8.2 Installing Eugenic Control as a Function of Government


Probably one of the more startling innovations in an evolutionary morality, especially for the thinking of last generation's sociologists, is the frank demand for treating genetic considerations as realistically as environmental, educational issues. It is true that in genetic matters we have to think in terms of a much longer time scale, but that is no excuse for not thinking at all. Astronomers give our planet a further lifetime about as long as that it has already had 5000 million years. Even a million years of attention to genetics could transform the powers of man beyond the span of our present imaginations to conceive. Indeed, two or three generations of eugenics could make most of the sordid and essentially unnecessary "dependency" problems of our civilization (at least those that are of genetic origin) quite obsolete.

Unfortunately the scientist who drives ahead in the field of behavioral genetic research and eugenics today is constantly pressured to abandon his objectivity by the cries of racists on the one hand and ignoracists on the other. The root origins of eugenics in the liberal and progressive enquiries of Darwin, Galton, Huxley and others has not prevented its being smeared in different ways in Germany and Russia, and (through the mis-understandings of a generation ago) in a few communities in America. It is not our purpose to take space here to refute merely willful misunderstandings. (Elsewhere, in a technical genetics work which permits clearer exposure, Nesselroade and the present writer have made such psychological analyses of prejudice; Cattell and Nesselroade, 1973.) Anti-eugenists have come nearest to objectivity when they raise the questions (rhetorically, however), "Who is to choose what type is wanted?" and "Do we know enough in basic genetics to dare to apply it socially?" To these the answers are, first, this is the wrong question: when society makes a genetic decision it has to choose a whole distribution pattern not a type. And in such decisions the community is stating its needs on the basis of the same rights as it exercises in shaping individuals by education. To the second, which we have already met in the discussion of basic principles in Chapter 4, Section 4.5 above, the answer is a decided "Yes" (for reasons given on page 350 and elsewhere).

Almost as inimical to a sane eugenics as these conservative prejudices, are the radical "science fiction" discussions of random manipulation of heredity without regard to group social effects, as in "chromosomal engineering" or "tissue culture" as Haldane called it. Some equally imaginative but more practicable schemes in eutelegenesis[4] and prophylactic abortion deserve immediate study and pioneer application. However, when all is said, most of these, which we approved in principle in Chapter 4, concern, in the practical applications we now have to consider, only small fractions of the population, while the real aim of a wise eugenics is to have an everyday, workable value system that will act to produce the optimum progressiveness of birth rate patterns operating in ordinary family planning settings across all the families in the nation.

Beyondism calls for as much positive social action in eugenics as in euthenics (education and environmental improvement). Broadly the aim of eugenics is to reduce the suffering and death which prevail when natural selection has to operate through differential death rates, by working instead through differential birth rates. By reason of the degree of resemblance of parent and offspring, it can offer to substitute for a tough natural selection among people already born, a differential birth rate, higher for those parents who show better adjustment. The cost of the approximation (parent to child) is well worth the gain in reduction of human suffering. The question then arises whether the recommendation for size of family should be based on a psychological and medical examination by experts, or whether it can be left to some natural verdict concerning success of the parents which life itself offers. The argument for the former is that in life there are "injustices" errors in assigning rewards and in public acknowledgements of success. The argument for the latter is that a human committee does not know enough to assign correct importance to the thing it measures, and is biased by the climate of the time in deciding what is good. (One can imagine that at the time of the Olympic Games a popular poll would instruct the expert to give more weight in "goodness as a citizen" to physical prowess.)

A limited use of the former approach expert advice, but as negative eugenics already exists in Eugenic Clinics where parents with suspected hereditary defects are advised on parenthood. A more positive use is likely as psychology and medicine advance in voluntary societies whose members agree to accept advice on family size from an objective appraisal of their qualities of mental capacity and physical health. Indeed, Beyondism should pioneer in this direction. However, across the bulk of the nation, the "life success verdict" itself is more practical and easy to gear to self-directed family planning. Indeed, if a social system is one in which earnings are fairly related to social contribution, i.e., if society pays most where it most needs capacities, then there is a simple and elegant basis for eugenics a family size proportional to the earnings of the parents. (It happens also to be correct for euthenics, since it means more children in homes with better environmental opportunities.)

The first premise that of fairness of earnings cannot be entirely taken for granted in any existing society. It is said to be a goal of Communist or socialist societies, but so far no clear theory whatever exists for paying one calling more than another (though one could be developed). In free enterprise countries supply and demand supply a non-arbitrary basis, but unfortunately demand runs more to prize fighters, manufacturers of whisky, purveyors of trashy fashionable music, and so on, than to clergymen, teachers, judges, and researchers (especially when they work in theory, in abstract mathematics or basic, "irrelevant" science). Admittedly, a critic can make much of this discrepancy of earnings and social worth, and also of the fact that after gaining a reasonably secure middle class income culturally oriented individuals strive no more for increased income, i.e., the correlation of income and capacities though good over the lower range would tend to be poorer over the upper range of income and ability[5]. But through the great central mass of society an adjustment of birth rate to income even over the small range of one to four children per family would be a most powerful eugenic tool. It would also permit some degree of genetic control through those economic manipulations of various kinds which governments are increasingly able to make.

If we could bring about the basic and revolutionary condition of the adoption by all citizens of a Beyondist set of values, bringing alertness to the rights of the unborn and the need for evolutionary movement, the necessary details of legislation would take care of themselves. For the rest is only a technical matter for psychologists, geneticists, doctors and economists. As Dr. Francis Crick of Nobel prize fame has well said: "If we can get across to people the idea that their children are not entirely their own business and that it is not a private matter, it would be an enormous step forward" (quoted in Rosenfeld, 1969, page 161). The willingness of the general public to get seriously concerned, in this decade, on at least the question of size of population, augurs well for an advance, perhaps in this decade, into the long delayed concern with quality of population. (The fact that at the moment, as argued in section 8.4 below, the public's concern with size may actually damage the quality trend, is accidental.)

It will have to be part of this growth in the range of moral concern that citizens will accept "invasion of privacy" (a much greater threat to the criminal than to any honest citizen). For, in company with all other needed headway in social research, eugenic research to determine the birth rate effects of various economic and educative measures, will require testing and documentation of extensive population samples. It will also be necessary, as it is wherever new moral values are accepted, to support those measures with whatever legal action is necessary to curb the recklessly anti-social. And here, in face of the usual outcries about "intolerance," and "regimentation" the new moral fiber will have to show its quality. Cases will arise like the frequently repeating case of the borderline mental defective prostitute, now receiving extensive welfare aid for a dozen illegitimate children where such definite action as sterilization will be called for. It is grossly unfair and demoralizing of their own ideals, for parents who can with difficulty support two or three children of their own to be burdened with taxes for numerous cases such as this. Yet there will always, apparently, be sentimentalists who become peculiarly hysterical on the sterilization issue (though there are many thousands of, for example, university and other professional men nowadays who are voluntarily sterilized after begetting a planned two or three child family). One is reminded of Judge Oliver Wendel Holmes' argument when his judgment supported the majority opinion upholding the legality of sterilization of the feeble-minded. "We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if we could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt by those concerned." One might substitue, for "not felt," "much desired," for there is misery as well as profligacy in the majority of these irresponsibles.

Eugenics in general has two aspects: restrictive (or "negative") eugenics as just discussed and positive (or creative) eugenics, some problems of which we have yet to discuss. Restrictive eugenics gives least headaches to the social theorist, who finds less difficulty in getting a consensus on what is defective than on defining what is "superior" in positive eugenics. But it may give more headaches to the social legislator. Although the files of welfare services and hospitals and colonies for the mentally inadequate, are crammed with instances of families of defectives expanding from generation to generation at public cost, the public conscience has been slow to awaken and its action relatively easily stopped by arguments about "the practical impossibility" of controlling sexual behavior in the psychopath. "You cannot legislate morality" is the misleading half-truth cynically flung at crusaders in any field. Yet it is patent that societies like Sweden, Britain and New Zealand where birth control has been made available to all, and family planning has become a matter of public conscience, have reached new levels of civilized order and assured living standards partly through these measures. And in America the first real reduction of poverty in many generations (a decline in those below the stipulated poverty line from about 24% to 12%) occurred between 1960 and 1970, precisely in the period in which family planning most rapidly increased.

Positive eugenics finds its goals harder to define than in the above "bringing up the rearguard," but the difficulties will diminish with imaginatively conceived research (see Pearson, 1909; Fisher, 1930; Haldane, 1928). Although there can be little reliable insight as yet about the desirability of various temperament traits, psychologists studying actual life adjustment and measured creativity would probably agree on the desirability of higher intelligence, good memory, emotional stability (ego strength), freedom from paranoia, and natural strength of superego. A new science of psychometric prediction in these areas is in fact getting on a firm foundation (see also pre-natal diagnostic possibilities; Arehart, 1971a,b).

Those who pooh-pooh attention to genetic improvement are apt to say that even the community itself has no right to choose what type of person shall be born; but they completely overlook that such choice goes on all the time at the wedding altar. Incidentally, this selection by the average man may well be less beneficial than the directions that social scientists would work out. For sexual selection, as Darwin pointed out may actually be a backward eddy in the stream of natural selection. Broad shouldered and heavy jawed men, and women with extensive fore and aft projections may not be at all the types that nature itself is demanding at this stage of culture. Nevertheless, there is much that is good in the implicit and unconscious but none the less real eugenic selection of the next generation by the present one through marriage choice. The explicit and scientifically planned eugenic selection by well-informed scientific opinion is a different matter, though it does not escape the difficult issues of ethics which Ramsey (1970) has raised and which we have discussed here in Chapter 4 (Section 4.5) at the level of basic principle.

Much as one would hope to leave as much as possible in eugenic affairs to the self-directing citizen, his goodwill is not enough unless it is educated, and it is likely that as research establishes firmer knowledge about genetics and social needs, more positive guidance will regularly be sought on both marriage and family size by the citizen. Leaving encouragement of a differential birth rate to economic differentials, as we have seen, is an approximate procedure, in as much as correlations of contribution and earnings are at present quite imperfect. The caterer to vices and fads is overpaid (as well as most of those who deal directly with money. Vide the Communist jibe "Don't rob a bank; own one"). The teacher, researcher, and minister of religion are commonly underpaid, if the wide ramifications of their beneficial contributions were evaluated.

Practical problems in a eugenic program admittedly thus present a series of difficult challenges which must end in semi-efficient compromises. But society has access to enough sufficiently effective measures to show that it is in earnest in the extension of moral intention to reproductive behavior. A powerful drive to extend effective birth control habits to those who are as shiftless in family planning as in all things is a first necessity. The social ethics standards which would make it a normal expectation that the more well-to-do will have more children is another. A radical re-weighting of taxation to bear more on the childless is a social measure now much needed. In this connection one must recognize a sinister tendency which initial social research indicates. It seems that when birth control is freely available the differential birth rate tends to change from dysgenic to eugenic; but the total birth rate may fall below replacement level. As said above, there are two ways of travelling: "first class, and with children" or (in social competition terms) "he travels fastest who travels alone." And altruism is apparently not yet enough, when choice of births is freely made for the average citizen to maintain the nation's population. He needs to have the will to push himself into "hardship." Here again the future is genetically to the morally responsible, in a way that was not true up to this time and before family limitation was widely available.















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