I’m afraid this title will make some switch off or ignore, and some bristle with hostility – and that is exactly the problem.

I suggest we have to face up to what Eugenics is and what it is not. It is certainly not for example, as is often suggested, Naziism, where officially proscribed life was deemed unworthy of life.

Eugenics is straightforwardly the breeding of the best. So if you’re breeding sheep you may want them to have the woolliest fleece, as was the basis of England’s prosperity in Mediaeval and Tudor times. Eugenics was your goal: wool, wool and more wool. Though you probably didn’t actually call it eugenics… All well and good – but we haven’t actually researched whether perhaps, for example, that may also help to explain why sheep follow each other rather blindly- or even, whose offspring have, in the words of a farmer of my acquaintance, ‘a death wish’.

Likewise breeding or cross pollinating grass to become productive wheat or perhaps maize, has been beneficial for man. Indeed farm animal or crop eugenics are designed by and for humans and in consequence are thus, usually pretty much, ostensibly, for man at least, entirely beneficial…

They may not actually be for sure. But certainly the examples quoted seem to have been beneficial for the flourishing of humanity.

Nevertheless eugenics for the human race itself is a lot less obvious. Of course morons breeding with morons are likely to produce more of the same.

But not inevitably. Gene mutation sees to that.

And likewise the supposed intelligentsia, where nonetheless, IQ’s are entirely suspect, or the rich and famous getting together, do not necessarily improve humanity. Indeed I suggest our current society suggests, with some provability, that this does not lead to the best outcomes….

So, yes, eugenics ‘works’ – but as ever, for whom, and for what and for why are the really important questions.

And genetics is not, as some, like Cummings, an ‘intelligent’ historian, seem to suggest, an exact science (indeed science is by definition, naturally inexact, until, of course, proved otherwise).

So seemingly historians believe in experts…whilst simultaneously misunderstanding them…

Does Cummings and his (now resigned – though, importantly, not sacked) colleague really think we are all actually sheep?

We really should beware, because I fear that that appears to be the most ‘expert’, realistic and logical conclusion….


  1. Ian Stevenson -

    I trained as a teacher in the mid 60s and were taught that intelligence was 80% inherited. Sir Cyril Burt had examined a number of cases of identical twins raised apart and tested for IQ. There was an 80% correlation .
    The tripartite system of education, Grammar, Technical and Secondary Modern schools was based on this.
    Then a PhD student checked his sources. Burt claimed that two independent women researchers had found a similar correlation accurate to 3 decimal points. This seemed very unlikely so the researcher tried to contact their university. They had no record of them.
    Burt was contacted and said they had emigrated.
    If one reads his book, I am told, he says most working class children do not have the ability to appreciate higher thought or reason abstractly to any degree.
    In other words, he fitted his theory to his prejudices.

    1. Peter May -

      Interesting.., thanks

    2. Korhomme -

      After his death, much of Burt’s later work was found to be based on falsified data.

  2. Korhomme -

    Eugenics and its relative “scientific racism” are discredited today. Eugenics led to policies of compulsory sterilization, the view being that “degeneracy” was biological. The Holocaust was an attempt at elimination of “degenerate” peoples.

    Genetics is far more complicated than the proponents of eugenics realise or understand. There isn’t a single gene for intelligence, there are hundreds or thousands with some influence. Further, the genetic component of intelligence is felt to be about 40% to 60%; the rest is environmental influences, starting in utero.

    There is no gene for poverty. Sabisky wrote, “One way to get around the problems of unplanned pregnancies, creating a permanent underclass would be to legally enforce universal uptake of long-term contraception at the onset of puberty”. This is no different from legally enforced sterilization.

    There is another aspect to this. If the argument is that poverty is biological and genetically determined, then a government could well say that policies that attempt to improve things are doomed to failure, so it’s a waste of money to try. The environmental role in poverty is excluded. We have already seen how the reductions in local authorities budgets have affected the services they can provide.

    1. Peter May -

      Agreed entirely. That “Genetics is far more complicated than the proponents of eugenics realise or understand”, was the reason for my perhaps over simple ‘sheepish’ suggestions, to try and get across that idea!

      1. Korhomme -

        I’m presently researching eugenics and scientific racism, and hope to have a post on in the next couple of weeks.

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