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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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.

There is a programme in Britain which educates people in difficult situations (prostitutes, severe druggies etc.) regarding their choices in abortions, vasectomies and adoption. It also provides monetary income for those that wish to have reversible vasectomies. It is met with fierce opposition and ridiculed as evil.

Humanity is most certainly confused.

I'm a tech optimist myself. Nature didn't send us to the moon or cure polio. Technology did.

Nature causes plagues, diseases, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanos, hurricanes, drought, harsh winters, and many other major non-discriminatory killers. Nature has killed and will always kill substantially more humans than all the technology ever invented has ever done.

"non-discriminatory killers"

 

my favourite kind :)

@T A A: So presumably you will not go to the doctor if your appendix starts aching? :)

That's simply a dumb comment. I'm past that age anyway. Appendix removal is a small and quick surgery and cheap surgery. However, in a eugenics context, if it were found that there is a genetic marker that indicated a genetic predisposition to that type of problem, then we'd be in the game. Previous to surgical removal of appendix, people died of it. This certainly conferred less reproductive success.

 

The modern "sensitivity" of medical life maintenance has indeed created a more sick citizenry since more diseased people live and more people reproduce, creating absolute growth in the medical industry. I know you 'sensitivities' hate to read this kind of thought but it's why I favour a breeding filter, to eliminate breeding by people who are born with defects, which includes me. I have had back/bronchial problems all my life and am more than happy not to breed.

 

We have the means to CHOOSE which areas of health and medicine we want to favour. As it stands, we've been choosing the path of more people (through longevity and increased birth success), I vote for a change of politics, lets focus our health and medical technologies which increase only quality not quantity of life. Let's kick religion out of medicine.

This I absolutely agree with. If self-selection out of the genepool is a strong motivator, then you are amoral to the bone. I however, don't share that life choice. I can defend breeding to myself, and that shifts a few priorities in life which I think seperate us.  

"lets focus our health and medical technologies which increase only quality not quantity of life. Let's kick religion out of medicine."

That's why I want to be an active, working, healthy 80 year old, which one day just doesn't wake up from natural causes. That should be the main focus of medicine today, not a few to 125. I prefer quality over quantity for myself (even the occational overindulgence in quality).

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