Scientific Technique and Human Reproduction
Originally posted August 3, 2008
“While it is rather rash to make detailed prophecies, it is, I think, fairly clear that in future a human body, from the moment of conception, will not be regarded merely as something which must be left to grow in accordance with natural forces, with no human interference beyond what is required for the preservation of health. The tendency of scientific technique is to cause everything to be regarded as not just a brute datum, but raw material for the carrying out of some human purpose. The child, and even the embryo, will come to be viewed more and more in this way as the mentality connected with scientific technique becomes more dominant. In this, as in all other forms of scientific power, there are possibilities of good and possibilities of evil. Science alone will not decide which is to prevail.” – Bertrand Russell, 1931 (p172)
Breeding the Governing Class
From The Scientific Outlook:
[Italicised text is original emphasis and bolded text is added by author.]
“Science, when it has once acquired a firm hold upon social organization, is hardly likely to stop short at those biological aspects of human life which have hitherto been left to the joint guidance of religion and instinct. We may, I think, assume that both the quantity and the quality of the population will be carefully regulated by the State, but that sexual intercourse apart from children will be regarded as a private matter so long as it is not allowed to interfere with work. As regards quantity, the State statisticians will determine as carefully as they can whether the population of the world at the moment is above or below the number which leads to the greatest material comfort per head. They will also take account of all such changes of technique as can be foreseen. No doubt the usual rule will be to aim at a stationary population, but if some important invention, such as artificial food, should greatly cheapen the production of necessaries, an increase of population might for a time be thought wise. I shall, however, assume that, in normal times, the world government will decree a stationary population.
If we were right in supposing that the scientific society will have different social grades according to the kind of work to be performed, we may assume also that it will have uses for human beings who are not of the highest grade of intelligence. It is probable that there will be certain kinds of labour mainly performed by negroes, and that manual workers in general will be bred for patience and muscle rather than for brains. The governors and experts, on the contrary, will be bred chiefly for their intellectual powers and their strength of character. Assuming that both kinds of breeding are scientifically carried out, there will come to be an increasing divergence between the two types, making them in the end almost different species.
Scientific breeding, in any truly scientific form, would at present encounter insuperable obstacles both from religion and from sentiment. To carry it out scientifically it would be necessary, as among domestic animals, to employ only a small percentage of males for purposes of breeding. It may be thought that religion and sentiment will always succeed in opposing an immovable veto to such a system. I wish I could think so. But I believe that sentiment is quite extraordinarily plastic, and that the individualistic religion to which we have been accustomed is likely to be increasingly replaced by a religion of devotion to the State. Among Russian Communists this has already happened. In any case, what is demanded is scarcely as difficult a control of natural impulses as is involved in the celibacy of the Catholic priesthood. Wherever remarkable achievements are possible and are at the same time such as to satisfy men’s moral idealism, the love of power, is capable of swallowing up the instinctive life of the affections, especially if an outlet is permitted to purely physical sexual impulses. Traditional religion, which has been violently dispossessed in Russia, will suffer a setback everywhere if the Russian experiment proves successful. In any case its outlook is difficult to reconcile with that of industrialism and scientific technique. Traditional religion was based upon a sense of man’s impotence in the face of natural forces, whereas scientific technique induces a sense of the impotence of natural forces in the face of man’s intelligence. Combined with this sense of power, a certain degree of austerity in regard to the softer pleasures is quite natural. One sees it already in many of those who are creating the mechanistic society of the future. In America this austerity has taken the form of Protestant piety, in Russia of devotion to Communism.
I think, therefore, that there is hardly any limit to the departures from traditional sentiment which science may introduce into the question of reproduction. If the simultaneous regulation of quantity and quality is taken seriously in the future, we may expect that in each generation some 25 per cent. of women and some 5 per cent. of men will be selected to be the parents of the next generation, while the remainder of the population will be sterilized, which will in no way interfere with their sexual pleasures, but will merely render these pleasures destitute of social importance. The women who are selected for breeding will have to have eight or nine children each, but will not be expected to perform any other work except the suckling of the children for a suitable number of months. No obstacles will be placed upon their relations with sterile men, or upon the relations of sterile men and women with each other, but reproduction will be regarded as a matter which concerns the State, and will not be left to the free choice of the persons concerned. Perhaps it will be found that artificial impregnation is more certain and less embarrassing, since it will obviate the need of any personal contact between the father and mother of the prospective child. Sentiments of personal affection may still be connected with intercourse not intended to be fruitful, while impregnation will be regarded in an entirely different manner, more in the light of a surgical operation, so that it will be thought not ladylike to have it performed in the natural manner. The qualities for which parents will be chosen will differ greatly according to the status which it is hoped the child will occupy. In the governing class a considerable degree of intelligence will be demanded of parents; perfect health will, of course, be indispensable. So long as gestation is allowed to persist to its natural period, mothers will also have to be selected by their capacity for easy delivery, and will therefore have to be free from an unduly narrow pelvis. It is probable, however, that as time goes on the period of gestation will be shortened, and that later months of foetal development will take place in an incubator. This would also free mothers from the need of suckling their children, and would thus make maternity a not very onerous matter. The care of infants intended to belong to the governing class would seldom be left to the mothers. Mothers would be selected by their eugenic qualities, and these would not necessarily be the qualities required in a nurse. On the other hand, the early months of pregnancy might be more burdensome than at present, since the foetus would be subjected to various kinds of scientific treatment intended to affect beneficially not only its own characteristics but those of its possible descendants.
Fathers would, of course, have nothing to do with their own children. There would be in general only one father to every five mothers, and it is quite likely that he would never have even seen the mothers of his children. The sentiment of paternity would thus disappear completely. Probably in time the same thing would happen, though to a slightly less degree, in regard to mothers. If birth were prematurely induced, and the child separated from its mother at birth, maternal sentiment would have little chance to develop.” – 251
Breeding the Working Class
“Among the workers it is probable that less elaborate care would be taken, since it is easier to breed for muscle than to breed for brains, and it is not unlikely that women would be allowed to bring up their own children in the old-fashioned natural manner. There would not be, among the workers, the same need as among the governors for fanatical devotion to the State, and there would not be, therefore, on the part of the government, the same jealousy of the private affections. Among the governors, one must suppose, all private sentiments would be viewed with suspicion. A man and woman who showed any ardent devotion to each other would be regarded as they are at present regarded by moralists when they are not married. There would be professional nurses in crèches, and professional teachers in nursery schools, but they would be considered to be failing in their duty if they felt any special affection for special children. Children who showed any special affection for a particular adult would be separated form that adult. Ideas of this kind are already widespread; they will be found suggested, for example, in Dr. John B. Watson’s book on education. The tendency of the scientific manipulator is to regard all private affections as unfortunate. Freudians have shown us that they are the sources of complexes. Administrators realize that they stand in the way of a wholehearted devotion to business. The Church sanctioned certain kinds of love while condemning others, but the modern ascetic is more thoroughgoing, and condemns all kinds of love equally as mere folly and waste of time.” – 255
The Psychological Makeup
“What should we expect of the mental make-up of people in such a world? The manual workers may, I think, be fairly happy. One may assume that the rulers will be successful in making the manual workers foolish and frivolous; work will not be too severe, and there will be endless amusements of a trivial sort. Owing to sterilization, love affairs need not have awkward consequences so long as they are not between a man and woman who are both of them unsterilized. In this way a life of easygoing and frivolous pleasure may be provided for the manual workers, combined of course with a superstitious reverence for the governors instilled in childhood and prolonged by the propaganda to which adults will be exposed.
The psychology of the governors will be a more difficult matter. They will be expected to display an arduous and hard-working devotion to the ideal of the scientific State, and to sacrifice to this ideal all the softer sentiments such as love of wife and children. Friendships between fellow-workers, whether of the same or of different sexes, will tend to become ardent, and will not infrequently overstep the limits which the public moralists will have fixed. In such a case the authorities will separate the friends, unless in doing so they will interrupt some important research or administrative undertaking. When for some such public reason friends are not separated, they will be admonished. By means of governmental microphones the censors will listen-in to their conversations, and if these should at any time become tinged with sentiment, disciplinary measures will be adopted. All the deeper feelings will be frustrated, with the sole exception of devotion to science and the State.
The governors will, of course, have their amusements for leisure hours. I do not see how art or literature could flourish in such a world, nor do I think that the emotions from which they spring and to which they appeal would meet with governmental approval, but athletics of a strenuous kind will be encouraged among the young of the governing class, and dangerous sports will be considered valuable as a training in those habits of mind and body by which authority over the manual workers will be maintained. Love-making among the sterilized will be subjected to no restrictions either of law or of public opinion, but it will be casual and temporary, involving none of the deeper feelings and no serious affection. Persons suffering from unendurable boredom will be encouraged to ascend Mount Everest or fly over the South Pole, but the need for such distractions will be regarded as a sign of mental or physical ill-health.
In such a world, though there may be pleasure, there will be no joy. The result will be a type displaying the usual characteristics of vigorous ascetics. They will be harsh and unbending, tending towards cruelty in their ideals and their readiness to consider that the infliction of pain is necessary for he public good. I do not imagine that pain
will be much inflicted as punishment for sin, since no sin will be recognized except insubordination and failure to carry out the purposes of the State. It is more probable that the sadistic impulses which the asceticism will generate will find their outlet in scientific experiment. The advancement of knowledge will be held to justify much torture of individuals by surgeons, biochemists, and experimental psychologist. As time goes on the amount of added knowledge required to justify a given amount of pain will diminish, and the number of governors attracted to the kinds of research necessitating cruel experiments will increase. Just as the sun worship of the Aztecs demanded the painful death of thousands of human beings annually, so the new scientific religion will demand its holocausts of sacred victims. Gradually the world will grow more dark and more terrible. Strange perversions of instinct will first lurk in the dark corners and then gradually overwhelm the men in high places. Sadistic pleasures will not suffer the moral condemnation that will be meted out to the softer joys, since, like the persecutions of the Inquisition, they will be found in harmony with the prevailing asceticism. In the end such a system must break down either in an orgy of bloodshed or in the rediscovery of joy.
Such at least is the only ray of hope to lighten the darkness of these visions of Cassandra, but perhaps in permitting this ray of hope we have allowed ourselves to yield to a foolish optimism. Perhaps by means of injections and drugs and chemicals the population could be induced to bear whatever its scientific masters may decide to be for its good. New forms of drunkenness involving no subsequent headache may be discovered, and new forms of intoxication may be invented so delicious that for their sakes these are possibilities in a world governed by knowledge without love, and power without delight. The man drunk with power is destitute of wisdom, and so long as he rules the world, the world will be a place devoid of beauty and of joy.” – 256
Scientific Technique and the Abolition of the Family
“Take again such a matter as housing. In England individualism leads most families to prefer a small house of their own rather than an apartment in a large house. The result is that the suburbs of London are spread out through mile after mile of dreariness, to the immense detriment of the women and children. Each housewife cooks an abominable dinner at great expenditure of labour for an infuriated husband. The children, when they come home from school, or while they are too young to go to school, find themselves cooped up in small stuffy premises where either they are a nuisance to their parents or their parents are a nuisance to them. In a more sensible community, each family would occupy a part of an immense building with a courtyard in the middle; there would be no individual cooking, but only communal meals. Children, as soon as they were no longer at the breast, would spend their day in large airy halls under the care of women possessing the knowledge, the training, and the temperament required for making young children happy. The wives, who at present drudge all day doing wasteful work badly, would be set free to earn their living outside the home. The benefit of such a system to the mothers, and still more to the children, would be incalculable. At the Rachel Macmillan nursery school it was found that about 90 per cent. of the children had rickets when they first came, and almost all were cured at the end of the first year in the school. In the ordinary home the necessary modicum of light and air and good food cannot be provided, whereas all these things can be provided quite cheaply if they are provided for many children at once. The freedom to cause one’s children to grow up stunted and crippled on the ground that one is too fond of them to part with them is a freedom which is certainly not in the public interest.” – 219
This very same idea was put into action by Mao Zedong and the Communist Chinese during their “Great Leap Forward”. This was another step towards creating a truly global scientific society. The below quote is from historian Carroll Quigley in his 1966 book Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time :
“The third stage of agrarian reform, constituting the basic feature of the “Great Leap Forward,” merged the 750 thousand collective farms into about 26,000 agrarian communes of about 5,000 families each. This was a social rather than simply an agrarian revolution, since its aims included the destruction of the family household and the peasant village. All activities of the members, including child rearing, education, entertainment, social life, the militia, and all economic and intellectual life came under the control of the commune. In some areas the previous villages were destroyed and the peasants were housed in dormitories, with communal kitchens and mess halls, nurseries for the children, and separation of these children under the communes’ control in isolation from their parents at an early age. One purpose of this drastic change was to release large numbers of women from domestic activities so that they could labor in fields or factories. In the first year of the “Great Leap Forward,” 90 million peasant women were relieved of their domestic duties and became available to work for the state. In many cases, factories and craft centers were established in the communes to use this labor, manufacturing goods not only for the commune but for sale in the outside market.
One of the chief aims of this total reorganization of rural life was to make available, for savings and investment, surpluses of agricultural income from the rural sector of Chinese society in order to build up the industrial sector. The regime estimated that it could reverse the pervious division of agricultural incomes, under which 70 percent was consumed by the agricultural population and only 30 percent was available to the nonagricultural sectors of Chinese society. At the same time, it was expected that the communes would totally shatter the resistant social structure of Chinese society, leaving isolated individuals to face the power of the state. Finally, it was expected that these isolated individuals could be mobilized along military lines to carry out agricultural duties in squads and platoons assigned to specific fields and tasks.” – 1159