Both eugenics and social Darwinism had their moments in their sun, the optimistic goal of progressive techno-elites 100 years ago who wanted to use science to make the world a better place.
Sounds terrific, right? Isn't that what vaccines and genetically modified food do also?
Indeed, but vaccines and GMOs are for all people and not against some, the way eugenics was. The experience of eugenics may be why so many progressives, the group that embraced and mandated and enforced it as social policy, are so anti-science today; they don't trust science or themselves when science is under their control.
Yet not all progressives are conservative about the benefits of the scary, modern world. Some are exorcising the demons of their tortured science past and say that greater understanding of genetics today can not only lead to better understanding of existing disease, it can perhaps keep people with disease from ever being born. That's eugenics - well, sort of. Forced abortion and sterilization, as advocated by progressive legends H.G. Wells, John Maynard Keynes and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, is not the same as genetically optimizing a sperm and egg before it is a baby.
Ethicists, who are basically the cultural postmodernists of today and exist to write claims debunking any accepted position, take choice even farther and claim 'designer babies' are a moral obligation for parents. They say such children will even grow up to be more ethical people knowing they were genetically optimized. And if choosing to have a baby at all falls under parental (well, mother anyway - fathers are not protected under laws) choice, why is choosing the gender of the baby considered taboo? All people will feel better about their gender if they know it was the best solution for society's current need.
It sounds creepy when ethicists discuss anything (see their take on abortion after babies are born) but the rationale eugenics starts with is always reasonable; if we can screen out debilitating diseases, why not do it? In the past, those theoretical aspects fell apart in real-world testing and even today, like then, a new cycle comes around and people forget that society is a poor laboratory and instead assume we are much smarter than people of the past when it comes to culture. Eugenics is already here, really, we just frame it in a nicer way. So we need to be thinking about it in a new light.
When 'choice' becomes more than whether or not to have a child, it is inevitable that the choice will be to screen out gender or even personality traits. What concerned parent can resist that trend when it is allowed? The parent not doing it becomes the irresponsible one, they are dooming their children to mediocrity. If, as some claim, genetic traits hardwire personality ones, wouldn't a conscientious progressive make sure their child was genetically progressive too? They owe it to society.
"Where genetic selection aims to bring out a trait that clearly benefits an individual and society, we should allow parents the choice. To do otherwise is to consign those who come after us to the ball and chain of our squeamishness and irrationality," Oxford ethicist professor Julian Savulescu told Richard Alleyne at The Telegraph.
If you could genetically choose to give birth to a world-famous pianist and a world-class martial artist, would you do it? How about one Democrat and one Republican? Credit: Shutterstock.com
Eugenics is coming, the public relations efforts will just give it a nicer name. As genetic testing becomes cheaper, interested mates will begin to request genetic information about each other, like HIV or any other tests now. They will make informed choices about each other and their offspring and then genetically modify kids to fit also.
But that is the future. Until then we are stuck with a much messier interim solution. I would rather have society focused on curing diseases than aborting fetuses until the right genetic match comes up, but I am clearly old and was not genetically optimized so I lack the inborn ethical compass the future holds for 21st century children.
Eugenics: Is Genetically Engineering Babies A Moral Obligation?