flowery language with good sounding intentions, it became much more acceptable to the public, and far more difficult to discern its true intent.

Therefore, I suggest that we focus our efforts at looking at results rather than just the words. For example: it doesn’t matter whether you push someone off a cliff or trick them into jumping, the end result is the same.

To begin this series, I want to introduce part of the vision of eugenics, and show how it is being implemented today.

Eugenics Enters Popular Literature

For many, the writing style of 100 years ago is complex and difficult to follow. I ask that you endure this, and read this passage from chapter 1 of “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. The reason will become clear shortly.

“And this,” said the Director opening the door, “is the Fertilizing Room.”

Bent over their instruments, three hundred Fertilizers were plunged, as the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning entered the room, in the scarcely breathing silence, the absent-minded, soliloquizing hum or whistle, of absorbed concentration. A troop of newly arrived students, very young, pink and callow, followed nervously, rather abjectly, at the Director’s heels. Each of them carried a notebook, in which, whenever the great man spoke, he desperately scribbled. Straight from the horse’s mouth. It was a rare privilege. The D. H. C. for Central London always made a point of personally conducting his new students round the various departments.

“I shall begin at the beginning,” said the D.H.C. and the more zealous students recorded his intention in their notebooks: Begin at the beginning . “These,” he waved his hand, “are the incubators.” And opening an insulated door he showed them racks upon racks of numbered test-tubes. “The week’s supply of ova.

Still leaning against the incubators he gave them, while the pencils scurried illegibly across the pages, a brief description of the modern fertilizing process; spoke first, of course, of its surgical introduction – “the operation undergone voluntarily for the good of Society, not to mention the fact that it carries a bonus amounting to six months’ salary”; continued with some account of the technique for preserving the excised ovary alive and actively developing; …how the eggs which it contained were inspected for abnormalities, counted and transferred …how the fertilized ova went back to the incubators; where the [sorted and classified embryos] were brought out again, …to undergo Bokanovsky’s Process.

“Bokanovsky’s Process,” repeated the Director, and the students underlined the words in their little notebooks.

One egg, one embryo, one adult-normality. But a bokanovskified egg will bud, will proliferate, will divide. From eight to ninety-six buds, and every bud will grow into a perfectly formed embryo, and every embryo into a full-sized adult. Making ninety-six human beings grow where only one grew before.

Progress.

…Identical twins–but not in piddling twos and threes as in the old viviparous days, when an egg would sometimes accidentally divide; actually by dozens, by scores at a time.

“Scores,” the Director repeated and flung out his arms, as though he were distributing largesse. “Scores.”

But one of the students was fool enough to ask where the advantage lay.

“My good boy!” The Director wheeled sharply round on him. “Can’t you see? Can’t you see?” He raised a hand; his expression was solemn. “Bokanovsky’s Process is one of the major instruments of social stability!”

Major instruments of social stability.

Standard men and women; in uniform batches. The whole of a small factory staffed with the products of a single bokanovskified egg.

“Ninety-six identical twins working ninety-six identical machines!” The voice was almost tremulous with enthusiasm. “You really know where you are. For the first time in history.” He quoted the planetary motto. “Community, Identity, Stability.” Grand words. “If we could bokanovskify indefinitely the whole problem would be solved.”

…Millions of identical twins. The principle of mass production at last applied to biology.

 

Where is the connection? The author Aldous Huxley was the cousin of Francis Galton. This will be one of the other means we use for discerning the intent behind the actions – when we find the same people, and close connections to those people appearing in many venues, we can safely assume their purpose is consistent.

From both Galton’ s and Huxley’s writings, you get a clear sense that their vision for eugenics has little, if anything to do with the women’s reproductive freedom, and everything to do with control.

Fast Forward 100 Years

artificial wombs-1550x309In a recent post here in Holy Hormones Journal “Is pregnancy unethical? Yes, says UK bioethicist” , Bioethicist Dr. Anna Smajdor argues that “Pregnancy and childbirth are so painful, risky and socially restrictive for women that public funding should urgently be directed to the development of artificial wombs” and that “…we acknowledge that our social values and level of medical expertise are no longer compatible with ‘natural’ reproduction”.

This bears an eerie similarity to the eugenics utopia penned by Aldous Huxley.

Notice, too, the wording used to justify this plan of action:

“painful, risky and socially restrictive for women”;

the “only way to achieve true equality between men and women”;

our “view [of] women as baby carriers who must subjugate their other interests”;

our “social values and level of medical expertise”;

“Changes to financial and social structures may improve”;

“Pregnancy is barbaric”.

Who could possibly argue with such noble sounding justifications?

Dr. Smajdor, who, coincidentally works near the birth place of Francis Galton and Aldous Huxley, then asks,  “…if you did not know whether you would be a man or a woman, would you prefer to be born into Society A, in which women bear all the burdens and risks of pregnancy, or Society B, in which ectogenesis (artificial gestation) has been perfected.”

I promised to at the beginning of this series to show the people and connections from the beginning of the eugenics movement  to present day. Here is our first tenuous thread to follow:

Francis Galton (first used the term eugenics) ==> Aldous Huxley (cousin of Galton) ==> authored “Brave New World” (advocated ectogenesis) ==> Dr. Anna Smajdor (attempting to implement ectogenesis)

For those who would argue that this is hardly a convincing or conclusive connection, I would heartily agree, and if this were the balance of the evidence, I would not waste your time. But this is a huge issue, and pervades almost every part of our society. To bring clarity and understanding, we must take it a little at a time, showing the connections and fitting the pieces together.

In the end, however, it is up to you to decide. I can only show the trail I have pursued these past few years. You are free to dispute the evidence, doubt the connections, and argue with my conclusions. I only ask that first you ask yourself, “what would be the significance, if these things were true?”

In my next article, I will review how the Nazis implemented their version of this vision, as well as why they felt it critical to their goal of world domination and control.

PG

Author: Nick Batik (the Cowboy Buddhist)

I was raised a Quaker and later converted to Buddhism around the time I met His Holiness The Dalai Lama in 1981. Along with my parents and family, I have been active in civil rights and women's rights since the 1960s. I am the product of strong women – two grandmothers who owned and ran businesses in an era when women did not own or run businesses. One of whom who was a crippled, non-english speaking immigrant, in a time and place where women couldn’t vote or own property, immigrants were feared and hated, and there were no laws, protections, or support of any kind for the handicapped. Yet, despite all this, she built a business that was franchised on three continents. I have a sister who is a medical doctor, and one who worked the North Sea oil rigs. I have traveled the world, and currently live in Texas.