Roughly, Eugenics is the philosophy of using science to improve the general human population by controlled breeding, and/or genetic therapy/ intervention to increase the inheritance of desirable heritable characteristics – intelligence, height, looks, health etc… Eugenics pictures the perfect human as having optimal health and optimal intelligence. But trans-humanism has similar goals. Where Eugenics forks from philosophies like trans-humanism is in that it is devoid of any meaningful moral insights, save for those literal and foolish interpretations of Nietzschean phrases like ‘life itself is power, nothing more’.
The Eugenic view of humanity is very narrow – too narrow. All our capacities are built upon the success of ‘failures’ – by their own terms. Mutations are often bad, but the good comes with the bad – or perhaps on the heels of it… Nature is built on failure. The thing that keeps us alive in a world filled with things that want nothing more than our death (viruses, bacteria, parasites, predators) is our genetic variability. In self-replicating asexual organisms that can also sexually replicate, the ones who asexually reproduce have a lower life expectancy, are more susceptible to illness, and have poorer health than their sexually reproducing counterparts. That’s because when you have sex, your offspring has two new copies… and so on. The variability of the distribution of genes gives us an upper hand against all those things that want us dead. But this function that keeps us alive also keeps many back. I have a genetic mutation that will kill me in a few years. luckily only about five thousand people in Canada share this mutation, and luckily it’s multifactorial – can be ‘handled’ with nurture (the most dangerous genetic diseases are not ’caused by many factors’ and usually end life in the first year – if not sooner).
Our capacities to do any of the things we associate with properness are entirely arbitrary in a grand cosmic scale. They make sense in our world, but that’s about it. My capacity to see these words, to recognize them, to understand language, is not the ‘proper way to exist’, it’s just one of many – and it’s entirely determined by my biology. Eugenic ideas are in this way very ill-informed and grounded on (often a religious) a belief that there is an essence to humanity, and the best version of us must be preserved. It’s ill-informed, meaning it’s a misunderstood, foolish interpretation of Darwinism.
Even the most healthy still feel pain, even the most healthy can be hurt. Strength is a quality of a process; it’s indexical. You can be physically strong, you can be intellectually strong. But strength is measured by comparing a function to a goal. Measuring physical strength by miles ran, or weight lifted, and intellectual by… Eugenics forgets the mental function, and thus mental strength. It views any deviation from the ‘best version’ of humanity as weakness – as a vulnerability. But the mental functions we index are not health dependent; they are not lost when someone becomes ill, even gravely, even fatally. If the person ill can no longer appreciate their mental function, others can. Human beings are by their limited nature weak and vulnerable. Eugenics aims to patch up physical and intellectual weakness, but not mental weakness. We don’t train soldiers in the best conditions; assuming because they’re fit and clever that they need only basic training. We train them in the worst conditions. If Eugenics is concerned with the human condition, the worst conditions offer the best training. You can learn no more about life, about humanity, and about existence, than when you’re suffering – and the graver the suffering, the more value the experience; and the stronger the person.
Aside from all of the ethical arguments against eugenics, the argument for the value of suffering to the philosophy of eugenics is self-defeating for the eugenic philosophy. Life is built in suffering like theories are built in frustration and ignorance. Suffering is a thing gone wrong, and although it’s a difficult and ethically important experience to endure, it offers an opportunity to search for important answers – questions you wouldn’t otherwise ask. Eugenics is foolish. The ill, the sick, the ‘weak’ aren’t useless because they’re not clever, or healthy, or ‘strong’. On the contrary, they’re the most valuable members of society. When our culture is capable of realizing that, humanity will change forever. Eugenics is driven by self-preservation, and by fear masked as power. They want a world where only the best survive, because anything less is undesirable and depressing. As a philosophy meant to ameliorate weakness, it’s built on weakness – mental weakness.