BABES OF THE FUTURE
Major Leonard Darwin Tells True Purposes of Eugenics
Eugenics Education Society of Great Britain, 6 York Buildings, Adelphi, London, Dec. 11, 1912
To the Editor of The New York Times:
As there appears to be a good deal of doubt on both sides of the Atlantic with regard to the objects and methods of eugenic societies, perhaps you will be good enough to give me an opportunity of stating briefly what they should be in our opinion.
The main aim of the eugenist is to insure the interests of the unborn of the future always being held in view in connection with all our social customs and all our legislation. For the sake of our fellow-creatures of to-day and to-morrow every effort should without doubt be made to improve the environment of mankind by rational methods. But, as regards the more distant future, we can now practically only beneficially affect the great stream of humanity through the agency of heredity. We desire therefore greatly to increase the sense of responsibility in connection with all matters pertaining to human parenthood, to spread abroad a knowledge of the laws of heredity as are as now known, and to encourage further research in that domain of science.
With regard to this last point, about which there is little controversy, scientific investigation must remain to a great extent in the hands of such bodies as the Carnegie Institute of Washington, which is pouring forth such a volume of admirable work. Eugenic societies may perhaps play a useful part in collecting material, such as carefully compiled human pedigrees, and in impressing on the public the scientific value of such information when accurately rendered. By means of such co-operation between the general public and the expert investigator progress may be greatly facilitated.
As to our other aims, they will become more definite as our knowledge increases. We can, however, positively affirm that we do not advocate any interference whatever with the free selection of normal mates in marriage. But we firmly believe that, if the moral sense of the nation could be aroused to the importance of the eugenic problem great benefits would result. These advantages, we hold, would arise because the fit, if suitably mated, would recognize more clearly than they do at present the moral evil of avoiding the duties of parenthood; whilst, if not already mated, they would more often refuse to mate with the unfit. Again, as regards the unfit in body, they would more often refrain from marriage for fear of passing on their defects to future generations.
Hence we regard the educational campaign which we are carrying on as being of the greatest practical importance. There will no doubt always remain a class quite outside the pale of all moral influence, and of these there will be a small proportion who, if they become parents, are certain to pass on some grievous mental or bodily defect to a considerable proportion of their progeny. Here and here only must the law step in. As to whether surgical sterilization should ever be enforced on such persons we have still an open mind, but certainly not till further information on this subject is available. Unquestionably these unfortunates must be treated with all practical consideration, and must be made to feel that they are not being punished for a crime, yet sufficient control must be maintained over them in institutions or elsewhere to prevent them from breeding.
Finally, we advocate economic forces being brought to bear in certain directions; as for instance, in making taxation, and also the pay of employees in all public services, vary somewhat with the size of the family to be maintained, and in administering the poor law so as not to encourage reproduction on the part of degenerate paupers.
These are, in brief, the aims of our societies, for which we appeal for widespread sympathy.
LEONARD DARWIN, President