Eugenics II

Lead: From its start as an optimistic approach to improving the human condition, eugenics degenerated into a racist tool in the hands of bigotry and ultimately led to the gas ovens of the Third Reich.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The fundamental problem with eugenics, even as Sir Francis Galton articulated it in the 19th century, was that it focused primarily on inborn characteristics and almost completely disregarded social, environmental, educational, and physical factors when examining the human race. Basically, eugenicists advocated a form of genetic determinism. A person is born with a genetic imprint that determines the course of their lives. Not surprisingly these theories became a powerful tool in the hands of racists. It all depends on who is setting the standard. If society is to improve itself, it is said, it must eliminate genetic threats to racial purity. In the sad history of eugenics, a wide variety of groups have been singled out for social restriction, sterilization, or elimination. Feeble-minded or mentally ill people, habitual criminals, sexual libertines, Negroes, Native Americans or any non-whites, Jews, gypsies, and evangelical Christians have all fallen under the wary and sometimes fatal scrutiny of the eugenic mandate. They bore undesirable human traits.

Eugenics I

Lead: In the 19th and 20th centuries, theories about the way to improve the human condition spawned the pseudo-science of eugenics. Unfortunately, optimism about making mankind better degenerated into the darkness of racism.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Sir Francis Galton confessed to having had a happy childhood. His upper-class parents gave him a Cambridge education though he never took his degree, and left him sufficient inherited funds so that he could avoid work and indulge his great love of travel. From 1845 to 1853 Galton explored parts of the Middle East and Africa, including a very careful but ultimately fruitless expedition from West Africa in search of Lake Ngami, which is in Botswana, north of the Kalahari Desert. After his marriage he turned to more scholarly pursuits producing books on a wide variety of subjects including fingerprinting, calculus, genetics and weather prediction. Galton is best known, however, for his advocacy of improving the human species through selective parenting, a process he called eugenics.

Copernicus and the Church II

Lead: The year was 1540. Nicolaus Copernicus’s controversial theory that the planets revolved around the sun instead of the Earth was about to become public.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In 1540, a student and supporter of Copernicus, Rheticus, published Naratio Prima, otherwise known as A First Account. This encouraged the aging astronomer to print his own theory. A devout Catholic, Copernicus had struggled for many years between his loyalty to the Church and his scientific theory that asserted heliocentrism, that the sun was the center of the solar system. He decided it was finally time for the world to hear his opinion of the truth. Three years later, just prior to his death, Copernicus published his treatise De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.

 

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Copernicus and the Church I

Lead: Often requiring discipline, compassion, and self-denial, religion can be a powerful force for good, but religious institutions can also be short-sighted, conservative, willing to throw themselves across the path of progress.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Nikolaj Kopernik was born on February 19, 1473 in Thorn, Poland. He was raised by his maternal uncle following the death of Nicolaj’s wealthy father. His uncle convinced the young student to attend the University of Krakow. Caught by the spirit of the Italian Renaissance, with a name now latinized to Nicolas Copernicus, he continued a continental education, excelling in medicine, law and the liberal arts. While not abandoning his church calling, he actively practiced medicine, studied economics, and surrendered to a life-long fascination with astronomy.

 

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Cosmetic Surgery

Lead: Though the dream of improving on nature’s gifts has persisted over the centuries, the modern practice of reconstructive surgery was given new birth in allied field hospitals in France during World War I.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Religious skepticism about human vanity or health concerns have swirled around surgical attempts to re-shape the body. Cosmetic surgery has caused great controversy from the beginning. As early as 600 BC physicians were trying to alter facial or other body features. The arrival of antiseptics and anesthesia in the nineteenth century increased the safety and success of such efforts, but did little to diminish the debate.

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Guano

Lead: As world population grew in the years before and after 1800 so did the demand for food. At the same time, much farm acreage was depleted, tired, unproductive. This problem was solved in part with guano.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Guano is bird excrement. Grouped with the droppings of bats and seals it is perhaps the most potent natural fertilizer, and bird guano is the primo variety containing up to 16% nitrogen, 12% phosphorus, and 3% potassium. In the mid 19th century, guano was treated as if it were gold, provoked at least one fighting war, and made enormous fortunes for growers and suppliers alike.

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