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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Then they need to be properly incentivized. Denying healthcare is the ultimate consequence, and promoting free will to the point of a return to widespread maternal death is beyond my sensitivites. 

Neither do I subscribe to the argument of feminism over personal responsibility.

That said, I don't want my reproductive choices limited, so I would be very cautious about suggesting the same...to anyone.

 

This is what worries me in any discussion about eugenics.  Unless I am completely misunderstanding the term, "eugenics" involves deliberate exclusion of certain undesirable traits from the gene pool.  How far could this exclusion go without becoming a requirement?  If the ultimate goal is to purify the gene pool of these undesirable traits, does that necessitate forced compliance amongst breeding pairs?

 

But even if there is no goal of gene pool purification, what happens when two potential parents are screened and discover that their offspring may be the recipient of a detrimental genetic profile? (I am thinking of recessive genetic disorders that produce debilitating medical conditions.)  Is it then inhumane for these parents to reproduce, knowing that their child is at risk for suffering?  Is it inhumane to allow these parents to produce a child who will suffer?

 

I realize that this is probably random and abstract, so I may as well cut to the specific scenario over which I am pondering.  My boyfriend has a degenerative disease called Friedreich's Ataxia.  It's a recessive genetic disorder that is just fucking brutal; it pretty much ravages the body from head to toe.  Because my boyfriend has the condition, there is a 100% chance that he will pass on an allele for the gene to his offspring.  As we have no plans to have children, I have yet to find out whether or not I am a carrier.  

 

Here's the point that I am debating in my head: if I were to find out that I am a carrier of FA through pre-genetic screening, should my boyfriend and I be prevented from reproducing?  If I am a carrier, there is a 50% chance that the child will have FA.  There is more than a significant chance that this child would be subject to undue suffering and misery.  

 

So I'm flipping between two thoughts.  On the one hand, I abhor the thought of restricting reproductive rights.  But on the other hand, I then wonder whether it is inhumane to allow a life to be created that is genetically destined for misery.  

 

(Disclaimer: We're not planning on having any children.  If we did, we would definitely get genetic screening.  If I am a carrier, we would not have biological children.)

From my perspective, you should be provided with the options that will allow you to control your own situation  - specifically genetic screening.  Wouldn't it be enough to provide free and widely available screening for particularly brutal conditions so that people could make the choice for themselves?  I don't see why people would need to be policed.  Those who took advantage of the resource would be at an advantage, and those who didn't wouldn't, which is really just natural selection in action in a strangely technological manner.  Add an option for free and widely available in vitro fertilization from donor genetic material as well as tubal ligation and vasectomy and let people choose the options that work for them.
But providing genetic screening is not the same as eugenics.  Genetic screening just provides information, whereas eugenics promotes action based upon that information.  I'm wrestling with the dilemma that maybe certain information--like the foreknowledge of having offspring who would suffer terribly--would be grounds for restriction of choice.  Maybe it would be something like reckless endangerment.  But then again, this places the rights of a hypothetical child to not suffer over the rights of existent people to make their own reproductive choices.  And suddenly I feel like I'm arguing against my advocacy for paternal rights over fetal rights in abortion debates.
I don't see any reason why eugenics has to be managed by a central authority.  Call it democratic eugenics - list 6 genetic ailments on a ballot along with an option for 'other', meaning genetic material not containing any of the above 6.  Let people vote.  I'm assuming that most will select #7 even if it means not passing their genes, and that would give us the advantage of eugenics without the fascist side of the equation.

Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of people, like the family in Jewel's post, who will continue to procreate even with the knowledge that their resultant offspring will suffer from genetic diseases.  I just wonder if this isn't some form of child abuse that should be legally prevented, but I can't see how that would be accomplished without venturing into the dangerous territory of regulating reproduction.  I think too many people are selfish and hold onto fantasy notions.

I agree with you that there would be a lot of people making the choice to pass along identified problematic genes, but with each one that makes the choice not to do so the selection against begins.  If we only cut down on juvenile diabetes by 30% in one generation, the benefits would be huge.  If that reduction occurred in the next generation we would only benefit again.  Each time the choice against is made, not only do we benefit, but society witnesses the impact and social acceptance of the practice gains ground.

Type II Diabetes did not exist among First Nations before colonialism. Diabetes, like 90% of myopia cases, is a strictly modern social disease, due to our corrupted unbiological lifestyle.

 

Admittedly, Type I diabetes is a completely different situation, but also significantly less common than Type II.

That's just wrong. From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diabetes_mellitus_type_2#Genetics

"There is also a strong inheritable genetic connection in type 2 diabetes: having relatives (especially first degree) with type 2 increases risks of developing type 2 diabetes substantially. In addition, there is also a mutation to the Islet Amyloid Polypeptide gene that results in an earlier onset, more severe, form of diabetes.[20][21]"

 

Diabetes Mellitus is almost entirely preventable. Diet and exercise are the key and I'd like to see the actual diet of any person with this disease who is not able to control it.

 

@Arcus... I did not imply it was not genetic, of course North American First Nations are genetically dissimilar to Caucasians. Nonetheless, Type II Diabetes was not present in their society before colonialism. Their genetic makeup is not equipped to deal with our stupid eating habits.
Well type 2 can be greatly prevented through diet - a diet that would promote better health amongst the entire population - so I, for one, don't see it as a genetic marker worth selecting against.

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