The history of eugenics is often overlooked in American history. Few people know that from the beginning of the twentieth century until around WW II, very powerful eugenics societies and laws existed that tried to ensure the next generation was “well born” by sterilizing (sometimes forcibly!) those deemed “unfit” to pass along their genes. Eugenics was even taught to public (government) high school students by one of the main biology textbooks used in the 1920s. Where did these ideas come from?
Well, a recent article from LifeSite News highlighted the connection between Darwinian evolution and the thinking of the early eugenicists. Jonathon Van Maren writes,
As much as humanists would like to protest this fact, it was the rise of the evolutionary theory of natural selection, propagated by Charles Darwin and his acolytes, that first began to erode the foundational belief that all human life was inherently valuable. After all, if there was no God, then no one was created in His image. If there was no God, then some people were, by very definition, defective evolutionary accidents. If there was no God, then there was no reason whatsoever to assume that all human beings were valuable and equal. In fact, the very theory of evolutionary natural selection precluded the idea of equality. In the Darwinian view of the human race, equality as anything other than a feeble social construct cannot be possible.
It was the erosion of the biblical worldview and its replacement with the evolutionary worldview that destroyed the view that there is intrinsic value to mankind.
And he’s right! It was the erosion of the biblical worldview and its replacement with the evolutionary worldview that destroyed the view that there is intrinsic value to mankind. If we’re just “rearranged pond scum,” just animals, just the result of random, chance processes, then why should human life be preserved and protected? Nature certainly wouldn’t protect the weak, vulnerable, and sick, so why should we?
It was exactly that thinking that eugenicists grabbed onto and applied in ways that shock us today. The idea of someone forcibly sterilizing a young couple because someone else decided they were not fit to have children based on their socio-economic status, ethnic background, disability, or so on, does indeed seem shocking. But is our culture today really much different?
We live in a culture saturated with naturalistic, evolutionary thinking—there is no god, we set the rules (determine right from wrong), and we’re just animals. Since this thinking still dominates the West, it’s no surprise that the eugenicist thinking of past generations hasn’t really gone away (even though it became unpopular after Nazi Germany’s atrocities became public)—it’s just morphed into different forms.
Think about it. What is abortion? Well, it’s ascribing less value to a human being based on their level of development and location. It’s applying the idea that we’re just animals and we get to set the rules as there is no ultimate right and wrong. And consider that genetics screening for various chromosomal abnormalities results in the deaths of many children who receive a potential diagnosis (with many doctors pressuring parents in that direction). It’s just eugenics applied to who should be born! Indeed, Planned Parenthood was founded by Margaret Sanger, who pushed eugenics based on Darwin’s evolutionary ideas.
Or consider the screenings on babies created in a lab to be implanted in a womb (IVF). These babies in the embryonic stage of development may go through intense screening before a select few are chosen to either be implanted or frozen for potential later use. They can be screened for genetic and chromosomal abnormalities, sex, viability, and more. It’s eugenics applied to reproductive technologies.
Or what about euthanasia? Allowing those who are terminally ill or (in some places) mentally ill, chronically ill, disabled, elderly, etc., to choose to end their own lives is a form of euthanasia—“These people deserve to live; these don’t.” And it doesn’t take long for “can end their own lives” to become “should end their own lives” to become “must end their own lives.”
Apart from God and his Word, there is no foundation for human uniqueness or the sanctity of life. And the result of such a low view of human life is always deadly.
Apart from God and his Word, there is no foundation for human uniqueness or the sanctity of life. And the result of such a low view of human life is always deadly. Worldview matters!
This item was discussed yesterday on Answers News with cohosts Avery Foley, Dr. Tim Chaffey, and Bryan Osborne. Answers News is our weekly news program filmed live before a studio audience here at the Creation Museum, broadcast on our Answers in Genesis YouTube channel, and posted to Answers TV. We also covered the following topics:
Be sure to join us each Monday at 2 p.m. (ET) on YouTube or later that day on Answers TV for Answers News. You won’t want to miss this unique news program that gives science and culture news from a distinctly biblical and Christian perspective.
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This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.
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