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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In a liberal society, the state may only interfere with liberty when it has an overriding duty. On balance, the opinion of some, even most, that less than optimal genetics ought to be avoided does not amount to an overriding duty to act. (Consider for example freedom of speech ... distasteful opinions can't be censored, but speech that threatens public safety can.) Therefore, whatever sort of "genetic hygiene" people wish to pursue has to be voluntary, unless you want to live in a fascist state.

 

As medical science advances, more and more people are already practicing voluntary eugenics, and even going the other way by trying to rig the genetic game to produce superbabies. I say more power to them, as long as they are making free choices for their own reasons.

"Therefore, whatever sort of "genetic hygiene" people wish to pursue has to be voluntary, unless you want to live in a fascist state."

That's an argument which only works if you assume that today's standards of what's acceptable and not is similar to what tomorrows standards are. You can pretty much put anything in those quotation marks, it's the Fox news way of rejecting new thought.

(To paraphrase you, does this sound like something you could hear Bill O'reilly say: If "homosexuals" want to marry, then can go to the Netherlands (read: fascist/socialist/morally bankrupt state)."

 

I agree with a lot of this post. I plan on adopting, even though I have pretty good genetics (no braces, no glasses, athletic for starters). In my experience, this next generation of mothers are more concerned with "the experience of having a baby" than actually raising a child. It's a silly, stupid thing that advertising and subversive religious morality has infused, but nonetheless, I hear it more and more.

I think genetics is an important part of our evolution, as we approach the next stage of being, which Juan Enriquez dubs the Homo Evolutis (an organism which directly takes control of our own evolution and others). Michael Specter also wrote a great book called Denialism, which has a chapter specifically dealing with genes. I think it's important to explore, and by explore I mean at least having open conversations about the possible benefits vs. drawbacks. I think our understanding of genes will get to the point of eradicating genetic diseases by rewriting the code. I don't think we necessarily need to or should prevent people from breeding. That's pretty invasive, even if it is for the good of the future.
Thoughtful posting, Ryan. But I think we need a lot of propaganda to instill in the human race that "breeding" has consequences.

On the preventing people from breeding part. There's already an "evil" plan there. Give every people a strong government, a good education, and preferably some money, and we won't even have replacement rates for a while. Essentially bribing them to not have children.

Then when people get tired of chasing money, they'll also want about what they can afford, probabliy around a couple of children to raise, thus ensuring a stable population which will probably fluctuate in response to what the macroenvironment has to offer.

 

Another good posting. I'll repeat here that giving women power over their lives (primarily financial independence) is critical in countries where women have few, if any, rights and Testosterone Rules.
I, like a lot of people, have seen first hand what genetic diseases can do to a person.  My grandmother is a survivor of cancer and is now in the late stages of Alzheimer's.  I can see the benefits of regulating the the reproduction of the human race to limit certain genes from being passed to the next generation.  My fear with this practice is that in limiting some traits, we also run the risk of limiting mutations and further evolution of our species as a whole.  Are we at the pinnacle of our species where we can say we are happy with what we've accomplished?  It is all the genes working together that make us unique.  I think, eventually, we as a species will implement selective breeding eventually wiping out genetic diseases.
I'm not convinced that genetic "abnormalities" and diseases are overall a bad thing.  How does one person, even a collection of people presume the omnipotence to understand all the consequences of directly manipulating the gene pool? The expression, "playing god" comes to mind. There is the struggle for survival and understanding of the science of our existence and then there is the misguided idea that we can actually know enough to decide that one thing is to be valued over another. I will return to my previous premise. If the goal is to eliminate vast amounts of disease and improve quality and happiness in life we need to radically alter our worldview on food, medicine, education, and what it means to live in a free society. No one should ever tell me or my daughter, or you and your children whether or not we should or should not reproduce.

It's not about saying who is allowed to, it's just about making your genes healthier before they begin the baby-making process so your child is healthier than it otherwise would be. And many people here agree it should be a choice, not a requirement. I think you are confusing preventable and genetic disease - some genetic diseases are NOT curable by diet. Alzheimers, Motor Neuron disease... etcetera and so forth. The medical treatments for many are VERY expensive, and it is a bill your child may be left to pay. This is certainly not fair.

Humanity has been playing god ever since we started algebra and medicine. There is no good argument appealing to us "overstepping" ourselves - why should we assume we are limited in out abilities? And then never even try to establish what they are?

Too busy to discuss but wanted to say that I love your summary on this subject- really well written - and I totally agree.

I think that it's an almost meaningless arguement, because transhumanism makes eugenics obsolete. Some may say that most of the accomplishments of eugenics that could theoretically be replaced by transhumanism don't exist yet, however while two people can experiment with selective breeding instantly, dramatic results are going to take much more time(generations) than transhumanist technologies would to develop.

 

Ignoring all ethical and moral aspects, even from a completely utilitarian perspective, the amount of money that it would take to enforce involuntary selective breeding on a widespread scale is probably much more expensive than developing a cost effective embryo screening service. A company called the fertility institute announced that they were going to start development on a business model for that but, they quit because of a pretty dramatic negative reaction from the general public. Furthermore, embryo screening would do way more than eugenics could accomplish.

Why does eugenics have to be involuntary?

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