Eugenics, Race, and The Urantia Book
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Cultural Progress, Overpopulation, and Subnormal Human Beings
Reviewing The Urantia Book’s genetic history of humanity was necessary for creating a baseline understanding. However, racial differences are better addressed after considering more general eugenics issues.
The problem with jumping to issues that affect the colored races before addressing the ones that affect humanity in general is that race issues are a subset of eugenics. As a practical matter, eugenics issues affect race, of course, and so in this sense it is not a subset. But philosophically it is a subset because the issues that are fundamental to eugenics exist independent of race. A conversation that starts with collective issues reveals the degree to which we are aligned with fundamental principles that are necessary for the health and well being of humanity as a whole.
In presenting the life and teachings of Jesus, The Urantia Book provides a yardstick for measuring moral and ethical progress:
Jesus never taught that it was wrong to have wealth. He required only the twelve and the seventy [evangelists] to dedicate all of their worldly possessions to the common cause. . . . Jesus never personally had anything to do with the apostolic finances except in the disbursement of alms. But there was one economic abuse which he many times condemned, and that was the unfair exploitation of the weak, unlearned, and less fortunate of men by their strong, keen, and more intelligent fellows. Jesus declared that such inhuman treatment of men, women, and children was incompatible with the ideals of the brotherhood of the kingdom of heaven.(1)
The authors challenge us to wisely and logically apply this moral standard. How do we apply this standard so that “the weak, unlearned, and less fortunate” are not heartlessly cast into deregulated, economically competitive environments that financially incentivize taking advantage of the most disadvantaged?
As this chapter unfolds, The Urantia Book’s use of the term “subnormal” human beings will become increasingly clear and is roughly synonymous with “feeble-minded.”
The lower end of subnormal is much easier to define than the upper end. The lower end of subnormal can be thought of in terms of the legal standard commonly applied in criminal cases and competency hearings. Whether someone is entitled to rights and held accountable for their actions is a question that our court systems have to answer on a daily basis.
Moving up from the lower boundary of subnormal toward normal, we pass through gradations to where an individual is no longer considered “disadvantaged.” At this point the moral standard articulated above no longer applies. This upper boundary is more challenging to define precisely and may not necessarily be stable over time. Though precisely defining the category of subnormals may be difficult, the authors of The Urantia Book, nonetheless, give a specific moral standard to apply in our economic relationships with disadvantaged people. Across the spectrum, from governmentally regulated and controlled environments to governmentally deregulated and uncontrolled environments, when it comes to subnormal individuals, taking advantage of these disadvantaged individuals is condemnable.
Unfortunately, the interrelationship between overpopulation, cultural progress, and subnormal human beings exposes moral issues that are rarely discussed. The Urantia Book intertwines these topics because the authors are encouraging us to reflect on what it means to have consistent and progressive moral standards.
While reading through this chapter, reflect on the following questions:
1) If a human being is subnormal, what impact does this have on moral standards?
2) If our gene pool improves over time, how might this effect the spectrum of what is considered subnormal?
3) When it comes to “the lower levels of industry, those tasks requiring intelligence above the animal level but making such low-grade demands as to prove veritable slavery and bondage for the higher types of mankind [higher than subnormal]” does society have a moral obligation to prefer that such work be done by those who would not experience it as “veritable slavery and bondage?”
4) By classifying work as making such “low-grade demands as to prove veritable slavery and bondage for the higher types of mankind,” the authors beg the question, “What types of work are they referring to?” And how do we progressively evolve our relationship to these areas of industry?
5) To what degree do we want to be tolerant of lifestyle choices that increase the need for subnormal human beings?
6) What kind of work were slaves generally asked to do?
7) How does slavery compare to the worst “jobs” that exist for the “weak, unlearned, and less fortunate” in a non-slave society?
8) What are the moral issues associated with allowing “the free market” to profit by taking advantage of the most disadvantaged members of our society?
From the “Evolution Of Culture” section of The Urantia Book:
Man is a creature of the soil, a child of nature; no matter how earnestly he may try to escape from the land, in the last reckoning he is certain to fail. “Dust you are and to dust shall you return” is literally true of all mankind. The basic struggle of man was, and is, and ever shall be, for land. The first social associations of primitive human beings were for the purpose of winning these land struggles. The land-man ratio underlies all social civilization.
Man's intelligence, by means of the arts and sciences, increased the land yield; at the same time the natural increase in offspring was somewhat brought under control, and thus was provided the sustenance and leisure to build a cultural civilization.
Human society is controlled by a law which decrees that the population must vary directly in accordance with the land arts and inversely with a given standard of living. Throughout these early ages, even more than at present, the law of supply and demand as concerned men and land determined the estimated value of both. During the times of plentiful land—unoccupied territory—the need for men was great, and therefore the value of human life was much enhanced; hence the loss of life was more horrifying. During periods of land scarcity and associated overpopulation, human life became comparatively cheapened so that war, famine, and pestilence were regarded with less concern.
When the land yield is reduced or the population is increased, the inevitable struggle is renewed; the very worst traits of human nature are brought to the surface. The improvement of the land yield, the extension of the mechanical arts, and the reduction of population all tend to foster the development of the better side of human nature.
Frontier society develops the unskilled side of humanity; the fine arts and true scientific progress, together with spiritual culture, have all thrived best in the larger centers of life when supported by an agricultural and industrial population slightly under the land-man ratio. Cities always multiply the power of their inhabitants for either good or evil.
The size of the family has always been influenced by the standards of living. The higher the standard the smaller the family, up to the point of established status or gradual extinction.
All down through the ages the standards of living have determined the quality of a surviving population in contrast with mere quantity. Local class standards of living give origin to new social castes, new mores. When standards of living become too complicated or too highly luxurious, they speedily become suicidal. Caste is the direct result of the high social pressure of keen competition produced by dense populations.
. . .
From a world standpoint, overpopulation has never been a serious problem in the past, but if war is lessened and science increasingly controls human diseases, it may become a serious problem in the near future. [The Urantia Book was published in 1955 and claims to have been provided twenty years before its publication.] At such a time the great test of the wisdom of world leadership will present itself. Will Urantia rulers have the insight and courage to foster the multiplication of the average or stabilized human being instead of the extremes of the supernormal and the enormously increasing groups of the subnormal? The normal man should be fostered; he is the backbone of civilization and the source of the mutant geniuses of the race. The subnormal man should be kept under society's control; no more should be produced than are required to administer the lower levels of industry, those tasks requiring intelligence above the animal level but making such low-grade demands as to prove veritable slavery and bondage for the higher types of mankind.(2)
The above quote indicates that these classifications are not to be used as a justification for treating supernormal people as the primary focus of a eugenics program. Individuals may be classified as supernormal. But the group of supernormal individuals is not a superior genetic “race” within humanity, according to The Urantia Book. Quite to the contrary, they assert that a certain type of extraordinary intelligence—mutant genius—comes from normal hereditary stock.
In contrast to supernormal individuals, The Urantia Book teaches that subnormal individuals are a group that we should focus on regarding eugenics policies. It specifically encourages controlling the reproduction of the subnormal population and to use (not unfairly exploit) them as a labor pool for “the lower levels of industry, those tasks requiring intelligence above the animal level but making such low-grade demands as to prove veritable slavery and bondage for the higher types of mankind.” This group is “above the animal level,” but cannot effectively participate in the work of helping civilization make progress from generation to generation.
These statements about subnormal individuals run parallel to the one other use of the word in this context. The chapter titled “Government on a Neighboring Planet” includes a section about an island nation on another world. The factualness of this information is, of course, totally irrelevant. But it is good food for thought and directly helps us get a better understanding of what The Urantia Book’s authors mean by a subnormal individual. (Information about this other world is said to be included because they have experienced problems similar to our own regarding the rebellion of celestial administrators and the default of their Adam and Eve.) Regarding this island nation, it says:
The feeble-minded are trained only in agriculture and animal husbandry, and are committed for life to special custodial colonies where they are segregated by sex to prevent parenthood, which is denied all subnormals. These restrictive measures have been in operation for seventy-five years; the commitment decrees are handed down by the parental courts.(4)
Here we have “feeble-minded” used in a sentence with “subnormal.” It indicates that feeble-minded people are part of the group of subnormals and that subnormals are not allowed to procreate. However one defines feeble-mindedness as distinct from other subnormal individuals, the definition tends to compare well to that quality of mental function associated with “those tasks requiring intelligence above the animal level but making such low-grade demands as to prove veritable slavery and bondage for the higher types of mankind.” By any reasonable definition, the feeble-minded are not well equipped to manage their affairs independently in an increasingly complex world. And this activates certain moral issues.
The Urantia Book is only saying that we need to collectively organize ourselves to humanely care for and manage our subnormal population—for the benefit of all concerned. The book does not proscribe whether we should implement voluntary (incentivized) programs or involuntary programs or some combination of the two. Professionals in the field of psychology are regularly asked by the courts to offer opinions on competency. The lower boundary, it can be inferred, demands a certain degree of involuntary implementation. The upper boundary of subnormal may need to change over time, which, of course, makes involuntary implementation more morally challenging and suggests the appropriateness of incentivized programs.
The larger difficulty for practical purposes is defining the upper boundary of what it means to be subnormal. One way of thinking about the question is to ask, “If ignorance of the law is not supposed to be an excuse, at what point to do we need to concede that a person’s mental capacities are not sufficient to reasonably understand and operate under the laws that most people must follow?” The Urantia Book does not attempt to provide answers for us. Rather it suggests that we are not competent to make such determinations by stating:
“The Planetary Prince and the Material Son, with other suitable planetary authorities, pass upon the fitness of the reproducing strains. The difficulty of executing such a radical program on Urantia consists in the absence of competent judges to pass upon the biologic fitness or unfitness of the individuals of your world races. Notwithstanding this obstacle, it seems that you ought to be able to agree upon the biologic disfellowshiping of your more markedly unfit, defective, degenerate, and antisocial stocks.(5)
The last sentence of the above quote parallels another statement that also uses the term “feeble-minded.” The next quote comes from a section in The Urantia Book called “Racial Mixtures,” which is found in the chapter on the evolution of marriage:
If the present-day races of Urantia could be freed from the curse of their lowest strata of deteriorated, antisocial, feeble-minded, and outcast specimens, there would be little objection to a limited race amalgamation. And if such racial mixtures could take place between the highest types of the several races, still less objection could be offered.(6)
What is it that the authors of The Urantia Book are suggesting and why?
The category being indentified in the above quote could also be called “the lowest of the lowest strata” because the “deteriorated, antisocial, feeble-minded, and outcast specimens” of humanity are already the lowest strata.
The statement that our celestial administrators would have “little objection to a limited race amalgamation” if the lowest of the lowest strata were to be eliminated, needs to be understood in conjunction with other statements that caution us about our inability to “pass upon . . . biologic fitness or unfitness.” After encouraging us to have this type of humility, the authors follow up by also encouraging us to do the most obvious and fundamental thing: “Notwithstanding this obstacle, it seems that you ought to be able to agree upon the biologic disfellowshiping of your more markedly unfit, defective, degenerate, and antisocial stocks.”
Ultimately, if this is not done, we are not taking eugenic care of ourselves. The Urantia Book encourages us to care for ourselves in a planned and humane manner. It is a collective moral failure to not provide the next generation with a better gene pool than what we were born into.
When these various statements in The Urantia Book are brought together, the thrust of it is nothing more than the encouragement to take eugenics seriously, be moral, and use common sense. There is a moral imperative to care for the genetic wellbeing of humanity as a whole. And there is a moral imperative to not allow subnormal—feebleminded persons—to be taken advantage of economically. These moral imperatives are not in conflict with each other, notwithstanding the challenges associated with defining the upper end of subnormal.
The Urantia Book does not attempt to specifically define the upper boundary of subnormal or feeble-mindedness. However, by using the word feeble-minded, the authors invite us to reconsider our historic relationship to this word. They specifically mention in the second paragraph of the Forward that they are not constraining themselves to dictionary definitions. Quite to the contrary, the authors state they are going to use the “English tongue” and do their best to avoid coining new words:
It is exceedingly difficult to present enlarged concepts and advanced truth, in our endeavor to expand cosmic consciousness and enhance spiritual perception, when we are restricted to the use of a circumscribed language of the realm. But our mandate admonishes us to make every effort to convey our meanings by using the word symbols of the English tongue. We have been instructed to introduce new terms only when the concept to be portrayed finds no terminology in English which can be employed to convey such a new concept partially or even with more or less distortion of meaning.(7)
Sometimes the authors take pains to specifically redefine existing words to better suit their purposes. Other times, as is the case with “subnormal” and “feeble-minded,” they provide a more contextual type of definition that provides food for thought and encourages us to think creatively in a particular direction.
During the decades prior to The Urantia Book’s publication in 1955, the word “feeble-minded” was in use. Wikipedia provides this synopsis:
The American psychologist Henry H. Goddard, creator of the term moron, was director of the Vineland Training School (originally the Vineland Training School for Backward and Feeble-minded Children) at Vineland, New Jersey. Goddard was known for postulating most effectively that "feeble-mindedness" was a hereditary trait, most likely caused by a single recessive gene. This led Goddard to ring eugenic alarm bells in his 1912 work, The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness, about those in the population who carried the recessive trait despite outward appearances of normality.
In the first half of the 20th century, "feeble-mindedness, in any of its grades" was a common criterion for compulsory sterilization in many U.S. states. In the 1927 case Buck v. Bell, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes closed the 8-1 majority opinion upholding the sterilization of Carrie Buck, who along with her mother and daughter was labeled “feeble-minded”, with the infamous phrase, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”(8)
The term “feeble-minded” had legal significance with respect to sterilization programs in the United States in the decades leading up to The Urantia Book’s publication. A prominent American psychologist’s reputation was partly built around theorizing that feeble-mindedness is hereditary. And The Urantia Book teaches that, while Jesus generally stayed out of the financial affairs of his followers, he “many times condemned” taking advantage of the feeble-minded (as well as other disadvantaged people). Therefore, we can reasonably infer that the authors are encouraging us to pay close attention to how this word was used in the past and compare it to how they are encouraging us to use it today. The comparison provides a foundation for evaluating what the authors are suggesting.
In the early part of the twentieth century, when feeble-minded status was grounds for sterilization, everyone in this classification was potentially subject to sterilization. In contrast, The Urantia Book is not suggesting sterilization of the whole group, but rather managed procreation in a sustainable way and for everyone’s benefit.
The Urantia Book makes two specific recommendations regarding subnormals:
1) “[I]t seems that you ought to be able to agree upon the biologic disfellowshiping of your more markedly unfit, defective, degenerate, and antisocial stocks.”
2) “The subnormal man should be kept under society's control; no more should be produced than are required to administer the lower levels of industry, those tasks requiring intelligence above the animal level but making such low-grade demands as to prove veritable slavery and bondage for the higher types of mankind.”
If we are going to seriously take up this second suggestion, we must face the challenge of determining what type of work would be like “slavery and bondage to higher types of mankind” but would not be inhumane for subnormal individuals. If the description of farming colonies being used on the neighboring planet is taken as a suggestion for us to consider, then it is worth considering what else The Urantia Book says about agriculture:
Mankind was not consigned to agricultural toil as the penalty of supposed sin. "In the sweat of your face shall you eat the fruit of the fields" was not a sentence of punishment pronounced because of man's participation in the follies of the Lucifer rebellion under the leadership of the traitorous . . . [Planetary Prince]. The cultivation of the soil is inherent in the establishment of an advancing civilization on the evolutionary worlds, and this injunction was the center of all teaching of the Planetary Prince and his staff throughout the three hundred thousand years which intervened between their arrival on Urantia and those tragic days when . . . [he] threw in his lot with the rebel Lucifer. Work with the soil is not a curse; rather is it the highest blessing to all who are thus permitted to enjoy the most human of all human activities.(9)
Consider the “abundant opportunities” and “blessings of personal liberty” that actually exist for those who might be considered subnormal—but nonetheless real human beings—as they attempt to make their way through the world. They have virtually no chance of progressing up the economic ladder and getting themselves out of a desperate struggle for survival.
This is not a critique of competitive economics. This is not a discussion about the general advantages and disadvantages associated with economic policies or ideologies. The point is only that those on the bottom rungs of the genetic ladder suffer disproportionately. The benefits of advancing civilization will not be theirs to enjoy unless we make sure to make it so.
Part of the moral imperative of sound eugenics policies, both on the individual and societal level, is that democracy becomes increasingly unworkable when social policies and living standards favor the multiplication of those who are genetically below average. This is really the crux of the issue. If civilization does not make sure that the genetic quality of the average normal human being is at least stable, then there is no reasonable hope that civilization will be maintained, let alone progress. The morality of eugenics is self-evident in this simple truism.
When our population is primarily replenished by below average individuals, this necessarily leads to antidemocratic governments or the undermining of democratic processes. Why? Because the alternative is to allow the least intelligent, most undereducated, and increasingly populous lower classes to have political control. Certain checks and balances come into play to ensure survival. The issue is not whether we will develop checks and balances. The question is, “How do we develop civilization so that the expression of checks and balances evolves toward non violence, is increasingly beneficial to humanity as a whole, and is fairly applied to everyone on an individual basis?”
The next quote, also from the “Government on a Neighboring Planet” chapter, needs to be compared and contrasted with the statements that suggest we ought to be able to at least come to some agreement about how to eliminate our planet’s “more markedly unfit, defective, degenerate, and antisocial stocks.” The following quote is all-inclusive of the section titled “Dealing with Crime.”
The methods of this people in dealing with crime, insanity, and degeneracy, while in some ways pleasing, will, no doubt, in others prove shocking to most Urantians. Ordinary criminals and the defectives are placed, by sexes, in different agricultural colonies and are more than self-supporting. The more serious habitual criminals and the incurably insane are sentenced to death in the lethal gas chambers by the courts. Numerous crimes aside from murder, including betrayal of governmental trust, also carry the death penalty, and the visitation of justice is sure and swift.
These people are passing out of the negative into the positive era of law. Recently they have gone so far as to attempt the prevention of crime by sentencing those who are believed to be potential murderers and major criminals to life service in the detention colonies. If such convicts subsequently demonstrate that they have become more normal, they may be either paroled or pardoned. The homicide rate on this continent is only one per cent of that among the other nations.
Efforts to prevent the breeding of criminals and defectives were begun over one hundred years ago and have already yielded gratifying results. There are no prisons or hospitals for the insane. For one reason, there are only about ten per cent as many of these groups as are found on Urantia.(10)
The authors do not offer suggestions on how we should go about using the information provided in this chapter. This context is important to keep in mind because suggestions are made in other areas of the book on this subject. The absence of suggestions in this chapter is noteworthy. The authors of The Urantia Book are not promoting the methods described in the “Government on a Neighboring Planet” chapter. Indeed, they recognize and specifically state their expectation that “most Urantians” would be shocked. (In The Urantia Book “Urantians” means all human beings, not just those who believe the book to be an authentic revelation.)
Why would the authors provide something shocking? This is a question worth speculating about, even if we cannot come up with a definitive answer.
Perhaps because our eugenics “policies” produce shockingly poor results and have no justifiable hope of doing otherwise.
Perhaps because we need to learn to respect the breadth of opinion that is naturally going to develop when society engages in patterns of behavior that produce shockingly poor results. What is the value in not talking about shocking ideas that work while tolerating patterns of behavior that are destined to cause the vitality of our gene pool to go into a downward spiral?
1) Urantia Book 163:2.11
2) Urantia Book 68:6.1-7,11
4) Urantia Book 72:4.1,2
5) Urantia Book 51:4.8
6) Urantia Book 82:6.4
7) Urantia Book 0:0.2
9) Urantia Book 66:7.19
10) Urantia Book 72:10.1
Table of Contects
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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