Almost all of the Establishment—most mainstream politicians, journalists, academics and literary-types—favors teaching Critical Race Theory. They obsess about “equality” and avoiding “harm” to the “weak” and “marginalized.” Particularly obsessed are women, and women schoolteachers all the more so, due their strong social conformity. Granted, some communities have banned CRT because parents protested, but in the main it still marches through the education system [Ban on teaching critical race theory in Temecula, Calif., sparks heated debate, by Chanelle Chandler, Yahoo! News, March 28, 2023]. Now imagine a world where the entire Establishment, including all the schoolteachers, unquestioningly accepted an ideology based upon eliminating the “weak” and breeding the “strong,” intelligent and genetically healthy, for the future good of the “group.” And imagine that parents protested. Well, you don’t have to imagine it. As I explore in my new book, Breeding the Human Herd: Eugenics, Dysgenics and the Future of the Species, that was the world of just more than a century ago.
In June 1914, just before the outbreak of World War I, there was a “school strike” in Dronfield in Derbyshire in the English Midlands. Parents were horrified to discover that the headmistress was teaching their daughters about eugenics. She had attended a conference at the University of London the previous year, which included a paper read by Sir J. Arthur Thomson, Regius Professor of Natural History at Aberdeen University, on how to teach eugenics. Parents refused to send their daughters to school, then landed in court and were fined. It was a national scandal called the “Peasants’ Revolt at Dronfield.”
The year before, Home Secretary and future Prime Minister Winston Churchill organized the International Eugenics Congress in London. Prominent members of the Eugenics Society included Conservative Prime Ministers Neville Chamberlain and Arthur Balfour, the latter of whom helped endow a still-existing chair in genetics at Cambridge and co-organized the congress with Churchill.
A Department of Eugenics flourished at University College London (which grovelingly apologized in 2021) endowed by Francis Galton, who had coined the term eugenics and argued that only a “new religion” of eugenics could save civilization from dysgenics and ultimate collapse. Charles Darwin himself espoused eugenics, noting in his 1871 book The Descent of Man that
It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.
Interest in eugenics went right across the political spectrum. Welfare state founder William Beveridge was involved in the Eugenics Society; Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George favorred eugenic solutions. Whether it was family planning, social work, the novels of H.G. Wells or D.H. Lawrence, or the socialism of Bertrand Russell, a strong belief in eugenics underpinned them all.
In 1908, Lawrence was particularly blunt with regard to what should be done with the congenitally sick:
If I had my way, I would build a lethal chamber as big as Crystal Palace, with a military band playing softly and a Cinematograph working brightly; then I’d go out in the back streets and main streets and bring them all in, all the sick, the halt and the maimed; I would lead them gently and they would smile me a weary thanks, and the band would softly bubble out the “Hallelujah Chorus.”
[Letter to Blanche Jennings, dated 9 October, 1908, Letters of D.H. Lawrence (1979]
In general, the only serious opponents of eugenics were conservative Christians, such as G. K. Chesterton, who wrote that eugenics was “evil” and interfered with God’s plan.
But eugenics also had fervent Christian advocates. In 1912, the Very Rev. Walter Taylor Sumner, Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral in Chicago, announced that he wouldn’t marry couples unless they presented him with a medical certificate proving that they were physically and mentally healthy.
Forget Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and other “woke” films. The big hit of 1916—shown in American theaters until 1942—was The Black Stork, later called Are You Fit to Marry? In 1915, Harry J. Haiselden, a Chicago surgeon, stunned the nation by revealing that he had allowed the deaths, with parental consent, of “at least six infants.” He diagnosed them as “defectives” and refused to perform surgery on them. Haiselden “displayed the dying infants to journalists, wrote about them for the [...] newspapers, and starred in a feature film about his crusade” [The Black Stork, by Martin Pernick, 1996]. Prominent Americans including lawyer Clarence Darrow, defense counsel at the Scopes Monkey Trial, and the most famous blind deaf-mute of all time, Helen Keller, rallied to his cause. The result was the film.
Many countries, including the United States, were so concerned about “degeneration” that legislators passed laws allowing them to sterilize perceived “defectives.” In 1907, Indiana passed a law to “prevent the procreating of confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles and rapists.” By 1913, twelve other states had passed similar laws. In 1924, to test the constitutionality of Virginia’s law, the superintendent of the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and the Feeble-Minded filed a petition to sterilize one Carrie Buck. Buck had a mental age of 9 and her 52-year-old mother had a mental age of 8. Her mother had been a prostitute, and three illegitimate children of whose paternity she was not sure. Carrie herself had an illegitimate child.
In 1927, when the case landed in the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices ruled that Carrie should be sterilized to protect the people of Virginia.
It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.
And, he famously concluded, “three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
In Breeding the Human Herd, I explore the reasons for the rise and fall of eugenics. It arose because group-oriented and increasingly intelligent people believed heredity was important, and were aware that people of seemingly low intelligence and poor genetic health were having the most children. At the same time, due to industrialization, many diseases had started to become endemic, resulting in elevated mortality salience (preoccupation with the fact that death is inevitable), heightened disgust, and to people becoming, as a result, much more sexually and socially conservative and deeply concerned about disease.
The fall of eugenics occurred hand-in-hand with the collapse of mortality salience, the ability to cure these diseases, 1929’s stock-market crash, and the shift toward an individually oriented, proto-Woke society. That led to many eugenics-supporters losing everything through no fault of their own. Because many people weren’t prepared to believe that either they or others were genetically deficient or inferior, eugenics became less popular.
But attempts to revive it began in the 1930s. Eugenics was openly and uncontroversially advocated in England and the United States until the 1960s. It is simply inaccurate to claim that World War II was relevant to its decline. If anything, eugenics enjoyed a postwar revival. J.B.S. Haldane, who was Galton Professor of Eugenics at University College London, argued that a sperm bank should be set up for the genetic elite in order to improve the quality of the national stock. Haldane was also a convinced Marxist who espoused eugenics in the pages of the Daily Worker in 1949:
The dogma of human equality is no part of Communism. … “[F]rom each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” would be nonsense if abilities were equal.
[Darwin on Slavery, Daily Worker, November 14, 1949]
In 1959, Sir Peter Medawar, Professor of Zoology at University College London, who was a member of the socialist Labour Party in the 1930s, argued in The Future of Man, a BBC Reith Lecture, that British intelligence was clearly declining for genetic reasons and that there needed to be a “humane solution” to the problem.
As I chart in Breeding the Human Herd, we are now in serious dysgenics on health and intelligence, with the two traits being genetically related. And there is a nascent neo-eugenics movement, though considering just how individualistic Western society is, it remains to be seen what impact it will have. Moreover, as I explore in the book, interfering with nature in such a way may have unpredictable and dangerous consequences.
But for me, the most extraordinary thing in researching material for the book was learning that a century ago, the most conformist people of their time—the “I Love Science”–types, who use science to signal their social conformity—were mostly dogmatic eugenicists.
The purple-haired tattooed teachers of today would surely have been teaching their charges about eugenics in June 1914.
Edward Dutton (email him | Tweet him) is Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at Asbiro University, Łódź, Poland. You can see him on his Jolly Heretic video channels on YouTube and Bitchute. His books are available on his home page here.