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Entries in eugenics (8)


Giant Babies of the Future (1937)

Many people in the 20th century assumed that the average citizen of the 21st century would be taller. However, a smaller (and for our purposes admittedly more entertaining) contingent assumed that advances in chemistry would breed hilariously super-sized babies. Having tipped the scales at ten pounds and ten ounces when I was born, it may be difficult to convince someone like my mother that this wasn't shockingly accurate; but we haven't quite reached Paul Bunyan proportions as a species just yet.

The article below from the November 21, 1937 issue of the San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX) references the H.G. Wells novel The Food of the Gods. In the book, scientists create a chemical called "boomfood" which causes rats to expand to the size of ponies and makes people grow to be forty feet tall. The piece goes on to explain that Dr. Albert F. Blakeslee had created a new "elixir of growth" called colchicine which may bring about this super-sized world of the future. Of course, colchicine wasn't some magical elixir that would turn people to giants -- nor was it really even "created" by Dr. Blakeslee -- but it's certainly fun to think about what a world overrun with giant killer caterpillars might look like.

1937 Nov 21 San Antonio Light


Marriage 100 Years From Now (1933)

In the year 1933 physician Ira S. Wile made some wild predictions about what marriage would look like 100 years in the future. And although it's not yet 2033, we can still be thankful that his predictions for our world just 22 years from now were wildly off the mark.

Dr. Wile imagined a bureau of records under government control that would begin monitoring people the day they were born. He predicted that everything about a person would be recorded; from someone's physical and mental defects at birth to the subjective progress and imperfections of that person throughout their life. Then, when someone wished to be married, they would be assessed by bureaucrats and found a suitable mate based upon case cards that have been cross-indexed against members of the opposite sex. These assessments would be made based on class and desirable physical and mental traits. I don't know about you guys, but after reading the words "case cards" and "cross-indexed" I'm gonna have to take a long, cold shower. Reproduction by committee gets me so hot...

Just three years earlier the 1930 movie Just Imagine looked at this very same issue. Set in the high-tech dystopian world of 1980, the musical sci-fi film (yes, I said musical science fiction) follows the forbidden love of two people that the government's marriage tribunal won't allow to marry. At least in Wile's future it sounds like people can conceive their children the fun old-fashioned messy way rather than just popping two bits into a vending machine.

The entire article, published in the June 25, 1933 Oakland Tribune, appears below.

1933 June 25 Oakland Tribune

While it might be somehow easier -- though still repugnant -- to understand State controlled sexual reproduction and marriage in a pre-WWII era, we must remember that human eugenics didn't die with Nazism, as you can see in this clip from 1967.



Crime Will No Longer Exist in 2007 (1907)

You know what's awesome about living in the future? Not having to worry about crime of any kind.

The March 17, 1907 Washington Post ran a piece from the Chicago Tribune titled "How Our Progeny Will Live One Hundred Years From Now." An excerpt, which imagines a world where crime is extremely rare, appears below.

I found the most interesting idea in the piece to be that those of a criminal inclination would no longer be allowed to procreate.


The repression of crime will largely be through preventive measures. With improved detective methods the chances of escape in any given case will be greatly diminished, the innocent will be rarely accused at all, and the punishments of the guilty will be of a reformatory character. In the meantime the study of mental science will have made great strides, and a great source of crime will be eliminated because men and women with the mental twist which leads to crime will be absolutely prevented from propagating their race.


Previously on Paleo-Future:



Family Life to be Altered Greatly by 21st Century (1968)

The January 2, 1968 Lima News (Lima, OH) ran the third in a series of articles based on research by the Commission on the Year 2000 of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The third in the series dealt with life, work and family issues humanity would face in the year 2000. As I've discussed before, major social issues are largely ignored in 20th century American futurism, so it's interesting when we stumble upon serious predictions about major social change by the year 2000.

A short excerpt appears below, but you can read the entire first page of the article here.

By the year 2000 Americans may travel by ballistic missile, swallow a pill for a meal and wear tights and helmets like people in science fiction comic strips. Or they may not. There's no way of telling, and perhaps it doesn't make much difference.


What matters is the quality of life: What will it be like to live in the year 2000? No one can draw the complete picture, but members of the Commission on the Year 2000 took glimpses from special points of view.

Will people be able to learn and remember what they need to know in the complex world of 2000? Not without help, predicts psychologist George A. Miller of Harvard University.

How will new biological techniques affect relations between the sexes? Perhaps by eliminating marriage and the family, suggested anthropologist Margaret Mead of New York's Museum of Natural History.

What will earning a living be like for Americans? Easier, Herman Kahn and Anthony J. Wiener of the Hudson Institute calculate. Maybe too easy.

Will there be any privacy left? Only if society takes steps to preserve it, warned law professor Harry Kalven Jr. of the University of Chicago.

Previously on Paleo-Future:
21st Century Eugenics (1967)
Future Shock - Babytorium (1972)
Instant Baby Machine (1930)
Civilized Adultery (1970)



Problems with Eugenics (1967)

A few months back we looked at a clip from the February 26, 1967 episode of CBS's 21st Century. The episode includes an interview with James Bonner, who advocated for human eugenics in the future.

Today, we have a clip of the retort by Harrison Brown, who raises questions about whether eugenics is as "common sense" as Bonner insists. Interestingly enough, Harrison Brown and James Bonner co-wrote a book together in 1957 titled, The Next Hundred Years.



What are the outstanding virtues we should attempt to breed in to our population? You might say intelligence, but what kind of intelligence? You might say attractiveness, but what kind of attractiveness?

The episode, "The Mystery of Life," can be found in its entirety on the A/V Geeks DVD, Twenty-First Century.


See also:
21st Century Eugenics (1967)
Future Shock - Babytorium (1972)
Instant Baby Machine (1930)


Future "Brotherhood" (1976)

Carl T. Rowan wrote a piece which appeared in the July 3, 1976 Stevens Point Daily Journal (Stevens Point, WI) titled, "Sees hatred yet a century hence."

Rowan covers issues of racism, eugenics and elitism in the century leading up to the United States tricentennial. The piece appears below in its entirety.

GALAXY SPACE STATION (July 4, 2076) - At least 120 children and a spaceship driver were laser-beamed to death yesterday when Galaxians resorted to violence to try to prevent the spaceshipping of school children here from the predominantly black Stardust Space Station a few thousand miles away.


The above may strike you as a highly unlikely news story to mark the celebration of America's tricentennial. But it sums up what I see as I honor a request from Portland, Ore., that I look into my crystal ball and peek at human relations a century from now.

The people of 2076 (if any survive) will have made scientific progress so incredible that millions will have liberated themselves from Mother Earth and her finite resources such as water, food, petroleum, coal. But they will only prove that while humans get smarter they don't grow wiser.

Those who become the new pioneers, seeking a richer life on space stations beyond our polluted atmosphere, will be burdened by hatreds, prejudices and fears as old-fashioned as those that bedeviled Americans in the days of Jefferson Davis and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Racism, chauvinism, snobbery, greed will still dominate human affairs despite incredible developments in genetic engineering - plus chemicals and new surgical techniques designed to control the intellect, and modify the behavior, personality and mood of 21st century man and woman.

The truth is that, in seeking to alter genes, chromosomes and every other basic element of human life so as to create a super race - and who is superior intellectually, morally, physically. Those deemed inferior will find their families doomed to vanish in one generation. By 2076 only the elite will be permitted to procreate, and even then under carefully monitored circumstances.

Blacks wound up predominant on the Stardust Space Station, in fact, having escaped to this outer-space refuge when rumors spread that genetic engineers had ordered the extinction of all the "inferior blacks." According to the descendants of a couple of 20th century "scholars," William Shockley and Arthur Jensen, blacks and other "minorities" were pulling down the intellectual quality of the whole human race.

Remember, now, this is the crystal ball reporting.

Believe me, if I could influence the crystal ball I'd show you a 2076 society in which people ranging in color from goat's milk to double chocolate finally find mutuality of respect and a sense of love that gives them a kind of security no cruise missiles and B-1 bombers will ever provide.

But every time I shake my crystal ball and say, "Don't be absurd! Even a species as dumb as homo sapiens will find a way to free itself from bigotry in 100 years," that crystal ball flashes backwards two or three centuries to prove otherwise. I see Christians and Moslems killing each other, as now. And Germans and Frenchmen in conflict generation after generation. And Catholics and Protestants in brutal conflict that no passage of time erases in places like Northern Ireland. The Jew-haters of a millennium ago sounding just like Spiro Agnew. Racial violence in Boston in 1976 arising from passions of bigotry no less intense than those that spawned a riot in Wilmington, N.C., 78 years earlier, or in Atlanta 70 years before.

That crystal ball keeps contradicting all sorts of things that I have written. More than 24 years ago, in my preface to "South of Freedom," I wrote; "I do not believe that man was born to hate and be hated; I cannot believe that the race problem is an inevitable concomitant of democratic life."

That crystal ball flashes into 2076 and tells me that in 1951, or is it that I [now] have an old crystal ball which is disillusioned, clouded with pessimism, unable to see man's potential for rising up next to the angels?

See also:
Future Shock - Skin Color (1972)
The Tricentennial Report: Letters from America (1977)
Lisa's Picture of 2076 (1976)
Tricentennial Report Ad (Oakland Tribune, 1976)
Animals of 2076 (1977)
21st Century Eugenics (1967)



21st Century Eugenics (1967)

The CBS series 21st Century aired a program titled, "The Mystery of Life" on February 26, 1967. The program looked at genetics and the future of humanity.

In this clip, host Walter Cronkite interviews biologist James Bonner. Bonner advocates a "large-scale program of [breeding] better people," otherwise known as eugenics. Procreation by committee sounds like tons of fun!

The episode can be found in its entirety on the A/V Geeks DVD Twenty-First Century.



Bonner: Each baby, when it's born, must donate some of his sex cells, sperm or eggs, and these are put in a deep freeze and just kept. The person leads his life, and dies. And after he's all dead and gone, so the heat of passion is taken out of the matter, a committee meets and studies his life.


Cronkite: So during his lifetime then, he hasn't had any children?

Bonner: He's been sterilized, and hasn't had any children in the normal way. After he's dead and gone, the committee meets and reviews his life and asks, 'Would we like to have some more people like him?' If the answer's no they take out his sex cells of the deep freeze and throw them away. But if the answer's yes then they use him to fertilize eggs similarly selected on the basis of review and validation of a person's contributions during his lifetime. He just doesn't get to brazenly go out and propagate his own genes without assuring himself and everyone else that they're the best possible genes.

See also:
Future Shock - Babytorium (1972)
Instant Baby Machine (1930)