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This post was edited by China's_Savior at 2012-4-11 12:52|
The Coming Chinese Superstate:
Richard Lynn’s Eugenics: A Reassessment
Reviewed by Richard Hoste
Eugenics: A Reassessment
Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers 2001
One of the only valid points made by the critics of Bell Curve was that if the science was accepted, then eugenics, which Hernstein and Murray refused to endorse, becomes the rational solution to society’s ills. Steven Pinker, the next major public thinker associated with the hereditarian position, likewise refused to follow his own logic far enough. One scholar who doesn’t flinch is psychologist Richard Lynn. Eugenics is not only right, but we have a duty to increase the frequency of genes for positive traits and reduce the frequency of genes for negative traits. Once you determine that something is a genetic problem it cries out for a genetic solution. Eugenics: A Reassessment looks at the history of eugenics, the ethical case for it and its future. Here Lynn goes beyond his role as a psychologist and gives us his own theory of the coming end of history.
The Rise and Fall of Eugenics
Eugenic ideas existed long before the publications of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man. In The Republic, Plato pictured a society where rulers, soldiers, and workers would be bred on the same principles of the breeding of plants and livestock, about which much must have been known in 380 B.C. Still, it was the discovery of evolution that was the catalyst of these ideas taking off in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Biologist, statistician, and psychologist Sir Francis Galton was the main prophet of eugenics. He spent his life forming organizations, writing, and spreading the word about humanity’s potential for improvement. He carried out the first studies that showed nature to be more important than nurture in determining intelligence and character.
By the early 1900s eugenics was endorsed by practically all biologists and geneticists, politicians such as Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Woodrow Wilson, and Winston Churchill, and thinkers across the political spectrum, including Bertrand Russell, H. L. Mencken, and George Bernard Shaw. Lynn makes the distinction between positive eugenics, encouragement given to society’s best to produce children, and negative eugenics, trying to set limits on the breeding of the inferior. It was the latter that was easier to legislate on.
The first American sterilization law was passed in Indiana in 1907 “to prevent the procreation of confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles, and rapists.” By 1913 similar acts had been passed in 12 states and a further 19 had laws on the books by 1931. The constitutionality of these laws was challenged in court and in 1927 Buck v. Bell went to the supreme court. The case centered around a mentally retarded woman who was born to a mentally retarded mother and gave birth to yet another retard. Her hospital applied to have her sterilized, and Christian groups protested. The court ruled 8-1 in favor of sterilization. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the following in the famous decision.
We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices . . . in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute the degenerate offspring of crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit for continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccinations is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.
Unfortunately, over the twentieth century only about 60,000 American sterilizations would take place, which amounted to less than 0.1 percent of mentally retarded and psychopathic people. Sweden did a little better, sterilizing the same amount, totaling one percent of the entire population. In Japan, 16,520 women met the same fate until their law was repealed in 1996. In Denmark, a third of all retards over a ten year span. Unsurprisingly, the all-time champions of sterilization were the Germans, who sterilized 300,000 people after their sterilization law was passed in 1933.
As Lynn points out, it’s not all that unusual for a scientific theory to be accepted and then rejected. What makes eugenics unique is that it’s a rejected theory that turned out to be true. While the importance of heredity in determining individual and group traits is well-established, by the end of the twentieth century to call something eugenic was to condemn it. The author blames horror at the crimes of Nazi Germany and the increasing value given to individual over social rights. In recent years courts in the US and Britain have said that parents can have retarded women in their care sterilized, ruling against civil liberties organizations who’ve joined with Christian groups in arguing that all people have a right to as many children as they can produce. While these legal decisions aren’t made on eugenic grounds, we should be thankful for the effect.
The arguments against eugenics don’t hold up. First is the claim that we can’t decide what positive and negative traits are. It’s hard to argue with Galton’s original three characteristics of intelligence, health, and character (close enough to conscientiousness in modern psychology) being desirable. Who would argue that disease could be preferable to health or stupidity to genius? It’s a case of moral relativism taken to the extreme.
Lynn looks at other characteristics we may select for but doesn’t find any beyond Galton’s original three. Society needs a wide range of people on the continuum of extraverted/introverted and neurotic/relaxed in a way that it doesn’t need a wide range of propensity to break the law or catch diseases. He also says that beauty provides no social good, and people have different definitions of it. Here is the only place I part ways with the author. Among environmentalists (people who care about the environment, not anti-hereditarians), beauty is seen as a legitimate reason to preserve certain forests and trees that provide no economic good. It’s why we save redwood trees but not swamps. As far as the lack of a universal standard, Peter Frost demolishes that as a PC myth. Even if everyone didn’t agree that blue eyes and white skin were the most beautiful, every race could select based on their own standards.