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November 20th 2008 print

Bill Muehlenberg

The Menace of Eugenics

Most people know about Hitler’s plan to create a master race and to weed out the unfit and inferior races. His horrible plans resulted in the Second World War, the deaths of millions, and the Holocaust. His notions of racial and national superiority did not come out of thin air however, but were based upon ideas and practices going back at least to the nineteenth century.

Most people know about Hitler’s plan to create a master race and to weed out the unfit and inferior races. His horrible plans resulted in the Second World War, the deaths of millions, and the Holocaust. His notions of racial and national superiority did not come out of thin air however, but were based upon ideas and practices going back at least to the nineteenth century.

Indeed, the idea of weeding out the imperfect to develop an ideal race has been around for quite some time. People have long been interested in perfecting the human species by means of medicine, technology and even coercion. The term for all this is ‘eugenics’ (from the Greek, ‘well-born’ or ‘good birth’), a phrase coined in 1883 by English statistician and mathematician Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911). Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, believed that some races were superior to others, and that we could take evolution into our own hands by selectively breeding superior human beings. He said that "blacks were genetically inferior, the Jews were ‘parasitical’, and that poverty was transmitted in the genes."

He of course was greatly impacted by his cousin’s ideas. Darwin entitled his first major work, The Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. His subtitle says it all. And in his The Descent of Man (1871), he spelled out the implications of biological evolution for human beings. The social Darwinists were quick to pick up on how this could be applied throughout human society.

The idea of eugenics quickly spread. Karl Pearson (1857-1936) was another statistician and disciple of Galton. He claimed that blacks never produced great nations because of their genetic inferiority. He felt that the British were at the top of the Great Chain of being, with animals on the bottom, and Europeans, Chinese and blacks in between, in descending order. He spoke of "the sterilization of those sections of community of small civic worth".

In 1912 the First International Congress of Eugenics was held in London, with others to follow in 1921 and 1932. The third congress featured a call for the sterilization of 14 million Americans with low intelligence-test scores. The frightening thing about these conferences is the fact that they were attended by so many social heavyweights: politicians, university presidents, etc. Respectability and prestige were thus bestowed on these nefarious gatherings.

America soon led the way in the field of eugenics, and during the 1920’s and 30’s it was especially influential. Numerous American universities offered courses in eugenics, and the topic was widely featured in high school biology textbooks.

A leading proponent of eugenics in the US was Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) the founder of Planned Parenthood, the biggest promoter of sex education, abortion and birth control in the world today.

Sanger, who was born in New York, plunged into radical politics, suffragette feminism, and unfettered sex while in college. She married into money, became a socialist, and pursued anarchist and utopian causes. She was especially influenced by English sexologist Havelock Ellis and his Studies in the Psychology of Sex. Ellis was a proponent of free love and every kind of sexual deviancy. He was to later become one of her many lovers.

Ellis was also a eugenicist, and advocated sterilizing the "unfit". He said, “Feeble-mindedness is an absolute dead-weight on the race; it is an evil that is unmitigated". He said those who would not volunteer for sterilization should have their Poor Relief withdrawn from them.

In 1917 Sanger founded the Birth Control League, which changed its name to Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942. Today Planned Parenthood is a multi-billion-dollar international conglomerate with programs and activities in 134 nations on every continent.

Sanger also published a paper called The Woman Rebel, with "No Gods! No Masters" emblazoned on the masthead. The first issue denounced marriage as a "degenerate institution," capitalism as “indecent exploitation," and sexual modesty as "obscene prudery". In another article she asserted that "rebel women claim the following rights: the right to be lazy, the right to be an unmarried mother, the right to destroy . . . and the right to love".

Her publication Birth Control Review once featured this slogan: "Birth Control: To Create a Race of Thoroughbreds". In her 1922 book, The Pivot of Civilization, she called for the elimination of "human weeds," for the cessation of charity, for the segregation of "morons, misfits and the maladjusted" and the sterilization of "genetically inferior races".

In March of 1925, at an international birth control gathering held in New York, Ms Sanger warned of the menace posed by the "black" and "yellow" peril. Elsewhere she spoke of her plan for sterilizing the "unfit" and criticized those "whose religious scruples prevent their exercising control over their numbers."

Not surprisingly, she exerted a lot of influence, especially on one person who was probably the greatest applied eugenicist who ever lived: Adolf Hitler. In 1929 he said, "if a million children were born in a year and 800,000 of the weakest and most ‘unworthy’ were killed, the end result would be a strengthening of the population." As his deputy Rudolf Hess explained in 1934, "National Socialism is nothing but applied biology".

The eugenics movement was very powerful and hugely influential. In 1907 Indiana became the first US state to pass mandatory sterilisation legislation. It made sterilisation mandatory for criminals, idiots, rapists, and imbeciles who were in state custody. Soon thereafter nearly 30 US states had such laws in operation.

It was of course in Germany that eugenics came to its most ghastly expression. That story is all too well known. But perhaps less well known is the implication of Darwinism and eugenics in the rise of the Nazis. Richard Weikart has done a masterful job of connecting the dots here. In his vitally important 2004 book, From Darwin to Hitler, he documents how vital a role social Darwinism played in the rise of Nazism.

Says Weikart, “Not only did many leading Darwinists embrace eugenics, but also most eugenicists – certainly all the early leaders – considered eugenics a straightforward application of Darwinian principles to ethics and society. Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, the founder of modern eugenics, developed his ideas upon reading Darwin’s Origin of the Species.”

Of course Darwin was not a direct cause of Hitler and his policies: “Darwinism by itself did not produce the Holocaust, but without Darwinism, especially in its social Darwinist and eugenics permutations, neither Hitler nor his Nazi followers would have had the necessary scientific underpinnings to convince themselves and their collaborators that one of the world’s greatest atrocities was really morally praiseworthy.”

As legal expert Augusto Zimmermann has said more recently, “Darwinism underpinned the most distinctive and essential features of National Socialism. Indeed, Nazism would not have existed without Darwinism. While Darwinism is not the only explanation for Nazism, it is nonetheless an essential one. The Nazis believed they were progressives who were advancing ‘evolution’ by conferring on the blind forces of nature the perfect sight of the Aryan, the better for its guiding principle of ‘survival of the fittest’ to see where to go.”

The new eugenics

Although Hitler and the Nazis were eventually defeated, their eugenics philosophy is far from dead. In 1967 the American population controller Kingsley Davis published an article in Science magazine arguing that promotion of birth control was not enough to bring down population levels. He said the economy and social structure must be changed to bring down birth rates: "Changes basic enough to affect motivation for having children would be changes in the structure of the family, in the position of women and in sexual mores." His proposals included government funded sterilizations and abortions, a child tax, substantial fees for marriage licenses, tax married people more than single people, cut back all tax breaks and concessions for parents and married couples, compel women to work outside the home, and encourage women to develop interests to "compete with family interests".

In 1969 the Vice President of Planned Parenthood, Frederick Jaffe, drew up a chart based on Davis’ ideas. The chart listed 33 "Proposed Measures to Reduce U.S. Fertility." These included: fertility control agents in water supply; encourage increased homosexuality; permits for children; compulsory abortion and sterilization; and discouragement of home ownership.

Also in 1969, the United Nations set up the UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) to help coordinate fertility limitation programs worldwide. UNFPA has been a leading agent in the global push for the anti-population agenda. It has even been instrumental in training and assisting the Chinese in their barbaric one-child population program, which includes forced abortions, sterilization and infanticide.

Planned Parenthood International continues to fulfil Sanger’s vision. Mary S. Calderone, head of the Sex Information and Education Council (SIECUS) and former president and medical director of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, once said: "We have yet to beat the drum for birth control in the way we beat them for polio vaccine, we are still unable to put babies in the class of dangerous epidemics, even though this is the exact truth." Warren Hern, abortionist and an author in Planned Parenthood’s journal Family Planning Perspectives, wrote an article entitled "Is Pregnancy Normal?" in which he said: "[Pregnancy] may be defined as a disease … [and] … treated by evacuation of the uterine contents."

PPI has also recently recommended “compulsory abortion for out-of-wedlock pregnancies,” “compulsory sterilization for those who have already had two children,” and “tax penalties” for existing large families.

I have documented more recent eugenicist proposals on this site. One story concerned Melbourne neuroscientist and atheist John Reid who argued that we are far too overpopulated, and that we must get the human numbers down to 2 or 3 billion right away. As I said at the time: “Well folks, there you have it. Half of the human race needs to go. And will Reid be the first volunteer? Or will he be pulling the trigger of the machine gun, or flipping the switch to release the poison gas? Funny, but all this someone sounds strangely – and eerily – familiar.”

Conclusion

There is never a shortage of folks who are so concerned about “humanity” that they are quite happy to sacrifice humans – and lots of them – in order to achieve their utopian society. Which is why in 1983 Erich and Rael Jean Isaac penned a book entitled The Coercive Utopians. Man’s quest for heaven on earth always comes by means of coercion.

Hitler was just one such figure who used force to bring his utopia to earth. The eugenicists have had a long history of this. They went a bit quiet after the Nazi debacle, but they are still alive in well. While some may be well-meaning, their ideology and aims are nasty stuff, and we can only expect to see more eugenics policies rolled out in the days ahead. So be on your guard.