Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Improving Human Race through the science of Eugenics

Eugenics seeks the genetic improvement of the human race through selection. This idea became more prominent in the beginning of the 20th century and had another great push during World War II. One of Hitler's main objectives was the purification of the Aryan race.

According to the theory of evolution, developed by Charles Darwin in 1859, more "fit" individuals are capable of leaving a larger number of offspring. However, less fit individuals tend to leave fewer descendants. Therefore, over many generations, genes of less adapted or "inferior" individuals are gradually eliminated from the population. Darwin called this process natural selection.

Due to the use of medicines and improved medical procedures in the last few centuries, man has evaded natural selection. A classic example is the Cesarean section procedure for childbirth. Women that would otherwise die from natural childbirth can now produce offspring. Therefore, today, genes for body shape that prevent natural deliveries are retained in the population.

Natural selection for this trait still exists in indigenous populations that do not have access to modern medicine, but this is the exception and not the rule. In some way, less adapted people with low physical resistance, predisposition for genetic diseases, and so on, continue to leave offspring with the help of modern medical resources. How many of us would not be here if medical resources were not available?

Proponents of eugenics argue that the human species is accumulating bad genes because man has a slow natural selection. Others argue that people need a license for many activities, such as driving, hunting, and fishing, but not to procreate, and therefore the government should also control procreation. In China and India, the government regulates population growth. This is a quantitative and not qualitative control. Some people argue that there is sexual discrimination in those two countries, and that boys tend to be preferred because they can bring larger revenue for their family.

The next 20 years will bring many changes in human behavior, and one can imagine that a revolution could take place that will transform the world. Comparing the world today and that of 50 years ago, no one would think that eugenics could be an issue again. Some of the most despicable human acts were performed in the name of the Aryan race purification. Until 1945, eugenics was taught in many important universities around the world, and the compulsory sterilization of inferior people was relatively common in several countries. There are reports of sterilization of 20,000 people in the United States, 45,000 in England, and 250,000 in Germany during the first half of the 20th century. Eugenics turned public opinion against government intervention in citizens' reproductive choice, and today, compulsory sterilization is only conceivable in the minds of fanatic eugenists. However, with world overpopulation and a growing shortage of resources, many people are afraid that population controls could become a reality again.

Currently, it is difficult to imagine that collective sterilization would be used again, but as genetic tests become routine, it is feared that a new wave of sterilization and abortion could take place, not because of mandatory enforcement, but because of pressure resulting from genetic counseling. Abortion based on genetic counseling is already a reality in countries where it is legal. However, is it right to discriminate against genetic defects or weaknesses, even if it is in the womb? Isn't life just as precious? History has shown that the memory of people is short and that history is cyclical.

With an uncertain future ahead, it seems opportune to recognize that genetic tests and new forms of human reproduction will be part of society from now on. In this scenario, the best alternative seems to be drawing strength from family and moral and religious principles.

Tags: Bio Technology, Bio Genetics, Bioethics

Related Posts by Categories