Eugenics and Secularism

Marie Stopes is most famous for promoting birth control and family planning. She was a committed believer in 'eugenics' which (simply put) is the belief that we can 'breed' better human-beings. This belief deeply affected her life and in particular her use of money. She cut her son Harry out of her will for marrying a short-sighted woman called Mary Barnes Wallis. Stopes wrote: "She has an inherited disease of the eyes which not only makes her wear hideous glasses so that it is horrid to look at her, but the awful curse will carry on and I have the horror of our line being so contaminated and little children with the misery of glasses… Mary and Harry are quite callous about both the wrong to their children, the wrong to my family and the eugenic crime." When Stopes died in 1958, a large part of her fortune was bequeathed to the Eugenics Society.

Marie Stopes was a committed materialist. She believed that humans are not creatures made in the image and likeness of God; rather we are merely animals. If the Darwinian perspective is true then there is nothing privileged or special about any individual person. There is nothing special or unique about our species. Hardly anyone objects to the breeding of dogs and horses and if the uniqueness of human beings is rejected then breeding better people becomes a mouthwatering possibility. In her book Radiant Motherhood (1920) she suggested that the "sterilization of those totally unfit for parenthood be made an immediate possibility, indeed made compulsory."

Subversive Questions

  1. Do you agree with eugenics?
  2. Where did Marie Stopes go wrong?
  3. Why do we value human life so highly?

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