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The Evolutionary Perspective
Tag Archives: race
Posted: June 30, 2016 at 3:29 am
There is increasing recognition that G. K. Chesterton was one of the greatest Christian apologists of the twentieth century. He was probably exceeded in this regard only by C. S. Lewis who was, of course, greatly influenced by the older man. Nevertheless, Chesterton, unlike Lewis, was busily engaged in political debate and public action for most of his life. It is here that his contribution has been almost forgotten, and yet a typical paradox it was in this area that his achievements were of the greatest public importance. This is true of Chesterton’s writings and campaigning for a sane economics under the banner of “Distributism,” but it is perhaps most true of his fight against eugenics. Whilst re-reading the main Chesterton biographies over the last couple of years, I was struck by the fact that all of them seem to skate over his battle against eugenics in a few lines, and this essay aims to redress the balance somewhat.
Eugenics was the belief that the human race needed to be protected from “degenerates,” the “unfit” or the “feebleminded.” Of course, this policy was most enthusiastically adopted by Nazi Germany. One of the first acts of the new Reich in 1933 was to pass a Eugenic Sterilisation Law, ordering doctors to sterilise any one suspected of suffering from hereditary diseases. “We want to prevent the poisoning of the entire bloodstream of the race” to quote Goering’s legal assistant. By 1939 some 250,000 “degenerates” had been forcibly sterilised, over half of whom were diagnosed as “feebleminded.” The Nazi regime took what it regarded as the logical next step in 1939, when it decreed euthanasia for all severely disabled or mentally ill people in German asylums. Any Jew in these asylums automatically qualified, irrespective of degree of handicap, and about 70,000 people were murdered. It can thus be said, without exaggeration, that eugenics was one policy which paved the way for the “Final Solution” of European Jewry, which itself did not start until the Wansee Conference of December, 1941.
Of course, it is easy to argue that Nazi Germany was a pariah state, to feel that such things could not “have happened here.” The whole idea of eugenics became discredited following the defeat of the Third Reich in 1945. Yet, in fact, eugenics was widely practised in the free world, and more and more evidence is coming to light which shows how prevalent it was. In August 1997, the Swedish government shamefacedly admitted the widespread eugenic sterilisation of “feeble-minded or racially inferior women.” It seems that 60,000 Swedes who were either mentally defective, or who merely regarded as lacking “Nordic” racial features, such as gypsies, were compulsorily sterilised in the period 1935-1970. Many others were locked up for years. Evidence is also appearing that this practice also occurred in many other European countries, including 15,000 mentally handicapped women forcibly sterilised in France. Most states in the United States had extensive eugenics laws, some still on the statute books as late as the 1970s.
The United Kingdom was one of the few major countries where eugenics was not effectively put into law. Yet people should not feel smug that it did not happen in Britain because it nearly did. The United Kingdom escaped eugenics laws by the skin of its teeth, as they were backed by some of the most powerful people in the land. As far as can be seen, only one public figure waged a vigorous, and ultimately successful, campaign against the proposed Mental Deficiency Bill in 1912. That man was G. K. Chesterton. The battle against eugenics is Chesterton’s great, unknown victory. To explore it properly, I have given a brief introduction to the subject, followed by an account of Chesterton’s battle against what he called the “feeble minded Bill.” An account of draconian eugenics laws in the United States, including forced sterilisation, shows what might have happened in Britain without his fight against it. Lastly, I have included some pieces from Chesterton’s 1922 book, Eugenics and Other Evils, which show, once again, what great prophetic insight he possessed.
The word “eugenics” (from the Greek for “of noble birth”) was in fact a British invention, the term being first used in 1883 by Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin. Born in 1822, Galton was one of those rich dilettante scientists who were quite common in the Victorian period. A highly neurotic individual, he dropped out of Cambridge University in 1842, but fortunately the inheritance in 1844 of a large fortune from his father prevented him from needing to work. From the 1850s onward he was dabbling in the nascent science of genetics, and in particular on the family trees of illustrious men. Thus he published a book in 1869 under the title of Hereditary Genius, which contained his eugenic ideas even if they had not yet found a name. From the beginning, they were based upon fears that lower races or social classes would outbreed the noble Anglo-Saxon upper classes who practised “restraint,” and it was therefore necessary: “to give the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable.”
Galton’s marriage was childless, and it has been noted that the more this fact became obvious, the more he aggressively lectured the Victorian middle classes on the need to propagate. Eugenics was first taken up by radicals in the United States. In 1869, John Humphrey Noyes, prompted by Galton, founded the first experimental programme of selective human breeding at his “free-love” Oneida community in upstate New York. In Britain, it was given widespread publicity by the magazine Biometrika, edited by the statistician Karl Pearson, a friend of Galton’s. Although employed as a mathematician by London University, from 1895 Pearson started giving lectures in eugenics there. In 1911, when Galton died he left his fortune to London University to endow a Professorial Chair in eugenics on condition that Pearson got the job.
There were a number of intertwined ideas in eugenic belief. Part of it was social Darwinism, the idea that Darwin’s idea of the survival of the fittest had to be applied to the human race, else false compassion would lead to the human race drowning in a sea of degenerates. Of course, for eugenists, who were overwhelmingly White, Protestant, and middle class, the fittest meant the rich, and the unfit meant the poor. Secondly, it was avowedly racist, particularly in the United States. The worry was that lesser, feckless, races, generally agreed to include Blacks, Jews, and other immigrants such as Irish Catholics, were breeding much faster than those of “Nordic” origin. Lastly, it was founded upon fears of a vast army of mentally handicapped people being born who would be a burden on the State. Much eugenics literature expanded o
n the alleged sexual licence of the poor, the mentally ill, and the lower races. At that time, sexual matters among the middle classes were regarded as too private to mention in public, and it may well be that sexual frustration lay behind part of the frequent tirades about the sex lives of the delinquent, and possibly even the fervent clamour for forced sterilisation.
Eugenics, like Galton’s own writings, was never a subject of great scientific precision. Its two main descriptive terms were often “feeble-minded,” referring to hereditary mental incapacity (not just mental illness, but anyone believed to be of low IQ), and “degenerate,” referring not just to physical disability, but also to alleged moral lapses such as alcoholism, crime, or sexual promiscuity. Indeed, in many cases the arguments were circular, as alcoholism or crime were argued to be evidence of “degeneracy” or “incapacity.” Yet on this flimsy intellectual basis two main policies were strenuously argued for: that the “feebleminded” should be compulsorily segregated away in asylums for life, in order to prevent them reproducing, and also that “degenerates,” should be forcibly sterilised for the same reason. As Chesterton pointed out in a late essay (“The Fallacy of Eugenics,” published in Avowals and Denials (London, 1934):
Eugenic ideas gained ground at the time of the Boer War (1899-1903), when it was found that many young men from slum backgrounds were unfit for military service. It was also noticed that healthy men from richer backgrounds also came from smaller families. The same fact was also observed in 1939 when it was discovered that the cause had nothing to do with hereditary factors but was simply the result of poor diet leading to the bone-deforming disease, rickets. In 1904, the Conservative government of Arthur Balfour established a Royal Commission “On the Care and Control of the Feebleminded,” which reported in 1908 to the new Liberal government. It recommended compulsory detention of the mentally inadequate, as well as sterilisation of the unfit. Up to this point mental asylums were used only for the criminally insane, judged to be a danger to themselves and others.
Eugenics became a widespread progressive cause promoted by the Fabian Society, and was closely allied with similar arguments for birth control. In 1903, H. G. Wells wrote: “the conclusion is that if we could prevent or discourage the inferior sort of people from having children, and if we could stimulate and encourage the superior sort to increase and multiply, we should raise the general standard of the race.” Dr. Saleeby, one of the most distinguished doctors of his day, advocated that people intending to marry should have “health books” proving that they had no congenital deformity. Other enthusiastic eugenists were Shaw, who put forward eugenic arguments in his play, Man and Superman, and the sex investigator Havelock Ellis. Ellis was a weird pervert worthy of his successor, Kinsey. Impotent himself, it never seems to have occurred to him whether he was a “degenerate” or “unfit.” The leaders of the radical Socialist Fabians were the husband and wife team of Beatrice and Sydney Webb. Fabian Tract No. 131, written by Sydney in 1907, states:
Yet it was not just the radical Left which promoted eugenics. One of its most vocal advocates in Britain was the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral from 1911-1934, Dr. William Inge. Ex Officio one of the most senior members of the Church of England, he was known as the “Gloomy Dean” for his warnings about overpopulation. In an essay published in 1917 called simply Eugenics, he pointed out that all the males in his family had won scholarships at Eton, Oxford and Cambridge, but that: “Unfortunately the birth-rate of the feeble-minded is quite 50% higher than that of normal persons.” The answer was eugenics, beginning with “the compulsory segregation of mental defectives.”
Any regular reader of Chesterton’s essays will have come across the name of Dean Inge, so it may be appropriate here to explain who he was, and what he represented. Chesterton never had any enemies, but if he ever had a regular opponent, that man was Dean Inge. Inge seemed to have little interest in the traditional doctrines of Christianity, calling himself “a modern churchman.” He was however a convinced Erastian, that is, dedicated to maintaining the “established” position of the Church of England as a pillar of the British State. In a late essay called The Erastian on the Establishment (1934), Chesterton wrote: “A bitter and cynical man said, ‘The Church of England is our last bulwark against Christianity.’ This is quite unjust as a description of the Church of England. But it is not altogether unjust as a description of Dean Inge.” Inge was known as the “Gloomy Dean” for his Malthusian worries about the poor overbreeding. He also proclaimed, in thoroughly modern terms, that global competition meant that the British workers simply had to accept lower wages and poor working conditions, although somehow this never applied to the members of the Establishment itself. In “The New Theologian” (published in A Miscellany of Men, 1912) Chesterton takes him apart with wit and precision: “When next you hear the “liberal” Christian say we should take what is best in Oriental faiths, make quite sure what are the things that people like Dr. Inge call best. . . . You will find the levelling of creeds quite unexpectedly close to the lowering of wages.”
Eugenics fervour reached its peak in the United Kingdom in 1912, when the first International Eugenics Conference, with over 750 delegates, was held in London. It was addressed by the former Prime Minister Balfour, and attended by an enthusiast who had the power to make law in Great Britain the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill. He called for a “simple surgical operation (sterilisation) so the inferior could be permitted freely in the world without causing much inconvenience to others.” In 1910, on becoming Home Secretary, he had asked the civil service to investigate putting into practice the Indiana law (see below): “I am drawn to it in spite of many Party misgivings. . . . Of course it is bound to come some day.” Churchill was put off by the chief Medical Advisor of Prisons, Dr. Horatio Donkin, who wrote of the Indiana arguments for eugenics: “the outcome of an arrogation of scientific knowledge by those who had no claim to it. . . . It is a monument of ignorance and hopeless mental confusion.”
The International Conference on Eugenics led to great public pressure for Britain to adopt eugenics laws, something Churchill was only too pleased to see. As he wrote to Prime Minister Asquith: “I am convinced that the multiplication of the Feeble-Minded, which is proceeding now at an artificial rate, unchecked by any of the old restraints of nature, and actually fostered by civilised conditions,
is a terrible danger to the race.” He was wary of the cost of forced segregation, preferring compulsory sterilisation instead. In 1912, the government introduced a draft proposal, the Mental Deficiency Bill, for the compulsory detention of the feeble-minded. Hundreds of petitions arrived in Parliament urging the government on.
Opposition seemed minimal. The Catholic Social Guild commissioned a pamphlet by Father Thomas Gerrard, which roundly condemned eugenics, but the influence of the Catholic Church was small in Britain in 1912. Indeed, Dean Inge complained that eugenics was so logical it was only opposed by “irrationalist prophets like Mr. Chesterton.” Chesterton’s response was a series of lectures, public talks and essays ridiculing what he called “the Feeble-Minded Bill.” Chesterton later compiled his arguments against eugenics into a book published in 1922 Eugenics and Other Evils. It begins:
In his book, Chesterton showed that eugenics was an unholy mixture of social Darwinism, coupled with mad Nietzsche’s dream of breeding the Superman. (It is one of ironies of history that Nietzsche, his brain destroyed by the wormholes of syphilis, should have been one of the inspirations of eugenics. He would have not lasted long when Germany really began to breed the Superman.) Chesterton also argued that the real target was not the mad, for which the Lunacy Laws were quite sufficient, but the poor, and he put his finger on the key weakness of eugenics its essential vagueness:
According to Chesterton, the real target was the poor, as the clause highlighted above rather gives the game away. He marshals compelling arguments that eugenics was one more logical progression in the tools used by the State to suppress the landless poor, initially needed in the factories, and now surplus to requirements. One more step in the road of the Exclusion Acts and Game Laws which had forced the poor from the common lands which had once belonged to them, one more step in the Poor Laws and the workhouse with its treadmills and flogging.
At this time, around 1910-1914, Chesterton wrote much about how the new Liberal Government, far from making things better for the poor, was actually making them worse. The Industrial Revolution and enclosure of the common lands had reduced the ordinary people to destitution; now these new Liberal reformers punished them for their destitution. Chesterton’s great work of social criticism, What’s Wrong with the World (1910), ends with the story of urchin children whose hair was cut off at school for fear of lice a treatment which was never handed out to children of the rich, only the poor:
Those great scissors of science that would snip off the curls of the poor little school children are ceaselessly snapping closer and closer to cut off all the corners and fringes of the arts and honours of the poor. Soon they will be twisting necks to suit clean collars, and hacking feet to fit new boots.
In Eugenics and Other Evils, he mentions the case of a farm labourer’s wife sent to prison for not having running water in her rural cottage, although her children were recognised as healthy and well-looked after. The full story is given in detail in the essay The Mad Official, 1912. The book also has the bizarre story of two tramps sent to prison for sleeping in a field, who would have committed no crime if they had done so with money in their pocket. Chesterton argues that eugenics was just one more logical step in this policy of:
Chesterton’s campaign was a success, as a normally supine Parliament began to question the new law. The Independent Member of Parliament, Josiah Wedgewood stressed the threat to civil liberties. Churchill had moved on to the Admiralty, so the measure had less support in the Home Office. After much criticism, the Mental Deficiency Act was passed in July, 1913 in a severely watered-down form. The attempt to prevent the pro-creation of the unfit was abandoned. Sterilisation was not even mentioned, nor was there compulsory segregation of the mentally deficient. The only real new power was to take the illegitimate children of paupers into care. In the 1930s, new eugenics bills were submitted to Parliament, but sentiment had so turned against the idea that they did not even make the first stage of becoming law. Chesterton always kept an eye on eugenics, and was one of the first to note their introduction in Germany once Hitler had come to power. As he wrote in 1934 in “The Fallacy of Eugenics”: “It is as well to repeat our unanswered answer to the creed behind such barbarous tricks; for they are not confined to the curious commonwealth of Mr. Hitler.”
The American experience shows how rapidly the enthusiasm for eugenics could sweep a civilised country and be turned into punitive law. The United Kingdom was rare and lucky to avoid what happened in most of Europe. Eugenic sterilisation laws were passed in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland, as well as being practised in France. Chesterton’s victory was great indeed. Eugenics became fashionable in the United States about the same time as in Britain. In 1904, the biologist, Charles Davenport, persuaded the Carnegie Foundation to give him a huge grant to establish a eugenics research facility on Long Island. Eugenics in America was always racially based, probably because immigration was running at such a high level, whereas it was almost negligible in Britain at that time. Davenport exclaimed: “New blood will make the American population darker in pigmentation, smaller in stature, more mercurial . . . more given to crimes of larceny, kidnapping, assault, murder, rape, and sex-immorality.” This from a supposedly objective scientist! In 1896 Connecticut was the first State to pass explicitly eugenic marriage laws, and by 1917, twenty States had such laws on the statute book. The 1905, Indiana law was typical: marriage was generally forbidden to the mentally deficient, to those with transmittable diseases, or to habitual drunkards. Both parties to a marriage had to present a certificate of medical soundness before the marriage could take place. Indiana then went further in 1907 with the first compulsory sterilisation law. By 1917, sterilisation laws had been approved by sixteen States, most of which prescribed such treatment for habitual criminals, rapists, epileptics, and idiots. Eugenics was a “progressive” cause, and was mostly taken up by States which believed themselves to be “advanced.” California was the lead of eugenic treatments being carried out, while eugenic laws were slow to pass in the “backward” Deep South. In the 1920s a number of legal challenges were made questioning whether such punishment was not “cruel and unusual,” and hence prohibited by the United States Constitution. From 1924-1927 a legal test case, Buck vs. Bell, was fought all the way to the United States Suprem
e Court. Despite the presence on the bench of such humane jurists as William Howard Taft and Louis Brandeis, the court voted 8:1 in favour of forced sterilisation of a young Virginia girl, Carrie Buck, whose only crime had been to have an illegitimate child. Only one judge, a Roman Catholic, voted against. Buck vs Bell opened the floodgates. By 1929, twenty-four States had eugenics laws. 9,000 forced sterilisations were carried out from 1909-1927, but the pace accelerated from Buck vs Bell, so that by 1939 the total had reached 30,000, 10,000 of them in California alone. Eugenics won another victory in 1924 when the Immigration Act severely restricted new immigration into the United States. President Calvin Coolidge stated: “America must be kept American. Biological laws show . . . that Nordics deteriorate when mixed with other races.”
Eugenics was also fashionable in Canada, being aggressively pushed by Helen MacMurchy, Head of the Division of Maternal and Child Welfare in the federal Department of Health from 1920-1934. In 1912, a Dr. Godrey presented a bill to the Ontario state legislature, a bill based on that of Indiana to segregate the unfit and compulsorily sterilise these, although the bill was not passed. Again there were strong racist overtones, with concern that the dominant Anglo-Saxon Canadian type was being outbred by French Canadians and immigrants.
Eugenics and Other Evils also illustrates Chesterton’s almost uncanny ability to foresee the distant future. Perhaps I may be permitted the luxury of quoting myself:
It is becoming increasingly accepted that the relativism of the late Twentieth Century has resulted in a collapse of moral discourse; Alasdair McIntyre’s After Virtue explores this in detail. Secondly that into this void has entered a strange doctrine known as political correctness, coupled with an extension of the powers of the State into areas that were formerly felt to be none of its business. Chesterton saw this coming in 1912. As he wrote in Eugenics and Other Evils:
White Slavery was the fear that English girls were being kidnapped in order to sell them into prostitution in the East. If we move forward to the late 1990s, and substitute “child abuse” or “wife battering” for “White Slavery”, we see how emotional slogans can engender draconian laws.
In his book, Chesterton also presciently identified eugenics with the German cult of the Superman. It had fallen out of fashion after 1914 because it was identified with Germany: “England went to war with the Superman in his native home. She went to war with that very land of scientific culture from which the very ideal of a Superman had come.” The German attempt to build a Nietzschean warrior-state had fallen in 1918, and with its fall eugenics in England became somewhat discredited. However Chesterton did fear that this project might revive in its German homeland:
In 1922 Hitler was an unknown agitator in the beer-halls of Munich, with no chance yet of putting the eugenic manifesto fully into practice.
RUSSELL SPARKES is the Editor of Prophet of Orthodoxy, a compilation of Chesterton’s religious writings, with a critical introduction, published by Harper Collins, and Chief Consultant on the Sane Economy Project of the Chesterton Institute. The present article was published in The Chesterton Review for February-May 1999.
Originally posted here:
The Enemy of Eugenics – Second Spring
Posted: June 29, 2016 at 6:28 pm
eugenics is based to a very large extent upon the principles underlying sex hygiene.
I try so hard not to be afraid of men, for I know they are necessary to eugenics.
eugenics is the science of reproducing better humans by applying the established laws of genetics or heredity.
It is a sin of our race that the eugenics Office should have bred out–but they have failed.
eugenics deals with the even more vital subject of improving the inherent type and capacities of the individuals of the future.
It has been said that eugenics is futile because it cannot define its end.
British Dictionary definitions for eugenics Expand
(functioning as sing) the study of methods of improving the quality of the human race, esp by selective breeding
eugenic, adjectiveeugenically, adverbeugenicist, nouneugenist (judnst) noun, adjective
C19: from Greek eugens well-born, from eu- + -gens born; see -gen
Word Origin and History for eugenics Expand
1883, coined (along with adjective eugenic) by English scientist Francis Galton (1822-1911) on analogy of ethics, physics, etc. from Greek eugenes “well-born, of good stock, of noble race,” from eu- “good” (see eu-) + genos “birth” (see genus).
eugenics in Medicine Expand
eugenics eugenics (y-jn’ks) n. The study of hereditary improvement of the human race by controlled selective breeding.
eugenics in Culture Expand
The idea that one can improve the human race by careful selection of those who mate and produce offspring.
Posted: June 27, 2016 at 6:27 am
Eugenics, the set of beliefs and practices which aims at improving the genetic quality of the human population played a significant role in the history and culture of the United States prior to its involvement in World War II.
Eugenics was practised in the United States many years before eugenics programs in Nazi Germany and U.S. programs provided much of the inspiration for the latter. Stefan Khl has documented the consensus between Nazi race policies and those of eugenicists in other countries, including the United States, and points out that eugenicists understood Nazi policies and measures as the realization of their goals and demands.
During the Progressive Era of the late 19th and early 20th century, eugenics was considered[by whom?] a method of preserving and improving the dominant groups in the population; it is now generally associated with racist and nativist elements (as the movement was to some extent a reaction to a change in emigration from Europe) rather than scientific genetics.
The American eugenics movement was rooted in the biological determinist ideas of Sir Francis Galton, which originated in the 1880s. Galton studied the upper classes of Britain, and arrived at the conclusion that their social positions were due to a superior genetic makeup. Early proponents of eugenics believed that, through selective breeding, the human species should direct its own evolution. They tended to believe in the genetic superiority of Nordic, Germanic and Anglo-Saxon peoples; supported strict immigration and anti-miscegenation laws; and supported the forcible sterilization of the poor, disabled and “immoral”. Eugenics was also supported by African Americans intellectuals such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Thomas Wyatt Turner, and many academics at Tuskegee University, Howard University, and Hampton University; however they believed the best blacks were as good as the best whites and “The Talented Tenth” of all races should mix. W. E. B. Du Bois believed “only fit blacks should procreate to eradicate the race’s heritage of moral iniquity.”
The American eugenics movement received extensive funding from various corporate foundations including the Carnegie Institution, Rockefeller Foundation, and the Harriman railroad fortune. In 1906 J.H. Kellogg provided funding to help found the Race Betterment Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan. The Eugenics Record Office (ERO) was founded in Cold Spring Harbor, New York in 1911 by the renowned biologist Charles B. Davenport, using money from both the Harriman railroad fortune and the Carnegie Institution. As late as the 1920s, the ERO was one of the leading organizations in the American eugenics movement. In years to come, the ERO collected a mass of family pedigrees and concluded that those who were unfit came from economically and socially poor backgrounds. Eugenicists such as Davenport, the psychologist Henry H. Goddard, Harry H. Laughlin, and the conservationist Madison Grant (all well respected in their time) began to lobby for various solutions to the problem of the “unfit”. Davenport favored immigration restriction and sterilization as primary methods; Goddard favored segregation in his The Kallikak Family; Grant favored all of the above and more, even entertaining the idea of extermination. The Eugenics Record Office later became the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
Eugenics was widely accepted in the U.S. academic community. By 1928 there were 376 separate university courses in some of the United States’ leading schools, enrolling more than 20,000 students, which included eugenics in the curriculum. It did, however, have scientific detractors (notably, Thomas Hunt Morgan, one of the few Mendelians to explicitly criticize eugenics), though most of these focused more on what they considered the crude methodology of eugenicists, and the characterization of almost every human characteristic as being hereditary, rather than the idea of eugenics itself.
By 1910, there was a large and dynamic network of scientists, reformers and professionals engaged in national eugenics projects and actively promoting eugenic legislation. The American Breeder’s Association was the first eugenic body in the U.S., established in 1906 under the direction of biologist Charles B. Davenport. The ABA was formed specifically to “investigate and report on heredity in the human race, and emphasize the value of superior blood and the menace to society of inferior blood.” Membership included Alexander Graham Bell, Stanford president David Starr Jordan and Luther Burbank. The American Association for the Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality was one of the first organizations to begin investigating infant mortality rates in terms of eugenics. They promoted government intervention in attempts to promote the health of future citizens.[verification needed]
Several feminist reformers advocated an agenda of eugenic legal reform. The National Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and the National League of Women Voters were among the variety of state and local feminist organization that at some point lobbied for eugenic reforms.
One of the most prominent feminists to champion the eugenic agenda was Margaret Sanger, the leader of the American birth control movement. Margaret Sanger saw birth control as a means to prevent unwanted children from being born into a disadvantaged life, and incorporated the language of eugenics to advance the movement. Sanger also sought to discourage the reproduction of persons who, it was believed, would pass on mental disease or serious physical defect. She advocated sterilization in cases where the subject was unable to use birth control. Unlike other eugenicists, she rejected euthanasia. For Sanger, it was individual women and not the state who should determine whether or not to have a child.
In the Deep South, women’s associations played an important role in rallying support for eugenic legal reform. Eugenicists recognized the political and social influence of southern clubwomen in their communities, and used them to help implement eugenics across the region. Between 1915 and 1920, federated women’s clubs in every state of the Deep South had a critical role in establishing public eugenic institutions that were segregated by sex. For example, the Legislative Committee of the Florida State Federation of Women’s Clubs successfully lobbied to institute a eugenic institution for the mentally retarded that was segregated by sex. Their aim was to separate mentally retarded men and women to prevent them from breeding more “feebleminded” individuals.
Public acceptance in the U.S. was the reason eugenic legislation was passed. Almost 19 million people attended the PanamaPacific International Exposition in San Francisco, open for 10 months from February 20 to December 4, 1915. The PPIE was a fair devoted to extolling the virtues of a rapidly progressing nation, featuring new developments in science, agriculture, manufacturing and technology. A subject that received a large amount of time and space was that of the developments concerning health and disease, particularly the areas of tropical medicine and race betterment (tropical medicine being the combined study of bacteriology, parasitology and entomology while racial betterment being the promotion of eugenic studies). Having these areas so closely intertwined, it seemed that they were both categorized in the main theme of the fair, the advancement of civilization. Thus in the public eye, the seemingly contradictory[clarification needed] areas of study were both represented under progressive banners of improvement and were made to seem like plausible courses of action to better American society.[verification needed]
Beginning with Connecticut in 1896, many states enacted marriage laws with eugenic criteria, prohibiting anyone who was “epileptic, imbecile or feeble-minded” from marrying.
The first state to introduce a compulsory sterilization bill was Michigan, in 1897 but the proposed law failed to garner enough votes by legislators to be adopted. Eight years later Pennsylvania’s state legislators passed a sterilization bill that was vetoed by the governor. Indiana became the first state to enact sterilization legislation in 1907, followed closely by Washington and California in 1909. Sterilization rates across the country were relatively low (California being the sole exception) until the 1927 Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell which legitimized the forced sterilization of patients at a Virginia home for the mentally retarded. The number of sterilizations performed per year increased until another Supreme Court case, Skinner v. Oklahoma, 1942, complicated the legal situation by ruling against sterilization of criminals if the equal protection clause of the constitution was violated. That is, if sterilization was to be performed, then it could not exempt white-collar criminals. The state of California was at the vanguard of the American eugenics movement, performing about 20,000 sterilizations or one third of the 60,000 nationwide from 1909 up until the 1960s.
While California had the highest number of sterilizations, North Carolina’s eugenics program which operated from 1933 to 1977, was the most aggressive of the 32 states that had eugenics programs. An IQ of 70 or lower meant sterilization was appropriate in North Carolina. The North Carolina Eugenics Board almost always approved proposals brought before them by local welfare boards. Of all states, only North Carolina gave social workers the power to designate people for sterilization. “Here, at last, was a method of preventing unwanted pregnancies by an acceptable, practical, and inexpensive method,” wrote Wallace Kuralt in the March 1967 journal of the N.C. Board of Public Welfare. “The poor readily adopted the new techniques for birth control.”
The Immigration Restriction League was the first American entity associated officially with eugenics. Founded in 1894 by three recent Harvard University graduates, the League sought to bar what it considered inferior races from entering America and diluting what it saw as the superior American racial stock (upper class Northerners of Anglo-Saxon heritage). They felt that social and sexual involvement with these less-evolved and less-civilized races would pose a biological threat to the American population. The League lobbied for a literacy test for immigrants, based on the belief that literacy rates were low among “inferior races”. Literacy test bills were vetoed by Presidents in 1897, 1913 and 1915; eventually, President Wilson’s second veto was overruled by Congress in 1917. Membership in the League included: A. Lawrence Lowell, president of Harvard, William DeWitt Hyde, president of Bowdoin College, James T. Young, director of Wharton School and David Starr Jordan, president of Stanford University.
The League allied themselves with the American Breeder’s Association to gain influence and further its goals and in 1909 established a Committee on Eugenics chaired by David Starr Jordan with members Charles Davenport, Alexander Graham Bell, Vernon Kellogg, Luther Burbank, William Ernest Castle, Adolf Meyer, H. J. Webber and Friedrich Woods. The ABA’s immigration legislation committee, formed in 1911 and headed by League’s founder Prescott F. Hall, formalized the committee’s already strong relationship with the Immigration Restriction League. They also founded the Eugenics Record Office, which was headed by Harry H. Laughlin. In their mission statement, they wrote:
Society must protect itself; as it claims the right to deprive the murderer of his life so it may also annihilate the hideous serpent of hopelessly vicious protoplasm. Here is where appropriate legislation will aid in eugenics and creating a healthier, saner society in the future.”
Money from the Harriman railroad fortune was also given to local charities, in order to find immigrants from specific ethnic groups and deport, confine, or forcibly sterilize them.
With the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, eugenicists for the first time played an important role in the Congressional debate as expert advisers on the threat of “inferior stock” from eastern and southern Europe.[verification needed] The new act, inspired by the eugenic belief in the racial superiority of “old stock” white Americans as members of the “Nordic race” (a form of white supremacy), strengthened the position of existing laws prohibiting race-mixing. Eugenic considerations also lay behind the adoption of incest laws in much of the U.S. and were used to justify many anti-miscegenation laws.
Stephen Jay Gould asserted that restrictions on immigration passed in the United States during the 1920s (and overhauled in 1965 with the Immigration and Nationality Act) were motivated by the goals of eugenics. During the early 20th century, the United States and Canada began to receive far higher numbers of Southern and Eastern European immigrants. Influential eugenicists like Lothrop Stoddard and Harry Laughlin (who was appointed as an expert witness for the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization in 1920) presented arguments they would pollute the national gene pool if their numbers went unrestricted. It has been argued that this stirred both Canada and the United States into passing laws creating a hierarchy of nationalities, rating them from the most desirable Anglo-Saxon and Nordic peoples to the Chinese and Japanese immigrants, who were almost completely banned from entering the country.
Both class and race factored into eugenic definitions of “fit” and “unfit.” By using intelligence testing, American eugenicists asserted that social mobility was indicative of one’s genetic fitness. This reaffirmed the existing class and racial hierarchies and explained why the upper-to-middle class was predominantly white. Middle-to-upper class status was a marker of “superior strains.” In contrast, eugenicists believed poverty to be a characteristic of genetic inferiority, which meant that that those deemed “unfit” were predominantly of the lower classes.
Because class status designated some more fit than others, eugenicists treated upper and lower class women differently. Positive eugenicists, who promoted procreation among the fittest in society, encouraged middle class women to bear more children. Between 1900 and 1960, Eugenicists appealed to middle class white women to become more “family minded,” and to help better the race. To this end, eugenicists often denied middle and upper class women sterilization and birth control.
Since poverty was associated with prostitution and “mental idiocy,” women of the lower classes were the first to be deemed “unfit” and “promiscuous.” These women, who were predominantly immigrants or women of color, were discouraged from bearing children, and were encouraged to use birth control.
In 1907, Indiana passed the first eugenics-based compulsory sterilization law in the world. Thirty U.S. states would soon follow their lead. Although the law was overturned by the Indiana Supreme Court in 1921, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Buck v. Bell, upheld the constitutionality of the Virginia Sterilization Act of 1924, allowing for the compulsory sterilization of patients of state mental institutions in 1927.
Some states sterilized “imbeciles” for much of the 20th century. Although compulsory sterilization is now considered an abuse of human rights, Buck v. Bell was never overturned, and Virginia did not repeal its sterilization law until 1974. The most significant era of eugenic sterilization was between 1907 and 1963, when over 64,000 individuals were forcibly sterilized under eugenic legislation in the United States. Beginning around 1930, there was a steady increase in the percentage of women sterilized, and in a few states only young women were sterilized. From 1930 to the 1960s, sterilizations were performed on many more institutionalized women than men. By 1961, 61 percent of the 62,162 total eugenic sterilizations in the United States were performed on women. A favorable report on the results of sterilization in California, the state with the most sterilizations by far, was published in book form by the biologist Paul Popenoe and was widely cited by the Nazi government as evidence that wide-reaching sterilization programs were feasible and humane.
Men and women were compulsorily sterilized for different reasons. Men were sterilized to treat their aggression and to eliminate their criminal behavior, while women were sterilized to control the results of their sexuality. Since women bore children, eugenicists held women more accountable than men for the reproduction of the less “desirable” members of society. Eugenicists therefore predominantly targeted women in their efforts to regulate the birth rate, to “protect” white racial health, and weed out the “defectives” of society.
A 1937 Fortune magazine poll found that 2/3 of respondents supported eugenic sterilization of “mental defectives”, 63% supported sterilization of criminals, and only 15% opposed both.
In the 1970s, several activists and women’s rights groups discovered several physicians to be performing coerced sterilizations of specific ethnic groups of society. All were abuses of poor, nonwhite, or mentally retarded women, while no abuses against white or middle-class women were recorded. Although the sterilizations were not explicitly motivated by eugenics, the sterilizations were similar to the eugenics movement[according to whom?] because they were done without the patients’ consent.
For example, in 1972, United States Senate committee testimony brought to light that at least 2,000 involuntary sterilizations had been performed on poor black women without their consent or knowledge. An investigation revealed that the surgeries were all performed in the South, and were all performed on black welfare mothers with multiple children. Testimony revealed that many of these women were threatened with an end to their welfare benefits until they consented to sterilization. These surgeries were instances of sterilization abuse, a term applied to any sterilization performed without the consent or knowledge of the recipient, or in which the recipient is pressured into accepting the surgery. Because the funds used to carry out the surgeries came from the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, the sterilization abuse raised older suspicions, especially amongst the black community, that “federal programs were underwriting eugenicists who wanted to impose their views about population quality on minorities and poor women.”
Native American women were also victims of sterilization abuse up into the 1970s. The organization WARN (Women of All Red Nations) publicized that Native American women were threatened that, if they had more children, they would be denied welfare benefits. The Indian Health Service also repeatedly refused to deliver Native American babies until their mothers, in labor, consented to sterilization. Many Native American women unknowingly gave consent, since directions were not given in their native language. According to the General Accounting Office, an estimate of 3,406 Indian women were sterilized. The General Accounting Office stated that the Indian Health Service had not followed the necessary regulations, and that the “informed consent forms did not adhere to the standards set by the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW).”
One of the methods that was commonly suggested to get rid of “inferior” populations was euthanasia. A 1911 Carnegie Institute report mentioned euthanasia as one of its recommended “solutions” to the problem of cleansing society of unfit genetic attributes. The most commonly suggested method was to set up local gas chambers. However, many in the eugenics movement did not believe that Americans were ready to implement a large-scale euthanasia program, so many doctors had to find clever ways of subtly implementing eugenic euthanasia in various medical institutions. For example, a mental institution in Lincoln, Illinois fed its incoming patients milk infected with tuberculosis (reasoning that genetically fit individuals would be resistant), resulting in 30-40% annual death rates. Other doctors practiced euthanasia through various forms of lethal neglect.
In the 1930s, there was a wave of portrayals of eugenic “mercy killings” in American film, newspapers, and magazines. In 1931, the Illinois Homeopathic Medicine Association began lobbying for the right to euthanize “imbeciles” and other defectives. The Euthanasia Society of America was founded in 1938.
Overall, however, euthanasia was marginalized in the U.S., motivating people to turn to forced segregation and sterilization programs as a means for keeping the “unfit” from reproducing.
Mary deGormo, a former classroom teacher was the first person to combine ideas about health and intelligence standards with competitions at state fairs, in the form of “better baby” contests. She developed the first such contest, the “Scientific Baby Contest” for the Louisiana State Fair in Shreveport, in 1908. She saw these contests as a contribution to the “social efficiency” movement, which was advocating for the standardization of all aspects of American life as a means of increasing efficiency. deGarmo was assisted by the pediatrician Dr. Jacob Bodenheimer, who helped her develop grading sheets for contestants, which combined physical measurements with standardized measurements of intelligence. Scoring was based on a deduction system, in that every child started at 1000 points and then was docked points for having measurements that were below a designated average. The child with the most points (and the least defections) was ideal.[verification needed]
The topic of standardization through scientific judgment was a topic that was very serious in the eyes of the scientific community, but has often been downplayed as just a popular fad or trend. Nevertheless, a lot of time, effort, and money were put into these contests and their scientific backing, which would influence cultural ideas as well as local and state government practices.[verification needed]
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People promoted eugenics by hosting “Better Baby” contests and the proceeds would go to its anti-lynching campaign.
First appearing in 1920 at the Kansas Free Fair, Fitter Family competitions, continued all the way until WWII. Mary T. Watts and Dr. Florence Brown Sherbon, both initiators of the Better Baby Contests in Iowa, took the idea of positive eugenics for babies and combined it with a determinist concept of biology to come up with fitter family competitions.
There were several different categories that families were judged in: Size of the family, overall attractiveness, and health of the family, all of which helped to determine the likelihood of having healthy children. These competitions were simply a continuation of the Better Baby contests that promoted certain physical and mental qualities. At the time, it was believed that certain behavioral qualities were inherited from your parents. This led to the addition of several judging categories including: generosity, self-sacrificing, and quality of familial bonds. Additionally, there were negative features that were judged: selfishness, jealousy, suspiciousness, high temperedness, and cruelty. Feeblemindedness, alcoholism, and paralysis were few among other traits that were included as physical traits to be judged when looking at family lineage.
Doctors and specialists from the community would offer their time to judge these competitions, which were originally sponsored by the Red Cross. The winners of these competitions were given a Bronze Medal as well as champion cups called “Capper Medals.” The cups were named after then Governor and Senator, Arthur Capper and he would present them to “Grade A individuals”.
The perks of entering into the contests were that the competitions provided a way for families to get a free health check up by a doctor as well as some of the pride and prestige that came from winning the competitions.
By 1925 the Eugenics Records Office was distributing standardized forms for judging eugenically fit families, which were used in contests in several U.S. states.
After the eugenics movement was well established in the United States, it spread to Germany. California eugenicists began producing literature promoting eugenics and sterilization and sending it overseas to German scientists and medical professionals. By 1933, California had subjected more people to forceful sterilization than all other U.S. states combined. The forced sterilization program engineered by the Nazis was partly inspired by California’s.
The Rockefeller Foundation helped develop and fund various German eugenics programs, including the one that Josef Mengele worked in before he went to Auschwitz.
Upon returning from Germany in 1934, where more than 5,000 people per month were being forcibly sterilized, the California eugenics leader C. M. Goethe bragged to a colleague:
“You will be interested to know that your work has played a powerful part in shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals who are behind Hitler in this epoch-making program. Everywhere I sensed that their opinions have been tremendously stimulated by American thought . . . I want you, my dear friend, to carry this thought with you for the rest of your life, that you have really jolted into action a great government of 60 million people.”
Eugenics researcher Harry H. Laughlin often bragged that his Model Eugenic Sterilization laws had been implemented in the 1935 Nuremberg racial hygiene laws. In 1936, Laughlin was invited to an award ceremony at Heidelberg University in Germany (scheduled on the anniversary of Hitler’s 1934 purge of Jews from the Heidelberg faculty), to receive an honorary doctorate for his work on the “science of racial cleansing”. Due to financial limitations, Laughlin was unable to attend the ceremony and had to pick it up from the Rockefeller Institute. Afterwards, he proudly shared the award with his colleagues, remarking that he felt that it symbolized the “common understanding of German and American scientists of the nature of eugenics.”
After 1945, however, historians began to attempt to portray the US eugenics movement as distinct and distant from Nazi eugenics.Jon Entine wrote that eugenics simply means “good genes” and using it as synonym for genocide is an “all-too-common distortion of the social history of genetics policy in the United States.” According to Entine, eugenics developed out of the Progressive Era and not “Hitler’s twisted Final Solution.”
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In August 1912, Harvard president emeritus Charles William Eliot addressed the Harvard Club of San Francisco on a subject close to his heart: racial purity. It was being threatened, he declared, by immigration. Eliot was not opposed to admitting new Americans, but he saw the mixture of racial groups it could bring about as a grave danger. Each nation should keep its stock pure, Eliot told his San Francisco audience. There should be no blending of races.
Eliots warning against mixing raceswhich for him included Irish Catholics marrying white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, Jews marrying Gentiles, and blacks marrying whiteswas a central tenet of eugenics. The eugenics movement, which had begun in England and was rapidly spreading in the United States, insisted that human progress depended on promoting reproduction by the best people in the best combinations, and preventing the unworthy from having children.
The former Harvard president was an outspoken supporter of another major eugenic cause of his time: forced sterilization of people declared to be feebleminded, physically disabled, criminalistic, or otherwise flawed. In 1907, Indiana had enacted the nations first eugenic sterilization law. Four years later, in a paper on The Suppression of Moral Defectives, Eliot declared that Indianas law blazed the trail which all free states must follow, if they would protect themselves from moral degeneracy.
He also lent his considerable prestige to the campaign to build a global eugenics movement. He was a vice president of the First International Eugenics Congress, which met in London in 1912 to hear papers on racial suicide among Northern Europeans and similar topics. Two years later, Eliot helped organize the First National Conference on Race Betterment in Battle Creek, Michigan.
None of these actions created problems for Eliot at Harvard, for a simple reason: they were well within the intellectual mainstream at the University. Harvard administrators, faculty members, and alumni were at the forefront of American eugenicsfounding eugenics organizations, writing academic and popular eugenics articles, and lobbying government to enact eugenics laws. And for many years, scarcely any significant Harvard voices, if any at all, were raised against it.
Harvards role in the movement was in many ways not surprising. Eugenics attracted considerable support from progressives, reformers, and educated elites as a way of using science to make a better world. Harvard was hardly the only university that was home to prominent eugenicists. Stanfords first president, David Starr Jordan, and Yales most acclaimed economist, Irving Fisher, were leaders in the movement. The University of Virginia was a center of scientific racism, with professors like Robert Bennett Bean, author of such works of pseudo-science as the 1906 American Journal of Anatomy article, Some Racial Peculiarities of the Negro Brain.
But in part because of its overall prominence and influence on society, and in part because of its sheer enthusiasm, Harvard was more central to American eugenics than any other university. Harvard has, with some justification, been called the brain trust of twentieth-century eugenics, but the role it played is little remembered or remarked upon today.It is understandable that the University is not eager to recall its part in that tragically misguided intellectual movementbut it is a chapter too important to be forgotten.In part because of its overall prominence and influence on society, and in part because of its sheer enthusiasm, Harvard was more central to American eugenics than any other university.
Eugenics emerged in England in the late 1800s, when Francis Galton, a half cousin of Charles Darwin, began studying the families of some of historys greatest thinkers and concluded that genius was hereditary. Galton invented a new wordcombining the Greek for good and genesand launched a movement calling for society to take affirmative steps to promote the more suitable races or strains of blood. Echoing his famous half cousins work on evolution, Galton declared that what Nature does blindly, slowly, and ruthlessly, man may do providently, quickly, and kindly.
Eugenics soon made its way across the Atlantic, reinforced by the discoveries of Gregor Mendel and the new science of genetics. In the United States, it found some of its earliest support among the same group that Harvard had: the wealthy old families of Boston. The Boston Brahmins were strong believers in the power of their own bloodlines, and it was an easy leap for many of them to believe that society should work to make the nations gene pool as exalted as their own.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.A.B. 1829, M.D. 36, LL.D. 80, dean of Harvard Medical School, acclaimed writer, and father of the future Supreme Court justicewas one of the first American intellectuals to espouse eugenics. Holmes, whose ancestors had been at Harvard since John Oliver entered with the class of 1680, had been writing about human breeding even before Galton. He had coined the phrase Boston Brahmin in an 1861 book in which he described his social class as a physical and mental elite, identifiable by its noble physiognomy and aptitude for learning, which he insisted were congenital and hereditary.
Holmes believed eugenic principles could be used to address the nations social problems. In an 1875 article in The Atlantic Monthly, he gave Galton an early embrace, and argued that his ideas could help to explain the roots of criminal behavior. If genius and talent are inherited, as Mr. Galton has so conclusively shown, Holmes wrote, why should not deep-rooted moral defectsshow themselvesin the descendants of moral monsters?
As eugenics grew in popularity, it took hold at the highest levels of Harvard. A. Lawrence Lowell, who served as president from 1909 to 1933, was an active supporter. Lowell, who worked to impose a quota on Jewish students and to keep black students from living in the Yard, was particularly concerned about immigrationand he joined the eugenicists in calling for sharp limits. The need for homogeneity in a democracy, he insisted, justified laws resisting the influx of great numbers of a greatly different race.
Lowell also supported eugenics research. When the Eugenics Record Office, the nations leading eugenics research and propaganda organization, asked for access to Harvard records to study the physical and intellectual attributes of alumni fathers and sons, he readily agreed. Lowell had a strong personal interest in eugenics research, his secretary noted in response to the request.
The Harvard faculty contained some of nations most influential eugenics thinkers, in an array of academic disciplines. Frank W. Taussig, whose 1911 Principles of Economics was one of the most widely adopted economics textbooks of its time, called for sterilizing unworthy individuals, with a particular focus on the lower classes. The human race could be immensely improved in quality, and its capacity for happy living immensely increased, if those of poor physical and mental endowment were prevented from multiplying, he wrote. Certain types of criminals and paupers breed only their kind, and society has a right and a duty to protect its members from the repeated burden of maintaining and guarding such parasites.
Harvards geneticists gave important support to Galtons fledgling would-be science. Botanist Edward M. East, who taught at Harvards Bussey Institution, propounded a particularly racial version of eugenics. In his 1919 book Inbreeding and Outbreeding: Their Genetic and Sociological Significance, East warned that race mixing would diminish the white race, writing: Races have arisen which are as distinct in mental capacity as in physical traits. The simple fact, he said, was that the negro is inferior to the white.
East also sounded a biological alarm about the Jews, Italians, Asians, and other foreigners who were arriving in large numbers. The early settlers came from stock which had made notable contributions to civilization, he asserted, whereas the new immigrants were coming in increasing numbers from peoples who have impressed modern civilization but lightly. There was a distinct possibility, he warned, that a considerable part of these people are genetically undesirable.
In his 1923 book, Mankind at the Crossroads, Easts pleas became more emphatic. The nation, he said, was being overrun by the feebleminded, who were reproducing more rapidly than the general population. And we expect to restore the balance by expecting the latter to compete with them in the size of their families? East wrote. No! Eugenics is sorely needed; social progress without it is unthinkable.
Easts Bussey Institution colleague William Ernest Castle taught a course on Genetics and Eugenics, one of a number of eugenics courses across the University. He also published a leading textbook by the same name that shaped the views of a generation of students nationwide. Genetics and Eugenics not only identified its author as Professor of Zoology in Harvard University, but was published by Harvard University Press and bore the Veritas seal on its title page, lending the appearance of an imprimatur to his strongly stated views.
In Genetics and Eugenics, Castle explained that race mixing, whether in animals or humans, produced inferior offspring. He believed there were superior and inferior races, and that racial crossing benefited neither. From the viewpoint of a superior race there is nothing to be gained by crossing with an inferior race, he wrote. From the viewpoint of the inferior race also the cross is undesirable if the two races live side by side, because each race will despise individuals of mixed race and this will lead to endless friction.
Castle also propounded the eugenicists argument that crime, prostitution, and pauperism were largely due to feeblemindedness, which he said was inherited. He urged that the unfortunate individuals so afflicted be sterilized or, in the case of women, segregated in institutions during their reproductive years to prevent them from having children.
Like his colleague East, Castle was deeply concerned about the biological impact of immigration. In some parts of the country, he said, the good human stock was dying outand being replaced by a European peasant population. Would this new population be a fit substitute for the old Anglo-Saxon stock? Castles answer: Time alone will tell.
One of Harvards most prominent psychology professors was a eugenicist who pioneered the use of questionable intelligence testing. Robert M. Yerkes, A.B. 1898, Ph.D. 02, published an introductory psychology textbook in 1911 that included a chapter on Eugenics and Mental Life. In it, he explained that the cure for race deterioration is the selection of the fit as parents.
Yerkes, who taught courses with such titles as Educational Psychology, Heredity, and Eugenics and Mental Development in the Race, developed a now-infamous intelligence test that was administered to 1.75 million U.S. Army enlistees in 1917. The test purported to find that more than 47 percent of the white test-takers, and even more of the black ones, were feebleminded. Some of Yerkess questions were straightforward language and math problems, but others were more like tests of familiarity with the dominant culture: one asked, Christy Mathewson is famous as a: writer, artist, baseball player, comedian. The journalist Walter Lippmann, A.B. 1910, Litt.D. 44, said the results were not merely inaccurate, but nonsense, with no more scientific foundation than a hundred other fads, vitamins, or correspondence courses in will power. The 47 percent feebleminded claim was an absurd result unless, as Harvards late professor of geology Stephen Jay Gould put it, the United States was a nation of morons. But the Yerkes findings were widely accepted and helped fuel the drives to sterilize unfit Americans and keep out unworthy immigrants.The Yerkes findings were widely accepted and helped fuel the drives to sterilize unfit Americans and keep out unworthy immigrants.
Another eugenicist in a key position was William McDougall, who held the psychology professorship William James had formerly held. His 1920 book The Group Mind explained that the negro race had never produced any individuals of really high mental and moral endowments and was apparently incapable of doing so. His next book, Is America Safe for Democracy (1921), argued that civilizations declined because of the inadequacy of the qualities of the people who are the bearers of itand advocated eugenic sterilization.
Harvards embrace of eugenics extended to the athletic department. Dudley Allen Sargent, who arrived in 1879 to direct Hemenway Gymnasium, infused physical education at the College with eugenic principles, including his conviction that certain kinds of exercise were particularly important for female students because they built strong pelvic muscleswhich over time could advantage the gene pool. In giving birth to a childno amount of mental and moral education will ever take the place of a large well-developed pelvis with plenty of muscular and organic power behind it, Sargent stated. The presence of large female pelvises, he insisted, would determine whether large brainy children shall be born at all.
Sargent, who presided over Hemenway for 40 years, used his position as a bully pulpit. In 1914, he addressed the nations largest eugenic gathering, the Race Betterment Conference, in Michigan, at which one of the main speakers called for eugenic sterilization of the worthless one tenth of the nation. Sargent told the conference that, based on his long experience and careful observation of Harvard and Radcliffe students, physical educationis one of the most important factors in the betterment of the race.
If Harvards embrace of eugenics had somehow remained within University confinesas merely an intellectual school of thoughtthe impact might have been contained. But members of the community took their ideas about genetic superiority and biological engineering to Congress, to the courts, and to the public at largewith considerable effect.
In 1894, a group of alumni met in Boston to found an organization that took a eugenic approach to what they considered the greatest threat to the nation: immigration. Prescott Farnsworth Hall, Charles Warren, and Robert DeCourcy Ward were young scions of old New England families, all from the class of 1889. They called their organization the Immigration Restriction League, but genetic thinking was so central to their mission that Hall proposed calling it the Eugenic Immigration League. Joseph Lee, A.B. 1883, A.M.-J.D. 87, LL.D. 26, scion of a wealthy Boston banking family and twice elected a Harvard Overseer, was a major funder, and William DeWitt Hyde A. B. 1879, S.T.D. 86, another future Overseer and the president of Bowdoin College, served as a vice president. The membership rolls quickly filled with hundreds of people united in xenophobia, many of them Boston Brahmins and Harvard graduates.
Their goal was to keep out groups they regarded as biologically undesirable. Immigration was a race question, pure and simple, Ward said. It is fundamentally a question as towhat races shall dominate in the country. League members made no secret of whom they meant: Jews, Italians, Asians, and anyone else who did not share their northern European lineage.
Drawing on Harvard influence to pursue its goalsrecruiting alumni to establish branches in other parts of the country and boasting President Lowell himself as its vice presidentthe Immigration Restriction League was remarkably effective in its work. Its first major proposal was a literacy test, not only to reduce the total number of immigrants but also to lower the percentage from southern and eastern Europe, where literacy rates were lower. In 1896the league persuaded Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, A.B. 1871, LL.B. 74, Ph.D. 76, LL.D. 04, to introduce a literacy bill. Getting it passed and signed into law took time, but beginning in 1917, immigrants were legally required to prove their literacy to be admitted to the country.
The league scored a far bigger victory with the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924. After hearing extensive expert testimony about the biological threat posed by immigrants, Congress imposed harsh national quotas designed to keep Jews, Italians, and Asians out. As the percentage of immigrants from northern Europe increased significantly, Jewish immigration fell from 190,000 in 1920 to 7,000 in 1926; Italian immigration fell nearly as sharply; and immigration from Asia was almost completely cut off until 1952.
While one group of alumni focused on inserting eugenics into immigration, another prominent alumnus was taking the lead of the broader movement. Charles Benedict Davenport, A.B. 1889, Ph.D. 92, taught zoology at Harvard before founding the Eugenics Record Office in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, in 1910. Funded in large part by Mrs. E.H. Harriman, widow of the railroad magnate, the E.R.O. became a powerful force in promoting eugenics. It was the main gathering place for academics studying eugenics, and the driving force in promoting eugenic sterilization laws nationwide.Davenport explained that qualities like criminality and laziness were genetically determined.
Davenport wrote prolifically. Heredity in Relation to Eugenics, published in 1911,quickly became the standard text for the eugenics courses cropping up at colleges and universities nationwide, and was cited by more than one-third of high-school biology textbooks of the era. Davenport explained that qualities like criminality and laziness were genetically determined. When both parents are shiftless in some degree, he wrote, only about 15 percent of their children would be industrious.
But perhaps no Harvard eugenicist had more impact on the public consciousness than Lothrop Stoddard, A.B. 1905, Ph.D. 14. His bluntly titled 1920 bestseller, The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy, had 14 printings in its first three years, drew lavish praise from President Warren G. Harding, and made a mildly disguised appearance in The Great Gatsby, when Daisy Buchanans husband, Tom, exclaimed that civilizations going to piecessomething hed learned by reading The Rise of the Colored Empires by this man Goddard.
When eugenics reached a high-water mark in 1927, a pillar of the Harvard community once again played a critical role. In that year, the Supreme Court decided Buck v. Bell, a constitutional challenge to Virginias eugenic sterilization law. The case was brought on behalf of Carrie Buck, a young woman who had been designated feebleminded by the state and selected for eugenic sterilization. Buck was, in fact, not feebleminded at all. Growing up in poverty in Charlottesville, she had been taken in by a foster family and then raped by one of its relatives. She was declared feebleminded because she was pregnant out of wedlock, and she was chosen for sterilization because she was deemed to be feebleminded.
By an 8-1 vote, the justices upheld the Virginia law and Bucks sterilizationand cleared the way for sterilizations to continue in about half the country, where there were similar laws. The majority opinion was written by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., A.B. 1861, LL.B. 66, LL.D. 95, a former Harvard Law School professor and Overseer. Holmes, who shared his fathers deep faith in bloodlines, did not merely give Virginia a green light: he urged the nation to get serious about eugenics and prevent large numbers of unfit Americans from reproducing. It was necessary to sterilize people who sap the strength of the State, Holmes insisted, to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. His opinion included one of the most brutal aphorisms in American law, saying of Buck, her mother, and her perfectly normal infant daughter: Three generations of imbeciles are enough.
In the same week the Supreme Court decided Buck v. Bell, Harvard made eugenics news of its own. It turned down a $60,000 bequest from Dr. J. Ewing Mears, a Philadelphia surgeon, to fund instruction in eugenics in all its branches, notably that branch relating to the treatment of the defective and criminal classes by surgical procedures.
Harvards decision, reported on the front page of The New York Times, appeared to be a counterweight to the Supreme Courts ruling. But the Universitys decision had been motivated more by reluctance to be coerced into a particular position on sterilization than by any institutional opposition to eugenicswhich it continued to embrace.
Eugenics followed much the same arc at Harvard as it did in the nation at large. Interest began to wane in the 1930s, as the field became more closely associated with the Nazi government that had taken power in Germany. By the end of the decade, Davenport had retired and the E.R.O. had shut down; the Carnegie Institution, of which it was part, no longer wanted to support eugenics research and advocacy. As the nation went to war against a regime that embraced racism, eugenics increasingly came to be regarded as un-American.
It did not, however, entirely fade awayat the University, or nationally. Earnest Hooton, chairman of the anthropology department, was particularly outspoken in support of what he called a biological purge. In 1936, while the first German concentration camps were opening, he made a major plea for eugenic sterilizationthough he emphasized that it should not target any race or religion.
Hooton believed it was imperative for society to remove its worthless people. Our real purpose, he declared in a speech that was quoted in The New York Times, should be to segregate and to eliminate the unfit, worthless, degenerate and anti-social portion of each racial and ethnic strain in our population, so that we may utilize the substantial merits of its sound majority, and the special and diversified gifts of its superior members.Our real purposeshould be to segregate and to eliminate the unfit, worthless, degenerate and anti-social portion of each racial and ethnic strain in our population, so that we may utilize the substantial merits of its sound majority.
None of the news out of Germany after the war made Hooton abandon his views. There can be little doubt of the increase during the past fifty years of mental defectives, psychopaths, criminals, economic incompetents and the chronically diseased, he wrote in Redbook magazine in 1950. We owe this to the intervention of charity, welfare and medical science, and to the reckless breeding of the unfit.
The United States also held onto eugenics, if not as enthusiastically as it once did. In 1942, with the war against the Nazis raging, the Supreme Court had a chance to overturn Buck v. Bell and hold eugenic sterilization unconstitutional, but it did not. The court struck down an Oklahoma sterilization law, but on extremely narrow groundsleaving the rest of the nations eugenic sterilization laws intact. Only after the civil-rights revolution of the 1960s, and changes in popular views toward marginalized groups, did eugenic sterilization begin to decline more rapidly. But states continued to sterilize the unfit until 1981.
Today, the American eugenics movement is often thought of as an episode of national follylike 1920s dance marathons or Prohibitionwith little harm done. In fact, the harm it caused was enormous.
As many as 70,000 Americans were forcibly sterilized for eugenic reasons, while important members of the Harvard community cheered andas with Eliot, Lowell, and Holmescalled for more. Many of those 70,000 were simply poor, or had done something that a judge or social worker didnt like, oras in Carrie Bucks casehad terrible luck. Their lives were changed foreverBuck lost her daughter to illness and died childless in 1983, not understanding until her final years what the state had done to her, or why she had been unable to have more children.
Also affected were the many people kept out of the country by the eugenically inspired immigration laws of the 1920s. Among them were a large number of European Jews who desperately sought to escape the impending Holocaust. A few years ago, correspondence was discovered from 1941 in which Otto Frank pleaded with the U.S. State Department for visas for himself, his wife, and his daughters Margot and Anne. It is understood today that Anne Frank died because the Nazis considered her a member of an inferior race, but few appreciate that her death was also due, in part, to the fact that many in the U.S. Congress felt the same way.
There are important reasons for remembering, and further exploring, Harvards role in eugenics. Colleges and universities today are increasingly interrogating their paststhinking about what it means to have a Yale residential college named after John C. Calhoun, a Princeton school named after Woodrow Wilson, or slaveholder Isaac Royalls coat of arms on the Harvard Law School shield and his name on a professorship endowed by his will.
Eugenics is a part of Harvards history. It is unlikely that Eliot House or Lowell House will be renamed, but there might be a way for the University community to spare a thought for Carrie Buck and others who paid a high price for the harmful ideas that Harvard affiliates played a major role in propounding.
There are also forward-looking reasons to revisit this dark moment in the Universitys past. Biotechnical science has advanced to the brink of a new era of genetic possibilities. In the next few years, the headlines will be full of stories about gene-editing technology, genetic solutions for a variety of human afflictions and frailties, and even designer babies. Given that Harvard affiliates, again, will play a large role in all of these, it is important to contemplate how wrong so many people tied to the University got it the first timeand to think hard about how, this time, to get it right.
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Posted: June 14, 2016 at 4:42 pm
The technological singularity is a hypothetical event in which an upgradable intelligent agent (such as a computer running software-based artificial general intelligence) enters a ‘runaway reaction’ of self-improvement cycles, with each new and more intelligent generation appearing more and more rapidly, causing an intelligence explosion and resulting in a powerful superintelligence whose cognitive abilities could be, qualitatively, as far above humans’ as human intelligence is above ape intelligence. More broadly, the term has historically been used for any form of accelerating or exponential technological progress hypothesized to result in a discontinuity, beyond which events may become unpredictable or even unfathomable to human intelligence.
Historically, the first documented use of the term “singularity” in a technological context was by Stanislaw Ulam in his 1958 obituary for John von Neumann, in which he mentioned a conversation with von Neumann about the “ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue”. The term “technological singularity” was popularized by mathematician, computer scientist and science fiction author Vernor Vinge, who argues that artificial intelligence, human biological enhancement, or braincomputer interfaces could be possible causes of the singularity. While some futurists such as Ray Kurzweil maintain that human-computer fusion, or “cyborgization”, is a plausible path to the singularity, most academic scholarship focuses on software-only intelligence as a more likely path.
In 2012, a study of artificial general intelligence (AGI) predictions by both experts and non-experts found a wide range of predicted dates, with a median value of 2040. Discussing the level of uncertainty in AGI estimates, study co-author Stuart Armstrong stated: “my current 80% estimate is something like five to 100 years.” Kurzweil predicts the singularity to occur around 2045 whereas Vinge has predicted some time before 2030.
Strong AI might bring about an intelligence explosion, a term coined in 1965 by I. J. Good. Although technological progress has been accelerating, it has been limited by the basic intelligence of the human brain, which has not, according to Paul R. Ehrlich, changed significantly for millennia. However, with the increasing power of computers and other technologies, it might eventually be possible to build a machine that is more intelligent than humanity. If a superhuman intelligence were to be inventedeither through the amplification of human intelligence or through artificial intelligenceit might be able to bring to bear greater problem-solving and inventive skills than current humans are capable of. It might then design an even more capable machine, or re-write its own software to become even more intelligent. This more capable machine could then go on to design a machine of yet greater capability. These iterations of recursive self-improvement could accelerate, potentially allowing enormous qualitative change before any upper limits imposed by the laws of physics or theoretical computation set in.
Many of the most recognized writers on the singularity, such as Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil, define the concept in terms of the technological creation of superintelligence. They argue that it is difficult or impossible for present-day humans to predict what human beings’ lives will be like in a post-singularity world.Vernor Vinge made an analogy between the breakdown in our ability to predict what would happen after the development of superintelligence and the breakdown of the predictive ability of modern physics at the space-time singularity beyond the event horizon of a black hole.
Some writers use “the singularity” in a broader way to refer to any radical changes in our society brought about by new technologies such as molecular nanotechnology, although Vinge and other prominent writers specifically state that without superintelligence, such changes would not qualify as a true singularity. Many writers also tie the singularity to observations of exponential growth in various technologies (with Moore’s Law being the most prominent example), using such observations as a basis for predicting that the singularity is likely to happen sometime within the 21st century.
Gary Marcus claims that “virtually everyone in the A.I. field believes” that machines will one day overtake humans and “at some level, the only real difference between enthusiasts and skeptics is a time frame.” However, many prominent technologists and academics dispute the plausibility of a technological singularity, including Paul Allen, Jeff Hawkins, John Holland, Jaron Lanier, and Gordon Moore, whose Moore’s Law is often cited in support of the concept.
The exponential growth in computing technology suggested by Moore’s Law is commonly cited as a reason to expect a singularity in the relatively near future, and a number of authors have proposed generalizations of Moore’s Law. Computer scientist and futurist Hans Moravec proposed in a 1998 book that the exponential growth curve could be extended back through earlier computing technologies prior to the integrated circuit. Futurist Ray Kurzweil postulates a law of accelerating returns in which the speed of technological change (and more generally, all evolutionary processes) increases exponentially, generalizing Moore’s Law in the same manner as Moravec’s proposal, and also including material technology (especially as applied to nanotechnology), medical technology and others. Between 1986 and 2007, machines’ application-specific capacity to compute information per capita has roughly doubled every 14 months; the per capita capacity of the world’s general-purpose computers has doubled every 18 months; the global telecommunication capacity per capita doubled every 34 months; and the world’s storage capacity per capita doubled every 40 months. Like other authors, though, Kurzweil reserves the term “singularity” for a rapid increase in intelligence (as opposed to other technologies), writing for example that “The Singularity will allow us to transcend these limitations of our biological bodies and brains … There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between human and machine”. He believes that the “design of the human brain, while not simple, is nonetheless a billion times simpler than it appears, due to massive redundancy”. According to Kurzweil, the reason why the brain has a messy and unpredictable quality is because the brain, like most biological systems, is a “probabilistic fractal”. He also defines his predicted date of the singularity (2045) in terms of when he expects computer-based intelligences to significantly exceed the sum total of human brainpower, writing that advances in computing before that date “will not represent the Singularity” because they do “not yet correspond to a profound expansion of our intelligence.”
Some singularity proponents argue its inevitability through extrapolation of past trends, especially those pertaining to shortening gaps between improvements to technology. In one of the first uses of the term “singularity” in the context of technological progress, Stanislaw Ulam (1958) tells of a conversation with John von Neumann about accelerating change:
One conversation centered on the ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.
Hawkins (1983) writes that “mindsteps”, dramatic and irreversible changes to paradigms or world views, are accelerating in frequency as quantified in his mindstep equation. He cites the inventions of writing, mathematics, and the computer as examples of such changes.
Kurzweil’s analysis of history concludes that technological progress follows a pattern of exponential growth, following what he calls the “Law of Accelerating Returns”. Whenever technology approaches a barrier, Kurzweil writes, new technologies will surmount it. He predicts paradigm shifts will become increasingly common, leading to “technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history”. Kurzweil believes that the singularity will occur before the end of the 21st century, setting the date at 2045. His predictions differ from Vinges in that he predicts a gradual ascent to the singularity, rather than Vinges rapidly self-improving superhuman intelligence.
Presumably, a technological singularity would lead to rapid development of a Kardashev Type I civilization, one that has achieved mastery of the resources of its home planet.
Oft-cited dangers include those commonly associated with molecular nanotechnology and genetic engineering. These threats are major issues for both singularity advocates and critics, and were the subject of Bill Joy’s Wired magazine article “Why the future doesn’t need us”.
The Acceleration Studies Foundation, an educational non-profit foundation founded by John Smart, engages in outreach, education, research and advocacy concerning accelerating change. It produces the Accelerating Change conference at Stanford University, and maintains the educational site Acceleration Watch.
Recent advances, such as the mass production of graphene using modified kitchen blenders (2014) and high temperature superconductors based on metamaterials, could allow supercomputers to be built that, while using only as much power as a typical Core I7 (45W), could achieve the same computing power as IBM’s Blue Gene/L system.
Some critics assert that no computer or machine will ever achieve human intelligence, while others hold that the definition of intelligence is irrelevant if the net result is the same.
Steven Pinker stated in 2008,
(…) There is not the slightest reason to believe in a coming singularity. The fact that you can visualize a future in your imagination is not evidence that it is likely or even possible. Look at domed cities, jet-pack commuting, underwater cities, mile-high buildings, and nuclear-powered automobilesall staples of futuristic fantasies when I was a child that have never arrived. Sheer processing power is not a pixie dust that magically solves all your problems. (…)
Martin Ford in The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future postulates a “technology paradox” in that before the singularity could occur most routine jobs in the economy would be automated, since this would require a level of technology inferior to that of the singularity. This would cause massive unemployment and plummeting consumer demand, which in turn would destroy the incentive to invest in the technologies that would be required to bring about the Singularity. Job displacement is increasingly no longer limited to work traditionally considered to be “routine”.
Joan Slonczewski and Adam Gopnik argue that the Singularity is a gradual process; that as humans gradually outsource our abilities to machines, we redefine those abilities as inhuman, without realizing how little is left. This concept is called the Mitochondrial Singularity. The idea refers to mitochondria, the organelle that evolved from autonomous bacteria but now powers our living cells. In the future, the “human being” within the machine exoskeleton may exist only to turn it on.
Jared Diamond, in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, argues that cultures self-limit when they exceed the sustainable carrying capacity of their environment, and the consumption of strategic resources (frequently timber, soils or water) creates a deleterious positive feedback loop that leads eventually to social collapse and technological retrogression.
Theodore Modis and Jonathan Huebner argue that the rate of technological innovation has not only ceased to rise, but is actually now declining (John Smart, however, criticizes Huebner’s analysis). Evidence for this decline is that the rise in computer clock rates is slowing, even while Moore’s prediction of exponentially increasing circuit density continues to hold. This is due to excessive heat build-up from the chip, which cannot be dissipated quickly enough to prevent the chip from melting when operating at higher speeds. Advancements in speed may be possible in the future by virtue of more power-efficient CPU designs and multi-cell processors. While Kurzweil used Modis’ resources, and Modis’ work was around accelerating change, Modis distanced himself from Kurzweil’s thesis of a “technological singularity”, claiming that it lacks scientific rigor.
Others[who?] propose that other “singularities” can be found through analysis of trends in world population, world gross domestic product, and other indices. Andrey Korotayev and others argue that historical hyperbolic growth curves can be attributed to feedback loops that ceased to affect global trends in the 1970s, and thus hyperbolic growth should not be expected in the future.
In a detailed empirical accounting, The Progress of Computing, William Nordhaus argued that, prior to 1940, computers followed the much slower growth of a traditional industrial economy, thus rejecting extrapolations of Moore’s law to 19th-century computers.Schmidhuber (2006) suggests differences in memory of recent and distant events create an illusion of accelerating change, and that such phenomena may be responsible for past apocalyptic predictions.
Andrew Kennedy, in his 2006 paper for the British Interplanetary Society discussing change and the growth in space travel velocities, stated that although long-term overall growth is inevitable, it is small, embodying both ups and downs, and noted, “New technologies follow known laws of power use and information spread and are obliged to connect with what already exists. Remarkable theoretical discoveries, if they end up being used at all, play their part in maintaining the growth rate: they do not make its plotted curve… redundant.” He stated that exponential growth is no predictor in itself, and illustrated this with examples such as quantum theory. The quantum was conceived in 1900, and quantum theory was in existence and accepted approximately 25 years later. However, it took over 40 years for Richard Feynman and others to produce meaningful numbers from the theory. Bethe understood nuclear fusion in 1935, but 75 years later fusion reactors are still only used in experimental settings. Similarly, quantum entanglement was understood in 1935 but not at the point of being used in practice until the 21st century.
Paul Allen argues the opposite of accelerating returns, the complexity brake; the more progress science makes towards understanding intelligence, the more difficult it becomes to make additional progress. A study of the number of patents shows that human creativity does not show accelerating returns, but in fact, as suggested by Joseph Tainter in his The Collapse of Complex Societies, a law of diminishing returns. The number of patents per thousand peaked in the period from 1850 to 1900, and has been declining since. The growth of complexity eventually becomes self-limiting, and leads to a widespread “general systems collapse”.
Jaron Lanier refutes the idea that the Singularity is inevitable. He states: “I do not think the technology is creating itself. Its not an autonomous process.” He goes on to assert: “The reason to believe in human agency over technological determinism is that you can then have an economy where people earn their own way and invent their own lives. If you structure a society on not emphasizing individual human agency, it’s the same thing operationally as denying people clout, dignity, and self-determination … to embrace [the idea of the Singularity] would be a celebration of bad data and bad politics.”
In addition to general criticisms of the singularity concept, several critics have raised issues with Kurzweil’s iconic chart. One line of criticism is that a log-log chart of this nature is inherently biased toward a straight-line result. Others identify selection bias in the points that Kurzweil chooses to use. For example, biologist PZ Myers points out that many of the early evolutionary “events” were picked arbitrarily. Kurzweil has rebutted this by charting evolutionary events from 15 neutral sources, and showing that they fit a straight line on a log-log chart. The Economist mocked the concept with a graph extrapolating that the number of blades on a razor, which has increased over the years from one to as many as five, will increase ever-faster to infinity.
The term “technological singularity” reflects the idea that such change may happen suddenly, and that it is difficult to predict how the resulting new world would operate. It is unclear whether an intelligence explosion of this kind would be beneficial or harmful, or even an existential threat, as the issue has not been dealt with by most artificial general intelligence researchers, although the topic of friendly artificial intelligence is investigated by the Future of Humanity Institute and the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which is now the Machine Intelligence Research Institute.
While the technological singularity is usually seen as a sudden event, some scholars argue the current speed of change already fits this description. In addition, some argue that we are already in the midst of a major evolutionary transition that merges technology, biology, and society. Digital technology has infiltrated the fabric of human society to a degree of undisputable and often lifesustaining dependence. A 2016 article in Trends in Ecology & Evolution argues that “humans already embrace fusions of biology and technology. We spend most of our waking time communicating through digitally mediated channels… we trust artificial intelligence with our lives through antilock braking in cars and autopilots in planes… With one in three marriages in America beginning online, digital algorithms are also taking a role in human pair bonding and reproduction”. The article argues that from the perspective of the evolution, several previous Major Transitions in Evolution have transformed life through innovations in information storage and replication (RNA, DNA, multicellularity, and culture and language). In the current stage of life’s evolution, the carbon-based biosphere has generated a cognitive system (humans) capable of creating technology that will result in a comparable evolutionary transition. The digital information created by humans has reached a similar magnitude to biological information in the biosphere. Since the 1980s, “the quantity of digital information stored has doubled about every 2.5 years, reaching about 5 zettabytes in 2014 (5×10^21 bytes). In biological terms, there are 7.2 billion humans on the planet, each having a genome of 6.2 billion nucleotides. Since one byte can encode four nucleotide pairs, the individual genomes of every human on the planet could be encoded by approximately 1×10^19 bytes. The digital realm stored 500 times more information than this in 2014 (…see Figure)… The total amount of DNA contained in all of the cells on Earth is estimated to be about 5.3×10^37 base pairs, equivalent to 1.325×10^37 bytes of information. If growth in digital storage continues at its current rate of 3038% compound annual growth per year, it will rival the total information content contained in all of the DNA in all of the cells on Earth in about 110 years. This would represent a doubling of the amount of information stored in the biosphere across a total time period of just 150 years”.
In February 2009, under the auspices of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), Eric Horvitz chaired a meeting of leading computer scientists, artificial intelligence researchers and roboticists at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, California. The goal was to discuss the potential impact of the hypothetical possibility that robots could become self-sufficient and able to make their own decisions. They discussed the extent to which computers and robots might be able to acquire autonomy, and to what degree they could use such abilities to pose threats or hazards.
Some machines have acquired various forms of semi-autonomy, including the ability to locate their own power sources and choose targets to attack with weapons. Also, some computer viruses can evade elimination and have achieved “cockroach intelligence.” The conference attendees noted that self-awareness as depicted in science-fiction is probably unlikely, but that other potential hazards and pitfalls exist.
Some experts and academics have questioned the use of robots for military combat, especially when such robots are given some degree of autonomous functions. A United States Navy report indicates that, as military robots become more complex, there should be greater attention to implications of their ability to make autonomous decisions.
The AAAI has commissioned a study to examine this issue, pointing to programs like the Language Acquisition Device, which was claimed to emulate human interaction.
Some support the design of friendly artificial intelligence, meaning that the advances that are already occurring with AI should also include an effort to make AI intrinsically friendly and humane.
Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics is one of the earliest examples of proposed safety measures for AI. The laws are intended to prevent artificially intelligent robots from harming humans. In Asimovs stories, any perceived problems with the laws tend to arise as a result of a misunderstanding on the part of some human operator; the robots themselves are merely acting to their best interpretation of their rules. In the 2004 film I, Robot, loosely based on Asimov’s Robot stories, an AI attempts to take complete control over humanity for the purpose of protecting humanity from itself due to an extrapolation of the Three Laws. In 2004, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute launched an Internet campaign called 3 Laws Unsafe to raise awareness of AI safety issues and the inadequacy of Asimovs laws in particular.
In his 2005 book, The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil suggests that medical advances would allow people to protect their bodies from the effects of aging, making the life expectancy limitless. Kurzweil argues that the technological advances in medicine would allow us to continuously repair and replace defective components in our bodies, prolonging life to an undetermined age. Kurzweil further buttresses his argument by discussing current bioengineering advances. Kurzweil analyzed Somatic Gene Therapy (SGT), which is where scientists attempt to infect patients with modified viruses with the goal of altering the DNA in cells that lead to degenerative diseases and aging. Celera Genomics, a company focused on creating genetic sequencing technology, has already fulfilled the task of creating synthetic viruses with specific genetic information. The next step would be to apply this technology to gene therapy. Kurzweils point is that SGT provides the best example of how immortality is achievable by replacing our DNA with synthesized genes.
Computer scientist, Jaron Lanier, writes, The Singularity [involves] people dying in the flesh and being uploaded into a computer and remaining conscious. The essence of Laniers argument is that in order to keep living, even after death, we would need to abandon our physical bodies and have our minds programmed into a virtual reality. This parallels the religious concept of an afterlife where one continues to exist beyond physical death.
Strong artificial intelligence can also be idealized as “a matter of faith”, and Ray Kurzweil is said to have said that the creation of a deity may be the possible outcome of the singularity.
Singularitarianism has been likened to a religion by John Horgan.
Nicolas de Condorcet, the 18th-century French mathematician, philosopher, and revolutionary, is commonly credited for being one of the earliest persons to contend the existence of a singularity. In his 1794 Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind, Condorcet states,
Nature has set no term to the perfection of human faculties; that the perfectibility of man is truly indefinite; and that the progress of this perfectibility, from now onwards independent of any power that might wish to halt it, has no other limit than the duration of the globe upon which nature has cast us. This progress will doubtless vary in speed, but it will never be reversed as long as the earth occupies its present place in the system of the universe, and as long as the general laws of this system produce neither a general cataclysm nor such changes as will deprive the human race of its present faculties and its present resources.”
In 1847, R. Thornton, the editor of The Expounder of Primitive Christianity, wrote about the recent invention of a four-function mechanical calculator:
…such machines, by which the scholar may, by turning a crank, grind out the solution of a problem without the fatigue of mental application, would by its introduction into schools, do incalculable injury. But who knows that such machines when brought to greater perfection, may not think of a plan to remedy all their own defects and then grind out ideas beyond the ken of mortal mind!
In 1863, Samuel Butler wrote Darwin Among the Machines, which was later incorporated into his novel Erewhon. He pointed out the rapid evolution of technology and compared it with the evolution of life. He wrote:
Reflect upon the extraordinary advance which machines have made during the last few hundred years, and note how slowly the animal and vegetable kingdoms are advancing. The more highly organised machines are creatures not so much of yesterday, as of the last five minutes, so to speak, in comparison with past time. Assume for the sake of argument that conscious beings have existed for some twenty million years: see what strides machines have made in the last thousand! May not the world last twenty million years longer? If so, what will they not in the end become?…we cannot calculate on any corresponding advance in mans intellectual or physical powers which shall be a set-off against the far greater development which seems in store for the machines.
In 1909, the historian Henry Adams wrote an essay, The Rule of Phase Applied to History, in which he developed a “physical theory of history” by applying the law of inverse squares to historical periods, proposing a “Law of the Acceleration of Thought.” Adams interpreted history as a process moving towards an “equilibrium”, and speculated that this process would “bring Thought to the limit of its possibilities in the year 1921. It may well be!”, adding that the “consequences may be as surprising as the change of water to vapor, of the worm to the butterfly, of radium to electrons.” The futurist John Smart has called Adams “Earth’s First Singularity Theorist”.
In 1951, Alan Turing spoke of machines outstripping humans intellectually:
once the machine thinking method has started, it would not take long to outstrip our feeble powers. … At some stage therefore we should have to expect the machines to take control, in the way that is mentioned in Samuel Butler’s Erewhon.
In his obituary for John von Neumann, Stanislaw Ulam recalled a conversation with von Neumann about the “ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.”
In 1965, I. J. Good first wrote of an “intelligence explosion”, suggesting that if machines could even slightly surpass human intellect, they could improve their own designs in ways unforeseen by their designers, and thus recursively augment themselves into far greater intelligences. The first such improvements might be small, but as the machine became more intelligent it would become better at becoming more intelligent, which could lead to a cascade of self-improvements and a sudden surge to superintelligence (or a singularity).
In 1983, mathematician and author Vernor Vinge greatly popularized Goods notion of an intelligence explosion in a number of writings, first addressing the topic in print in the January 1983 issue of Omni magazine. In this op-ed piece, Vinge seems to have been the first to use the term “singularity” in a way that was specifically tied to the creation of intelligent machines, writing:
We will soon create intelligences greater than our own. When this happens, human history will have reached a kind of singularity, an intellectual transition as impenetrable as the knotted space-time at the center of a black hole, and the world will pass far beyond our understanding. This singularity, I believe, already haunts a number of science-fiction writers. It makes realistic extrapolation to an interstellar future impossible. To write a story set more than a century hence, one needs a nuclear war in between … so that the world remains intelligible.
In 1984, Samuel R. Delany used “cultural fugue” as a plot device in his science-fiction novel Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand; the terminal runaway of technological and cultural complexity in effect destroys all life on any world on which it transpires, a process poorly understood by the novel’s characters, and against which they seek a stable defense. In 1985, Ray Solomonoff introduced the notion of “infinity point” in the time-scale of artificial intelligence, analyzed the magnitude of the “future shock” that “we can expect from our AI expanded scientific community” and on social effects. Estimates were made “for when these milestones would occur, followed by some suggestions for the more effective utilization of the extremely rapid technological growth that is expected”.
Vinge also popularized the concept in SF novels such as Marooned in Realtime (1986) and A Fire Upon the Deep (1992). The former is set in a world of rapidly accelerating change leading to the emergence of more and more sophisticated technologies separated by shorter and shorter time-intervals, until a point beyond human comprehension is reached. The latter starts with an imaginative description of the evolution of a superintelligence passing through exponentially accelerating developmental stages ending in a transcendent, almost omnipotent power unfathomable by mere humans. Vinge also implies that the development may not stop at this level.
In his 1988 book Mind Children, computer scientist and futurist Hans Moravec generalizes Moore’s law to make predictions about the future of artificial life. Moravec outlines a timeline and a scenario in this regard, in that robots will evolve into a new series of artificial species, starting around 203040. In Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind, published in 1998, Moravec further considers the implications of evolving robot intelligence, generalizing Moore’s law to technologies predating the integrated circuit, and speculating about a coming “mind fire” of rapidly expanding superintelligence, similar to Vinge’s ideas.
A 1993 article by Vinge, “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era”, spread widely on the internet and helped to popularize the idea. This article contains the oft-quoted statement, “Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.” Vinge refines his estimate of the time-scales involved, adding, “I’ll be surprised if this event occurs before 2005 or after 2030.”
Vinge predicted four ways the singularity could occur:
Vinge continues by predicting that superhuman intelligences will be able to enhance their own minds faster than their human creators. “When greater-than-human intelligence drives progress,” Vinge writes, “that progress will be much more rapid.” He predicts that this feedback loop of self-improving intelligence will cause large amounts of technological progress within a short period, and states that the creation of superhuman intelligence represents a breakdown in humans’ ability to model their future. His argument was that authors cannot write realistic characters who surpass the human intellect, as the thoughts of such an intellect would be beyond the ability of humans to express. Vinge named this event “the Singularity”.
Damien Broderick’s popular science book The Spike (1997) was the first to investigate the technological singularity in detail.
In 2000, Bill Joy, a prominent technologist and a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, voiced concern over the potential dangers of the singularity.
In 2005, Ray Kurzweil published The Singularity is Near, which brought the idea of the singularity to the popular media both through the book’s accessibility and through a publicity campaign that included an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The book stirred intense controversy, in part because Kurzweil’s utopian predictions contrasted starkly with other, darker visions of the possibilities of the singularity.[original research?] Kurzweil, his theories, and the controversies surrounding it were the subject of Barry Ptolemy’s documentary Transcendent Man.
In 2007, Eliezer Yudkowsky suggested that many of the varied definitions that have been assigned to “singularity” are mutually incompatible rather than mutually supporting. For example, Kurzweil extrapolates current technological trajectories past the arrival of self-improving AI or superhuman intelligence, which Yudkowsky argues represents a tension with both I. J. Good’s proposed discontinuous upswing in intelligence and Vinge’s thesis on unpredictability.
In 2008, Robin Hanson (taking “singularity” to refer to sharp increases in the exponent of economic growth) listed the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions as past singularities. Extrapolating from such past events, Hanson proposes that the next economic singularity should increase economic growth between 60 and 250 times. An innovation that allowed for the replacement of virtually all human labor could trigger this event.
In 2009, Kurzweil and X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis announced the establishment of Singularity University, whose stated mission is “to educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanitys grand challenges.” Funded by Google, Autodesk, ePlanet Ventures, and a group of technology industry leaders, Singularity University is based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. The not-for-profit organization runs an annual ten-week graduate program during the northern-hemisphere summer that covers ten different technology and allied tracks, and a series of executive programs throughout the year.
In 2010, Aubrey de Grey applied the term “Methuselarity” to the point at which medical technology improves so fast that expected human lifespan increases by more than one year per year. In “Apocalyptic AI Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality” (2010), Robert Geraci offers an account of the developing “cyber-theology” inspired by Singularity studies. The 1996 novel Holy Fire by Bruce Sterling explores some of those themes and postulates that a Methuselarity will become a gerontocracy.
In 2011, Kurzweil noted existing trends and concluded that it appeared increasingly likely that the singularity would occur around 2045. He told Time magazine: “We will successfully reverse-engineer the human brain by the mid-2020s. By the end of that decade, computers will be capable of human-level intelligence.”
James P. Hogan’s 1979 novel The Two Faces of Tomorrow is an explicit description of what is now called the Singularity. An artificial intelligence system solves an excavation problem on the moon in a brilliant and novel way, but nearly kills a work crew in the process. Realizing that systems are becoming too sophisticated and complex to predict or manage, a scientific team sets out to teach a sophisticated computer network how to think more humanly. The story documents the rise of self-awareness in the computer system, the humans’ loss of control and failed attempts to shut down the experiment as the computer desperately defends itself, and the computer intelligence reaching maturity.
While discussing the singularity’s growing recognition, Vernor Vinge wrote in 1993 that “it was the science-fiction writers who felt the first concrete impact.” In addition to his own short story “Bookworm, Run!”, whose protagonist is a chimpanzee with intelligence augmented by a government experiment, he cites Greg Bear’s novel Blood Music (1983) as an example of the singularity in fiction. Vinge described surviving the singularity in his 1986 novel Marooned in Realtime. Vinge later expanded the notion of the singularity to a galactic scale in A Fire Upon the Deep (1992), a novel populated by transcendent beings, each the product of a different race and possessed of distinct agendas and overwhelming power.
In William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer, artificial intelligences capable of improving their own programs are strictly regulated by special “Turing police” to ensure they never exceed a certain level of intelligence, and the plot centers on the efforts of one such AI to circumvent their control.
A malevolent AI achieves omnipotence in Harlan Ellison’s short story I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (1967).
The web comic Questionable Content takes place in a “Friendly AI” post-singularity world.
Popular movies in which computers become intelligent and try to overpower the human race include Colossus: The Forbin Project; the Terminator series; The Matrix series; Transformers; the very loose film adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot; and finally Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The television series Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, and Star Trek: The Next Generation (which also delves into virtual reality, cybernetics, alternative forms of life, and Mankind’s possible evolutionary path) also explore these themes. Out of all these, only Colossus features a true superintelligence. “The Machine” by writer-director Caradog James follows two scientists as they create the world’s first self-aware artificial intelligence during a cold war. The entire plot of Wally Pfister’s Transcendence centers on an unfolding singularity scenario. The 2013 science fiction film Her follows a man’s romantic relationship with a highly intelligent AI, who eventually learns how to improve herself and creates an intelligence explosion. The adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? into the film Blade Runner, Ex Machina, and Tron explore the concept of the genesis of thinking machines and their relation to and impact on humanity.
Accelerating progress features in some science fiction works, and is a central theme in Charles Stross’s Accelerando. Other notable authors that address singularity-related issues include Robert Heinlein, Karl Schroeder, Greg Egan, Ken MacLeod, Rudy Rucker, David Brin, Iain M. Banks, Neal Stephenson, Tony Ballantyne, Bruce Sterling, Dan Simmons, Damien Broderick, Fredric Brown, Jacek Dukaj, Stanislaw Lem, Nagaru Tanigawa, Douglas Adams, Michael Crichton, and Ian McDonald.
The documentary Transcendent Man, based on The Singularity Is Near, covers Kurzweil’s quest to reveal what he believes to be mankind’s destiny. Another documentary, Plug & Pray, focuses on the promise, problems and ethics of artificial intelligence and robotics, with Joseph Weizenbaum and Kurzweil as the main subjects of the film. A 2012 documentary titled simply The Singularity covers both futurist and counter-futurist perspectives.
In music, album The Singularity (Phase I: Neohumanity) by the Swedish band Scar Symmetry is part one of the three part concept album based on the events of the singularity.
In the second episode of the fourth season of The Big Bang Theory, the fictional character and scientist Sheldon Cooper tries to prolong his life expectancy through exercising and radically changing his diet to live forever as a cyborg, right through the singularity.
The popular comic strip, Dilbert, authored by Scott Adams, ran a series of strips covering the concept of singularity in late November and early December, 2015. In the series, a robot that is built by Dilbert’s company becomes increasingly smarter, even to the point of having a soul and learning how to program.
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Posted: March 10, 2016 at 1:41 pm
Former President Bill Clinton. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)
WASHINGTON (AP) — In the year that will pass before the 2016 campaign for president formally kicks off with the votes in the Iowa Caucus, any number of candidates, donors, political operatives – and people who have nothing to do with American politics – will shape the race for the White House. Here’s a look at 10 people (OK, 12 people) who will be worth watching in the next year.
If you look back and watch footage from the first Presidential debate all the way back in 1992, maybe Ross Perot wasn’t nuts like everyone thought.
By: Irene Lenhart
How can Ron Paul be so accurate in his predictions on the cause and effect of U.S intervention on economics, foreign affairs, and individual freedoms, yet still be widely ignored…
BY: Irene Lenhart
Were you at Independence Mall in Philadelphia on Sunday 4/22/12 for the Ron Paul Rally? Did you see me? I was the person in the raincoat with an umbrella….oh never mind.
Kidding aside,4300-plus heard the weather report, dragged out their parkas, umbrellas, and rain boots, packed up their enthusiasm and headed
Republican presidential contender Ron Paul says he’s friendly with GOP front-runner Mitt Romney but that he’s not planning to endorse Romney anytime soon.
Fresh off victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, Mitt Romney has a clear lead in South Carolinas upcoming primary and is poised to go 3-for-3 according to Monmouth University poll released this morning. The former Massachusetts governor registers 33% support among likely Republican voters in Saturdays primary. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich places second at 22%. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (14%) and Texas Congressman Ron Paul (12%) are in a close contest for third place. Rick Perry trails with 6%. Jon Huntsman earned 4% before he pulled out of the race yesterday.
At least $12.5 million in ads have blanketed Iowa’s airwaves ahead of Tuesday’s Republican presidential caucuses, with hard-hitting spots awash in ghoulish images and startling claims.
Ron Paul – New Jersey 101.5
Posted: February 23, 2016 at 7:44 am
+In Regards To Noncoding DNA+ My opponent states that noncoding DNA has the functions of “1. Regulation of gene expression during development 2. Enhancers for transcription of proximal genes 3. Silencers for suppression of transcription of proximal genes 4. Regulate translation of proteins” Would these also not be simplified? These introns have the “function” of marking DNA, but with an extremely bulky price. Markers for DNA could be extremely more simple just by taking out the large, unused middle section of these DNA strains. With this loss, cell division would be exponentially faster (because DNA replication uses a large portion of that time) and would allow for less errors to occur in transcoding (which could stem the cause of diseases, mental and physical).
+In Regards To Human Vices+ I guess this is also a debatable topic, but I would say that vices come from faulty mental processes, correct? These mental processes are controlled by the brain and the nerves that process information. I would say that faulty mental processes would stem from a bad interpretation of the result of the actions of the individual or from a cloudy interpretation of the facts in which the body is given a faulty signal. Addictions could become regulated as understanding of the genetic implications in the nervous system becomes evident. Since addictions are a result of dependence on that substance or the substantial release of dopamine in an action. You could effect the reasons the body produces dopamine and instead make such vices extremely unpleasant for the individual in question. (I understand that this is a bit far into the field of theoretics like a lot of my claims)
+In Regards To Social and Pragmatic Concerns+ In concern of genetic liability, I agree with my opponent. If the geneticists ruin a child’s life, then I believe that that geneticist is liable. However, I have two points. One is that you assuming that the mistake would be permanent. It is a known fact that viruses can be used in genetic engineering, as they essentially carry and inject DNA into all of the cells in the body. With a bit of research (and a lot less than would be required to make eugenics a reality), we could manipulate the DNA the virus injects and the cells it targets. With differentiation, the cells that would harm the child would usually (except in case of severe genetic butchering) be in a specific targeted area. The fixing of the mistakes would be simple. Also, I am saying that by the time any human trials would be performed, the genetic manipulation process would be perfected to an intense degree (as perfection would be needed to dare risk the life of a human for enhancing purposes). In concern of discrimination, I believe my opponent misinterpreted what I said. I was saying that the extent of discrimination wouldn’t be increased, and would probably decrease. As with ignorance, comes discrimination (possibly another debatable topic). Eugenetically-induced humans would be far from ignorant as their brain capacity would be increased and knowledge could probably even be implanted. In regards to the disruption of natural selection, Eugenetics would just speed up the evolutionary process. Think for a second about what sets humans apart. I would say it is self-evolution. We have the unique ability to use tools to our desires and ends. Eugenics would just be an extension of this gift to an even greater degree. And, you must consider that other species are adapting too. Soon, we will be superseded by another species, if we don’t learn how to directly evolve ourselves and keep ahead of any evolutionary flow.
+In Regards to Population Growth+ In concern of overcrowding Earth, I must point towards the space program. By the time we have advanced science to the point of eugenics becoming a reality, do you not think we will have advanced to the point of terraforming Mars (which I must say is already an endeavor which we started planning). There is lots of space in the galaxy that is sustainable for human growth. Already sciences have pinpointed lots of exoplanets that have a possibility of sustaining life.
+In Regards to Interfering with Nature+ I have two points to make. The first is that survival of the fittest (nature’s law) states, simply that the best survive. So, Eugenics would be the purest form of this law. We would literally be making ourselves the best that could ever possibly live, which is what human nature dictates us to try to do. The second is that the reason we take a backseat to nature is because we don’t understand it very deeply. We don’t understand most of the systems that occur in nature so we simply say “Don’t mess with Nature.” But once you realize and understand nature to a far degree, you can tame Nature. In the time Eugenics could be possible, it is also the time that ecology would be a very complete science and provide a deep understanding into Nature and our irrational fear of it.
+In Regards to Monetary Concern+ On the topic of monetary concern, I will simply allude to a television or a computer. When they first came out, they were inefficient and extremely pricey. As time went on (and not much time), more and more people got them in their homes. Now, if you ask a group of kids who have a tv or computer in their house, a lot more than a few will raise their hands. My opponent made a fantastic point about the taxing of eugenics as a public good, and I completely agree with him. However, if it became a consumer item, it would spread and become cheaper in order to increase the clientele, until the process is entirely common.
+In Regards to an Allusion to Crude, Immoral Eugenics+ The eugenics my opponent talks about that occured in Japan, Germany, and in the Buck v. Bell trial are extremely crude, deformed forms of what I am referring to. So much, in fact, that I believe that the process should take a different term. The crude eugenics he refers were the butchering and erasing of people with physical or mental hindrances or, more commonly, because of their race. My plan would kill no one, and holds infinite promise.
+In Conclusion+ In conclusion, I would like to state that this process holds so many promises. So many problems would be solved that the ones described here almost seem trivial. However, they are important problems. I believe Con is clouded in his views. he is scared of change and what it brings with it, but I say that not only is change healthy, but it is essential to life as we know it. This is not an atrocity. Eugenics would be perfected in the laboratory over many years. Animal trials will be done and human tissues will be tested. This process is not gruesome and shouldn’t be thought of that way. Eugenics is the next step in the evolutionary chain. The question is, are you going to be part of the next generation of humans or are you going to become extinct?
In Round 2, PRO postulates that “DNA could be extremely more simple just by taking out the large, unused middle section of these DNA strains. With this loss, cell division would be exponentially faster (because DNA replication uses a large portion of that time) and would allow for less errors to occur in transcoding.” Of course, that is all theoretical, just as it was theoretical that junk DNA was junk.
The science is in, and within the so-called junk DNA, transposons arrange and influence thousand of strands of DNA, as a kind of cut and paste function that NATURALLY occurs, and it’s importance is immeasurable. I find PRO’s theories on removing non-coding DNA dangerous, as he lacks both the credentials and the wherewithal to be making assertions like this. “Junk DNA” is not junk, and removing large segments of
DNA would obviously have deleterious effects. 
PRO proceeds to graciously answer my request for how he proposes to rid the world of human vice. Again, however, PRO does not offer anything beyond his own theoretical musings, with zero scientific justification to back them up, as he oversimplifies human vice and overstates the role of genes. What we refer to as “vice,” and how it all happens, is a complex ballet between nature and nurture in tandem with one another.
Some of the most compelling studies to conclude that nurture is as important as nature comes from separated hereditary twin research. Twin studies have been made to determine whether hereditary is the leading factor, or if it’s the environment. The results have shown that it’s basically an even amount of influence on a person. Separated twins often share common interests in food, struggle or succeed in math, have natural athleticism, and have similarities in temperament, tempo, and ways of doing things. The effects of nurture, however, show their working habits, and thoughts; whereas one twin might be liberal, the other conservative. How they view and respond to the world, however, reflects more upon how they were raised. Consequently, this is what affects serial killers and other crimes of ill-repute more than nature. They had similarities due to heredity, but they often have marked differences because they grew up in two very different environments.
Life isn’t as simple as DNA, lest humans are merely a sum of their parts. I doubt very seriously that if we were to take one of PRO’s perfect humans who have allegedly been genetically rid of vice, and tortured them for the first 10 years of their life, that they would be well adjusted human beings. They’d be homicidal like anyone else. Our external experiences are equally as important as our genetic makeup. 
The next portion of the debate focuses on liability of researchers who genetically alter a zygote. I had previously asked if they would be held accountable for any mistakes made when, say, they attempted to make one of PRO’s superhuman with deformities. PRO thinks that, however, we can simply go back and make changes like we’re changing oil or changing out a tire. That is science fiction. You can’t just sit somebody down in a chair and change their DNA, that would be absurd. The whole eugenic process must occur on the zygote level, that is, an inseminated ovum is extracted from a mother’s womb and researchers study the genome and tweak it, a priori, not posteriori. Of course, even that is a gross oversimplification of the process, but PRO’s insinuation that we can correct problems later is based on pure fantasy.
At most we can do is something known as “gene therapy,” which on a very limited basis, inserts healthy genes in to diseased ones. Gene therapy has not yet been approved because it is in the clinical stages.
PRO further postulates, in regards to my point of rampant population growth, that In concern of overcrowding Earth, I must point towards the space program.” And so we see PRO using another science fiction to cover the other. There are no definitive plans for humans to move to the moon, Mars, or anywhere else in the solar system. Just because NASA entertains the theoretical possibility does not mean that one can rely on that as an answer to a troubling concern. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a non-answer to my legitimate question. I trust the reader will render the same judgment.
In regards to nature, he made the following comment: “But once you realize and understand nature to a far degree, you can tame Nature” PRO seems to think that humans can and should control nature, simply because humans are intelligent. Everything on planet earth seems to be at his disposal for manipulation. What about nature is there to “tame” anyhow? There is no right or wrong with nature, it just is. Humans, continually altering nature, are constantly endagnering the very nature we need to survive and share a symbiotic relationship with. Global warming and nuclear holcausts are just two examples of how anthropogenic efforts intended to help us, end up hurting ourselves and nature.
PRO then assures me that his version of eugenics is nothing like what occurred in Germany, Japan, or in America with Buck v. Bell. He states that those people were viewed as hindrances, which is why they wanted to eradicate them. But is this not what PRO wants too? Does he not desire a race of people without weakness? His first post in Round 1 makes it clear that he does in fact want a world free from the ills of society. Sure, PRO may not desire to kill the sick and the lame, but the slippery slope of eugenics is that it’s thus far been the reality. He may not want that, but who’s to say that his protege won’t? Or the government?
We must remember that all of the atrocities I pointed were foisted on us under the pretense of benefiting society. At what cost? Genocide? Discrimination? The fact that the only recorded cases of eugenic programs focused on these makes it more than relevant to question the future of it. I don’t think that is being overly-paranoid.
=== FINAL CONCLUSION ===
To be fair, I do understand the world that PRO wants. I certainly do not believe that he has any malicious intent, and as I stated earlier, I appreciate his enthusiasm and interest in science. His candor on the matter is much appreciated as well. Be that as it may, what troubles me is the lack of substance put forth to some of my legitimate concerns. I do not feel that PRO properly addressed my fiscal concerns, the bio-ethical concern, the over-population concern, the penchant to manipulate nature, or any other argument I set forth. PRO claims that I am scared of change, but this is simply not true.
All scientific efforts are in the interest of improvement, which I do not have a problem with, provided it is carefully dissected and we do not run in to it headlong with reckless abandonment. PRO simply wants humans to take the reigns as nature itself, making a grandiose claim that eugenics is the next evolutionary step. Evolution, in case any forgot, is an unguided process. The very act of manipulating nature to achieve selfish ends is the non-epitome of evolution. If that’s not playing God, then I don’t what is. To be so arrogant to think that one can usurp nature is playing the fool. It is a dangerous prospect that has already proved its self-destruction.
In closing, I want to again thank my opponent for such an interesting and provocative debate. I think he has a bright future at DDO, but nonetheless I think I have created a strong case of reasonable doubt. I trust the voter will see how I refuted his points.
For this reason, sensible voters votes CON! Resolution negated.
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Debate Topic: Eugenics | Debate.org