Eugenics warrants a different view

Eugenics rightly deserves condemnation when it is exclusively race-based, which is the way almost all people think about the term (“We all must resist the horror of eugenics,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 14).  Our history with admitting foreigners to our shores is evidence that our policy was indeed racist.

But there is another side of the issue that is ignored in the debate.  What if eugenics were strictly intellectually-based?  I’m referring now to the nation’s H1-B visa program that is specifically designed to admit only those foreigners who possess certain knowledge and skills deemed essential.

Once on U.S. soil, H1-B recipients can marry and start families.  Are their offspring not a product of genetic engineering, even though we refuse to say so?  As long as race is not a factor in determining who is given a visa, I say eugenics can be a positive factor.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

4 Replies to “Eugenics warrants a different view”

  1. “Eugenics” is, I think, usually defined as focusing on a person’s genetic characteristics (and/or the genetic characteristics of the person’s parents) rather than on a person’s actual accomplishments.

    If so, it’s somewhat misleading to say that US immigration standards that favor highly-educated or otherwise highly-skilled persons are using “eugenics”.


  2. Labor Lawyer: Eugenics has a bad reputation and rightly so because it is racist. It’s particularly abhorrent when it’s a governmental policy. But if the governmental policy is to admit under the H1-B visa program only those who possess high intelligence as evidenced by their knowledge and skills, isn’t that a form of selectivity too? I say that because those admitted will have children who have a high likelihood of inheriting their parents’ genes.


  3. To the extent that high intelligence is controlled genetically, an immigration standard that emphasized high intelligence could reasonably be described as based on eugenics. But, it’s obviously a big analytical step to say that high intelligence is controlled genetically. It’s extremely difficult — bordering on impossible — to tease out genetics from parenting/early-years-environment in assessing what controls intelligence. There just are not enough identical twins raised separately from birth to have run decent experiments (and the ones that have been run do a pretty poor job of assessing parenting/early-years-environment factors for the adoptive parents so even if Twin A and Twin B raised separately end up with the same IQ at age 25, it’s still hard to know whether it was their genes or similarities in parenting/early-years-environment factors that caused the IQs to be the same).


  4. Labor Lawyer: It’s hard to know with any degree of confidence whether genes or environment are primarily responsible for IQ. The debate unfortunately has become politicized.


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