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In the second decade of the twentieth century, an idea became all too fashionable among those who feel it is their right to set social trends. Wealthy families took it on as a pet cause, generously bankrolling its research. The New York Times praised it as a wonderful "new science." Scientists, such as the brilliant plant biologist, Luther Burbank, praised it unashamedly. In the second decade of the twentieth century, an idea became all too fashionable among those who feel it is their right to set social trends. Wealthy families took it on as a pet cause, generously bankrolling its research. The New York Times praised it as a wonderful "new science." Scientists, such as the brilliant plant biologist, Luther Burbank, praised it unashamedly. Educators as prominent as Charles Elliot, President of Harvard University, promoted it as a solution to social ills. America's public schools did their part. In the 1920s, almost three-fourths of high school social science textbooks taught its principles. Not to be outdone, judges and physicians called for those principles to be enshrined into law. Congress agree, passing the 1924 immigration law to exclude from American shores the people of Eastern and Southern Europe that the idea branded as inferior. In 1927, the U. S. Supreme Court joined the chorus, ruling by a lopsided vote of 8 to 1 that the sterilization of unwilling men and women was constitutional. That idea was eugenics and in the English-speaking world it had virtually no critics among the "chattering classes." When he wrote this book, Chesterton stood virtually alone against the intellectual world of his day. Yet to his eternal credit, he showed no sign of being intimidated by the prestige of his foes. On the contrary, he thunders against eugenics, ranking it one of the great evils of modern society. And, in perhaps one of the most chillingly accurate prophecies of the century, he warns that the ideas that eugenics had unleashed were likely to bear bitter fruit in another nation. That nation was Germany, the "very land of scientific culture from which the ideal of a Superman had come." In fact, the very group that Nazism tried to exterminate, Eastern European Jews, and the group it targeted for later extermination, the Slavs, were two of those whose biological unfitness eugenists sought so eagerly to confirm.


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In the second decade of the twentieth century, an idea became all too fashionable among those who feel it is their right to set social trends. Wealthy families took it on as a pet cause, generously bankrolling its research. The New York Times praised it as a wonderful "new science." Scientists, such as the brilliant plant biologist, Luther Burbank, praised it unashamedly. In the second decade of the twentieth century, an idea became all too fashionable among those who feel it is their right to set social trends. Wealthy families took it on as a pet cause, generously bankrolling its research. The New York Times praised it as a wonderful "new science." Scientists, such as the brilliant plant biologist, Luther Burbank, praised it unashamedly. Educators as prominent as Charles Elliot, President of Harvard University, promoted it as a solution to social ills. America's public schools did their part. In the 1920s, almost three-fourths of high school social science textbooks taught its principles. Not to be outdone, judges and physicians called for those principles to be enshrined into law. Congress agree, passing the 1924 immigration law to exclude from American shores the people of Eastern and Southern Europe that the idea branded as inferior. In 1927, the U. S. Supreme Court joined the chorus, ruling by a lopsided vote of 8 to 1 that the sterilization of unwilling men and women was constitutional. That idea was eugenics and in the English-speaking world it had virtually no critics among the "chattering classes." When he wrote this book, Chesterton stood virtually alone against the intellectual world of his day. Yet to his eternal credit, he showed no sign of being intimidated by the prestige of his foes. On the contrary, he thunders against eugenics, ranking it one of the great evils of modern society. And, in perhaps one of the most chillingly accurate prophecies of the century, he warns that the ideas that eugenics had unleashed were likely to bear bitter fruit in another nation. That nation was Germany, the "very land of scientific culture from which the ideal of a Superman had come." In fact, the very group that Nazism tried to exterminate, Eastern European Jews, and the group it targeted for later extermination, the Slavs, were two of those whose biological unfitness eugenists sought so eagerly to confirm.

30 review for Eugenics and Other Evils: An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized State

  1. 4 out of 5

    Leonard Gaya

    Since prehistorical times, humans have been domesticating and breeding animals, selecting the individuals they liked the best and shaping species to their own needs. That’s how we got cats, dogs, pigs, cows and the rest. Perplexingly enough, I don’t know that humans have ever thought of designing their own species in the same fashion. That’s until recently. That idea started to arise around the turn of the 19th century when Western religions were on the wane, and a new belief in human progress w Since prehistorical times, humans have been domesticating and breeding animals, selecting the individuals they liked the best and shaping species to their own needs. That’s how we got cats, dogs, pigs, cows and the rest. Perplexingly enough, I don’t know that humans have ever thought of designing their own species in the same fashion. That’s until recently. That idea started to arise around the turn of the 19th century when Western religions were on the wane, and a new belief in human progress was spawning in the minds of a few forward-thinking philosophers. Not least of them, Friedrich Nietzsche. One somewhat debatable way to look at Nietzsche’s idea of the Übermensch is to think of it as an “improved” version of the human type that we know. And one fallacious way to improve this human type is to select and scientifically design the individuals we deem fittest... But fittest to what end? This topic was already in the air since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but it ended being quite fashionable and much written about in the first half of the 20th century. H.G. Wells imagined how vivisection could lead to a new sort of hybrid — and quite frankly shocking — human beast in The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896). Aldous Huxley opened his novel Brave New World (1932) with an incubator, where human foetuses were being fashioned inside artificial wombs, to become this or that kind of individual, according to the needs of society. In his political essay, Eugenics and Other Evils, G.K. Chesterton weighs in on this debate, with his usual wit. In his time, eugenics mainly translated into controlling marriages (say, pairing Melania Trump with Slavoj Žižek and hoping to get tall blond children with exceptional talking abilities — or forbidding them to pair lest they beget nincompoop and twitch-riddled gnomes with a lisp instead!). Indeed, it seems the British MPs of the time were considering in earnest the possibility to translate such a project into law. But in Chesterton’s view, the aim of the people who vindicate eugenics “is to prevent any person whom these propagandists do not happen to think intelligent from having any wife or children. Every tramp who is sulky, every labourer who is shy, every rustic who is eccentric, can quite easily be brought under such conditions as were designed for homicidal maniacs” (p. 10). A eugenics regulation would have opened the door to all sorts of abuse and segregation against the disadvantaged, the ill, the disabled or simply anyone who opposed or didn’t fall into the normative categories defined by a ruling elite. Eugenics is a way to “nip in the bud” all forms of humanity that do not comply with the standard values, and breed a herd of regimented and docile human cattle. Only a few years after GKC published this little book, the Nazi party in Germany decided to implement a project of this kind. And while they were considering the extermination of jews, gipsies and gays, they simultaneously established the Lebensborn, a eugenics endeavour based on the idea of “racial hygiene”. It ended, of course, in utter catastrophe and no eugenics project has ever since been considered without severe mistrust. But, with the current developments in genomics and artificial reproduction, coupled with the underlying desire of the public to commodify and “optimise” people’s traits and abilities, to shape them in conformity with an ideal of success and happiness, eugenics might well become a popular topic again. Not a reassuring one.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    For the most part, eugenics has receded as a respectable academic discipline. But while one would have a hard time finding blatant exponents of the idea of eugenics, the principles of eugenics are very much alive today. The common misconception is that they died with Nazism, but even a cursory glance at the social and political landscape proves that to be false. So, while much has been done to discredit eugenics, its spectre still hovers around us today, threatening to snatch up the wage-earners, For the most part, eugenics has receded as a respectable academic discipline. But while one would have a hard time finding blatant exponents of the idea of eugenics, the principles of eugenics are very much alive today. The common misconception is that they died with Nazism, but even a cursory glance at the social and political landscape proves that to be false. So, while much has been done to discredit eugenics, its spectre still hovers around us today, threatening to snatch up the wage-earners, the poor, those in debt, and those considered feeble. I think, though, that as racism declines, the eugenicist will be more influenced by the net worth of the so-called “undesirables” and not their skin colour. Indeed, Chesterton even began to note this himself, a hundred years ago. It should be said of Chesterton that he was challenging eugenics when few others were. H G Wells, who enjoys more fame than his jovial contemporary, was a proponent. Certain Canadian provincial governments were involved in the forced sterilization of “undesirables.” Before Hitler, before the grisly details of Auschwitz and the other camps were engraved in the collective brain of Western society, eugenics was quite popular. And it was Chesterton, ever forward-thinking and prophetic and astute, who took eugenics to task before Hitler even applied to art school. Chesterton’s critique centre on the reality of economic injustice in late-19th and early-20th century England, and how poverty (the primary targets of eugenics being the poor) had little to do with genetics and more to do with poisonous and destructive economic policies.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Egerer

    I was under the impression that this was a book about eugenics, and it was -- but it was also a beautiful defense of property rights, a powerful assault on plutocratic elitism, and an unusually compassionate statement about the dignity and difficult position of the post-Victorian working poor. I expected little from this book, since I bought it on a whim, and it turned out to be one of my favorites. Useful as a balance against Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness. I was under the impression that this was a book about eugenics, and it was -- but it was also a beautiful defense of property rights, a powerful assault on plutocratic elitism, and an unusually compassionate statement about the dignity and difficult position of the post-Victorian working poor. I expected little from this book, since I bought it on a whim, and it turned out to be one of my favorites. Useful as a balance against Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness.

  4. 4 out of 5

    D.M. Dutcher

    Don't be fooled by the title or how old this book is. It is an amazing takedown of the entire basis of eugenic thought as well as a profound argument against unregulated capitalism. It not only does those, but highlight problem after problem that you never have even considered before. And it was done contra mundi, during a time when eugenics was considered even more respectable than evolution is today. It doesn't do the book justice to summarize its many arguments, but I'll list a few just to giv Don't be fooled by the title or how old this book is. It is an amazing takedown of the entire basis of eugenic thought as well as a profound argument against unregulated capitalism. It not only does those, but highlight problem after problem that you never have even considered before. And it was done contra mundi, during a time when eugenics was considered even more respectable than evolution is today. It doesn't do the book justice to summarize its many arguments, but I'll list a few just to give an idea. -that it impossible to be a eugenicist because while sickness is the same among all men, health is if anything a balance specific to each type. It's easy to diagnose a broken leg, but how can you diagnose a healthy one? Or define it? -that eugenicists often argue that poverty and the moral dissolution that comes from it are reasons to use eugenics, but they unconsciously believe that the poor's poverty is always fixed and will or even should ever change. He argues damningly that the reasons why the rich embrace this is because their wealth is dependent on keeping other men poor and beaten down so they can accept starvation wages. -That eugenics and its mindset are negative without positive, and mad. A master tells a slave he may sleep here and no other place, or he will kill him. A eugenicist tells a tramp that he cannot sleep in the park or the woods, but refuses to give him any place to sleep at all. The master treats his slave harshly, denying him liberty, but at least he treats him as a living being. The eugenicist treats him as a mass, or a thing. It's all done in Chesterton's signature style: clear, lucid, using paradox and example. It's not just attacking eugenics, but the foundations of modern capitalism and law that create the conditions for it, and it's sure to challenge anyone regardless of their political persuasion. The physical book also adds appendixes that show just how prevalent eugenic thought was. Chesterton was one of the few voices in opposition of it, and you'd be not a little horrified at the abyss we nearly descended into. Whether reading it free or buying the paperback it's well worth it. A timeless treasure that is even more relevant today than then.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Skylar Burris

    Chesterton began this book in the 1910’s, before eugenics realized its full horror in the holocaust, but it is a disturbingly prophetic and surprisingly poignant book even in our own day. What makes this book so arresting is that it is about far more than eugenics: it is about how evil succeeds subtly, about politics, and about economics. Especially interesting was Chesterton's categorization of the four types of defenders of eugenics, because these categories can apply to the defenders of a gre Chesterton began this book in the 1910’s, before eugenics realized its full horror in the holocaust, but it is a disturbingly prophetic and surprisingly poignant book even in our own day. What makes this book so arresting is that it is about far more than eugenics: it is about how evil succeeds subtly, about politics, and about economics. Especially interesting was Chesterton's categorization of the four types of defenders of eugenics, because these categories can apply to the defenders of a great many social policies, past and present, and they describe well the various kinds of insufficient arguments used in political discourse. There are the Euphemists, who do not call a policy by its real name or speak of it in blunt language, but use scientific terminology and much verbosity to disguise its more disturbing ramifications. (“I mean merely that short words startle them, while long words soothe them. And they are utterly incapable of translating the one into the other, however obviously they mean the same thing. Say to them ‘The persuasive and even coercive powers of the citizen should enable him to make sure that the burden of longevity in the previous generation does not become disproportionate and intolerable,…’; say this to them and they will sway slightly to and fro like babies sent to sleep in cradles. Say to them, ‘Murder your mother,’ and they sit up quite suddenly. Yet the two sentences, in cold logic, are exactly the same.”) Then there are the Casuists, who equate their more disturbing policies with much more limited policies and suggest that if you permit the one, you must concede the other. (“Suppose I say, ‘I dislike this spread of Cannibalism in the West End restaurants.’ Somebody is sure to say, ‘Well, after all, Queen Eleanor when she sucked blood from her husband’s arm was a cannibal.’ What is one to say to such people? One can only say, ‘Confine yourself to sucking poisoned blood from people’s arms, and I permit you to call yourself by the glorious title of Cannibal.’”) Next are the Autocrats, who trust that their proposed reforms will, despite all possible concerns, work out okay, because they’ll be there to make sure they work out okay. (“Where they will be, and for how long, they do not explain very clearly…And these people most certainly propose to be responsible for a whole movement after it has left their hands.”) Then there are the Endeavourers, who optimistically rely on their honest attempts to deal with a problem, without bothering to determine what the effects of their policies will be. (“[T:]he best thing the honest Endeavourer could do would be to make an honest attempt to know what he is doing. And not to do anything else until he has found out.”) Finally, there is a category “so hopeless and futile” that Chesterton says he cannot think of a name for them. “But whenever anyone attempts to argue rationally for or against any existent and recognizable thing, such as [a specific piece of:] legislation, there are always people who begin to chop hay about Socialism and Individualism; and say, ‘YOU object to all State interference…’” But, Chesterton insists, “I am not going to be turned from the discussion of that direct issue to bottomless botherations about Socialism and Individualism, or the relative advantages of always turning to the right and always turning to the left.” Chesterton offers insight, too, into how tyranny develops, how “the excuse for the last oppression will always serve as well for the next oppression.” And he predicts a state that is on its way to arriving, and has, in small part, already arrived: “our civilization will find itself in an interesting situation, not without humour; in which the citizen is still supposed to wield imperial powers over the ends of the earth, but has admittedly no power over his own body and soul at all. He will still be consulted by politicians about whether opium is good for China-men, but not about whether ale is good for him. He will be cross-examined for his opinions about the danger of allowing Kamskatka to have a war-fleet, but not about allowing his own child to have a wooden sword.” I credit Chesterton with partly revising my view of Socialism, which I have always seen as a system that, unlike Capitalism, does not take into account the fact of original sin (and therefore assumes that a redistribution of wealth could actually work without causing many to stop working altogether). While I still think socialism overlooks human motivations, and that, practically speaking, Capitalism makes better outcomes of a fallen world, I can now agree with Chesterton that Socialism is not actually (as I formerly believed) a system founded primarily on naïve optimism. “The Socialist system,” he writes, “in a more special sense than any other, is founded not on optimism but on original sin. It proposes that the State, as the conscience of the community, should possess all primary forms of property; and that obviously on the ground that men cannot be trusted to own or barter or combine or compete without injury to themselves. Just as a State might own all the guns lest people should shoot each other, so this State would own all the gold and land lest they should cheat or rackrent or exploit each other….it seems almost incredible that anybody ever thought it optimistic.” The problem, of course, is that the State too is composed of fallen men. Socialism and Capitalism are both, Chesterton argues, types of prisons, but at least in the prison of Capitalism, there is more chance of escape. “Capitalism is a corrupt prison. That is the best that can be said for Capitalism. But it is something to be said for it; for a man is a little freer in that corrupt prison than he would be in a complete prison. As a man can find one jailer more lax than another, so he could find one employer more kind than another; he has at least a choice of tyrants.” In a Socialist system, however, “he finds the same tyrant at every turn.” In any event, we now have neither Socialism nor Capitalism, but a horrid compromise, which Chesterton describes well: “It may be said of Socialism, therefore, that its friends recommended it as increasing equality, while its foes resisted it as decreasing liberty….The compromise eventually made was one of the most interesting and even curious cases in history. It was decided to do everything that had ever been denounced in Socialism, and nothing that had ever been desired in it…we proceeded to prove that it was possible to sacrifice liberty without gaining equality….In short, people decided that it was impossible to achieve any of the good of Socialism, but they comforted themselves by achieving all the bad.” Sometimes Chesterton requires great patience to follow. He will move from medieval planning to the American colonies to Shakespeare to the French War in a matter of pages, and one cannot help but wonder, “Where is this going? What does this have to do with the topic of his book?” But if you are patient, the connections do come, and they are often rewarding. And there is always wit sprinkled throughout his work; even while reading a volume on so serious and heavy a topic as “Eugenics and other evils,” I found myself laughing out loud.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    Chesterton at his most lucid and persuasive, arguing forcefully against post-WWI British schemes to establish legal eugenics regimes. (The same thing was going on in the US at the same time, culminating in the Eugenics Society’s notorious 1927 test case Buck v. Bell, which went all the way to the Supreme Court and resulted in a decision upholding mandatory sterilization laws for the “feebleminded,” a decision encapsulated in one of the most mean-spirited court opinions in the Court’s history, au Chesterton at his most lucid and persuasive, arguing forcefully against post-WWI British schemes to establish legal eugenics regimes. (The same thing was going on in the US at the same time, culminating in the Eugenics Society’s notorious 1927 test case Buck v. Bell, which went all the way to the Supreme Court and resulted in a decision upholding mandatory sterilization laws for the “feebleminded,” a decision encapsulated in one of the most mean-spirited court opinions in the Court’s history, authored by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.) Chesterton argues that eugenicist advocates are overenthusiastic about an untested and highly theoretical “science,” that they cannot possibly have the iron grasp on heredity that they claim, and that the legal measures proposed for the implementation of their plans will create a division of haves and have-nots more cold blooded and brutal than anything established by the spoliations of late nineteenth century industrial capitalism. Urban industrialism and the cruelties of commercialism have already robbed the poor of their dignity and their private property, he argues, so the plans of the eugenists to take away even the family and the freedom to choose a mate and be fruitful—one of the only licit pleasures left to the proletariat, he notes—is both of a piece with modern social Darwinism and an unprecedented monstrosity. If the hubris and cruelty of the eugenics movement are staggering, even more so are their condescension to the poor, whom they propose to help by slowly winnowing them, and their lack of awareness of their own elitism, as they are never the object of their proposed plans but, should they get their way, the autocratic enforcers. Chesterton rightly discerns that the cult of the expert—a fin de siecle obsession that has never really left us—is ultimately about establishing an unaccountable new hierarchy of powerful elites. Chesterton’s arguments strikingly anticipate the shape of much modern argument about issues like abortion on demand and other bioethical questions—not to mention the rise of divorce, the establishment of intrusive state-mandated medical regulations, and the confiscation of children by the state on grounds of hygiene or ever shifting psychological criteria—and his arguments against “scientific” interference with birth as well as birth control and the ever more intrusive top-down government control of everyday life feel very prescient indeed. Not everything in the book is on target. His lengthy tangent on capitalism—a favorite Chesterton hobbyhorse—feels too much like a tangent, but where he strikes home, he’s excellent, and his feel for the larger underlying assumptions of the issues of the day make this lesser known book still shockingly relevant. I first read this probably a decade ago. I’ve just listened to the excellent audiobook read by Derek Perkins. I recommend it, though a print edition with minor annotations to explain who some of the now more obscure figures of the Edwardian eugenics movement may be preferable.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    If a gross injustice appeared disguised in scientific lingo and talk of progress, would I recognize it for what it is? That was the question I had in mind as I started this book. I greatly admire Chesterton and his contemporaries for recognizing eugenics for the monster it was, and without the benefit of hindsight. Few writers can make me feel so utterly uneducated and dimwitted as Chesterton can. But somehow the challenge is rewarding rather than defeating. This book challenged my views on the If a gross injustice appeared disguised in scientific lingo and talk of progress, would I recognize it for what it is? That was the question I had in mind as I started this book. I greatly admire Chesterton and his contemporaries for recognizing eugenics for the monster it was, and without the benefit of hindsight. Few writers can make me feel so utterly uneducated and dimwitted as Chesterton can. But somehow the challenge is rewarding rather than defeating. This book challenged my views on the proper role of government, science, and medicine in society. One example: he argues that to make vagrancy a crime is lunacy-- circumstances conspire to take away a man's home, so we lock him up for the crime of not having one. He also argues that the capitalist/industrial system had taken all the bad parts of socialism without the more positive aspects. Provocative stuff, particularly in today's political climate. I am still processing his arguments and expect to re-read this at some point.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jesse Broussard

    I write down commonplaces as I read books: little items worthy, as N. D. Wilson said, of imitation and remembrance. I have several of these empty, unlined notebooks filled, and have broken tradition with Chesterton in not actually keeping track. With Tolkien, I devoted an entire commonplace book. With Chesterton, I'm not even going to bother trying. His complete works are contained in 37 (or more) large volumes put out by Ignatius Press, and I will just have to allow that to be my Chesterton com I write down commonplaces as I read books: little items worthy, as N. D. Wilson said, of imitation and remembrance. I have several of these empty, unlined notebooks filled, and have broken tradition with Chesterton in not actually keeping track. With Tolkien, I devoted an entire commonplace book. With Chesterton, I'm not even going to bother trying. His complete works are contained in 37 (or more) large volumes put out by Ignatius Press, and I will just have to allow that to be my Chesterton commonplace book, though I will continue adding in some of his best. This book, Eugenics and Other Evils, is about what it says it's about, which is odd enough, as Chesterton stays remarkably and uncharacteristically on topic. I think having a target to dismantle has something to do with it, but not really a whole lot, as he proves the impossibility of Eugenics in a single sentence somewhere towards the middle of the book. The other possibility is that his topic is a large enough cage for his mind to momentarily content itself within its confines, which seems more realistic. Chesterton is always sheer delight to read, always fun, always unbelievably brilliant and flippant and enormous, but I had rarely encountered him with an axe in his hand, and he proves Lewis right: for the child with an axe, the joy is in chopping. This book could has a great deal of writing against government interference in the private sphere, and is written defending the old ways, the noble and chivalrous ways over and against the new ways, the stainless steel and minds too close to Saruman's in their obsession with wheels and machines. The eugenist desires to improve the overall quality of life in the same way that Nietschze did, simply a bit earlier. Instead of letting the diseased and weak die, the eugenist just ensures that they aren't ever born by preventing those genetically prone to weakness and disease from breeding, which was a staggeringly popular idea. Indeed, it was the single driving influence in the life of the one person whose effect in our century alone has outweighed Stalin, Lenin, Hitler, Pol Pot and every other dictator we've seen. This person has caused more deaths than all of our enlightened genocides and all of the the Medieaval plagues. Combined. Eugenics was the inspiration of that madonna of death, Margaret Sanger. And we think eugenics is a bad joke. In reality, it was a very good joke, an evil joke, but skillful, and we are the punchline, though it turned out to be more indiscriminate than was originally intended. Perhaps I've read too much Chesterton: I'm acquiring his habits without the skill. Or perhaps I've been up too long. A book review has turned into a tirade against Planned Parenthood. Blame it on whatever you like; I'll rectify it here: the book was magnificent, and I'm going to bed.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Manuel Alfonseca

    ENGLISH: At first I thought that this book would be outdated, as Eugenics, which was a problem in 1917, when the book was written, would no longer be a problem. But then, in the second part, I saw that just the name has been abandoned, due to the fact that Hitler appropriated it, but the contents are still outstanding. In fact, Eugenics, which at the time Chesterton was writing was a capitalist conspiracy to keep the lower classes controlled, is now a capitalist conspiracy to keep the world popu ENGLISH: At first I thought that this book would be outdated, as Eugenics, which was a problem in 1917, when the book was written, would no longer be a problem. But then, in the second part, I saw that just the name has been abandoned, due to the fact that Hitler appropriated it, but the contents are still outstanding. In fact, Eugenics, which at the time Chesterton was writing was a capitalist conspiracy to keep the lower classes controlled, is now a capitalist conspiracy to keep the world population controlled. The world powers (namely big financiers such as Soros, and the governments of the European countries, either socialist or rightist) have taken control of the U.N. and are pushing and putting pressure for abortion, euthanasia and homosexuality in the Third World countries so as to control their population. Seen at this light, Chesterton's book is tragically up to date, although the terminology he uses and the actual examples he gives may be outdated. ESPAÑOL: Al principio pensé que este libro estaría pasado de moda, ya que la Eugenesia, que era un problema en 1917, cuando se escribió el libro, habría dejado de serlo. Pero al llegar a la segunda parte, vi que el nombre ha sido abandonado, porque Hitler se lo apropió, pero el contenido aún está al día. De hecho, la Eugenesia, que en el momento en que Chesterton escribía era una conspiración capitalista para mantener controladas a las clases bajas, ahora es una conspiración capitalista para mantener controlada a la población mundial. Las potencias mundiales (los grandes financieros como Soros y los gobiernos de los países europeos, ya sean socialistas o de derechas) han tomado el control de la ONU y están presionando para imponer el aborto, la eutanasia y la homosexualidad en los países del Tercer Mundo, a fin de controlar su población. Visto a esta luz, el libro de Chesterton está trágicamente al día, aunque la terminología que emplea y los ejemplos concretos que da no estén actualizados.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sincerae

    I love old, forgotten, underrated books which present good to excellent pictures of now. Eugenics and Other Evils was published back in 1922 at the beginning of the last century and here we are almost a century later still wrangling over these same issues and heading down the same wrong road, still can't get it right. Ah, humanity.... Quo vadis? (Latin: Where are you going?) And no, I don't really know any Latin. I enjoyed this book. G.K. Chesterton, theologian, philosopher, poet, journalist, et I love old, forgotten, underrated books which present good to excellent pictures of now. Eugenics and Other Evils was published back in 1922 at the beginning of the last century and here we are almost a century later still wrangling over these same issues and heading down the same wrong road, still can't get it right. Ah, humanity.... Quo vadis? (Latin: Where are you going?) And no, I don't really know any Latin. I enjoyed this book. G.K. Chesterton, theologian, philosopher, poet, journalist, etc. of the detective series, Father Brown, takes the subject of eugenics (population control), the impoverished, and some of the -isms and presents essays of debate and wit linking them all together. I hope to read more of his works. Eugenics and Other Evils can be read free online at the following. http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/25308 https://archive.org/details/cu3192401...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nick Davies

    Not without some merit, but overall a disappointingly muddled work. I was hoping for more of a reasoned and insightful discussion of the evils of eugenics, but what this is.. it's an interesting opinion piece with some creative condemnations of the Social Darwinism of the first quarter of the 20th Century, but a hideous and oddly unconvincing mess overall. This despite some prescient points made in advance of the rise of Nazi ideologies in the 1930s. Chesterton is obviously a prodigious and artis Not without some merit, but overall a disappointingly muddled work. I was hoping for more of a reasoned and insightful discussion of the evils of eugenics, but what this is.. it's an interesting opinion piece with some creative condemnations of the Social Darwinism of the first quarter of the 20th Century, but a hideous and oddly unconvincing mess overall. This despite some prescient points made in advance of the rise of Nazi ideologies in the 1930s. Chesterton is obviously a prodigious and artistic writer. There was a lot of this which was delightfully described, some examples in lovely prose which demonstrate the author's ability to weave a little narrative, to create a small example scenario to elicit the reader's particular emotion. Alas there is a lot of this that becomes patronising or falls easily in to the socialist trap of assuming every rich man is undeservingly wealthy and every poor man is subjugated and disenfranchised. It is not as simple as that. Essentially the problem with the book is that it seeks to refute eugenics (which many would of course now agree is an evil) but that in my opinion it fails to do so by a lack of evidence. Chesterton attacks various contemporaries - getting a bit bitchy at times - but only has imagined and created counter-examples as justification. He may be very right, but from my point of view he does not demonstrate that he is, he merely appeals to emotional and moral arguments (hence, stuff which is a matter of opinion) as opposed to factual reasoning. The use of religious justifications were utterly wasted on me as an atheist. Consequently this did not add a lot to my knowledge of the complicated interplay between science, sociology, politics and ethics which should inform social policy. As a study in to the views of a number of people a century ago, however, it does make for an interesting read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David

    This book was truly prophetic. George Bernard Shaw said of G.K. Chesterton "he was a man of colossal genius"-- he most certainly was. But Chesterton was beyond intelligent. He was wise. That is, he had a firm grasp on human nature. He represented the absolute best side of cynicism and while he may have been a cynic, Chesterton was not a pessimist. His social commentary was priceless, not to mention way ahead of its time. To my knowledge, Chesterton was the one of the only voices at the time to spe This book was truly prophetic. George Bernard Shaw said of G.K. Chesterton "he was a man of colossal genius"-- he most certainly was. But Chesterton was beyond intelligent. He was wise. That is, he had a firm grasp on human nature. He represented the absolute best side of cynicism and while he may have been a cynic, Chesterton was not a pessimist. His social commentary was priceless, not to mention way ahead of its time. To my knowledge, Chesterton was the one of the only voices at the time to speak out against eugenics; certainly he was the only voice who spoke loudly. It is simultaneously frightening, amusing, and enlightening how much the world of today is like the world of yesterday. So many of the issues he grapples with here (personal liberty, the state, socialism etc.) -- are the same issues we face today. Of course, there are no easy answers and this is exactly what society must come to understand. Taking polarized sides and arbitrary stances won’t solve anything in the long run. Rather than bypassing intelligent discourse (which may be uncomfortable at times) in favor of a superficial examination and quick fixes, we should exercise our brains a little more often -- yes, I said 'should'. Reading this, I could not help but think (and laugh) of South Park and the whole "Rabble, Rabble, Rabble!" of the masses. SO true. While we have learned much about the humane genome and nature/nurture since then, it's amazing how Chesterton captured the essence of what was essentially to come. He did not deny hereditary or our ability to influence it, but he did deny our ability to control it to the extent eugenics would have had us thought possible.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brent McCulley

    Chesterton was a literary genius. His satirical prose and command of the paradox leads the reader dumbfounded how anyone could accept the tenants that Chesterton argues against in his Eugenics and Other Evils. Don't be fooled by the age of this book; the eugenics movement has notgone away, it has just changed its shape and name. Things like state-run birth control and abortion may have been theory back in the late 19th century, but they currently are our reality. Chesterton was ahead of his time, Chesterton was a literary genius. His satirical prose and command of the paradox leads the reader dumbfounded how anyone could accept the tenants that Chesterton argues against in his Eugenics and Other Evils. Don't be fooled by the age of this book; the eugenics movement has notgone away, it has just changed its shape and name. Things like state-run birth control and abortion may have been theory back in the late 19th century, but they currently are our reality. Chesterton was ahead of his time, writing during the early 20th century, Chesterton would not live to see the horrors that eugenic ideals can lead to; viz., National Socialism in Germany and the morally repugnant programs conducted by Nazi scientists. Elegant and sardonic, Eugenics and Other Evils is one giant argument ad absurdum - to which I agree wholeheartedly and completely with Gilbert. Brent McCulley (11/13/2013)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Johanna

    A bit lengthy, but compelling none the less. It is terrifying to think that such evil people existed, and perhaps even more terrifying that they still exist today, masquerading their cold-blooded intents under the guise of science and the "betterment" of human society. If you thought that eugenics and ethnic cleansing ended with the nazis, take a close look at the major heads of the green movement. Many are calling for a culling of the human race, and where else would they start but with the sic A bit lengthy, but compelling none the less. It is terrifying to think that such evil people existed, and perhaps even more terrifying that they still exist today, masquerading their cold-blooded intents under the guise of science and the "betterment" of human society. If you thought that eugenics and ethnic cleansing ended with the nazis, take a close look at the major heads of the green movement. Many are calling for a culling of the human race, and where else would they start but with the sick and disabled. How is it that in a world where we pride ourselves on being so compassionate and tolerant, there can be such a horrific and outright evil way of thought? Interesting, frightening, very important to read and learn the history about.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    It's amazing how many topics that Chesterton tackled are still with us today. They have different names, but the concepts are still there. I think his main point is the dignity and worth and value of every living soul. No one has the right to trample on the rights of others, even in the name of "helping" them. Some of the allusions are out-dated now, but Chesterton is always biting and bright. It's amazing how many topics that Chesterton tackled are still with us today. They have different names, but the concepts are still there. I think his main point is the dignity and worth and value of every living soul. No one has the right to trample on the rights of others, even in the name of "helping" them. Some of the allusions are out-dated now, but Chesterton is always biting and bright.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    This book, like Chesterton's Orthodoxy, is a collection of arguments and speeches given in response to the assertions of leading eugenics supporters in England in the 1920s. Many of his thoughts apply to today's battles over abortion and contraception and the government's role in providing them. Chesterton makes a clear and powerful reasoning for keeping the grasping government's hand out of the individual's most private life. This book, like Chesterton's Orthodoxy, is a collection of arguments and speeches given in response to the assertions of leading eugenics supporters in England in the 1920s. Many of his thoughts apply to today's battles over abortion and contraception and the government's role in providing them. Chesterton makes a clear and powerful reasoning for keeping the grasping government's hand out of the individual's most private life.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Morris Nelms

    I listened to David Grizzly Smith's excellent audio podcast of this book, available from Podiobooks.com. I enjoy Chesterton, and I have yet to read anything by him that is less than excellent. This one is scathing and very serious, even though his trademark humor often appears. He takes aim at some surprising targets. In some cases, his critiques left me stunned because they were so unexpected. Brilliant and still relevant. I listened to David Grizzly Smith's excellent audio podcast of this book, available from Podiobooks.com. I enjoy Chesterton, and I have yet to read anything by him that is less than excellent. This one is scathing and very serious, even though his trademark humor often appears. He takes aim at some surprising targets. In some cases, his critiques left me stunned because they were so unexpected. Brilliant and still relevant.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Hope

    Chesterton can be frustratingly obtuse and then suddenly brilliantly clear. I wished for more of the latter in this book. He argues against eugenics (not only birth control for the poor or feeble-minded, but also the calculated "breeding" of more favorable human specimens) using the arguments of human dignity and human freedom. The other "evils" of the title are socialism and unbridled capitalism. Chesterton can be frustratingly obtuse and then suddenly brilliantly clear. I wished for more of the latter in this book. He argues against eugenics (not only birth control for the poor or feeble-minded, but also the calculated "breeding" of more favorable human specimens) using the arguments of human dignity and human freedom. The other "evils" of the title are socialism and unbridled capitalism.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Might deserve 5 stars just for the admiration Chesterton inspires. His stance against eugenics at that time was a man standing against a rising river. The cultural zeitgeist was flowing towards eugenics and Chesterton bravely pushed back and helped stem the tide. That said, I give it 3 stars because I found some of the arguments (particularly against capitalism/industrialism etc.) rather porous. A bit slapdash in places, like much of Chesterton’s work. Good, but not the great man’s best.

  20. 4 out of 5

    John Yelverton

    This was an absolutely brilliant book which discussed both eugenics and the seedy motivations behind it. G.K. Chesterton's insights are absolutely brilliant, and will leave you with your mouth hanging open in numerous places at just how obvious some things are now that he's pointed it out to you with his usual wit and panache. This is the best book that I've read in a while, and I heartily recommend this book to you. This was an absolutely brilliant book which discussed both eugenics and the seedy motivations behind it. G.K. Chesterton's insights are absolutely brilliant, and will leave you with your mouth hanging open in numerous places at just how obvious some things are now that he's pointed it out to you with his usual wit and panache. This is the best book that I've read in a while, and I heartily recommend this book to you.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Athens

    Chesterton is really quite enjoyable to read. I often disagree with his premises and outcomes of his thinking, but the thinking itself is something to behold. A brilliant man. Will read more of his.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    As usual with Chesterton, there is too much thought to really fit into a single subject. This book pretends to be about Eugenics, and of course it is, but it manages also to swing wildly in multiple directions. Don't be surprised then to find Chesterton lambasting capitalism, and then socialism, and then back to Eugenics again. I read this on my Kindle, and therefore was able to easily nab a few pages of quotes. Here are some highlights: "Believing that there are spirits, I am bound in mere reason As usual with Chesterton, there is too much thought to really fit into a single subject. This book pretends to be about Eugenics, and of course it is, but it manages also to swing wildly in multiple directions. Don't be surprised then to find Chesterton lambasting capitalism, and then socialism, and then back to Eugenics again. I read this on my Kindle, and therefore was able to easily nab a few pages of quotes. Here are some highlights: "Believing that there are spirits, I am bound in mere reason to suppose that there are probably evil spirits; believing that there are evil spirits, I am bound in mere reason to suppose that some men grow evil by dealing with them. All that is mere rationalism; the superstition (that is the unreasoning repugnance and terror) is in the person who admits there can be angels but denies there can be devils. The superstition is in the person who admits there can be devils but denies there can be diabolists. Yet I should certainly resist any effort to search for witches, for a perfectly simple reason, which is the key of the whole of this controversy. The reason is that it is one thing to believe in witches, and quite another to believe in witch–smellers. I have more respect for the old witch–finders than for the Eugenists, who go about persecuting the fool of the family; because the witch–finders, according to their own conviction, ran a risk. Witches were not the feeble–minded, but the strong–minded—the evil mesmerists, the rulers of the elements. Many a raid on a witch, right or wrong, seemed to the villagers who did it a righteous popular rising against a vast spiritual tyranny, a papacy of sin. Yet we know that the thing degenerated into a rabid and despicable persecution of the feeble or the old. It ended by being a war upon the weak. It ended by being what Eugenics begins by being." "And when we consider how plain a fact is murder, and yet how hesitant and even hazy we all grow about the guilt of a murderer, when we consider how simple an act is stealing, and yet how hard it is to convict and punish those rich commercial pirates who steal the most, when we consider how cruel and clumsy the law can be even about things as old and plain as the Ten Commandments—I simply cannot conceive any responsible person proposing to legislate on our broken knowledge and bottomless ignorance of heredity." "The thing that really is trying to tyrannise through government is Science. The thing that really does use the secular arm is Science. And the creed that really is levying tithes and capturing schools, the creed that really is enforced by fine and imprisonment, the creed that really is proclaimed not in sermons but in statutes, and spread not by pilgrims but by policemen—that creed is the great but disputed system of thought which began with Evolution and has ended in Eugenics. Materialism is really our established Church; for the Government will really help it to persecute its heretics." "When modern critics say that Julius Caesar did not believe in Jupiter, or that Pope Leo did not believe in Catholicism, they overlook an essential difference between those ages and ours. Perhaps Julius did not believe in Jupiter; but he did not disbelieve in Jupiter. There was nothing in his philosophy, or the philosophy of that age, that could forbid him to think that there was a spirit personal and predominant in the world. But the modern materialists are not permitted to doubt; they are forbidden to believe." "The Socialist system, in a more special sense than any other, is founded not on optimism but on original sin. It proposes that the State, as the conscience of the community, should possess all primary forms of property; and that obviously on the ground that men cannot be trusted to own or barter or combine or compete without injury to themselves. Just as a State might own all the guns lest people should shoot each other, so this State would own all the gold and land lest they should cheat or rackrent or exploit each other. It seems extraordinarily simple and even obvious; and so it is. It is too obvious to be true." Good stuff.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kirk

    "The wisest thing in the world is to cry out before you are hurt. It is no good to cry out after you are hurt; especially after you are mortally hurt. People talk about the impatience of the populace; but sound historians know that most tyrannies have been possible because men moved too late." Thus Chesterton opens his work, published in 1922, roughly a decade before the Nazi Party came into power in Germany where they would act upon the "science" of eugenics to its fullest extremes. The reader c "The wisest thing in the world is to cry out before you are hurt. It is no good to cry out after you are hurt; especially after you are mortally hurt. People talk about the impatience of the populace; but sound historians know that most tyrannies have been possible because men moved too late." Thus Chesterton opens his work, published in 1922, roughly a decade before the Nazi Party came into power in Germany where they would act upon the "science" of eugenics to its fullest extremes. The reader comes away appreciating Chesterton's rather prophetic denunciation of this "Prussian" issue which gained a following in England and beyond, but this book does not limit itself to one topic. Rather, Chesterton blends and weaves in his philosophy and observation on related subjects such as capitalism, socialism, ownership, marriage, and human sexuality with great dexterity. It is Chesterton's aptness for criticizing, what may seem, both sides of an argument along with his ability to induce laughter while seriously examining the issues that makes him immanently readable. With this book, come for the intriguing period evaluation of eugenics, but stay for an evaluation of early twentieth century society that is strikingly relevant nearly one hundred years later.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    More Chesterton genius in this most entertaining collection of essays on a deadly serious subject.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    A marvellous web of paradoxes! Eugenics is back with a new respectability. Therefore, read this.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Koppany Jordan

    Prophetic. This books analyzes much of the social ills of our time and their consequences.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Steph Miller

    My interest in the topic of eugenics began when I read Adam Cohen's book 'Imbeciles' last year. I had also recently taken a philosophy class in medical ethics. These two experiences caused me to reflect quite a bit on the vast power available to mankind to control life, both at its inception and its end. I was troubled by the questions of who would use this power, and toward what end. I was struck by the great need for philosophical work to be done in this are concerning the ethics of human life My interest in the topic of eugenics began when I read Adam Cohen's book 'Imbeciles' last year. I had also recently taken a philosophy class in medical ethics. These two experiences caused me to reflect quite a bit on the vast power available to mankind to control life, both at its inception and its end. I was troubled by the questions of who would use this power, and toward what end. I was struck by the great need for philosophical work to be done in this are concerning the ethics of human life. This spring I was re-introduced to a deep thinker whose works I had read years ago: G. K. Chesterton. (For this wonderful re-introduction I must thank the president of the American Chesterton Society, Dale Ahlquist, an engaging speaker and genuinely nice guy.) In addition to being motivated to re-visit Chesterton’s great works, such as ‘Orthodoxy,’ I was also interested to discover, by perusing a conference book-table, that Chesterton had addressed this troubling subject of eugenics at the height of its popularity in the English-speaking west. In ‘Eugenics and Other Evils’ I was encouraged to find a voice of reason raised, one hundred years ago, against the ambitions of the intellectual elite who engaged in one of the most insidious forms of oppression that man had yet concocted. Chesterton was understandably a great threat to the eugenists of the early 1900s because he exposed their plans for what they really were. He warns the public that the eugenists’ sentences always “enter tail first.” It is always “Conditions must be altered,” or “Ancestry should be investigated,” without making it clear who is doing the altering or investigating, or how it is being done. Chesterton similarly unveils the eugenic rhetoric which promises “progress,” “hygiene,” and “freedom.” Throughout the book Chesterton unpacks the eugenists’ slippery words like “unfit,” “feebleminded” and shows how the net can be cast very wide, clearly able be designed to catch whomever one wants to catch. Perry’s extensive appendices enhance the reader’s understanding of the issue because they help to put Chesterton’s ideas in the context of those he is opposing. Perry includes articles and selections from Galton and Saleeby, as well as excerpts from Eugenics Review and Birth Control News, to present the reader with the eugenic agenda in the eugenists’ own language. The review of Chesterton by his opponents as a “foe of progress” is notable in demonstrating that he had really become an obstacle to their efforts. But if we understand their “progress” to mean the strong using their power to oppress the weak, perhaps “progress” needs more enemies and fewer friends.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    Bloody amazing. I am kicking myself for not having read Chesterton constantly, continually, and so very thoroughly much, much earlier in my career. And I have no plausible excuse. I was quite familiar with the name Chesterton due to the ongoing friendly rivalry that he had with George Bernard Shaw. And there was always the indirect Chesterton quote that the very famous personality Michael Palin eventually delivered during the opening segment of the Ripping Yarns series. Yet I never picked any Bloody amazing. I am kicking myself for not having read Chesterton constantly, continually, and so very thoroughly much, much earlier in my career. And I have no plausible excuse. I was quite familiar with the name Chesterton due to the ongoing friendly rivalry that he had with George Bernard Shaw. And there was always the indirect Chesterton quote that the very famous personality Michael Palin eventually delivered during the opening segment of the Ripping Yarns series. Yet I never picked anything up by Chesterton until about a half-year ago.** This thing might very well have the best opening paragraph in the history of opening paragraphs: The wisest thing in the world is to cry out before you are hurt. It is no good to cry out after you are hurt; especially after you are mortally hurt. People talk about the impatience of the populace; but sound historians know that most tyrannies have been possible because men moved too late. It is often essential to resist a tyranny before it exists. It is no answer to say, with a distant optimism, that the scheme is only in the air. A blow from a hatchet can only be parried while it is in the air. You see? I told you. After reading that opening paragraph I'll bet that you want to kick me as well for not having read Chesterton earlier in my career. Well, bring it on, fat ass. After reading Eugenics and Other Evils it should be painfully obvious to you that I will parry your kick while it is in the air. ** This is a typo. I read quite a few Father Brown stories about ten years ago. I apologize for the inconvenience.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    What's Chesterton's theory? I'm kind of on a Chesterton kick--don't know if you noticed--but I'm still trying to sort his ideas out. He combines a kind of libertarian dislike of government interference in morality with a Christian (especially Catholic) concern for "living wages" for the poor. This book is very bold, especially at a time when even U.S. president Woodrow Wilson was a proponent of eugenics and, as the Chesterton society points out "The New York Times gave it constant and positive c What's Chesterton's theory? I'm kind of on a Chesterton kick--don't know if you noticed--but I'm still trying to sort his ideas out. He combines a kind of libertarian dislike of government interference in morality with a Christian (especially Catholic) concern for "living wages" for the poor. This book is very bold, especially at a time when even U.S. president Woodrow Wilson was a proponent of eugenics and, as the Chesterton society points out "The New York Times gave it constant and positive coverage. Luther Burbank and other scientists promoted Eugenics. George Bernard Shaw said that nothing but a Eugenic religion could save civilization." And it is as funny and cutting as Chesterton alone can be, with many elegant parallelism. One of his best passages (which I think he quotes in the introduction to "The Man Who Was Thursday"): "Most Eugenists are Euphemists. I mean merely that short words startle them, while long words soothe them. And they are utterly incapable of translating the one into the other, however obviously they mean the same thing. Say to them 'The persuasive and even coercive powers of the citizen should enable him to make sure that the burden of longevity in the previous generations does not become disproportionate and intolerable, especially to the females?'; say this to them and they sway slightly to and fro like babies sent to sleep in cradles. Say to them 'Murder your mother,' and they sit up quite suddenly. Yet the two sentences, in cold logic, are exactly the same"

  30. 4 out of 5

    Russell

    The thing that impressed me most about this book, aside from Chesterton's genius at writing with paradoxes, was how relevant it still is. The problems he wrote about are still here, almost like the modern world got stuck around post WWI and never moved past certain ideas. Chesterton's spiritual vision is piercing, able to see through many arguments and positions to correctly identify the moral dangers and evils behind. He's not just an engaging author and a master of logic, he's a voice for comm The thing that impressed me most about this book, aside from Chesterton's genius at writing with paradoxes, was how relevant it still is. The problems he wrote about are still here, almost like the modern world got stuck around post WWI and never moved past certain ideas. Chesterton's spiritual vision is piercing, able to see through many arguments and positions to correctly identify the moral dangers and evils behind. He's not just an engaging author and a master of logic, he's a voice for common sense rooted in spiritual truths. After seeing the damage done over the past decades, I cannot see any secular moral framework being worth much compared to Christianity's. Chesterton lays out the evils, shows why and how they are evil, and how they can be overcome by using the light of Christianity inform decisions and direction. He applies his skills to expose not only the nonsenses of eugenics and social engineering, but also to the dangers of capitalism unfettered by the constraints of the traditions and moral framework of Christianity expressed through the shaping of England. It's another classic of Chesterton's, well worth reading.

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