Article ID: CBB543448733

What Was Wrong with Eugenics? Conflicting Narratives and Disputed Interpretations (2014)


Although it is often taken for granted that eugenics is odious, exactly what makes it so is far from obvious. The existence of considerable interpretative flexibility is evident in the disparate policy lessons for contemporary reproductive genetics (or “reprogenetics”) that have been derived from essentially the same set of historical facts. In this paper, I will show how different—indeed, diametrically-opposed—morals have been drawn from the history of eugenics and link these contrasting messages both to different underlying conceptions of what constitutes the central wrong of eugenics and differing degrees of enthusiasm for reprogenetic technologies. I will then argue that, for several reasons, the history of eugenics simply cannot provide the kind of direct guidance that many participants in current debates would like. Although the history does have implications for policy, the insights to be gleaned are both subtle and indirect.

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Authors & Contributors
Schocket, Andrew M
Simon, Marc V.
Brooks, Michael
Grunden, Walter E.
Nieman, Donald
Henig, Robin Marantz
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Science, Technology and Human Values
American Journal of Medical Genetics
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Johns Hopkins University Press
Houghton Mifflin
Cambridge University Press
University of Chicago Press
University of California Press
Reproductive technologies
Reproductive medicine
Biology and ethics; bioethics
Science and politics
Stalin, Joseph
Müller, Hermann Joseph
Time Periods
20th century, late
20th century, early
21st century
United States
South India
Berlin (Germany)

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