Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Improving Health"

Claire O'Connell, being a journalist and therefore somewhat hard-of-thinking, seems to need help in making distinctions.

She writes that the "selection" of an embryo, resulting in the birth of a baby girl who is less likely to develop breast cancer later in life, is a matter of "improving health".

But perhaps someone could email her and ask her, "improving whose health, exactly?"

"Selecting" a child for its genetic characteristics does nothing to "improve the health" of the child. It "improves the health" of the race.

Sound familiar?

Racial hygiene (often labeled a form of "scientific racism") is the selection, by a government, of the putatively most physical, intellectual and moral persons to raise the next generation (selective breeding) and a close alignment of public health with eugenics.

Racial hygiene was historically tied to traditional notions of public health, but usually with an enhanced emphasis on heredity. The use of social measures to attempt to preserve or enhance biological characteristics was first proposed by Francis Galton in his early work, starting in 1869, on what would later be called eugenics. In the early twentieth century, the idea that human heredity required active vigilance, and perhaps coercive measures (such as compulsory sterilization) had many mainstream scientific and political supporters; Winston Churchill was an advocate, as was Alexander Graham Bell, Marie Stopes, George Bernard Shaw, John Maynard Keynes, Theodore Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge.

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