GENTECH archive


Cummins on eugenics


I have to correct something I wrote last night. When I wrote "
I remain regrettably unaware of any of your contributions in the field of resistance management or even population genetics or ecology", I had forgotten your support for eugenics, as summarised in a message from Werner Reisberger, reprinted in full below.


Date: Sun, 10 Aug 1997 15:46:27 +0200
From: Werner Reisberger <>
To: joe cummins <>
X-Mailing-List: <> archive/latest/1517

joe cummins writes:
> On Fri 8 Aug. Werner Reisberger continued to discuss eugenics and his
> concern about the geneticist H.J.Muller in reply to my letter of Aug.7
> defending Muller who was lumped with Nazi supporters when he actually
> was a long time opponent of eugenic laws.

Eugenics and racism were the main parts of the nazi population
politics. Muller was a proponent of at least positive eugenics. I pointed to
this relationship. If you call it lumping together with nazi
supporters it simplifies the situation. The eugenic movement wasn't a
monolithic movement. Not every proponent of eugenics was/is a racist,
sexist or antiSemite. On the other side a feminist, jew or black isn't
automagically opposing eugenics.

> "I can't understand why a honorable scientist like Prof. Cummins could
> support or tolerate the idea of (positive) eugenics."
> In reply to Werner's comment, I have never been an advocate of eugenics
> (either positive or negative) but I was shaken by what I consider very
> distressing insinuations about Muller by Reisberger and Rauch.

You (Cummins) wrote in archive/latest/1481:

> Positive eugenics are voluntary and thoughtful while negative eugenics are
> enforced and political.

This sounds for me like an approval or toleration of positive eugenics.

> the academic racists. I urge Werner to consider focusing on the real
> threat, academic racists and the use of genetic engineering to enforce
> "eugenics".

Eugenics is as racism a real threat and we should be aware of
the (scientific) history of both. Again, I never claimed that Muller
was a racist or sexist.

Definitely Muller was since 1935 (maybe earlier) a proponent of
positive eugenics. He was the (co)-author of the "Geneticists'
Manifesto" (1939) and the manifesto of the CIBA symposium (1962). The
latter proposed among others the enhancement of intelligence and
performance, the extension of youth and the decrease of sleep time
for the improvement of the population. Muller proposed the controlled
use of sperm and eggs for artificial reproduction.

As I wrote in archive/latest/1463 Muller was one of the "left wing"
scientists advocating eugenics. He opposed racism and class
disparities and intended to carry on eugenics in a classless
society, ideally.

--Werner Reisberger