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Mar 4, 2020

"Eugenics and Other Evils," by G.K. Chesterton, published in 1922.

Narrator's Introduction:

For the next few paragraphs I will speak for myself, to set the stage for G.K. Chesterton's book, and to suggest why I believe it is still an important book.

I think G.K. Chesterton explains his book rather well in his introduction, but it might help to start with a sense of the time in question. Chesterton started work on Eugenics and Other Evils in about 1910, but it was not completed and published until 1922. In his own introduction he talks about the period before and after "The War." The war he refers to is now called World War One.

We now have a distaste for the word Eugenics, largely driven by events in World War Two. But at the time this book was published, Eugenics was lauded to the skies as a wonderful idea, and Chesterton was nearly the only person saying in writing that Eugenics was in fact evil. A case could be made, and has been made, that today, though the word Eugenics is avoided, some practices that are in fact Eugenic practices, and some sciences that are in fact Eugenic sciences, enjoy great popularity and engender great public enthusiasm. To which practices and which sciences I refer, is left as an exercise for the reader.

To the Reader:

"...It was a time when this theme was the topic of the hour; when eugenic babies (not visibly very distinguishable from other babies) sprawled all over the illustrated papers; when the evolutionary fancy of Nietzsche was the new cry among the intellectuals; and when Mr. Bernard Shaw and others were considering the idea that to breed a man like a cart-horse was the true way to attain that higher civilisation, of intellectual magnanimity and sympathetic insight, which may be found in cart-horses...."

Part 1 -- The False Theory

Chapter One:

"The wisest thing in the world is to cry out before you are hurt. It is no good to cry out after you are hurt; especially after you are mortally hurt."

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