My continued interest in eugenics beginning with my visit to the Deadly Medicine exhibit at the Science Museum has been supplemented by a comprehensive history of the movement in Daniel J. Kevles’ In The Name Of Eugenics. In it he details the origins of the idea that natural selection can be controlled to weed out undesirable traits such as “feeblemindedness” and moral delinquency supposedly contained in human heredity. By the 1920’s the idea took on religious proportions and produced literature that had the flavor of evangelistic zeal.
One such piece was The New Decalogue of Science by Albert Edward Wiggam which contains such gospel jargon,
But science has at last given to men a true technic of righteousness. And this new dispensation is just as divine as the old. It is filled with warnings of wrath, both present and to come, for the biological ungodly as well as alluring promises to them who do His biological will.
The warning means, of course that human heredity is in a state of degeneracy, and the “biological ungodly” are those whose genetic makeup is unworthy of reproduction. Those that do God’s “biological will” are those that enter into marriage discriminatingly to produce the “fittest” progeny and perhaps by means of coercion forbid the “unfit” from having children. The new religion is an affront to the classical liberalism the documents of the United States was founded on,
Moreover, all modern liberal statesmanship has rested its case upon two great sentimental nebulosities: first, that all men are created equal, and, second, that God will raise up leaders for the people. Well, all men are born unequal, and leaders come not by prayer, but by germ-cells. “The most unequal thing in the world is the equal treatment of unequals.”
This is because “heredity, and not environment, is the chief maker of men.” Men make the environment not the other way around. And somehow, this is in line with Jesus teaching as his Gold Rule applies to the unborn, “A new commandment I give unto you – the biological golden rule, the completed golden rule. Do unto both born and the unborn as you would have both the born and the unborn do unto you.”
The American Eugenics Society would agree. They even produced a catechism to cater to religious people.
Q: Does eugenics contradict the Bible?
A: The Bible has much to say for eugenics. It tells us that men do not gather grapes from thorns and figs from thistles….
Q: Does eugenics mean less sympathy for the unfortunate?
A: It means a much better understanding of them, and a more concerted attempt to alleviate their suffering, by seeing to it that everything possible is done to have fewer hereditary defectives….
Q: What is the most precious thing in the world?
A: The human germ plasm.
As you can see the idea of science and religion being separate realms of human inquiry is simply a farce in the minds of these zealots of heredity. Chesterton was not far off when he said “Materialism is really our established Church; for the Government will really help it to persecute its heretics.” And persecute it did.