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Eugenics and Other Evils

G. K. Chesterton

Book Overview: 

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 generation does not become disproportionate and intolerable, especially to the females”; 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.”

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . offered us as something highly scientific and humane. All these people, in short, being barbarians, have always kept their captives captive until they (the barbarians) chose to think the captives were in a fit frame of mind to come out. It is also the plain fact that all that has been called civilisation or progress, justice or liberty, for nearly three thousand years, has had the general direction of treating even the captive as a free man, in so far as some clear case of some defined crime had [36]to be shown against him. All law has meant allowing the criminal, within some limits or other, to argue with the law: as Job was allowed, or rather challenged, to argue with God. But the criminal is, among civilised men, tried by one law for one crime for a perfectly simple reason: that the motive of the crime, like the meaning of the law, is conceivable to the common intelligence. A man is punished specially as a burglar, and not generally as a bad man, because a man may be . . . Read More

Community Reviews

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 subt

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 benef

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 don

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 Su

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

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 ar

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 th

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 glanc

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. Wi

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 exp

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