Is Eugenics Just a Thing of the Past?

Virtually every single morning I do exactly the same thing, I get out of bed, I do my devotions, I memorize, I exercise, I get a cup of coffee, and I read USA Today. The Life section in the “D” section in USA Today led on June 24, 2009 with a story on the terrible legacy of the United States eugenics program. It tells the story of Carrie Buck, who was sterilized by the state of Virginia in 1920, because she was considered feeble-minded. What’s interesting about the story is that the Supreme Court ruling that allowed the sterilization still stands today. In fact, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” In all, more than 30 States passed legislation supporting sterilization and that in the name of eugenics. These were Blue States mind you ranging from New York to California. Even more interesting from this story is that the Nazis on trial at Nuremberg after World War II cited American eugenics as a significant influence for gassing the feeble minded, and of course in the Nazis’ view Jews were considered to be feeble minded.[1]

Bioethicists today fear that as genetics plays an increasingly significant role in science, we are about to revisit all of the ethical conundrums inherent in the eugenics movement, and that in the present day as you are reading this.

Eugenics of course hypothesized that the gene pool was being corrupted by the less fit genes of inferior people and the solution was isolation in institutions or sterilization. What’s really fascinating and perhaps morbid is that supporters of this baseless theory included Margaret Sanger, who was the founder of Planned Parenthood, as well as “Teddy” Roosevelt, a much loved President of the United States. Funding was provided for through the Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations, and research was conducted at Stanford, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. It was backed by the National Academy of Sciences and the American Medical Association.

Those who resisted eugenics were considered to be backward and ignorant, and it wasn’t until eugenics came into full bloom in the Nazi concentration camps that people recognized that ideas have consequences and these consequences were too much, so it faded into the shadowy recesses of history.

This story from USA Today was significant in that we just developed a new book entitled Whose Ethics? Whose Morals? Ethics should be at the forefront of our thinking as we live in a post-Christian culture, and that view of reality is that there isn’t an objective Law Giver. Truth in this culture is determined by the size and scope of the latest lobby group. In this type of milieu, you need a resource that will give you the principles for thinking Christianly about morals and ethics. More than that, you need to know that we are in a moral tsunami and cannot simply sit by idly and do nothing at the very base we need to be informed. I encourage you to pick up a copy at our Website of www.equip.org or by calling us at 1-888-700-0274.


[1] U.S. eugenics legacy: Ruling on Buck sterilization still stands” by Andrea Pitzer , USA Today, 6/24/09, (http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-06-23-eugenics-carrie-buck_N.htm). Accessed 6/25/09

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