G.K. Chesterton was Right
100 years later, Chesterton's book on the evils of eugenics more important than ever
A quick quiz: What person, time period, and place do you most associate with eugenics? If you answered “Adolf Hitler, 1930s and ’40s Nazi Germany,” then it’s time for me to talk about a little gem of a book that may be new to you.
While the above cover is from a 2000 reprint, the original Eugenics and Other Evils: An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized State, by G.K. Chesterton, was published in 1922. If you’re interested, the original version is available for free via Project Gutenberg.
Eugenics is the outgrowth of another bad idea, Darwinism, which is the theory of biological evolution. In fact, the “father of eugenics” was Darwin’s half-cousin, Francis Galton. While it is important to understand that eugenics didn’t start with Hitler, it is even more critical, in light of our current crisis, to understand that eugenics didn’t end with Hitler, either. Instead, eugenics, when it became a dirty word, was simply rebranded “genetics” and given other euphemistic names so that it could keep marching right along in England, the US, and elsewhere.
This quote from Chesterton on “capital S” Science and mandatory vaccines certainly still seems applicable today.
“The thing that really is trying to tyrannise through government is Science. The thing that really does use the secular arm is Science. And the creed that really is levying tithes and capturing schools, the creed that really is enforced by fine and imprisonment, the creed that really is proclaimed not in sermons but in statutes, and spread not by pilgrims but by policemen—that creed is the great but disputed system of thought which began with Evolution and has ended in Eugenics. Materialism is really our established Church; for the Government will really help it to persecute its heretics. Vaccination, in its hundred years of experiment, has been disputed almost as much as baptism in its approximate two thousand. But it seems quite natural to our politicians to enforce vaccination; and it would seem to them madness to enforce baptism.”1
Here we are 100 years later, and vaccines are still very much an experiment. It is instructive to see that the whole basis of vaccination (especially mandatory vaccination) assumes the superiority of scientism and does not even bother to address, much less refute, a biblical worldview. Dissent, when tolerated at all, is carefully boxed into parameters where the dissenter must concede the big ideas in order to quibble about the details. When we argue against COVID-19 vaccine mandates based on safety or efficacy concerns, we run the risk of implying that if the vaccine were safe and effective enough, then a vaccine mandate would be acceptable. When we compare “bad” COVID-19 vaccines to “good” vaccines (all 69 doses of them) currently on the childhood vaccine schedule, we have tacitly accepted epidemics of autism, allergies, and auto-immune disorders as a price we’re willing to pay. We are conceding the idea that “preventive medicine” in general, and vaccines in particular, are valid from both a medical and moral perspective.
Chesterton was not willing to make that concession. He pointed out that the preventive medicine advocated by H. G. Wells and other eugenicists of his day amounted to “treating people who are well as if they are ill.”2
Chesterton goes on:
“This [treating people who are well as if they are sick] is the fundamental fallacy in the whole business of preventive medicine. Prevention is not better than cure. Cutting off a man's head is not better than curing his headache; it is not even better than failing to cure it. And it is the same if a man is in revolt, even a morbid revolt. Taking the heart out of him by slavery is not better than leaving the heart in him, even if you leave it a broken heart. Prevention is not only not better than cure; prevention is even worse than disease. Prevention means being an invalid for life, with the extra exasperation of being quite well.”3
I’ll just go out on a limb and say that, were he alive today, Chesterton would be derided as an anti-lockdowner and maybe even an anti-vaxxer. The eugenicists may have won in Chesterton’s day and they may continue to dominate in our day, but that does not mean they were or are right. Whereas Chesterton, who was right about many things, was most certainly right about eugenics.
Ibid 55 [I use “preventive medicine” because that is the term used by Chesterton. It is more commonly called “preventative medicine” today.]