Eugenics, Race, and The Urantia Book
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The Word Eugenics and Its Use in The Urantia Book
In his book War Against the Weak, Edwin Black explains, “The word eugenics derives from the Greek word eu (good or well) and the suffix -gen?s (born), and was coined by Sir Francis Galton in 1883, who defined it as ‘the study of all agencies under human control which can improve or impair the racial quality of future generations’.”(1) An example of a contemporary dictionary definition of eugenics is: “noun (used with a singular verb); the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population, esp. by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics).”(2)
The issue is whether a gene is well or ill, not whether a person is good or evil.
Notwithstanding that The Urantia Book has extensive commentary on issues related to eugenics, genetics, and race, the authors only use the word eugenics one time. For a subject as controversial as eugenics, this literary technique of using the word once reflects a noteworthy degree to foresight, creativity, and attention to detail. Drawing all those who would consider The Urantia Book’s position on eugenics into an awareness of its overarching perspective on this subject, the word appears in a chapter about the nature of the soul in a subsection called The Inner Life.
It is only the inner life that is truly creative. Civilization can hardly progress when the majority of the youth of any generation devote their interests and energies to the materialistic pursuits of the sensory or outer world.
The inner and the outer worlds have a different set of values. Any civilization is in jeopardy when three quarters of its youth enter materialistic professions and devote themselves to the pursuit of the sensory activities of the outer world. Civilization is in danger when youth neglect to interest themselves in ethics, sociology, eugenics, philosophy, the fine arts, religion, and cosmology.
. . .
Since this inner life of man is truly creative, there rests upon each person the responsibility of choosing as to whether this creativity shall be spontaneous and wholly haphazard or controlled, directed, and constructive. How can a creative imagination produce worthy children when the stage whereon it functions is already preoccupied by prejudice, hate, fears, resentments, revenge, and bigotries?
Ideas may take origin in the stimuli of the outer world, but ideals are born only in the creative realms of the inner world. Today the nations of the world are directed by men who have a superabundance of ideas, but they are poverty-stricken in ideals. That is the explanation of poverty, divorce, war, and racial hatreds.
This is the problem: If freewill man is endowed with the powers of creativity in the inner man, then must we recognize that freewill creativity embraces the potential of freewill destructivity. And when creativity is turned to destructivity, you are face to face with the devastation of evil and sin—oppression, war, and destruction.(3)
Emphasizing issues related to young adulthood makes the one use of the word eugenics all the more poignant. But this is not the main context in which the word is used. The authors of The Urantia Book placed their single use of eugenics near the end of five chapters that focus on the broader context of how our relationship to God impacts the growth of our soul. They contrast the creative and socially serviceable consideration of eugenics with our uncivilized, destructive, and inappropriate attachments to “prejudice, hate, fears, resentments, revenge, and bigotries.” Its commentary not only affirms the potential for human progress, but also emphasizes the personal responsibility that we each have to wisely participate in the process of making cultural progress. In the same section that encourages applying ourselves to the issue of eugenics, “oppression, war, and destruction” are rejected as mechanism for social change.
The Urantia Book emphasizes how eugenics effects our soul, how eugenics expresses the willingness to work towards our ideals of service as earthly citizens. None of the physical aspects of eugenics are addressed in this section of the book. The authors simply make it clear that, whatever the physical facts may be regarding this subject, eugenics is not to be turned into an excuse for the mistreatment or hatred of others.
The Use of the Word Eugenics in Contemporary Culture
For some people the word eugenics is a bad word. Horrified by how humanity has acted in the past, they attempt to redefine the word in a manner that is inconsistent with its original meaning and dictionary definition; they demand that the word eugenics be transformed into something that is inappropriate and evil by definition. Other people may nominally accept the “technical” definition, but exhibit such a low opinion of humanity that the word becomes “guilty by association” no matter who uses it or how.
However well intentioned a person may be in their attempt to redefine the word eugenics, the wisdom of such an effort warrants scrutiny. The first casualty in linguistic wars over the definition of terms all too often is not only the death of ideas, but even worse, it is the death of creative and progressive thinking. Turning eugenics into a bad word, redefining it in a manner contrary to its original and dictionary definition, is nothing more than a transparent attempt, based on fear and a low opinion about humanity, to make certain thoughts “unthinkable” and to eliminate progressive and creative thinking. Typically the next step in killing off the conversation is to pretend the new “politically correct” definition is the correct or only definition of eugenics. Such assertions become the justification for misinterpreting anything written that uses the original, dictionary definition of eugenics. Such tactics are, of course, intellectually dishonest and indicate either the inability to think outside of one’s own belief system or the intentional misrepresentation of someone else’s perspective.
If such atrocities are allowed to become the justification for rejecting eugenics, then we become complicit in destroying our ability to think and communicate clearly.
If someone intentionally uses a hammer to attack another person without cause, does this make the hammer bad? Does a hammer become a bad thing once a certain number of people get hurt by it—intentionally or unintentionally, with good or bad intentions? Would a large enough group of people using hammers with hateful motivations and for destructive purposes make the hammer bad and justify the outlawing of hammers?
What if people rejected the word democracy and its etymological meaning because governments have disallowed political enfranchisement based on race and gender? Would we be better off if the underlying and inherent principles of democracy were not progressively developed because the initial expressions are found to be lacking (by today’s standards)? Why would we allow democracy to evolve in a positive direction but not eugenics?
Semantics and Physiology
Writing about immediate circumstances for a contemporary audience is easier than writing for multiple generations of readers about issues that are ongoing. Certain challenges exist for authors who chose to address a broader audience regarding issues that can change considerably from generation to generation. With sensitive subjects, even when one is only addressing contemporaries, intended meanings are often misinterpreted. And what passes for tact in one generation may be completely misunderstood by future generations.
The Urantia Book is intended for a multigenerational audience. It claims to be an epochal revelation, intended “to reveal truth and co-ordinate essential knowledge” for generations to come.(4) It is not only here to affirm our best thinking, but also to advance it. As an epochal revelation it is designed to stimulate better thinking across a wide spectrum of disciplines and for an extended period of time.
Speaking from this type of authoritative perspective may be very off putting for some people. Nonetheless, the authors write in a manner consistent with their revelatory assertions and place their credibility on the line by stating “the historic facts . . . will stand on the records of the ages to come.” Documenting support for this statement is, of course, the focus of the UBtheNEWS project. Because the audience for The Urantia Book is multigenerational and eugenics issues are multigenerational, the authors appropriately speak to us in plain language.
When it comes to eugenics, we need to get comfortable with using the same terminology for humans that we would use with other animals. However well intentioned it may be, the disinclination to use terminology consistently invites ambiguity and misinterpretation. The last thing this topic needs is a whole new set of words to say exactly the same things about human physiology that would otherwise be perfectly acceptable to say about non human animals.
The factual basis for eugenics is well established and acknowledged whenever the discussion is reserved for nonhuman animals. According to The Urantia Book, even primitive man had enough common sense to note the nature and importance of eugenics. In the Endogamy and Exogamy section of a chapter titled “The Evolution of Marriage,” it states:
Very early the savage observed that race mixture improved the quality of the offspring. It was not that inbreeding was always bad, but that outbreeding was always comparatively better; therefore the mores tended to crystallize in restriction of sex relations among near relatives. It was recognized that outbreeding greatly increased the selective opportunity for evolutionary variation and advancement. The outbred individuals were more versatile and had greater ability to survive in a hostile world; the inbreeders, together with their mores, gradually disappeared. This was all a slow development; the savage did not consciously reason about such problems. But the later and advancing peoples did, and they also made the observation that general weakness sometimes resulted from excessive inbreeding.
While the inbreeding of good stock sometimes resulted in the upbuilding of strong tribes, the spectacular cases of the bad results of the inbreeding of hereditary defectives more forcibly impressed the mind of man, with the result that the advancing mores increasingly formulated taboos against all marriages among near relatives.(5)
The Urantia Book teaches, “The normal man should be fostered; he is the backbone of civilization and the source of the mutant geniuses of the race.”(6) Quotes provided later in this paper will lend additional support to this clear theme—The Urantia Book’s statements about eugenics are incompatible with a “master race” agenda. It simply affirms what every breeder of domesticated animals discovered long ago: excessive inbreeding tends to undermine the general health of an animal and, in some cases, produces absolutely terrible results. Crossbreeding of average or above average stocks supports the robust development of various and desirable traits. The human animal is no different in this regard.
We now know that these hereditary issues have to do with the nature of genes and how they are transmitted from one generation to the next. And while The Urantia Book’s assertion that “the savage” figured this out a long time ago may be something that is not provable, clearly, practitioners of animal husbandry recognized these obvious issues long before the scientific age.
Progressive values cannot truly be progressive if they lead to the denial of facts. Denying the facts of science retards our personal growth as well as our collective development. It is an ironic tragedy that those who work to combat racial bigotry also often work against the implementation of humane, just, fair, and democratically established eugenics practices that would in all likelihood help curtail, if not eliminate, the bigoted, violent, coercive, and non democratic eugenics practices that have been implemented in the past and continue to go on today.
If we want to put an end to racial bigotry, we need to acknowledge the difference between eugenics and racial bigotry. The failure to honor this distinction is counterproductive.
The Urantia Book teaches, “Only those who face facts and adjust them to ideals can achieve wisdom. Wisdom embraces both the fact and the ideal and therefore saves its devotees from both of those barren extremes of philosophy—the man whose idealism excludes facts and the materialist who is devoid of spiritual outlook.”(7)
1) Edwin Black, War Against the Weak, Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race. Page 18.
2) Dictionary.com Unabridged; Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2010.
3) Urantia Book 111:4.3,4,9-11
4) Urantia Book 0:12.10
5) Urantia Book 82:5.1,2
6) Urantia Book 68:6.11
7) Urantia Book 160:4.8
Table of Contents
Part I: Framing the Conversation
1) Purpose and Parameters
2) Setting the Standard
4) Human Rights
Part II: Racial History, Eugenics, and Civilization
5) History and Destiny
6) The Value of Variety and Racial Vitality
7) Cultural Progress, Overpopulation, and Subnormal Human Beings
8) Modern Peoples and Slavery
Part III: Hindsight, Insight, and Foresight
9) Skull Shapes and Skeletal Types
10) Aryans and Whites
11) Differences Between the Colored Races
12) Racial Blending
13) Eugenics, Race, and Morality
Appendix 1: Urantia Book-based Taxonomy
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