What if you could engineer the perfect baby? Would you if you could?
A century ago, a group of American scientists and reformers thought it was possible – and desirable. Their perfect baby was white, able-bodied, and Christian.
The cause they embraced, eugenics, was used to justify incarceration, sterilization, and even murder.
A dangerous cocktail of pseudoscience and real science set the stage for the eugenics movement’s popularity. As genetic science progressed at the turn of the 20th century, some scientists embraced the theory that things like a person’s tendency to criminality was passed down from their parents.
Reformers embraced the idea that poverty, crime, and deviance of all stripes could be bred out of future children.
Soon the concept was used to support everything from immigration restrictions to “fitter family” competitions. Forced sterilization and institutionalization of people who were disabled, mentally ill, or thought to be sexually deviant or morally lacking followed.
American Experience’s “The Eugenics Crusade” premieres tonight on most PBS stations.
Read the story at SFGate.
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