1 December 2023

It is a set of ideas and scientific or social practices that seek to improve the genetic characteristics of the human population. In short, it is about creating a ‘better’ society. eliminating or limiting the spread unwanted characteristics and promoting desirable ones. Although eugenics has been the subject of ethical debate and controversy throughout history, especially due to the rejection and stigmatization of certain groups of people, it continues to be an interesting and relevant topic today.

Meaning and definition of eugenics

It is a set of practices that seek to improve the genetic quality of the human population. The term comes from the Greek ‘eu’ (good) and ‘genes’ (genes). Refers to the idea that humanity can be improved through the careful selection of those individuals who have the best genetic characteristics. In addition to the elimination of those considered ‘weak’ or ‘inferior’.

This has historically been used in science as a justification for various practices. As the forced sterilization, segregation and prejudice against people considered ‘undesirable’. Segregating individuals due to their race, disability, sexual orientation, or other factors. These practices have been widely condemned for violating human rights and promoting intolerance, prejudice, racism, among others.

Francis Galton, a British scientist, was one of the first to propose the idea of ​​eugenics and is considered the father of modern eugenics. Galton believed that intelligence and other desirable traits were hereditary and that humanity could therefore be improved by selecting the individuals most fit to reproduce. He also founded the Society for the Improvement of the Human Lineage in 1904, which later became the Eugenics Society of Great Britain.

However, eugenics was also criticized by many. Especially after the Nazi movement in Germany used eugenics to justify the elimination of groups considered ‘inferior’.

Today, it continues to be a controversial and complex issue, due to the lack of ethics around its practices such as assisted reproduction or sterilization of those considered ‘inferior’. Also about the fact that some defend the embryo selection to avoid serious genetic diseases. While others warn that this could lead to the creation of a ‘genetic elite’ and discrimination against those who do not meet certain standards.

What is eugenics for?

It is a theory and practice that seeks to improve the quality of the human population through the selection of certain genetic traits. Historically it has been used in controversial and problematic ways. Some proponents argue that eugenics can be used to prevent or reduce the incidence of inherited genetic diseases in the population.

However, the practice of eugenics has been criticized by many, as it has often been used to justify discrimination and elimination of people who are considered ‘inferior’ or ‘undesirable’. Furthermore, the implementation of eugenic policies has been used to justify forced sterilization, segregation and genocide.

Some argue that eugenics can be used to improve the quality of the population. However, its history has been problematic and controversial, and many oppose its practice due to its ethical and moral implications.

What are the types of eugenics?

Historically, various types of eugenics have been proposed and practiced. But many of them are ethically questionable and have been abandoned due to their negative implications. Some of the most common types are:

  • Positive: refers to the promotion of reproduction between people considered genetically superior or desirable. Like those who have certain physical or intellectual characteristics.
  • Negative: It refers to the prevention or elimination of reproduction of people considered genetically deficient or undesirable. Such as those with hereditary diseases, physical or mental disabilities, or unwanted traits.
  • Volunteer: refers to the practice of selection of couples and conscious or deliberate breeding to improve the genetic quality of the offspring. This can be done through education and persuasion, as well as through incentive programs.
  • coercive: refers to the practice of compel or force certain individuals or groups to submit to sterilization or other birth control procedures in order to limit the spread of certain genetic traits.

You should know that many of these practices have been criticized for being discriminatory, dangerous and violative from the human rights. It is generally considered to be a problematic approach to address societal or medical problems related to genetics and human reproduction.

What is positive eugenics?

It is a theory that promotes the improvement of the genetic quality of a human population through the selection of desirable traits and characteristics to be passed on to future generations. Unlike negative eugenics, which focuses on removing undesirable traits through forced sterilization, positive eugenics seeks to encourage and preserve desirable traits.

This theory is based on the idea that humans can improve their own species by consciously selecting mates with certain desirable genetic traits. Like intelligence, health, beauty or athletic ability. This can be achieved through education, health promotion and the prevention of hereditary diseases.

However, it remains a highly controversial theory and has been criticized by some for its involvement in the artificial selection of genetic traits, which could lead to discrimination and stigmatization of certain groups of people. It also raises ethical issues related to the idea that some features are inherently superior to others. In addition to possible discrimination against those people who do not possess the traits considered desirable.

What is negative eugenics?

This is a theory that seeks to improve the human race by removing characteristics considered undesirable. Like certain genetic diseases or disabilities. This through the forced sterilization, selective abortions or even genocide. It is based on the belief that certain traits are inherited and can be improved or eliminated from the population. This is achieved through the selection of individuals with desirable traits to reproduce, while those with unwanted traits must be eliminated.

It is important to note that it is considered an ethically unacceptable practice and has been criticized by many. It is considered as a form of discrimination and racism of certain groups of people, including people with genetic diseases and disabilities. In addition, they violate human rights and are contrary to the dignity of every human being, regardless of their genetic characteristics.

Why is eugenics an ethical issue?

This is due to the deliberate manipulation of human genetics to improve the quality of the breed. This intervention may involve selecting for certain desirable genetic traits, eliminating unwanted traits, and altering the gene from the population to produce ‘improved’ individuals.

Their use raises many ethical questions. Including who decides what traits are desirable or not, and who has the power to make decisions about human genes. There are also ethical concerns about how this could affect genetic diversity of the population. Plus it could lead to discrimination and stigma towards those who don’t meet genetic standards.

Examples of Eugenics

Some examples that we can describe about this questionable practice are:

  • Establishment of compulsory sterilization laws: In several countries, including the United States, Sweden, and Germany, laws have been enacted that allow the forced sterilization of people with mental disabilities, hereditary diseases and other traits considered undesirable.
  • Match selection programs: in some countries, including Denmark and Sweden, mate selection programs have been established to promote the reproduction of individuals considered genetically superior.
  • Selective Breeding Programs: In the United States, a program known as the ‘Eugenics Foundation of America’ was carried out, which promoted the selective breeding by paying incentives to couples considered genetically superior to have children.
  • Prenatal genetic testing and embryo selection: At present, there are prenatal genetic tests that can detect certain genetic diseases and disorders in the fetus. In addition, the selection of embryos for in vitro fertilization has also been used to prevent the transmission of hereditary diseases. Assisted reproduction is also applied to this type of eugenic practices.

Although, some of these practices were abandoned due to their ethical and moral implications. Also, many countries have laws that prohibit discrimination and non-therapeutic genetic manipulation in humans.

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