Eugenics: What is its Connection and Significance to Modern Genetics?

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2020-06-26 07:52:00

The ‘science’ of eugenics has undergone much scrutiny and controversy given its relative associations with Nazis; however, for 65 years, 1880 to 1945, it was a term denoting prestige and human advancement. Francis Galton, cousin of Darwin, coined the term and created a movement whose premise was to improve the human species and halt its perceived decline through artificial selection and selective breeding (Galton, 1904). Eugenics, a movement for social betterment clothed in the mantle of modern science, gained global support from geneticists and those from all stances on the political spectrum. The fall of eugenics came due to the embrace of it by Hitler and his Nazi followers; after the fall of the Third Reich, eugenic ideas quickly lost value, becoming tarnished and virtually taboo in the western world.

Despite its negative associations and taboo nature, it is essential we do not forget eugenics. It is often unclear to what extent new practice in medicine and biotechnology has eugenic traits – with the implementation of ‘preventative medicine’ being confronted with mixed opposition (Christensen, 2018). Much can be engaged with by considering and studying the history of eugenics, such as (Wikler, 1999):

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