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(  Where Sally dabbles with the idea of right wing eugenics,… - Sally's Journal Page 2
August 8th, 2006
12:38 pm


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Where Sally dabbles with the idea of right wing eugenics, but gives it up as a bad deal. With pollCollapse )

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Date:August 8th, 2006 02:04 pm (UTC)
It's a hard one to call - in some ways yes, we're weakening the race because of all those who wouldn't have survived to breed due to weakness or genetic problem are able to do so (I had meningitis at 18 months so I'm probably one of them). However, who's to say that people born with disabilities (or the genetics to cause them in later life) don't actually have something positive to contribute to the human race in other ways? To some extent any disability that is severe enough to prevent a person reaching puberty is likely to edit itself out of the gene pool even with medical help, so those that allow survival (including a lot of recessives) may have some potential purpose in the future. We're all allegedly descended from people who were capable of resisting the Black Death, and it's quite possible that some other pandemic will perform similar genetic selection before the medical establishment can stop it.

I think the key is diversity - if we end up with a monoculture then it's far more likely that we'll all be wiped out by some catastrophe. There are reasons why fair-skinned blond people are native to Scandinavia and black-haired dark-skinned people are native to the hot, sunny regions of the planet, it's basically because they're best equipped to survive the climate and natural selection has helped that. In some ways, the mixing of the races and cultures now that global travel is easier is helping to provide even more diversity and it may be that at some point in the future the best-off people on the planet are those who can point to a very mixed heritage.

Of course, one thing that is potentially worrying is the number of intelligent people (say for example, IQ over 120) who choose not to have children and so remove themselves from the gene pool. Heredity plays at least some part in intelligence, so as a country we're sliding down the scale at the moment. Perhaps it should ber a requirement for anyone with a degree to have to donate sperm or eggs to a central bank for improvement of the race?

[User Picture]
Date:August 8th, 2006 02:34 pm (UTC)
We appear to be having that flamewar further up the page already :-)
[User Picture]
Date:August 8th, 2006 04:06 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. I do seem to have a habit on LJ of ending up convincing people that I am an evil eugenicist.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:August 8th, 2006 02:48 pm (UTC)
Firstly, as a minor point, doing something that affects someone who will never exist seems morally distinct from doing something that affects someone who merely doesn't exist yet. While setting a time bomb with a 200-year fuse is clearly wrong, it doesn't feel like a useful analogy.

Whatever one thinks about the abortion debate, a putative person obviously has no right to exist before egg and sperm meet. Whether or not they should exist is a question for the parents, and for society.

If someone's disabled, we should help them. If they want to have children, we should help them have children. Where things get messy is the case of someone who needs specialist help from society in order to live, and who wants our help in having a child who is very likely to inherit the condition.

At risk of outrage from the PC lobby, being disabled is a bad thing. Society would be better off with fewer disabled people; given the choice between having a disabled child and a non-disabled child, people would prefer the latter.

The problem is the public perception of what constitutes a disability, and the perceived severity of disabilities. Some things are so obviously disadvantageous and serious that it seems reasonable to me that we avoid children being born with the condition, where possible. Provided we can avoid then going down the slippery eugenic path towards reducing diversity and stigmatising minor medical conditions.

I'm happy for us to go a little way in this direction, but I'd stop way short of what's unacceptable, lest the taboids carry us forward uncontrollably. And I don't think I'd let the state override the wishes of parents who were happy to have a child they knew would likely be disabled.
Date:August 8th, 2006 10:19 pm (UTC)
At risk of outrage from the PC lobby, being disabled is a bad thing. Society would be better off with fewer disabled people; given the choice between having a disabled child and a non-disabled child, people would prefer the latter.

I agree - it's a bad thing in the sense that, all other things being equal, it is better having a non-disabled person than a disabled person.

However, a problem here is that the choice isn't between non-disabled and disabled, but between having a disabled person and not having one at all (as other people obviously aren't going to have more children to make up). So given that birth rates are already declining in developed countries, it could be rather a bad thing to significantly reduce the birth rate further.

Indeed, this could make things worse for the welfare state - athough we might reduce the number of people needing support slightly through natural selection, that might be countered by a far fewer number of workers having to support an increasing elderly population.
[User Picture]
Date:August 8th, 2006 02:51 pm (UTC)

Perhaps a re-reading of Bruce Sterling's heavy Weather will help: there's a sub-plot, a clique of eugenicists who treasure each and every strain of resistant AIDS for it's value in killing off people to stupid to follow basic sexual health precautions. Or too unlucky to avoid being born where the necessary education and rights for women exist, although that isn't stated so openly. And yes, they despise the weak and the diseased.

Their problem, and ours, is the ability to judge: a just and meritocratic society with an effective welfare state that gave *everyone* a pathway out of poverty could and should examine sterilisation for the indigent and the criminal. Likewise, a society of educated people with an open culture of measured political debate could and should be able to ask everyone whether they really do choose to pass those genes on. But we do not live in such a society; and, given the sterilisations and medical experiments that happened right up into the 1970s in the Nordic countries, I'm not sure that they do either.

And do we really know what we're doing? You're all educated enough to know about sickle-cell anaemia and malaria resistance. What about dyslexia, and the secondary maxima on the IQ histogram, way out there in Einstein territory?

Still, lack of complete information is a weak excuse and the Eugenics argument is real enough; some genes are a curse to those who are forced to inherit them, and the 'only in a triage situation' argument doesn't cut it. That has the hollow sound of someone who's only capable of making hard choices when confronted with the immediate prospect of death: I bet they'd vote Republican if they could, and let their grandchildren pay off all the government borrowing that finances today's juicy tax cuts - and put off the hard choices that face a polity that spends more than it earns.

Genetic issues have an even longer latency than fiscal irresponsibility: grandchildren don't vote and great-great grandchildren with polluted seawater up to their knees and an average IQ of 85 don't exist today and don't seem to matter. They are not 'real' in any sense that we can empathise with sufficiently to do anything for them - or at least, nothing that would involve sacrifices today. Certainly not 'real' enough that we'd put their imaginary interests ahead of someone who demands the right to breed today while knowing that their children will be unhealthy, dependant on drugs, and equally likely to curse the next generation in turn. And the more that bad genes propagate through the population, the more they meet up in even worse combinations - what would you like to go with with that asthma? - it's not just a numbers game with exponential growth, it's probability matrix with unknown dysergies.

Perhaps today's reading list is Neil Asher's Cowl, a work set in the deeply dystopian future where our posthuman descendants despise our generation for breeding stronger bugs and weaker humans. Their societies emerged from the ruins of a bankrupt civilisation decimated by disease and they are, through brutal necessity, pitilessly Darwinian and unashamedly fascist: a suitable epitaph to a democratic society that was absurdly generous in granting entitlements and empowerments to all who could be heard, but did not extend its notions of rights and justice to future generations.

[User Picture]
Date:August 8th, 2006 03:50 pm (UTC)
The eugenics debate tends to confuse social Darwinism with true Darwinism.

From a pure survival point of view a species is fit to survive if it can keep reproducing. It doesn't matter in the slightest whether an individual is weak or strong, if it produces offspring it has "won" in evolutionary terms: a "weak" group that keeps on breeding is fit for survival.

Indeed, the human tendency to protect the weak may have evolutionary advantages. Maximising the number of potential breeders increases your chances of survival, and genetic randomisation means that not all the offspring of the weak will themselves be weak.
Date:August 8th, 2006 04:51 pm (UTC)
one thing lots seem to assume is that if someone has a medical problem - that they'd get the snip. but how i read it is that if you needed the state to fix you, you'd get the snip. that's (to me) a big difference.

so econimicaly successful people who have medical problems just pay for it, and the same for their children.

there's a corrolory to that (no - i can't spell): things we value as a society should be rewarded. we already reward plumbers and stock analysts.. but if it's good for humanity to have neo-modern poets, hand in hand with the medical policy should go a policy of funding or otherwise rewarding the poets, the artists, and others who are "valuable".
[User Picture]
Date:August 8th, 2006 04:55 pm (UTC)
I'm kind of hitting this arguement from the other direction - the only way I can have children is with medical aid. Although it is uncertain, it may well be that any daughters I manage to have will have the same problem as me. Thus, in chosing to take a medical route to have children I will be adding shitty genes to the gene pool. Its something that has been worrying A and I.

Although, with the recent tests, it looks like a moot point anyway...
[User Picture]
Date:August 8th, 2006 06:54 pm (UTC)
passed a law saying that in 300 years time women would no longer have the vote

I, personally, think it's terrible that so many women are suffering these days. Join the campaign to end womens' suffrage!

Date:August 8th, 2006 07:00 pm (UTC)
I think it all falls down because we're not aiming to perfect one thing

You're half way there. We're not aiming to perfect one thing - and we are not aiming to perfect for one time (or do you think that next century's problems will be the same as this?). One of the strengths of humanity is adaptability - and what is considered useful now is not the same as what is useful for hunter-gatherers and who knows what the future will bring. I therefore think that diversity is a positive boon as it leads to insurance against future pressures.
[User Picture]
Date:August 9th, 2006 07:23 am (UTC)
your last paragraph sums it up for me.

besides diversity is good - see sickle cell anaemia and the way it protects people from malaria. Diseases andd deformities can surprise us in having benefits in years to come. Or what we value today may not be what we value tomorrow (ie maybe ability to sing beautifully or paint may not be testable or predictable, but it would be a shame to out evolve such things by not being on the 'we want this' list....)

I do have sympathy for the 'you should pass a parenting test before you are allowed to reproduce' school of thought, but I guess we need a good range of people in society anyway....

[User Picture]
Date:August 11th, 2006 11:59 am (UTC)
I haven't the energy or time to read all of the replies, so I don't know if this has been brought up yet. If so, sorry! Anyway, I'd be wholly with all those who talk about giving all the welfare support necessary to everyone already alive, but Sally also raises the question of those who are not yet born.

Now there is in many cases no need to talk about sterilisation. If you know your family has a genetic disposition to a certain nasty disease (eg Huntingdon's syndrome, which is really horrid), you can decide yourself to have children only by IVF and ensure that the embryos which are emplanted are safe. If you leave aside the question of how ethical IVF is (a non-trival question perhaps) then this simply seems sensible to me (again, Huntingdon's is really very nasty, who would not want to protect their children from it?). But intersetingly, since this is technically eugenics, it would have been illegal under the EU constitution. Is this in fact a slippery slope towards more hardcore eugenics?
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