Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hoosier Eugenics: What would a Christian, Libertarian, Economist Think?

How many Christian-Libertarian-economists are there in the not-so-wide state of Indiana? I'm guessing one: Eric Schansberg, candidate for U.S. Congress, 9th District of Indiana, and the author of SchansBlog. In his recent post, Hoosier Eugenics: A Horrible Centennial, Schansberg weighs in on Indiana's eugenics history and future. Although, given his unique political, religious and intellectual allegiances, most readers will find at least one or two sentences to serve as fodder for scoffing--I did--Schansberg has given more thought to this issue than do most blog authors. In Indiana, a state in which conservative Christian beliefs and attitudes are common, Schansberg is right to recall (in passing) that some of Indiana's religious leaders approved of the state's eugenics programs. Of course, he dismisses these individuals as "liberal Protestants with their Social Gospel", but (to his credit) Schansberg goes on to discuss the controversial "eugenic" opinions of a contemporary, conservative Christian leader--Dr. Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Schansberg quotes from Mohler's commentary "Is Your Baby Gay? What If You Could Know? What If You Could Do Something About It?" In the eighth of ten points on the subject, Mohler writes: "If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin." Schansberg seems to disagree with Mohler, as this aside would suggest: "it was left unsaid how Mohler would handle a biological disposition toward alcoholism, pornography or anger. Presumably, the same conclusion applies." He doesn't, however, unequivocally reject Mohler's musings; instead, Schansberg concludes by asking the question: "[W]hen is modern technology a useful way to improve life in an ethical manner?" As a candidate that doesn't seem to worry about alienating the mainstream, it's unlikely that Schansberg is looking for a way to avoid a decisive statement. So, perhaps, he is genuinely asking for more time to think about the issue. Whatever the case may be, he should be commended for discussing the ethical implications for the future and current practice of genetic medicine Indiana.

By the way, if any of PredictER Blog's readers would like to know more about the history of eugenics in Indiana, be sure to investigate the holdings of the Bioethics Digital Library at the Indiana University Center for Bioethics (the home of PredictER). Also see the Indiana Eugenics History & Legacy 1907-2007 Web site (Project Director: William Schneider, Ph.D. Department of History, Medical Humanities-Health Studies Program, Center for Bioethics, IUPUI).

[Photo: "The greatest blessing for a child is to be born of healthy parents"; The Indiana mothers' baby book: a brief treatise for mothers upon pregnancy, preparation for and management of labor, the care of mother and child, and breast and bottle feeding / Indiana State Board of Health. BEDL.]

1 comment:

Eric Schansberg said...

Thanks for your kind words!

Depending on how broadly one defines Christian and Libertarian, the answer could range quite a bit.

As to the closing question, I have my ideas. But especially on complex questions with no easy answers-- as a teacher, I've found it more helpful for me to ask good questions than to provide my puny opinion.