David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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SCIO 4:65-81 (2009)
On the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Laing contends that the practice of eugenics has not disappeared. Conceptually related to the utilitarian and Social Darwinist worldview and historically evolving out of the practice of slavery, it led to some of the most spectacular human rights abuses in human history. The compulsory sterilization of and experimentation on those deemed “undesirable” and “unfit” in many technologically developed states like the US, Scandinavia, and Japan, led inexorably and most systematically to Nazi Germany with the elimination of countless millions of people for their race, class, political views, sexuality, religion or disability. She argues that the new eugenics collapses into the old variety because of its fixation on producing “the better” or even more implausibly, “the best”. It was this very idea that drove much of the injustice of the twentieth century. Ethically questionable strategies were at the time viewed as progressive and socially evolutionary. The new eugenics, she thinks, fares no better and spells disaster for people regarded as deficient in some way. She rejects the idea that autonomous efforts to choose “better” or the “best” children are less problematic for being freely chosen. The fact that one freely chooses to give one’s children away into slavery or medical experimentation or to end one’s life, is no bar to the action’s being part of a eugenic agenda and independently at odds with intergenerational justice and the common good. She points out that misinformation, propaganda and behaviour modification techniques, subliminal or otherwise, are celebrated ways of getting people to act in a way that destroys their own interests. Laing regards eugenics as an ongoing threat to the defenceless in particular, but the ‘deficient’ classes more generally.
|Keywords||Eugenics Disability Human Rights Universal Declaration of Human Rights Euroepan Convention of Human Rights|
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