How Eugenics Gets Legit

Frontispiece and title page of "Eugenics"

In the wake of the flap over Geoffrey Miller’s fat-shaming, a friend pointed me to a remarkable collection at the Cold Spring Harbor website, the Eugenics Archive. In one section on how eugenics ideas get traction, it offers a useful global reminder and a more specific warning:

Science, or what is claimed to be science, is a product of culture — like any other human activity. What seems in hindsight to be naive or absurd, must have seemed reasonable in its own era. This is especially true when scientific ideas are used to explain social problems.

That last sentence is the take-home. Beware genetic or “innate nature” explanations of social behavior.

To find that page, to go the Cold Spring Harbor Eugenics Image Archive and click on the Social Origins page — the one that looks like a photo album.

Photo via Andrew Kuchling at flickr. Some rights reserved.

One response

  1. Artificial selection totally works. Agriculturalists have done it for thousands of years and it is pretty much the most convincing evidence that Darwin had in the 1800s that natural selection was a reasonable theory.

    It also works on behavior:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domesticated_silver_fox

    It would work on humans as well.

    The problem with Eugenics is the unethical policies done in its name. Even then, American eugenicists were not actual Nazis.

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