St Antony’s ‘eugenics’ debate cancelled amid backlash

The debate was cancelled under heavy criticism just six hours after being advertised on Facebook


St Antony’s Debate Society cancelled their first debate under heavy criticism from Facebook users over their proposed debate topic: “this house believes eugenics is the way forward.”

Society members cancelled the event, which was scheduled for Thursday night, six hours after posting about it on the Graduates’ Common Room Facebook page. They apologised for any offence that the suggested topic had caused, saying that it was “obviously poorly thought through and worded” and that any potential offence was “not at all the intention of the debate.”

The original event post was subsequently deleted.

An angry comment on the society’s post read: “As a long-term debater, I can say that a topic like this is not normal and is being utilized to mask obviously problematic realities in pseudo-intellectualism.

“I’m a carrier of genetic diseases that I would love to get rid of, and have a host of disabilities. Eugenics is defined as ‘the science of improving a population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics.’

“Fuck off with your controlled breeding.”

Another comment read: “If you really want to host an open and honest dialogue about this subject, at the very least, I would think you would introduce it as a topic later in term, rather than at the first meeting of the society.

“As it is, it just seems like some kind of promotional stunt designed to draw publicity through controversy, rather than an earnest attempt to discuss this topic.”

The society originally defended their choice of topic, responding to early complaints with comments such as: “We, at the Debate Society, believe in a certain type of freedom of speech which would allow you to take on this question seriously or not!”

“It’s a very uncomfortable topic, but that’s what clubs do – it’s standard practice to have to take on a position that you don’t necessarily agree (at all) with and argue it. It’s not like Antony’s is stating an official position based on the outcome or anything, it’s just a tool for people to sharpen their debate skills on.”

In response, other comments read: “The first meeting should really be on freedoms of speech since y’all clearly don’t have a grasp on the history of its oppressive and violent use, as well as nuance.

“An Oxford crowd that doesn’t know the difference between genetic engineering (literal, genes) and eugenics (really just genocide and ethnic cleansing apologism) is on a slippery slope for people using science as justification for their barbarism.

“But carry on for what looks, at best, like a dick measuring contest for entitled ‘intellectuals’.”


  1. It seems like the society here is just trying to be “edgy” to get publicity, but I don’t think it wrong to say that there would have been value in it going ahead. Learning how to tear apart a bad idea both does us good, and also means that we are more likely to be able to notice it or similar ideas crop up in public discourse…

    Certainly saying that the idea is offensive I think doesn’t help us rebut it, for at one time the idea that homosexuality should be legal, that women should be given the vote, or going back far enough that slavery was evil were all considered highly offensive. For all the ways it can (and is) be misused, free speech is fundamentally good; making exceptions to it harms progressive causes.


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