On May 2, 2002, Mark Warner of Virginia became the first governor to publicly apologize to the many thousands of people who were sterilized against their will during the eugenics movement in the United States. Through 1979, about 8,000 people in Virginia were prevented from being able to have children because they were considered to be “unfit.”
Governor Warner’s spokesperson said that he “hopes that this (apology) will draw attention to the misinterpreting of science, and all of the bad that can come from that—especially in an era of bioengineering where ethical debates will rise again.”1
However, most people probably don’t realize that eugenics is simply a logical conclusion from Darwinian evolution.
A Yale University study has shed light on the dark side of evolution in the form of social Darwinism. Social Darwinism is the application of evolutionary principles to humans, most notably in the form of eugenics. As a result of the eugenics movement in the United States nearly 100,000 people were sterilized, many against their will. These sterilizations were legal in many states even as recently as 1974.
Individuals considered mentally deficient or delinquent were sterilized to prevent them from having children who would also be “defective”. The motivation for those who promoted eugenics has been well documented to be Darwin’s theory of evolution. They sought to eliminate “unfit” offspring and increase the number of “fit” in a type of “natural selection”. They believed that what they were doing was for the betterment of the human race.
Eugenics was carried out in many other countries as well including France, Sweden and Australia. Eugenics laws in the US served as a model for laws that Hitler enacted in Germany. Germany was lauded as having an efficient and effective eugenics program sterilizing over 300,000 people. This was then followed by euthanasia, human experimentation, and the active killing of people considered “genetically inferior.”
Tragically, eugenics is a natural outcome of an evolutionary worldview and difficult to criticize if one holds to the “survival of the fittest.” Indeed, to support people who are handicapped or considered “inferior” is to work against evolution, perhaps to the detriment of humanity.
While people are rightly appalled at this period of American history, they insist that such a thing would not happen again. But today, instead of sterilization, abortion is encouraged for mothers who may have a “defective” child. In the future, we face the prospect of fetal tissue research, organ harvesting or sale, and human cloning.
Although critics insist that eugenics was based on bad science, they often ignore the link to evolution. People are not equal in terms of abilities. Some are smarter, stronger, faster and more fertile. If nature is all there is, then what makes eugenics wrong? In a world without God, it would seem prudent to apply the principles of natural selection to human beings.
However, since we are all created in the image of God, then we do have equal value. And Christ came to redeem human beings. These facts give the basis for human dignity.