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Dysgenics and Eugenics

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The idea of improving the human species through manipulation of the gene pool appears to be the general thrust of the argument between dysgenics and eugenics. Supporters of eugenics propose that to improve the general intelligence of a society, the desirable traits of the elite, i.e. "intelligent" of the society should be encouraged to proliferate, at the same time discouraging the negative traits that the less intelligent supposedly possess. This improvement can be achieved by providing incentives to highly intelligent women of child- bearing years to have more children, while providing disincentives to encourage less intelligent woman to have fewer children. According to eugenics experts, high intelligence correlates highly with wealth and social status. In other words, the wealthy are such because they have more intelligence than the poor do. This argument obviously overlooks the whole human history of nationalism and colonialism, where whole groups of people were subjugated to inhumane conditions, and which were purposely done in order to create the social control necessary to rule over them. Wealth in this country has tended to coalesce around certain elite families who earned their wealth by hook or by crook during the rough and tumble days of the industrial revolution. To apply the eugenics argument that intelligence normally strongly correlates between parent and offspring is to deny realities of human history and behavior, at least the recent history of our country. For example world-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson was born to a woman who never went beyond the 8th grade but who sufficiently parented a child who made great contributions to the world of medicine and science. There are numerous examples in our country’s history of formerly illiterate slaves who, upon emancipation, mastered disciplines which were thought unachievable by all but the most optimistic. Concerning the social elite, there is a maxim that says one generation of a family makes the money and the next generation wastes the money and this certainly has a ring of truth. There has also been an incidence of mental illness among elite families in this country, as well as histories of drug abuse and alcoholism. These aforementioned pathologies would seem to more accurately describe the economically poor, uneducated class in this country as opposed to the wealthy. However, experts believe that within social groups including racial and ethnic groups there is a normal bell-shaped curve, or a normal distribution of individuals in that group with high intelligence, normal intelligence, and dull intelligence. In point of fact, the concept known as regression to the norm indicates that very intelligent parents or very dull parents are not likely to have children that are all very intelligent or all very dull. In other words there are many factors which determine the contributions that one will make to the betterment of society over the course of a lifetime.

Within the circle of Black academics, Intelligence tests have always been suspect. The methodology and the value -laden content of the tests have been brought into question. There is a somewhat humorous yet also illustrative example of how the infusion of class values and norms in an intelligence test can influence the test-taker’s success or failure. During the late 1960’s and 1970’s, various Black publications would have "Black IQ Test". Sample questions would go something like this: "If I/m driving a "hog" what is the make of the car? What is fatback? Use it in a sentence", etc. This type of test would appear to better survey the cultural norms of an individual as opposed to his/her intelligence.

We as a society have gone wrong before when trying to create a "master race" or when we espouse notions of racial superiority, or manifest destiny. We should however never forget that one of our nation’s founding principle is the recognition that we are "endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights" among which are "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". When we seek to engineer population demographics through official policy, we presume to play God. And we are on a very slippery slope.




Brand, Christopher (1996) The 'g' Factor, New York: Wiley & Sons


Van Court, Marian (1982) "Eugenics Revisited," Mensa Bulletin, #254