Skeletons in the Closet

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The dark history of human genetics illustrates the dangers of science misunderstood and misused.

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The current Annals of Human Genetics reveals a disturbing skeleton in the closet of science. The journal chronicles how a number of respected scientists pushed for immoral social and political agendas on the basis of naive scientific conclusions.

Started by the renowned statistician Karl Pearson in 1925, the journal was originally called the Annals of Eugenics. It was to “devote its pages wholly to the scientific treatment of racial problems in man.” Many geneticists believed human “character, which they felt fully fit to judge, was inherited,” ignoring the myriad of other factors that influence an individual’s personality and abilities. Widespread acceptance of this “scientific” position led to social atrocities including forced sterilization, immigration restrictions keeping out the “unfit,” and Hitler’s genocidal horrors. Due to the unpopularity of eugenics after World War II, the journal changed its name.

As we move into the future of genetics, particularly in light of the human genome project, the journal sounds a solemn warning about the dangers of misunderstood and misapplied science.

“Eugenics is often dismissed as a crank movement energized by pseudoscience, but we need to bear in mind that science is in any day what scientists do and defend. The science of “eugenics fell squarely in the mainstream of scientific and popular culture,” it warns. “Many biology journals today have roots in the era.”

Science is based on observations made by fallible human beings. And scientific conclusions are influenced by the biases of those making them.

Science today is exalted as the source of infallible truth, but it remains as susceptible to error now as ever. Science is based on observations made by fallible human beings. And scientific conclusions are influenced by the biases of those making them.

To avoid being led astray by “what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 1:20), we must begin our thinking with God’s Word. Genuine truth, correct scientific conclusions, and truly good social policies will never violate God’s unchanging Word.

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