Eugenics, The Holocaust and the Human Genome Project.

Essay by nwonknuB, September 2004

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Genetic theory began in the 19th century with Gregor Mendel's investigations into plant heredity. Independently of Mendel's work, in 1859 Charles Darwin followed with his theory of natural selection in the book "Origin of Species". Since its discovery, genetic manipulation has been a source of both joy and suffering to humanity.

Charles Darwin's cousin, Sir John Francis Galton, introduced the concept of Eugenics in 1883, as he attempted to understand the 'genius' that ran through his family. Eugenics is the theory that a scientifically directed process of controlled or selective breeding can improve the genetic code of mankind. Reber (1997) defines eugenics as, "The study of human heredity patterns with the goal of improving the species through selective breeding." (Reber, A., 1997, p 263). Its doctrine dictates that genetic structures, rather environmental factors solely determines human behavior.

The most extreme example of eugenic thinking was found with the Holocaust of Nazi Germany, where according to Nazi policy, 'inferior' races were 'polluting' the human gene pool.

"Under Nazism, eugenics became national policy." (Berenbaum, M, 1993, p 31). Nazi philosophy placed much emphasis on eugenics, and attempted to justify that genetic selection should be practiced deliberately for the good of mankind through sterilisation and eventually extermination. This form of pseudo Darwinism didn't stop at individual races, but also persecuted the handicapped, the physically weak and, people with genetic defects. "Sterilisation was only the prelude...the Nazis began the systematic murder of Germans who were insane, handicapped, or mentally retarded." (Berenbaum, M, 1993, p 31). This method of genetic selection included the procreation of a 'racial elite' and the extermination of 'damaging' or 'racially inferior' groups such as, Eastern Europeans or Africans. These were deemed racially inferior to a supposed race of Germanic Aryans, which the Nazi doctrines believed to be weakened by...