Any mention of eugenics strikes instant revulsion in the minds of many Christians today, having become inextricably linked with the policies of the Third Reich. For many Christians the entire conception of eugenics seems to be entirely contrary to the precepts of justice of charity. There are several good reasons for this. The modern idea of eugenics has its roots in nineteenth-century Darwinism, and many atrocities have been perpetrated in its name. There is no question that the subject of eugenics ought to give any concerned Christian pause when considering this topic. Nevertheless there is a proper Christian understanding of eugenics, which simply means “good breeding.”1 There are several issues that we could consider under the topic of eugenics. Should mankind pursue excellence in physical traits and the eradication of genetic disorders? Is Christian marriage generally beneficial to the genetic makeup of the community at large? What means can Christians use to achieve these goals? These are important questions, and that our present circumstances demand that Christians give them due consideration.
Before I proceed further in discussing eugenics, a few clarifications are in order. The strong association between eugenics and the Third Reich has tainted this issue to the point where anything other than an outright denunciation of anything related to eugenics is considered a tacit endorsement of all the policies of National Socialist Germany. This is obviously not the case. Virtually everyone could find something among the policies of National Socialist Germany with which he agrees. It is possible to believe that nations should encourage the practice of sound reproductive habits without endorsing the specific policies of Third Reich.
While physical health is important, it is not paramount. A legitimate goal of eugenics is the eradication of heritable (genetically inherited) physical deformities and disorders, but only when using morally responsible means to do so. Abortion and euthanasia must not be considered as legitimate means for improving the population. God has a purpose for the existence of various genetic or chromosomal disorders. Many parents who have children with disabilities can testify that God used their disabled child to help them mature in their own spiritual lives. Many parents have been able to gain a profound understanding of God’s love by understanding our own spiritual helplessness in light of raising children with disabilities who are utterly helpless in comparison to others. I say this because we must reject the notion that genetic disabilities must be eliminated at any cost.
To be perfectly clear, and to reiterate, as a Christian I absolutely reject abortion and euthanasia for any reason, and this includes eugenic purposes.2 I also reject the sterilization of non-criminals on eugenic grounds.3 Insofar as countries have used the taking of innocent human life or sterilization of non-criminals for eugenic purposes, they were wrong to do so. It is also possible to be overly preoccupied with increasing fitness in a Darwinian sense through selective reproduction, while ignoring other aspects of a healthy society. This preoccupation can actually prove to be more harmful to racial and ethnic identity than helpful, if traits such as intelligence are maximized in value at the expense of all other considerations.4
There are several issues related to eugenics relevant for Christians. I will critique the approach to eugenics of the secular Right (Alt Right), and I will also discuss the hypocrisy with which the Left approaches the topic of eugenics today. Finally I will discuss some approaches to eugenics that are consistent with and flow from genuine Christian ethics.
A Brief History of Eugenics
The term “eugenics,” meaning “good genes” or “good breeding,” was coined by Sir Francis Galton, the noted British biologist and anthropologist and cousin of Charles Darwin. Galton was interested in the heritability of various beneficial traits, and his studies were taken up with great interest by many European scientists and statesmen. The study and pursuit of improved physical traits was encouraged by culturally and political distinct figures such as Joseph Arthur Gobineau, Theodore Roosevelt, Helen Keller, H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Alexander Graham Bell, Clarence Darrow, Margaret Sanger, Francis Crick, and Charles Davenport.5 This broad support for eugenics resulted in various legislative acts throughout the Western world pertaining to reproduction.
The principle behind eugenics is that several ailments were considered to be heritable or transmitted from one generation to another. The goal of eugenics was to improve successive generations through selective breeding, using a number of different strategies. Laws regulating marriage were one of the means to curb the presence of undesirable traits in potential offspring. Laws banning the marriage of people with certain “defective” traits were common. Another tactic was to quarantine defectives or to prevent their reproduction through sterilization, whether the subject was willing or not. Eugenics maintained a very strong position in Western politics until after the conclusion of the Second World War. The justification for this reversal was the supposed atrocities committed by the pro-eugenics Third Reich.
Critiquing Positions on Eugenics Prominent in the Secular Right
The first issue that all Christians ought to take with the secular Right or Alt Right6 is the issue of abortion and euthanasia as acceptable means to improving the physical quality of the population. There are several defenses of abortion by those on the Alt Right for eugenic purposes. These include “The Pro-Life Temptation,” “Abortion & White Nationalism,” and “Unintended Consequences.” A full rebuttal of these articles is unnecessary, mostly because Hunter Wallace has already done such a great job of this already. His articles “The Alt Right and Abortion” and “The Pro-Choice Temptation” should be consulted for a thorough and robust repudiation of abortion. I will simply make two points in reply to the endorsement of abortion on eugenic grounds by some in the Alt Right. First, abortion violates God’s Law as the unjust killing of innocent human life (Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5: 17). We cannot do evil that good may come (Rom. 3:8), and God will not reward actions that are objectively evil. Second, abortion is thoroughly dysgenic in that it reinforces bad behaviors by attempting to ameliorate the negative consequences of sinful actions. Abortion does not deal with the root problem of sexual degeneracy. Abortion is typically justified as liberating women from the consequences of sexual promiscuity. Sexual promiscuity naturally leads to spur-of-the-moment bad decisions, which typically result in unwanted children who are either aborted or raised in an impoverished environment.
This leads into a discussion of whether exclusive monogamy or promiscuity is eugenic. J Richards at Majority Rights has argued that the beauty associated with Nordic Europeans developed in part due to greater moral laxity in comparison to non-Europeans. Richards argues that aesthetically pleasing traits among Europeans are due to intense sexual selection, which in his opinion can come about only when women have greater sexual freedom to copulate with men more handsome than their husbands. Richards argues that European beauty depends upon “a high level of sexual freedom, especially afforded to women.” Richards argues that sexual morality has historically tended to be much more relaxed in Europe than elsewhere in the world: “Among human populations, it is very clear that the availability of sexual freedom, especially to women, is much higher in Northern Europe than in most other societies, and it has been this way for a long time, except for a short period when the Church was powerful in Northern Europe.” Richards concludes, “The point is not that extra-marital sex is required to be socially acceptable for rapidly evolving better looks; all that is needed is sufficient tolerance of extra-marital sex to allow women to find better looking men to father their children than their husbands.”
Marital fidelity has not been as relaxed among Europeans as Richards imagines. Tacitus praises the Germanic tribes of Northern Europe for their monogamy and marital fidelity. Tacitus is writing at a time before the Germanic tribes of Europe were largely Christianized, so the Germanic tendency towards monogamy isn’t entirely derived from “a short period” of Christian morality, as Richards argues. Furthermore, Richards’s main premise – that tolerance of extra-marital sex is necessary to insure that positive physical traits are passed down – is false. The modern Western world is far more tolerant of all sexual practices, including extra-marital sex, than it has been in centuries, or perhaps in all of history. We are experiencing a level of sexual degeneracy that would embarrass even pagan moralists. On a related note, it’s no secret that the Western world has been subject to dysgenic breeding trends for quite some time. These two problems are inextricably linked.
Christian morality stipulates that marriage can only be contracted between a man and a woman and that sexual intercourse, and by extension reproduction, is restricted to marriage. Marriage is accorded a sacred status in the Christian tradition, because it is ordained by God Himself prior to the Fall (Gen. 2:18-24) and is rooted in the relationship of Christ to the Church (Eph. 5:22-33, cf. Is. 54:5). This means the choice of a mate must be made with caution and appropriate reflection. Extra-marital affairs are often made in the heat of the moment and are driven by lust and can also be influenced by the use (or overuse) of alcohol or other substances impairing sound judgment. Fornicators and adulterers aren’t thinking about a potential spouse or parent to their children, but are simply seeking to gratify their own transient desires. It comes as no surprise, then, that fornication and adultery lead to many social ills such as single motherhood or children with physical, psychological, or spiritual issues inherited from low-quality partners. The idea that Christian morality has hindered the quality of European offspring or that adultery is in any way responsible for European beauty or other beneficial traits has no foundation in fact whatsoever. The Alt Right will labor in vain to build the house of Europe on the foundation of secular ethics that rejects God’s Law (cf. Ps. 127:1). A return to Christian morality is paramount if we are to truly save the West.7
The Left’s Hypocrisy on Eugenics
The Left is fundamentally opposed to eugenics because it runs contrary to the leftist principles of equality and individual freedom. The Left is opposed to ascribing value judgments to physical differences, as is common in eugenicist thinking. Many on the Left adhere to the perspective of anthropologist Franz Boas, who argued that most human differences in aptitude were a product of their environment. Boas’s ideas gradually became ascendant during the twentieth century and remain so today. The Left often ridicules eugenics as mired in white supremacism and derivative of the specific policies of the Third Reich.
The opposition of the Left to eugenics is inconsistent at best. In reality, the Left is often perfectly content to promote eugenics policies when they fit the leftist agenda. A good example of this hypocrisy is on the issue of abortion. Leftists support rights to abortion because they view childbearing as a burden imposed upon women that hinders them from attaining their personal goals and desires. A woman should not be “shackled” to a man in marriage or be required to practice monogamy. The Left rejects marriage and the traditional family as outmoded patriarchal institutions inhibitive of sexual freedom. Abortion is viewed as a legitimate means of terminating unwanted pregnancies in the name of women’s liberation.
The Left essentially ignores the eugenicist beliefs of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. For Sanger abortion and birth control were a means of improving the physical quality of future generations. Sanger even partnered with white nationalist Lothrop Stoddard to found the American Birth Control League in 1921. The Left ignores the fact that abortion has been used for eugenics purposes to eliminate unborn children with various disabilities such as Down’s Syndrome. This is not considerably different from the short-lived euthanasia policy of the Third Reich. The lesson to be learned here is that the Left cannot be defeated by accepting any of their underlying premises and then demonstrating the Left’s inconsistent adherence to these premises. One cannot defeat pro-abortion arguments by suggesting that abortion violates some principle of political correctness, because political correctness is rooted in egalitarianism, and this will always lead back to pro-abortion, “her body – her choice” rhetoric. Likewise, comparisons of abortion to slavery are equally fruitless, because pro-abortionists will simply argue that a woman who is forced to maintain a pregnancy against her will is “enslaved” to a parasitic fetus (unborn child). Only a view of morality grounded in God’s Law can defeat the leftist perversion of marriage, family, and reproduction by undercutting its foundational principles.
The Left is also inconsistent in its opposition to eugenics as it applies to race. If a white man argues against miscegenation in an effort to preserve the hereditary endowments of the white race, he is utterly rejected and branded a bigoted Nazi, but the same standard does not apply to non-whites or proponents of miscegenation. An example of this is Breeding Between the Lines by Alon Ziv. The author asserts that interracial reproduction yields superior offspring. Ziv claims that he rejects the concept of eugenics because he believes that people “should marry whomever they want” and that traditional eugenics favored the concept of racial purity. This is true, but this does not change the fact that Ziv’s argument is explicitly eugenic in nature, as he argues for the genetic superiority of mixed-race reproduction. Ziv is given a pass both because he is a Jew, which obviously undermines his credentials as a Nazi, and because he promotes race-mixing.
I’ve noticed in my personal dialogue concerning race issues on Facebook that this hypocrisy is especially prominent in Christians who reject Kinism. I recall several instances in which alienists have provided pictures of ugly whites with captions calling them “snaggle-toothed hicks” or “inbred rednecks.” These same people denounce Kinism for our “racism” without the slightest hint of irony! In many cases Kinists did not even fire opening salvos regarding the relative attractiveness of individuals of different races or other related aptitudes. To alienists, Kinists are “white supremacists” who teach that we are the master race, while they simultaneously promote race-mixing for its purported genetic benefits. This is but one more example of how “racism” isn’t about fairness, civility, or equality, but is simply used as a hammer against white people who aren’t sufficiently apologetic for being white.
Towards a Christian View of Eugenics
Can a Christian promote eugenics? Should Christians be at all concerned with the quality of physical traits among future generations? These questions are not without controversy. As I mentioned earlier, eugenics has been almost entirely rejected due to the real or imagined atrocities committed by the Third Reich. Many Christians believe that eugenics is entirely contrary to Christian morality. Is this true? Can Christians promote the improvement of the physical stock of future generations through selective reproduction? The answer is that we can and should promote healthy reproductive practices as an extension of traditional Christian marriage. The alternative is to say that Christians ought to have no concern for the physical health of future generations, but this is patently false and even cruel. Given the foundation of Christian morality, what can Christians do to promote a healthier population by eliminating or at least limiting genetic disorders? Here are principles that Christians should embrace concerning eugenics.
First, Christians should promote sexual exclusivity within traditional marriage. Promiscuity leads to poor decisions which results in dysgenics in which people seek out even worse practices, such as abortion, to solve the problems their sins have created. The selection of the right mate is vital to healthy future generations. While there is much that National Socialist Germany did wrong in their quest for eugenics, The Ten Commandments for the Choice of a Mate is sound advice for any man seeking a wife. General Robert E. Lee likewise advised men, “Never marry unless you can do so into a family that will enable your children to feel proud of both sides of the house.”8
Rushdoony explains how the Armenian nation was able to eradicate many genetic disorders through entirely moral means:
Selective breeding in Christian countries has led to a degree to the progressive elimination of many defective persons, however. Among Armenians, arranged marriages prevailed in Armenia to World War I, and a routine demand of parents, before continuing with any further negotiations, was a clear family record genetically for seven generations. As a result, many genetic defects were eliminated and unknown among Armenians. In every Christian country, some form of standard has prevailed. Endogamy is self-imposed eugenics, and no one did this better than the biblical Jews.9
As Rushdoony mentions, endogamy (reproducing within a group) is eugenic. Studies have confirmed that third cousins have an elevated fertility rate compared to other couples. Marriages between fairly close relatives have been common in all societies throughout history, particularly in rural areas. We are commanded by God to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28, 9:1), and instructed that having many children is a blessing from the Lord (Ps. 127:3-5). We ought to use this knowledge about the benefits of endogamy to promote healthy reproduction by encouraging people to marry within their own ethnic group to someone who shares a very similar background.
Christians should primarily be concerned about the godliness of a prospective spouse, but this does not preclude seeking out a mate who is physically attractive. The Bible speaks of physical attractiveness as a positive for both men and women, and a man’s desire to marry an attractive woman is typically understood as natural and healthy. Men such as David (1 Sam. 17:42), Solomon (Song 5:10), and Absalom (2 Sam. 14:25) are praised for their attractive, fair complexion, and similar praise is given to women such as Sarah (Gen. 12:11-14), Rebekah (Gen. 24:16, 26:7), Rachel (Gen. 29:17), David’s daughter Tamar (2 Sam. 13:1), Absalom’s daughter Tamar (2 Sam. 14:27), Abishag the Shunammite (1 Ki. 1:3-4), the Shulamite woman of the Song of Solomon (1:15-16, 2:10-13, 4:1-10, 6:10, 7:6), and Esther (2:2-7). Studies indicate that physical attractiveness is correlated with general health. Beauty is vain (Prov. 31:30) because it passes away with time until the general resurrection, so it should not be pursued disproportionately, but there is nothing wrong for the pursuit of physical beauty within its proper context.
In addition to promoting healthy reproduction, Christian societies ought to oppose unhealthy reproduction. Incest should be prohibited on the basis of the biblical prohibition and the negative consequences of inbreeding depression. Likewise the purported benefits of race-mixing promoted by the likes of Alon Ziv are simply false. Another means of promoting eugenics would involve a return to stricter penal sanctions against crime. Society would benefit from punishing violent criminals and sexual degenerates and removing them from the gene pool before they can reproduce. This is consistent with Ps. 37:28-29, which teaches that the seed of the wicked will be cut off. These types of measures would be more effective and just than the sterilization of non-criminals that occurred in the United States and elsewhere in the early twentieth century.
There is also the inverse correlation between the health of children and the age of parents to consider. The modern trend of waiting to marry past age thirty is typically motivated by various factors stemming from a non-Christian worldview. Women are becoming increasingly influenced by feminism, which tells them that marriage and family life are a prison and that they ought to pursue careers that are sure to provide much more fulfillment than a family ever could. Young men are also kept in a perpetual state of adolescence in which video games aren’t merely an innocent pastime but rather a way of life in which fictional accomplishments replace actual achievement in the real world.
As Western civilization has abandoned her Christian roots and become increasingly secularized, many young men and women have delayed marriage and children later and later. Several studies also indicate that certain health risks increase when fathers and especially mothers have children past age forty. Christians should encourage young men and women to marry at a suitably young age and begin having a family early on in their marriage. This will decrease the chances of health problems in their children and as an added social benefit, will also decrease the likelihood of divorce. Christians must return to the directives that the Apostle Paul gives young men and young women in Titus 2, which impliy that marriage and family life should take place during youth.
Finally, while eugenics is often derided as simply a white supremacist ideology, eugenics properly understood and applied within the bounds of Christian morality is simply race-positive. There is no reason why Christians of any race could not or should not promote these principles among his own people. All races can improve by appropriating Christian principles of eugenics for their benefit. For example, blacks should acknowledge (and some have) that the breeding patterns within the black race have been thoroughly dysgenic for the past several generations. Black Christians should promote eugenic policies among their people to improve the quality of black stock for future generations. This means that the Talented Tenth ought to marry fellow blacks and have many children within Christian wedlock. Far too often, well-accomplished blacks marry someone of a different race (often white women) instead of contributing to their people’s future generations. Likewise, blacks who are genuinely Christian should denounce the rampant criminality of their race and acknowledge that stricter penalties for criminality would improve the black gene pool in the long run. There is no reason why a Christian pursuit of healthy reproduction must lead to hostility between different racial or ethnic groups. The whole world would greatly benefit from all nations improving their future stock by applying Christian principles to marriage and reproduction.
- The converse of eugenics is dysgenics, which simply means poor breeding, resulting in lower-quality offspring. ↩
- There are circumstances in which an unborn child might be killed as an unintentional consequence of some other morally licit procedure. If a mother’s life is in imminent danger, it is valid to perform an operation in which the unborn child is expected to die, because the intention is not to destroy the child’s life, but to save the mother’s life. This is called the principle of double effect, and is a legitimate consideration in ethically difficult cases. An example of this would be ectopic pregnancy surgery, in which the unborn child cannot possibly survive given our current capabilities, and the mother’s life would be jeopardized as well. Likewise, the same principle applies in the taking of innocent adult lives. For example, it could be proportionate in warfare to bomb a barracks knowing that some innocent (non-combatant) lives will be lost, if the war is just and the lives lost are proportionate to the good intended in the bombing. Other examples are also conceivable, but the point is that we must distinguish between the intentional taking of human life and the unintentional acceptance of lost human life. Eugenic considerations certainly do not qualify as a reason to take an innocent human life. ↩
- Crime must be defined on scriptural grounds, so this would include sexually deviant behaviors. ↩
- Andrew Hamilton outlines this in his article “Eugenics versus Race.” ↩
- See “An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races” by Joseph Arthur, Comte de Gobineau; “History of Eugenics” at the Christian Medical and Dental Association; Theodore Roosevelt’s “Letter to Charles Davenport,” dated January 3, 1913; “Eugenics and Euthanasia Quotations in Modern Times“; “The Letter of Francis Crick to Bernard D. Davis“; and “Leading Churchill Myths: Churchill’s Campaign Against the Feeble-Minded Was Deliberately Omitted By His Biographers.” ↩
- For the remainder of this essay I will refer to the secular Right as the Alt Right, even though I am aware that the term Alt Right is broad enough that it can apply to Christians. ↩
- See my article “An Appeal to Secular White Nationalists” for more on this subject. ↩
- General Robert E. Lee, advice given in a letter to Confederate General J.B. Hood. Posted on The Art of Manliness titled, “Manly Advice from Robert E. Lee.” ↩
- R.J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law (1973), pg. 372. ↩