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.
" It's just better at it's job than we are"
Define "better". GE has not YET produced cataclysmic results. Given that, humans are better than nature at selecting desirable traits. Like preservatives; though many would not consider them "natural", you can't argue that they're "better" at making food last.
"built in error correcting"
Synthetic selection has the same error-correcting features. It's just that, like GE, the results would be more quickly apparent if cataclysmic errors are made.
Unfortunately that is not the scientific critical mind thinking. Monsanto (as with the rest of the transgenic brethren) has prevented third party testing and third party assessment. So when you say there hasn't "yet" been a cataclysm is no consolation, there has been NO approved third party science. That is an unscientific way of advancing science, that is oligarchy money speaking and not science.
Humans can not be "better at evolution than naturally occurring evolution, since the very essence of evolution is to not only reproduce the mutation but also to see it continue to successfully reproduce without taking out other organisms.
Nature's error correcting is that if something does not meet the preceding paragraph's criteria, tested not for a ridiculous short decade or less, but over millennia, then it does not have an outcome. Unless you're a fly or a micro-organism, evolution is a multi-multi-millennial process, what we do is not controlled or testable, it is tinkering, treating the entire planet's life forms as an experiment for nothing other than money.
As for your use of "better" that is not moralistic judgement, not a scientific outlook. There is no such thing as "better", there is only 'conducive to long term sustainability of an ecosystem" or "not". Humans have been demonstrating our "not" capacity. We have yet to produce a single technology or invention that fits in with a sustainable ecosystem, we use and destroy, because "our victory over nature is more 'important" than any other endeavour.
@Arcus - This is such a ridiculous statement that it falls on its own unreasonableness. Natural selection works in many ways, death being one of those, but sexual selection is perhaps even more important. As we still aren't reproducing by mitosis, we are still subject to the forces of natural selection.
This is why a healthy-looking young woman past puberty will always be more physically attractive to men, on average, than even a very healthy 40 year old. When it comes to the desire to mate, the reptilian brain is still largely in control.
@H3xx and everyone;
Natural Selection is no longer affecting the human population and hasn't been since the advent of modern medicine, Natural Selection has been bypassed.
Natural Selection works by death. By the death of the portion of the breeding population who carry a particular genetic trait. That portion of the population not being successful enough to produce enough offspring to become a dominant trait in the species.
One of the main flaws in Natural Selection is that it doesn't/can't deselect traits that don't manifest until after the effective breeding period of a species lifespan. Cancers are one example, declining eyesight in longer lived persons is another.
So if the human species wants to continue evolving it will have to do that on it's own by genetic manipulation. Or the more draconian method of identifying traits desirable/undesirable before breeding age and removing those with undesirable traits from the breed population.
Personally I would rather see the genetic manipulation method applied for this purpose because of the potential of developing new traits on purpose, and of course it's much less cruel.
I think Cancer would be a good first choice for the human species to evolve passed. Remember that Natural Selection did NOT deselect the Cancer trait out of the human species. However both genetic traits and environment conditions play a role in most of our miladies.
"Natural Selection is no longer affecting the human population"
This is such a ridiculous statement that it falls on its own unreasonableness. Natural selection works in many ways, death being one of those, but sexual selection is perhaps even more important. As we still aren't reproducing by mitosis, we are still subject to the forces of natural selection.
What humans have done quite successfully is to remove a lot of the randomness. It doesn't matter if you are the epitome of genetic perfection for the environment you live in if you get struck by lightning or get scratched by a poisonous plant. Natural selection may be a non-random process, but it is heavily impacted by random events.
As for cancers, most aren't genetic, and will therefore not respond to genetic engineering.
"Natural Selection is no longer affecting the human population and hasn't been since the advent of modern medicine, Natural Selection has been bypassed."
Arcus; sexual selection means nothing unless those possessing the less-desirable genetic traits DIE or are otherwise rendered totally unable to reproduce. This no longer happens. If anything social policies favour individuals that would never have bred even a couple hundred years ago.
@Mike: No, one does not have to die to not be selected for sexual reproduction. The 70% or so of males which historically have failed haven't done so because they died, and the approximately 25-35% of males over 40 today which has not been selected for are most certainly alive and well.
I would like to know how you know that some of the ones breeding today would not have done so a couple of hundred years ago. It's a statement virtually impossible to argue with a factual basis. After all, they live today, not 200 years ago...
@Arcus "This is such a ridiculous statement that it falls on its own unreasonableness."
While natural selection still affects humans, his statement (while a bit over the top) is not ridiculous. Modern medicine does save al lot of people - who would otherwise have died - allowing them to reproduce and pass on undesirable traits.
Yes, even in a world where we can save someone with a congenital defect, that defect is an undesirable trait as it costs time, money, and resources in addition to endangering the person's life.
So we need to start eliminating such traits from the gene pool whether by the old fashioned and barbaric method of letting the people die, or by doing some careful genetic engineering. I vote for using our intelligence and knowledge to engineer out the harmful traits.
It's ridiculous because it is an absolute statement, without any room for ambiguity. He presented a binary situation, either humans are still subjected to natural selection (my argument) or they are not (his argument). You and I will resolve ourselves to make arguments which we may be able to defend, as you just did, that humans may be less subject to natural selection. Then we may continue having an argument regarding the ethics of removing traits.
But that's not what Gregg did, and that's why I called his argument ridiculous.
Indeed, strictly scientifically speaking, there is almost no natural selection happening in with Homo sapiens. However, we are still evolving by other mechanisms.
Indeed, by enshrining breeding rights onto "would be dead people", we are increasing the presence of un-fit genes in our gene pool. As it stands we're accomplishing UN-natural selection.
But the biggest contributor to Homo sapiens evolution at the moment is mass outbreeding. Never before in Homo sapiens history have all different allele populations been breeding with each other. The eventual outcome of this *could* be seen in a positive light, as all colours of humans would disappear. There would be no "African Americans", no "Asian Americans", no natives, no Jews, ... and eventually, no cultural diversity, instead we'd be living in a cultural boredom land, where all variety of cultures have disappeared, and we all live within the same geopolitical/cultural/sociological paradigms. Some would argue this to be a good thing, others not. Since it's all a matter of "culture" and culture is as inherently useless as "religion" this aspect of our homogenisation is of relatively little interest to me.
But from a biodiversity perspective, the homogenisation of Homo sapiens does not bode of a quality future. Just as in the field of economics, a varied portfolio offers lesser risk, so as with the human population, bloodlines distinct from each other hold within them built-in ecosystemic defences against mass diseases. Once all Homo sapiens have been homogenised, we'll have lost that genetic diversity, and will be more susceptible to mass pandemics, but the fight against mass pandemics will turn into the largest pharmaceutical profit ever, because all of humanity will be subject to pharmaceutical controls, and eventually, pharmaceuticals will be the largest industry in the world, medicating worker-drone humans, to the benefit of a small world elites making all the profits and handling all affairs. We have not seen the worst of it yet!
and segue... Looking at most of what we presently call "disease"... if looked at from a different angle... could simply be called the natural process of ageing. So to "fight disease" in most cases is a misnomer, we're simply fighting death.
For there to be quality of life, there must be death.
Looking at it from the child's right to protection by the society it takes on a different light.
Absolutely. There are two conflicting points of view - both of which are "correct". It's just that I'd have THOUGHT right wing politicians would support the opposite view.