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Eugenics and Other Evils : An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized State
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Eugenics and Other Evils : An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized State [Paperback]

G. K. Chesterton , Michael W. Perry
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 2000
In the second decade of the twentieth century, an idea became all too fashionable among those who feel it is their right to set social trends. Wealthy families took it on as a pet cause, generously bankrolling its research. The New York Times praised it as a wonderful "new science." Scientists, such as the brilliant plant biologist, Luther Burbank, praised it unashamedly. Educators as prominent as Charles Elliot, President of Harvard University, promoted it as a solution to social ills. America's public schools did their part. In the 1920s, almost three-fourths of high school social science textbooks taught its principles. Not to be outdone, judges and physicians called for those principles to be enshrined into law. Congress agree, passing the 1924 immigration law to exclude from American shores the people of Eastern and Southern Europe that the idea branded as inferior. In 1927, the U. S. Supreme Court joined the chorus, ruling by a lopsided vote of 8 to 1 that the sterilization of unwilling men and women was constitutional.

That idea was eugenics and in the English-speaking world it had virtually no critics among the "chattering classes." When he wrote this book, Chesterton stood virtually alone against the intellectual world of his day. Yet to his eternal credit, he showed no sign of being intimidated by the prestige of his foes. On the contrary, he thunders against eugenics, ranking it one of the great evils of modern society. And, in perhaps one of the most chillingly accurate prophecies of the century, he warns that the ideas that eugenics had unleashed were likely to bear bitter fruit in another nation. That nation was Germany, the "very land of scientific culture from which the ideal of a Superman had come." In fact, the very group that Nazism tried to exterminate, Eastern European Jews, and the group it targeted for later extermination, the Slavs, were two of those whose biological unfitness eugenists sought so eagerly to confirm.

What are sometimes called the "excesses" of Nazism drove the open advocacy of eugenics underground. But there's little evidence that the elements of society who once trumpeted the idea have changed their mind. Dr. Alan Guttmacher provides a good example. The fact that he had been Vice-President of the American Eugenics Association was no hindrance to his assuming the Presidency of Planned Parenthood­World Population in 1962. And his seedy past did not keep Congress from providing millions of dollars in federal funds to Planned Parenthood. Nor did it stop the Supreme Court from carrying out the central item in Dr. Guttmacher's political agenda‹legalized abortion. Many of those who now admit that eugenics was evil have trouble explaining why so few of its advocates were every exposed and why so many are still honored.

As the title suggests, eugenics is not the only evil that Chesterton blasts. Socialism gets some brilliantly worded broadsides and Chesterton, in complete fairness, does not spare capitalism. He also attacks the scientifically justified regimentation that others call the "health police." The same rationalizations that justified eugenics, he notes, can also be used to deprive a working man of his beer or any man of his pipe. Although it was first published in 1922, there's a startling relevance to what Chesterton had to say about mettlesome bureaucrats who deprive life of its little pleasures and freedoms. His tale about an unfortunate man fired because "his old cherry-briar" "might set the water-works on fire" is priceless.

That tale illustrates Chesterton's brilliant use of humor, a knack his foes were quick to realize. In their review of his book, Birth Control News griped, "His tendency is reactionary, and as he succeeds in making most people laugh, his influence in the wrong direction is considerable. Eugenics Review was even blunter. "The only interest in this book," they said, "is pathological. It is a revelation of the ineptitude to which ignorance and blind prejudice may reduce an intelligent man."

History has been far kinder to Chesterton than to his critics. It's now generally agree that eugenics was born of evolution and the "ignorance and blind prejudice" of social elites. But never forget that Chesterton was the first to say so, condemning what many of his peers praised.

The completely new edition of Chesterton's classic includes almost fifty pages from the writings of Chesterton's opponents. They illustrate just how accurate his attacks on eugenists were. For researchers, it also includes a detailed, 13-page index.

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Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

"There exists to-day a scheme of action, a school thought, as collective and unmistakable as any of those by whose grouping alone we can make any outline of history. . . . I know that it numbers many disciples whose intentions are entirely innocent and humane; and who would be sincerely astonished at my describing it as I do. But that is only because evil always wins through the strength of its splendid dupes; and there has in all ages been a disastrous alliance between abnormal innocence and abnormal sin. . . . But Eugenics itself does exist for those who have sense enough to see that ideas exist; and Eugenics itself, in large quantities or small, coming quickly or coming slowly, urged from good motives or bad, applied to a thousand people or applied to three, Eugenics itself is a thing no more to be bargained about than poisoning."

Institutionalizing the Unfit
"I will call it the Feeble-Minded Bill, both for brevity and because the description is strictly accurate. It is, quite simply and literally, a Bill for incarcerating as madmen those whom no doctor will consent to call mad. It is enough if some doctor or other may happen to call them weak-minded."

Forced sterilization
"Indeed one Eugenist, Mr. A. H. Huth, actually had a sense of humour, and admitted this. He thinks a great deal of good could be done with a surgical knife, if we would only turn him loose with one. And this may be true. A great deal of good could be done with a loaded revolver, in the hands of a judicious student of human nature."

The Tyranny of Science
"The thing that really is trying to tyrannise through government is Science. The thing that really does use the secular arm is Science. And the creed that really is levying tithes and capturing schools, the creed that really is enforced by fine and imprisonment, the creed that really is proclaimed not in sermons but in statutes, and spread not by pilgrims but by policemen‹that creed is the great but disputed system of thought which began with Evolution and has ended in Eugenics."

Eugenic Motives
"There is no reason in Eugenics, but there is plenty of motive. Its supporters are highly vague about its theory, but they will be painfully practical about its practice. And while I reiterate that many of its more eloquent agents are probably quite innocent instruments, there are some, even among Eugenists, who by this time know what they are doing."

The Poor Man and his Child
"There is one human thing left it is much harder to take from him. Debased by him and his betters, it is still something brought out of Eden, where God made him a demigod: it does not depend on money and but little on time. He can create in his own image. The terrible truth is in the heart of a hundred legends and mysteries. As Jupiter could be hidden from all-devouring Time, as the Christ Child could be hidden from Herod‹so the child unborn is still hidden from the omniscient oppressor. He who lives not yet, he and he alone is left; and they seek his life to take it away."

The Rich Begin To Fear the Poor
"So at least it seemed, doubtless in a great degree subconsciously, to the man who had wagered all his wealth on the usefulness of the poor to the rich and the dependence of the rich on the poor. The time came at last when the rather reckless breeding in the abyss below ceased to be a supply, and began to be something like a wastage; ceased to be something like keeping foxhounds, and began alarmingly to resemble a necessity of shooting foxes."

Scientific Regimentation
"That is the problem, and that is why there is now no protection against Eugenic or any other experiments. If the men who took away beer as an unlawful pleasure had paused for a moment to define the lawful pleasures, there might be a different situation. If the men who had denied one liberty had taken the opportunity to affirm other liberties, there might be some defence for them. But it never occurs to them to admit any liberties at all. It never so much as crosses their minds. Hence the excuse for the last oppression will always serve as well for the next oppression; and to that tyranny there can be no end."

"In short, people decided that it was impossible to achieve any of the good of Socialism, but they comforted themselves by achieving all the bad. All that official discipline, about which the Socialists themselves were in doubt or at least on the defensive, was taken over bodily by the Capitalists. They have now added all the bureaucratic tyrannies of a Socialist state to the old plutocratic tyrannies of a Capitalist State."

The Working Classes
"The working classes have no reserves of property with which to defend their relics of religion. They have no religion with which to sanctify and dignify their property. Above all, they are under the enormous disadvantage of being right without knowing it. They hold their sound principles as if they were sullen prejudices. They almost secrete their small property as if it were stolen property. Often a poor woman will tell a magistrate that she sticks to her husband, with the defiant and desperate air of a wanton resolved to run away from her husband. Often she will cry as hopelessly, and as it were helplessly, when deprived of her child as if she were a child deprived of her doll."

Product Details

  • Paperback: 179 pages
  • Publisher: Inkling Books; 1st edition (December 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587420023
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587420023
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #823,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews
31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant and chilling warning August 20, 2003
By P. Chan
This masterpiece gravely addresses the dangers of scientism and genocide while still maintaining Chesterton's trademark wit and humor. Not only did Chesterton predict the Holocaust years before it happened, but he also provided a blueprint as to how such inhumanity could have been prevented. This book both promotes enlightenment and sparks controversy.
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35 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book: In reply to John Wright's Review January 21, 2004
By AGaul
This negative review of Eugenics and Other Evils and its attack on Chesterton is all wrong. Chesterton understood "political economy" and other sterilizing Benthamite ideas all too well. Capitalism is ultimately anti-God, anti-Christian and evil, just as evil as atheistic Communism/Socialism. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc both advocated a distributivistic economy with private property, small owners and less wage workers. (Cheap labor, i.e., illegal and legal Mexican immigrants, does keep wages down and increases the proportion of the dispossesed in society. Why are all the high skilled computer jobs going overseas? Are we all going to be wage workers at Wal Mart?) Chesterton understood that the usury that enables massive growth is also ultimately dehumanizing for larger and larger segments of the population. Mad science and technology represented in part by Eugenics and today's human genome project (both originiating in the US at the Cold Spring Harbor lab. Hitler modeled his eugenics program after laws on the books in the Southern US prior to WWII) is rigourously controlled from top down to potentially serve the elite at the expense of you and me. History truly is a struggle against good and evil. Bentham and the elites of his day understood this and spent a lot of time devising clever ways the privileged few could keep an eye on the rest of us. Bentham's scientific Panopticon is implemented throughout society today (unconstitutional "temporary" federal income tax, licenses for everything, national id cards, color coded security risks, security cameras, smart shopping cards, rising prison populations, three-strikes laws, KNOWING OUR DNA/GENETIC MAKEUP) and defended by the likes of the anti-Chesterton's of this world. I have a feeling many libertarians deep down understand this but their hatred of humanity and self leads them to a hatred of God and prevents them from joining the good fight.
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Evils of the Scientifically Managed State. July 9, 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In the book _Eugenics and Other Evils_, Roman Catholic writer G. K. Chesterton takes on the eugenists and their immoral and unethical program for human breeding. At the time, eugenists (among both the Social Darwinist "Right" and the Socialist Left) proposed various methods for interfering with human breeding to promote a social agenda and impact the human population. One form of eugenics, referred to as "positive eugenics", sought to increase the birthrate of the "fit" (mainly the upper, educated classes) through incentive programs. Another form of eugenics, referred to as "negative eugenics", sought to decrease the birthrate of the "unfit" (mainly the lower classes, the "mentally feeble", and chronically ill populations) through birth control (or even more diabolical means, later on, such as abortion or euthanasia). Chesterton takes on both forms of eugenics as well as the "birth controllers", both of whom planned on limiting the rights of those deemed "mentally feeble" to procreate, and shows through a series of paradoxes exactly how immoral, unethical, and downright mean their program is. Chesterton's condemnations of this program are consistent with his Roman Catholic beliefs and the condemnation of both eugenics and birth control by subsequent popes. It is for this reason that many involved in the birth control movement came to label Chesterton as a "deeply reactionary man" who stood in the way of progress. In his book _The Servile State_, Chesterton's friend and fellow writer Hilaire Belloc notes how society is progressing in a direction towards servility, in which more and more will work for less and less, collectively losing their liberties. Read more ›
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of his best August 8, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After completing Michael Creighton's book, Next, I scanned his resources: much to my surprise, he listed this book by Chesterton. I cannot enhance Creighton's comments in this review, but can state that G. K. Chesterton, a man with a remarkable gift of memory and humor and insight and wisdom, did us all a service (albeit 90 years ago) by penning this book. This one is not theological (as in The Everlasting Man), poetic (The Ballad of the White Horse), or in the form of a novel or short stories (all of which he wrote during his lifetime, such as the Father Brown mysteries, The Man Who Was Thursday, etc.). This book touches on life in the 21st Century in the United States of America: from topics ranging from political correctness, to genetics and eugenics, to ecology and the environment, to evolution, and even to the topic of whether smoking should be banned.
I've often pondered whether the United States has ever produced its own Chesterton (perhaps Will Rogers; but he did not write at the same depth or level as Chesterton, though his observations were always laced with humor). Notwithstanding, we should not miss Chesterton's messages.
Would that our press corps and educators and political pundits learn from him.
This rambling review will benefit no one; the benefit will only come if those who bother to read comments as mine buy the book and savor its delights.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars some of the authors arguments are really good, and a few are outdated
The book is a fair read, some of the authors arguments are really good, and a few are outdated.
Published 17 months ago by J J
4.0 out of 5 stars A must-read. Terrifying and compelling, GK makes a solid case against...
A bit lengthy, but compelling none the less. It is terrifying to think that such evil people existed, and perhaps even more terrifying that they still exist today, masquerading... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Mike
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
As always G.K. Chesterton cuts through to the essentials. Eugenics is an evil that is rearing it's ugly head again in this day and age. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Stephanie Forester
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good read.
This is a very informative read. Eugenics is a very touchy subject but this book gives a good
all-around view of all the other aspects of Eugenics - namely where are the... Read more
Published on December 23, 2012 by C. Foster
4.0 out of 5 stars If you claim to be a liberal, this is too profound for you
Once in a while, a very great while, people are annoyingly clever in their commentary. While they are making light, they are teaching heavy issues. Read more
Published on December 27, 2010 by Gwendolyn
4.0 out of 5 stars Didn't sway me from my passionate desire for more Eugenics
The heading is a joke, by the way. I will say that when compared with abortion and some of the other big science/big brother things going on in the present, early 20th century... Read more
Published on April 1, 2008 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Eugenics and other Social Evils
Nothing by G.K. Chesterton is ever disappointing, but this is/was downright prophetic. It's a must read for all who seek a better understanding of the negative utopian forces and... Read more
Published on January 8, 2008 by Jude
5.0 out of 5 stars Eugenics
Eugenics is a GREAT EVIL. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parent Hood, was associated with Adolph Hitler. Read more
Published on September 30, 2007 by Robbie L. Macdonald
5.0 out of 5 stars Eugenics and Other Evils : An Argument Against the Scientifically...
For a collection of essays written prior to the first World War, Chesterton may have been addressing a modern audience rather than his contemporary one; yet anyone who has read... Read more
Published on September 9, 2007 by Joseph Vlachos
5.0 out of 5 stars Catholic church was right about eugenics.
I'm a brazilian(unemployed) agronomist.I read this good book free on internet.This is a good book.

When this good book was writen, eugenics was supported by great... Read more
Published on March 28, 2006 by Dalton C. Rocha
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More About the Author

The writings of Michael W. Perry are many and varied. They range from an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's children's stories (Stories for Girls) to a scholarly 447-page look at the causes of World War II (Chesterton on War and Peace). He is the author of Untangling Tolkien, the only book-length, day-by-day chronology of The Lord of the Rings, and has contributed to encyclopedias on the writings of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R Tolkien, as well as the scandals of U.S. presidents (Presidential Scandals). His books have been translated into Polish (Klucz Do Tolkena) and Italian (Eugenetica e altri malanni).

Most recently, he's taking a look back at the experiences that shaped his life. Three books in the 'hospital series' look at what it was like to care for children with cancer (Nights with Leukemia) and teenagers (Hospital Gowns and Other Embarrassments), as well as a telling criticism of the legally sanctioned medical mistreatment given to an unfortunate teen-aged girl (Caria, The Girl Who Couldn't Say No).

That'll be followed by a series on politically driven hatred in America. The first in the series, tentatively named To Kill a Mockingbird Revisited, will describe what it was like to grow up in the South in the last days of segregation. The author grew up one-generation removed and some forty miles from the town described in Harper Lee's popular novel.

Partial Bibliography

* Assistant editor and major contributor: The C. S. Lewis Readers Encyclopedia (Zondervan, 1998), winner of the 1999 Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Gold Medallion Book Award as the best biography/autobiography.

* Major contributor: Presidential Scandals (CQ Press, 1999).

* Editor of a research edition of G. K. Chesterton's Eugenics and Other Evils (2000) that was praised in by bestselling author Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park), who said that: "The editor of this editor of this edition has included may quotations from eugenicists of the 1920s, who read astonishingly like toe words of contemporary prophets of doom."

* Author of Untangling Tolkien (2003), a detailed chronology of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and a must-have reference work for Tolkien fans.

* Contributor: J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia by Michael D. C. Drout. (Routledge, 2006)

* Editor of Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movements that Led to Nazism and World War II. Winner of the American Chesterton Society "Outline of Sanity" award for 2009.

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