Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Eugenics

Often when one hears the word "eugenics" we immediately think of Nazis and forced sterilization and abortion and all sorts of awful things.

But I would simply like to point out that a State could certainly try, and I would argue should try, to encourage "good breeding" without any such coercive or intrinsically evil methods, for example via incentive systems. And the fact is, "eugenic" principles are already implicit in prisons and mental hospitals where whole segments of the population are removed (for the most part) from breeding.

In reality, isn't this what some countries in Europe are essentially doing by providing benefits to mothers who have children?

They're doing it to preserve an ethnicity or nationality, but why not for other traits? Given that it now seems that IQ has a significant genetic component, is it not a problem if the lower 50% of intelligences are having 55% of the children? Over time, will this not lead to a downward drift in the gene pool? Is there anything wrong with providing financial incentives for smart people to have more children? Or institutionalizing the mentally handicapped in a sex-segregated way (in humane conditions, of course; that would seem better than letting them wander around homeless)? Or applying some sort of social pressure on the slow or physically defective to go off to monasteries as lay brothers (that certainly happened in the past)?

I wouldn't think so, and Catholic Encyclopedia doesn't seem to think so either, going so far as to support "compulsory segregation" of the feeble by sex (though I personally would not feel comfortable limiting their freedom forcibly like that if they were competent enough to live independently). It even points out that traditional consanguinity regulations in Canon Law (going beyond what is forbidden by merely Natural Law) are a form of eugenics.

As long as no forced sterilization or abortion is involved, the main thing to worry about would be it becoming a slippery slope towards more coercive methods and eventually euthanasia, which would be terrible. The real scary problem comes with the question of who is to judge what is desirable and what is defective. Yet some conditions are obviously diseases and objectively disordered, mentally and physically.

So I can't see anything intrinsically wrong with the State (or even private foundations) incentivizing good breeding as long as there was no coercion or intrinsically evil methods involved, though because of the possible slippery slope, we'd have to think long and hard before agreeing to implement any such incentives-based program and be very careful about the details, lest it becomes racist or anything like that.

4 comments:

Pater, O.S.B. said...

I've told you before. One day I shall see you on T.V., the supreme dictator of your own country. :-)

A Sinner said...

There are bigger fish to fry on Fridays...

Michael D said...

I won't wholly condemn the idea of incentivizing those with superior traits to breed, so long as it isn't by coercion or achieved through any kind of gene manipulation, but I would want to point out one of my favorite quotes, which comes from an introduction to "Heretics" (it's not a part of Chesterton's actual work, but an editor's addition) in the version published by John Lain Co: "[Chesterton's 1922]'Eugenics and Other Evils' attacked what was at that time the most progressive of all ideas; the idea that the human race could, and should, breed a superior version of itself.

A Sinner said...

"Gene manipulation"...?

I wonder, would this be forbidden if it happened WITHIN the context of the natural marital act?

Which is to say, if Nanotechnology was invented which could, in the course of normal sex, kill off defective sperm while letting the healthy through, or even select for the sperm with a certain trait, would this be forbidden?

Some would say yes, we must "leave it to God" by which they mean chance, but I don't know. Are women who take folic acid to prevent spinabifida sinning by not "leaving it to God"??