Humpty Dumpty And The Meaning of “Eugenics”

Yesterday I noted how conservatives have redefined eugenics as part of their attacks on liberals and science. Ezra Klein has also argued against such misuse of the word eugenics. Ross Douthat continues to feel he can use the word to mean whatever he wants it to.

For some insight on this issue, I’ll turn to Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll:

`When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

`The question is,’ said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

`The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master — that’s all.’

If Humpty Dumpty is the referree, then Douthat wins. Otherwise, Ezra is right. Regardless of where one stands on abortion, individual choices to terminate a pregnancy is a totally different issue than a program of eugenics designed to alter the species. As I also noted in the previous post, this is just another example of the Frank Luntz school of trying to win arguments based upon the words you use as opposed to the merits of the argument.

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