Taking Eugenics Seriously: Three Generations of ??? Are Enough?
28 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2003
Recent media attention to the history of the eugenics movement in American has resulted in apologies from the governors of Virginia, Oregon, North Carolina, South Carolina and California for state mandated surgical sterilizations under eugenics laws. This article tracks the genesis of the eugenics apology movement, which began with a monument to the infamous case of Buck v. Bell that was erected just as heightened media coverage of milestones in human genome research filled the headlines.
The article also explores the involvement of most early geneticists in the eugenics movement, attempting to put into historical context both the hopeful side of eugenics that made it so popular early in the 20th Century, as well as the dark memories we normally associate with eugenics in that era.
The article draws parallels between the urge to eradicate disease embraced within the eugenics movement,and the similar urge often used to argue for new genetic technologies, such as prenatal genetic diagnosis.It is concluded with an echo of the Buck case, exhorting readers to avoid simplistic moralisms in reflecting on historic cases like Buck, in favor of a more searching analysis that would require us to understand our own eugenic impulses.
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