The condemnation of eugenics went too far and it needs reassessment,
a leading scientist is arguing.
Eugenics is the science of using genetics ostensibly to "improve"
The idea that this was a good thing had wide currency throughout
the early part of the 20th century.
However, the concept got a bad name in the 1930s when the Nazis
determined that they would use it to create a "master race".
Now Richard Lynn, Emeritus professor of Psychology at the University
of Ulster, has written a book in which he says it is time for
He told the BBC that advances in medical technology, such as
the pre-natal diagnosis of pregnant women for genetically disordered
foetuses, meant that in a sense eugenics was already being practised.
"The general principle of eugenics, that we could improve
the genetic quality of the population need taking seriously.
"The new medical technology of eugenics is going to take
off, because it satisfies the needs of individuals, both for
themselves and as parents.
"Parents would like to have children who are free of genetic
diseases, and potentially in the future they will want to have
children who are intelligent.
"This is serving people's needs and wishes. As the technology
comes on line to allow them to do this, people will take it
Prophesy of despair
Dr Tony Cole is a consultant paediatrician who works with Downs
children and is a member of the Guild of Catholic Doctors.
He said that idea that people would inevitably exploit new
technology as soon as it became available was a "prophesy
Dr Cole stressed that the idea of genetic enhancement was specifically
forbidden by current regulations.
"If you are going to manipulate the genetic composition
of an individual you are changing not only that individual,
but perhaps a thousand descendants of that individual.
"This is so-called germ line manipulation, and it is very
tightly regulated because it could be hideously abused."
He said countries coming together to try to find an acceptable
"The fundamental issue is a question of justice between
generations. Do we control the next generation in that sort
of way? Are they are a sort of custom-specified commodity?"
Dr David King, a geneticist and coordinator of the watchdog
group, Human Genetics Alert, said: "We find Richard Lynn's
claims that some human beings are inherently superior to others
"With the new power of genetics, it is more important
than ever that we avoid a return of eugenics, under the guise
of free reproductive choice."
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always
been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such
material available in our efforts to advance understanding of
biotechnology and public policy issues. We believe this constitutes a
'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section
107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section
107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those
who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included
information for research and educational purposes. For more information
go to: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107. If you wish to use
copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go
beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.