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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Quite interesting to know there are certain things one can do to avoid what I believed to be in major part due to genetics and less so environmental. I think you may misunderstand me a little bit. I am not saying we should either strip dna clear and type it back in perfectly, nor to I believe it as simple as snipping one gene somewhere, it's a lot more complicated than that.

Nor do I believe genetic medicine is a cure all, or as simple as just simple gene pairs without interaction, but once we start to have studied enough humans, with the same health problems, having certain genes switched on or off in a sequence, that we can for rearrange it. And then we might have to study the humans which have very healthy lives, and find how the same things are connected, we may know how to make better humans than nature, and with a lot less needless suffering.

While it may be the environment that initiates the disease, its often genetic predispositions which underpin it. 

As for me, one trigger is dehydration. I shouldn't drink alcohol. But staying out with my drinkingbuddies sober, I'd have to listen to all their drunk talk. And that's way worse than an elevated probability of a migraine the next morning. ;)

I believe Michael J. Fox has described how his drinking and other unhealthy habits contributed to the development of his disease. You may question use of alcohol for other reasons.

Celiac is interesting. The actual prevalence in the gene pool is what is increasing. Yes, it can be a triggered disease or you can start having symptoms from day 1. There is no understood rhyme or reason to it. It isn't increasing for the same reasons Tay-Sachs increases, it's just showing up more and as far as I have read, they do not know why.

My migraines have no food trigger per se. Their intensity and frequency were hormonal and also tied to the celiac disease. Point being that if the medical community were to focus on what we do to our bodies rather than treating symptoms and filling the pockets of the fast food and pharmaceutical corps., we could improve quality of life in vast quantities. Migraines and celiac are just the tip of the iceberg. Even reading the downplayed recommendations from the health orgs like the AHA, etc. point to diet and exercise. They simply don't promote is as they should and don't go far enough. (we wouldn't want to offend our corn-fed steak eating masses or the powers that promote eating non-nutritive junk).

What's more interesting thing to my health is happiness. I look at some of the places where people live the longest and often self reported happiest lifes, the so called Blue Zones in particular, and high life expectancy and happiness in general, and make an attempt at imitating some of the behavior and perhaps especially eating habits from the Blue Zones.

Don't know if it's any worth to believe in, but I'm running my life as a sample. I'm betting my life that clinical medicine not knowing all the secrets to a healthy life.

Religion is absolutely fantastic at making people feel happy... Happiness can be purchased and can be brainwashed into you. Places like Bhutan, a theocracy and a monarchy their success by happiness in lieu of GDP  ;p
Yeah, a bit of bread (government) and circus (celebrity gossip). It's a bit of a sexual revolution that we are all more well informed about politician's sex lives rather than their policies. ;)

The argument presented here is a perfect argument against genetic therapy NOW. But imagine genetic therapy in the context of the following:

[1] We will not attempt to prevent all genetic diseases known. We will be selective. The argument of sheer numbers should not be a problem.

[2] Those chosen for treatment will be EXTENSIVELY studied. The argument of imperfect information is quite moot.

[3] Natural selection does NOT remove genetic impairments - through our improved healthcare we obviate its mechanisms. People with genetic impairments are not competed out of the gene pool (thankfully).

[4] There is no reason to choose between your child (not you, but your child) having a disease which can be avoided. This is cruel, especially if the disease is severe or chronic. This is not about you, but your progeny.

[5] You are correct - healthcare is extremely important, for those currently living and future generations. Regardless of genetic therapy many problems can NOT be treated - there are genetic roots to obesity but the problem is largely environmental.

And a lot of folks here are concerned with "paying" for other people's diseases. How much does the system cost to develop such a program? Who pays to maintain it? The drains on our society are not caused by the occasional, rare, debilitating illness, but rather, the preventable ones. Fixing those...priceless, and cost free (aside from education and a food industry overhaul).

If quality of life for all is what we want, then there are simpler, cheaper, sustainable, and humane alternatives.

Agreed. The payment perspective is nonsense. It affects those living NOW, where genetic therapy is only about improving the health of your progeny. Even for debilitating illnesses - regardless of if we treat them or not I doubt money is the issue. Go wave a stick at the obese, the smokers, the anaemic, before you wave that particular stick here. Those are (mostly) preventable through lifestyle choices. I hasten to add, for completeness, that not ALL are.

But if you could simply swap out a gene you have causing diabetes, knowing it would prevent your child from getting it - would you choose not to?

Hard question. On one level...it seems like a waste of resources to be constantly researching how to change the human genome and with unknown long-term consequences. I do not believe in genetically modifying any other organism. So, I would say no, I would not make that choice. I would either choose to abort if a defect was present that I felt was too much too bear, or I'd choose not to have children at all. Life is hard. And, you cannot predict suffering on all accounts, nor can you quantify suffering as a whole. It is different depending on the person. I personally gain from the struggle present in the human condition as it stands (without the nonsensical dietary and chemical choices that are being made by the general public).
Studying the human genome has value for treating disease too, as understanding how a particular gene encodes a physical problem is important to attempting to treat it. I think the problem of suffering (both for and agaisnt the topic) is this: You cannot compare yourself to a genetic clone of yourself who has undergone the gene therapy. And has been raised under the same conditions, to the same parents, with the same major events in life. You will never know whether or not you will have been a better or worse person (according to your own measures, of course).
But if someone breaks a leg, it is not practice to refuse treatment for character-building purposes. In the absence of information, should we not attempt to decrease possible suffering where we can?

Studying the genome and attempting to alter it are two completely different things. I am all for understanding it and unraveling its mysteries...I mean how cool is that? I am not advocating withholding treatment of a condition...this is ethically radically different than altering genes in the first place.

Trouble is... knowledge and action are indissociable. Once we have knowledge of something, there is always someone or a corporation ready to profit from it. Being against gene therapy, and modification, means that if I'm involved in research funding decisions, I would prioritise vasectomy funding. It's a small technology, it's easy to achieve improvements in. Trouble is, vasectomy does not create huge profits for pharmaceutical companies, so it is left as an unattended sector of further research. It's akin to thinking nuclear research is cool, but then expecting nobody will make atomic bombs. Technology and science are not "good" or "bad", they are simply means to an end, and the end is always money and politics.

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