The Ties Between Eugenics and Genome Editing by Matt Cost

Ken Burns is on to something. But I beat him to the punch. In his new documentary, The U.S. and the Holocaust, he delves into the influence that America had on the Nazi Party and Adolph Hitler through the study and implementation of the Eugenics Movement.

This past April, I published Mouse Trap, which I began writing in December of 2020. As my mysteries often do, the plot began as one thing and morphed into another beast entirely. As I dug further into the topic of genetic engineering, currently being experimented on with mice, I realized how much bigger this topic really was.

The stated goal is to eradicate disease such as diabetes, cancer, etc. The reality is that the first genetically altered baby was born in the U.S. twenty-two years ago. Since then, new technology, such as CRISPR has been designed to improve this process, and while the FDA frowns upon genome editing on live human embryos, there is little teeth to their position, as the science is outpacing the law.

The reality is that the science is out there to create babies with specific eye color, hair color, (skin color?), body shape, increased mental facilities, and improved physical prowess. With the backing of a wealthy benefactor, the very real possibility of a secret lab creating superbabies does exist.

But this is not something new. It all started in the late 19th century and really began to pick up speed at the turn of the century. In the United States of America. With the Eugenics Movement. In my current WIP, City Gone Askew, 8 Ballo becomes enmeshed in this fraudulent science that attempts to eradicate criminals, the feeble minded (as they termed it), and undesirables such as Blacks, Jews, Italians, and many more.

On the surface, the way toward achieving a purer (their word, not mine) American race was to be through forced sterilization and stringent immigration laws (the 1924 Reed-Johnson Act). These scientific and medical procedures and experiments were supported by many wealthy families of the time such as Carnegie, Harriman, Rockefeller, and Ford. The few dissenting scientist and doctor voices were drowned out in a tidal wave of support.

In Mouse Trap, Clay Wolfe discovers a secret genetic engineering lab, which has come full circle from the Eugenics Movement that 8 Ballo is thrown into in City Gone Askew. Discovering and learning about fascinating subjects such as this is one of the pieces of writing that enthralls me the most, even it often scares me to the core.

When is it time to say enough when trying to improve humanity? When does it go too far? What, really, is an improvement? These are difficult questions that we face today, but they certainly are not new. Being knowledgeable about eugenics and genetic engineering are far too important to not pay attention to.

Next up? Unidentified Aerial Phenomena coming this December!

Matt Cost was a history major at Trinity College. He owned a mystery bookstore, a video store, and a gym, before serving a ten-year sentence as a junior high school teacher. In 2014 he was released and began writing. And that’s what he does. He writes histories and mysteries.

Cost writes the Mainely Mystery series. The first book, MAINELY POWER, was selected by the Maine Humanities Council as the fiction book of the year for 2020. The third, MAINELY MONEY, was a finalist for a Silver Falchion Award.

Cost also writes the Clay Wolfe/Port Essex mystery series. The second book, MIND TRAP, is up for a RONE award from InD’tale Magazine. The fourth book, COSMIC TRAP, is due out in December.

Historical fiction novels have covered such diverse topics as Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution, Joshua Chamberlain and the Civil War, and the fight for equality in New Orleans during Reconstruction.

In April of 2023, VELMA GONE AWRY will be published. It is a blend of Cost’s love of histories and mysteries about Hungarian PI 8 Ballo set in 1923 Brooklyn, NY.

Cost now lives in Brunswick, Maine, with his wife, Harper. There are four grown children: Brittany, Pearson, Miranda, and Ryan. A chocolate Lab and a basset hound round out the mix. He now spends his days at the computer, writing.

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