email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
A Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Mind So RareA Natural History of RapeAcquiring GenomesAdapting MindsAgeing, Health and CareAlas, Poor DarwinAn Introduction to Evolutionary EthicsAncient Bodies, Modern LivesAnimal ArchitectsAping MankindAre We Hardwired?Bang!BehavingBeyond EvolutionBeyond GeneticsBlood MattersBody BazaarBoneBrain Evolution and CognitionBrain StormBrave New BrainBrave New WorldsChoosing ChildrenCloneCloningConceptual Issues in Evolutionary BiologyConsciousness EvolvingContemporary Debates in Philosophy of BiologyControlling Our DestiniesCooperation and Its EvolutionCreatures of AccidentDarwin Loves YouDarwin's Brave New WorldDarwin's Gift to Science and ReligionDarwin's UniverseDarwin's WormsDarwinian ConservatismDarwinian PsychiatryDarwinism and its DiscontentsDarwinism as ReligionDebating DesignDecoding DarknessDefenders of the TruthDo We Still Need Doctors?Doubting Darwin?Early WarningEngineering the Human GermlineEnhancing EvolutionEnoughEntwined LivesEthical Issues in Human CloningEthical Issues in the New GeneticsEvil GenesEvolutionEvolutionEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorEvolution and LearningEvolution and ReligionEvolution and the Human MindEvolution in MindEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolution: The Modern SynthesisEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Origins of MoralityEvolutionary PsychiatryEvolutionary PsychologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolutionary Psychology as Maladapted PsychologyExploding the Gene MythFaces of Huntington'sFlesh of My FleshFrom Chance to ChoiceFrom Darwin to HitlerGenesGenes in ConflictGenes on the CouchGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Women, EqualityGenetic Nature/CultureGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetic SecretsGenetics of Criminal and Antisocial BehaviourGenetics of Mental DisordersGenetics of Original SinGenetics of Original SinGenomeGenomeGenome: Updated EditionGenomes and What to Make of ThemGlowing GenesHow Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So StoriesHuman CloningHuman Evolution, Reproduction, and MoralityImproving Nature?In Our Own ImageIn Pursuit of the GeneIn the Name of GodIngenious GenesInheritanceInside the Human GenomeInside the O'BriensIntegrating Evolution and DevelopmentIntelligence, Race, and GeneticsIs Human Nature Obsolete?Language OriginsLess Than HumanLiberal EugenicsLiving with Our GenesMaking Genes, Making WavesMaking Sense of EvolutionMan As The PrayerMean GenesMenMood GenesMoral OriginsMothers and OthersNature Via NurtureNever Let Me GoNot By Genes AloneOf Flies, Mice, and MenOn the Origin of StoriesOrigin of MindOrigins of Human NatureOrigins of PsychopathologyOur Posthuman FuturePhilosophy of BiologyPlaying God?Playing God?Portraits of Huntington'sPrimates and PhilosophersPromiscuityPsychiatric Genetics and GenomicsPsychologyQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRe-creating MedicineRedesigning HumansResearch Advances in Genetics and GenomicsResponsible GeneticsResponsible GeneticsScience, Seeds and CyborgsSex and WarSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsStrange BedfellowsStrange BehaviorSubjects of the WorldSubordination and DefeatThe Age of EmpathyThe Agile GeneThe Ape and the Sushi MasterThe Biotech CenturyThe Blank SlateThe Book of LifeThe Bridge to HumanityThe Case Against PerfectionThe Case for PerfectionThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Century of the GeneThe Common ThreadThe Concept of the Gene in Development and EvolutionThe Debated MindThe Double-Edged HelixThe Epidemiology of SchizophreniaThe Ethics of Human CloningThe Evolution of CooperationThe Evolution of MindThe Evolution of MindThe Evolved ApprenticeThe Evolving WorldThe Fact of EvolutionThe Folly of FoolsThe Future of Human NatureThe God GeneThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Impact of the GeneThe Innate MindThe Innate MindThe Innate Mind: Volume 3The Limits and Lies of Human Genetic ResearchThe Lives of the BrainThe Maladapted MindThe Meme MachineThe Misunderstood GeneThe Moral, Social, and Commercial Imperatives of Genetic Testing and ScreeningThe Most Dangerous AnimalThe New Genetic MedicineThe Nurture AssumptionThe Origin and Evolution of CulturesThe Origins of FairnessThe Paradoxical PrimateThe Perfect BabyThe Robot's RebellionThe Shape of ThoughtThe Shattered SelfThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Story WithinThe Stuff of LifeThe Talking ApeThe Temperamental ThreadThe Terrible GiftThe Theory of OptionsThe Top 10 Myths About EvolutionThe Triple HelixThe Triumph of SociobiologyThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaTwinsUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding the GenomeUnnatural SelectionUnto OthersUp From DragonsWar Against the WeakWhat Genes Can't DoWhat It Means to Be 98 Percent ChimpanzeeWho Owns YouWhose View of Life?Why Evolution Is TrueWhy Think? WondergenesWrestling with Behavioral GeneticsYour Genetic Destiny
Edwin Miller's War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a
Master Race represents a
challenge to all those who would plead for "American values" as being
inherently more moral than those of the rest of the world. In pained, at times almost excruciating
detail, Miller creates a picture of the extent to which prominent figures in
American life, ranging from Theodore Roosevelt to Margaret Sanger, along with
such established American institutions as the Carnegie Institute and the Rockefeller
Foundation, invested time, money, and prestige in the eugenics movement of the
early twentieth century. Although a
British scientist coined the term "eugenics," from the Greek words
for "well" and "born," Black makes clear that the movement
flourished as it did because of the institutional legitimacy, and accompanying
funding, it garnered in the United States.
While early eugenicists
concentrated on encouraging those with certain genetic profiles—often those
associated with Nordic cultures—to reproduce, Black notes that the movement's
American incarnation emphasized the need to restrict reproduction by people
considered undesirable. To eugenicists,
this was a large group: the disabled;
the congenitally poor; criminals and those thought to have inherited criminal
tendencies; and, unsurprisingly, immigrants, particularly those from southern
and eastern Europe, who were coming to the United States in record numbers in
the early twentieth century. To keep
these "undesirables" out of the gene pool, eugenicists lobbied for
the most efficient way to "terminate their bloodlines": forced
sterilization. Such was the influence
of the eugenics movement in the United States that at its height, 27 states had
passed legislation mandating sterilization for those deemed "unfit"
One of the more sobering
anecdotes that Black relates is the story of Carrie Buck, embodied in the
Supreme Court case Buck vs. Bell. Buck,
the child of a woman who had herself been institutionalized for feeble-mindedness
and sexual promiscuity, was forcibly sterilized by the state of Virginia at the
age of 17 after having a child out of wedlock.
The Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes justified this forced
sterilization, commenting that "three generations of
imbeciles is enough." That
decision, Black estimates, in turn allowed for tens of thousands of other
forced sterilizations, all "justified" by the principles of
eugenics. These social and legislative
consequences of eugenics research did not go unnoticed by Nazi eugenicists, who
received early support from the institutions financing American eugenics
research and, Black argues, found in America a template for their own
experiments in racial hygiene.
Black's background in
investigative journalism comes across in his work, which, as might be expected
from the product of fifty researchers drawing on archival material from four
countries, is exhaustively researched and footnoted. Only in the book's final chapter, which adumbrates the
possibility of insurance companies discriminating against clients with genetic
predispositions to disease, does Miller fail to mount sufficient evidence to
persuade beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Even this chapter, however, underscores Miller's central claim: because
genetic information has rarely been used for innocent purposes, we must all
ensure that the abuses of the early twentieth century don't happen again.
2004 Erika Nanes
Erika Nanes holds both a Ph.D. in English and
American literature and an M.F.A. in creative writing. She is currently a lecturer in the Writing
Programs of the University of California, Los Angeles.
Welcome to MHN's unique book review site Metapsychology.
We feature over 7700 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and
We update our front page weekly and add more than thirty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.
Can't remember our URL? Access our reviews directly via 'metapsychology.net'
Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from Amazon.com for purchases through this site, which helps us send
review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your Amazon.com purchases through our Amazon links. We thank
you for your support!
Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these
announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click
Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? Currently, we especially need thoughtful reviewers
for books in fiction, self-help and popular psychology. To apply, write to our editor.
Metapsychology Online Reviews
Promote your Page too
Metapsychology Online Reviews