Eamonn Keane
November 11, 2010
Resurrecting Nazi eugenics
By Eamonn Keane

The so-called science of eugenics refers to the application of animal breeding techniques to control human population in order to raise its quality. Eugenicists assert that certain groups of people are of a superior strain and that the human race can be improved by breeding selectively from them. A eugenicist mentality is often present in those pushing for greater access to contraception, sterilization, abortion and euthanasia as means of solving human problems or of ridding society of those considered burdensome.

Recently The Australian newspaper reported on a homily given by Bishop Peter Elliott, Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, in which he stated that the "warped practice of eugenics is rising from its Nazi tomb" in Australia. He said that "a seek-and-destroy policy kills little human beings in the womb because they are 'guilty' of Down Syndrome, dwarfism or other imperfection," adding that "they are deemed to be unfit to live for they do not come up to the standard of the 'designer baby' and a healthy, sport-loving race." [1]

Bishop Elliott continued by saying: "It is no surprise that euthanasia is being strongly promoted today. Nor should it be a surprise that this is the policy of a political and ideological force that puts more value on wattle and wombats than people." Pointing to the main force driving Australian society in the direction of this new savagery, Bishop Elliott said: "Resurgent aggressive secularism resorts to killing as it strives to engineer, direct and control not only society, but your life and mine."

Malthusianism and Social Darwinism

Over the last sixty years, many countries and organizations have conspired to reduce global population growth rates, especially in poorer countries. Amongst the major financiers of population control are organisations such as the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), the United States Overseas Aid Organisation (USAID), the World Bank, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and the Population Council in New York. The work of these organisations is complemented to a significant extent by other rich and elitist organizations such as the Rockefeller, Ford and Gates foundations.

The alleged correlation between population growth and reduced economic opportunity that was used to justify the imposition of oppressive population control programs was never based on solid historical or scientific data. Indeed, as experts in the field of economic demographics such as the late Professors Colin Clark and Julian Simon demonstrated conclusively, when looked at over the longer term, population growth can be seen as a boon to economic and social development.

The population control juggernaut is based on the evil notion that the only life worth living is one that can reasonably expect to attain a relatively high standard of health and material wellbeing. Have said this, it is important to note that also underlying the imposition of population control programs are all kinds of self-serving economic, military and political agendas.

The population control ideology has been one of the greatest impediments to the promotion of integral human development globally. The trail of destruction it has left in its wake was well described by Stephen Mosher in his 2008 book Population Control: Real Costs, Illusory Benefits where he said:

    "For over half a century, the population controllers have perpetrated gigantic, costly and inhumane fraud upon the human race, defrauding the people of the developing countries of their progeny and the people of the developed world of their pocketbooks. Determined to stop population growth at all costs, the controllers have abused women and targeted racial and religious minorities, undermined primary health care programs, and encouraged dictatorial actions if not dictatorships. They have skewed the foreign aid programs of the United States and other developed countries in an anti-natal direction, corrupted dozens of well-intentioned non-governmental organizations, and impoverished authentic development programs. Blinded by zealotry worthy of Al-Qaeda, they have even embraced the most brutal birth control campaign in history: China's infamous one-child policy, with all its attendant horrors." [2]

Whilst the negative impact of population control programs has long been evident in poor countries, it is now clear that the anti-life mentality upon which such programs are based is also sapping the life-support values and energies of developed nations. In this regard Steve Mosher again makes a telling point when in referring to Japan's experience with population control, he says:

    "Perhaps the first 'successful' population control program was carried out in post-war Japan. Prostrated by the war, Japanese leaders humbly acceded to MacArthur's suggestion that abortion be legalized. While it was publicly maintained that the devastated Japanese economy could not support more people, the general's interest was apparently in fighting the next war — in-utero, as it were. He must have been pleased as the birth rate fell by half over the next few years." [3]

Following through on General MacArthur's advice, in 1948 the Japanese Diet passed the Eugenic Protection Law which made abortion, sterilization and contraception widely available. The introduction of this eugenic law was accompanied by the adoption of a compulsory high savings plan, something that when combined with a plan for export led economic growth, shot Japan to the top of global economic performance tables within a few decades. When viewed against the backdrop of a longer timeframe however, it is evident that this economic progress was based on sand. It was not sustainable over the long-term because it was linked through the promotion of abortion and other birth control methods to the systematic destruction of the most important economic resource of all, which is the human person (human capital). Today Japan faces demographic catastrophe as its population ages and begins to implode. If present demographic trends continue, by mid-century Japan's median age will pass 60. Investment opportunities for its vast savings pool will have dried up, and the majority of Japanese will face old age relying on immigrant workers to care for them.

In more recent times, the first person to lend a pseudo-scientific-gloss to the notion that quality of life on earth was threatened by growth in the human population was an Anglican clergyman named Thomas Malthus (1766–1834). In 1798, he published his famous essay titled The Principle of Population. Failing to take into account the broader implications of the agricultural and technological revolution then taking place, he contended that Britain with its then population of approximately 10 million was overpopulated. Erroneously predicting that food supply could not keep up with population growth, he posited that plague, war, and famine would act as checks on population growth to bring it back into harmony with the so-called carrying capacity of the planet.

Intrinsic to Malthus' theory was a belief that the "lower classes of society" placed excessive demands on the world's resources and that consequently there was an urgent need to reduce their birth rates. He opposed charity for the poor lest it encourage them to propagate beyond their earning capacity. In his preoccupation with overpopulation, Malthus concluded that in the struggle for existence only the strong survive, hence he was opposed to any attempts by government to intervene in economic affairs in order to improve the wellbeing of the poor. While Malthus proposed moral restraint as a means of curbing population growth, he believed however that the vast majority of lower class people were incapable of exercising such restraint.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) acknowledged that he had been inspired by Malthus in his own study of the struggle for existence. While he did not personally apply his biological theories drawn from the animal kingdom to the social and political life of man, he did however wonder aloud as to what the parallels might be. In discussing in his book The Descent of Man how natural selection in the animal world might have relevance for how we should perceive of well functioning civilised societies, Darwin said:

    "With savages, the weak in mind or body are soon eliminated...We civilised men, on the other hand...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 everyone to the last moment...Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has ever attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man." [4]

Some of Darwin's ideas such as those expressed in the quotation above formed the basis of what became known as 'Social Darwinism.' Popular in educated circles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Social Darwinism was the belief that society should encourage its strongest, fittest and most intelligent members to increase in number and discourage the propagation of those lacking in such attributes. Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), regarded as the father of Social Darwinism, adapted Darwin's ideas about natural selection to his ethical theories in which he claimed it was normal and moral for the strong and powerful to prosper at the expense of the weak and frail. In her book The War Against Population: The Economics and Ideology of World Population Control, Professor Jacqueline describes Social Darwinism as follows:

    "Crucial to the Social Darwinists' theory was their view of individual human beings — not as creatures if innate worth and dignity, regardless of their earthly condition, but as factors on a scale of social value. Without hesitation or embarrassment, the Social Darwinists determined the scale itself and undertook to measure other men by it. Not surprisingly, those who shared the social and economic attributes of the movement's leaders rated highest." [5]

The Eugenics Movement, Nazi Germany, Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood

Up until the Second World War, the history of the population control movement was synonymous with the history of the Eugenics Movement. The founder of the study of eugenics or good birth as he called it was Francis Galton (1822-1911). He was a cousin of Charles Darwin whose ideas he used to formulate his eugenic theories. Speaking of Galton's eugenic ideas, Michael Schooyans said:

    "According to Galton, natural selection is insufficient. Nature's selection process must be helped by all the means of the biomedical sciences. Thus 'selection' becomes artificial, voluntarist and systematic. The influence of Galton as the father of eugenics, now dominates contemporary thinking. In this view, those who are less gifted are required, with their poor generic patrimony, to be dissuaded from procreating for the advantage of mankind." [6]

The State of Indiana in the US was the first place in the world to pass legislation based on eugenic principles. In 1907 it passed a compulsory sterilisation law targeting "confirmed criminals, idiots, rapists and imbeciles." Thirty other states and Puerto Rico followed suit. It is noteworthy that Winston Churchill, Charles Eliot (President Emeritus at Harvard) and David Starr Jordan (President of Stanford University) were amongst the vice-presidents of the First International Congress of Eugenics held at the University of London in 1912. The goal of the Congress was the "prevention of the propagation of the unfit." [7]

Two influential eugenicists in the U.S were Fairfield Osborn and William Vogt who in 1948 published two books titled Our Plundered Planet and Road To Survival respectively. In both cases the message was that due to population growth planet earth's life support systems were in imminent danger of collapse. In true Malthusianist style, they predicted that humanity had little to look forward to other than resource depletion, famine and war.

In 1941 Osborn submitted a report to the American Eugenics Society which estimated that two to three million Americans had hereditary defects which caused them to be a burden to society which he said cost the nation one billion dollars a year. Vogt was for a time national director of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (1958-68). He argued that falling living standards in the US could only be avoided by strict population control and conservation. He lamented the fact that "the modern medical profession, still framing its ethics on the dubious statements of an ignorant man who lived more than two thousand years ago...continues to believe it has a duty to keep alive as many people as possible." Referring to Chile he wrote that one of its greatest national assets was "its high death rate." In 1955 he stated: "I believe that human nature can be changed...Indeed, I believe we must change human nature — and at a far more rapid rate than we have in the past." [8]

The most influential of all eugenicists was Margaret Sanger (1883-1966). She founded the American National Birth Control League in 1914, and in 1953 became the first president of the IPPF. She was opposed to free maternity care for the poor lest it force "the healthier and more normal sections of the world to shoulder...the unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity of others; which brings with it...a dead weight of human waste." [9]

Stating the eugenic intent of her birth control advocacy, Sanger said: "Birth control must lead ultimately to a cleaner race." [10] One of the slogans for her movement stated the chief aim of birth control to be "More children from the fit, less from the unfit." [11] She published pro-eugenic articles such as "Some Moral Aspects of Eugenics" (June 1920), "The Eugenic Conscience" (February 1921), "The Purpose of Eugenics" (December 1924), "Birth Control and Positive Eugenics" (July 1925), "Birth Control: The True Eugenics" (August 1928). She headed the December 1921 edition of her Birth Control Review with the slogan: "Birth Control: To Create a Race of Thoroughbreds." In the October 1921 issue of the Review she underscored the eugenic intent of her efforts to educate society about the perceived advantages of birth control when she said:

    "Birth control is thus the entering wedge for the eugenic educator...the unbalance between the birth rate of the unfit and the fit admittedly the greatest present menace to civilisation...The most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective." [12]

Sanger made clear in her writings that she saw birth control programmes as a means of maintaining white supremacy. Commenting on how best "To Keep Blacks from Rebellion," she wrote: "The most successful education approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members." [13]

There were close links established between the eugenics societies in America, Britain and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. The Nazi compulsory sterilisation laws were in some aspects based on the earlier American laws. The concentration camps brought the eugenicist philosophy to its logical conclusion. Here Galton's ideas became "the morality of the gas chamber," as Sir Peter Medawar put it. [14]

Hans Harmsen, who with Sanger was a co-founder of IPPF and its daughter organisation in Germany Profamilia, developed a concept for a population policy during the Great Depression which became the foundation for the racial and eugenic policy of Nazi Germany. The concept originated from research into hereditary biology and the attempt to regulate both the size and quality of the human population. Describing the social impact of this idea in Germany, one commentator said:

    "[It] led to demands for a eugenically oriented differentiated welfare policy putting the research findings into practice. Based on cost-utility calculations and according to criteria of productive capacity, productively capable sections of the population were to be promoted. On the other hand, economies were to be made in the care and preservation of people designated inferior, which meant socially marginal groups. Through institutionalisation and sterilisation, they were to be excluded from procreation." [15]

A special issue of Sanger's Birth Control Review in 1933 published an article by Dr. Ernst Rudin who was one of Hitler's leading eugenicists. In the article, Rudin stressed the need for careful and well-targeted propaganda in such work. In the same issue, an American, Paul Popenoe, praised the Germans for their great pioneering work in eugenics and expressed the hope that the Americans should start to imitate the Nazis by sterilising ten million people. [16]

The Nazi euthanasia program gave concrete expression to Hitler's eugenicist obsessions, something that was clearly revealed as early 1925 when the first volume of his book Mein Kampf was published. Hitler's National Socialist ideology stressed racial superiority and health as fundamental aspects in the realisation of Germany's future. From 1935 he began to implement his eugenics policy. In September 1939, he issued a secret order that all persons carrying incurable diseases were to be killed. Varying estimates place the number of Germans who fell into this category as somewhere between 1.3 and 1.6 million people. Hitler's euthanasia policy was euphemistically referred for propaganda purposes as mercy death. From late 1939 to August 1941, between 70,000 and 80,000 people were killed under the scheme which in official documentation was referred to as program 'T.4', a coded reference derived from the address of Hitler's Chancellery.

The eugenics movement fell into disrepute with the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. Describing what happened, U.S Lawyer Michael Schwartz said:

    "Adolf Hitler gave eugenics a bad name by carrying it to its logical consequences...Hitler's first step on the road to Auschwitz was a eugenic sterilisation law patterned after the American laws which Sanger and her associates had sponsored. Step by step, Hitler's race purification program increased in intensity. He was not content, like Sanger, with merely sterilising the undesired; nor like Malthus, with letting them die. Hitler insisted on going all the way and actually murdering those he regarded as inferior, and in killing them he killed the eugenics movement. It was no longer possible, in the post Holocaust world, openly to use bluntly racist and elitist arguments that had served them so well in the past. It was necessary for the eugenicists to find a new rhetorical style with which to cloak their war against the poor." [17]

In the years following World War II, two leading advocates of population control were Irving Burch and Elmer Pendell. Burch, who had been an official in Sanger's Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued several warnings that America was on the brink of economic and cultural collapse because of the growing number of Negroes and foreigners in the country. Both Burch and Pendell advanced the argument that the main reason for Hitler's invasion of neighbouring European nations was that Germany had become overpopulated in the 1930s. On the basis of this specious argument, the myth that overpopulation was a major factor contributing to political and economic instability began to spread. Consequently, population became increasingly important in world politics. Many people in developed countries began to believe that a major threat to world peace and to their continuing prosperity came from Africa, Asia and Latin America because of their relatively high fertility rates.

After World War II the eugenics movement attempted to change its image, and because of the Nazi connotations associated with the term birth control, it began to describe its activities as family planning. Referring to this switch in strategy, Valerie Riches said: "Eugenicists and birth controllers had to find a new justification for their activities. The novel idea that the world was overpopulated gave them the justification they needed and the population control movement was born." [18] Coupled with this, U.S. army general William Draper developed a theory that population growth in developing countries left them open to communist infiltration and that higher population growth rates in poorer countries would be injurious to the long-run economic interests of richer countries. He urged the US government to bolster its national security by embarking on population control programs in developing countries. Eventually, a 'Demographic Security Doctrine' emerged as an integral component of 'National Security Doctrine' in the U.S. Most significantly, Draper was one of the main driving forces behind the decision to establish the UNFPA. This is the organisation that shamefully allocated $57 million to China for its savage one-child-per-family policy just three days after the Tiananmen Square massacre. It has helped China produce contraception and abortion equipment and has trained many of the personnel who oversee the direction of that nation's coercive abortion policy.

In more recent years the eugenicists and population controllers have packaged the evil intent of their programs as "reproductive health rights" which is code for removing legal restrictions on access to abortion services. There is an ongoing battle at the United Nations over whether or not such access to abortion as part of women's "reproductive health rights" should be inscribed in international human rights covenants. One of the main supporters of this corruption of the meaning of human rights is the Obama administration in the U.S, its most notable spokesperson on the issue being Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The Eugenicist Utopia

In the Summer 1999 edition of The National Interest, Francis Fukuyama, author of 'The End of History,' stated that "biotechnology will be able to accomplish what the radical ideologies of the past, with their unbelievably crude techniques, were unable to accomplish: to bring about a new type of human being." Fukuyama added that within the next couple of generations, "we will have definitively finished human history because we will have abolished human beings as such," in consequence of which "a new posthuman history will begin."

In his book 'Remaking Eden: How Genetic Engineering and Cloning Will Transform the American Family,' molecular biologist Lee Silver of Princeton University, enthused about a future in which genetic manipulation will allow us to enhance the health, appearance, personality and cognitive capacity of our children. In 1999, IVF pioneer Robert Edwards of Cambridge University stated: "soon it will be a sin of parents to have a child that carries the heavy burden of genetic disease. We are entering a world where we have to consider the quality of our children." [19] Regrettably, Edwards had the Nobel Prize for medicine conferred on him in 2010.

In his book Who's Afraid of Human Cloning, Gregory Pence, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, stated that if as a result of experiments with animals, science eventually makes cloning by way of nuclear somatic transfer very safe, "humans will then have more power to create children who will be free of some common genetic diseases, who may be smarter (more memory, better jokes, more creative), stronger, live longer, more playful, and live happier." [20] In considering the question of whether or not it would be appropriate for parents to have their children through processes similar to those used for breeding in the animal world, Pence says: "Would it be so terrible to allow parents to at least aim for a certain type, in the same way that great breeders...try to match a breed of dog to the needs of a family." [21]

I have cited Pence's work because his ethical ideas are representative of a school of thought that is unreasonable and eugenicist. This can be seen in his attitude to the human embryo. He says: "I believe that embryos are not persons because they fail to meet the cognitive criterion of personhood." According to this criterion, he adds, "to be a person is to be able to think, to remember one's life, to be capable of cognition." He adds that "what separates a normal, adult person from say, a rat, is certain capacities — for reasoning, reflective self-awareness, communication, agency (motivated action), and consciousness of the external world." [22] "For these reasons," he continues, "I do not believe human embryos are persons; and so I do not believe that they should be treated as such. I believe they become persons by degrees over a continuum, such that it makes sense to think that an eight-month-old fetus is almost a person but an eight cell-embryo is not." [23] Finally, to bring his ideas full circle, Pence goes on to say: "The basic idea here is quite simple: consciousness is the foundation of value...the cognitive criterion has a nice symmetry for both ends of life. It explains why several years of irreversible persistent vegetative state is the real death of a person." [24]

While genetic science holds out much promise for the acquisition of biological and medical knowledge that can enhance our ability to treat various illnesses and disabilities from the very earliest stages of human existence, the question that is of concern however, is that this science be governed by reason. Properly understood, reason, like freedom, takes account of the requirements of the objective moral order. One of these requirements is that human beings should never be treated as mere objects of scientific manipulation, nor should the bringing into existence of a new human being ever be separated from the intimate act of marital intercourse between a husband and wife. One of the problems with Pence's ideas, and of others who think like him, is that apart from the wanton disregard for the right to life of some innocent human beings which is an intrinsic aspect of their ethical systems, they also promote an anthropological reductionism that reduces the value of human life to its genetic patrimony and to its perceived functional potential. This is truly the ethics of the gas chambers!

All of the foregoing discussion points to the presence of powerful influences at work in our world that see in new reproductive and genetic technologies an opportunity for the human race to take control of its future by embracing eugenic practices. The protagonists of this 'qualitatively superior new humanity' as it were have forgotten an important truth of history, which is that when attempts are made to translate utopian ideas into social reality, rather than attaining to human progress, we end up instead with concentration camps, gulags and killing fields, or some similar murderous reality.


[1]  The Australian, November 5, 2010.

[2]  Stephen Mosher, Population Control: Real Costs, Illusory Benefits, (Transaction Publishers, New Jersey), 2008, p. ix.

[3]  Ibid. p. 51

[4]  Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, London, 1871, Chapter V- On the Development of the Intellectual and Moral Faculties.

[5]  Professor Jacqueline Kasun, War Against Population: The Economics and Ideology of World Population Control, Revised and Updated Edition, (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1999), p. 214.

[6]  Michael Schooyans, The New World Order and Demographic Security, Population Research Institute Review, July/August 1993.

[7]  Cited by Professor Jacqueline Kasun in War Against Population: The Economics and Ideology of World Population Control, op.cit. p. 215.

[8]  William Vogt, Planned Parenthood News, Spring 1955, 4.

[9]  Margaret Sanger, Pivot of Civilization, (Brentano's, New York, 1922), p.177

[10]  Margaret Sanger, Woman and the New Race, New York, Bretano's, 1924. Cited in Planned Parenthood-Banned Parenthood, Human Life International 1988, p. 5.

[11]  Ibid.

[12]  Robert Marshall and Charles Donovan, Blessed Are The Barren: The Social Policy of Planned Parenthood, (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1991), pp. 8-9.

[13]  Margaret Sanger, Letter to Clarence Gamble, 19 October 1939.

[14]  Peter and Jean Medawar, Aristotle to Zoos: A Philosophical Dictionary of Biology, (Oxford University Press), 1985, p. 87.

[15]  Sabine Schleiermacher, "Racial Hygiene and Deliberate Parenthood: Two Sides of Demographer Hans Harmsen's Population Policy," trans. by Della Couling and Renate D. Klien, Issues in Reproductive and Genetic Engineering, Vol. 3, No. 3, 1990, pp.201-210. Cited in PRI Review, March/April 1994.

[16]  Cf. Planned Parenthood: Banned Parenthood, op.cit., p.6.

[17]  Michael Schwartz, Overpopulation and the War Against the Poor, paper delivered at the Third Congress for the Family of the Americas, Caracas, Venezuela, September/October 1985

[18]  Valerie Riches, Sex and Social Engineering, op. cit., p. 11.

[19]  Robert Edwards, cited in How Do You Make Babies Artificially? (BBC Online, 16 July 1999).

[20]  Gregory E. Pence, Who's Afraid of Human Cloning, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Maryland, 1998, p.167

[21]  Ibid. p.168

[22]  Ibid. p. 88

[23]  Ibid. p. 89

[24]  Gregory E. Pence, Who's Afraid of Human Cloning, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Maryland, 1998, p. 88.

© Eamonn Keane


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Eamonn Keane

Eamonn Keane is married with five children. He studied Commerce and Education at the National University of Ireland and Religious Education at the Catholic Teachers Training College in Sydney, Australia. He currently serves as Head of Social Science at Sydney's Redfield College... (more)


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