In the second decade of the twentieth century, an idea became all too fashionable among those who feel it is their right to set social trends. Wealthy families took it on as a pet cause, generously bankrolling its research. The New York Times
praised it as a wonderful "new science." Scientists, such as the brilliant plant biologist, Luther Burbank, praised it unashamedly. Educators as prominent as Charles Elliot, President of Harvard University, promoted it as a solution to social ills. America's public schools did their part. In the 1920s, almost three-fourths of high school social science textbooks taught its principles. Not to be outdone, judges and physicians called for those principles to be enshrined into law. Congress agree, passing the 1924 immigration law to exclude from American shores the people of Eastern and Southern Europe that the idea branded as inferior. In 1927, the U. S. Supreme Court joined the chorus, ruling by a lopsided vote of 8 to 1 that the sterilization of unwilling men and women was constitutional.
That idea was eugenics and in the English-speaking world it had virtually no critics among the "chattering classes." When he wrote this book, Chesterton stood virtually alone against the intellectual world of his day. Yet to his eternal credit, he showed no sign of being intimidated by the prestige of his foes. On the contrary, he thunders against eugenics, ranking it one of the great evils of modern society. And, in perhaps one of the most chillingly accurate prophecies of the century, he warns that the ideas that eugenics had unleashed were likely to bear bitter fruit in another nation. That nation was Germany, the "very land of scientific culture from which the ideal of a Superman had come." In fact, the very group that Nazism tried to exterminate, Eastern European Jews, and the group it targeted for later extermination, the Slavs, were two of those whose biological unfitness eugenists sought so eagerly to confirm.
What are sometimes called the "excesses" of Nazism drove the open advocacy of eugenics underground. But there's little evidence that the elements of society who once trumpeted the idea have changed their mind. Dr. Alan Guttmacher provides a good example. The fact that he had been Vice-President of the American Eugenics Association was no hindrance to his assuming the Presidency of Planned ParenthoodWorld Population in 1962. And his seedy past did not keep Congress from providing millions of dollars in federal funds to Planned Parenthood. Nor did it stop the Supreme Court from carrying out the central item in Dr. Guttmacher's political agendalegalized abortion. Many of those who now admit that eugenics was evil have trouble explaining why so few of its advocates were every exposed and why so many are still honored.
As the title suggests, eugenics is not the only evil that Chesterton blasts. Socialism gets some brilliantly worded broadsides and Chesterton, in complete fairness, does not spare capitalism. He also attacks the scientifically justified regimentation that others call the "health police." The same rationalizations that justified eugenics, he notes, can also be used to deprive a working man of his beer or any man of his pipe. Although it was first published in 1922, there's a startling relevance to what Chesterton had to say about mettlesome bureaucrats who deprive life of its little pleasures and freedoms. His tale about an unfortunate man fired because "his old cherry-briar" "might set the water-works on fire" is priceless.
That tale illustrates Chesterton's brilliant use of humor, a knack his foes were quick to realize. In their review of his book, Birth Control News griped, "His tendency is reactionary, and as he succeeds in making most people laugh, his influence in the wrong direction is considerable. Eugenics Review was even blunter. "The only interest in this book," they said, "is pathological. It is a revelation of the ineptitude to which ignorance and blind prejudice may reduce an intelligent man."
History has been far kinder to Chesterton than to his critics. It's now generally agree that eugenics was born of evolution and the "ignorance and blind prejudice" of social elites. But never forget that Chesterton was the first to say so, condemning what many of his peers praised.
The completely new edition of Chesterton's classic includes almost fifty pages from the writings of Chesterton's opponents. They illustrate just how accurate his attacks on eugenists were. For researchers, it also includes a detailed, 13-page index.
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.1" Width: 6.14" Height: 0.46"
Weight: 0.65 lbs.
Release Date Oct 20, 2000
Publisher Inkling Books
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
|One of his best Aug 8, 2008|
|After completing Michael Creighton's book, Next, I scanned his resources: much to my surprise, he listed this book by Chesterton. I cannot enhance Creighton's comments in this review, but can state that G. K. Chesterton, a man with a remarkable gift of memory and humor and insight and wisdom, did us all a service (albeit 90 years ago) by penning this book. This one is not theological (as in The Everlasting Man), poetic (The Ballad of the White Horse), or in the form of a novel or short stories (all of which he wrote during his lifetime, such as the Father Brown mysteries, The Man Who Was Thursday, etc.). This book touches on life in the 21st Century in the United States of America: from topics ranging from political correctness, to genetics and eugenics, to ecology and the environment, to evolution, and even to the topic of whether smoking should be banned. |
I've often pondered whether the United States has ever produced its own Chesterton (perhaps Will Rogers; but he did not write at the same depth or level as Chesterton, though his observations were always laced with humor). Notwithstanding, we should not miss Chesterton's messages.
Would that our press corps and educators and political pundits learn from him.
This rambling review will benefit no one; the benefit will only come if those who bother to read comments as mine buy the book and savor its delights.
|Didn't sway me from my passionate desire for more Eugenics Apr 1, 2008|
|The heading is a joke, by the way. I will say that when compared with abortion and some of the other big science/big brother things going on in the present, early 20th century Eugenics does seem almost quaint. |
As for the work itself, it is bright and clever and witty as noted by many reviewers here, but give me C.S. Lewis any day for a novel. Chesterton also bashes Calvinists a bit, and as a Calvinist I think he is a bit misguided on this point. Maybe we're not a laugh a minute but I don't think we're the sorry example of Christianity he purports us to be.
Much of the book is edited, and I really like the editor's observations. I had a few quibbles though, he says 'woe' one place where he means 'woo', stuff like that. I guess if you're the editor you still need someone to edit you. Again, a quibble, but that combined with the anachronistic quality of the subject gave it a less than polished feel.
Still, I would recommend this book as a glimpse into what inspired C.S. Lewis' space trilogy as well as for a raw view into what goes on when government decides they know what is best for you.
|Eugenics and other Social Evils Jan 8, 2008|
|Nothing by G.K. Chesterton is ever disappointing, but this is/was downright prophetic. It's a must read for all who seek a better understanding of the negative utopian forces and their politically correct power at work in society today.|
It helps to explain historically how one politically correct slippery slope can and has led to another, (within public accepted opinion and mores), and the real and present danger of dismissing the amoral indifference toward human life of the left and some members of the right. It argues against a religion of science and/or government, of any man being bright, wise, trustworthy, enough to determine who has reproductive "rights," for others.
Since any argument against anything is an argument pro something, or some things, this is an argument pro human dignity, the value of life, the dignity and rights of family, the rights of man to be free from the tyranny of science and government "elitists," who deem themselves to be "supermen" and everyone else to be subjects under their rule.
|Eugenics Sep 30, 2007|
|Eugenics is a GREAT EVIL. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parent Hood, was associated with Adolph Hitler. She wanted birth control for only people of color, the poor and the catholics. When the Holocost came up front, they pulled back. But, the philosophy hasn't changed. They are fighting to export abortion to foreign countrys. I really think that we really need to wake up. We have professors that think we should kill babys born with Down's Syndrom and Spina Bifida. This is after they are born. What more do we need to know? Pax|
|Eugenics and Other Evils : An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized State Sep 9, 2007|
|For a collection of essays written prior to the first World War, Chesterton may have been addressing a modern audience rather than his contemporary one; yet anyone who has read Chesterton could say that regarding any number of his books. True, this book was published after WWI, much of it was written as a response to what Eugenicists were asserting at the time. A note for the editor: have the copy proofread prior to publishing. There are many errors which ought to have been caught before printing. The idea of re-printing the Eugenic articles is a novel idea.|
On a final note, much of the eugenic ideal has been absorbed into modern thinking. The hate has been better disguised, but the hateful ideas are well incorporated into the fabric of modern life.
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