Black details the frightening and unfamiliar story of American (that's right, American) eugenics. Throughout the first SIX decades of the 20th centuryBlack details the frightening and unfamiliar story of American (that's right, American) eugenics. Throughout the first SIX decades of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of US citizens were forcibly sterilized on the grounds that they were "unfit." (where unfit might mean: mentally slow, physically disabled, black, jewish, or more likely, just plain poor). These actions were sanctioned and carried out by America's intellectual, industrial, and government elites. Their goal was clear and unapologetic in its "scientific rationality": to create a superior Nordic race.
Black shows that this was not the stuff of some deranged fringe: eugenics was borne of our highest institutions of learning and given ultimate justification by our highest levels of government (judicial, executive, and legislative). Most terrifying of all, it all went under the label of "science."
"The victims of eugenics were poor urban dwellers and rural "white trash" from New England to California, immigrants from across Europe, Blacks, Jews, Mexicans, Native Americans, epileptics, alcoholics, petty criminals, the mentally ill and anyone else who did not resemble the blond and blue eyed Nordic ideal the eugenics movement glorified."
We all know where this movement ended up: this American movement caught the fascination of Adolf Hitler, who carried out its goals and employed its methods beyond any American eugenicist's wildest dreams. In 1934 The Richmond Times Dispatch quoted a prominent American eugenicist as saying "The German's are beating us at our own game." They called it "applied biology."
Some of the more chilling quotes collected in this book:
"I agree with you...that society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce their kind...Some day, we will realize that the prime duty, the inescapable duty, of the good citizen of the right type, is to leave his or her blood behind him in the world; and that we have no business to permit the perpetuation of citizens of the wrong type." (President Theodore Roosevelt, 1913)
"Had Jesus been among us, he would have been president of the First Eugenic Congress." (Dr. Albert Wiggam, member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science)
Lessons we ought to learn from this book:
1. Beware of "applied science" in the moral sphere. When evolutionary psychologists tell you that we are "hardwired" for adultery or covetousness, you might pause and remember that yesterday's phrenologists gave us scientific racism.
2. Beware of the "moral crusades" of our plutocrats. Just because you have accumulated most of the world's wealth does not mean that we should take you to be a moral compass. These eugenicists would have been giving the TED talks of their time. And its clear the dim view they took of their workers and the rest of the 99%: genetically inferior and unfit. Totally inferior right down to their DNA.
3. Prestige, power, and education does not guarantee human decency in moral judgment. The eugenics movement was designed by our most powerful and supposedly "wise" institutions: Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, the American Medical Association, the American Museum of Natural History, the US State Department, etc. It was championed by presidents (Woodrow Wilson) and Supreme Court Justices (Oliver Wendell Holmes). It was powered by the money machines of our plutocracy: the Carnegie Institution and the Rockefeller Foundation. The movement had its own "medical" and "scientific" journals as was treated like any other legitimate academic enterprise. Indeed, it was considered cutting edge science and "medicine."
4. Beware of "Christians" who preach the gospel of whatever is currently popular and sanctioned by a class of elites. This book is chock full of Protestant ministers baptizing eugenics (how quickly they moved from slavery to sterilization, segregation, and extinction). These "Christians" even followed the eugenicists in thinking that charity is bad, because it helps the "unfit." The Catholic Church, as one might expect, remained shocked and horrified by what their Protestant counterparts were willing to call "progress." Sometimes, it's good to be Medieval and stand athwart what society will now call good.
5. It is very difficult to disentangle eugenics and euthanasia. In Nazi Germany there was no distinction, nor was there any in the minds of the American architects of the gas chamber.
6. We are still practicing eugenics. 96% of all fetuses identified to have down syndrom are aborted. Early genetic screening is officially advocated by the American College of Obstretrics and Gynecologists with the idea that "unfit" fetuses will be terminated, not treated. This is not something that Black himself is willing to look squarely in the eye.
This book is depressing and deeply unsettling. It ought to be mandatory reading.
I have been teaching the marriage debate in my philosophy class, and previously I had been relying on Evan Wolfson's book. Having finished this book,I have been teaching the marriage debate in my philosophy class, and previously I had been relying on Evan Wolfson's book. Having finished this book, I am now kicking myself for using Wolfson. Rauch is so much more thoughtful, so much more serious, and so much more enjoyable. For one thing, he doesn't attempt to demonize his opponent (this makes him closer to Corvino than Wolfson or other authors). For another, he gets the arguments right, and he engages them forcefully. Sadly, this is rare. Perhaps I can just sum up what it manages not to be (in contrast to so many of its counterparts): Its not hysterical, not moralizing, not ad hominem, and not cheap and dirty. He doesn't rely on emotional ploys or gimmicks.
There are moments, of course, when he is not fair, and when he can't help himself. HIs worst moments are his attempts to engage the Aristotelians. He just can't imagine taking Aristotelian teleology as morally significant. But his hardly makes him unique.
Of course, there is much in here for many different camps to disagree with. But having recently slogged through so much crap on this topic, this book stands out for its clarity and force of argument. ...more
Philosophically, this book is predictably a bit of a mess. But it would be a mistake to evaluate it as such (despite the author's (or his agent's) prePhilosophically, this book is predictably a bit of a mess. But it would be a mistake to evaluate it as such (despite the author's (or his agent's) pretensions). I was surprised by how compelling I found his discussion of the grotesque and frankensteinesque nature of factory farming. We've all seen the pictures and the videos, which honestly do very little to move me, so it says something that Foer's writing had an impact on my conscience. It did. But that impact was limited, and I'm not going to change my eating habits as a result of reading it.
First things first. Foer convincingly argues that factory farming is really awful and terrible. But here's the trouble: we all already knew that. Maybe there were some educated folks out there who didn't, but my guess is that the segment of the population who remains unaware of the horrors of factory farming is identical to the segment of the population who has no idea who Jonathan Safran Foer is. So there is a question about why this book was written that Foer does not manage to answer satisfactorily.
Second, I wonder what the point is of criticizing factory farming apart from a critique of global capitalism. Foer might as well have written a book about your clothes, the computer or phone you are currently starting into as you read this, or who you voted for this year. Because all of those choices involved the very real and systematic oppression of actual human beings across the globes, let alone chickens or turkeys. The hand wringing over the fates of chickens (while important) has always struck me as patently absurd when compared to what happens to children and adults all over the world so you can wear your gap chinos or buy your hershey's chocolate. Foer might say he cares about them as well, but that animal suffering is either more important or something we have more "consumer power" with respect to. Both of those claims strike me as obviously false.
Third, it is beyond absurd to suggest that becoming a vegetarian suddenly makes your food choices more "ethical" or "humane." We all know that most vegetables on offer are brought to market by a veritable form of slavery (if you were unaware of this, do yourself a favor and google "migrant workers" and "tomatoes"). Foer does not even bother to mention this, let alone have an honest discussion about it.
Foer is a good writer, and Everything is Illuminated is a delightful novel. But as a moral theorist Foer leaves much to be desired. ...more
This book is further evidence that feminists can't decide what they think about porn. According to this author, sure sex is fun and doesn't have to beThis book is further evidence that feminists can't decide what they think about porn. According to this author, sure sex is fun and doesn't have to be linked to procreation and marriage, but she still finds our porn culture horrific. She tries to give a variety of reasons--distorted views about what "normal" sex looks like, distorted ideas about women and what pleases them, relationship and marriage troubles, etc. I think I would find these to be genuine problems had the author bothered to give an account of what "normal" sex is--what its proper form and function are, for instance. But of course, she has no such account. She has some bare bones feminist ideals, but she really has no reason for being put off by porn other than the fact that it is addictive, it appeals to the worst side of men and women (but again, without explaining why), and that it harms kids. But one could say the same thing about television, violent video games, etc.
It's clear that the author does have a problem with casual sex, though she isn't willing to be honest about this. It's also clear that the author is unsure why she is against this.
Another problem I had with this book is that it relies heavily upon anecdotal evidence which seems to prove that porn has ruined some people's lives. But that hardly seems like writing a book about, since almost anything can ruin almost anyone's lives if they use it poorly enough.
I think the only truly compelling chapter in this book is the one dealing with child pornography and children's exposure to porn. This is something that "pro-porn feminists" refuse to take on, and the author rightfully chastises them for it.
Janet Smith takes on the thankless task of explaining and defending Humanae Vitae. This is still required reading for anyone who wishes to understandJanet Smith takes on the thankless task of explaining and defending Humanae Vitae. This is still required reading for anyone who wishes to understand this maligned encyclical....more
I was hoping that this book was going to present a more philosophical treatment of non-monogamy, but that is definitely not the author's intentions. TI was hoping that this book was going to present a more philosophical treatment of non-monogamy, but that is definitely not the author's intentions. This is a self-help guide if you think that a good human life has lots of sex with lots of people (with a healthy dose of ad hominem attacks against anyone who does not share the author's ideas about sex and relationships). As a moral philosopher, I would simply note that the author's idea of what is "ethical" leaves much to be desired. Apparently you are "ethical" if you think about what you do and why you do it, focus on yourself (and in particular, your own pleasures and needs), devise methods for dealing with guilt, shame, and other bothersome emotions, and try your best not to trespass the autonomy of others, or hurt anyone's feelings (unless of course, the other is one of those pesky "prudes"--totally OK to attack them indiscriminately). Being ethical in the author's sense involves constant "re-programming" so that you don't feel the way most human beings inevitably feel about relationships It's an amazingly individualist and hedonist conception of human life, unsurprisingly. But again, philosophically, there really isn't anything here. ...more