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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.



"We're All One of Troy's Babies": A Celebration of Troy Dusterby Victoria Massie, Biopolitical Times guest contributorAugust 21st, 2014On Friday, August 15th, I was one among a multitude of people finding a seat in Booth Auditorium in Boalt Hall for the event “Celebrating Troy Duster.”
Troy Duster’s Garden of Plugged-In Scholarship, and How it Grewby Barry BergmanNewsCenterAugust 20th, 2014An overview of the CGS co-sponsored event to honor Troy Duster's landmark works on the racial implications of drug policies and genetic research, role as adviser and friend, and fierce activism.
California Couple Shares Surrogate Story in Wake of Thailand Controversy by Beth GreenfieldYahoo! HealthAugust 19th, 2014When news broke earlier this month about baby Gammy, many were shocked. But not Keston and Andrea Ott-Dahl, a San Francisco couple who had a similar experience right here in America.
California Lawmakers Pass Bill Banning Inmate Sterilizationsby Sharon BernsteinReutersAugust 19th, 2014California lawmakers sent a bill to ban sterilization surgeries on inmates in California prisons to Governor Jerry Brown.
Moving on from Nicholas Wade to Continuing Concerns about Scientific Racismby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesAugust 14th, 2014Over 140 geneticists publicly criticized Nicholas Wade for distorting their work; but that is unlikely to stop such abuse permanently, and many issues still deserve airing.
Will my Disabled Daughter have a Place in this Genetic Wonderland?by Ian BirrellThe GuardianAugust 7th, 2014Until society gets to grips with prejudice we cannot start to grapple with the profound questions that medical advances raise.
North Carolina and Genetics: From Sterilization to Research Subjectsby Victoria Massie, Biopolitical Times guest contributorAugust 7th, 2014In the twentieth century, North Carolina was one of dozens of states that targeted certain citizens for eugenic sterilization. Today, in a town outside Charlotte, biotech researchers are asking for urine and blood samples and offering $10 gift cards to WalMart in exchange.
Lord Winston’s Warningby Gulzaar BarnPractical EthicsAugust 5th, 2014Winston discusses the history and misuse of gene science and eugenics, and points to the potential resurgence of this way of thinking.
California Set to Prohibit Sterilization of Prisonersby Jonathan ChernoguzBiopolitical TimesJuly 24th, 2014With the unanimous approval of Senate Bill 1135 in Sacramento last month, the victims of recent unauthorized sterilizations in California prisons, and their advocates, seem likely to win this important victory.
Eugenic Policies of the Past Teach Sobering Lessonsby Calum MacKellarThe ScotsmanJuly 24th, 2014The support of Scottish thinkers for eugenics is revealed in a new book entitled The Ethics of the New Eugenics.
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