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"Eugenicists Hail Their Progress as Indicating Era of Supermen," New York Herald Tribune (1932), review of Third International Eugenics Congress (1)

"Eugenicists Hail Their Progress as Indicating Era of Supermen,"  New York Herald Tribune (1932), review of Third International Eugenics Congress (1)
Description:
"Eugenicists Hail Their Progress as Indicating Era of Supermen," New York Herald Tribune (1932), review of Third International Eugenics Congress (1)
Transcript:
1812. Major Darwin, who is the son of Charles Darwin, was unable to come to the congress because he is eighty-two years old. He presided at the first of these international gatherings and is still deeply interested in the progress of the work. His message was read last night by Dr. R. A. Fisher, of the Rothamisted Experiment Station, England, and was in part as follows: "My firm conviction is that if widespread eugenic reforms are not adopted during the next hundred years or so, our Western civilization is inevitably destined to such a slow and gradual decay as that which has been experienced in the past by every great ancient civilization. "The size and importance of the United States throws on you a special responsibility in your endeavors to safeguard the future of our race. Those who are attending your congress will be aiding in this endeavor, and though you will gain no thanks from your own generation, posterity will, I believe, learn to re-alize[sic] the great debt it owes to all the workers in this field." Osborn's Address Read Dr. William K. Gregory, director of anatomy at the museum, read Dr. Osborn's address because of his absence in the West, where he is working in the fossil fields. The subject was "Birth Selection Versus Birth Control." Not more but better Americans was Dr. Osborn's advice. He pointed out that birth selection was natural but that birth control, while undoubtedly beneficial in its original purpose, was fraught with danger to society at large and threatened rather than insured the upward ascent and evolution of the human race. This ascent, the paper went on, was the greatest responsibility held by biologists and eugenists today. He returned from his recent world tour, said Dr. Osborn, more impressed than ever with the Galtonian principle of 'not more but better and finer representation of every race.'' He defined the Simon pure American as a man with all the strong and all the weak points of the ancestral Nordic as well as of the more recent Alpine and Mediterranean stocks. "He is possessed of certain qualities which make him far inferior to men of other races, an inferiority which he should freely admit, and, as far as possible, rectify by education," Dr. Osborn pointed out. "He is now suffering severely from birth limitation which is seriously threatening the best strains of old American stock. He therefore needs to thoroughly understand the principles of birth selection rather than the principle of birth control. Indorses[sic] Galton View "With the picture of the world suffering acutely from dysgenic reproduction, from the multiplication of the incompetent, and the alarming increase in the power of the criminal class before me, I cannot refrain from expressing my deep conviction that, of all remedial and restorative agencies, the well understood and well applied principles of birth selection advocated by Galton, with birth control as a subsidiary principle, stand in the very front rank of progressive civilization." Dr. Osborn said that from unimpeachable statistics it had been found that two-children families were quite inadequate, three-children families fell short, and that an average of four was essential to obtain the perpetuation of a desirable family strain. "It has always required a cataclysm to force a natural law upon the attention of man," his address went on. "So in this world of cataclysm of overpopulation, of over-multiplication of the unfit and unintelligent, of the reign of terror of the criminal, of the tragedy of unemployment, eugenics ceases to be the cult of the few pioneers like Galton and Leonard Darwin; it is forced upon our attention. "Prisons, reformatories, asylums, great public financial offerings, great national and local appropriations, great tides of human kindness and generosity, are merely palliatives and temporary expedients. They may for a time gloss over the cataclysm; they cannot permanently cure it or avoid its recurrence." Only by birth selection, aided by birth control, could this end be achieved, Dr. Osborn declared, pointing out that this was the burden of his address and the keynote of the third congress of eugenists. He said, however, that his chief doubt in relation to the present birth control movement was that it was largely negative rather than positive and birth encouraging. On eugenic and evolutionary principles he was strongly opposed to many directions the movement was taking, he said, chiefly because he believed them to be fundamentally unnatural. Sir Bernard Mallet, of London, said that unfortunately it had to be recognized that little progress had yet been made in the direction of reducing the fertility of the undesirable elements in the population. "Birth control has so far acted dysgenically," he said, "by reducing the fertility of the better endowed strains, while leaving relatively unchanged the birth rate of those who are less fit for parentage. The eugenist regards a differential birth rate as radically harmful, but he is sometimes apt to create class prejudice by an unqualified assumption that the poor are necessarily less well endowed from a racial point of view than the well to do." The fall in the birth rate, resulting from the spread of contraceptive knowledge was perhaps the most momentous social and biological phenomenon of the time, Sir Bernard declared. Dr. Theodore Russell Robel said that the "greatest single cause of mental deficiency (from 50 to 65 per cent) was poor heredity." He pointed out that two notorious feeble-minded American families whose relief ultimately cost the government $2,000,000 could have been sterilized at the beginning for $150. Find Millions Deficient "There are 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 mentally deficient in the United States," he said. "and 14,000,000 mentally below average intelligence. The female intelligentsia marrying have only one-third as many children as other classes, and thus we are figuratively sterilizing the fittest." State payment of $50 a month to parents of good heredity when their third child reaches its fifth birthday and $10 or more for each additional child was advocated by Dr. Renato Kehl, of Rio de Janeiro. He also urged high inheritance taxes for families with few children and special reductions for large families. The necessity for reducing the number of feeble-minded, one of the main objectives of the congress, was summarized by Dr. J. H. Landman, of New York, who said: "The number of socially inadequate people in the United States is appalling. Families that send a child to an institution for feeble-mindedness average twice as many as those that send a child to a university. Estimates of the number of insane and mental defectives alone, according to the Human Betterment Foundation of Los Angeles, exceed 18,000,000 people in the United States." For the last forty years or more Americans have gone in increasingly for matrimony, contrary to the accepted belief, Dr. Landman pointed out. The percentage of married males in 1890 was 53.9 and in 1930 it was 60. The percentage of married women in 1890 was 56.8 and in 1930 it was 61.1. The program committee of the congress found alcohol "race poison," but took no stand for or against prohibition in its preliminary report read last night by Dr. J. Alfred Mjoen, of Oslo. "The committee decided to act as if deterioration of the germ plasm by syphilis and alcohol can take place, although opinion differs very strongly on this point," he said. The committee advocates introduction of the study of human biology and heredity in schools and universities, and urges a reform of the present "masculine education of women in order to make young girls more fit for motherhood." [end]
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