Preaching Eugenics by Christine Rosen download in pdf, ePub, iPad
The liberals and modernists-those who challenged their churches to embrace modernity-became the eugenics movement's most enthusiastic supporters. In their explorations, rabbis turned to centuries-old Biblical prescriptions for health as evidence of the compatibility of eugenic science and Jewish faith.
Heredity studies also played a large role in eugenics, with advocates conducting many family studies in order to determine why certain ethnicities seemed less-than-ideal for the gene pool. In this brave new world, Christine Rosen offers us a glimpse of the past that will hopefully give us wisdom for our present and future. Like prize-winning pumpkins and pigs, eugenically ideal families won the Fitter Family Medal. The eugenics movement tenuously courted religion.
Much has been written, and well, in recent years about this scandalous era, most recently by Edwin Black in his splendid War Against the Weak. And indeed, Rosen gives religious opponents of eugenics - - mostly evangelical Protestants and Catholics - - far shorter shrift than she does religious boosters. Many lay popularizers of eugenics also appealed to religious traditions to promote their agenda.
Otherwise well-educated ministers also saw eugenics as a way to assert their modernity and show that their churches were relevant to contemporary society. Although Rosen clearly condemns eugenics, she notes that we must be aware of the context in which the movement arose. This first appeared in the Weekly Standard and is reprinted with permission.
We would never again stoop to such evil. Certainly the Catholic Church regarded the eugenicists with suspicion, if not outright condemnation. But unlike most authors on eugenics, she seems to reverse herself. To the devoutly religious, Galton's program for human improvement should have seemed blasphemous. Many Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish leaders agreed.
Committed to religious charity, they participated in many social reform and progressive activities in this period. The religious communities were just as concerned as other sectors of society, and they joined in advocating making humans more fit so that they could be more moral. Geneticists eventually became vociferous critics of eugenicists and their own discipline would flourish while the latter would fade. We live in an uncertain world and this is well known by scientists if not by politicians. The very idea that heredity could be controlled through sterilization or birth control seems unscientific, to say the least, as well as immoral.
Unfortunately, Rosen devotes only two paragraphs to his critique. Rosen's book adds much to the Black book and other accounts by describing in detail religious support of eugenics, a matter to which Black gives much less attention. Nor did secular Jewish leaders ignore it. Chesterton offered the most scathing assessment of eugenics, she tells us. Eugenicists worked to educate the public about positive and negative eugenics and and would later find themselves allying with the sterilization and birth control movements.
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