Linda L. McCabe and Edward R.B. McCabe
UCLA Center for Society and Genetics, and Depts. of Human Genetics, Pediatrics, and Bioengineering
The Human Genome Project became a scientific icon in the latter 20th and the early 21st century, and its message was simple, reductionist and deterministic. For example, in 1989 James Watson stated, “We used to believe our destiny was in the stars; now we know in large measure our fate is in our genes.” Garland Allen has argued that the social, economic and political turbulence of today match the early 20th century, in a scientific context infused with genetic determinism. Progressivism responded to this turbulence, maintaining that science would improve efficiency, and the assertion that genetics could improve genetic outcomes for humans had strong appeal to those in the American Eugenics Movement (AEM). We will argue that the assertion of profound differences between perceived racial groups is a construct of genetic determinism, separates groups artificially, and denies the scientific data that indicate greater genetic differences within than between groups. The decisions made by health insurers to coerce pregnant women into having what they perceive to be a “well born” child clearly have eugenic features. Commodification of genetic testing, assisted reproductive technologies, and human organs begins to place an economic value on human life. These features, fueled by genetic determinism, place us at risk for a resurgence of eugenics, and we must be proactive to prevent this.