Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

June 18, 2012

Eugenics by another name

Filed under: Bioethics,Down Syndrome,Personal genomics,Testing — Razib Khan @ 9:03 pm

Evolution’s winner. Real headline.

In the mid-2000s two British biologists of some public note attempted to revive or resuscitate the good name of eugenics, Richard Dawkins and Armand Leroi. My own suspicion is that this emerges in part from a implicit cultural history in the British Isles in regards to eugenics: in those nations,* unlike in the USA or Germany, eugenics was generally conceived of in the positive rather than negative sense. By this, I mean that a disproportionate amount of thought was given to the procreation of the favored, rather than coercive restriction of the unfit. This is exemplified by R. A. Fisher, the co-founder of both evolutionary genetics and statistics, who worried about the high mortality rate of the British elite during World War I. Fisher himself went on to have eight children, a situation which occasionally left him in financial distress, as would be predicted from standard Malthusian assumptions (see R.A. Fisher: The Life of a Scientist).

But despite the best efforts of Dawkins & Leroi, eugenics is still a swear word. For example, a few months ago Chris Mooney was accused of ...

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