Ideas Have Consequences: Eugenics

“The whole ugly world of eugenics needs to be seen for what it really is: very much an outgrowth of Darwinian thought.” — Peter Quinn, Commonweal

I once read that the London Times from 1935–1939 praised Hitler’s Germany in its editorial pages for what he was doing there. What he was doing was courageously practicing ideas that had become quite popular in the early part of this century as an outgrowth of the advocacy of Charles Darwin’s son, Major Leonard Darwin and other believers in eugenics, the selective breeding of humans. This is why many of the mentally ill, and even bed-wetters, were eliminated from the ranks of German society, by extermination.

Until recently I had failed to connect the dots, but the importance of eugenics was a highly popular belief amongst educated, liberal-minded people in Western society. It’s a fairly ugly chapter that we don’t hear much about because it has been relegated to the closets.

If you’re like me, you probably also wondered why Charles Lindbergh was so enthralled with Nazi Germany. When you discover that he, too, was an advocate of eugenics then you begin to grasp why he, too, liked what Hitler was doing on this ground-breaking front.

One should often be suspicious of the recommendations scholars make when they are predicting doom. The Population Bomb was the big thing when I was in college. Back in 1932, predictions of gloom and doom were announced if the world did not engage in widespread eugenics reforms. These were predictions by Major Darwin, a whole-hearted advocate of eugenics for decades at this point. Across the Atlantic, someone was listening.

Major Darwin Predicts Civilization’s Doom Unless Century Brings Wide Eugenic Reforms (NYT 1932)*

New York Times
Posted on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 3:49:34 PM by MNDude
Aug 21, 1932 Eugenists (sic) from all over the world will attend the Third International Congress of Eugenics today and tomorrow at the American Museum of Natural History. At general and sectional meetings they will discuss advances in the study for the physical and mental improvement of the human race. Aug 23, 1932 Eugenic reforms must be adopted within the next hundred years if civilization is to go on, was the message of Major Leonard Darwin, son of Charles Darwin, founder of the modern theory of evolution, read last night at the Third International Congress of Eugenics, which opened yesterday at the American Museum of Natural History.

It is not history’s prettiest chapter, but it’s a good one to familiarize oneself with.

*SOURCE: Major Darwin Predicts…

Originally published at
For more, see
Eugenics, Revisited.


Here’s Charles Darwin proposing that small pox vaccinations are bad because they help keep people alive who would have died.

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed. — The Descent of Man

You can go here for more on Darwin and Eugenics.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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