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Early 20th Century Eugenics as part of Modernism Essays

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As the sun was setting on the 19th century, a new theory, called eugenics was just beginning to rise. Eugenics is the idea that human mental, moral, temperamental and physiological traits are passed down through generations, and that society should attempt to foster the reproduction of those with favorable traits and discourage or eliminate those with less than favorable traits. In the early parts of the 20th century, eugenics was put into practice across the rich world. This increase, not only in popularity but in application is best viewed when part of the greater context of modernity. Although the justification for much of the theory came from Charles Darwin’s work, it is widely considered he was not a supporter of it. No, the idea that human beings can play god and use science to change society by control of reproduction is a product of modernism and techno-nationalism. The rapid development of science led the population to believe its power was limitless, even to the extent of creating a utopian society.
First we must examine the obvious factors; evolution and heredity. Charles Darwin’s theory itself was a product of its times, drawing on developments from fields as diverse as paleontology and animal breeding. The closest predecessor to Darwin was Lamarck, who proposed that organisms passed on the adaptations they had developed in their lives to their offspring (Bowler and Morus). Darwin theorized that over time, nature had selected for the most advantageous traits by giving those best suited to survive a greater chance of reproduction. In his 1859 treatise On the Origin of Species, Darwin outlined and provided reasons arguments for this concept. However, he widely avoided mentioning human beings for fear of rejection and...


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...k up when social injustice occurred (Paul). There was great national pride and a desire to represent the technological developments of their country as superior, to represent their country as superior (Pearson).



Works Cited
Bowler, Peter J., and Iwan Rhys Morus. Making Modern Science: a Historical Survey. Chicago, Ill. [u.a.: Univ. of Chicago, 2010. Print.
Edgerton, David. "Nations." The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. 103-37. Print.
Fan, Fa-Ti. "Eugenics." Binghamton University, Binghamton. Lecture.
Fan, Fa-Ti. "Evolution & Genetics." Binghamton University, Binghamton. 28 Feb. 2011. Lecture.
Fan, Fa-Ti. "Evolution." Binghamton University, Binghamton. 21 May 2011. Lecture.
Paul, Diane B. Controlling Human Heredity: 1865 to the Present. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities International, 1995. Print.


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