I have some pretty strong feelings about eugenics (it's a good and necessary practice), but I find it very, VERY difficult to talk about it with anyone since I'm instantly labeled a Nazi for supporting it. I'm hoping the folks on Think Atheist will be more inclined to intellectual discussion than name-calling and dismissal.

 

The start off, some disclaimers: genocide is wrong; taking human rights away from people of a race/religion/hairstyle you don't like is wrong; concentration camps are wrong; violence in wrong.

 

There. Now to the actual discussion.

 

When I talk about eugenics, I'm talking about the practice of systematically removing debilitating genetic traits and defects from a population by means of regulating the reproduction of its citizens. Do you have Schizophrenia? Did you know that this ailment is genetic and very easy to pass on to you children? Please, do not punish an innocent child with this problem. Are you genetically healthy, intelligent, and talented? Do you have special immunities that make you less likely to get sick? By all means, spread these traits to future generations, either by having children yourself or donating to a sperm or egg bank. Do you want children but should not carry your genetic problems onto them? Adopt. Adoption will always be available no matter what the society (just because someone has good genetic material does NOT mean they would make a good parent). Do you say that adoption is not the same? Then I suppose you care more about satisfying your selfish desires than the well being of a child.

 

Eugenics is, at its base, very simple - think about the future first.

I'm leaving this post now for what I'm hoping will be thoughtful and anti-inflammatory discussion.

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Which is why I said to only use logic and biology removing actual genetic diseases/deformities. You're touching upon the areas I said we should leave alone until we have much, much better info. In many decades we begin to maybe consider some small changes beyond eliminating diseases/deformities.

@Unseen;

"But this is how it starts. What traits need to be eliminated? Ones we don't like. This is because a lot of it will ultimately come down to people's opinions and attitudes. What skin color is more prone to skin cancer? White folks. Let's make people darker! Then someone else can come up with a seemingly reasonable excuse for making people lighter-skinned."

Ah...The Dark Side of the Force.

The negative choices people sometimes make are sadly always possible.

I like the positive Light Side myself.

Take Angelina Jolie's recent decision to remove her breasts because of a genetic marker.  What if her mother had been able to remove the marker before conception, wouldn't that have been a better choice?

Genetic Manipulation is upon us, we cannot re-close the box, I suggest we embrace this reality, fund basic research and make the best decisions we can into the future.

Take Angelina Jolie's recent decision to remove her breasts because of a genetic marker.  What if her mother had been able to remove the marker before conception, wouldn't that have been a better choice?

Well, for one thing we might not have Angelina Jolie, or not the one we know. Changing anything in the past changes the future. For example, suppose her mother, in getting her own genetic marker, had ended up having sex on a different day. Perhaps, then, a different sperm ends up fertilizing her egg. We might have someone named Angelina Jolie but not the one we know or we might have an Angelo Jolie.

Also, you don't seem to take into account the other person in the sexual act. They have genes, too.

And not all pregnancies are planned. My own daughter (much as I love her) was not a planned child.

So, you don't know what the outcome would be. Don't pretend you do.

@Unseen;

It's not about changing Angelina Jolie, it is about the genetic trait that she carries.  The fear that caused her to make such a dramatic choice is something no woman should have to be faced with.

Gene therapy might allow women in future generations to not have to fear breast cancer, what a nice gift for our generation to give to those women yet born.

The Epoch of Unnatural Evolution is upon us, we have no choice but to face it.  I think it behooves us to take an active role in guiding it's direction before someone else takes us all in a direction we don't wish to go.

Well, I suppose giving up Angelina Jolie is a good trade off. You tacitly admit that point, I guess.

Well now, funding, that is the fundamental question here. How much of our public health care money do we want to deviate away from regular "casualty" health care, which is the original purpose of health care, to handle accidents, to instead focus on the extension of old age?

On the issue of cancer, though we may eventually be able to trace all cancers to pre-disposition genes, in the end, what I suspect we'll find is that EACH AND EVERYONE of us would be in need of genetic manipulation (on your terms) since most of our diseases are simply the process of ageing and various genotypes simply age in different ways.

As a tax payer, I'm not interested in funding more human longevity. This issue is experienced differently for males than females. In nature, very few individuals experience menopause... what we've come to consider "mid-life" for humans is actually "past the end" in nature. As it stands, medical breakthroughs extend the last years, but as of yet, there has been absolutely no advances in extending youth. Extending old age is not beneficial to any age group or society, we end up with a society where a huge percentage of individuals exist through governmental assisted living, and most youth today do not have the "savings" to assist our parents in their extended ageing.

If I were designing the ideal atheist society, my medical investments would not be focused more than necessary on life extension past 50. I would invest a majority of health care funds in improving the quality of life pre-menopause. Once a female is past menopause, we're dammed if we do, dammed if we don't, there are simply too few non-medical options to live past 50. And no matter what genetic manipulations we subject humans to, we'll still age, if not from one gene than another, there are thousands upon thousands of genes that will be found to pre-dispose to various forms of ageing, and emphasis fighting those I see as a waste of money.

In Canada, according to Statistics Canada, on average, Canadians will be retired for a total of 19 years, and on average, 10 of those will be in sickness. All medical advances do is increase the duration of this dying time. Let's focus on youth and creativity. (and just so I'm transparent on this... I'm 2 years from my "natural" end-point... how far past that I go... is of little concern to me... though many females in my lineage have gone to past 90, longevity is no objective of mine, my intent is to live a full life while I'm here.)

I see some catch 22 here. Death in humans is no longer required for the purpose of genetic evolution, so aging itself is no longer necessary. That leaves open an opportunity to enhance health and productive lifespan for society. Most people would prefer a longer, healthy life, especially if it could remain productive instead of retiring and declining.

To avoid overpopulation, this would probably mean less kids, but I'll bet that could be worked out. It'd mean there's less kids to support for their first couple of decades, and we could give the kids we have more support and happiness.

And the longer we live, the more mental health problems are present in society. Focusing on our own longevity instead of focusing on the health of youth would lead to an incredibly boring society, for as we age, we focus more and more on conservation of our lifestyle rather than the creativity and change seeking of youth.
So the trick must be... if we're wishing to "enhance productive lifespan" is to intervene in the body before the age of 30, in order to extend the 20s, those are our productive years physically and mentally. Now that would be an interesting new direction to take in medical research!

@T A A & Da pope;

You both bring up many good points.

"The answers are out there."

And the longer we live, the more mental health problems are present in society.

I'm not sure what you are saying here. Are you just saying that the longer people live on the average, the more illnesses they will have over their lifetime, or that the older you get the crazier you get?

...as we age, we focus more and more on conservation of our lifestyle rather than the creativity and change seeking of youth.

Lifestyle and creativity are two different and independent aspects of life. When one retires, for example, one is free to do things one has been putting off: starting a business, traveling, volunteering, inventing, moving to another country. These options are less open to the young person who has to concentrate on building a career and simply surviving. You may have it backwards.

So the trick must be... if we're wishing to "enhance productive lifespan" is to intervene in the body before the age of 30, in order to extend the 20s, those are our productive years physically and mentally. Now that would be an interesting new direction to take in medical research!

Can you cite anything other than your rather obvious youth bias as evidence that young people are more productive? If anything, I'd say that the 30's and 40's are, on average, the most productive years of the average person.

On your 1st question... a bit of both.

Some seniors, rare some, get to live more fully/interestingly than in youth, close to that 1% that are financially on top of the world. Most seniors don't. Most seniors end up alone in old age homes, and the trend is only increasing.

Most great inventions and great thinking happen in people's 20s. By the time people are in their 30s, a majority are into breeding and stability of income. Motherhood is most successful when females are in our 20s. The 20s is the true life. We only fantasize about happy old age, mostly it's not the reality.

In a society where we valued the healthy years instead of the death years, we would make arrangements so that education was better managed and youth got the chance to make better life choices, choices not dependent on the fear of being able to provide for their own death years. So much of most people's lives is wasted on planning for old age. If we stopped focusing on death years and focused on productive years, our society would be better for it.

You say I have a "youth bias", I call it being realistic of the biology of Homo sapiens. You think of "productivity" as income earning and career positioning. But without the fear of securing old age, the very paradigm of "productivity" gets shifted. That is always my slant in all discussions, to dismantle status quo paradigms that bias people's thinking.

Contrary to your apparent belief, most of us will not end up in a nursing home until very, very, very late in life. He volunteered in an occupational therapy center operated the the Cleveland Clinic for about 20 years, until he could no more. 

Maybe some 20 year olds are doing something worthwhile, but I think probably on the whole it's a lot less worthwhile than what the people in their 30's and 40's are doing because those age groups tend to spend a lot less time drinking and trying to get laid. I'm not denying there are exceptions, but not nearly enough of them for you to make the broad generalizations of which you are clearly so fond.

I'm sure there are other lists, but this list has the following folks as the Top 10 Inventors of all time: 

Thomas Edison, The Wright Brothers, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Babbage, James Watt, Alexander Bell, Leonardo Da Vinci, Galileo, Tim Berners Lee, Archimedes. 

Babbage was in his 20's, but the rest were older and mostly quite a bit older. I think you'll find that the great inventions of history were made mostly by middle-aged people.

Let's see a list of Top 10 Inventors in their 20's. I'm sure Mark Zuckerberg, who develops new ways to annoy us almost daily will be on your list. You can't put Steve Jobs on it because he didn't really hit his stride until later in life. Who else? 

Mathematics is something of an exception, with many young people making great contributions, but even there, there are about as many great mathematicians who did their best work in middle age or later in life. Bertrand Russell, Alfred North Whitehead, and Isaac Newton, were not kids when they did their best work.

I studied philosophy and young philosophers were even rarer than woman philosophers.

You know, you just present us your highly prejudiced and pulled out of the air attitudes dressed up and presented as facts. 

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