Ronald A. Fisher and the improvement of humankind

Rodrigo Andrade da Cruz, Silvia Waisse


In this paper we argue that the motif underlying Ronald Aylmer Fisher (1890-1962) scientific endeavors was eugenics and the notion of differential fertility. Fisher’s contribution to Neo-Darwinian synthesis and the development of several basic concepts of modern statistics, among others, derived from his interest in providing sound grounds to the hypothesis that the reproduction of the ‘well-born’ ought to be encouraged, while individuals “unfit for civilized society” were to be financially and socially discouraged from bearing children. Fisher believed that all striving notwithstanding, all human societies were doomed to decadence and collapse due to purely biological reasons, being eugenics the only approach likely to prevent such sorry fate. In Fisher’s work statistics, evolution theory, genetics and eugenics form one single logical structure, since all of them directly concern a more general problem, i.e., the biological improvement of humankind. Eugenics did not disappear after the end of World War II, but was reframed at least partially as present-day genetics, including clinical genetic counseling.


Ronald A. Fisher; Neodarwinian synthesis; Statistics; Genetics; Eugenics

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