From the editor of this site:
One of the things that has surprised me about setting up this site is the interest in the allegation that James Dobson, and by extension, the ‘evangelical’ community in general, are actually ‘eugenicists.’ The argument, if you can call it that, goes like this: Paul Popenoe was a eugenicist, he founded his American Institute of Family Relations to further his eugenics aims, James Dobson eventually worked for this organization, James Dobson is an evangelical leader, THEREFORE Dobson is a eugenicist and all the evangelicals are, too; or, if not eugenicists, RACISTS!
I am not entirely sure what the origination is for this accusation, but the discussion about it was taking place on my ‘about’ page, which seems to me to be a less than ideal location for such a discussion. For this reason, I am creating this page, and I have moved the comments from the ‘about’ page to this page.
Now, I’ve been studying eugenics in earnest since 2007. I dedicated most of my doctoral study to the researching of eugenics. As of this writing, that’s almost fifteen years of intensive reading of the eugenicists in their own words and monitoring and documenting their shifting positions and policies. Popenoe was a lesser light in the eugenics movement if ever there was one (Margaret Sanger shines much brighter, by contrast) which makes Dobson’s putative role puny by comparison, even if legit. I will later expound on this here, but my point is that as someone interested in carefully cataloging the ACTUAL writings of ACTUAL eugenicists and documenting their ACTUAL activities, the Dobson angle is so trivial it is almost laughable.
Nonetheless, the application of this ‘angle’ is not trivial. It is pure slander of a large segment of the population and may in fact be actual libel when it comes to Dobson. Treating people who are not racists as racists cannot, and will not, end well. Especially when the truth is that it is the actual racists accusing people who are not racists of being racists. We cannot let the matter go unexamined.
As of this writing, I have yet to be presented with ACTUAL evidence that Dobson is an ACTUAL eugenicist. Nor have I yet to see actual evidence that his affiliation with the American Institute of Family Relations was animated by ACTUAL eugenics motivations. I have no objection to anyone providing ACTUAL evidence of such a thing, as this site is chock full of showing how people we wouldn’t expect nonetheless were animated by ACTUAL eugenics considerations. If any such evidence is ever presented, I will endeavor to post it here.
In the meantime, I submit the ‘discussion’ that is in the comments below until such time as I write something more suitable.
I should mention that anyone who wishes to dig into this deeper should at least make sure they understand what eugenics IS. I have a whole essay dedicated to that, here. It seems to me that it would stand to reason that someone should actually espouse actual eugenics principles before they can be termed a eugenicist, but it appears that in our current climate, there is both utter ignorance about what the eugenicists themselves really believed and desire to WEAPONIZE the term against political opponents–the truth or falsity of the accusations being irrelevant.
Sounds like something a fascist would do, and I hate the fascists almost as much as I hate the eugenicists.
Immediately above I said, ” It seems to me that it would stand to reason that someone should actually espouse actual eugenics principles before they can be termed a eugenicist.”
I discuss at length ‘the’ definition of eugenics on this page, here: https://eugenics.us/definition-of-eugenics/40.htm
Any attempt to try to hang the label of ‘eugenicist’ around someone’s neck without explaining how that person believes or is acting consistent with eugenics principles–as the eugenicists themselves understood them–is playing a dangerous game. I am going to briefly re-state some of those principles here. Anyone who has actual evidence of Dobson engaging in eugenic activities is invited to provide it, but it must (obviously) be shown in what sense these are actually ‘eugenic.’ For example:
- Does the person explicitly embrace Darwinism?
It is extremely rare to find a eugenicist who does NOT embrace Darwinism. The form of eugenics advocated often tracks with whether or not someone believes that ‘hard heredity’ or ‘soft heredity’ are at work, but what they have in common is the ‘heredity’ part, as understood in evolutionary terms.
2. Does the person believe that SCIENCE! carries with it an ‘ought’? Res ipsa loquitu!
Eugenicists always insisted that they had only the best of intentions and a deep care and concern for their fellow man, but that the incontrovertible nature of SCIENCE! compelled them to act… obviously as humanitarian as possible. One can see how #1 and #2 fit together like a hand and glove.
3. Does the person believe that the State is the most obvious entity to act on INCONTROVERTIBLE SCIENCE “for the common good”?
Here there is a historical divide within the eugenics movement, pivoting precisely on the WW2 implementation of various eugenics-laced ideologies. Prior to WW2, eugenicists were much more explicit in their advocacy for having the State spearhead eugenics policies. After WW2, they were much more coy about it. Some wrote off the possibility of the State being active at all and appealed to trying to promote things like “voluntary unconscious selection.”
(Where ‘selection’ refers to Darwinian selection, ‘voluntary’ means exactly what you think it means, and ‘unconscious’ means operating on eugenics principles without knowing that you are doing so. Eg, for example, ‘freely’ aborting your child, without knowing that the reasons you are doing it are ones that the eugenicists provided.)
Even after the post WW2 pivot, the eugenicists were avowed statists (eg, Julian Huxley, Harrison Brown, etc).
If a person is NOT a statist, they are probably not a eugenicist; this does not mean a person is not promoting eugenic principles (see #1 and #2), because as already pointed out, one of the explicit goals of post-WW2 eugenicists was to implant their rationale in the minds of citizens so that citizens would carry out eugenic aims without knowing they were doing so. Such citizens are not eugenicists merely for this fact. The eugenicist is not the one acting unconsciously, but consciously, on eugenic principles.
4. Does the person believe that ‘sacrifices’ must be made in order to improve the ‘social body’?
On a Darwinian basis, the deaths of certain individuals is not necessarily a bad thing, as the removal of ‘defectives’ will improve the race as a whole in future generations. (See #1-#2). If you can’t physically remove them, or segregate them, at least you can get them somehow to stop reproducing. The key is that a utilitarian ethic tends to permeate the thinking of actual eugenicists, who reason that “for the common good” it is good and appropriate that some people suffer (or even die), leaving the strong and capable to reproduce. Due to the fact that the State is the most persistent ‘agency under social control’ of all of the agencies, the ‘State’ and the ‘social body’ tend to become equated in their minds. That is to say, the moral rules that apply to individuals do not necessarily apply to the State (indeed, they usually don’t).
Eugenicists tend to believe they are acting on a ‘higher’ moral plane than the rest of us, applying scientific principles with the cold, unwavering reason–for the good of ‘humanity’ of course… that is, for the sake of the ‘social body,’ which includes not just the assembly of individuals but the continuity of generations. Think: just as your individual cells eventually die but the YOU is still YOU, you might do certain things to get rid of ‘defective cells’ (eg, amputate an arm, irradiate a cancer, etc), in order to benefit the YOU, who exists as an entity above and beyond the life and death of the cells within your body.
Update 1 conclusion:
The above description of the beliefs of eugenicists is based on what the eugenicists themselves said about themselves. There is a big difference between things said ABOUT eugenicists and what the eugenicists said THEMSELVES. This whole site is dedicated to letting the eugenicists speak for THEMSELVES. The reason for this is precisely because there are people acting on eugenics principles ‘voluntarily’ but without knowing they are doing so (unconsciously). And if you hate the eugenicists… I mean, really hate them… then you’d want to know if you had somehow fallen into doing their dirty work, such as in your own life (eg, aborting your child diagnosed in the womb with a birth defect).
But as it applies to the accusation that someone specific, like Dobson, is knowingly pursuing eugenic principles, it must be SHOWN that he has principles related to the principles described above. Does he believe in Darwinism? Does he believe that SCIENCE! must be implemented if for no other reason that it is SCIENCE!? Does he believe such action should be done by the State, preferably? Does he believe that the State enjoys a different set of moral imperatives that do not apply to individuals, up to and including the idea that it is quite alright if some people die, providing it is the right sort of people?
If you don’t have these 4 components… especially if you don’t have the first. you’re not talking about a eugenicist.
Any evidence presented will be compared to this criteria.
I reserve the right to continue revising this in further updates.