I just finished a book about genealogy, DNA, and history, called The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures, by Christine Kenneally. There was a lot of interesting stuff in there about how people have used genealogy in their self-identifications, including some very good chapter on Eugenics.
There was a very, very, large moral blind spot in her work though, and that’s the connection between the pro-abortion movement and eugenics.
I’ll not dwell on the connection between Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood, and the eugenics movement of the early 1900’s, which were so much more widespread that most people understand (or refuse to see. I have lots of pro-PP friends who don’t want to see the connection).
I’d rather talk to the modern Eugenics movement, which is very present at most levels of society today. At the most banal, this shows itself in the “abortion prevents poverty, crime, and welfare payments” section of the pro-choice movement. At its most pernicious levels, it’s the casual genocide against unborn with actual or potential diseases or defects.
It is not a great secret that overwhelming majorities of parents, when faced with a down-syndrome child in utero, choose to kill it rather than raise it or offer it for adoption (for the most half-assed politifact check ever, see their partisan two-step around Rick Santorum’s claim at http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/feb/27/rick-santorum/rick-santorum-says-90-percent-down-syndrome-childr/).
That by itself needs to sink in. When offered a down syndrome child, most parents kill it. After the Americans with Disabilities Act, after the TV show “Life Goes On,” most parents still choose to kill their child.
Dr. Kenneally devotes a large chunk of her book to Huntington’s disease and other Mendelian diseases (which are solely expressed by genetics; i.e. if you have a certain gene, you have the disease), most closely following the career and work of a Huntington’s researcher who himself has Huntington’s Disease.
The doctor and his wife, fearful that the disease would be passed on to their own children, chose to have children by creating embryo’s ex utero, then only implanting the non-Huntington’s ones. The author did not ask him any questions about his choice to use a procedure which, had it been practiced his own parents, would have meant he would have never lived.
I think Jeff Carroll’s life is probably the strongest argument that we ought not arbitrarily kill humans because they will have diseases or disabilities. Huntington’s will claim his life a some point in the next 20 years, but in his lifetime, he made tremendous advances to humanity. Had Stephen Hawking’s parents known he would develop ALS, should they have killed him?
I could sit here an make a list of famous people with disabilities (they already exist:http://www.disabled-world.com/artman/publish/article_0060.shtml), but I don’t think it adds more to this discussion.
People, all people, are potential resources for humanity. We don’t know where the man that invents the cure for cancer will be born, or what genetic problems the woman that enables faster than light travel will come from. From a purely utilitarian perspective, we do not need to worry about producing “too many” children. We are not in a situation where we can only take the children with the most genetically beneficial traits. The glory of humanity is that genius comes from anywhere, sometimes in broken packages.