In 1865, six years after the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species, Francis Galton wrote:

If talented men were mated with talented women, of the same mental and physical characters as themselves . . . we might produce a highly bred human race . . . If we divided the rising generation into two castes, A and B, of which A was selected for natural gifts, and B was the refuse, . . . we should then . . . hasten the marriages in caste A, and retard those in caste B . . . and would end by wholly eliminating B, and replacing it by A. . . . The law of natural selection would powerfully assist . . . by pressing heavily on the minority of weakly and incapable men.

Inspired by Darwin’s theory of evolution, Galton developed the idea of human breeding and called it “eugenics.”  Darwin called Galton’s ideas “admirable.”  I suppose it makes sense that they had such praise for each other and such a high opinion of proper heredity.  They were, after all, cousins.

Francis Galton proposed eugenics “for the betterment of mankind,” which sounds like a good idea.  By the beginning of the 20th century, when Darwin’s theory was safely embraced by the scientific establishment, eugenics was getting some really good press.  Such major newspapers as the New York Times gave it constant and positive coverage.  It was praised by, among others, the famous botanist Luther Burbank and George Bernard Shaw, who said that nothing but a eugenic religion could save our civilization.

Eugenics led directly to the birth-control movement.  All of the same players were involved; most prominent among them was Margaret Sanger, a member of the American Eugenics Society and the editor of the Birth Control Review, whose motto was trumpeted in large letters on the cover: “More Children for the Fit.  Less for the Unfit.”  Whom did Sanger consider unfit?  “Hebrews, Slavs, Catholics, and Negroes.”  She argued that such people should be forced to apply for official permission to have babies “as immigrants have to apply for visas.”  She lobbied for sterilization laws targeting society’s undesirables.  These laws were passed in more than half of the United States and led to several cases of forced sterilization.

Adolf Hitler not only advocated eugenics but officially instituted it.  Hitler found early support for his eugenic ideas from Margaret Sanger and her circle.  Nazi eugenicists wrote articles for Sanger’s Birth Control Review, and members of Sanger’s American Birth Control League visited Nazi Germany, sat in on sessions of the Supreme Eugenics Court, and returned with glowing reports of how the Sterilization Law was “weeding out the worst strains in the Germanic stock in a scientific and truly humanitarian way.”

After World War II, when the terrible truth about the Nazis came out, the word eugenics disappeared.  Birth control remained, however.  Margaret Sanger now took a different tack in promoting birth control: She made it a feminist cause, an issue of “choice” and “liberation.”

In Eugenics and Other Evils, G.K. Chesterton predicted that proponents of eugenics would endorse birth control, and then abortion, and, finally, infanticide.  And, if you take the word eugenics and replace it with cloning, Chesterton’s words cut right to the heart of the present debate over this latest scientific controversy.  

All of the arguments in favor of eugenics could apply to cloning: It is for “the betterment of mankind.”  It will help fight disease.  It will alleviate great suffering.  Besides, you can’t stop progress.

Cloning, however, like eugenics and abortion, derives all of its benefits from denying an entire class of humans their humanity.  With eugenics, that class was the “unfit,” which usually meant the poor, the weak, or simply the ethnics who were having too many children.  With abortion, it is the weakest and most defenseless of all: the unborn.  Cloning goes even further:  Human life is deliberately created so that selected tissue might be “harvested.”  As Chesterton says with chilling accuracy, “They seek his life in order to take it away.”

Like eugenics, cloning is about the tyranny of the elite deciding who shall live and who shall die.  And anything that involves the elite is about money.  Cloning is not only supported by the wealthy but is a potential source of wealth.  The Rockefellers and the Carnegies and the other capitalist lords who funded eugenics research in the early 20th century went on to be major supporters of Planned Parenthood.

Though cloning is chiefly concerned with profit and not with health and saving lives (certainly not the lives that would be created and discarded), even the argument about health is wrong.  As Chesterton points out, our modern worship of health is unhealthy.  “The cult of hygiene today is not so much materialistic as mystical.  Health is preferred to life; and the experts seem to be more satisfied with a well-nourished corpse than with a lively cripple.”

We live, wrote Chesterton, in the Age of Euphemism.  We talk of birth control when we mean no birth and no control.  We talk of tissue when we mean an unborn baby.  We talk of choice when we mean the slaughter of babies.  We talk of eugenics when we mean the extermination of an entire race.  Such euphemisms, Chesterton argues, are presented as humanitarianism, but they really mask a stark inhumanitarianism.

Life has become a mere struggle for existence.  This meaninglessness, this purposelessness, is seen in many of our scientific pursuits.  Americans believe in anything that has the word progress attached to it, even when they cannot say what it is we are supposed to be progressing toward.

If anyone dares to suggest that it would be wiser to call nature “Creation,” acknowledging a Creator rather than a random, mindless, meaningless natural pro-cess that starts nowhere and leads nowhere, he is mocked as unscientific.  If anyone suggests that teachers leave some room for alternate explanations of the origin of the universe and the origin of life, he is castigated as a religious bigot trying to use the government to force his own narrow ideas on the public.  But, as Chesterton says, 

The thing that really is trying to tyrannize 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.  Materialism is really our established Church; for the Government will really help it to persecute its heretics.

The problem with official science is that it steadily becomes more official while becoming less scientific.  “The man in the street,” Chesterton says, “must be wholly at the mercy of an academic priesthood.”  If people who care about truth object to eugenics or birth control or cloning, they are barraged with what Chesterton calls “the same stuffy science, the same bullying bureaucracy, and the same terrorism by tenth-rate professors.”

“Science,” says Chesterton, “is a vast design for producing accidents.”  Some of these accidents are quite spectacular: Eugenics blew up; space exploration blew up; atomic energy blew up and will blow up again.  We cannot even imagine what horrible accidents could result from our experiments in human cloning.

As Chesterton wrote over 100 years ago, at the dawn of the 20th century, “We are learning to do a great many clever things.  The next thing we are going to have to learn is not to do them.”