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Is eugenics worth redeeming, or is it simply too dangerous an idea to pursue?

Many would agree that the core idea of eugenics, to improve the overall distribution of traits in the human population, is a reasonable one. The advancement of genetic screening and engineering makes this goal achievable in new ways beyond the 'selective breeding' proposed by its early advocates. (This is perhaps a path which leads toward the 'transhuman,' but that is a separate question already asked on this site.)

At the same time, it is difficult to separate the concept itself from the atrocities committed in its name: first and foremost those of the Nazis, but also the campaigns of forced sterilization carried out in many liberal democracies. It is, generally, difficult to distinguish eugenics proper from the many racist doctrines associated with the term. Can we make this separation and redeem the concept to some extent? Or should we just leave the idea alone?

Francis Galton, the social scientist who coined the term, was careful to advocate only 'positive' eugenics - the voluntary encouragement of breeding between the 'best' specimens - and not 'negative' eugenics - the forcible sterilization or murder of those taken to be the 'worst.' (Nevertheless, like most Victorians, he remained something of a bigot.) Might positive eugenics be a way to foster the improvement of the species in accordance with the ideals of liberal democracy? Are there other ways we might imagine pursuing eugenic aims without their racially-charged baggage? Or is the very idea something that leads us down a slippery slope?
tynamite's avatar

2012 answer

This is a hard question because when eugenics was practised before, it was designed to decrease the population, as white people wanted to eradicate black people to preserve the sanctity of the human race. Whereas eugenics before was used to kill "scum", the new eugenics, would be used to allow parents to choose the gender of their children and other characteristics.

If eugenics was practised today, it would be instead used to increase the population. Nobody would use it as a way of depriving lesser races, and it would be used solely to increase the production of a certain race.

A good example of how virtual eugenics is happening today, if you want to look at it like that, is how healthcare is less accessible to the poor, and is more accessible to the people who aren't rich. This in turn increases the population of the people who aren't poor, and lets them live longer lives. When in some countries when certain types of people can't get jobs, you could say that is virtual eugenics, and would be the increased outcome if eugenics was practised today.

For that reason, eugenics wouldn't be as much of a problem now if it was practised, than when it was 100 years ago. The reason for that is because it wouldn't be used to people's detriment. It would instead cause or increase a rich and poor style divide, where some people can get to grammar schools because they are a certain race/distance from the school/price, and the rest of the people that can't.

It wouldn't be used for libertarian incentives, only ones to maximise self interests, without inflicting on others. But the gap created would indirectly inflict on others. In some countries it wouldn't be a big deal, and in others it would be, as some countries have a light skin and dark skin divide for people of the same race.

2019 answer

I believe in eugenics. I believe that poor people who can't afford to raise kids shouldn't have children, and I believe that severely aborted foetuses should be aborted at the ultrasound scan, so that no baby is born with no quality of life.
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