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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.

7 Highlights from Nuffield Council’s Review on the Ethics of Genome Editingby Jessica Cussins, Biopolitical Times guest contributorOctober 18th, 2016A recent UK report discusses social and political implications of genetically engineering human reproduction and other controversial CRISPR applications.
The Misleading Promise of I.V.F. for Women Over 40by Jane E. BrodyNew York TimesOctober 17th, 2016Miriam Zoll pushes back on the optimistic picture that the fertility industry paints for consumers that masks over 20 million failed IVF cycles.
Three-person baby 'race' dangerous[citing CGS' Marcy Darnovsky]by James GallagherBBCOctober 12th, 2016Scientists and ethicists warn of fertility doctors forum-shopping to perform dangerous mitochondrial manipulation experiments.
Designer and Discarded Genomesby Ruha Benjamine-flux ArchitectureOctober 12th, 2016Field notes from a Harvard meeting on a "synthetic human genome" moonshot reveal the anti-democratic foundations of HGP-Write.
White Nonsense: Alt-right trolls are arguing over genetic tests they think “prove” their whitenessby Elspeth ReeveVICE NewsOctober 9th, 2016The pseudo-science of "biological race" is perpetuated by white nationalist online communities with "ancestral evidence" provided by 23andMe.
President signs Senate bill that protects eugenics victimsby Richard CraverWinston-Salem JournalOctober 7th, 2016Passed in a bipartisan effort, state restitution payments will not decrease or eliminate federal benefits for class members who were forcibly sterilized.
CRISPR Embryos at Karolinska: Controversies Demand Oversightby Elliot HosmanOctober 7th, 2016Ongoing gene editing experiments in human embryos around the world underscore the need to prohibit modifying cells for use in human reproduction.
Collaborative Science on Historically Burdened Concepts: Intelligence, Genetics, Race & Socio-economic Statusby Daphne Martschenko, Biopolitical Times guest contributorOctober 6th, 2016Confusion and discomfort often accompany discussions of concepts with burdened histories. In both the social and biological sciences, we can and must do better to learn and collaborate together.
What’s the Longest Humans Can Live? 115 Years, New Study Saysby Carl ZimmerNew York TimesOctober 5th, 2016Despite improvements in modern life and medicine, researchers claim that humans have reached the upper limit of longevity.
With New Program, DARPA To Encourage Safety "Brakes" For Gene Editingby Alex LashXconomyOctober 5th, 2016The US military R&D agency has launched a funding program called "Safe Genes" to find "safety measures that don’t slow us down."
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