A Quote from the Apostle of Common Sense

From his 1917 book EUGENICS AND OTHER EVILS: An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized State

Chapter I: What is Eugenics?

The wisest thing in the world is to cry out before you are hurt. It is no good to cry out after you are hurt; especially after you are mortally hurt. People talk about the impatience of the populace; but sound historians know that most tyrannies have been possible because men moved too late. It is often essential to resist a tyranny before it exists. It is no answer to say, with a distant optimism, that the scheme is only in the air. A blow from a hatchet can only be parried while it is in the air.

There exists to-day a scheme of action, a school of thought, as collective and unmistakable as any of those by whose grouping alone we can make any outline of history. It is as firm a fact as the Oxford Movement, or the Puritans of the Long Parliament; or the Jansenists; or the Jesuits. It is a thing that can be pointed out; it is a thing that can be discussed; and it is a thing that can still be destroyed. It is called for convenience "Eugenics"; and that it ought to be destroyed I propose to prove in the pages that follow. I know that it means very different things to different people; but that is only because evil always takes advantage of ambiguity. I know it is praised with high professions of idealism and benevolence; with silver-tongued rhetoric about purer motherhood and a happier posterity. But that is only because evil is always flattered, as the Furies were called "The Gracious Ones." I know that it numbers many disciples whose intentions are entirely innocent and humane; and who would be sincerely astonished at my describing it as I do. But that is only because evil always wins through the strength of its splendid dupes; and there has in all ages been a disastrous alliance between abnormal innocence and abnormal sin. Of these who are deceived I shall speak of course as we all do of such instruments; judging them by the good they think they are doing, and not by the evil which they really do.

I merely wish to emphasize the similarity of what Chesterton elsewhere calls "Prussianism" to the schemes of social engineering which disgrace our current political theater of operations: the verbal ambiguity on which the cause must rest has not changed. The abnormal innocence of the splendid dupes has not changed: Stalin coined the term "useful idiots" to define them. The gulf between the good they think they do and the evil they actually do has not changed. The flattery of evil has not changed: look at men who slaughter women and children being called freedom fighters.

Nothing has changed. This is not a trait of one political party or one polis only, but of an eternal evil that can be put to rest either with the heat death of the universe or on the Day of Judgment (take your pick).

I am not sure whether to include the science-fiction-inspired notions of Transhumanism in the category of ‘social engineers’. Part of my uncertainty is due to a lack of conversation with them: I have found myself sort of informally drummed out  from the ranks and anathematized from that school of thought. Perhaps I could not pass the religious qualification.

I recall that I proposed that moral character needs must be instilled in whatever post-humans or super-humans Man creates, if these children of men are not to grow up to be devils: this is a theme an alert reader might detect in my book THE GOLDEN AGE. The idea that moral education is the primary duty of a parent to a child, or a parent race to an uplifted or artificial race, provoked heated controversy.

In light of that uncertainty, all I can report is that an unnerving number of the Transhumanists I have had the honor of corresponding with turned out to be pro-socialist, pro-abortion, and antinomian. They lived and moved in the same moral atmosphere as one might scent in an author like Olaf Stapledon, particularly in his  remarkable (and, I fear, remarkably risible) book DARKNESS AND LIGHT.

Other transhumanists were libertarians, or New Age mystics, or merely optimists looking forward to the re-engineering of man. A few (very few) of them were weird idolaters of a mechanical Moloch, looking forward to creating a Frankenstein monster, a cross between Magneto and Skynet, to drive homo sap into extinction and erect the shining palace of a superior race on our skeletons.

I feel about Transhumanists sort of the way I feel about Libertarians: when there is a third party in the room, I am willing to close ranks with them against mutual enemies, whom I see as far more dangerous, but when we are alone in the room, I am a skeptic and an opponent.

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