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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.



Human Gene Editing: A Timeline of CRISPR Cover StoriesWith recent gene editing tools, a number of high-profile media are featuring CRISPR on their covers and front pages. We gather highlights since early 2015, along with opinion polls, TV shows, and editorial board statements.
Steve Bannon’s disturbing views on ‘genetic superiority’ are shared by Trumpby Laurel RaymondThink ProgressNovember 28th, 2016Former Breitbart head Steve Bannon has been a national lightning rod ever since he was appointed CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Should We Rewrite the Human Genome?by Alex HardingXconomyNovember 28th, 2016Critics worry that a synthetic human genome could be used in unethical ways. Unlike for clinical trials, there is no regulatory body for basic science research.
Review of Blame: A Novelby Abby Lippman, Biopolitical Times guest contributorNovember 28th, 2016Blame is especially important for those unfamiliar with the range of ethical, social, legal, and political issues raised by applications of what is learned in a lab. While a work of fiction, it is definitely not science-fiction
Why the Deaf Community Fears President Trumpby Sara NovicVICENovember 18th, 2016According to his biographer, Trump subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development and the superiority of certain genes — an echo of eugenics.
The Sudden, Inevitable Rewiring of the American Leftby Andrew BurmonInverseNovember 18th, 2016It's not clear which direction the Trump administration will be pushed by conservative evangelicals like Mike Pence and technophile wildcards like Peter Thiel.
Palo Alto committee debates whether Jordan school should keep its eugenicist namesakeby Jacqueline LeeSan Jose Mercury NewsNovember 17th, 2016David Starr Jordan, Stanford University’s first president, believed the human race could be improved through selective reproduction, including forced sterilization.
With Fertility Rate in China Low, Some Press to Legalize Births Outside Marriageby Didi Kirsten TatlowThe New York TimesNovember 17th, 2016Civil society groups are calling for greater reproductive freedom for single women, which would also affect lesbians.
DNA-editing breakthrough could fix 'broken genes' in the brain, delay ageing and cure incurable diseasesby Ian JohnstonThe Independent [UK]November 16th, 2016The technique allows DNA changes that have not previously been possible, modifying the genes of non-dividing cells in a living animal.
San Diego Scientists Help Develop New Twist On In Vitro Fertilizationby David WagnerKPBSNovember 10th, 2016The patent holder for a related "3-person IVF" technique reports new work with "polar body genome transfer." Some experts say none of these approaches have been proven safe.
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