Re: [asa] morals/ethics (was: Francis Collins shows mild signs of dementia, NA snark)

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Tue Oct 20 2009 - 16:42:27 EDT

I have two comments on eugenics, infanticide, and related matters.

First, prior to World War Two there was strong support for eugenics among liberal Christians (mostly Protestants, though Catholics were also involved before their Church started to oppose it) and Jews in the USA. It wasn't simply "atheists" who favored eugenics. Christine Rosen has a splendid book about this, "Preaching Eugenics." This is actually one of those rare instances of a science issue (I suspect they are rare) in which the fundamentalists were right and the liberals were wrong. By and large, the liberals were simply too liberal--they lacked a robust understanding of divine transcendence or a healthy respect for original sin/total depravity or whatever you want to call our miserable condition. They tended instead to embrace optimistic theologies of moral progress, and they saw biology as a big help in that.

My second comment is not quite about infanticide, although some may say that it is. It's about abortion of children who might be targeted for infanticide if they were carried to term. Ruth Schwartz Cowan's book, "Heredity and Hope," (, tells about the high incidence of beta-thalassemia, a dreaded genetic disorder, among Cypriots. (One in seven Cypriots is a carrier.) Children born with this ailment have a pretty lousy existence -- as they say themselves when asked about it -- and so an arrangement has been worked out with the Cypriot Orthodox Church, which is strictly anti-abortion in all cases, to allow Cypriot women whose unborn children have this ailment to obtain abortions in the UK. At public expense. The whole story is fascinating. The author is a conservative Jew herself, which makes for an interesting dynamic when she writes about Cypriot Orthodox believers.


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Received on Tue Oct 20 16:43:22 2009

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