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About Eugenics & Human Biotechnology


Eugenics entails using science and/or breeding techniques to produce individuals with preferred or "better" characteristics.

In the early twentieth century, eugenic ideologies and practices drew on genetic theories of the day in efforts to control human reproduction. This provided scientific cover for policy decisions about who should and shouldn't reproduce—decisions largely informed by discriminatory attitudes toward marginalized groups. In the United States, a widespread eugenics movement led to the forced sterilization of tens of thousands of people considered "unfit," to stringent immigration restrictions on undesired populations, and to public policies that encouraged "fitter families" to produce more children.

Eugenic ideas and rhetoric pioneered in the United States were taken up by the Nazis, who used them to justify their extermination of Jews, people with disabilities, and other groups. The Nazi genocides led to an almost complete rejection of eugenic ideas immediately after World War II.

In recent years, a small but disturbing number of scientists, scholars, and others have begun calling for "reconsideration." Some urge the development of inheritable genetic modification (changing the genes passed on to children) and the expanded use of selection technologies such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. Some support these technologies as a way to "seize control of human evolution." Others see them as an efficient, rapid means to produce "enhanced" children.

There are still some traditional eugenicists who focus on purported racial and group differences in intelligence and behavior. But many transhumanists and other eugenicists seek to differentiate their high-tech visions from earlier programs. They say that they reject the racism and government coercion that characterized various twentieth century eugenicists, and argue that market dynamics and individual choice will drive twenty-first century eugenics.



Banning Abortion for Down Syndrome: Legal or Ethical Justification? by Bonnie SteinbockHastings Center Bioethics ForumAugust 26th, 2015Instead of passing an unenforceable and unconstitutional law, Ohio should devote its time to ensuring that all people with disabilities, Down syndrome or otherwise, get the resources and services they need.
Court: $50M verdict in Seattle-area ‘wrongful birth’ doesn't shock the conscienceby Levi PulkkinenSeattlePIAugust 26th, 2015Washington three-judge panel affirms multi-million jury award to couple who sued their fertility clinic for failing to effectively screen for their new child's chromosomal abnormality.
The Colonial Origins of Conservation: The Disturbing History Behind US National Parksby Stephen CorryTruthoutAugust 25th, 2015Environmental conservation that excludes tribal peoples has deep connections with historical eugenics.
Ohio Bill Would Ban Abortion if Down Syndrome Is Reasonby Tamar LewinThe New York TimesAugust 22nd, 2015Abortion opponents are pushing Ohio to make it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion if a woman is terminating her pregnancy to avoid having a baby with Down syndrome.
Fertility Clinics Let You Select Your Baby’s Sexby Sumathi ReddyThe Wall Street Journal"Family balancing," in other words sex selection of embryos, is permitted by US' lack of regulation. Professional organizations are split on their opinions of the practice.
It's Time for an Uncomfortable Discussion about What it Really Means to Engineer a 'Better Baby'[Australia] by Kevin LoriaBusiness Insider [Australia]August 13th, 2015“Humans have more flaws than we know what to do with ... One of them is that we don’t know what it would mean to make a better baby.”
Putting Ourselves in Harm's Way: Thoughts on Pinker and the Role of Bioethicsby Nathaniel Comfort, Biopolitical Times guest contributorAugust 12th, 2015Nathaniel Comfort confronts Steven Pinker and the legacy of biomedicine, arguing ethicists and historians need to "get in harm's way to spare harm to others."
Forgotten Stories of the Eugenic Age #3: Divorce, “Crying Off,” and the Perils of Eugenic Perfectionby Natalie OveyssiBiopolitical TimesAugust 12th, 2015The surprising role of historical eugenics in divorces and breach of promise cases reveal the harms of "perfection."
Price and Prejudice: How Ads for Egg Donation are Starting to Sound like Matrimonials[India]by Ipsita ChakravartyScroll.inAugust 2nd, 2015Should people be allowed to cherry-pick egg donors in a bid to produce babies with specific traits?
Slipping Into Eugenics? Nathaniel Comfort on the History Behind CRISPRby Elliot HosmanBiopolitical TimesJuly 23rd, 2015A historian unravels the social and political context of genetic research and eugenics in the United States.
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