Science in politics: Eugenics, sterilization, and genetic screening

1988 1988

Other formats: Order a copy

Abstract (summary)

This work examined applications of genetic knowledge for political purposes. A debate exists over whether technology operates according to deterministic imperatives or is subject to human control. The central concern of this work, therefore, was the capability of the political system to ensure that technological applications served ends consonant with the democratic and moral values of the American political system.

The first topic examined was the eugenic legacy. Beginning in the first third of this century as a nativistic enterprise, it was transformed after the 1930's into the application of genetic knowledge for the purposes of breeding a genetically perfected race. A review of contemporary sterilization practices followed. Despite the appearances of revived eugenics, the lure of the technical fix proved to be a better explanation for most sterilization uses studied. The final case study examined carrier, prenatal, and neonatal screening. Particular attention was paid to the legal status of the techniques, the politics of their establishment and accessibility, and their potential future applications. All of the techniques examined extended society's ability to address the issues motivating their introduction, but they also created new opportunities which extended their influence into new areas, challenging existing values (e.g., reproduction, marriage, individual autonomy, sanctity of life). The final discussion examined the political institutions' response to these techniques and their extended influence. Generally, the political system responded by addressing the techniques narrowly, paying minimal attention to the social values affected by the cumulative impact of the techniques. The courts reduced the techniques to individual rights and the legislatures narrowly defined the issues as technical or responded to interest group pressures. The result was technological incrementalism. For the political system to control democratically the ends to which technologies are applied, the legislative branches will have to act more systematically and substantively. Politics as usual--both institutionally and morally--is incapable of addressing the extended responsibility required by technological politics.

Indexing (details)

Political science
0615: Political science
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences
Science in politics: Eugenics, sterilization, and genetic screening
Telling, Douglas Cushman
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 49/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Gordon, Glen
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
Access the complete full text

You can get the full text of this document if it is part of your institution's ProQuest subscription.

Try one of the following:

  • Connect to ProQuest through your library network and search for the document from there.
  • Request the document from your library.
  • Go to the ProQuest login page and enter a ProQuest or My Research username / password.