No, not the Hunter Biden laptop. (I almost typed “Hunted Biden laptop,” which might soon be “breaking news,” but we’ll have to wait and see.) Rather, it’s one of the ideas that was floated shortly after Gregor Mendel discovered that fruit flies like sex: deliberately, eugenically breeding people as a way to improve us and our societies.
Here’s the OED’s definition of eugenics:
The study of how to arrange reproduction within a human population to increase the occurrence of heritable characteristics regarded as desirable. Developed largely by Sir Francis Galton as a method of improving the human race, eugenics was increasingly discredited as unscientific and racially biased during the 20th century, especially after the adoption of its doctrines by the Nazis in order to justify their treatment of Jews, disabled people, and other minority groups.
In these “woke” days, a “definition” that’s mostly made up of slander or condemnations should surprise no one. In point of fact, only the words up to the first period – the first “full stop,” as our British cousins would say – constitute a proper definition. The rest is an attempt to tar eugenics with a brush of Nazi black.
This article, which is mainly a book review, mentions some of the historical data about eugenic thinking:
There was also concern, especially among scientists such Francis Galton and Charles Darwin, about “dysgenics.” Prior to the Industrial Revolution, social class was correlated with fertility, child mortality was approximately 50%, and so the genetically sick, and those with low intelligence and poor moral character (correlates of low socioeconomic status), were purged every generation. But, despite its reputation, the Industrial Revolution, and especially the rise of inoculation against killer childhood diseases, created easier conditions and, thus, dysgenics. This risked the breakdown of civilization, in the view of the early eugenics advocates.
By 1900, eugenics was massively influential among Western elites. Conservatives such as former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour perceived it as a means of creating a great people. Leftists regarded it as a means of reducing suffering, and some of the most vocal advocates of eugenics were committed leftists—George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells. Opposition came from conservative traditionalists, such as G.K. Chesterton, who felt that eugenicists were playing God [Eugenics and the Left, by Diane Paul, Journal of the History of Ideas, 1984].
Laws were passed in various countries, some not revoked until the 1970s, allowing the sterilization of “mental defectives” and, in some cases, encouraging those considered of good “quality” to be more fecund.
The above is largely accurate and unbiased. Those were the prevalent opinions of those times. Moreover, they were founded on what was believed to be the best science of the times. An intellect as advanced as that of Oliver Wendell Holmes was wholly in accord with the desirability of a eugenic approach to the improvement of homo sapiens terrestrialis.
Eugenic thinking has not been disproved in any rigorous sense. What happened to “discredit” it was the association of eugenics with Nazism in Europe, and the forced sterilization of mental defectives and the insane here and elsewhere. The moral horror those phenomena inspired were enough to put the idea of breeding a better human being by design outside the bounds of acceptable thinking.
Yet eugenics itself, as a thesis, has not been disproved. Indeed, copious statistical evidence supports the idea that intentionally breeding a better man just might produce one. When above-average people get together and produce a baby, their child is likely to mature into an above-average adult – above average, that is, in whatever transmissible characteristic – physical, esthetic, or intellectual – makes us regard the parents as above average. Moreover, it happens too frequently to be ignored.
Similarly, the inverse idea of dysgenics — that it’s possible to lower the general quality and survivability of Mankind through unwise breeding – has not been disproved. Laws that forbid the marriage of brother to sister, or of first cousins to one another, implicitly acknowledge the dysgenic thesis. So does what we know of the spawn of lower-class couples.
So eugenics and dysgenics remain unrefuted. They’re not unthinkable because they’re wrong. We reject them because of the moral horrors implicit in imposing them coercively on third parties.
Couples these days don’t fall in love, marry, and set out to produce children for eugenic reasons. Inversely, couples don’t…well…refrain from coupling because they fear to produce monsters, morons, or politicians. Other considerations usually prevail over the “what would our babies be like?” question. Oftentimes the key consideration is economic. At others, it’s “Damn, I’ve been alone a long time. Would he / she have me?”
However, virtually all of us attempt to “marry upward:” i.e., to mate with someone whom others, at least, would say is somewhat “out of his league.” (Apropos of which, the romantic comedy She’s Out Of My League is a major delight. It’s available on DVD. See it.) At least, we (meaning heterosexuals) all hope to do so, even if unconsciously. In so doing, we practice an undiscussed version of eugenics. Inversely, when a pregnant woman decides to abort her Down’s Syndrome unborn child, she’s practicing a form of dysgenics. (No, I don’t approve, but you knew that already.)
What renders eugenics and dysgenics undiscussable de facto is the implication that they should inform government policies about mating and reproduction. Apart from the laws that forbid marrying someone too close to you on the family tree, we don’t have any such policies in these United States. But intertwined with our distaste for eugenics and dysgenics as staples of policy is a much more dubious aversion: our reluctance to admit that certain characteristics are transmissible, in part at least, from parents to children.
As I noted in the previous segment, we have ample statistical evidence that several physical, esthetic, and mental characteristics are partly genetically derived. Yet pointing this out can get you called “everything but white”…depending on who you are and “your angle.” A few years back, a deaf lesbian couple made the news with their avowed intention to produce a deaf baby. Of course, they couldn’t do so without male help, so they went looking, quite openly, for a suitable deaf sperm donor. “Deaf activists” – a phrase whose significance I didn’t grasp at the time – were vocal and more in defending that couple’s intentions and actions, despite the inarguable cruelty of deliberately inflicting a severe handicap on a helpless infant.
“Your angle,” and whether there are loud activist groups that are for or against you and have the ear of the major media, very much determine what you can say about this subject. A prominent white man who would dare to say that whites should marry and procreate strictly within their race would immediately be condemned as a monster. Compare this to the immunity from criticism enjoyed by that deaf lesbian couple. Then go on to the open anti-white racism of prominent persons such as Elie Mystal.
Some concepts are “unthinkable” not because of the concepts themselves but because of who seeks to discuss them. Eugenics is only one such.