Eugenics

Eugenics

There was a time when one may have been asked to provide a photograph with one’s CV/resume. Why did companies ask for this? So they can judge you partially based on how you look in the photograph. The photograph becomes an index to your personality. After all, we tend to naturally make assumptions about people based on appearance everyday; on the street, in work, etc. The everyday judgments we make may not occur on the level of a physiognomic examination but certainly there is more room for an examination like this in a photograph. Perhaps, then, based on the photograph one provides they get the job or not. So in a sense this is a ‘eugenical’ practice. In short, eugenics is based on Darwin’s theories of evolution and on the idea that by eliminating weaknesses in the human gene pool the human race can remain purer.  This is a simple explanation, if you want to read more about eugenics you may click here. (Also a book called Eugenics: A Reassessment by Richard Lynn) The practice of judging one on their appearance as a gauge for fitness for a specific job was used quite a lot just under 100 years ago and was at its height in the early 20th century. Today, it is unlikely that one would be asked to provide a photograph of oneself with a CV/resume.

There is a new form of eugenic examination that is already among us and its broader use is possibly on the horizon. Through genetic profiling one can discover what, if any, conditions or diseases one may develop in their life (apart from those caused directly by environment/lifestyle). This form of profiling is already being used on pre-embryonic human fertilisation where ‘good’ and ‘bad’ genetic conditions can be eradicated from the process, thus giving a higher probability that the new born child will be free from any debilitating conditions (whether this is a good or bad thing I do not wish to open a discussion on here.) What about the future of genetic profiling? It may come about that some day we are all genetically profiled and the information stored along with the rest of our details. It would be of great interest to a corporation to know the genetic information on an individual if say it wished to fill a position but had two equally qualified candidates for that position. A quick look at the genetic profile of each candidate may make up the corporation’s mind as one candidate may be predisposed to some condition which makes him or her a risk. The form of eugenics I am talking about is known as commercial eugenics.[1] If corporations start looking at the genetic profile of every prospective applicant some individuals may find it difficult to find work and within the capitalist system they may be essentially bred out. (This is a very basic example of what could happen as there are many more intricacies to modern life that would take me too long to go into here.)

Capitalism is much like Darwin’s theories on evolution. Adam Smith, who many would say is the father of modern capitalism, called capitalism ‘the natural system’ as it most resembled how life functioned, i.e. survival of the fittest. Capitalists have, however, tended to ignore the more moral aspects of Smith’s writings. So just as photographs were being used 100 years ago to judge ones personality in absentia, could genetic profiling be a new index to an employee’s likely fitness to be able to perform in a given position, thus giving rise to what may become known as genetic discrimination?


[1] Bakan, Joel, The Corporation, From an interview with Jeremy Rifkin

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