Eugenics is Only Wrong If You Are Christian
|Logo from the Second International Eugenics Conference, 1921, depicting eugenics as a tree which unites a variety of different fields|
Christianity formulated the idea that all humans are of equal worth. Galatians 3:28
"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
This idea was laughable to the ancient Romans. Romans thought that some people were naturally slaves and others were naturally powerful slave owners. This was how the gods had ordained it. This was how the world was. Just like some animals are lions and others are sheep, some men are powerful and some are weak. And to treat the weak like they were powerful or the powerful like they were weak would be nonsense. Worse than nonsense - an insult to the gods.
Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher, summed up the attitude held by of much of the west for many centuries,
"He who is by nature not his own but another's man is by nature a slave."
Humans, like animals, come in different types and just like we treat animals differently based on their type (keeping a toy poodle as a friend for grandma and a pitbull as a guard dog) we should treat humans based on their type.
But Christianity challenged all this. Paul, drawing from the book of Genesis that said that all humans were created in the image of God, argued that if you were human you were in a sense the best picture of God on earth.
To understand the concept, imagine being sick in bed during Thanksgiving and not being able to see out into the living room where your family is enjoying the feast. So your mom sets up a mirror at the doorway so that you can then see the family and, to a small degree, be a part of things. Humans, the bible says, are the image of God. When the world needs to see God, it can look at humanity. All of us. Rich and poor. Sick and healthy. Intellgent or slow. Slave or free. Male or female.
CS Lewis writes,
"Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ ...the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden."
This is a religious claim that seems like nonsense to most people in world history. There is nothing in nature to suggest this. And there is much to contradict this. But as Christianity spread and adopted these ideas through the generations they became 'self evident' as Thomas Jefferson wrote. They seemed like they were just normal things to believe. But that is nonsense. No other society held to these things prior to meeting up with Christian civilization.
And secular science has no reason to believe them either. Think about what science tells us about humanity. We are not the image of God. We are the result of millions of years of evolution. That evolutionary process is somewhat simple. There are mutations in genes and then there is natural selection. Animals that have genetic structures that help them survive long enough to pass on those genes, thrive. Animals that don't die. Death then is like a man in a vineyard. He trims the weak and broken parts of the vine so that the rest can survive and thrive. Through the years, each species learned (with death as the teacher) how to live and reproduce. There is no purpose or meaning to any of this. Just basic science.
And so now we have humanity. We have to figure out how to live. What our goals should be. Well.... how did we get here? By good genes obviously. The reason we are more of a threat to lions than lions are a threat to us is because we got these big brains ... thanks to our genes.
And.... in a sense at least.... that is where we get our worth. Consider the thoughts of Princeton Ethicist Peter Singer,
"Characteristics like rationality, autonomy and self-consciousness...make a difference. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings."
Elsewhere, Singer writes, "The calf, the pig, and the much-derided chicken come out well ahead of the fetus at any stage of pregnancy, while if we make the comparison with a fetus of less than three months, a fish would show more signs of consciousness."
Follow the logic of the two quotes. Did you catch that? Some humans (babies) lack traits that make that equivalent to other humans (adults). Monstrous to most people. But perfectly consistent once you take any sort of logical approach to animal rights. And if we can kill a calf, why could we not kill an infant? And lest you think that the risk be limited to babies (as though that is not monstrous enough), it is this sort of justification that has always preceded all sorts of human rights abuses. The slavery of ancient Rome was based on Aristotle's conviction that some humans are not smart or capable enough to be free. The genocide of the Armenians by the Turks was based on the idea that they were not fully human. The horrors that the Nazi's unleashed on the mentally infirm was based on this sort of thinking.
So... human worth is based on traits. And traits are the results of genes. So how is it not good to look at genetics, figure out what makes people more worthwhile and attempt to improve that going forward?
And this sort of thinking was taken for granted by many scientists in the US and Europe in the early 20th century. In fact, over 30 states had laws on the books to help our genetic make up. Forced sterilization of people with low IQs, mental issues, or certain criminal proclivities (laws often passed with the church protesting them) were evidence that eugenics was going mainstream.
Then came Hitler. He really gave eugenics a bad name. A deep believer in the concept that humans could be bred like animals, he killed the mentally unstable, killed the criminals, killed the physically incapacitated, and killed the 'inferior races' (something that was also not unique to Nazi thinking in that day).
So... in the wake of that symphony of death... eugenics became a dirty word. No one wanted to be Hitler. Suddenly eugenics was declared psuedoscience. Not based on new data but based on the fact that you would get thrown out of your professorship on your ear if you said anything else.
But... maybe 70 years is enough time to start thinking about it again? Richard Dawkins seems to think so. In 2006 he said,
“If you can breed cattle for milk yield, horses for running speed, and dogs for herding skill, why on Earth should it be impossible to breed humans for mathematical, musical or athletic ability...I wonder whether, some 60 years after Hitler’s death, we might at least venture to ask what the moral difference is between breeding for musical ability and forcing a child to take music lessons.”
And he is right! If we are nothing but products of a blind evolutionary process, then he is right. Singer is right. We are horses to be bred. We are dogs. And right now... some are lions and some are sheep. Bring back the gladiator games. Bring back slaver.
But me and my house? As Joshua said, we will serve the Lord. We believe in universal human rights. We believe that all humans - male and female, slave and free, jew and gentile, black and white, rich and poor, born and unborn, young and old.... all of us... we all are mirrors standing in the doorway to heaven showing people what God is. And destroying any of us.... is a crime against God.
The poor have as much value as the rich. The man living on government assistance suffering from schizophrenia is as valuable as Elon Musk.
And so using genetics to make better people is nonsense. Eugenics is terrible and ungodly.
This is a Christian argument. No Christianity..... and welcome back eugenics.