The New Eugenics: Engineering “Moral Enhancement” by embryo screening and selective abortion
Richard Weikart - September 19, 2012
Recently Oxford philosophy professor Julian Savulescu moved his campaign for “moral enhancement” out of the ivory tower and into the mainstream. This month Reader’s Digest is carrying his article, “It’s Our Duty to Have Designer Babies,” in which he promotes the idea that “people have a moral obligation to select ethically better children.” By select he means to screen embryos genetically to determine which will have superior moral traits.
As a historian, I find his suggestions troubling. They seem to parallel the misguided attempts of the eugenics movement of the early 20th century, which promoted the artificial selection of individuals by controlling reproduction. This led not only to compulsory sterilization laws in many U.S. states, but also to the Nazi campaign to kill the disabled, during which physicians murdered more than 200,000 people.
In his article Savulescu tries to assure us that the new eugenics that he is proposing is essentially different from the early eugenics movement. The objectionable feature of the early movement, he claims, was its compulsory nature, while the new eugenics is voluntary.