Eugenics and Other Evils is the title of a 1922 book written by author and social critic, G. K. Chesterton. His pessimistic outlook on eugenics flew in the face of the near universal view that humans finally had the tools and the ‘know-how’ to re-shape civilization–and humanity itself. Just a few years earlier, on the other side of the pond, a book was published by a certain Margaret Sanger containing those optimistic themes, and urging readers to courageously accept the ‘facts.’ The only thing that stood in the way of Progress was society’s squeamishness. The book was The Pivot of Civilization, released in 1918.
Not more than twenty years after this, Chesterton proved right, and Sanger was left scrambling to try to find a way to keep her eugenic goals respectable. The first thing she did, in 1942, was change the name of her organization, the “American Birth Control League”, to… Planned Parenthood.
But ironically, no one remembers Sanger’s sympathies to the Nazi’s goals and methods. Indeed, Planned Parenthood continues to this day to give a Margaret Sanger award every year! To put a finer point on it, today, the word ‘eugenics’ is nearly the worst label you can put on something (the worst, of course, being ‘Nazi’), while eugenics ideas and philosophies persist.
In fact, the reader of this introduction is probably a eugenicist, at least to some degree, without even knowing it.
And that is because few know or understand what really drove the eugenics movement when it was popular and socially accepted. Because of this, not many understand that eugenics is alive and well in America and in the world, just not by that name.
Chesterton was right in linking “Other Evils” to “Eugenics.” Eugenics is, historically speaking, a whole package of interrelated ideas–things that might never cross your mind as ‘eugenics.’ Nonetheless, his warnings were spot on at the time. The danger is obvious: perhaps the warnings still apply.
This website is dedicated to presenting a broader picture of ‘eugenics,’ highlighting some of the lesser known components of the eugenics mindset. They may be lesser known, but they were deemed vital and central by the eugenicists themselves. We forget them at our peril.
While pop culture is totally out of touch with the true picture of ‘eugenics’ (and Nazism, for that matter), contemporary scholars have been making good strides towards setting the record straight. You are encouraged to pick up some of the books on the resource page. Any one of them will prove fertile territory for further research on the real history, past and present, of eugenics.