Positive Eugenics deals with the identification of virtues or good attributes in the human race and devises methods to preserve, improve and perpetuate them; Negative Eugenics
On the other hand identifies harmful or undesirable traits in the human race and devises methods to suppress them so that they do not get perpetuated. Positive Eugenics is also called Constructive Eugenics, while negative Eugenics is called Restrictive Eugenics.
1. Negative Eugenics:
Among the two types, the negative Eugenics is the more difficult one to employ. While any Eugenic method has to be largely voluntary, it is more so with negative Eugenic methods.
The production of progeny, marriage etc., in human beings are not regarded purely as biological phenomena, but have got themselves involved in social, emotional and such other personal parameters.
The following are some of the methods recommended to eliminate the undesirable genotypes from the human gene pool.
Sexual separation of the defective:
There are several incurable hereditary diseases such as hemophilia, epilepsy, diabetes, feeble mindedness, idiocy etc.
It is generally advisable not to allow two such persons to marry among themselves. By avoiding such marriages, the defective gene gets gradually eliminated from the gene pool.
In some instances, two individuals who are seemingly normal maybe heterozygous for either sex linked or auto some linked defective genes.
The children of such couple or at least a good majority of them are likely to inherit the disease as the recessive genes would get a chance to express them. If in such a couple, the first child expresses the defective trait they should realize that they are heterozygous and should take a whether to have the second child.
In such a situation it is better not to opt for a second child. Perhaps the best thing for the would be couple, would be to go ” to a genetic counselor with their family history and seek his advice.
But then again, this is not always possible; several considerations like, emotional attachment, monetary considerations, commitment of the elders play a large role in the life of the would be bride and groom and genetics takes a backseat.
Several other physical attributes apart from mental illness merit the separation of individuals carrying defective genes.
One of the most significant problems is the inheritance of Rh factor. This factor present in the blood of some individuals (Rh positive) and absent in some (Rh negative), poses a problem when a Rh positive male marries a Rh negative female. Usually about 85% of the population are Rh positive and 15% Rh negative.
Assuming a random marriage, about 11% would be intermarriages. The children of such couple are likely to suffer a disease known as Erythroblastosis foetalis.
The first child may be spared, but the subsequent ones may be still bom. In order to avoid such a situation they would be couple (before an alliance) should have a blood test done to ascertain the Rh factor.
In order to achieve the aims of selective separation of defective individuals, ‘he following is some of the measures suggested, it should be noted however
That some of them are too harsh and can be implemented only in a regimented society. In a democratic society however, it should be left to the conscience of the individuals concerned.
Davenport, one of the geneticists has commented “Dry the stream that feed the torrent of defective and degenerate protoplasm”. This is possible only by an enlightened public opinion free of prejudices of any kind.
There should be a large scale educational program to make people aware of the eugenic problems like the hereditary diseases and the consequences of a marriage between defective individuals.
These persuasive (and not coercive) methods will help to change the mood of the society and make their mind receptive for any genetic suggestion.
Considerations like dowry etc. will in a large measure probably go to background. People should be made aware, that while marriages are made in heaven, children have to be brought up on Earth. In this way, it will be possible to develop a ‘Eugenic sentiment’ in society.
This is a mildly coercive method, wherein individuals with known hereditary defects are not allowed to marry; generally by appealing to their conscience or if it fails by other coercive methods.
For a healthy society, it is not desirable that idiots, epileptics and habitual criminals marry and enhance the survival chance of harmful genes in the human gene pool.
Segregation of defective individuals does not and should not mean that socially they should be ostracized. Such individuals should be taken care of by the society as a general responsibility.
This is a coercive method to be adopted, when it is not possible to prevent the reproduction of the highly defective individuals. Individuals of this type are to be sterilized, while they can marry and lead a normal life.
Sterilization should be done both in the case of male (Vasectomy) and female (Salpingectomy). Many countries have passed sterilization laws.
These are USA, Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Sweden etc. Compulsory sterilization of individuals with incurable diseases is the best method to prevent the multiplication of a defective gene. This will not prevent marriages or any social obligations.
Birth control and MTP (Medical termination of pregnancy):
One of the less coercive, but largely debatable methods is free dissemination of birth control knowledge and popularization of birth control measures.
This may particularly work in groups in the lower levels of social order, where there is ignorance due to economic conditions.
This will prevent the production of large number of uncared for children who in later years will be a burden on society. Deprived of comfortable home and parental affection, it is children of this type who turn into criminals and indulge in antisocial activities at a later stage.
Many societies (including our own) who are tradition bound, and religious groups oppose free dissemination of knowledge on birth control methods as they fear, that it would usher in a wave of immorality among the youth, as it may encourage promiscuous behavior free of the fear of pregnancy (at least among women).
They argue that sex is a private and personal affair of two individuals and society has no right to interfere in this. It is true that in measures such as the ones suggested above there is a possible backlash in the form of promiscuous behavior.
But one has to strike a balance, together with the dissemination of the birth control knowledge; the other elements of the social fabric should be strengthened.
For instance, children who are loved, who feel wanted and have affectionate parents are less likely to misuse their sexual knowledge than those who become vagabonds by the force of circumstances.
Social and religious voluntary groups in general and parents in particular can play a pivotal role in shaping the character of their wards.
In situations, where a pregnancy has occurred it should be terminated so as to prevent further complications due to defective genes.
Marriage among close relatives: (Consanguineous marriages)
This enhances the chances of homozygosis and subsequent morphological expression of the defective genes as they have a common ancestry.
As far as possible this should be avoided to prevent further problems. Indeed in many human societies, there is a practice (particularly among south Indian Brahmins) of enquiring the geneology of the prospective groom and bride before finalizing an alliance. But of late, other considerations have largely reduced this to a farce.
This refers to the advice tendered by experts in the field as to the desirability or otherwise of couples to have a child. This would be a voluntary restriction by the couples who have a choice not to carry serious genetic disorders.
For instance if an individual is aware of his father suffering from a serious genetic ailment, he himself would not want his children to suffer the same fate; rather he would not produce any children. Such genetic counseling units exist in many western countries like USA.
Unfortunately in our country, such counseling units are woefully less and even when they exist, are not popular.
Also like countries of our own, where people are generally poor, genetic counseling should be dispensed free and ought to be funded by the Government. In the long run, in terms of absence of diseases and other problems, it will pay for itself.
2. Positive Eugenics:
Broadly defining, positive eugenic methods deal with attempts to increase the production of children only by those with most desirable traits according to Nobel Laureate H.J. Muller. Individuals with desirable traits should be allowed to produce more number of children than others, to improve the society.
He even suggests artificial insemination methods to increase the progeny of such people. But here again the problems of morality and human ethics creep in. Is it desirable from all points of view to produce children from artificial insemination?
What will be the emotional attachment of parents to such children? These are problems that should find a satisfactory answer. The following are some of the positive eugenic measures.
Modern times are characterized by large scale migration of individuals from one country to another in search of green pastures.
Professionals, academicians, scientists and others migrate to another country in search of opportunities.
These are mostly for monetary considerations. Many a time, these may be to escape harsh social conditions or to free themselves from descrimmative practices of a none too developed society.
Advanced countries practice immigration procedures in both positive and negative ways. They prevent the immigration of undesirable elements into their society by banning their entry, as they do not want to disturb the ethnic, social or economic balance.
They also do not want epileptic, instance and other form of infirmities to creep into their society and get a foot hold in the form of marriage with the locals.
On the other hand people with desirable traits are welcomed with open arms, encouraged and given all types of benefits so that their own society will improve from their contribution.
In this connection, the instance of ‘brain drain’ from third world countries to developed countries may be mentioned.
Early marriage of individuals with desirable traits:
It is often seen, that ambitious individuals marry quite late in their age, as they would be devoting best part of their youth in realizing their ambitions.
Genetic studies of late marriages have indicated that children born out of late marriages are not genetically very strong (barring exceptions). Hence, people with desirable traits and qualities should be encouraged to marry early (not very early of course).
Subsidizing the fit:
This is one of the best methods of positive eugenics. Individuals, who are going to be an asset to the society in terms of their traits, are to be given more privileges, so that they need not struggle to obtain the requirements of life.
They should be encouraged in their chosen avocation and should be encouraged to produce more number of children.
Such children can contribute to society quite a lot. Because, there is a limit to the reproductive potentialities of such individuals, Muller has suggested that such individuals should father large number of children through artificial insemination.
Artificial insemination is in practice even now, in order to provide children to women, whose husbands are sterile. In this context in order to prevent complications, the names of donor and recipient will be kept secret.
The outcome of artificial insemination practices has lead to the suggestion by scientists of the establishment of egg and sperm banks.
The gametes are frozen in these banks and can be kept alive for a long time. It will be possible by this method to have selective fusion of gametes.
Artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and subsequent implantation of the zygote in the womb have all raised the hopes of test tube babies.
In quite a few instances test tube babies have been successful and have come as a boon to supposedly barren women. In many countries, the hypothesis of surrogate mothers – (who accommodate, the egg and sperm of other individuals) has become a reality.
In many instances, this has however lead to many legal complications, as to who qualifies as the real mother – the one who provides the genotype or the one who provides the environment?
The production of a total test tube baby – starting from fertilization up to the development of a new individual, however has not been successful so far. Another aspect that has to be regarded is the desirability of producing a total test tube baby under the prevailing social conditions.
In order to create a proper environment, a thorough education on biological and genetic principles is a paramount necessity.
Children should be educated about health, hygiene and other methods of keeping their body and mind in sound condition.
Educating the children and grownups on these lines need not be done in formal schools only. Voluntary organizations, social councils, temple, church committees etc., have a large and influential role to play in the realization of these aims.
Mass media like Radio, television, News papers and even theatre groups could be engaged in inculcating a scientific spirit among men and women.