Was Bell in Favor of Laws or Programs to Breed an Improved Race of People?

No. In a 1908 article for National Geographic Magazine titled A Few Thoughts Concerning Eugenics, Bell notes that scientists “have learned to apply the laws of heredity so as to modify and improve our breeds of domestic animals. Can the knowledge and experience so gained be made available to man, so as to enable him to improve the species to which himself belongs?

In pondering this question, he goes on to state that “The problem is one of great difficulty and perplexity, for its solution depends upon the possibility of controlling the production of offspring from human beings. By no process of compulsion can this be done. The controlling power, if it is possible, to evoke it in the interest of the race, resides exclusively with the individuals most immediately concerned. This fact, I think, should be recognized as fundamental, so that our processes should be persuasive rather than mandatory.”

At the time Bell was writing there was very little understanding about genetics or heredity in the scientific community and the topic had yet to make its way into popular conversation. In fact, the word “genetics” did not exist until it was introduced in 1905 by English biologist William Bateson.

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