This semester in my interdisciplinary college biology course I'm using a recent documentary for the first time: What Hath Darwin Wrought? I highly recommend this DVD for anyone interested in the moral implications of Darwinism, both in the past, and today. This documentary investigates the shocking history of the eugenics crusade against the "unfit," including the euthanasia movement, Nazi genocide, and today's "new eugenics" agenda that devalues the lives of the handicapped. Find out whether such versions of social Darwinism are a logical application of Darwin’s theory or a perversion of it. Energetic TV host Todd Friel interviews Discovery Institute Senior Fellows David Berlinski, Richard Weikart, and John West.
Some of my recent blogs at CP have highlighted John West's documentary The Magician's Twin that, among other things, documents C.S. Lewis's devestating critique of the eugenics of his day. After you watch this free documentary on Lewis, then you are ready to view the more comprehensive story of how eugenics has been practiced in the 20th century, and today: What Hath Darwin Wrought? Warning: some of this documentary is upsetting.
For another perspective on the "new eugenics" see the Chronicle of Higher Education essay The Eugenic Impulse by Nathaniel Comfort (November 12, 2012). This essay begins with a triumphal introduction, which will be all the more jolting after you learn about the disreptuable track record of eugenics documented in the films mentioned above:
"The ultimate ideal sought," wrote Harvey Ernest Jordan in 1912, "is a perfect society constituted of perfect individuals." Jordan, who would later be dean of medicine at the University of Virginia, was speaking to the importance of eugenics in medicine—a subject that might seem tasteless and obsolete today. Yet nearly a century later, in 2008, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the biomedical research institute on Long Island's north shore, published a book titled Davenport's Dream, which shows that eugenic visions persist. Charles Davenport, a colleague and friend of Jordan's, had directed Cold Spring Harbor for the first third of the 20th century, turning it from a sleepy, summertime marine-biology laboratory into a center for genetics research—and the epicenter of American eugenics. Davenport's Dream is a facsimile of Davenport's major work, Heredity in Relation to Eugenics (1911), prefaced by nearly 200 pages of commentary by scientists, historians, and legal experts celebrating Davenport and expanding on questions of genetics and eugenics in biomedicine. In the volume, the genome guru Maynard V. Olson writes that dbSNP, the database of small genetic variations, makes possible the fulfillment of Davenport's dream. "Here," he writes, "is the raw material for a real science of human genetic perfection."
Cornelius Hunter has blogged the following on this Chronicle article:
The twentieth century’s eugenics movement was eventually discarded, but eugenics did not go away entirely. Today eugenics continues, but it is much more diverse and technologically sophisticated. There are the so-called eugenic abortions where the unborn with higher disease risks are “terminated.” And today’s technology allows for specific embryos, and even genes, to be selected. There seems to be, as Nathaniel Comfort observed this month, a eugenic impulse that drives us to seek a better human race. Underlying such health concerns, however, are the usual less benevolent motivations. In addition to the promised health benefits, Comfort explains that eugenics offers an intellectual thrill, and the profits of genetic biomedicine. Such lures are, explains Comfort, “too great for us to do otherwise. Resistance would be ill-advised and futile.” Read more.
Many Darwinian visions for our future promise utopia. But the new Darwinian eugenics is a serious assult on human dignity that you should resist.