17 Aug Kill Them All: How One Group Is Successfully Cleansing the Gene Pool of Its Less Desirable Traits
Setting the Stage
It’s been some time since I have written anything. I won’t go into the why behind my absence from public commentary, but I will go into the why behind my return. We need to determine what kind of world we want this world to become. Often times, change simply happens. It comes in the night while we sleep. It flies overhead or grows from underground while we run about carrying on in our daily duties.
Change is a seed – planted, rooted, and grown before anyone ever notices it. Then, one day, people stop. They take notice. “My goodness,” they exclaim. “Look at that great plant!” Some marvel in its beauty. Others marvel in its function. Each of us notices something different about that plant. Like a fingerprint, no two points of view are quite the same. Each one is truly unique. The question remains: “Is that plant a beauty to be celebrated or a weed to be exterminated?” We face similar questions with each and every decision we make. Each social issue, each experience, each action can (and often must) be judged for its consequences. This is how we not only survive, but also thrive and progress.
One such tree has grown up in our midst. It is an event that is being celebrated by many and condemned by others. I write of Iceland’s “elimination of down syndrome.” Some herald it as a remarkable accomplishment. Others declare it a violation of basic human rights. Whatever the case may be, it is vital that we understand the details of this issue and make calculated and educated decisions accordingly. Neither willful nor unintentional ignorance will protect us from the consequences.
At the core of Iceland’s apparent accomplishment is something known as eugenics – specifically, Iceland is utilizing negative eugenics. Eugenics is “the science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics.” Eugenics has existed for millennia, in various forms. Generally speaking, there are two distinct types of eugenics – positive and negative.
Positive eugenics seeks to improve populations by intentionally breeding together specimens with superior genes. Some examples may help here. The movie Twins with Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger was a spoof on positive eugenics. In this film, a group of intelligent, athletic, good looking, etc. men were used to inseminate a woman with similar appealing characteristics. Out popped twins – one perfect in nearly every way (Arnold) and one defective (Devito). Perhaps a less humorous example of positive eugenics would be that of chattel slavery. In the often racially involved chattel slavery, slave owners treated their slaves as if they were livestock. They bred the strong and durable lineages with one another much as one might do with oxen. Positive eugenics seeks to help natural selection along, by intentionally pairing together those with specific gene pools.
Negative eugenics has the same goal, but uses… other methods. Rather than promoting certain gene pools, negative eugenics seeks to cleanse gene pools of “less desirable” traits. Much like its “positive” counterpart, negative eugenics has often been rooted in racism. Likely, today’s most well known example of negative eugenics goes back to Nazi-era Germany. The Nazis sought to create a pure race. While part of this included intentional breeding of their elites (positive eugenics), the Nazis are better known for their extermination practices of those whom they deemed unfit or inferior. The Nazis were certainly not the originators of such concepts, but their unrestrained use of such methods, and the international outcry which followed, helped slow the popularity of eugenics across the Western World.
Nevertheless, much of negative eugenics continued under the cover of shadow. The giant was merely sleeping. Though the tree may have been cut down, it’s seeds were scattered about the nations. Decades later, those seeds have now grown into their own trees. Iceland’s elimination strategy is just one of many examples of the growing use of negative eugenics. This leaves us with many questions to ask. Should “less desirable” traits be eliminated? If so, what methods are appropriate to accomplish their elimination? What are the consequences (both long and short term)? If we are okay with using methods that terminate a life, at what stage of development is it no longer acceptable to take the life (conception, heartbeat, birth, adulthood, etc.)?
Should we decide to continue down the pathway of negative eugenics, several more questions should be asked. What happens when a child squeaks through with down syndrome? Do we kill born children to maintain the elimination of down syndrome? Do we sterilize them to reduce the risk in the gene pool? What if a parent wants to keep a child with down syndrome? Does at some abortion become mandatory? On another line of thinking, what other “issues” should we try to eliminate?
While some of these questions may seem to have obvious answers and other may seem far-fetched, students of history understand the dangers of a slippery slope. As such. it is of the utmost importance that we do not take these questions lightly. Once upon a time, it was African Americans. Then it was Jews in Germany. Now it is those with mental handicaps. And there have been many in between. Who will be next? One moment ideas are little more than seeds. The next moment those seeds have grown into the trees from which our ancestors, our neighbors, and our children are being hanged in the name of purifying the gene pool. What kind of a world do you want this to become? It’s up to you.