Human Genetic Improvement
Quotes from leading thinkers:
Men are generally more careful of the breed of their horses and dogs than of their children.
William Penn. Some fruits of solitude, in reflections and maxims relating to the conduct of human life. 1693
It does not, however, seem impossible that by an attention to breed, a certain degree of improvement, similar to that among animals, might take place among men. Whether intellect could be communicated may be a matter of doubt: but size, strength, beauty, complexion, and perhaps even longevity are in a degree transmissible... As the human race could not be improved in this way, without condemning all the bad specimens to celibacy, it is not probable, that an attention to breed should ever become general.
T. R. Malthus. An Essay on Population. 1798
Man scans with scrupulous care the character and pedigree of his horses, cattle, and dogs before he matches them; but when he comes to his own marriage he rarely, or never, takes such care. ... Yet he might by selection do something not only for the bodily constitution and frame of his offspring, but for their intellectual and moral qualities.
Charles Darwin. The Descent of Man. 1871
A majority of the community would probably also admit today that the physical characters of man are inherited with practically the same intensity as the like characters in cattle and horses. But few, however ..., apply the results which flow from such acceptance to their own conduct in life.
Karl Pearson. On the Laws of Inheritance in Man (Biometrika 3:131) 1904
We can set no limit to human potentialities; all that is best in man can be bettered... The ordinary social reformer sets out with a belief that no environment can be too good for humanity; it is without contradicting this, that the eugenist may add that man can never be too good for his environment.
R.A. Fisher. Some Hopes of a Eugenist (Eugenics Review 5:309) 1914
The eugenic conscience is in need of development, and it is only when it becomes thoroughly aroused in the rank and file of society as well as among the leaders, that a permanent and increasing betterment of mankind can be expected.
Herbert Eugene Walter. Genetics. 1924
Galtonís eccentric, sceptical, observing, flashing, cavalry-leader type of mind led him eventually to become the founder of the most important, significant and, I would add, genuine branch of sociology which exists, namely eugenics.
John Maynard Keynes. Eugenics Review. 1946
Theoretically it would be one of the greatest triumphs of mankind, one of the most compassionate liberations from natural bondage to which we are subject, were it possible to raise the responsible act of procreation to a level of voluntary and intentional behavior, and to free this act from its entanglement with our indispensable satisfaction of a natural desire.
Sigmund Freud. Collected Works. 1948
When one considers how much the world owes to single individuals of the order of capability of an Einstein, Pasteur, Descartes, Leonardo, or Lincoln, it becomes evident how vastly society would be enriched if they were to be manifolded... Later generations will look with amazement at the pitifully small amount of research now being carried on to open up such possibilities, even though for years specialists have realized that they lie just around the corner... It is quite evident that we could benefit indefinitely by a continued increase in our mental powers: to enable us to analyze more profoundly; to recognize more readily common features when they lie deeply buried; to grasp more and more elements of a situation at once and co-ordinately; to see more steps ahead; to think more multidimensionally; and to imagine more creatively... If we hold fast to our ideal, then evolution will become, for the first time, a conscious process... That will be the highest form of freedom that man, or life, can have.
Hermann J. Muller. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 3:1. 1959
The pioneers of Eugenic Insemination by Donor... will be accused of mortal sin, of theological impropriety, of immoral and unnatural practices. But they can take heart from what has happened in the field of birth control, and can be confident that the rational control of reproduction aimed at the prevention of human suffering and frustration and the promotion of human well-being and fulfillment will in the not too distant future come to be recognized as a moral imperative.
Julian Huxley. Eugenics Review 54:123. 1963
My own first conclusion is that the technology of human genetics is pitifully clumsy, even by the standards of practical agriculture.
Joshua Lederburg. Biological Future of Man. 1963
Natural selection must be replaced by eugenical artificial selection. This idea constitutes the sound core of eugenics, the applied science of human betterment.
Theodosius Dobzhansky. Heredity and the Nature of Man. 1964
... impregnation will be regarded in an entirely different manner, more in the light of a surgical operation, so that it will be thought not ladylike to have it performed in the natural manner.
Bertrand Russell. The Scientific Outlook. 1972
Although we are all playing a game of genetic roulette, there is no reason that we should not provide greater scrutiny over sperm donations.
J. K. Anderson. Genetic Engineering. 1982
The mystery of birth and of the transmission of characteristics from parent to offspring has always intrigued the human mind. ... It would be tempting now to ask geneticists to evolve better human beings. But who will decide what is better?
Indira Gandhi. XV International Congress of Genetics. 1983
A 10-page essay on human genetic improvement:
A poem about mixed race marriages: