Larson - Who's to Blame for Eugenics: An English Agnostic or an Austrian Abbot?

 

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Who's to Blame for Eugenics: An English Agnostic or an Austrian Abbot? - Prof. Ed Larson

Over the past quarter century, eugenics has emerged as the poster child for the immorality of evolutionary thinking. Even some scientists and historians have joined the religious opponents of Darwinism in presenting eugenics as the inevitable product of extending evolutionary thinking to social policy. Certainly Darwin’s theory of natural selection inspired Darwin’s cousin, the agnostic English polymath Francis Galton, to call for eugenic measures. Further, the spread of Darwinism helped to supply a supportive cultural and intellectual environment for Galton’s ideas to gain some European and American followers. Nevertheless, it was the rediscovery in 1900 of the scientific work of a devout Roman Catholic Austrian abbot, Gregor Mendel, that provided the necessary scientific basis for the most vilified measures of negative eugenics, such as compulsory sterilization of the mentally ill and retarded, to gain widespread acceptance in the United States and Northern Europe. Mendel was dead by this time, but the crude application Mendelian genetics to various disabling or disfavored human conditions (rather than Darwinism itself) launched the modern eugenics movement of the early twentieth century. Darwinism alone, even as conceived by Galton, did not lead to so-call negative eugenics.

Prof. Ed Larson Pepperdine University

Additional Information

Event 2011 Seminars
Speakers Larson, Ed
Year 2011

Larson - Who's to Blame for Eugenics: An English Agnostic or an Austrian Abbot?