Brief Notes on Eugenics

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What is eugenics?

Eugenics was an effort to breed better human beings by encouraging reproduction for people with good genes and discouraging reproduction for people with bad genes.

What were eugenicists attempting to do?

Eugenicists advocated for legislation that separated racial and ethnic groups, restricted immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, and sterilized people thought to be "genetically unfit."

Social Origins

How did the social and economic problems after the Civil War, Social Darwinism, and Progressivism contribute to the rise of eugenics in America?

The growth of American industry created the first major migration away from farms, causing a shortage of adequate housing. Price fluctuations bankrupted businesses and created a series of depressions. Social Darwinism explained social and economic inequalities as "survival of the fittest." However, a low birth rate of the wealthy suggested that captains of industry were losing the struggle for existence. At the same time, the working class had a higher birthrate.

Progressive advocates believed that science would treat any negative aspects in human and nature societies. As a result, genetics spit out a new science of social engineering- eugenics. Eugenicists believed that human social problems were the cause of inheriting defective germ plasm. They argued that the society would have to pay a high price to care for the defective individuals. Sterilizing one defective person could save future generations thousands of dollars.

How was eugenics, the new science of social engineering going to attack the roots of the social problems of the United States during the early 1900's?

Eugenicists planned to restrict immigration. According to eugenicists, state welfare and charity only treated the symptoms, but not the roots of the problems.

Scientific Origins

Discuss the 1883 Galtonian view of eugenics.

Francis Galton thought of eugenics as a way to improve humanity by encouraging healthy people to...