Monday, August 15, 2011

The Insanity of Eugenics is Still With Us

As a fan of Star Trek I am familiar with the whole "Eugenics War" concept.  The idea was that mankind began trying to breed a superior race of humans by selective breeding. If the idea sounds familiar, it might be because the Nazis tried it with the whole "Master Race" thing, but what a lot of people don't realize is that Eugenics is not a foreign concept.

Back in 1898 there was a world's exposition held in Omaha, Nebraska of all places.  The Trans-Mississippi Exposition was a grand affair that featured exhibits from around the country and across the globe.  Much of the entertainment was provided by ethnic exhibits of strange peoples from far off lands, however one of the exhibits featured the idea of "better families" for a better future.  The exhibit showed how superior breeding could result in superior human beings.  The term Eugenics had yet to be coined.

Several scientists were working on the idea of selective breeding of human beings around the turn of the 19th century.  The idea caught on and states began enacting Eugenics Laws which prohibited anyone who was "epileptic, imbecile or feeble-minded" from marrying or in some cases undergo forced sterilization.

Sadly these grotesque laws stayed on the books well into the 20th century in some states.  Not surprisingly, much of their implementation was racially motivated.

Case in point, Elaine Riddick of North Carolina who had an unplanned pregnancy at 13 and after delivering the baby was forcibly sterilized on the ruling of the Eugenics Board of the State of North Carolina in 1968.  Today she is fighting for compensation for this inhuman act.  She was deemed "feeble minded" and given no choice in the operation. 

So the next time you hear the word "eugenics" or see some story about the inhumanity of the Nazis and their selective breeding, pause for a moment to remember that they were not acting alone, and that our country participated in that same kind of "human experimentation".  Seeking to create a master race, whether by decree of some megalomaniac dictator or by scientists is equally misguided.  Natural selection as far as human beings are concerned has worked very well for thousands of years, and tinkering with it has been shown to produce some pretty bad results.

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