Darwin’s Eugenics

darwinA friend sent me this quote this week. I’ve never come across it before, and I can see why. This is not the sort of stuff to stick in GCSE Biology text books. But it is (probably) the logical outworking of Darwin’s work. Darwin wrote this in 1871. A hundred and forty years of history makes it seem nauseatingly prophetic.

At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes will no doubt be exterminated.
With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of everyone to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to smallpox. Thus the weak members of civilized society propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.
Darwin, The Descent of Man (1871 edition), vol. I, p. 168
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