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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I have several arguments to the above:

[1] We are living in an age where technological transformations have been massive. "New" discoveries have abounded - computers and information theory are less than a century old and have completely redefined humanity.

[2] Social battles are won. The increasing rights of women with regards to family-planning, education and equality are an example.

[3] Environmental battles are won. One quarter of my civil engineering degree consisted of environmental law, engineering, and social studies. This was not the case in engineering a century ago.

[4] Most human knowledge would not disappear because we will not unlearn reading or writing, the two most significant tools we have developed. Humanity would be vastly impoverished if we returned to this state.

[5] Rarity is also known as scarcity, one of the drivers of price manipulation (see oil). Rarity is not necessarily a good thing.

I do agree with the following, though:

[1] We always lose social knowledge at each generation. It despairs me that this is not better integrated into school education, as it is fundamental to our development.

[2] Technological uplifting does not improve happiness. Television has not increased the happiness of the average child. As an extension, longer lives will not improve happiness.

[3] Globalisation has made every part of the world sensitive to events out of their control. This was, however, inevitable.

this is getting off topic, so I'll be brief... just 2-3-4, women's rights have varied through generations. In Canada, salary disparity is increasing and it's expected that many reproductive rights will be affected by our new conservative government. Environmentally... recycled paper is mostly out, old growth forests are only ever temporarily saved, everything about our environment is worsening, not improving, except E.coli levels in public bathing places... The environment gets an incredible amount of lip service but very little is ever actually achieved. If all our knowledge were stored in books maybe... but more and more our knowledge is stored digitally, extremely easy to disrupt such an insecure medium.

"Television has not increased the happiness of the average child."

There was actually a study in India, refrenced in Superfreakonomics, suggesting that the introduction of TV has led to substantially lower reproduction and domestic abuse rates. Presumably that increases happiness of the average child since they will receive more nourishment, education-by-TV (vs no education), and don't have to watch their mothers being used as punching bags (as often).

TV isn't all bad, but I wouldn't mind if Jersey Shore was banned by law as polluting society's environment, and all which could be legally aired were properly peer reviewed documentaries. ;)

Imagine Stephen Hawking's motor neuron disease was identified and corrected before he was born. He would not have had to cope with it. He would most likely have a greater number of productive working years (he has overcome a great many difficulties to work, but if he did not have to he could probably work harder, longer than he does. Which is what many a scientist desires). His quality of life would be greater than it could be with any current treatment.

It is not saying he has less value as a person NOW because of it. Nonsense. You are not valued because of your wins and losses in the genetic lottery.

"And, how about people like Stephen Hawking?"

And how about Cell lump X, which would have cured cancer, but was aborted? You don't know a priori who will become a great contributor to humanity, and it is not a valid counter.

"If a woman chooses to abort for whatever reason she sees fit, so be it."

Now you are going completely overboard with womens right to choose. If she has a special priviledge without associated responsibility, then there's plenty of room in the forest to give birth. Individual rights come with individual responsibilities.

"But to systematically decide what constitutes a viable person based on what diseases they may have...this is dubious."

Less dubios than letting women choose completely at their own volition just because they happen to have been born with ovaries. And who's got the right to choose if we one day find a way to make babies ex-utero, progress seem to be closing in on that one quite quickly.

"I maintain, if you want to improve quality of life for all people, teach and educate."

Parkinsons and senility run in my family. Please educate me how I can be assured I will never be the victim.

"about the fact that several genetic diseases are on the rise and yet the increase cannot be explained by reproductive measures."

Usually these become apparent because we have greatly extended life expectancy. With added time, nature finally kills us off. A couple of hundred years ago, women had substantially shorter life expectancy than men. Most died in child birth, most before the age of 25. Most children died before the age of 10. Advocating anything remotely similar to such a system offends my sensitivites, as they should yours.

I am a supporter of a woman having full reproductive rights. I am not going to argue that here right now. I did not suggest it was without responsibility. Having babies "ex-utero" is not what I am discussing and raises a whole set of other ethical questions and problems. For the matter of that, I am not in this thread to argue reproductive rights with anyone. It was a point with a means to help explain my other point of view and not there to open up a completely different topic.

I'll start here: Celiac disease is genetically marked and yet scientists cannot explain why its prevalence is doubling every fifteen years since they started keeping track in the early 70s. Their current belief is that something environmental is acting upon us to cause this. Celiac disease is not a disease of old age, nor middle age.  

Diabetes Type 2 is at epidemic levels. Any site you visit: Mayo clinic, WebMD, Kaiser will recommend specific dietary changes and exercise. I am not sure what study you are referencing...a link would help. Read, "The China Study" which supports that diet and exercise prevent and treat that and multiple other diseases. Fact is...bring a rural Chinese or other person consuming a largely plant-based diet to this country or to the main cities and feed them a western diet, they too will develop "western" diseases. Again: show me a person's diet and I will tell you whether it is likely causing their condition.

In regard to your question about Parkinsons: I am now curious to do a little research on this question. What I did find with a quick poke around is that industrialised countries have a far greater prevalence...cause unclear. Smoking and avoidance of heavy metal toxins and pesticides are preventative.

Remarks regarding life expectancy ignore several facts. The belief about us living longer is a little bit misguided. Our capacity to live the length we live has not changed. What has changed is hygiene (preventing a very high death rate in newborns and women), immunizations, and modern surgical methods. The mean will jump strongly if we stop eating garbage and pretending it's food.

We have more power over ourselves than people believe and perhaps our lack of belief in our own health and future is tainted by the commercialization in our culture and the perpetuation of lack of free will by various religious dogmas.


Also, in response to your comments regarding migraines. I have had them my entire life. My last one that lasted more than one day (2 weeks is how long it lasted) was last November. I now only get 2 per month maximum that last less than one day and have minimal intensity. How did I change this and several other health problems? Diet and diet alone. I'm still working on it and determined to eliminate them altogether. I have never been healthier and I'm still working on it. If the argument for eugenics is to improve quality of life, we are missing several easy and cheap ways to vastly improve quality of life. Let's start simple and see if the desire to engage in ethically unbalanced practices fade away.

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.


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