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cover of Eugenics, A Journal of Race Betterment
Eugenics journal,
Heyday of eugenics  
Eugenics took popular hold after the turn of the 20th century, flourishing for several decades. During its heyday, social prejudice suffused human genetics, often attributing to genetics social differences that were actually rooted in race and class. After World War II, however, biologists in the United States and Britain fought -- by and large successfully -- to emancipate human genetics from such biases in order to establish it as a solid field of science that would explain the complexities of human heredity and assist medicine by illuminating the relationship of genetics to disease.  

Genetic  inheritance chart
chart for eye
color trait

During the past 50 years, molecular geneticists have located, isolated, manipulated, and analyzed thousands of human genes, including many implicated in diseases and other conditions. Their work has been greatly accelerated by the Human Genome Project, which began in the late 1980s and which in 2001 completed a first draft of the entire sequence of DNA in the human genome.

In the long run, human genetic knowledge will very likely lead to therapies and cures for many diseases. But some fear that the techniques of gene therapy, embryo selection, and the engineering of sperm could all become tools of a kind of human genetic manipulation that would be offensive to humane and egalitarian values. The manipulation could discriminate against socially costly or devalued groups and individuals.

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