Is There a Potential Cost to Eugenics?

At the University of Florida the student body is extremely diverse, and this is apparent through simple observation. When I look around on campus, I can see that there are students from all walks of life; handicapped students being no exception. Considering that the University of Florida is a fairly reputable institution, it is safe to say that the students here have a lot of potential and will contribute significantly to society. With this in mind, I cannot help but wonder if some of these students would still be here if the eugenics movement of the 1900’s took place today- it is impossible to say that these students are not intelligent and extremely capable, yet by the standards of eugenics they technically are labeled “unfit”. It also brings up the debate of what constitutes “fitness” with regards to “survival of the fittest”. While we may see their so-called disabilities to be a major inconvenience, clearly they are just as capable as the rest of society despite their “handicap”. In the case of the deaf community, many do not consider themselves to have lost anything at all- rather they are 100% as capable as anybody else, simply differing in their primary mode of communication.

In our modern society, we are able to detect and even select for certain traits before a child is even born. Through many available tests and analytical equipment, it is exceedingly easy for a parent to become aware of their child’s potential disability, whether it be Downs Syndrome or deafness. As such, modern eugenics is far more powerful and effective in that we have the hard science to provide legitimacy to the idea of preventing an undesirable trait from being passed down. When it can be said with high accuracy that a child born will have an undesirable trait it is easier to, for example, decide to not follow through with the birth; compared to in the past, in which the traits of a child were more of a guessing game with regards to the traits of the parents.

With this ability however, lies the question of ethics. How can we determine which traits reduce fitness to an extent where they should be selected out of the population? Who are we to determine if a trait is a disability? The “handicapped” population remains able to make significant contributions to society despite their perceived limitations- the handicapped students, CEOs, and entrepreneurs across are proof of this. Imagine if these people were terminated before they were born on the basis of fitness. Today, it is important to weigh the ideals of eugenics against the potential cost of following them blindly, the line between fit and unfit is increasingly less obvious making decisions regarding genetic selection more and more difficult.

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