Rehabilitating Eugenics

An America’s Founding and Future Lecture

October 19, 2005

Christine Rosen, Ethics and Public Policy Center


Christine Rosen is a fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center, where she is involved in the Project on Biotechnology and writes about the history of genetics, the social impact of technology, the fertility industry, and bioethics. She is a senior editor of The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology & Society. Dr. Rosen is the author of Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the American Eugenics Movement, a history of the ethical and religious debates surrounding the eugenics movement in the United States, published by Oxford University Press in 2004. Since 1999, she has also been an adjunct  scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, where she has written about women and the economy, feminism, and women’s studies. She is co-author (under her maiden name, Stolba), with Diana Furchtgott-Roth, of two books: Women’s Figures: An Illustrated Guide to the Economic Progress of Women in America (1999) and The Feminist Dilemma: When Success is Not Enough (2001). Dr. Rosen’s next book, about Christian fundamentalism, will be published by Public Affairs in January 2006. Rosen’s opinion pieces and essays have appeared in publications such as The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Review, The Weekly Standard, Commentary, The New England Journal of Medicine, Policy Review, Society, The Claremont Review of Books, The Women’s Quarterly, and Women in World History. In 1997, she served as an instructor in the History Department at Emory University. Dr. Rosen has been the recipient of fellowships from Emory University and from the American Philosophical Society. She earned a B.A. in History from the University of South Florida in 1993, and a Ph.D. in History from Emory University in 1999.

Must eugenics be a dirty word? As long as the state is not coercing people to accept eugenics, is there any harm in pursuing it?  What similarities and differences can we identify in the enthusiasm for eugenics, past and present? And, finally, what is driving the contemporary effort to rehabilitate eugenics? In her lecture, Dr. Rosen will address many of the questions that contemporary bioethicists are asking with increasing frequency. Revisiting the history of eugenics in the U.S. offers some provocative suggestions and raises serious questions about our ability to construct firm moral bulwarks against violations of human dignity. Have we overcome our eugenic past, as many would like to claim, or have we, in the end, merely crafted a new rhetoric that masks the serious moral challenges we still face–exchanging the earlier eugenicists’ calls for a “fair start in life” and children “good in birth” for the supposedly enlightened effort to prevent “wrongful birth?”


Computer Science 104