The following quotes are from an excellent recently published book about the very disturbing ideas and actions of the vast majority of the reform minded founders of what became known as the Progressive Era. They were rabid supporters of State sponsored eugenics, they were racists, but much more; they stood for active intervention by the “administrative state” in promoting the elimination or containment of the racially, mentally or physically handicapped citizens through sterilization or imprisonment in facilities segregated from the rest of society, perhaps we can call these the Progressive Era’s FEMA camps.
And although the scientific basis of the progressive economics profession, based on the admiration of the Kaiser’s Prussian German economic and state system came to an end following the First World War, the progressive rational for eugenics continued well into the 1930’s. Of course eugenics, or at least the word itself, became the third rail of progressivism/liberalism as Hitler put the American Progressive eugenicist ideas to work, but the core ideas that lead to the support of such heinous notions remained.
The Progressive at the turn of the last century believed adamantly in the subservience of the individual to the State and that property rights, individual freedoms, the individual’s civil liberties and political rights are also subsumed by the living anthropomorphic organism that is society, directed by the technocratic, scientific Administrative State. Why apply this discussion to the revelations of scientific capacity to engineer the human genome, in fact all of the genes of every living thing? The answer should be obvious.
A civilization that is no longer constrained by the rule of law, by the Constitution or moral and ethical absolutes, where the ends justify the means is more than likely to revert to the same faulty ideas of how to improve, to progress towards a more perfect society. Only eighty years ago America was sterilizing innocents that were considered unproductive, indolent and intractably poor by the thousands and condemning the enfeebled to state institutions.
Perhaps this time around it will be “climate deniers”, Patriots or anti-abortionists. Free speech and property rights have been under assault for years and the Administrative State has grown not only into a morally bankrupt, inefficient Leviathan it is very close to pushing America into tyranny.
The ability to genetically alter humanity should be a terrifying thought to any rational person, particularly when considering our nation’s progressive past and their current agenda.
Evolution, as Irving Fisher insisted in National Vitality, did not teach a “fatalistic creed.” Evolution, rather, awakened the world to “the fact of its own improvability.”
The Progressive Party’s 1912 platform called the conservation of human resources “the supreme duty of the nation.”
Charles Van Hise, president of the University of Wisconsin and a pillar of the Wisconsin Idea, also made eugenics a keystone of the American conservation movement.
Van Hise demanded that “human defectives” surrender to the state the control of their genetic resources. Whether by involuntary sterilization, or segregation in asylums, hospitals, and institutions, the methods of conserving human heredity, Van Hise warned, must be thoroughgoing.
Later in the Progressive Era, emboldened social scientists began using mental tests rather than head shape to measure human intelligence. The administrative state was vital to their project. It provided human subjects when the experts convinced officials that the identification of mental defectives would significantly reduce the social cost, increasingly borne by government, of “crime, pauperism and industrial inefficiency.”
Dubious though the tests and testing methods were, the millions of persons subjected to crude intelligence tests demonstrated one result unambiguously. American social scientists had convinced government authorities to fund and compel human subjects for an unprecedented measurement enterprise, carried out to identify and cull inferiors, all in the name of improving the efficiency of the nation’s public schools, immigration entry stations, institutions for the handicapped, and military.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands of Progressive Era scholars and scientists proudly called themselves eugenicists. Some even wanted to make a religion of it.
Wasteful natural selection should not be a model for human society, Ward said. The better model was artificial selection, or breeding. Human control of nature, exemplified by the domestication of plants and animals, was planned, not random, and thus more efficient.
Scientific breeding of plants and animals not only eliminated nature’s wastefulness, it improved nature at a faster rate; moreover, it ensured that evolutionary change was not left to blind chance but was made progressive. In other words, artificial selection substituted human mastery for Darwinian drift.
Galton advanced the three governing premises of any eugenic program. First, differences in human intelligence, character, and temperament were due to differences in heredity. Second, human heredity could be improved, and with reasonable dispatch.And third, the improvement of humankind, like any kind of breeding, could not be left to happenstance. It required scientific investigation and regulation of marriage, reproduction, immigration, and labor.
Inspired by the slogan “sterilization or racial disaster,” Wisconsin passed its forcible sterilization law in 1913, with the support of the University of Wisconsin’s most influential scholars,
Between 1914 and 1928, the number of American university courses dedicated to eugenics increased from forty-four to 376, the latter enrolling some 20,000 students. Eugenicist tracts were best sellers.
In 1908, D. H. Lawrence, with horrible prescience, indulged in an extermination fantasy: If I had my way, I would build a lethal chamber as big as the Crystal Palace, with a military band playing softly, and a Cinematograph working brightly, and then I’d go out in back streets and main streets and bring them all in, all the sick, the halt, and the maimed; I would lead them gently, and they would smile at me
Over 20,000 Americans were forcibly sterilized by between 1931 and 1939, more than triple the number sterilized between 1920 and 1929.
=Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era (Leonard, Thomas)
It took millions of years for apes to evolve into humans. It may take only a century for humans to change again.
Genetic engineering, which for decades never quite lived up to its promise, is being transformed thanks to a new tool called Crispr. Scientists can use it to manipulate the genes of any living creature with astonishing ease. Its initial applications have been to target genetic disease, modify foods, and develop new drugs. What comes next is up to us.
Crispr (which stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) is the subject of the next installment of Bloomberg’s new animated web series Sooner Than You Think, which examines some of the biggest advances in human history that haven’t happened just yet.