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Indeed, few of the “social eugenics policies” had a greater impact than the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924, which blocked the entry of the millions of Eastern and Southern European and Asian immigrants seeking refuge on our shores for the following 40 years.How many millions of them died or lived tortured lives in their native lands because of this stringent and prejudiced policy is difficult to enumerate.Ripley, birth control advocate Margaret Sanger, advocate for the blind Helen Keller, African-American scholar W. Moreover, racial groups deemed “eugenically superior,” specifically White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, were encouraged to reproduce at greater rates, a concept often referred to as “positive eugenics.” Those adjudged to have “inferior genes” were discouraged from reproducing through the establishment of “negative eugenics” programs, such as state-mandated sterilization laws for “mental defectives,” restrictions against who could marry whom, birth control policies, harsh adoption laws and loud nativist calls for laws restricting the entry of “swarthy,” “unkempt” and “unassimilable” immigrants.
As the “social Darwinist” Herbert Spencer famously opined, it was a matter of the “survival of the fittest.” “Race suicide,” a term introduced in 1901 by the University of Wisconsin sociologist and best-selling author Edward A.
Ross, was a concern that captured the American conversation all the way up to the White House.
Sitting in the audience were Britain’s Prime Minister Lord Balfour, Winston Churchill and Charles Darwin’s son Leonard, along with the ambassadors of Greece, France and (wait for it) Norway.
During the Progressive era (1900-1920), a generation of American reformers sought to fix several social problems of the day, which included urban poverty, assimilating the huge number of immigrants coming to American shores, and public health crises such as epidemics, high infant mortality rates and explosive population growth.
Once the theory of an armchair population biologist, eugenics too quickly transmogrified into a racist and harmful evidence base for ridding nations of those the dominant society did not like or feared.
The problem, of course, was that the evidence base was false and poorly constructed.
If Francis Galton is remembered at all, it should be poorly, despite his many other intellectual contributions.
Some consider eugenics to be merely the weird, step-uncle of modern, scientifically-grounded genetics.
Alfred Ploetz founded the Archives of Race-Theory and Social Biology in 1904 and the German Society of Racial Hygiene in 1905.
The German term Rassenhygiene or race hygiene was broader than the word eugenics; it included all attempts at improving hereditary qualities as well as measures directed at population increase (III, Weiss 1987).