July 9, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Wearing ‘Good Genes’: Trump & Eugenics

Is President Donald Trump a fan of eugenics? He seems to believe that he comes from greatly superior genetic stock.

He hasn’t said much of anything about CRISPR ‘gene editing’ technology that can readily alter the genetic code of cells of nearly any organism, including humans, but Trump has a fascination with the concept of “good genes” that sounds eerily similar to eugenics and could link together CRISPR & Eugenics.

If you watch the video above, you’ll see many striking quotes from Trump on his “amazing” genes.

What’s the deal? Could Trump be a eugenicist without even knowing it? Where’s the line if any between snobbery and eugenics? Can the idea of genes unite the two?

The word ‘eugenics’ can be taken literally to mean good birth or good genes. In the past, eugenics as a movement has largely been associated with societal disasters where certain individuals or groups decided that some segments of society were intrinsically inferior. As a result, these groups were oppressed or even killed. The Nazis embraced eugenics, but so did many Americans especially in the early 20th century when forced sterilization was not so unusual leading to tragedy.Trump good genes

It’s easy to find odd quotes from Trump about topics related to “good genes” that ring a eugenics kind of bell. For instance, just Google, “trump good smart genes” as a search term and watch the results containing his quotes pile up. Perhaps not surprisingly, Trump often brags about his family’s superior genetic stock and even has made remarks of a similar kind about members of his cabinet.

From Newsweek:

When talking about his granddaughter Arabella Kushner, “”She’s unbelievable, huh?” Trump said. “Good, smart genes.”

“I consider my health, stamina and strength one of my greatest assets,” Trump tweeted in December 2015. “The world has watched me for many years and can so testify—great genes!”

“Dr. John Trump, uncle, for many years at M.I.T.,” he also wrote in May 2013. “Good genes, I get it!”

From the president’s biographer Michael D’Antonio last year.

“The [Trump] family subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development,” D’Antonio said in his PBS documentary, The Choice. “They believe that there are superior people and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get a superior offspring.”

This sounds eugenic to me and again that YouTube video above of Trump quotes is pretty wild. A couple of weeks ago Time magazine had a piece on Trump and eugenics that started out, “President Trump brags a lot about his genes.”

What does it mean if your country’s president believes in eugenics and that he is superior to pretty much everyone else due to his genetic makeup? I don’t think it’s helpful to put it mildly. The potential connections between Trump and the white supremacy movement resonates here too on a eugenic level.

Some people apparently believe in “better living and greater intelligence” through genetic modification including potentially via CRISPR use in the human germline. Maybe Trump thinks he and his uber-family wouldn’t need such interventions. If one assumes for argument’s sake that Trump is a pretty smart guy in a basic sense, it still doesn’t mean he’s ‘better’ than anyone else. Trump’s apparent great lack of empathy for others, overconfidence, and many other traits aren’t exactly positive to society in my opinion.

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