Here is the moral dilemma. Should we, as a race of people, aid those who cannot survive in the modern day world? I am speaking of welfare, free medical care, foreign aid and etc. As far as moral conduct is concerned, we are helping people in the short term. However, in the eyes of evolution, we are not allowing natural selection to take place and are therefore hurting ourselves as a species. If our morals were evolutionarily minded, shouldn’t we allow children with hereditary diseases to simply die instead of doing everything possible to let them live and reproduce inadvertently spreading the genetic disease through out the genetic pool.
I am not advocating anything and I know this question sounds like it is straight out of Nazi Germany, but from a pure logical standpoint, morals aside, it makes sense to me.
So should we as a society start thinking out our future as a race of people and stop denying natural selection to work? Or, should we continue down our path of doing everything we can to save everyone and possibly drive ourselves to extinction?
So many things wrong here.
Where do you get these ideas...
A) That those deemed fit today would still be deemed superior in a future environment? Perhaps those with autism are destined to become the fittest of us all in some future landscape? As Darwin might tell you if he were alive, in some years finches with a short beak would hold a natural advantage while in other years finches with a longer beak would, all dependent on the current environment and not some objective measure of the evolutionary ideal beak length.
B) That evolution has "eyes", or some goal in mind? Or aims to achieve the best rather than just good enough?
C) That we have somehow arrested the evolution of our species?
D) That hereditary diseases could be weeded out despite the fact that they exist today even after billions and billions of years of non-interference from modern day humans?
E) That hereditary diseases are not a byproduct of an overall, beneficial, genetic trade off?
F) That social cooperation is not a viable evolutionary strategy when it seems to work well for many social animals, foremost among them human beings, of which the population grows rather than depletes despite not throwing our "defective" ones into the river en masse?
G) That a society's morals, if derived from the evolutionary process, then must reflect the cold indifference of nature?
H) That evolution or natural selection even works like this?
I) That attempting to guide our evolution through some master plan is somehow akin to Natural Selection, an unguided and natural process, rather than the exact opposite?
J) That if we allow the cripples, infirm, and "unfit" to live or breed that it will surely lead to the demise of our population?
K) That to weed out imperfections in humanity's genetic coding could be achieved by weeding out individuals who manifest the worst of the errors? This, despite that replication is imperfect and the infinite number of possible matches guarantees by the law of large numbers that even seemingly "fit" folks will pass on old or new genetic problems. This means that if the goal is to eradicate all future errors, you must eradicate all people.
L) That a compassionate society is not natural?
Hopefully this isn't too jumbled....
Just because we help people who in earlier times would have died does not mean that evolution/natural selection has stopped in our species. We do however, have the ability to have more of an active role in our evolution than in the past. Our physical bodies have never been all that spectacular as we are rather soft, squishy, and vulnerable. What makes us special is our brains, our intelligence. Intelligence is our species key survival strategy and what we should be nurturing in ourselves. Education correlates highly with intelligence and with lower birth rates. I think we need to encourage our societies to make education (of all sorts) of higher quality and more accessible.
In terms of allowing people to die I don't think it's ok to take the ruthless approach of denying access to medical care, stopping foreign aid, and abolishing welfare. Access to these things for a very large percentage of the population has absolutely nothing to do with a person's evolutionary fitness. I think we as a species need to stop reproducing like rabbits and stabilize our world population. I think we need to be encouraging the use of contraceptives and safe sex practices world wide and doing what we can to make birth control reasonably available to all. I think that we need to ensure that abortion remains safe, legal, and a decision made by a woman with her her doctors medical advice. I think that we need to improve upon our methods of testing for disease, genetic abnormalities, and so on in the womb so that parents can be informed and better prepared for the life they are bringing into existence. I think we need to have right to die laws so those who are terminally ill and/or unhappy with their quality of life can choose to end it on their own terms. I think we need to base our medical care on quality of life not preserving life for the sake of preserving life. I think we need to be more creative and use long lasting methods in our foreign aid. For example shipping food to countries lacking it (other than as temporary relief) is moronic when we should be using our technology and intelligence to help other countries find ways to grow their own food. What's better for all of us (and I mean all of us) having a bunch of countries that are literally shit holes or having countries that stand on their own two feet who can provide for themselves be allied with other countries in many ways?
I think more important then worrying about our physical evolution is worrying about our cultural evolution. We are still in my opinion lacking in many areas that would help make life better for everyone who is on this planet. To me it's sad to see in this day and age a country that has the means reluctant or flat out opposed to pooling it's resources to ensure that everyone in that country has equal access to health care. It's sad to see countries/societies/individuals allowing or encouraging big business/governments/NGO's ect to take advantage of people anywhere in the world. These sorts of institutions should be benefiting the people not a small hand-full's pocket books.
In short my point is and my answer is somewhere in between your two options. We haven't stopped evolution but we do have the ability to more consciously than ever affect it. Also, that we need to use our intelligence and creativity (rather than be cold and ruthless) to achieve the ability to thrive on this planet and make life better for all for millenia to come.
Most certainly, this is the most profound dilemma facing humanity. I’ve had the same thoughts as you, Jaret, but, ultimately, this is the way I look at it...
...Humanity is doomed, eventually, no matter what we do. That kind of renders concern for the course of mankind, in terms of natural selection, moot, I think.
I believe that it is much more important for me to have greater compassion for those who live in my world, in my time, than for those who MAY exist in future times. For one thing, the ongoing advances in medical science may very well some day allow doctors to prevent any of the hereditary diseases from being expressed in the adult body. Or they may be able to remove the offending genetic mishaps before the age of puberty. Anything is possible.
I taught school for 36 years. I will never forget a student whom I had in my 5th grade class in 1959. Her name was Helene. She suffered greatly from cystic fibrosis, a hereditary disease. Her mother knew she would not live much longer. I offered to excuse Helene from physical education because of her great difficulty in breathing. Her mother said, “No, treat her like any other child in the class. Her life may be short, but I want her to experience it to the best of her ability for as long as she can.” WOW! What a brave and wise mother. And what a brave little girl, because she, too, knew she was going to die; and she, too, wanted to experience as much as possible of what life had to offer. Her mother had given her wisdom well beyond her years. She died about a year and a half later; no omnibenevolent Supreme Being chose to save her. But, I assure you, had I possessed the power to extend her life to the age of reproduction, I absolutely would have.
It is not a dilemma for me.
Very good point.
I once commented on essentially this same question - having worked with Special Olympics, it's very close to me. My answer then was, as it is now, that possibly the next phase in the evolution of Man is the development of an innate compassion, which would certainly help prevent us from destroying ourselves, and could also aid in the event we encounter extra-terrestrial civilizations in our species' far future.
Evolution is a painfully slow process, and gene therapy will soon compensate for inadequacies in humans, making evolution not really a big concern for us. In 200 years, it will not be an issue, yet human evolution in 200 years would not really change us.
In evolutionary terms, 200 years is an eye-blink --
Economics is not a natural process, but you are saying we should let natural selection do its thing in regards to it. From a purely logical standpoint, the nazis were right, if they kill off everyone in the population except those who represent the pinnacle of the population in regards to their ideal, they will indeed breed a new race (not a master race, they were wrong about that).
Anyway, back to the real topic: welfare. If you can prove that reliance on welfare is biologically based, then you may have some case to remove it and let natural selection improve the population... however, I think you will find that a persons socio-economic background and education are FAR more important factors than a persons biology when it comes to welfare dependance. Perhaps instead of advocating to kill off the poor, we should advocate for more accessible basic education.
People, you need to read Scientific American, a few (maybe late last year) issues ago talked about how we are getting weaker (exponentially so) and the differences are so obvious that a child of today, has not even the potential for the strength and endurance of their grandparent. Those incredible athletes of today are a very poor reflection of abilities during the time of the roman empire (yes we think we are getting faster and stronger... not true... ) and you also need to see the film Idiotocracy - which our world seems to definitely be going in that direction, as with the lack of competition and the soft approach to education, sorry, our children are definitely getting dumber.
Also, read the recent studies how the iphone generation is showing brain differences in memory - the reliance on fast answers on the internet has permanently affected younger people - in less than one generation.
The fact that we allow people with really bad genetic hereditary diseases to have children also means that we weaken the gene pool significantly (reality is cruel).
So the bottom line - be nice, and be doomed or be cruel and survive... seems to be natures way.
OR - here's a thought - quit buying your kids every new electronic gadget that comes down the pike, turn off the TV, and kick their sweet little butts out into the street and tell them to go run around the block, and when they've done that, tell them to do it again!
And get your ass out there with them, to show them they're not alone, and run that gut and/or ass off that you've been accumulating for the past decade or so.
Cut back on the Happy Meals and teach them how good a salad can taste! Show them how great it can be to actually read a book and let their minds go to strange lands and meet strange people!
Nothing cruel about that --!