I’m sorry, but Dr. Bauman is an eugenist

A Non-Participant’s Critique of Dr. Bauman’s Deaf-Gain Presentation

Dirksen contends that deaf people contribute a gain to humanity. But central to his argument is simply that they add to humanity’s diversity.

The Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1852 is a well-known example of dangers of homogeneity in food production. Not a lot of people remember that potato actually originated in the Americas. It was introduced to Europe in the late 16th century by the Spaniards following their conquest of the Inca Empire. Potato has thousands of varieties, but a limited variety was introduced to Europe, making their crop vulnerable to disease. This makes heterogeneity in food production, or more generally, genetic diversity, essential, vital, imperative, and what have you.

A lot of people remember that the Americas’ original populations were decimated by the diseases introduced by the Europeans: smallpox, measles, and diphtheria, to name a few. Amerindians hadn’t needed genetic defenses against them. The conditions were so different in the Americas such that there was low selective pressure on Amerindians’ HLA genes. The HLA system (for human leukocyte antigen) is our immune system’s missile guidance system. When a virus infects a cell, HLA molecules display viral proteins on the outside of the cell, so that those infected cells can be destroyed by the immune system. By combating crowd diseases and animal diseases over thousands of years, Europeans retained high HLA diversity in their genes. But Amerindians didn’t have that diversity.

Diversity is all. If true, Alexander Graham Bell, by his ignorance of genetics, was on a misguided mission to homogenize humanity, most noticeably his 1884 essay, “Upon the Formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race.” This means he was, in actuality, promoting dysgenics. If genetic diversity is what truly brings about improvement to humanity, Dirksen is, then, promoting true eugenics.

Why are there deaf genes? Several deaf genes exist, but the most common for European descendants is connexin-26 deafness. Since it is one of recessive genetic “disorders” that are common in Europe and the Middle East, like cystic fibrosis, alpha-1-antitrypsin, and hemochromatosis, all nonexistent in Amerindians (discounting recent admixture), it must have mutated there for a reason. With confluence of diseases in Europe, this particular deaf gene probably has emerged as a side effect of genetic defenses, much like sickle-cell anemia is a side effect of genetic defenses against malaria. No one likes the thought of being a “side effect,” but as Dirksen would have it: It’s better than being decimated.

10 thoughts on “I’m sorry, but Dr. Bauman is an eugenist”

  1. i find ur title of the blog entry pretty confusing

    Eugenist is the same as Eugenicist which is:

    specialist in eugenics: a proposer of ways to improve human beings, especially by selective breeding, or somebody who advocates eugenics

    Bauman is not promoting or advocating for selective breeding but rather examining what the world has to gain by Deaf folks being a NATURAL part of it

    He is acknowledging the value of this diversity and the advantages of bio-diversity

    Eugenicists work in the opposite direction

    perhaps u were just being playful or i am missing something



  2. Good eyes. 😉 Yes, I used the term “eugenist” rather than “eugenicist” for a reason. I wanted to make a distinction between Dr. Bauman and the eugenicists of the previous century. They would say that having deaf people is a bad thing, whereas Dr. Bauman is saying that having deaf people is a good thing. Because of the eugenicists, the term “eugenics” has negative connotations, even though it really could be used positively, taking Dr. Bauman’s direction, and so I propose we associate “dysgenics” with them because we now know their proposals would just take humanity in a negative direction.

  3. WHEW! For a moment there, I thought I was going to have to blast you with your title, but after reading the post, I do see you understood Bauman's point and were not making an invidious comparison to Bell. Definitely the way to grab people's attention, though!

  4. I think this is a rather nice piece of writing. The only thing I would change would be the last line; technically, biologically, all evolutionary advances are accidental and side effects; there should be no weird emotional reaction attached to having that status, just a pleasing feeling of normality and fitting-in-with-the-world-ness. Cloning identical creatures again and again: now, that's unnatural. (I'd probably add a bunch of links for the uninformed, also, but comme vous voulez: I've been through plenty of periods where I'm angry at having to explain my explanations and basically defend my right to exist, think, and have opinions.)

    I have long said and wrote that biological diversity is a key "reason" to stop what I see as attacks on deafness motivated by a dedication to the specific expression of one form. There are deaf and deafened animals, even deaf species; deafness has long been part of the world biologically, accidental and otherwise. And, like beneficial mutations, while we may not have been produced intentionally, we can certainly, with intention, serve the world beneficially, just as plenty of beneficial mutations do. (Yep, you're one too, Readers. Or you can be one.)

    What I find disturbing is the slight sorrow, and justified anger. You know, because, essentially, this all boils down to us quietly, intelligently, and with more patient and insight than our hearing peers, once again justifying our existence(our language(our selves.)). But-"the more things change, the more they stay the same." Perhaps the one is the price for gaining the other: and really, nobody can deny that the knowledge gained by this discussion and examination has enriched and changed the world, despite and because of the pain involved.

  5. Two things: One, deafness as a side effect I discussed is confided to those with deaf genes, particularly connexin-26 deafness. I used “side effect” here in the same sense as undesired effect resulting from medical intervention. Counteracting the diseases to survive was genetically desired, but effecting a change that was harmful to survival, like sickle-cell anemia or deafness, was not. Two, viewing deafness as a “side effect” is not true generally. There are deaf people in Thailand, but no Thai has become deaf genetically. They are the lucky ones who do not have to deal with the existential anxiety of being a side effect. 😉

    In truth, Dr. Bauman has a tough project with his deaf-gain theory as I understand it. Humanity has co-opted the genetic desire to survive. Disorders and side effects are being identified and eliminated. Diversity argument will not stop it. 

  6. For me, using ideology and scientific knowledge to get ride of the deaf in modern society is similar to the dark ages in which children who were identified as deaf were considered devils and had to be killed and thrown away into sacred groves in Africa. Everything that occur in modern society is generally a reflection of the past. I hold the idea that deaf are just like the hearing or better than them. Deaf people can act as everyone else. We need to wake up to disrupt the diabolical attitude perpetrated by the hearing world towards deaf people. Thanks to Bauman for revealing what had been hidden in the closet for several years.

  7. Darren, you made a good point regarding the side effect of deafness. Any disease that permeates undesirable effects are eliminated through medical intervention. It is like immunizing kids against polio. Deafness to the majority is a problem. Having to provide them with welfare, pay for their educations, give them interpreters and having to write things down in stead of speaking orally to them are side effects that the majority wants to avoid. Therefore, in order to do away with deafness, society devises a methodology as the example given by Dr. Bauman delineating the English statute that forbids implanting an embryo with a disability. Let us hope this never happen in America.

  8. We need to wake up by not just philosophizing here but to support Dr. Bauman effort to bring this canker sore to light through awareness creation. The hearing world needs to get to know the deaf better through teaching and interaction as elaborated by Platos and Levinas. Teaching is a paradigm of getting to instil and learn in a reciprocal format as opposed to just lecturing. Deaf has something to offer the world and the hearing need to interact to get the sense of what the deaf can do. Following a set course of ideology cannot solve a problem. A cemented course of ideology brings negative effects that boil down to the destruction of humanity.

  9. However, Darren, I disagree with your claim that diversity argument cannot solve the genetic desire issue. If someone wants to have a deaf child, the government has no power to take his or her right to have the child he or she desires by promulgating a law that makes it impossible to have such a kid. Diversity commensurate to the freedom of choice in a democratic society. If this is your argument, then, you are telling me that democracy is a fake attribute that needs to be eliminated like the deafness gene because both of them are controversial issues.

Leave a Reply