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by James Corbett
3 April, 2012
Few in the general public have heard much, if anything at all, about the relatively obscure corner of academia known as bioethics. First emerging as an academic discipline in the late 1960s, bioethics concerns itself with the ethical questions raised by advancing knowledge and technological sophistication in biology, medicine, and the life sciences.
When the discussions of the bioethics community eventually filter down to the level of popular discourse, they often seem like bizarre, science fiction-like scenarios about improbable possibilities. As unlikely or ivory towerish as these scenarios might appear at first blush, there can be no dispute that the technologies for many of these seemingly outrageous scenarios are increasingly within our grasp.
What many fail to appreciate, however, are the dangers inherent in entrusting some of the most important discussions about the life, death and health of humanity in the hands of a priestly academic class toiling in relative obscurity to produce position papers for government advisory boards.
As more and more increasingly outrageous headlines begin to gain notoriety among the general public–Newsweek making the case for killing granny, for example, or the recent widespread coverage of an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics promoting infanticide–many are only beginning to realize what the authors of the “after-birth abortion” paper admitted in such a blase fashion in the open letter they used to defend their proposal: these debates have been going on in the bioethics community for 40 years. They are only now arriving as a type of fait accomplis to be digested by the public.
Although Bill Gates’ desire for death panels seem frighteningly out of tune with the majority of Americans, these thoughts are very much in the mainstream of bioethics. As historian and researcher Anton Chaitkin has documented in great detail, the death panel discussions in bioethics relate directly to a very disturbing history, one that ties people like Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel–brother of former White House chief of staff and current mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emmanuel–to the ideology that incited some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. In 2009, Chaitkin presented some of his research on the history of the bioethics euthanasia idea to a meeting of a federal council that was set up to propose funding priorities that would withdraw funding for health care procedures from the elderly.
Chaitkin’s assertions are backed by a litany of data, showing that in fact both the Nazi eugenics movement and the modern bioethics discipline share a common root: the now-discredited 19th century pseudoscience known as eugenics.
First coined by Francis Galton, “eugenics” refers to the theory of hereditable intelligence and morality which posited that wealthy, successful and intelligent individuals were made so by virtue of their good breeding, and that the wicked and vice-ridden lower classes would always remain so because they continued to breed with other poor people. Naturally, this idea appealed to a large section of the scientific community in late Victorian England, providing as it did a justification for their own privilege and wealth. Eugenics soon became a superstar science, propounded by celebrities, politicians and social campaigners with a vested interest in finding a scientific justification for racial and class discrimination.
After the Nazis tarnished the name of eugenics in the eyes of the public, the US Eugenics Society began a process known as crypto-eugenics; changing the name and outward function of the eugenics movement while maintaining its core ideas and goals. As American Eugenics Society co-founder Frederick Osborn wrote:
“Eugenic goals are most likely to be attained under a name other than eugenics.”
Thus Eugenics Quarterly, a journal co-founded by Osborn for publishing eugenics research, changed its name in 1970 to Social Biology. The American Eugenics Society was renamed the Society for the Study of Social Biology. Osborn himself took the reins of the Population Council, which had been created by John D. Rockefeller III to focus on the threat of the expansion of non-white populations. The Eugenics Society merely moved its offices into the Population Council headquarters and the two groups merged together.
In 1968, the Population Council and the Rockefeller family provided funds for Daniel Callahan to found the Hastings Center, one of the earliest and most influential of the academic bioethics research institutes, boasting many of the leading bioethicists as fellows including Ezekiel Emanuel and Peter Singer. The link is made even more transparent by the fact that the founding director of the Hastings Center, Theodosius Dobzhansky, was a chairman of the American Eugenics Society (1964-1973), while Hastings founder Callahan became a director of the Eugenics Society (1987-1992).
Earlier today I had the chance to talk to Jon Rappoport, an author, researcher and investigative reporter at NoMoreFakeNews.com about the American-based Rockefeller-supported crypto-eugenics pedigree of the bioethics discipline and what this means for those attempting to come to an understanding of the profession.
Different societies throughout the centuries have answered the question of who gets to live and who gets to die in different ways. Throughout much of human history, that question was resolved at a community level based on practices, traditions and cultural norms that had developed among specific people for specific historical reasons.
Never before has that decision been made in such a centralized fashion as it is in 21st century society with its increasingly sophisticated medical technologies administered by accredited professionals in clinical settings that must conform to the edicts of boards, organizations, and governmental regulations. The fear amongst a great majority of the American public–a fear that is immediately and roundly mocked by a significant portion of the establishment lapdog media–is that these decisions have led, and will continue to lead, to a society that places a diminished value on the sanctity of life itself.
Given the proposals for infanticide, death panels, and other serious discussions that have been treated as private, members-only discussions amongst the hallowed ranks of bioethics academia, it would be impossible to say that this fear is unfounded. And given the demonstrable ties between the field of bioethics and the discredited eugenics movement, it does not seem unreasonable at all to question how and why the United States, the most materially wealthy country in the history of civilization, would be so eager to begin weighing the costs of keeping granny alive against the cost of employing teachers.
In this case, it seems, as in many other cases, the only people who are interested in shutting down the discussion are the ones who know they would lose it were it to be opened up for public debate.
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