n. a social and political philosophy, based loosely on Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory and Francis Galton’s research on hereditary genius, that seeks to eradicate genetic defects and improve the genetic makeup of populations through selective human breeding. Positive eugenics is directed toward promoting reproduction by individuals with ostensibly superior traits, whereas negative eugenics is directed toward preventing reproduction by individuals with traits that are considered to be undesirable. The eugenic position is groundless and scientifically naive, in that many conditions associated with disability or disorders, such as syndromes that increase risk of intellectual disability, are inherited recessively and occur unpredictably. Nevertheless, the philosophy gained popularity in the United Kingdom and United States, where eugenic policies, such as sterilization of people with intellectual disability,
persisted into the latter half of the 20th century. Attitudes toward genetics in the 21st century are often influenced by individual and community concerns about prior eugenic abuses.