All about Embryo EugenicsEmbryo Eugenics

In the late 19th century Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’ and Gregor Mendel’s findings with regards to genetic inheritance, revolutionised understanding with regards to what exactly drives the development of mankind both on an individual and societal level.

Scientists soon began to consider whether this new field of ‘natural selection’ could be applied to enable improved breeding in mankind in order to achieve the optimum advancement of the human race. The world of ‘eugenics’ was born.

Within a century however, the concept of eugenics had escalated from seemingly well intentioned scientific hypotheses to being the driving force behind the greatest genocide in modern history. By its culmination, the eugenics campaign of Hitler’s Nazi Germany had resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of those deemed genetically unfit; and the sterilisation of many more.

So where does this leave us today? In other sections of this site, you will have learnt about the areas of debate surrounding the future application of reproductive technologies, including the concern that their advancement will lead to a world of unlimited reproductive choice and ‘designer babies’. But could the potential ability to create ‘ideal’ offspring enable a resurgence of the eugenic ideals so graphically played out in the early 20th century? Ultimately, can we really connect the embryo to eugenics?!

By the end of this tutorial you will be able to:
  1. Have a basic knowledge  about the origins of ‘eugenics’ and its key terms and protagonists.
  2. Have an appreciation of the 20th century eugenic movement
  3. Be able to define ‘procreative autonomy’ and ‘procreative beneficence’; as well as being able to contrast these terms.
  4. Be abe to discuss  the possibility of a future eugenic resurgence related to reproductive technologies
  5. Be able to rehearse the arguments in favour and against embryo eugenics