Future Human Evolution: Eugenics in the Twenty-First Century
Future Human Evolution: Eugenics in the Twenty-first Century
Schuylkill Haven, Penn.: Hermitage Publishers, 2006
As the genetic revolution accelerates its pace, over the last few years there have been numerous books written on eugenics. The majority of these are intended to link eugenics with Adolf Hitler, white supremacy, or the terrible inhumanity of forced sterilizations. Doctor John Glad’s recent book Future Human Evolution: Eugenics in the Twenty-First Century does an excellent job of recalling the primary purpose of past and present eugenics—the ongoing effort to improve the quality of life.
The book begins with an introduction by Seymour W. Itzkoff, who argues that the Holocaust was the result of warfare, not eugenics. Even if there were no genetic differences between ethnic groups, intergroup hatred and genocide would still be possible. The eugenics movement was a global enterprise and had robust programs in Europe and North America in the pre-WW II era. Eugenics policies under the National Socialists reflected similar programs in other Western nations. Eugenic discussion and speculation were commonplace, and only became tainted for political purposes—to deny racial differences.
Glad sums up the times,
The Great War and subsequent Depression undermined the mentality of Empire and class privilege, leaving a vacuum which was filled by an intellectual climate of extreme egalitarianism. Western society of the twentieth century came to be dominated by a new, unified ideology. Freudianism, Marxism, B. F. Skinner’s Behaviorism, Franz Boaz’s cultural history, and Margaret Mead’s anthropology all stressed the marvelous “plasticity” and even “programmability” of Homo sapiens. It was explained over and over that human minds differ little in their innate qualities, and that it is upbringing and education which explain the differences among us. Software is everything; hardware is identical and thus meaningless. The road to utopia lies through improved nurture alone.
Even though the heyday of this radical egalitarianism only lasted a number of decades, the hangover it caused has been very enduring. On the one hand, science has long since turned its back on these failing movements, but the public, still partly intoxicated, is unaware of the facts. Future Human Evolution clarifies the history of race and eugenics in a way that is concise, clear, and enjoyable to read. This book, along with others along parallel lines, has unshackled genetics: “The censorship has now been lifted, and there is agreement even among the most implacable foes of the eugenics movement that the taboo on eugenics can no longer stand.”
A chief merit of Future Human Evolution is its demonstration of how the contemporary explosion in genetic research has established the vast importance of inheritance in who we are and how we behave, without scanting the role of nurture (when there is empirical evidence for it), Glad puts the anti-eugenicists on the hot seat by showing their real problem is not with eugenics, but with biology itself.
Like most eugenicists, Glad believes that raising the average intelligence of humans is the primary objective, and thus he explains intelligence testing, the Flynn Effect, dysgenics, the demographic transition and its impending failure to control the reproduction of the less mentally endowed, etc. He also discusses the eugenic practices of Jews, and discusses the link between eugenic aspects of the Jewish religion and the State of Israel’s active eugenics program, which far surpasses any other nation’s attempt to control declining birth rates.
My only objection with Glad’s eugenics is his effort to make it a universal program, thus raising everyone’s intelligence. That seems unlikely, because races with higher average intelligence will embrace eugenics, while those that cannot understand genetics will continue to breed as they always have—often and without forethought. This will eventually lead to an arms race towards human quality (IQ, good looks, health, stature, etc.), and as in all races, not everyone will finish first.
Future Human Evolution avoids lengthy historical recapitulations and marginal characters, so that readers seeking a history of eugenics should look elsewhere. For anyone seeking a short book on eugenics—past, present, and future—this book is the one I would recommend.
Glad’s book is available free on the web as a download:
TOQ, vol. 7, no. 2 (Summer 2007)