"all men are created equal" or are they?

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Eugenics then and now over at Amy Welborn's blog.
She links to a CT review of a book by Phillip Jenkins and then adds in her own comments.
I would like to say that eugenics has been a central concept in many science fiction writings over the last 100 years. John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar, David Brin's Uplift series, Murray Leinster's The Eleventh Commandment have all in their varied ways addressed the subject both of eugenics and its cousin, Darwinian evolutionary theory. Nancy Kress's series that started with Beggars in Spain looks at genetic engineering as well.
I grew up reading science fiction. It is still the literature that I most enjoy reading, a true literature of ideas. I am both amazed and disturbed at the prescience of some of these writers - both in how much they got right about where we are now, as well as how much they didn't get at all.
I remember as I was growing up how I fretted that in a eugenically oriented culture I would not have been allowed to be born. My family has the genes for type 1 diabetes and nearsightedness, to name a couple factors. My dad would tell me that our brains and creative abilities more than compensated for the minor physical 'disabilities' but I was still distressed and disturbed. It didn't help much at all that, even then, we were seen as abnormal for the size of our family (6 children born between 1955 and 1971). The only people who were supposed to have families as large as ours were Catholics (which we weren't) or Mormons (ditto). Intelligent families were supposed to only have 2 or 3 children so that all the resources could be poured into the education and upbringing of those (potentially perfect) children.
I loved it when I read the original book of Cheaper by the Dozen. I especially loved the practical joke about the lady from the Birth Control movement who was sent to solicit funds from the largest family in the neighborhood. If you haven't read the book, go get it. It should be in the Public Library - unless the censors have decided that it isn't PC enough!


You picked one of my all-time favorite moments out of a great book ... I just loved the whole huge family scenario in general.

Also, in regards to eugenics, who will decide what the next "desirable" traits are once the obvious diseases are weeded out? I can't remember which of Kurt Vonnegut's books had all the genetically altered pets (I remember a pink poodle) and the Catholic family that was being persecuted for having too many children but that always sticks in my mind. I love SF too and it has so many good warnings about the wrong way we could go.

I've read the books you mentioned especially the Uplift series. Looking back I find it interesting that in that series the explantion for a lack of contact with alien species was that we were quaranteened from them. I guess that is an option when you start from the premise that life can just randomly evolve, you must then explain the reality of observation.

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This page contains a single entry by alicia published on July 6, 2004 3:11 PM.

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