Thursday, September 15, 2005

Tomorrow's Children

Note how statistics is used as a "guess and cut" measure, and to error is to error on the side of guilt, against the accused. While we may not sterilize to the degree we once did, we do still use the same science of statistics to the same purpose. We threw away the literal scalpel, but kept the surgeon. A sharp tool since Galton's inception and promotion of eugenics was biometry. At the Biometric Laboratory, "The female mainstay of the staff was Ethel M. Elderton, who got her first training in statistics as a personal assistant to Galton" and who once asserted, "The calculus of correlations is the sole rational and effective method available to attacking...what makes for, and what mars nation fitness." (Kevles)

Statistics was, and still is, the chief tool of eugenics. Here is an exmple of how it was used then.

Tomorrow's Children: The Goal of Eugenics

by Ellsworth Huntington; J. Wiley & Sons, 1935


127. What are some of the criteria by which we can detect persons of such unstable temperament that efforts should be made to restrict their families?

Some of the chief criteria are chronic dependency, feeblemindedness, epilepsy, insanity, and crime especially when two or more of these are combined. Any of these may be of environmental origin, each one is in some cases related to heredity, and when two or more of them occur together, the chances that hereditary defects are present become fairly large.

128. To begin with the last and least significant criterion, how many criminals are confined in penal institutions in the United States?

About 184,000 (in 1934).

129. How many commitments to jail are there in the United States per year?

Over 650,000.

130. How do heredity and environment both play a part in crime?

Chiefly through temperamental instability which makes it hard for the individual to resist the urge of his environment.

131. Are all criminals likely to inherit temperamental instability and to transmit it to their children?

By no means. Under the stress of extreme conditions of environment almost anyone may become a criminal. As a rule criminals do not exhibit any definitely recognizable psychosis, or disease of the mind. Nevertheless, criminal tendencies seem to run in certain families and continue from generation to generation in a way that strongly suggests an inheritance of excessive emotional instability, or lack of will power. No matter whether such a condition is the result of heredity or environment, or of both, as is probable, it is not advisable for such families to have children. Their living members should be treated with the utmost kindness, but their disabilities should die with them.

132. Is chronic dependency a sign of defective inheritance?

The situation is the same as with crime except that the part played by environment is apparently less, and that played by inherited lack of intelligence, will power, and the capacity for coordination is greater.

133. How many persons are segregated in state institutions for the feeble-minded and epileptics?

About 90,000 (in 1934).

134. Do these comprise all the persons in the United States who are so feeble-minded that they need institutional care?

They comprise only a small fraction. The estimates run from 400,000 to 2,000,000. The report of the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection states that among children alone 850,000 are definitely feeble-minded and 150,000 are epileptic. This would mean about 2,000,000 of all ages.

135. How many insane persons are there in institutions in the United States?

About 320,000 (in 1934).

136. How does the number of mental defectives in institutions and homes compare with that of college and university students?

The number of defectives is much greater.

137. Is it right for epileptic, feeble-minded, and insane persons to have children?

Sometimes such defects are of purely environmental origin. It is very difficult, however, to be sure of this, and there is always danger that insane or defective persons may transmit temperamental or intellectual weaknesses which will make it difficult for their children to meet the battle of life successfully. Moreover, the likelihood that such children will be poorly trained is very great. What kind of home influences can one expect where either parent is epileptic, feeble-minded, or insane? Therefore, no matter what the cause of these defects may be, common prudence makes it advisable that even the doubtful cases should have no children unless there is clear evidence that they will be desirable parents.


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