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[P]
The Shortcomings of Eugenics

By la princesa in Op-Ed
Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 09:12:10 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

Recent advances in genetics and gene therapy have raised the old specter of eugenics. Eugenics can be divided into two categories: positive, or utopian eugenics, and negative eugenics. Positive eugenics has a shorter history than negative eugenics, as it dates from roughly the middle and late nineteenth century. Its focus is on helping people produce offspring with the most genetically suitable traits. Negative eugenics, conversely, deals with killing off or sterilizing those with genetically defective traits. It is this type of eugenics that people tend to think of when they hear the word "eugenics".

Negative eugenics are what Hitler's Nazi scientists practiced. This form of eugenics goes all the way back to Plato's Republic, which detailed a plan to prevent genetic undesirables from mating and producing offspring. It is this form of eugenics that is often invoked when genocide occurs. Genocide in the cause of negative eugenics is rationalized as weeding out a genetically inferior race so that a supposedly superior one can continue on.


As it applies to genetics, negative eugenics can be seen as a stumbling block to further exploration of the possibilities genetic manipulation offers. Associations with racism and genocide have led many non-scientists and scientists to believe that negative eugenics is representative of eugenics period. This is untrue.

However, due in no small part to the widespread attention the dire effects of negative eugenics have received, positive eugenics has been marginalized in the field of genetics. Though it is receiving more attention, it still remains the lesser known of the two sorts of eugenics.

Positive eugenics also suffers from lack of history. Negative eugenics has been around in one form or another for millenia. It has manifested itself in things like infanticide of defective infants (praticed in much of the ancient world) and enforced sterilization, as in the case of Carrie Buck. However, it was positive eugenics that gave both forms a name (Francis Galton, a positive eugenicist, coining the term).

Unfortunately, Galton lived in the nineteenth century, so the history of positive eugenics is limited to the last hundred years. Positive eugenics did have notables like George Bernard Shaw on its side, and its premises were less ethically troublesome. For example, positive eugenicists advocated the upper classes having many children, so as to increase the incidence of "good" genes in the societal gene pool. Also advocated, but to a lesser degree, was the concept of selecting one's mate based on their genetic profile. The idea behind this was for those with good genes to maintain them by arranging marriages with other good-gened people.

In terms of modern genetics, the latter idea is analogous to family planning before marriage, not afterward. It is in this sense that current positive eugenics differs from the utopian eugenics of the past. Both have the same end &em; to preserve the most genetically viable traits within the human race &em; but modern genetics is beginning to permit a direct approach to that end with genetic manipulation.

Gene therapy is an example of this more direct approach. With gene therapy, one can test for genetic disabilities and shortcomings and then adjust the genes to fix them. While current technology is not this advanced as yet, (it can only manipulate a few genes for a few illnesses with mixed results), the possibilities raised when technology catches up to theory are intriguing. If one can alter genes to fix inheritable genetic diseases and disabilities, then eugenics has the potential to be exclusively positive. There may in fact be no need to kill off genetic desirables when they can be healed, perhaps in utero, with gene therapy.

Of course, this possibility is contingent on advances in genetics some decades away. It also relies on gene therapy being available to all. In addition, the above possibility presupposes that everyone will want gene therapy if they have a genetically induced condition or disease.

This is the inherent problem with positive eugenics. It relies on everyone cooperating to make life better for all concerned.

Negative eugenics has a way around this &em; one can kill or sterilize any societal undesirables and argue that the killings or sterilizations were genetically necessary. Negative eugenics relies on the more negative aspects of human nature. By definition, it is a reductive genetic philosophy. It is this reductive nature that frightens people when genetics and eugenics are used together. The fear is that eugenics will be applied for racist purposes to eliminate minority races and ethnicities.

The irony is that this question is not avoided with utopian eugenics. Many early eugenicists of both positive and negative affiliation were racist. Utopian eugenics wants the best traits to be bred for in human society. It never specifies which human society, or even what traits are best. Most eugenicists have gone with a white society and Caucasian traits, similar to breeders tailoring bloodlines of show dogs, despite codifying hereditary weaknesses due to inbreeding.

This is the essential dilemma of eugenics.Is it at all possible to breed humans like dogs without negative consequences? Utopian eugenics does not advocate killing genetic undesirables, but it can be used to advocate specific populations breeding with an eye to genetic pluses and minuses. For, essentially, that is the purpose of eugenics-- to create a better human. The problem is determining what traits are better. While dogs can be bred for their coat color and the shape of their jaw, one hopes humans are less frivolous regarding themselves. However, given the racist past of eugenics, that seems unlikely.

Thus the challenge of genetics in the future will be figuring out how to improve the human race without sidelining disadvantaged populations.Geneticists and the people they test will have to ask themselves what traits are genetically desirable.Eugenics can only tell people what to do after the traits have been chosen. Both forms of eugenics still leave choosing the traits to individuals or governments. In that sense, people should not fear eugenics for what it does, but only for what it does not do. The final choice rests with humanity, not with a philosophy of genetic shaping.

Bibliography

Gillott, John. "The Spectre Of Eugenics". Living Marxism. Janunary 1996. [internet document, currently inaccessible]

Kevles, Daniel J. In The Name Of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985, reprinted 1995.

Macer, D.R.J. Shaping Genes: Ethics, Law and Science of Using New Genetic Technology in Medicine and Agriculture. Eubios Ethics Institute, 1990.

Reilly, Philip R. "A Look Back At Eugenics". The Gene Letter, Vol. 1 (Nov 1996).

http://www.geneletter.org/archives/backeugenics.html

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Related Links
o plan to prevent genetic undesirables from mating and producing offspring
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o Also by la princesa


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The Shortcomings of Eugenics | 146 comments (143 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
no (4.00 / 2) (#2)
by rhyax on Sat Jul 06, 2002 at 09:59:59 PM EST

Geneticists and the people they test will have to ask themselves what traits are genetically desirable.

currently the feeling in the genetics community is that of education when a patient comes in. explaining the outcomes etc. value judgments about anything at all are very shunned and seen as unethical. this is how it should be. i am fine with people making decisions, even to alter their germ line (which is currently verboten) but the government certainly should have absolutely no role, and even suggesting a role of the geneticist beyond education (genetics counselor) and technical work (lab personnel) is questionable. no one has the right to enforce their will on someone else's reproductive choices. if you see a counselor today it will be 100% your choice, they only educate.

An answer (4.53 / 15) (#3)
by pyramid termite on Sat Jul 06, 2002 at 10:05:58 PM EST

Is it at all possible to breed humans like dogs without negative consequences?

Knee pads can help with carpet burns.
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
Breeding dogs (4.71 / 7) (#4)
by Anonymous 242 on Sat Jul 06, 2002 at 11:38:49 PM EST

Is it at all possible to breed humans like dogs without negative consequences?
By far, the dogs with the best health (and henceforth the best genetics) are mongrels. Mutts display few (if any) of the genetic abnormalities that frequently plague pure-breds.

It is very likely that selective breeding or genetic modification of people will result in the same type of genetic weaknesses in humanity as a given society approaches a monoculture due to certain traits being intentionally selected for in the majority of the population.

Basic intro to animal breeding (5.00 / 1) (#11)
by nomoreh1b on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 01:20:24 AM EST

Inbreeding/Linebreeding practices don't produce genetic defects. In fact, these techniques are a way of identifying animals that have genetic defects so those sires can be eliminated from a breeding population. Now, there is a problem in that many dog breeds get obsessed with particular show-winners and don't maintain a degree of diversity with their breed. Another problem is that when there is a lot of money on he table(which happens a lot with dog/cattle breeding) folks lie about their animals characteristics).

The reason for maintaining "breeds" of animals is because these strains are useful in producing animals that have a consistently high degree of hybrid vigor using a technique called a rotational cross(hybridized females are mated with non-hybridized males). If you breed mutts to mutts, you get a degree of variation in the degree of hybrid vigor each individual--using a rotational cross all individuals produced will have a high degree of hybrid vigor.

Now, that said, I think there is a good possibility that genetic engineering of humans will result in harmful fads. In fact, this already is underway. Look at how many indigenous peoples have become extinct the last few hundred years or have been absorbed into other populations. Personally, I think this is a serious problem--something has been thrown away before it is well understood what has been lost.

[ Parent ]

bad analogy (3.33 / 3) (#14)
by Lode Runner on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 03:06:40 AM EST

Groups of indigenous humans are generally not analogous to pure breeds of domesticated animals. The problem is that indigenous peoples are mongrels. Thus, anyone bragging that (s)he's a pure Celt (or whatever indigenous group tickles your fancy) is bragging that (s)he's a pure mutt.

Those who argue for the segregation of races in order to promote human hybrid vigor are missing the main ingredient of their recipie for human improvement, the purebreds.

As for these "techniques" you mention, the term you're looking for is backcrossing. T.H. Morgan knew that the only sure-fire way to determine genotypic "purity" would be through a rigorous program of backcrossing. He also knew that backcrossing people described as "racially pure" would produce embarassing results for eugenicists like Madison Grant & Co.

[ Parent ]

Racism in action (1.00 / 1) (#49)
by nomoreh1b on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 08:28:43 PM EST

The problem is that indigenous peoples are mongrels.

To say that any group that has been isolated from the rest of humanity for many generations is the same as everyone else is inaccurate, racist and demeaning to their sense of identity. This is the type of thinking that lead to the the idea that extermination of the Tasmanians didn't really matter--or that economic systems that accomplish the same thing(say what is happening in Tibet right now) are just fine.

Anyhow, there are indigenous groups that practiced very intensive inbreeding in human populations(a good example is the Hawaiian nobility). I'm not sure what was really being selected for in that case(I figure that is their business).

Backcrossing according to one FAQ is:
Crossing an F1 heterozygote to one of its parents,or a plant with the same genotype as one parent.Backcross strategies are designed to reinforce parental traits or introduce new genes into known good cultivars.see cubing.

That is a fundamentally different technique than a rotational cross in which you are trying to maximize hybrid vigor with no intent to introduce new genes into the parent populations.

Now, there was quite a bit of work on creating new inbred strains at the USDA labs in Beltsville, MD in the 30's. Basically, these folks would take highly hybridized populations, separate and intensively inbreed them for several generations and then use them to create new hybrid populations.

[ Parent ]

poppycock (4.00 / 2) (#59)
by Lode Runner on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 11:50:01 PM EST

Well, I'm sorry to offend you and your sense of identity, but these "isolated" groups of humans haven't been cut off long enough to breed true.

Contrary to what you claim, Tasmanians were exterminated because, at the time, Europeans believed race was important and that Tasmanians were racially inferior. Then when someone compared the loss of the Tasmanians to the loss of the dodo, the Euros flip-flopped..., so "lead to" isn't the right term 'cause it's on the wrong side of causality.

When I told you that backcrossing is a good technique for determining genotypic purity, I meant it. I can't imagine how you could've convinced yourself that I'd confounded it with rotational crossing. I mean, you mentioned hybrid vigor in a different paragraph.

Backcrossing is important for creating hybrids because it ensures the consistency of the purebred parents. So the first step towards achieving your goal of doing this with humans should be to confirm your lineage with a backcross. I just hope your mother's as open-minded about such things as you are. And don't come looking for a refund if your little F1' exhibits undesireable phenotypes.

p.s. - Baldrson, it's generally considered bad form to give ones to replies to your comments. I'll let you figure out why.

[ Parent ]

more (5.00 / 1) (#65)
by nomoreh1b on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 12:34:55 AM EST

Well, I'm sorry to offend you and your sense of identity, but these "isolated" groups of humans haven't been cut off long enough to breed true.

Well, the beltsville experiements were claiming results after 5-6 generations. Now they were doing intense inbreeding(brother-sister crosses).

Contrary to what you claim, Tasmanians were exterminated because, at the time, Europeans believed race was important and that Tasmanians were racially inferior. Then when someone compared the loss of the Tasmanians to the loss of the dodo, the Euros flip-flopped..., so "lead to" isn't the right term 'cause it's on the wrong side of causality.

The important problem I think here is the attitude that human diversity isn't important enough to maintain. Claiming that "were are all the same because we are all mutts" can lead to problems just like the attitude "I know who those with superior genes are-the folks that look like me".

When I told you that backcrossing is a good technique for determining genotypic purity, I meant it.

It has been years since I did serious study of genetics(I used to raise purebred livestock professionally). I checked and saw backcrossing being used as a synonym for parent child matings(which honestly was a bit different than I remembered and some of the verbage in the stuff from the FAQ I quoted threw me off). The technique of parent child matings can expose some genetic defects, but not as many as brother-sister matings.

Backcrossing is important for creating hybrids because it ensures the consistency of the purebred parents.

The techniques that I was taught: use brother-sister pairings to expose genetic defects, use parent-child pairings to intensify traits in an individual that has passed the first test and exhibits unusually desirable traits. One big thing in livestock breeding: you have to be prepared to cull an animal that shows problems in a parent-child or brother-sister pairing. Frankly, that is a discipline a lot of breeders have a problem maintaining when serious money is one the table.

[ Parent ]

Rate Yourself (5.00 / 1) (#98)
by Baldrson on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:28:13 PM EST

Well, Lode Runner/Medham/Streetlawyer/??? I'll say this to your foray here:

Since "nomoreh1b" is an old acquaintence of mine who taught me most of what I know about breeding (my father was also into breeding hybrid corn competitively in Iowa so I got a bit from there) you have here a wonderful opportunity to debunk one of my primary sources.

You have so far failed to do so as you usually do -- emphasizing minutae while destroying substance. It appears to be a genetic weakness of your breed to do so.

Please get to the discussion at hand so I don't get a more fixated idea of your genotype.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


[ Parent ]

oh goody (3.00 / 1) (#104)
by Lode Runner on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:57:11 AM EST

you have here a wonderful opportunity to debunk one of my primary sources.

Your four-aitch blue ribbon won't impress the lords of the fly.

Here's the problem: corn and cattle breeding practices cling more tightly to folk knowledge than does fruit fly breeding, the practice around which the core of modern genetics developed. In my experience, it is a pleasure to teach adult students with backgrounds in breeding, but they often need to do some conceptual retooling when they find themselves eye-to-eyes with Drosophila. FYI: Lab work with Zea mays doesn't begin until after students have mastered the flies.

The projection of agricultural breeding practices onto genetics and eugenics faltered in the 1920s for a perfectly good reason: fly workers like Morgan began to get an inkling of how genes really worked. The analogies to husbandry that had proven so useful to Darwin, Galton, and the 1920s "if we can breed cattle why can't we breed people?" crowd, just didn't pan out when people started asking just how heritability functioned. Students need to know this, and that's why I make the freshmen read Diane Paul's book and the juniors read Robert Kohler's book.

Today, breeders are, like, the last holdouts against the advances of the corpus of knowledge that Morgan (et al) set up. Breeders get results, but they rely too heavily on a kind of kludgework that is incompatible with the ultra-reductionism championed by us flyboys. It's no mystery to me why bucolics clinging to concepts that were discarded 75 years ago are called quacks when they begin to rave about applications of farm practices to human genetics. Think of yourself as fascism's answer to Lynsenko.

As for my genotype: could you tell me... upon which chromosome do you believe the refuses-to-take-Baldrson-seriously gene lies? Is it nearby (i.e. linked) to anything else? Any masking? Do tell!



[ Parent ]

Predictable (none / 0) (#108)
by Baldrson on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 11:00:47 AM EST

You failed to discuss the way breeding best-practice differs from that which nomoreh1b discussed.

This was quite predictable and predicted.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


[ Parent ]

the point is... (2.00 / 1) (#124)
by Lode Runner on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 12:25:14 AM EST

hybrid vigor is a myth. It has no basis in modern (i.e. post-Morgan) genetics and you would probably win a Nobel if you could prove otherwise.

[ Parent ]
What about mules? (none / 0) (#128)
by nomoreh1b on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 03:57:27 AM EST

You are saying hybrid vigor is a "myth". Have you ever observed the characteristics of mules vs. horses? Have you ever looked at the various data that compared outcrossed swine vs inbred swine vs. swine that were crosses of more than one breed? As I remember, the USDA folks at Beltsville were claiming clear advantages in areas that are commercially importan like ability to efficiently convert grain/soy to meat.

I would be genuinely interested in a citation of an academic paper or book that makes claims similar to your claim that "hybrid vigor is a myth". I'm rather suspicious in this whole regard at this point.

Now, I can believe that the issue of hybrid vigor has become academically non-fashionable. Just because a branch of technology has become old enough most folks don't know about it, doesn't mean it isn't real.

[ Parent ]

get ye to the library (3.00 / 1) (#130)
by Lode Runner on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 06:31:10 AM EST

and look up "heterosis" in a generalized journal like Science. You'll quickly see that geneticists do not understand how the phenomenon works if it indeed exists at all.

A cursory online search of Science found heterosis buried in phrases like "imperfectly understood effect called heterosis..."1 There has also been limited discussion of it in Molecular Genetics (Mar 2001, Vol. 10 Issue 3, p551), but you won't like what you see there. A look through older journals (1960s) will turn up one R. Langridge's not so successful efforts to find heterosis in fruit flies and other organisms commonly employed by geneticists.

If none of that does the trick, I would suggest reading Frankel's Heterosis: reappraisal of theory and practice. If I may be so bold to quote one of Frankel's reviewers (QRB, 59):

    After thirty years of research, there is apparently still no mechanistic explanation of heterosis documented at the DNA level; neither has anyone succeeded in fixing heterosis, the dream of plant breeders.
I'll add that little has changed since that review was written.

Yes, there are lots of hybrids in the world, from Africanized bees to mules to tangelos, but that doesn't mean you'll find a scientific basis for what the breeders call hybrid vigor. And we haven't even come anywhere near the matter of heterosis in humans yet.

1Science, 288:5465 (21 Apr 2000), p. 429.

[ Parent ]

Get Thee to Googlandria (5.00 / 2) (#132)
by Baldrson on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 01:31:56 PM EST

It wasn't hard to come up with this debunking of your statement, Medham/LodeRunner/StreetLawyer/???:
22 January 2002

NEWS

Hybrid vigor in rock pools

A study of Daphnia water flea populations in rock pools emphasises the importance of interbreeding and gene flow.

Excessive inbreeding can be deleterious to a population, resulting in inbreeding depression. Gene flow through metapopulations can be amplified by hybrid vigor, if the hybrid offspring of immigrants and residents have a competitive advantage. In the January 18 Science, Ebert et al. describe experiments that test this theory (Science 2002, 295:485-488).

They studied the colonization and extinction dynamics of local populations of the water flea Daphnia magna in rock pools on islands along the Scandinavian Baltic Sea coast. Ebert et al. examined the significance of hybrid vigor by introducing immigrant genotypes into 22 Daphnia populations and monitoring the success of hybrid offspring throughout the summer. They cleaned out pools and refilled them with 200 individuals from the original populations (residents) and added immigrant clones, and then followed populations using several alloenzyme marker loci.

Their genotyping results clearly showed that outbred offspring displayed the greatest fitness. Ebert et al. obtained similar results in experiments carried out in the laboratory. This study reports a 35-fold increase in gene flow, making a strong case for hybrid vigor theories.

Jonathan B Weitzman (jonathanweitzman@hotmail.com)

You say hybrid vigor is a "myth" which of course leaves you an out: It may be true yet merely underinvestigated. If so, it wouldn't be the first time academics ignored or misinvestigated an economically important subject simply because it was either hard to understand in a reductionist mindset or associated with taboo material -- both of which appear to apply in the case of breeding techniques -- "bucolic" or not.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


[ Parent ]

Bucolic Sheep Fucking 101 (5.00 / 2) (#133)
by Baldrson on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 01:33:59 PM EST

PS: You might want to take up the concept that "bucolic folk-lore" is invalid with the first land-grant college, the Iowa College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts in Ames Iowa. I know guys who went there and did some work in agriculture who don't seem to have had a problem with their "folk-lore". This may be because that school is backwards and ignorant of the divinely inspired light from the east which men like yourself bring. If so, then it is a wonder that they were granted by a court of law the credit with inventing the first computer. Perhaps you would be so kind as to provide the "mechanistic theory" that leads such bucolic hayseeds to such feats of technical prowess. Although I never met one of these guys who actually fucked a sheep, I hear from guys like you that this is common practice around Iowa. Is it perhaps due to the fact that we bucolics are in denial about the fact that we're all sheep fuckers or something? If so, then the enlightened eastern establishment academics could be offering "sheep fucking 101" at MIT and doing things like inventing the comptuer rather than trying to grab credit via government and media influence after the fact and, most embarrassingly, getting caught in the fucking midst of doing so.

PPS: Don't worry -- your fellow tribesmen own Google so if it becomes too much of a problem you can always cut cdroms, burn it down and blame it on neoNazis or other assorted barbarian tribes.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


[ Parent ]

no, it's just you (none / 0) (#140)
by Lode Runner on Thu Jul 11, 2002 at 12:25:12 AM EST

For biologists, discipline has always trumped geography when respect is at stake. There's a healthy circulation of molecular biologists between the ivies, the other elite institutions, and the land-grant schools. I've worked at all three (and for the gov't) during my short career, and the molecular biologists are arrogant (vis--vis biochemists, ecologists, horticulturalists) pretty much everywhere.

Also, the ag-school types you're championing no longer attach much importance to hybrid vigor. They tried to find it -- these efforts were largely funded by the same Rockefeller Foundation that helped to nurture molecular biology in the '30s -- but came up empty-handed. So, not even Iowa will let you teach Buggery 101 (or whatever course you're planning to teach your "hybrid vigor in humans" unit in).

You're alone man, and that's very brave of you.



[ Parent ]

Look at your source's source (none / 0) (#139)
by Lode Runner on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 11:48:24 PM EST

Google's a false friend in situations where you're trying to prove comprehensive knowledge of a particular subject; and this case is no exception.

Here's the situation: you've not bothered to read the sources I pointed out and you've insisted that a posting to biomedcentral.com refutes what I've been claiming about the marginal status of heterosis in the professional literature.

I'm aware that Weitzman's posting could be interpreted as evidence that the biology community is comfortable with the concept of hybrid vigor, but a quick examination of Weitzman's source,1 the Ebert et al. Science article, will dispell this notion.

Lode Runner summary service: Ebert et al propose that heterosis could be part of some (unknown) mechanism at work in natural populations (with strong founder effect) to prevent inbreeding depression. You could even think of it as a genetic way of encouraging immigration!

Anyway, in their article, Ebert et al qualify their use of the concept of hybrid vigor with concessions that the concept is "controversial" and that there is no direct proof that it is a significant factor in determining the viability of a mixed population vis-a-vis an isolated one. Be that as it may, Ebert believes that hybrid vigor can explain some of the observations his group made. The meat of the article lies in footnote 40, in which the authors present statistical evidence for the possibility that hybrid vigor could explain his observations.

So there you have it! Hybrid vigor may be responsible for an observed phenomenon, but the authors readily concede that this suggestion is highly speculative. Indeed, all they can conclude is that their study gives additional "...empirical support for the need to maintain gene flow in the management and conservation of subdivided populations." But, hey, we already knew that!

The exciting part of the article, which you're sure to dislike, is its suggestion that there may be a natural mechanism to encourage immigration. This is what Ebert's citers picked up on, and when they did there was no mention of heterosis. Google can't tell you that, but science.com can.

Well, after that I can only invite you to behold your precious hybrid vigor in its full glory: a statistical ghost without any physical or mechanical referents. Reading the sources I provided to you -- or those you provided yourself via biomedcentral.com -- will make this crystal clear.

1I strongly suspect that Weitzman read only the abstract of the Ebert et al. paper... a common enough practice among busy science writers, but cribbing abstracts can lead to misleading reporting.

[ Parent ]

Re: Look at your source's source (none / 0) (#141)
by nomoreh1b on Thu Jul 11, 2002 at 01:38:03 AM EST

Well, after that I can only invite you to behold your precious hybrid vigor in its full glory: a statistical ghost without any physical or mechanical referents.

What this sounds like is you are saying there is a statistical phenomena (which I would agree with--the studies I'm familiar with were all statistical studies)--and the molecular biologists decided the phenomena wasn't important enough or interesting enough to figure out how i works(or perhaps just too dang hard a problem). As far as studies that talk about whether the phenomena of hybrid vigor exists, the only studies that I would say are relevent here are statistical studies-preferably with mammals.

Thank you for what sources you did provide. It will be a bit before I get to a decent library(I have family responsibilities that make this difficult for me as Baldrson would verify).

Now, which of these papers/books if any has evidence that the various statistical studies that claimed to show evidence of hybrid vigor in animals/plants were unsound? What it sounds like is that the existance of hybrid vigor has become something of a controversy. Well, what are the alternative explainations for the observed phenomena that have leader plant/animal breeders to think of hybrid vigor as a useful concept? Is there a more useful concept in the works? If so what is it?



[ Parent ]

Question that might be in your field (none / 0) (#142)
by nomoreh1b on Thu Jul 11, 2002 at 01:49:01 AM EST

Lode Runner:
A related question, what is the current state of the art of physical measurements of the degree of genetic heterogeneity are? Sources here would be appreciated(I'd like to make the most of my visit to the library). Are there tests that might tell show my genetic heterogeneity a specific individual has(compared to say the upper end for their species).

Thanks

[ Parent ]

Elaboration please (5.00 / 1) (#109)
by nomoreh1b on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 11:09:27 AM EST

Here's the problem: corn and cattle breeding practices cling more tightly to folk knowledge than does fruit fly breeding, the practice around which the core of modern genetics developed.

I'd keep in mind that Dr. Barbara McClintock worked largely with corn-and did some interesting stuff.

The projection of agricultural breeding practices onto genetics and eugenics faltered in the 1920s for a perfectly good reason: fly workers like Morgan began to get an inkling of how genes really worked. The analogies to husbandry that had proven so useful to Darwin, Galton, and the 1920s "if we can breed cattle why can't we breed people?" crowd, just didn't pan out when people started asking just how heritability functioned.

How do you see the connection between the eugenics stuff in the 1920's and animal breeding practices? Personally, I was always a bit puzzled that the concept of maintaining hybrid vigor never made it into the Eugenics literature--and Frank Galton's support of immigration also puzzled me in how was it connected to animal breeding practices.

Today, breeders are, like, the last holdouts against the advances of the corpus of knowledge that Morgan (et al) set up. Breeders get results, but they rely too heavily on a kind of kludgework that is incompatible with the ultra-reductionism championed by us flyboys.

Can you elaborate your image of what breeders think/do? I've known quite a few of these folks and some academic biologists. I'm having some issues figuring out what you are getting at here.

It's no mystery to me why bucolics clinging to concepts that were discarded 75 years ago are called quacks when they begin to rave about applications of farm practices to human genetics

What concepts that were discarded 25 years ago are you talking about?

My own major criticism of academic biology at this point:
Lots of folks coming out of studying biology 101 at the college level develop the idea that the phenotypic advantages an individual with lots of probable hybrid vigor are as good an indictor of that individual's underlying genetics as the phenotype that most likely has less hybrid vigor. We saw this kind of talk earlier in this thread. Do you see this talk as accurate or something that just isn't a problem?

In the 1920's, eugenics functioned in part as a mechanism by which upper classes in Europe and America could expound upon their own virtues relative to other peoples--and way these upper classes "should" breed more than "lower classes". In the 21st century, that type of eugenics is dead, but there are still other types of self-promotion running around. The Chinese government for example is very good at finding reasons to convince all Chinese that they are really Hans(the largest ethnic group in China) and reasons to replace the Tibetans with Chinese populations.

Personally, EO Wilson has strongly questioned the remarkable reduction in the numbers of distinct animal and plant species. I agree this is a serious problem. I'm also suggesting that there is a potential problem with the elimination of strains of humanity--and this talk of "we're all brothers under the skin" or "genes don't matter" makes light of that problem.

In the present climate, I suspect that "eugenics" will likely mean production of children that look like Madonna, Michael Jordon or Al Pacino. We'll have also have the folks that want buy "designer ova"(like the couple that offered $60K for ova from an athletic Stanford female with 1450 SAT scores). Personally, I suspect that folks really will be able to figure out how to get their children genes that will make them look like movie stars, perform as athletes or score high on the SAT-I'm just not sure if this means an advancement in human society.

I've seen animal breeds get into very, very dangerous "genetic fads". Right now, in some urban hospitals 50% or so of all children are born via artificial insemination(according to a labor and delivery nurse I know that works in one such hospital in an upper class community). As a general rule, the "genetic fads" in animal breeding have been worse in animals like horses and cattle (where more money/prestige was at stake)-which gives me serious concern about how these fads are going to manifest themselves in people. Are we going to wind up with a lot of people that look great on paper but have all kinds of problems?

[ Parent ]

good points (none / 0) (#115)
by Subtillus on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:01:57 PM EST

I think one important point to make about potential eugenic experimentation, or practice is that reduction of overall heterozygosity would insue. more to the point, this would leave such a population wide open to any number of catastrophies.
ex: there is a species of fish which has reverted from sexual to asexual reproduction, the population's diversity fell through the floor (like in a eugenics driven pop.) and they fell to a parasite shortly after, the other fish whish have adapted or are adapting are doing much better in the microenvironment of that pond or whatever.
or, you might look to a human population and how sickel cell anemia affects the heterozygote who becomes infected by malarial parasite. I can tell you he's probably a very happy camper as he is not suscptible to this disease. Would he want his children to have the possibility of this disease though? would he not remove it from his germ line if he could?

We cannot allow average, or even intellectually excellent humans, to decide the fate of human kind we would screw it up as fast as we could to make a buck or two.

Oh, and I said potential Eugenics because it wouldn't work for 9 desired traits out of ten. Espescially something like the supposed intelligence quotient we're all so nuts about whose heritability "norm of reaction" is unpredictable. *I don't know how to make a link in the text so here is a good one, if you want more you'll have to actually go throught the rest of the slide show or read a text book; I've explained this too many times on K5.

http://ww2.mcgill.ca/biology/undergra/c202b/02b/lect22/lect022/sld028.htm

[ Parent ]

how this is handled in animal breeding (none / 0) (#116)
by nomoreh1b on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:33:45 PM EST

I think one important point to make about potential eugenic experimentation, or practice is that reduction of overall heterozygosity would insue.

Well, the way this gets handled in animal breeding is some folks go to a lot of trouble to maintain rare breeds(I actually raise one such breed of animal myself). Now, in commercial livestock production, what you want is consistent heterozygousity in a population--which you accomplish by using purebred males with dis-similar hybrid females. Now, it works in animal breeding because you have a presumedly dispassional animal breeder that will throw away the hybrid males(keep them from breeding). It would be taboo to the extreme to suggest this be tried in humans at this point. When it does come, I suspect it will involve communities that will use gender selection to only produce female off-spring from matings of dis-similar individuals.

more to the point, this would leave such a population wide open to any number of catastrophies.

This is why I personally feel that steps should be taken to preserve existing indigenous peoples. The institution of the reservation system in America-as troubled/inadequate as it is-was a step in that direction(at least it is better than ethnic cleansing). The biggest problem I personally see with the reservation system is that too many of the resources are expended on folks that look like me(I'm partially of native American descent) and not enough on those that are more entirely of Native American descent.

Sadly, the problems aren't limited to human species: The great Apes have suffered enormously in recent years. It is truly tragic how humans treat their closest animal relatives.

or, you might look to a human population and how sickel cell anemia affects the heterozygote who becomes infected by malarial parasite. I can tell you he's probably a very happy camper as he is not suscptible to this disease. Would he want his children to have the possibility of this disease though? would he not remove it from his germ line if he could?

Well, that particular problem is handled theoretically by folks just not having kids with other heterozygotes for ssa. Unfortunately, in practice the problems are another issue.

SSA is a classic example though of taking the advantages of hybrids too seriously. You can't get the advantages of that particular gene to "breed true". The Polynesians have a trait that also confers resistance to Malaria that is a little different adaption BTW(the polynesian one involves a different property of blood cells-I think it is more a very hard cell wall). I wonder if any African tribes have considered introducing that particular gene into their gene pool?

[ Parent ]

what about all the unknowns? (none / 0) (#118)
by Subtillus on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 05:05:54 PM EST

what about every gene that isn't ssm but shares a value against virus X or condition Y or any other of a mulitude of factors that might be linked to something we screen against.

what if, a big what if, in the purely analogous hypothetical, the "stinky farts" gene was linked to the gene that maintains chromosome "Z"? So, in a few generations, sure now no one has stinky farts but the "Z" chromosome has degraded; birth rates plummet, cancer fatality rate skyrockets.

It's non implauable that such a thing could happen in another context only replace stinky farts with obesity or acne... The point is We've managed to survie this long through no merit of our intellect, but through statistical fortune of the ENTIRE population. Gattaca, or something like it wouldn't survive IMHO, isn't that what we want to do? Survive?

Surely I don't think the way to do this is to maintain "Native farms" from which we can harvest genes when something pops up, what if it pops up within a generation, screwed then aren't we? We're stuck with the option of either keeping what we have and seeing how far it will get us or playing dice with how much we can atually anticipate. frankly I don't trust us all that much.  Much less what will happen once money is thrown into the equation. what do you think?

[ Parent ]

Good historical example (none / 0) (#119)
by nomoreh1b on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 06:41:15 PM EST

Probably the one genetic condition that has cause more sufferin than any other in human history is Rh incompatibility(this is one of the better writeups I've seen other this though the source isn't authoritative-I have checked the facts with medical professionals I know). Rh incompatibility is insidious because if say an Rh positive woman marries into an Rh- tribe her children will be fine, her daughter's children will be fine-but her son's children will have a chance of problems.

Surely I don't think the way to do this is to maintain "Native farms" from which we can harvest genes when something pops up, what if it pops up within a generation, screwed then aren't we?

Well, that makes a good case of experimentation being highly decentralized and carefully conducted. Fads where 100% of a gene pool adopt any set of genes are a rather bad idea IMHO.

We're stuck with the option of either keeping what we have and seeing how far it will get us or playing dice with how much we can atually anticipate. frankly I don't trust us all that much. Much less what will happen once money is thrown into the equation. what do you think?

We've already seen cases in which a New York doctor decided his genes were so dang good that he inseminated several hundred women requesting Artificial insemination with his sperm. A more subtle way of accomplishing the same end is self-promotion. A lot of what people think of as desirable is conditioned by things like media exposure and fashion(if everyone else wants it, it must be really good). Speaking with medical/media authority combined with biotechnology might have really profound effects.

Deciding to have a kid with someone because they have a high SAT score/GPA may be a bit less shallow than having their kid because they look good on the silver screen. With animals you'd want to do things like look at their family history back several generations(which frankly is part of what I'd suggest my daughter do when she picks a husband-with particular emphasis on medical history/longevity, strong work history and inventive aptitude).

Now, I am personally in favor of genetic reservations. I think someone ought to be able to say like the Hawaians do on that one Island in Hawaii that only full-blooded Hawaiians get to live here. Now, I can see that this got carried into excess when there developed situations like the one in the US where so much land have convenants restricting blacks from owning that land it became tricky for blacks to own land. Perhaps this could be handled in such a way that for such a contract to be made, some funds had to go to groups that didn't own much private land.

Another less controversial program might be for various groups to start taking genetic samples of their members and putting them in long term cold storage(the Norwegians have a facility like that focused on endangered species).

One thing about it:
Most folks don't appreciate how much has been tried already. The Spartans had practices that sounded quite a bit like Eugenics(they'd kill infants that showed a high chance of problems). The authorities in many tribal cultures made decisions about who should and shouldn't have children. The idea of vesting that kind of authority in a nation-state or multi-national state appears fairly new. Still, folks get awfully strange around this general topic. For example, when Cromwell came to power in Britain, he went to a lot of trouble to destroy genealogical records in Scotland(this seems to have been an attempt there to make religious identity more important than clan identity). I can believe that we'll see some wars fought over differences on how eugenics/biotechnology ought to be handled. The best way to minimize the effects of these war is to create a situation in which folks have good reason to think there is potential for a futuin which everyone can win.

[ Parent ]

hands off Babs McClintock (none / 0) (#126)
by Lode Runner on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 01:10:56 AM EST

Barbara McClintock kinda proves my point. She worked with corn, and this, along with her neo-Lamarckism, is the reason she was a marginal figure for most of her career. While McClintock's CSH colleagues were chasing master DNA molecules in fly chromosomes, she was finding in corn cytoplasm a key disproof of genetic determinacy. EFK's Feeling for the Organism is required reading for the juniors; but I'm probably going to switch over to Comfort's new book because it does a better job with the bench work even if it skimps a bit on the feminist narrative that made Keller's book so valuable. Also, you will not find an advocate of eugenics or segregation in McClintock.

Students coming out of 101 don't know about hybrid vigor at all, let alone have prejudices about it... trust me, the concept isn't even mentioned in the textbook that I use. This gets at that heart of our little problem with connecting here: hybrid vigor has no basis in modern genetics, but you think it does.

Yes, lots of breeders subscribe to the idea of hybrid vigor, and even have sorta reverse-engineered a "scientific" basis for it, but academic geneticists have known better for several decades now; vive la difference! That said, I can fake hybrid vigor methods with my flies well enough to fool the casual observer but I'd be eaten alive if I dared published it.

Your position on the social function of eugenics during the '20s is partially accurate. I'd just like to add that race was as much a social construct as class and that the constructs were intertwined. Hence Madison Grant trying to keep Italians and Poles -- non-whites by his reckonning -- out of the USA.

Wilson's complaint about the rise of the monoculture (or loss of genetic diversity) primarily concerns interspecific diversity and the loss of rainforest niches; do you hope to create an environment where white folks can speciate?

Oh, and just because 50% of parents at an "urban hospital" are conceiving artificially -- I find this figure dubious btw -- doesn't mean that they're tailoring their babies.



[ Parent ]

Re: Hands off (none / 0) (#134)
by nomoreh1b on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 02:08:02 PM EST

Also, you will not find an advocate of eugenics or segregation in McClintock.

Never said I did. Finding someone that sucks off the government tit that openly advocates eugenics would be like trying to find a Catholic priest that openly advocates pedophilia. I'm not an advocate of government sponsored eugenics myself-I don't think a government that can't really run the post office well or enforce existing immigration laws should take on such responsibility on.

Students coming out of 101 don't know about hybrid vigor at all,

I believe you that this stuff is now longer taught-that doesn't mean that the science that was established in this area isn't still used commercially or has been disproven.

let alone have prejudices about it... trust me, the concept isn't even mentioned in the textbook that I use.

Just look at the discussion here for prejudice. Folks think mutts have enormous genetic advantages because they don't see obvious problems there. What you have to look at here is the combination of popular culture and education.

This gets at that heart of our little problem with connecting here: hybrid vigor has no basis in modern genetics, but you think it does.

I'm not claiming that study of hybrid vigor is a fashionable scientific topic today. Frankly, it seems like something that has some taboo aspects to it. That doesn't invalidate the data that has been accumulated in various scientifically valid experiments in the area of animal husbandry.

Yes, lots of breeders subscribe to the idea of hybrid vigor, and even have sorta reverse-engineered a "scientific" basis for it, but academic geneticists have known better for several decades now; vive la difference! That said, I can fake hybrid vigor methods with my flies well enough to fool the casual observer but I'd be eaten alive if I dared published it.

Please elaborate here. What it sounds like here is that you are assuming that because the reason why an effect is observed isn't well understood, the effect must be an illusion. That doesn't strike me as accurate reasoning.

I understand that a lot of "modern genetics" involves things like mapping specific genes to locations on chromosomes relative to other genes-which means you use stuff over several generations on large populations of animals in a controlled environment. This stuff has some applicability to mammals, but doesn't mean that you've invalidated the older scientific basis for specific breeding practices in mammalian livestock.

Your position on the social function of eugenics during the '20s is partially accurate. I'd just like to add that race was as much a social construct as class and that the constructs were intertwined. Hence Madison Grant trying to keep Italians and Poles -- non-whites by his reckonning -- out of the USA.

Well, it went a lot further than Madison Grant-including folks like David Starr Jordon--founder of Standford University. Calvin Coolidge signed legislation explicitly aimed at preserving the ethnic composition of the US--didn't work at all. I checked the immigration/population figures here. Between 1920 and 1970, the population of folks claiming "British" descent(according to the US census) dropped by about 500,000 in the US-despite a surrounding population boom(this is worse than Jews did during that same period world-wide despite that nastiness in Germany/Poland/Russia). Now, if someone that valued continuation of that particular ethnic group might see that as a serious problem. My read on folks like Coolidge is that they would have taken much more dramatic action had they seen what was coming(i.e. stuff like intervening in Europe in the 40's would have assumed a much lower priority). Wilson's complaint about the rise of the monoculture (or loss of genetic diversity) primarily concerns interspecific diversity and the loss of rainforest niches; do you hope to create an environment where white folks can speciate?

IMHO the most profound issues the last century have involve groups other than "white folks". I'm concerned about what I see around me-but I honestly think various indigenous groups have even more of problem(i.e. the Kalahari Bushmen, Rainforest Indians, Tibetans etc). Personally, I think that in this respect those that fixate on "white folks" actually do a great disservice to their whole cause. Historically the greatest "ethnic cleansing" events that have involved "white folks" seem to me to have involved one group of "white folks" pitted against another--and some of these "ethnic cleansing" events involved techniques other than organized violence(fraud rather than force).

Oh, and just because 50% of parents at an "urban hospital" are conceiving artificially -- I find this figure dubious btw -- doesn't mean that they're tailoring their babies.

Honestly, I found the figures rather strange when I first heard them an asked around. Basically it seems to involve the fact that a lot of well-to-do urbanites have various fertility problems so a lot of pregancies in those urban hospitals involve some type of intervention.

It doesn't mean they are doing intense selection, but it does mean the rules of the game are changing a good bit. Sperm banks do screen their donors in various ways. Also, just the use of AI means that the gender ratio changes-quite a few more female babies or born via AI than male babies.



[ Parent ]

Sources Please (none / 0) (#117)
by nomoreh1b on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 04:52:22 PM EST

Well, I'm sorry to offend you and your sense of identity, but these "isolated" groups of humans haven't been cut off long enough to breed true.

What is your source indicating that offspring from two strains of the same mammal separated 30-40 generations (and bred within relatively small groups) will not exhibit hybrid vigor when paired in later matings?

I'm basing my claims on the USDA experiments at Beltsville Maryland, and the evidence that similar intense inbreeding practices were seen in he nobility of at least some indigenous peoples(The Hawaiians and the old Norse are two for which this is indicated from historical records).

[ Parent ]

only perosn on the board who knows biology (none / 0) (#80)
by Subtillus on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 06:36:00 AM EST

and no one listens to you... that's got to hurt.

[ Parent ]
Not really (none / 0) (#103)
by Baldrson on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 02:04:44 AM EST

Medham/Streetlawyer/Lode Runner knows molecular biology. He is a third rate population geneticist and his knowledge of breeding looks like he is acquiring it as he goes along from some background experts who may be third rate as well.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


[ Parent ]

verily (none / 0) (#105)
by Lode Runner on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:16:28 AM EST

I am not a professional geneticist, although I do work closely with them. Indeed, my limited experience with breeding fruit flies has somehow blinded me to the genetics truth that cattle-and-corn sages like Baldrson can see.

Word of advice: Morgan, Sturtevant, Bridges, and Muller are all you need put most pretenders in perspective; the last folks to call them third-rate (incidentally Baldrson's role models) talked themselves right out of the scientific discourse.



[ Parent ]

Third Rate (none / 0) (#111)
by Baldrson on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 11:50:44 AM EST

Earlier Lode Runner/Medham/Streetlawyer/??? said, "Those who argue for the segregation of races in order to promote human hybrid vigor are missing the main ingredient of their recipie for human improvement, the purebreds." to which I responded "his knowledge of breeding looks like he is acquiring it as he goes along from some background experts who may be third rate as well." due to the fact that any first-rate or even second-rate knowledge of breeding would recognize that "purebreeding" is "breeding true" with respect to particular phenotypes. "breeding true" means range of phenotypes varying in degree from those that typify a species to a very narrow set of phenotypes. "Breeding true" is meaningless without specifying the range of phenotypes.

Lode Runner/Medham/Streetlawyer/??? does not get this. He cannot really think he is basing his statements on those of Morgan, Sturtevant, Bridges, and Muller -- and is merely invoking their names out of fear of revealing his true third-rate sources.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


[ Parent ]

I'm only a second year and I know about them too! (none / 0) (#113)
by Subtillus on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:42:02 PM EST

I can't see this is that difficult to understand, if asilly undergraduate can like me can get it.

[ Parent ]
basic response to breeder propaganda (5.00 / 1) (#84)
by speek on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 08:13:45 AM EST

Sounds like horseshit. I have no idea if what you say makes sense or not, but my overwhelming anecdotal experience and the overwhelming anecdotal experience of everyone I've ever known who had dogs is that pure-breds have problems. Lot's of problems. Mutts don't.

You're theory may be right - but if so, it just means virtually no breeders are doing as you describe.

--
what would be cool, is if there was like a bat signal for tombuck - [ Parent ]

re:basic response to breeder propaganda (none / 0) (#87)
by nomoreh1b on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 11:36:47 AM EST

but my overwhelming anecdotal experience and the overwhelming anecdotal experience of everyone I've ever known who had dogs is that pure-breds have problems. Lot's of problems. Mutts don't.

Now, look at your experience:
have you ever heard of a cross between two purebreds that had a problem? Can you understand that a cross between two purebreds is a bit different than a mutt?

You're theory may be right - but if so, it just means virtually no breeders are doing as you describe.

The American Kennel Society(AKS) has destroyed many good breeds. They tend to turn dog breeding into a high stakes game-- emphasisize things like conformation and destroy diversity within breeds. Relatively few dog breeders have ever opened a book on genetics.

This sort of stuff isn't limited to dogs. In Cattle breeding, one breed Charlois was virtually destroyed when one sire(Sam owned by Jerry Litton in Missouri) became very popular and then it was discovered a few years later than sire carried a gene that produced offspring with stringy beef-so now this one breed of cattle had virtually locked in a gene that was a serious economic problem.(this is a famous/textbook example). The fact that there is a taboo among cattle breeders from taking genes from one breed into another played a big role in preventing that problem from spreading into Black Angus, Hereford and other breeds.

[ Parent ]

answer (none / 0) (#91)
by speek on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 12:56:18 PM EST

Can you understand that a cross between two purebreds is a bit different than a mutt?

No, not really.

--
what would be cool, is if there was like a bat signal for tombuck - [ Parent ]

re:answer (none / 0) (#92)
by nomoreh1b on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 01:51:02 PM EST

Can you understand that a cross between two purebreds is a bit different than a mutt?

No, not really. Okay, that is an honest answer. Lets look at an organism with two genes. The most highly hybridized state for those two genes might be:
AaBb
Other combinations might include:
AABB, AaBB, aaBB, AABb,aabB,aabb,aabb,aabb
In a randomly mated population will have about 1/4 of the population exhibiting the most highly hybridized condition for these two genes. If you can isolate two populations, one that is nothing but AABB and another that is nothing but aabb, then you can reliably produce offspring in which 100% of the population is AaBb. That is how products like hybrid seed corn is produced. Its been being done for years and is a well-established technology.

Now, part of the problem is that in animal breeding, an outstanding individual can go for a LOT of money-so crooked breeders will figure out how to get a strong hybrid effect in an individual and to claim that it is a purebred(they'll also do things like lie about pedigrees and birth dates and other such things.). One thing I'm surprised I haven't seen yet is a test for the degree of hybrid vigor an individual ought to have based on a genetic test(this ought to be within the current state of the art or dang close)--and most folks don't understand what they are buying so it is easy to lie to them.

When you are doing livestock/animal breeding you are more concerned with what kind of offspring an individual can be expected to produce rather than what kind of characteristics they may have-which may mean you go to a lot of trouble to produce/maintain highly inbred strains that can later be used to produce highly vigorous hybrid offspring. You can't do that with mutts. Mutts will always have a pretty high degree of variation within a population.

Personally,if I'm buying a pet, what I'd prefer is a first generation cross between two breeds that have characteristics I want. I'll count on having a healthy animal that way with few problems. If I'm buying breeding stock I don't want show winners: I'll find the most honest breeding I can find that really understands his breeding program-and one that doesn't follow fads.

[ Parent ]

ok (none / 0) (#93)
by speek on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 02:30:53 PM EST

I learned something - thanks for that.

However, you're scenario assumes that pure-breeding occurred - that's why you can create your hybrid from breeding two different purebreds.

Also, different perspective between dog-ownership and cattle breeding. In one, someone presumably cares about the life quality of each and every dog. In cattle, we only care about their productivity for our sakes. You yourself say you'd prefer the offspring of a first generation cross between two breeds. ie, you don't want the originals that had to be there to get your cross. Presumably because they have too many health problems.

--
what would be cool, is if there was like a bat signal for tombuck - [ Parent ]

You are most welcome (none / 0) (#94)
by nomoreh1b on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 04:03:17 PM EST

I learned something - thanks for that.

You are very, very welcome.

However, you're scenario assumes that pure-breeding occurred - that's why you can create your hybrid from breeding two different purebreds.

Actually, the practices here are older than the theory that explains why they work.

Also, different perspective between dog-ownership and cattle breeding. In one, someone presumably cares about the life quality of each and every dog.

Most of the problems that crop up in intensive inbreeding are either mild or are seen in things like low fertility/stillbirths. The problems that folks see in breeds like German Shepherds(hip problems) and Charlois cattle(stringy beef) are the result of rapid loss of genetic diversity in those breeds. You can have a rapid loss of genetic diversity with little/no linebreeding.

[ Parent ]

A basic problem with mutts (none / 0) (#88)
by nomoreh1b on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 11:45:24 AM EST

The basic problem with mutts is that if you are trying to select for any characteristic in a population, you'll find it very hard to differentiate between hybrid vigor and desirable genes. This generally isn't a problem if all you want is a healthy, happy pet. If you want to create a working dog with characteristics that aren't exactly universal among dogs, it is a big problem.

[ Parent ]
Not horseshit. (5.00 / 2) (#99)
by Baldrson on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:52:35 PM EST

Dog shows are destroying breeds of dog.

The border collie, for example, is a very functional purebred that is still used agriculturally and has an active war going on between the show breeders and the sheep herding breeders. The show breeders are breeding defects into the breed so they can look good at shows while the sheep herding breeders are keeping the breed true.

Here is a quote from their site:

The United States Border Collie Club, Inc. (USBCC) is dedicated to preserving the Border Collie as a working stock dog, opposing the showing, judging, and breeding of Border Collies based upon their appearance
The specialized breeding of animals for performance in very unnatural settings like race tracks and dog shows is what is creating the problems -- not purebreeding per se -- which is something that occurs naturally among various species and is normally called "assortive mating". Note this is not to say hybridization doesn't also occur naturally under the right circumstances, but it is rather silly to compare a human world with its jet transport and denial of male territoriality to a natural environment.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


[ Parent ]

negative eugenics in North America (4.50 / 4) (#5)
by bhouston on Sat Jul 06, 2002 at 11:54:20 PM EST

Eugenics, realized as the sterilization of the mental challenged, was fairly prevalent in Canada and the United States until the middle of the 20th century.

Even now some mental challenged individuals (and normal people too) do choose to undergoes sterilization but now it is their own choice rather that something forced upon them.

speciation and classism (4.33 / 3) (#6)
by bhouston on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 12:05:17 AM EST

"For example, positive eugenicists advocated the upper classes having many children, so as to increase the incidence of "good" genes in the societal gene pool.  Also advocated, but to a lesser degree, was the concept of selecting one's mate based on their genetic profile.  The idea behind this was for those with good genes to maintain them by arranging marriages with other good-gened people."

If, as you are suggesting here, the upper class should only bread within their group and the lower class should only bread with their group you would eventually have the two populations diverse genetically.  This would have the effect of separating what was once a single species into two separate species, with one viewed as inferior to the other.  Even if it didn't lead to a distinctly different species based on genes just the stigma assoc. with being a member of the preceived 'inferior' class is a large obstacle to overcome.

This type of thinking during the 1800s led to a lot of unjustified discrimination against the lower class.  Because the lower class was viewed as generally 'inferior' there was no reason to try and educate them or provide them with decent working conditions or care for their welfare.  Unfortunately, in cases like this expectations determine the outcome to a degree.  If you believe someone is less capable of learning or achieving you will invest less resources and effort into helping them resulting in them performing more poorly than they would otherwise.  Advocating this is condemning a large group to a viscious downward circle.

I think that you are wrong to portray this particular instance of eugenics as a "positive" and generally beign form -- in context/practice is doesn't turn out that way.

Pygmalion [nt] (4.50 / 2) (#7)
by acceleriter on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 12:16:53 AM EST



[ Parent ]
pygmalion vs. pygmalion (4.00 / 1) (#10)
by bhouston on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 12:32:30 AM EST

For a second I though you were making some obscure reference to Pygmalion, the king of Cyprus, who fell in love with the statue of a woman, Galatea, he had created. ;-)

But after an internet search I'm pretty sure you were referring to the 1968 Oak School study entitled "Pygmalion in the Classroom: Teacher Expectation and Pupils' Intellectual Development."

[ Parent ]
That works . . . (4.66 / 3) (#12)
by acceleriter on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 01:45:47 AM EST

. . . but I was thinking of this.

[ Parent ]
What traits do ya want, anyhow? (4.00 / 1) (#52)
by Kax on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 09:29:09 PM EST

If you believe someone is less capable of learning or achieving you will invest less resources and effort into helping them resulting in them performing more poorly than they would otherwise.  Advocating this is condemning a large group to a viscious downward circle.

Also, it's pretty obvious that if you are going to "reward" the upper classes with more offspring than the lower classes, you had better be damn sure that the traits which lead someone to be upper class are ones you want to encourage across the board.  Given today's situation, you would increase the number of people who hold efficiency as their prime goal, which is not necessarily something you want to shoot for if overall levels of happiness for humanity is what you want.

[ Parent ]

why do you think they are called Sire? (none / 0) (#121)
by nomoreh1b on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 07:04:18 PM EST

Self promotion of elites is nothing new. It is embedded in the very English Language the Anglo-Saxon/Norman invaders imposed upon Britain. Why is a knight called "sire"? Simple: he was being identified as a man it was thought should have more than his share of children.

Now, selecting for good warriors is an interesting experiment(though not my particular cup of tea)-personally, I find the contemporary selection for folks that look good on TV or can evade drug laws effectively to be a bit boring/short-sighted.

[ Parent ]

One could go further... (none / 0) (#143)
by Ahab2K on Thu Jul 11, 2002 at 11:29:46 AM EST

First of all, the notion of rich folks breeding to perpetuate some kind of good traits is already unscientific - it assumes blindly that there is some sort of inheritable trait. The history of America is a good demonstration how untrue this is, as one or another "inferior" group of the population has made good here.

Second, I think even the classist version of eugenics here has a racist basis: different classes would eventually become different races if they did not interbreed. And if you look at signifiers of class, there are often ancestor-driven codes that in earlier history delineated racial boundaries (say, I dunno, fabric patterns e.g. plaids or tartans).

Finally, it's worth noting that the classist and the racist versions of human breeding imperatives both have an ugly ending. The point is, keep the good genes together: don't breed outside the group. Ultimately this is a call to incest. So if you want to keep your "good" genes pure, do it right and marry a sibling, parent, or cousin.

As if it isn't bad enough that scientific thinking has not raised the bar of understanding, it's about to raise the peril by introducing the possibility of intentional modifications.

[ Parent ]

eugenics suck, customizable genetics rules (4.50 / 4) (#8)
by bhouston on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 12:21:04 AM EST

"Thus the challenge of genetics in the future will be figuring out how to improve the human race without sidelining disadvantaged populations."

Although in a bubble this might sound like a decent conclusion but its just not realistic given the modern sensibility we all have.  Eugenics (genetic modifications for the purpose of 'bettering' humanity) in just about every way are discrimatory and more damaging than they are beneficial.

The real conclusion to your article should have been speculation on a future were we all can change our genes as easily as we get plastic surgery (or maybe in the far off future as easily as we change our clothes).  There should be no need to worry about what genes are 'good' or which genes are 'bad' for humanity -- this is such a complex question that I doubt it can ever be answered sufficiently.  The real problem will be figuring out with are the 'safe' genes and which are the 'unsafe' genes -- primarily because the people selling these genes don't want to get sued if a gene (or gene set) causes some problems.

In the future people will decide which are the genes that have success commerically.  Genes will be like any other product in the market -- we don't care if a certain movie is 'good' for humanity we just care if we like it.

Hopefully in a future where gene modifications are just another element of our capitalist market I'll be able to get some darker skin.  The sun is really harsh on this pasty white stuff I'm stuck with for now.  ;-)

Ohh... (none / 0) (#64)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 12:32:23 AM EST

... while we are wishing, I want an "organ" that consists of stem cells which constantly replace the rest of my bodies cells as they die... and super cool vision. Photosynthesis, or symbiosis with something that can do photosynthesis, would be nice too.



[ Parent ]

My opinion (2.60 / 5) (#13)
by psychologist on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 03:06:33 AM EST

First of all, I am pragmatic, and I'm not afraid to face taboo themes. If I felt that eugenics were good for the human being, then I would advocate it. But I do not advocate it, not because of any moral stance, but because it is harmfull.

Right now, we don't need to better the human being. We are surviving very well the way we are. If we start playing the games that God has reserved for himself, we may destroy ourselves. And if we do not, we will not create a society that is any better than the one we have.

Physical beauty is very much based in culture. Similarly, the pereception of what is right and what is wrong is based on culture. For that reason, it is incredibly easy to modify nature in a way that is not apparently harmfull, and destroy humans.

For example, say it suddenly became vogue to have very light colored skin. So all the moms and pops decided to go lighten the skin of their children. It works well for 100 years. Then, a natural cycle happens where the radioactive waves from space become stronger on earth. Normal humans are adpated to deal with this, and it is somehow stored in the skin color, but the modified humans have lost some chemicals that protect from the waves, and all get skin cancer and die.

Playing with genes can lead to such silly things happening. You are hampering natural evolution badly. So don't do it.

Playing God? (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by BadDoggie on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 06:11:55 AM EST

We already do. Medicine. Selective breeding of plants and animals. The concepts of general and welfare (of which I approve) that allows those without the manes to reproduce. C-section births.

We are continually removing ourselves ever-further from natural selection. While I don't like the idea of removal, I am glad we have each of these things, but everything gets taken too far, like the double-plus good effect of years of feel-good psychology, which may help those born with -- or who later suffer -- a handicap, but leads to some of the most outrageous and irrational actions.

One difficulty is defining where "personal" or "natural selection" leaves off and "eugenics" begins. Is it only at the point where the State dictates or even just recommends?

I'm surprised laprincesa didn't mention Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man, an excellent book dealing with the subject.

I can't believe I'm voting a laprincesa story up, despite her inclusion of "Nazis" and failure to write that they got the idea from the ever-so-slightly racist US, which at the time was looking to justify its apartheid with more "enlightened" scientific proofs. I just looked outside and the sky is not pink or yellow with red and green stripes...

woof.

Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense.
[ Parent ]

Various points (4.66 / 3) (#26)
by godix on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 08:35:54 AM EST

"We are surviving very well the way we are."

Tell that to Micheal J Fox or Stephen Hawking. But you're right, most of us are surviving fine. It's just a small percentage who aren't. Why should we waste time and effort with them? Fuck Jerry Lewis and his telathon.

"If we start playing the games that God has reserved for himself, we may destroy ourselves."

If God existed he might come down and cure our genes himself to save us the bother of doing it. Or he might come down and say 'Hey, I gave you the intelligence to figure out how to fix yourselves, why didn't you?' Or he may just come down and tell us the reason we're here is because of his sophmoric sense of humor. Making up arguements based on an imaginary being is fun....

"all get skin cancer and die."

Or we might just stay indoors for awhile until we use our genetic tools to change skin color again.

"Playing with genes can lead to such silly things happening. You are hampering natural evolution badly. So don't do it."

We aren't talking about hampering natural evolution, some theories hold we've taken ourselves out of natural evolution for awhile now. We're talking about forming man made evolution now. Considering that after 30,000 years or so natural evolution still hasn't taken care of my wifes genes that screw up her blood sugar, I'd say it's about time man took a crack at it.

Incidently, the same arguement can be made for medical care. Are you opposed to that as well?
A woman can fake an orgasm, but it takes a man to fake an entire relationship.
[ Parent ]

Some more points (3.00 / 2) (#28)
by psychologist on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 09:17:30 AM EST

Don't you see the short-sightedness of gene manipulation. Yeah sure, everyone wants to cure Stephen Hawkings, but he will die anyway.

The idea that we know what is better is what I cannot accept. People will tell you blonde is better. Others will tell you jet black is better. People will tell you muscles are better. Others will say intelligence is better. Who will then decide which of the traits to favour in a society that does Eugenics?

It doesn't righten me that people will suddenly decide to become blonde. What frightens me is that we will make a mistake. We will suddenly say - hey, we want to all be blonde, and after 500 years, everyone is blonde. Then we discover that dark headed people were actually pumping some gene into the system that was keeping us alive.

I don't like layman talk about biology. This isn't stuff you play around with, this is stuff you do very very carefully. Nature made us mutts - without physical isolation, we would all look the same. Nature is striving for maximum gene diversity across the entire human spectrum.

Why are we working against that? Hawkings is disfigured, but he is a mutation. If something happens to our planet - such as the thing that killed the dinosaurs, it may be Hawking alone that survives - not in spite of his disease, but because of it.

Eugenics will wipe out natural mutation. Mutation will only work because of the mistakes. You are taking away the mistakes, and there won't be any part that is correct.

Gene manipulation of Animals is a good thing. Gene manipulation of a small number of humans is also good. But widescale Eugenics/genetic disease wipeout programs, I am strongly against.

[ Parent ]

You can't go backwards (5.00 / 2) (#29)
by godix on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 10:07:51 AM EST

"Don't you see the short-sightedness of gene manipulation."

I see the potential for danger there. The same as I see the potential for danger in nuclear power, changing the earth with dams and irrigation, pesticides, GE food, worldwide political policies, and many other things men can and have done.

"The idea that we know what is better is what I cannot accept."

If we waiting till we KNEW what was best we'd still be sitting in caves wondering if we should risk someone getting burned while we cook dinner or just eat our meat raw.

"Eugenics will wipe out natural mutation."

If it makes you feel better, chances are high that GE of humans will only happen in rich countries. So we'll still have full genetic variety in the third world countries. Many third world countries have large black populations so there's humanities protection against your UV rays example.

You remind me of the anti-nuke protesters. You seem to feel that becuase you are against something you can get all of humanity to forget about it. Sorry, this is reality, it doesn't work that way. You can't repack Pandoras Box once it's open. Genetic engineering is here, and routine genetic engineering on humans is coming soon. It's not going to go away. It's almost guarenteed to get misused by someone somewhere sometime. The question is are we going to use it for a good purpose as well?


[ Parent ]

Layman biology (5.00 / 2) (#31)
by Irobot on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 10:45:49 AM EST

I don't like layman talk about biology...Nature made us mutts - without physical isolation, we would all look the same. Nature is striving for maximum gene diversity across the entire human spectrum...Eugenics will wipe out natural mutation. Mutation will only work because of the mistakes.
Your argument is grounded in the point of view of layman's biology. Nature doesn't strive for genetic diversity. We wouldn't all "look the same" but for physical isolation - I might grant you similar, but not the same. Further, natural mutation plays an extremely small role in genetic variance - it is more due to genetic crossing over in reproduction. It seems to me that you need to read up on evolutionary theory - might I suggest Darwin's Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennett, Chaos by James Gleick, some Stuart Kauffman and John Holland, and The Theory of Evolution by John Maynard Smith.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

I think we need to deal with something here (3.00 / 1) (#32)
by psychologist on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 10:48:37 AM EST

I got pounded on last time for saying that nature "strives" to do certain things. Well, I will repeat that statement. In fact, I'm off to write a story about why nature in fact, does actively strive to do things.

[ Parent ]
I look forward to it (4.00 / 2) (#34)
by Irobot on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 10:55:33 AM EST

If you can justify your position, I'll agree with it. However, in my opinion, it'll come down to either a misuse of terms or definitions that are not commonly accepted as proper. But I reserve my judgement until I see the final product. Good luck on writing an informative and well argued piece...

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

the anthropomorphisizing of nature (none / 0) (#40)
by bhouston on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 12:25:33 PM EST

I believe your argument concerning the "active striving" of nature to achieve specific things may have been the target of some of Stephen Jay Gould's work.  Specifically I'm thinking of his two books: "The Mismeasurement of Man" and "Full House".  It is in these two books that he tries to dispell the notion that nature is trying to "achieve" intelligence and similar notions.  He does a pretty good job and I recommend the books to you.

[ Parent ]
It's here bacause of gene tech (2.00 / 5) (#15)
by drquick on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 03:11:21 AM EST

This was supposed to be the ultimate prof of Hitler's evilness. His "Lebensborn" program, we learned, was undisputably bad. Btw. lebensborn was positive eugenics.

Advances in gene manipulation blew that away just at once. The huge profits in a potential market is important enough. We've all heard the sneeky "testers" of the market, where we we're told we could live 150 years, be more smart, faster, stronger, without genetic disease, fitter for space travel, X-ray vision (just jokeing now), etc.

But why did we opppose Hitler's eugenics in the first place? It's obvious that the sci-fi gene-tech dreams would create an unter-mensch and an ber-mensch. That is, a class of genetically priviliged and a poor class of deprived. The priviliges would gradually encompass not only wealth and genetics but, absolute power as well.

This is excacly why we opposed the "Aryan" philosophies. Why not go all the way and reappraise Hitler? Or just skip it, because this has huge consequences for our view of our history.

Hitler's evilness (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by greenrd on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 04:42:52 AM EST

This was supposed to be the ultimate prof of Hitler's evilness... Why not go all the way and reappraise Hitler?

Er, there was this little thing called the Holocaust... perhaps you've heard of it?


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Holocaust? (none / 0) (#22)
by drquick on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 07:56:43 AM EST

The treatment of jews are then the only thing wrong? That would be a revolution in writeing history as well.

The debate in this thread is about eugenics and "positive" applications of it. If the holocaust was wrong it still doesn't make eugenics right, does it?. Now we are makeing it right for profit reasons.

[ Parent ]

You're seeing what isn't there (5.00 / 1) (#24)
by greenrd on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 08:31:03 AM EST

The treatment of jews are then the only thing wrong?

I never claimed it was. I don't know how you leaped to that inference from what I said.

(a) The Holocaust does not refer just to the attempted extermination of the Jews. Gays, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. were also victims of the Holocaust.

(b) I never said the Holocaust was the only thing that Hitler presided over that was wrong.

My point was this: How anyone can talk about "reappraising" Hitler, without being a Holocaust denier, is beyond me. It's like "Uh, I think you're missing out something important here..."


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Eugenics was important to Hitler (none / 0) (#44)
by drquick on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 03:21:42 PM EST

Embracing eugenics *is* "reapprising" Hitler. That was the idea with my comment. Either we shouldn't reassert eugenics (even if on a profit greed basis) or then Hitler was right on eugenics.

[ Parent ]
Logical Fallacy (none / 0) (#54)
by tlhf on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 09:57:18 PM EST

Just because a concept or action has been used by someone who we could describe as 'evil' doesn't make it morally wrong.

For example - Hitler breathed, therefore breathing is wrong.

tlhf
xxx
(I can see you possibly thinking thoughts "but that's different!', and if you do, then you're literally being illogical.)

[ Parent ]

But... (none / 0) (#82)
by drquick on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:11:20 AM EST

Hitles was specifically attacked for Eugenics and breeding people.

On the other hand I'm getting tired of this thread I've started. I wouldn't cast myself as a prime antagonist of Hitler. I'm really a bit sick and tired of all of that popular WW2 retro stuff. As such I agree with your comment.

I just think it's funny: one day Hitler's Eugenics are wrong and without a process of justification, now gene therapy is right.

[ Parent ]

What's this "we" shit? (5.00 / 2) (#20)
by BadDoggie on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 06:24:09 AM EST

The US did not oppose Hitler's Aryan crap until there was a war on. The idea of eugenics came from the US (see another comment of mine on this article).

The history of what Hitler and the Nazis did with the concepts of eugenics has made it next-to impossible for serious genetic research and testing to take place in Germany, thanks to restrictive laws on most human breeding-oriented things, put into place during the rebuilding, and which no one thought would ever have any possible positive social value. It wasn't until the 1950s that DNA was really known and the 1970's before anything could really be done with the stuff.

The first gene replacement therapy was done with the T-cells of a four-year old girl in 1990. Is that eugenics? I can argue either side of that question.

woof.

Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense.
[ Parent ]

eugenics - not gene therapy (none / 0) (#21)
by drquick on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 07:49:21 AM EST

... no one thought would ever have any possible positive social value. It wasn't until the 1950s that DNA was really known and the 1970's before anything could really be done with the stuff.
Oh, so it wasn't possible to breed people before gene therapy? Just how were horses bread before ww2 then?

The point (if you can read) is that Hitler *had* an eugenics program (by breeding) and he has been heavily criticized for it. Now we are jumping into eugenics again just for money.

[ Parent ]

Generally, not the same. (none / 0) (#37)
by ti dave on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 12:01:14 PM EST

When you breed horses, or any other animal, you must absolutely control that animals movements and contact with members of the opposite sex.

Breeding people? Same deal.
Since arranged marriages, the death penalty for adultery and the elimination of an "undesireable" gene pool (a la the Holocaust) can be considered components of human breeding, are you sure you'd like to rely on the notion of human breeding to support your point?

"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
Didn't say so (none / 0) (#83)
by drquick on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:39:51 AM EST

No, Eugenics, breeding and gene therapy are not the same. All three things are something different. However breeding and genetherapy are both possible tools for an eugenic program.

Thats why eugenics is relevant to the debate. Gene therapy has been suggested applications that are eugenic in their nature. Thus we are essentially saying that Hitler's Lebensborn program was based on a sound social-scientific therory. He used technologies that were available, that's all.

Now could any of the wise guys here take a stance. Is eugenics socially acceptable or not? If it is, why did we critizise Hitler? I'm starting to think it all is just Hitler bashing. ;-P

[ Parent ]

Lebenborn, Hitler, universal health care (4.00 / 1) (#63)
by alphabit on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 12:16:22 AM EST

Lebensborn, as you correctly state, is a form of "positive eugenics" in that it involves selective breading rather than selected extermination or sterilization.  but that doesn't make it okay or acceptable -- the term "positive eugenics" is, at least to me, a form of doublespeak/newspeak.

concerning Hilter: he was a racist, its pretty simple and undeniable.  most well adjusted people shouldn't be too worried about condemning his actions.

you prophecize a bifurcation of society into genetically different upper and lower classes.  i think that is simplistic thinking.  i think that society would benefit from having everyone being smarter and healther and thus would probably support a univeral health care system that provided non-cosmetic genetic enhancements to everyone that would benefit form them.

--
'It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.' -unknown
[ Parent ]

Interesting issue. (2.33 / 9) (#16)
by qpt on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 04:14:43 AM EST

Hadst thou the same free Will and Power to stand?
Thou hadst: whom hast thou then or what to accuse,
But Heav'ns free Love dealt equally to all?
Be then his Love accurst, since love or hate,
To me alike, it deals eternal woe.
Nay curs'd be thou; since against his thy will
Chose freely what it now so justly rues.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.

Milton? (none / 0) (#68)
by SteveH on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 01:30:21 AM EST

I knew it was ONE of the S&M boys (Shakespeare and Milton). This is way off topic, but before reading the signature line on this post I went to one of numerous Shakespeare sites and did a search on "Love accursed"... came up with three uses in Shakespeare's text. That seems like an awful lot to me.

[ Parent ]
Some comments (4.71 / 7) (#17)
by Irobot on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 04:24:48 AM EST

There is a slight confusion with your definition of eugenics. For much of the article, it is treated as "improving an individual's genetic makeup." However, what is normally implied (and shows up in certain places) is more along the lines of "improving a population's genetic makeup." The two need to be made distinct; it is the second that has bad (i.e., Nazi Germany) connotations. For the rest of this comment, I'm coming from the view of the first definition.
Also advocated [by positive eugenicists], but to a lesser degree, was the concept of selecting one's mate based on their genetic profile.
Evolutionary psychologists would argue that this describes what actually happens anyway. The only difference from what you define as eugenics is a matter of degree - choosing [insert trait you look for in mate] may or may not be an indication of a particular "defect." Mate selection is genetic roulette, but only in the sense that the "visible" traits used (e.g., skin/eye color, intelligence, humor, kindness, etc.) are far less in number than "invisible" traits.

With gene therapy, one can test for genetic disabilities and shortcomings and then adjust the genes to fix them.
There's an assumption here that is somehow always forgotten in discussions such as this - that single traits can be selected for change. With the known mechanisms of "trigger genes," or single genetic changes that affect multiple traits, this may be inherently impossible. In general, human genetics - most genetics, in fact - don't have the simplicity of Mendel's peas. Tweaking a single gene may have ramifications throughout the entire phenotype. It simply may not be possible to tweak single genes for a single desired effect.

There's also a sneaky misdirection that usually creeps into the argument. Who would argue that removing a predisposition for cancer or Alzheimer's from your children is bad? Personally, I'd argue that not doing so borders on criminal behavior. Somehow, that point always morphs to "eugenics is bad because people will choose [insert superficial or racially charged trait]." So what?

This is the inherent problem with positive eugenics. It relies on everyone cooperating to make life better for all concerned.
Blatantly untrue on an individual level, if one subscribes to current evolutionary theory. Even the smallest change in genetic inheritance, if beneficial, will result in tremendous changes in a population unless there is some selection pressure against it. It's eugenics prescribed by a central authority that has problems - and "everyone cooperating" is the least of them.
Thus the challenge of genetics in the future will be figuring out how to improve the human race without sidelining disadvantaged populations.
No - the challenge of genetics in the future is how improve individuals in the human race. The "without sidelining disadvantaged populations" is (unfortunately) left to moral philosophers, religious leaders, ethicists, and governments, when I'd say it should be in the hands of whoever wants it. My point in being a bit nit-picky here is that genetics is like a gun - it's a tool that can be used well or badly. When applied en masse by decree to an entire population, it can only be inherently discriminatory. Gene therapy may be a wonderful equalizer if it were widely available on an individual basis. One can only hope that it is allowed to reach its potential.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn

People with guns sometimes get shot (none / 0) (#107)
by dachshund on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 10:39:02 AM EST

No - the challenge of genetics in the future is how improve individuals in the human race. The "without sidelining disadvantaged populations" is (unfortunately) left to moral philosophers, religious leaders, ethicists, and governments, when I'd say it should be in the hands of whoever wants it. My point in being a bit nit-picky here is that genetics is like a gun - it's a tool that can be used well or badly

I think the author's point is completely legitimate. One of the greatest threats to any program that attempts to improve the genetic makeup of a given society is the possibility that another society (or disadvantaged component of the same society) will react violently and derail the project. This almost seems to be a component of human nature.

In other words, there's nothing wrong with eugenics as long as it remains a sterile, theoretical concept. Once you actually try to put it into practice, you may wind up creating more problems than you actually solve.

[ Parent ]

Yes, which is why... (none / 0) (#122)
by Irobot on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 08:50:59 PM EST

...I distinguished between the two (what I think were confused) uses of the word eugenics. In the prior comment, I was coming from the point of view of an individual's ability to choose genetic alterations as they see fit. I think you're raising the practical question of availability, which is where authoritarian control comes in - any authority (that I can think of, at least) would draft rules implementing an agenda.

As for your point about a backlash ("will react violently and derail the project"), I say "So what?" Whenever things change, some people lose. If things stay the same, some people are currently losing. To limit things based on abstract possibilities and not high probabilities is to give up any idea of planning for the future, thereby living in folly. Show me a reasonable sequence of events and circumstances that would end in detrimental societal upheaval (that is more likely than other sequences of events) and I'll agree with you whole-heartedly.

For more of what I think along the lines you propose (and you would even get to see me conceding the point!), I'd recommend looking at the comment directly above mine (at least with my viewing options) by localroger and the ensuing exchange.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Fraud vs. Force (none / 0) (#123)
by nomoreh1b on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 10:14:37 PM EST

...I distinguished between the two (what I think were confused) uses of the word eugenics. In the prior comment, I was coming from the point of view of an individual's ability to choose genetic alterations as they see fit. I think you're raising the practical question of availability, which is where authoritarian control comes in - any authority (that I can think of, at least) would draft rules implementing an agenda.

Well, there is getting folks to accept a genetic change using force (or threat thereof). I suspect what might be more important here is fraud. Few of the folks changing their germ line are going to really known what they are getting into ahead of time. This gets especially tricky when we are talking stuff that goes beyond getting rid of disease. Folks might think they are buying themselves an evolutionary advantage when they are really getting a new type of servitude.

[ Parent ]

I disagree (none / 0) (#127)
by Irobot on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 03:26:54 AM EST

I think that "force" in this case would simply come down to most people not having genetic mods available. Either because it's "immoral," they can't afford it, whatever.

I see the fraud argument as being unlikely at best, unless I misunderstand what you're saying. I'm under the impression that you're claiming that some "authority" (I'm thinking a governmental group) will misrepresent what a genetic modification will do with the intention of "enslaving the masses." Which is just a little bit too nut-job conspiracy theory for my tastes.

If instead you mean that a particular doctor would misrepresent the "benefit" of genetic alteration for money, I suspect that is a bit outlandish also. Any genetic mods will be under a proverbial microscope until proven workable - and that's only if the anti-alteration groups (such as those who feel it's a "sin" to muck around in genetics) ever let it get that far in the first place.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

clarification (none / 0) (#135)
by nomoreh1b on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 02:27:46 PM EST

I see the fraud argument as being unlikely at best, unless I misunderstand what you're saying. I'm under the impression that you're claiming that some "authority" (I'm thinking a governmental group) will misrepresent what a genetic modification will do with the intention of "enslaving the masses." Which is just a little bit too nut-job conspiracy theory for my tastes.

I'm not making the claim of intent here. Lots of strange things happen in nature without intent. I'm saying that folks scientific objectivity can become remarkably limited when their personal genetic interests are involved.

[ Parent ]

Individual eugenics (none / 0) (#136)
by dachshund on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 03:13:49 PM EST

I distinguished between the two (what I think were confused) uses of the word eugenics. In the prior comment, I was coming from the point of view of an individual's ability to choose genetic alterations as they see fit. I think you're raising the practical question of availability, which is where authoritarian control comes in - any authority (that I can think of, at least) would draft rules implementing an agenda.

I really don't think "authority" has anything to do with it. Whether the process is implemented by government fiat, or by millions of individual decisions, the result can be the same-- namely, one group can be left behind, and react violently. It's easy to see how this might come about: wealth and religion are just two of the factors that might determine which side of the tracks you get to be on.

And anybody with a knowledge of human nature knows that it doesn't take an explicit government effort to draw the lines in undesirable ways. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that wealth is one of the determining factors, it's easy to see how various types of discriminatory results can be arrived at. One only needs to look at the racial profile of a top prep school to see how individual decisions can lead to apparently "unfair" results. I'm only using race as an example here to illustrate my point. With eugenics, I imagine the lines would be much more complex, with the majority of society choosing to abstain.

As for your point about a backlash ("will react violently and derail the project"), I say "So what?"

Let me point out something important:

Most forms of individual eugenics are legal today. If you want to select your mate by DNA profile, and your mate is ok with that, there's nothing in the world to stop you. You could even start a national movement, and the law would be on your side.

So the question isn't "why shouldn't people practice eugenics". It's "why aren't they?"

And the answer is: cultural backlash! A few decades ago, somebody practiced a form of "eugenics" that scared the crap out of people. And now the idea has been completely discredited. Perhaps that's unfair, but it demonstrates how touchy humans can be. Even if you could get people past those earlier mistakes, all you'd have to do is threaten society just a little bit and the cultural backlash-- the same one that has modern-day eugenics pinned down by the neck-- would be back in force.

And that's my answer to your "so what" question. Eugenics will only take off when society as a whole is extraordinarily comfortable with the idea, and that may take decades. And of course, the second people start to feel threatened by it, it'll be as dead as it is today. And that's a very big "so what."

[ Parent ]

The real problem with eugenics (4.33 / 15) (#25)
by localroger on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 08:32:42 AM EST

The things eugenecists want to breed for mostly aren't heritable.

Eugenecists, be they positive, negative, or sideways oriented, are not all that interested in eye and skin color. They do use this to sell their ideas to the community, but their real interest has always been clearing out the undesirables, slackers and addicts and others of low moral principle (in the eyes of the eugenecist).

There are powerful forces working in favor of eugenics. After certain revelations were made about early and pervasive fraud, in any normal field no one with an ounce of self-respect would have had the gall to utter the words "twin study" for at least a century; yet hardly a decade after Cyril Burt's complete discrediting came a book resurrecting all the same hoary old shit (and not a few idiots trying to shore up old Cyril's reputation too). Despite a century of digging the eugenecists bring up not a drop of real evidence for their ideas, yet the money pump keeps chugging for more "research." Fond hope, too quickly banish'd.

The things eugenecists really want to eliminate -- stupidity, addiction, swearing, and deviant sex -- are not heritable. No amount of genetic twiddling will eliminate them because they are traits anyone can acquire during childhood. If the entire population is made up of blond, blue-eyed Nordics, you will have slums filled with blond, blue-eyed Nordic people and blond, blue-eyed Nordic illiterates and blond, blue-eyed johns hiring blonde, blue-eyed prostitutes (some of them for really kinky shit) and clinics full of blond, blue-eyed Nordic recovering addicts.

This is the thing eugenecists refuse to face. Even if they had not advocated atrocities ("negativity?") in pursuit of their goals, theirs has always been a fool's errand.

I can haz blog!

Except (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by Irobot on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 10:24:37 AM EST

I agree with your comment in general. However, I do have reservations about the absoluteness of the claim. There's a line in the nature vs. nurture argument that often gets dropped. People argue that certain traits (stupidity, addiction, swearing, deviant sex, etc.) are due wholly to genetics. Or to the developmental environment. I think it does a disservice to both genetic and human developmental complexity.

I'd not be willing to claim that a certain gene (or more likely a set of genes) may be responsible (at least in part) for any one of those traits. It is too easy in such an emotionally charged argument to oversimplify just to make your position stronger.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Uses of science (5.00 / 8) (#33)
by localroger on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 10:50:44 AM EST

There comes a point when you have to ask why you are asking certain questions, and what answers you hope to receive.

After more than a century of trying very, very hard, nobody has ever been able to demonstrate a convincing link between heredity and intelligence, ethics, or deviant sexuality. Not one such claim has ever held up to any scrutiny.

So you have to ask, why do people keep funding these studies which have failed over and over and over and over and over? Why do they align themselves with the methodology and ideals of disgraced frauds? Why not just leave it alone for awhile and study something useful, like how to make a ceiling fan that doesn't rattle?

The reason people keep funding these studies is that they want something. Thing is, they keep not getting what they want, so they keep throwing money at it. Eventually someone like Cyril Burt comes along who says, hey, I know what these guys want. I'll give it to them and they'll throw money and prestige at me and I'll be knighted collect prizes and if I'm lucky nobody will realize what I've done until long after I'm dead, which is how Cyril Burt essentially got away with it.

Now someone who accepts the money to do a twin study or some similar crap like looking for an "alcoholism gene" or whatever other fantasy they're pushing is that they know where the money is. There is money for studies like that, easy money. Always has been. Probably will be for a long, long time. And all you have to do to get plenty of that money is sell your soul to the Devil and create the results that the people with the money want -- tell them that they really are better than the plebes and they are justified in their wealth and privilege and that it's good and right for them to try to make the entire world look like they do.

I do not believe anybody who goes into this field today is innocent. You would have to be unbelievably stupid yourself to be running these studies and not know the history of the field.

Now let us say, for the sake of argument, that there really is an "alcoholism gene" which makes you, say, five percent more likely than your neighbor to become an alcoholic. That's something which could, possibly be established (though I'm not convinced it has; I'm admitting it here strictly for the sake of argument). Let's say the proof is incontrovertible; this gene exists and we can test for it. Everybody agrees that you are five percent more likely to become an alcoholic if you have this gene than if you don't.

Now, as a society, what do we do about this?

As someone running the study, hoping to find this gene, what do you think society should do if your work succeeds? What results do you anticipate?

Should people with the gene be discouraged from breeding? Should they be discouraged from drinking? Should their medical insurance rates go up? How is any of this fair to the vast majority of people with the gene who will live no differently from the rest of us?

And there is no doubt what happens when some trend like this is "identified." In the time before Cyril Burt was unmasked literally millions of individuals were incarcerated, forcibly sterilized, or denied education because of policies instituted by governments who were influenced by his "findings." Some of those policies are still in place. We know what will happen when the alcoholism gene, the stupid gene, the deviant sex gene is "identified" because it's been done before.

Now, there are a vast number of questions open to investigation which do not inevitably lead to social injustice when they are answered. I'm afraid I have little patience for the eugenecists; if they haven't learned the lesson by now it's only because they don't want to.

Cyril Burt was a profoundly evil man and the people who are trying to whitewash his fraud and resurrect his work are profoundly evil too. It doesn't really matter whether they are right in the sense that such and such trait is loosely heritable (though I'm convinced for other reasons they are wrong); what matters is what they want, and what they and their backers will do when they get the answers they are looking for. Nobody with any decency or self-respect would be in the field today. Period. The scars have still not healed from the last time these ideas were in vogue.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

OK - slightly different (4.00 / 1) (#35)
by Irobot on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 11:21:53 AM EST

I see - you're arguing the point about how the knowledge is put to use, rather than its plausibility or possibility. Again, I agree with your points in general, but not with the argument in total.

Perhaps it's because you see eugenicists as authorities who prescribe what should and shouldn't be done. And I agree. I'd say instead to leave it to the individual. I realize that there are issues here. But the research isn't inherently bad (my point in the previous post), just its potential uses (your point). I just wouldn't take it the extra step that anyone and everyone in the field of genetic research is doing so because they have a political agenda that will inevitably be realized.

At one point in my cynical past, I felt that the medical profession in general did research only for personal gain - fame, money, ego, whatever. I've since softened that stance and realized that some people actually want to improve people's lives. Whether or not it makes them (or their sponsors) lots of money almost becomes insignificant when it is incidental to improving people's lot in life.

Which brings up a good point for discussion - is it truly impossible, as you seem to feel, that any attempt at finding these genetic "answers" leads to social injustice? From a historical standpoint, you can say yes - so far, it has every time. Recognizing the dangers involved, can something be done to reap the benefits while restricting the dangers? I don't have an answer; I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on it.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Well... (4.66 / 3) (#43)
by localroger on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 02:02:10 PM EST

is it truly impossible, as you seem to feel, that any attempt at finding these genetic "answers" leads to social injustice? From a historical standpoint, you can say yes - so far, it has every time.

When you keep doing something even though it doesn't work, eventually someone is going to point out that you are acting insane.

How many more millions of people will we incarcerate, sterilize, lobotomize, and deny education before we figure out that this whole area of inquiry isn't a good idea?

To take another area of inquiry which should never have been pursued, it's much easier to forgive the men who built the first atomic bomb given the threat they felt they were facing and the fact that many of them doubted it would ever be used. It's easy to come away from reading about some of the idealists who thought the Bomb would end war and think, "You idiots." But to their credit, it was a reasonable idea that had not yet been disproved.

The eugenecists do not have that excuse. We know what uses this knowledge will be put to. We know there are corrupt men who will produce the results the deep pockets want to justify these actions.

This is why I don't trust any of the research that suggests a genetic link with anything abstract -- the forces that want such links to be found are too powerful and they corrupt the process at every level. There may be some very broad "tendencies" which are genetically determined, but I don't believe any such thing will ever be found that can't be overcome by a sufficiently motivated individual.

But as soon as these "tendencies" are nailed down some idiot will start writing policy based on them, with the inevitable result that innocents will be deprived of their rights. As you say it's happened every time; why should anyone believe it will be different this time?

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Whoa there, Silver (5.00 / 1) (#45)
by Irobot on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 03:22:04 PM EST

Let me preface this with the statement that from what I've seen, I respect your opinions and their resultant comments. I have only the desire to pursue discussion in that vein, not to fight out separate sides of an argument. With that said,
When you keep doing something even though it doesn't work, eventually someone is going to point out that you are acting insane.
I'd change that to be "When you keep doing something given the same knowledge and circumstances even though it doesn't work, you are acting insane." Here's the thing - by looking at what has been done, we can safeguard against previous mistakes and close the loopholes that allow corrupting forces to take advantage. OK - that sounds more absolutist than I'd like; not only do those with the power make the rules, there's also the matter of never being able to forsee all situations. It may be a pipe-dream, but I'd like to think that many of these problems can be resolved with enough forethought.

Additionally, as the research progresses, the foundations for deciding what can be done change. As things are understood more fully, better decisions can be formulated. I think your example of atomic bombs is akin to an argument against the space program. Some will say "what possible benefits have we gained?" while ignoring all the related knowledge and advancement. The horrific power and subsequent use of nuclear weapons is indeed a blight on human knowledge; but isn't there some positive knowledge that has come out of it? Can you separate the two? (I'm not that familiar with it, but I'd guess that much of current theoretical physics is related. Which is directly tied to quantum computing, lots of medical applications, etc., etc.)

There may be some very broad "tendencies" which are genetically determined, but I don't believe any such thing will ever be found that can't be overcome by a sufficiently motivated individual.
Come on now. In general, I think that way also. But I certainly realize that there are limits to this attitude. Not everyone has the motivation to overcome [insert a given addiction]. Do you turn your back on them? Not everyone has the power to exert the necessary self-control that would limit their actions due to [insert socially detrimental tendency]. Are they a lost cause? If, taking this to an admittedly extreme (and possibly absurd) example, a genetic cause is found for murder, what would you propose to do with the person? My point is simply that closing the "entire area of research" may, in the end, close off avenues that might make the world a better place. I wouldn't dismiss it as quickly as you seem to.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho... (5.00 / 2) (#46)
by localroger on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 04:19:56 PM EST

Let me make something clear: I am not in favor of banning research into any field. I do think the integrity and ethics of individuals conducting certain research should be questioned, to shame them into doing something more responsible.

It may be a pipe-dream, but I'd like to think that many of these problems can be resolved with enough forethought.

The thing is, we've had almost a century and they've not been resolved. In fact, people are busily trying to scrub the memory of Burt's fraud so they can make some more of the very same mistakes which were made before he was discredited. If history proves anything, it is that people are wonderfully prone to keep making the same mistakes over and over, no matter how many opportunities they are given to learn otherwise.

I think your example of atomic bombs is akin to an argument against the space program. Some will say "what possible benefits have we gained?" while ignoring all the related knowledge and advancement.

As a matter of fact, I am very much in favor of space exploration, and it's one of the few things that give me some pride in the matter of having been born human. Remarkably few people have been killed or had their freedom taken away in the name of space exploration, and the monies spent on it are quite modest compared to some of our other boondoggles.

The horrific power and subsequent use of nuclear weapons is indeed a blight on human knowledge; but isn't there some positive knowledge that has come out of it? Can you separate the two?

As a matter of fact I'm pretty conversant on this topic. Takes deep breath.

It is very doubtful that the Manhattan Project would have succeeded if Leslie Groves had not deliberately hidden the discovery that the Germans had no hope of making their own bomb from our people who were making our bomb. A large percentage of the Project scientists were appalled that we used such a weapon on Japan and stated bluntly that their work had been misused.

It is also very doubtful that there would have been an invasion of Japan with N+1 (where N is a very large number) casualties if we did not have the bomb. At the time of the Trinity test the Japanese were suing for peace, under terms which we eventually granted them anyway. Because the bomb was proven to work, we answered them (in the Potsdam Declaration) with terms no sane government could accept, presumably (a strong case can be made) so we could use them for target practice.

It is also very doubtful that anybody would ever have built an atomic bomb (much less a thermonuclear) if the Manhattan Project had not done it. No nation since has had either the production capacity or inclination to enter such a vast and costly project without knowing for sure that it could succeed.

It is likely that the course of particle physics would have been slowed, but probably not halted, without the fundamental research done at Los Alamos. It is also likely that the development of computing machines would have been delayed, since some of the critical early ones were developed at great cost for use in the thermonuclear project. But there is also reason to think they would have eventually been developed anyway, just later.

Aside for a few cancer therapies, there is little which would have been permanently lost other than the Bomb itself if the Manhattan Project had never been initiated. Nearly all the same basic knowledge could have been gotten from particle accelerator studies. Nuclear power has always been more expensive than conventional power, and is likely to remain so forever, since the long-term disposal costs never have been added to the balance sheet.

Meanwhile, the crippling costs of the Cold War might have been avoided or at least reduced if neither side suspected the other of being able to burn down all their cities in a matter of half an hour.

All in all, the main thing we got from the Manhattan Project was the infrastructure necessary to make buttloads of fissionable material, an infrastructure nobody else would ever have assembled if not for the proven possibility of making atomic bombs. As I've often said, the secret of the atomic bomb was not given to the Soviets by the Rosenbergs -- it was given to them by us at Trinity. When nobody knows if it will work the expense cannot be justified, but if you know it is possible and that your enemy is building them, the expense is very easily justified.

So, localroger's judgement on the Manhattan Project is: It was a Very Bad Idea. There were people like Leslie Groves who were plotting to do the things with it that made it a Bad Idea long before it was even certain to succeed. But overall, it's easy to see why so many of the participants went ahead with it. At the time, it seemed like a small evil in comparison with others more pressing.

Now, should nuclear research have been banned? That wouldn't have been necessary. If we hadn't spent the oodles of $$$$ necessary to figure out that the Bomb was possible, it is nearly certain nobody else would have bothered. Of course once the world knows Bombs can be built then trying to ban the research is like trying to ban rain.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand...

Not everyone has the motivation to overcome [insert a given addiction]. Do you turn your back on them? Not everyone has the power to exert the necessary self-control that would limit their actions due to [insert socially detrimental tendency]. Are they a lost cause?

This is precisely my point. How, exactly, do you "help" them? Because I don't see any avenues leading to anything I'd call "help." I do see all kinds of nifty possibilities for social engineering, which are spectacularly unfair to the people who do have the motivation to overcome [insert socially undesirable tendency]. Unlike the Manhattan Project scientists, we have the advantage of hindsight in this regard, and the results have not been pretty. I consider it morally irresponsible to go into these avenues of research without some idea as to what will happen should you get the answer you are looking for. Just as we consider you responsible if you leave a loaded gun around for a child to find, I consider you responsible if you give would-be totalitarian buttheads the excuse they need to start locking people up and scrambling their brains. You don't have the excuse of not knowing they will do it. They have done it every single time.

Most scientists I've spoken to (I have over the years spoken with a lot of scientists) distance themselves from the effects of their research. Even when the grant proposal is being slanted toward the stated aims of the people who are being solicited for a grant, the scientist often pretends that he is "neutral" and just "using" the monied agency to kick-start his search for truth.

But it doesn't work that way, or at least never has; the agencies that write grants for research are hoping for results. Particular results. If you don't reliably give them the results they want, they will stop giving you money. Does this color how you do your research? If you are such a paragon of moral virtue that you would claim it doesn't, what about the next guy? Again, the history of the subject at hand is not kind. If you voluntarily entered the field of heritability research I cannot help but have deep and unpleasant suspicions about your motivations and moral character. And at this point it would take a lot of evidence to make me change my mind.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

I *wish* I got more like this (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by Irobot on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 05:57:48 PM EST

Holy schmoley! A reasonable, factual response! Including a statement of "my opinion is..."! Thank you. Your opening disclaimer was quite a relief - I was beginning to be afraid I had gotten into a discussion with a zealot. Glad you disproved me there.

First, can you recommend some references for Burt's work? I'm ignorant and would like to know more. Perhaps some related work also? I could do a Google search, but would rather have some pointers from someone I can be assured is not a crank.

I also claim ignorance (again) about the relation of atomic bomb theory and particle physics. You seem knowledgable on the subject (more knowledgable than me, anyway), so I have to defer to you. As far as medical applications go, I was thinking more along the lines of MRIs and electron scanning microscopes than cancer research. You've answered this already, so take the following as a rhetorical aside - is there really such a clean division between the Manhattan Project research and other nuclear research?

How, exactly, do you "help" them? Because I don't see any avenues leading to anything I'd call "help." I do see all kinds of nifty possibilities for social engineering, which are spectacularly unfair to the people who do have the motivation to overcome [insert socially undesirable tendency].
Well, "help" in this context would be giving people the ability to remove those tendencies. Here's the thing (preparing to point out flaws/pitfalls in my own views) - if I, as a parent, knew that my child would have a tendency towards depression, I would want the option to remove that tendency. This is even more desirable (to me) if my child would have a predisposition to violence. I believe that each person should be allowed to make that decision. (Of course, there's the murky moral morass of other traits that I won't go near - things like sexual orientation, intelligence, etc. that would misdirect the argument into other realms.) Each person would have the responsibility of living with the consequences of their choices. Not something to take lightly.

I have to wonder again if there is absolutely no way to provide this opportunity while avoiding the proscription by authority. I concede that there may not be, especially when you take into account the source of funding. (Research does demand results, after all. And I'm not so naive as to believe that funding happens without an agenda. But, as I said earlier in this thread, sometimes the "benefit of humanity" really is a driving force.) It is, of course, safer for everyone to take the more conservative approach and assume foul intention. Damn shame, that.

Your point about such "help" being unfair to those who have the necessary motivation resonates with me. At the same time, if I had the opportunity, I'd like to think that the benefits for the other person would outweigh my sense of unfairness. After all, there's really no direct detriment to me. Even so, something in me rails against easy answers to hard problems. I'll leave that one inconclusive, if you don't mind.

OK - you've brought me around to your point of view, at least in part. To go on would require a discussion of the structure of research funding, human motivation, and possibly a morality debate. Which would be a discussion fork all out of proportion with the topic at hand.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

The State of the Art (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by localroger on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 09:07:59 PM EST

First, can you recommend some references for Burt's work? I'm ignorant and would like to know more. Perhaps some related work also? I could do a Google search, but would rather have some pointers from someone I can be assured is not a crank.

Heh. Right now the only books at Amazon are eleventh-hour apologias of the type I am complaining about. It's hard to convey the level of shock and outrage which was felt in the late 1970's when the nature and extent of Burt's fraud was revealed. The piece I really wish I had was the paper by the guy who showed that every twin study ever done up until the early 80's was also either fraudulent or fatally flawed.

If you have a library nearby that keeps news magazines and pop science rags going back to the late 1970's I'd search the indexes for the years 1976 onward for references to Burt. If you see what was written about him at the time you'll see why I am so deeply suspicious of current attempts to resurrect his reputation.

Well, "help" in this context would be giving people the ability to remove those tendencies.

It is going to be a long time before our technology is able to do that. Curing cancer will be dead simple by comparison. Meanwhile we will have the means to detect these potential problems, but not the means to cure them.

The idea reminds me ominously of the idealists in the Manhattan Project who were convinced their efforts would end war. The analogy isn't exact, but it's uncomfortably close.

Oddly, I just watched the X-Men movie for the first time today on DVD, which is startlingly relevant to this discussion.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

various traits and hereditary (4.66 / 3) (#36)
by bhouston on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 12:00:51 PM EST

From my experience this is one of the most dangerous subjects to talk about since its so easy to get burned.

My degree is a combined neuroscience / cognitive science degree.  I've been working in a molecular neuroscience lab for the last year working on mice that have specific traits.  Although mice are not humans there does seem to be undeniable evidence that 'nature' plays a large role in many traits that some think are only 'nurture' based.  I'm not going to get into arguments are which traits are inheritable or to what degree since I really don't know all the facts.

But I can say that your views, while well intentioned, are not very accurate when it comes to science.

[ Parent ]

Of mice and men (4.50 / 2) (#42)
by localroger on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 01:47:52 PM EST

Although mice are not humans there does seem to be undeniable evidence that 'nature' plays a large role in many traits that some think are only 'nurture' based.

As you say yourself, mice are not humans. Humans can, with practice, place nearly every function of the brainstem and midbrain under conscious control. Animals do not seem to be able to do this.

This makes any assumptions about human behavior based on rodent studies seem rather tentative at best.

There are very few human behaviors so fixed that they cannot be modified; the imprinting screw-ups that result in deviant sexual desires seem to be among these. Yet, even these are all programmed after birth (sometimes long after birth). We can guess that imprinting cannot be reversed once it occurs even in humans, but we can't tell when it happens or guide it with any reliability. And all the other traits studied in this field are much less reliable than sexual desire.

As for my views of science, well you pick up funny ideas I guess when your Dad is a physicist and you spend most of your childhood around scientists. Turns out they're human too, which can be both a Good Thing and a Bad Thing depending on who the scientist in question is.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Heredity... (none / 0) (#75)
by Znork on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 03:54:31 AM EST

As far as intelligence goes there's a correlation between genes and intelligence too:

Identical twins:
Reared together:    .86
Reared apare:       .72

Fraternal twins:
Reared together:    .60

Siblings:
Reared together:    .47
Reared apart:       .24

Parent/Child:       .40

Foster parent/Child:.31

Cousins:            .15

(source Bouchard et al. 1990)

Of course, what that shows is there's both genetic and environment issues (at least as far as the ability to obtain a certain score on an IQ test is concerned, which may or may not be entirely relevant to whatever you like to call intelligence).

As far as traits like sexual behaviour go, I havent seen anything linking it to genetics _or_ any specific environmental issues (apart from extreme deviancy caused by abuse). Ordinary variations on sexual behaviour (as defined by such behaviour practiced by adults within safe, sane and consentual limits) at least seem mostly caused by random factors.

[ Parent ]

the genetics of alcoholism (4.60 / 5) (#38)
by bhouston on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 12:11:49 PM EST

There is a genetic basis to alcoholism -- or more precisely there are many different genetic factors that contribute to the development of alcoholism given the right environmental factors.

Here is a quick list of papers on the subject:

Sillaber et al. "Enhanced and delayed stress-induced alcohol drinking in mice lacking functional CRH1 receptors." Science. 2002 May 3;296(5569):931-3.

Hasegawa et al.  "Association of a polymorphism of the serotonin 1B receptor gene and alcohol dependence with inactive aldehyde dehydrogenase-2." J Neural Transm. 2002 Apr;109(4):513-21.

Chung et al. "Evidence for an N-glycosylation polymorphism of arylsulfatase a predisposing to alcoholism in Koreans." Am J Med Genet. 2002 Mar 8;114(2):186-9.

Schmidt et al. "Association of a CB1 cannabinoid receptor gene (CNR1) polymorphism with severe alcohol dependence." Drug Alcohol Depend. 2002 Feb 1;65(3):221-4.

Schinka et al. "A functional polymorphism within the mu-opioid receptor gene and risk for abuse of alcohol and other substances." Mol Psychiatry. 2002;7(2):224-8.

Ehlers et al. "Association of the ADH2*3 allele with a negative family history of alcoholism in African American young adults." Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2001 Dec;25(12):1773-7.

Luczak et al. "Binge drinking in Chinese, Korean, and White college students: genetic and ethnic group differences." Psychol Addict Behav. 2001 Dec;15(4):306-9.

Gorwood et al. "The genetics of addiction: alcohol-dependence and D3 dopamine receptor gene." Pathol Biol (Paris). 2001 Nov;49(9):710-7.

Lee et al. "Association between polymorphisms of ethanol-metabolizing enzymes and susceptibility to alcoholic cirrhosis in a Korean male population." J Korean Med Sci. 2001 Dec;16(6):745-50.


[ Parent ]

problems with lots of drugs have genetic component (5.00 / 1) (#120)
by nomoreh1b on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 06:55:23 PM EST

Booze isn't the only drug that has a genetic correlation to addition. I've heard that Turks for example have a fairly high rate of resistance to opiate addiction.

As a rule of thumb, the longer a drug has been in a culture the fewer problems are associated with it in that culture. Italians for example have a low rate of alcoholism, Native Americans a high rate of alcoholism with Brits somewhere in between. One problem is that folks tend to promote those drugs to which they and their kin are relatively immune-I don't think this is malicious-it is just Dawkin's "Selfish Gene" in action. Turks don't see why folks get so upset about opium and Peruvian Indians see cocaine as relatively harmless--and Italians see wine as harmless--even though these substances might be harmful to others.



[ Parent ]

Wrong (Eugenecicsm isn't an Ideology) (5.00 / 2) (#53)
by tlhf on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 09:48:24 PM EST

"The real problem with eugenics[:] The things eugenecists want to breed for mostly aren't heritable."

Eugenecicsm isn't an ideology. The word 'Eugenecist' is purely descriptive. There are no core Eugenecist beliefs. A Eugenecist is just someone who wants to utilise eugenics.

If I decide that using eugenics is a good thing, and start to use eugenical methods, you could describe me as a Eugenecist. But that does not mean that I will want to breed traits which are non-inheritable. I might want to beed solely thingw which are inheritable.

To put this argument into context, let's imagine that all of the ancient mathemiticians wanted to use maths to help the cause of murdering civilians. This murdering may have been wrong, and even ridiculous. But it would have no impact on the either the modern or the possible future applications of mathematics.

Let us not rule out what could have great benefits for humankind because of how some people have used the concept in the past.

tlhf
xxx
For the record I'm always aginst negative ethics, and almost always against positive eugenics.

[ Parent ]

Past vs Future (4.80 / 5) (#27)
by godix on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 09:10:33 AM EST

You cover mostly the past of eugenics, but I think that overlooks all the really interesting questions about positive eugenics. Here's a few I have once we figure out genes enough to be able to do eugenics directly.

Pity the poor control group. In the future most of society is cured of bad eyesight or high risks of cancer and the poor controls still needs glasses and kemotherapy. Maybe we won't use a control group, but wouldn't that make it easier to promote bad science in genetics?

Is it really a good idea to remove our genetic differences? Variety of the gene pool is how our race is prepared for unexpected events, should we remove those differences because they cause some of us to have a problem?

Who decides? I've heard some people argue they don't want to repair their childrens genes. Would they be able to decide to inflict defective genes on their children or would society step in an force that those genes be corrected? You could extrapolate from current medical rules in parents rights for childrens healthcare, but there are still a lot of moral questions around it.

Gene therapy is here and some are worried about it being used as a weapon. Judging on humanities past it seems to be a question of when we use this for warfare not if. So how do we prepare for diseases designed to affect certain genetic groups only?

How much personal apperence alteration is allowed? If I have a child could I tell the doctor I want him to look like Tom Cruise and actually get a genetic pattern to ensure he does? If yes how would society deal with the fact you can no longer rely on phycial apperence for IDing someone?

Patents/copyright. There's a lot of complaining now and they're only affecting our entertainment. What happens when they affect our very genes?

I would want to be control... (4.00 / 1) (#66)
by MickLinux on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 01:16:22 AM EST

Your term for people who will continue to use randomness is "control group".  

In that case, I would want my kids to be "control group" unmodified people.  

Why?  I can answer that on two levels -- with examples, or with the mathematical basis.

For the examples -- recently (read diet for a small planet II) it is becoming discovered that the hybrid grains are actually weaker and less resistant to disease in the long run than the native grains.  

EXAMPLE 1
Those starving African nations are starving for a lot of reasons, but one of the contributory reasons is that their sustainable agricultural methods were replaced by "new" "scientific" methods that didn't work.  The diseases are overcoming the new, patented grains; the insects are overcoming the insecticides.  The new planned varieties just are not resilient enough to handle even normal, everyday existance.

EXAMPLE 2
You see this same thing in "heat transfer" calculations.  There is a numerical calculation method called "relaxation".  "Relaxation" works when you have a simple set of equations like  energy in-energy out=change in energy, and heat flow between two nodes = some constant times the temperature difference.  With these equations, you can then set up a whole bunch of nodes, and try to calculate the stable temperature pattern for any given situation.  With "Relaxation", the calculation method is to set up any initial field of temperatures, and then go RANDOMLY from node to node, and correct each node to match its surrounding nodes.  Now -- the interesting thing is that although the technique can be modified to work more quickly under specific conditions, the fastest general case is still random.  That is, if you recognize a specific case, you can modify the program to take advantage of those specifics, but it won't work as well in the general sense.  There are some exceptions -- you can speed up the algorithm by reducing extraneous variables, or by taking advantage of information reduction techniques.  But in general, random is actually the fastest and best.

NOW THE MATHEMATICAL BASIS

The mathematical basis is what we might call impedence matching.  There is simply a theorem that the more you know about a signal, the more energy you can extract from it by matching the extraction method to the signal method.  

The problem here is that in real life, you don't have a single frequency signal.  That is, living conditions are not always going to be the same -- even from state to state, country to country, and definitely not from job to job.  A brainy person will be a great aerospace engineer but a lousy janitor, but janitors can sometimes succeed better than aerospace engineers (trust me, I know), even to the point that it may pay for the brainy person to take the janitor's job.

That is a case of bad signal matching, by the way.  Our country trained to many aero engineers, and some didn't make the cut, not due to bad grades, but due to a timing of graduation problem.  Well, in order to get the best signal matching you try to make your response match the signal.  

In the case of genetics, that means that you don't develop a narrow series of spectrum responses.  Rather, you develop a whole range of spectral responses that matches the signals you have been recieving.  /But guess what/?  The signals we have been recieving for the last 20,000 years are actually matched pretty well by what a human is today. That means that it is best to propagate everything, flaw or not that has been going into the species (species... if you count bushman as human: I do) so far.  And you keep the propagation method as relaxed as possible too.

I, for one, am not going to impose any further trivial limitations upon the genetic selection process that is already ongoing.  To do so would be to act to my own descendants' peril.  

I make a call to grace, for the alternative is more broken than you can imagine.
[ Parent ]

flaw or not (4.00 / 1) (#73)
by godix on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 03:51:22 AM EST

You provide an interesting case against using GE commonly on an entire population. I disagree with you on the 'flaw or not' part though. Theoretically it's possible to elimante one specific flawed gene while leaving all the variety and randomness of other genes. The good of elimnating some conditions outweighs the risk in the same way the good of defeating smallpox outweighed the dangers of DDT at the time.

[ Parent ]
Gene-modded haves - and have-nots (4.50 / 4) (#39)
by Bora Horza Gobuchol on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 12:16:14 PM EST

"Thus the challenge of genetics in the future will be figuring out how to improve the human race without sidelining disadvantaged populations."

This, to me, is the central issue. There are many inheritable diseases (and disease traits) that we will pre-natally screen for in future. Right now, the choice in reaction to a positive result is stark - to abort the fetus or let it live. In a decade, in-utero genetic modification will be possible.

Barring some fundamental changes in world opinion, the use of such gene-mod therapies is inevitable. Few parents would want their child born with spina bifida if they knew they could prevent it. And at this level, the gap between those able to afford such intervention and those who cannot is small - the wealthy have always been able to afford better health care.

Even non-disease-related genetic modification of the individual would be "okay", in the sense that such modifications would only last for the lifetime of that individual, and not give any particular advantage other than appearance and (perhaps) a longer life span.

Where such modifications would begin to be dangerous, I believe, is at the level of the germ-line - the inheritable genetic traits. At that point, only one individual needs to be gene-modded - his or her descendants will inherit those same properties.

This is not the same as inherited wealth, which can be squandered in a generation. It would be a permanent change to a line of the human species. In effect it would create a permanent "upper class" of gene-modded individuals.

To return to the central point - better health care has always been available to the wealthy. But genetic modification has the possibility of permanently and irrecoverably changing the upper class at a genetic level - changes that those with lesser resources could never afford. Assuming such changes are desired by all, would it be better to hold off the availability of germ-line modifications until the expense of the procedure has been lowered to a point where it could be administered at a low or zero cost to all who wanted it, by some national health plan? Or would that only compound the problem - making changes not between levels of society, but between nations?
-- "Don't criticise. Create a better alternative."

Question (none / 0) (#41)
by Irobot on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 12:31:00 PM EST

It would be a permanent change to a line of the human species.
I am under the impression that all of a woman's ovum are created before birth, whereas a man's sperm are created "on the fly." Would manipulating a male's genetic makeup alter the germ-line no matter what? What about manipulating a female's post-conception? Pre-conception?

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Solution: gene warez (none / 0) (#48)
by 0xdeadbeef on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 08:23:00 PM EST

The great thing about DNA is that, presuming the technology to actually engineer advantagous modifications à la Gattaca, it is easy to copy from discarded cells.  I assume the creation of gametes from somatic DNA would be the most basic technology at that point.  Expect a black market of genes of the rich and famous.

[ Parent ]
R&J (1.00 / 4) (#51)
by Thinkit on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 09:26:19 PM EST

Genetics doesn't seem to be the factor in producing the tiny minority who will dominate the evolution of intelligence. There are so many smart people in colleges and such who are still plugged into the machine and think very externally.

what are you trying to say... (5.00 / 1) (#62)
by alphabit on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 12:00:07 AM EST

for the life of me I can't understand what you are trying to say with that comment.

--
'It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.' -unknown
[ Parent ]
Force (3.57 / 7) (#55)
by BobRobertson on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 10:07:41 PM EST

"Negative" eugenics? Hardly. It's just force, used by some against others. The Nazi reference is that they used force to do the work. Kill the ones you don't like, or breed the ones you do, same net effect.

A woman visits a sperm bank, and chooses a donor by some criteria. That is eugenics, too. It's "good" because no force is used.

I like blonds, I like brains. I choose a smart blond to breed with. That is eugenics.

Why all this energy expended on a frivilous side-effect? Why not focus on the reall problem? Why not restrict your objections to the single actual cause of objection?

Force. Coersion. Prosecute the initiators of force, and then you will have the time and energy to expend on making your own life better and thereby making the world a better place to live.

Personally, I think eugenics is great. I would gladly partisipate voluntarily in such an endevour, because I think the human species is doomed unless we utilize our intellegence to overcome the slowness of "biological" adaptation.

But I won't use force to sterilize anyone, I won't use force to breed someone I think is "superior". And that makes me a better person than someone who would use force, so there.

Bob-
September 11, 2001. The most successful day for gun control and central planning in American history.

Preventing undesirables from breeding is bad? (2.00 / 7) (#56)
by boz3 on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 10:39:33 PM EST

Why? 1) Take a look at all the unfit parents out there who were horribly unprepared to have brats. 2) Why shouldn't childbirth be given the same screening process that adoption is? you'd save a whole lot of people a whole lot of grief.
Commander Taco's girl has an overbite.
unnecessary insults... (5.00 / 1) (#61)
by alphabit on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 11:57:59 PM EST

just thought i would explain why i voted your comment at a 1.

--
'It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.' -unknown
[ Parent ]
You bastard (none / 0) (#145)
by CodeWright on Tue Jul 30, 2002 at 03:17:04 PM EST

Kathleen is a sweet and smart gal who has never done you any harm, and here you are advocating her euthanasia?

Based on the genotypic grading criteria you describe, I suspect that her National Merit Scholarship, eminently fit parents, and good health are a better indicator of survival fitness than your own twisted contribution to the gene pool.

Her only sin is an addiction to control-freak doofuses like Boris, Mark, Nate, and Rob.

--
"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
Ted Williams' Head (1.40 / 5) (#57)
by SteveH on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 11:04:19 PM EST

ESPN radio has been reporting that John Henry Williams plans to cryo-freeze his fathers body. They report he plans on selling some of the Splendid Splinter's DNA in the future. Is this an example of 'positive' eugenics?

interesting, but relevant? (none / 0) (#60)
by alphabit on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 11:56:15 PM EST

although it is pretty interesting and strange that they are doing that to his head I don't think it is yet that relevant to the topic of eugenics. maybe its just me though.

--
'It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.' -unknown
[ Parent ]
Yes (none / 0) (#67)
by SteveH on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 01:22:20 AM EST

I would claim relevancy because this is an example of directed genetic manipulation. Although it has to be said that John Henry didn't do a whole lot with his genetic inheritance...

[ Parent ]
Case-in-point: Sickle-cell Anaemia (3.20 / 5) (#58)
by slur on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 11:25:34 PM EST

Imposing any set of criteria on the breeding of Humans is bound to be a disaster. No one can foresee what kind of environmental changes might come about in 1000 years, or which innocuous genes are going to provide resistance to viral and bacterial agents in the distant future.

Case in point: Sickle-cell anaemia became prevalent among Africans because it provided resistance to malaria. Sickle-cell anaemia may shorten the lifespan of the individual, but malaria would kill them a lot quicker without it. In the eyes of some ivory-tower eugenicist it might seem like a good idea to breed out just this kind of beneficial mutation.

The best thing for people whose cerebral cortexes are a-whir with thoughts about manipulating the human gene would be to find something meaningful to think about. A broad variety of genetic mutations is essential for our future survival.


|
| slur was here
|

ASS. (4.60 / 5) (#69)
by sobcek on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 01:46:07 AM EST

Yes, of course, postive eugenics:  When the rich breed.

Let me say (having worked in my youth at a country club):  You need to remember that the social class system is NOT based on ability, but is more importantly a compensation for subsequent generations' lack thereof.  If these people didn't need it, it wouldn't be there.  

Take, for instance, our current president, George the III (oops, slip, though most would be hard-pressed to tell the difference):

Do you honestly believe he is the wisest/smartest/best man for the job?

A resounding "NO, never!"  Exactly.

Nevertheless, if you look at his heritage, he should be.  His father was President; Bush senior graduated from Yale and served in the Navy with distinction.  

This is clearly disproof enough.

I happen to be extremely left-handed.  I am proud of my "disability".  It affords me opportunities not afforded to most right-handed people.  (That rolling bassline in Chopin's "Revolutionary" Etude?  Piece of cake.  And bring the stride basslines of ragtime at double-time...)  Granted, it is not always convenient.  Have you ever tried to buy a left-handed guitar?  (I built my own electric guitar, and am also in the proud habit of switching right-handed guitars over to the dark side...)  Cursive is no small-task for most lefties.  (Though I'd bet you dollars to dimes mine's better than 9/10 right-handers)  

My parents are (from what I'd speculate) very intelligent people.  They had good grades in college, and my father has 2 Master's degrees.  This said, I grew up below the poverty line (and in SW Missouri, that's not saying much.)  My sisters are both (again, speculation) very intelligent.  And you know what they all have in common?  They're right-handed.  

I am not.  

Imagine what you would think of this story if I told you I that I happen to be deaf, blind, or of another condition considered to be disadvantaged.  

So, what's the point?

No person, not even someone's parents, has the right to decide what is genetically desirable for a child.  Most people would choose to have a right-handed child.  (substitute non-deaf, etc.)

These "disabilities" play a role in what defines us.  God's (etc.) roll of the dice plays an important part of who we become.

I don't want to be right-handed, now or ever.  I would prefer that my child be left-handed because I think that it's important to have a feeling for the outside.

But it is not my choice to make for my child.

I don't want to want to ever have to make an apology using the words "best interest".  

It may look like you can arbitrarily substitute a genetic (x,y) pair on f(x).  But we are not to the point of knowledge of f('x), f''(x), f'''(x), etc.  

P.S. Re: breeding humans like dogs, and if it is possible to avoid negative consequences:  You'd have to do an thorough ethnography of the fraternity/sorority culture to get more information about that one. I'd expect less than stellar results.  Though, as dogs, I guarantee you'd find bitches.

 

Inaction and responsibility (5.00 / 1) (#70)
by Znork on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 02:55:07 AM EST

Inaction is a choice.

If you know your child is going to be deaf or blind and it is within your power to correct it and you dont, then your choice is to give your child those handicaps.

Forcing your children to live with handicaps by your choice is reprehensible. Had my parents done such a thing... well, at best they wouldnt ever hear from me again as soon as I could get away.

There is no ethical difference between consequences due to action or consequences due to inaction.

[ Parent ]

The difference being: (none / 0) (#71)
by sobcek on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 02:59:07 AM EST

that you don't know for certain with genetics, and I don't think we're at the point where we can, hence:  ASS.

[ Parent ]
Just a thought (2.00 / 1) (#74)
by Cornelius on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 03:53:10 AM EST

Forcing your children to live with handicaps by your choice is reprehensible. Had my parents done such a thing... well, at best they wouldnt ever hear from me again as soon as I could get away

But then again, it wouldn't have been you.

Consider the following: a woman is pregnant. Her doctor tells her that if she carries this child full term and gives birth to it, it will have a disease/handicap, for instance blindness or deafness.

Compare this case with: a woman is not pregnant and her doctor tells her that if she would become pregnant within the next three months the child would be born with a disease/handicap, for instance blindness or deafness.

In the first case the unborn child "Paul" can either not be born, thus never come to exist. Or he can be born blind/deaf.

If Paul is born, he may not justly criticize his mother for the decision to keep him, at least not on the grounds that if she'd terminated her pregnancy he would have been born without his handicap; since he in fact would not been born at all. Somebody else, with a completely unique DNA, would have come into existence.


Cornelius

"Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell", Hellraiser
[ Parent ]
Not quite the same... (4.00 / 1) (#79)
by Znork on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 05:42:37 AM EST

It's a quite different case; if the option exists to correct genetic damage, not correcting it is, in my opinion, on the same ethical level as doing drugs during pregnancy.

If you cant correct the damage, and only have the choice to abort or carry to term, you have a different ethical dilemma. Since there was no choice for 'Paul' to be born without the damage he doesnt have the same grounds of complaint, indeed. He could have different grounds, but not the same one.

Of course, I have no doubt what my choice would be.

[ Parent ]

Ok, (none / 0) (#106)
by Cornelius on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 09:05:31 AM EST

I thought you were talking about eugenics and not genetherapy.


Cornelius

"Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell", Hellraiser
[ Parent ]
Re: ASS. (none / 0) (#72)
by Irobot on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 02:59:48 AM EST

But it is not my choice to make for my child.
You've already made the most important decision for your child possible without consultation. Try a more civilized tone next time, putz.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

change the future? (3.00 / 4) (#76)
by megid on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 04:10:17 AM EST

would you "correct" stephen hawking?
would you take the responsibility for it?

just my two bits.


--
"think first, write second, speak third."

He likes his disease!!! (2.50 / 2) (#77)
by bitgeek on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 04:24:00 AM EST

Yeah, I'm sure Steve Hawking is really happy to be  confined to a wheelchair and facing a shorter than  normal life expectancy.

In fact, he's the perfect example:  Imagine the work he'll be able to do if he was facing another 50 years of life, rather than an uncertain future.

What is it with liberals that make them think that  if Hawking could walk he wouldn't be as brilliant as he is?
-- Between 1982 and 1988 US Income tax revenues doubled from approx. $500 Billion to $1 trillion due to Reagans tax cuts.
[ Parent ]

liberals (none / 0) (#90)
by ethereal on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 12:06:37 PM EST

Well, actually, Hawking has stated in various biographical comments that a lot of the mental tools he developed which have allowed him to become so well recognized were developed because he couldn't use the tools that other scientists use, like paper/pencil/computer, very easily. So from his perspective, I think it probably is the case that if he could walk and talk OK he might not be as brilliant, or at least would not have exercised his brilliance in the same way.

Not that I'm saying we should cripple kids at birth in order to ensure a steady supply of genius astrophysicists, but it does bear thinking about. If we could ensure the next great advance in human science (thus saving thousands of lives, etc.) by condemning one child to a life of pain and discomfort, would it be ethical to do so? Sort of like the short story The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

Hawking, Fuller, Omelas, Hephaestus (none / 0) (#137)
by texchanchan on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 11:31:42 PM EST

  • ...condemning one child to a life of pain and discomfort... In Omelas they supplemented the pain and discomfort with active abuse, retardation (via starvation and sensory deprivation), and meaninglessness.
  • People with various levels of pain, discomfort, and disability who also have meaningful work are not in the same situation as the child in Omelas.
  • Many people with some disability or disaster in their life history say "It was the best thing that ever happened to me." Many others, of course, don't. Some are crushed, others strengthened.
  • Buckminster Fuller credits his early visual impairment with the ideas which led to his well-known work. Specifically, he played with clay and sticks by feel, and made stable tetrahedrons rather than the cubes other kids were trying to make.
  • Some have theorized that the smith-god, for instance Hephaestus or Vulcan, usually is lame in mythology because disabled people became stay-at-home specialists in early societies.
  • My own intermittent disability is of the "best thing" variety, but you couldn't have convinced me of that for the first 20 or 25 years. Is life worth living with a missing this and defective that? You bet it is.
P.S. Nice to run into somebody else who knows that story.

[ Parent ]
i hope this was a joke. (none / 0) (#146)
by megid on Sat Oct 05, 2002 at 02:28:16 AM EST

i wish no one to be impaired. i know how that feels. nonetheless, if i had been permanently impaired, i would have been a lot more geekish (and knowlegdeable) than i am now wasting my time with parties, sports, travel...

all i say is dont play around with the future like that. a lot of people can use their impairment as a enlightment tool. on the other hand, some can not. however, lightheartedly saying "oh my this is a good thing [tm]" is a bit hasty.


--
"think first, write second, speak third."
[ Parent ]

Eugenics is out, Cloning in. (2.50 / 4) (#78)
by bitgeek on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 04:29:03 AM EST

Eugenics is the old way, and nobody really contemplates that.

The future is cloning.  Genetically engineering children, fixing DNA errors, etc.

And this stuff is a HUMAN RIGHT.  You own your genetic material.  Just as you have the right to choose who you'll have child with (choosing the child's genetic material) you have the right to choose the child's genetic material in a lab.

Don't like it?  Don't do it.

Like the implantation of computers with neural interfaces, there are risks involved.  The future is coming faster than people are equipped to deal with it-- but the fact is human rights are fundamental.  You want to bear the risk, live at the cutting edge-- its YOUR RIGHT.  But if you don't want to bear the risk, that doesn't justify preventing OTHERS From making that choice.

Whether its republicans outlawing abortion, or democrats outlawing genetically improved food, these  insults to the Bill of Rights and Human Rights in general are unacceptable by reasonable people.
-- Between 1982 and 1988 US Income tax revenues doubled from approx. $500 Billion to $1 trillion due to Reagans tax cuts.

A severe leap in reasoning (none / 0) (#114)
by cribeiro on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 03:47:34 PM EST

Oops. I'll try to stay away from the more obvious moral implications just to point out some problems with your reasoning:

You own your genetic material.
True only in the sense that the genes are 'yours', not from someone else. However, some scientists argue that the opposite is true - your genes not only own you, they are you.

Just as you have the right to choose who you'll have child with (choosing the child's genetic material)...
Double 'oops'. First, most people don't choose a partner because of genetic material alone; besides chance, many of the traits that lead us to choose one mate instead of other are socially developed, such as education. Second, while it is a fact that we naturally do some kind of genetic selection, bad genes also developed their own ways to fool our senses; they hide into the genetic code with little evidence of their presence, making them more difficult to detect.

...you have the right to choose the child's genetic material in a lab.
This is the 'leap of reasoning' I referred to... Who owns the genetic code of your child? Have you asked him (or her) whether he (or she) liked it? It also poses a very interesting circular question; why do you own your own genetic code, if it was chosen by someone else?


[ Parent ]
Deafness (4.25 / 4) (#81)
by faecal on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 07:08:10 AM EST

I find it interesting that "deaf rights" campaigners sometimes take the view that they wouldn't want a hearing child - with genetic selection/engineering available, this becomes a very real choice for some deaf parents to make.

I feel the need to point out the obvious - breed your children hearing, and if they don't like it, they can deafen themselves! That way the child gets to choose for themselves.

Not likely (none / 0) (#89)
by ethereal on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 11:51:13 AM EST

I mean, how many people would volunteer to cut off one of their senses just so they can be like Mom and Pop? "Deaf rights" folks know that no one would ever make this choice for themselves, which is why they have to choose to cripple their children and not give the kids a choice in the matter. Personally, I don't see how "not missing out on the deaf culture" could ever match up against "hearing someone say 'I love you'", or "hearing your child's first words", but maybe that's just me.

In that sense, at least, I think eugenics will be upon us in a generation: parents who refuse treatments that are universally considered helpful for their children will be regarded as sort of weird and possibly abusive parents.

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

Deafness & Eugenics (none / 0) (#125)
by bree on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 12:27:16 AM EST

It is fitting that you choose to comment about 'deaf rights' in a topic about eugenics. Deaf people have been subjected to various forms of negative eugenics for quite some time. As a deaf person myself, it is this exposure to such practices which make me wary of any such genetic manipulation.

Alexander G. Bell is known for the telephone, but among deaf people, he is also known for his strong-minded stance concerning the deaf. He wrote a book which was entitled "Concerning a deaf variety of the human race". This book claimed that deaf people would create a new 'species' by interbreeding if they were not stopped. Because he advocated various forms of eugenics, (forbidding intermarriage of the deaf, sterilization, etc) as well as advocating that deaf people not learn to sign, in preference of speaking skills which would   make them 'acceptable' in society. Bell is quite reviled and hated by many deaf people because he was actually successful in promoting some of his positions, which lead to marginalizing the deaf.

Thus lies the root problem of advocating eugenics, either 'positive', or 'negative'. Eugenics is a practice of 'choosing' which traits to promote over others, mariginalizing those who do not fit into the 'approved' traits. It ignores the fact that such 'approved' traits are often subjective and subject to change (looks go in and out like fashion trends). It also ignores the fact that by limiting the 'traits' which are acceptable, you limit the possible contributions from those who do not have these traits.

There is currently a conference underway in Washington, DC called "Deaf Way", which involves deaf people from all over the world. While this conference focuses on the needs of the deaf, it has also revealed a number of insights invaluable to society at large which would have been ignored except for the needs of the deaf. For example, while non-verbal communication makes up a large and significant portion of everyday SPOKEN communications, there is little research on it. Researchers devoted to deaf studies have trail-blazed this field, and in the process learned much more about how we communicate, and how we learn to do so.

I feel strongly that eugenics stems simply from a flawed perception of evolutionary processes. Evolution is not 'survival of the fittest' where the 'best' survives, but simply a 'throw it at the wall and see what sticks' process, essentially random. In some cases, this randomness promotes stronger species, in others it is irrelevant. But because of a random accumulation of genes or diversity, species are more apt to survive when their environment changes. In terms of human society, this would mean that we can BOTH adjust to social changes, and cause it to change more easily (ie, innovation due to differing needs/viewpoints) because of 'deviance'.

'deaf rights' are not about enforcing morals on hearing people, but about preserving a differing viewpoint which has almost always been under siege   because of its perceived inferiority. From enforcing the learning of speech, to using cochlear implants, the 'disease' and not the person has been treated. Deafness has been seen as 'undesirable', and thus to be 'cured' despite its effect on the person.

Eugenics at its root is the same, treating the 'disease', the desired/undesired traits in society, and ignoring the person, the unpredictable, variable, wonderful HUMAN person.

[ Parent ]

More children? (1.40 / 5) (#85)
by gsabaco on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 08:30:55 AM EST

For example, positive eugenicists advocated the upper classes having many children, so as to increase the incidence of "good" genes in the societal gene pool.

Great, just what we need, more children. Please people, everyone do their part to help Zero Population Growth, and stop giving in to the ultimately selfish desire for procreation. We have plenty of extra children now, just go adopt one. And before you say it is too hard or whatever, that is an issue for adoption reform, not a reason to breed.

Hopefully, we realize that at birth we all have a shot to be intelligent, we just need the right upbringing. Even if you believe that people may have a genetic predisposition to be more intelligent, I have yet to hear a serious claim that people's intellectual capacity is entirely dependant on genetics rather than their home environment.

As for "how to improve the human race without sidelining disadvantaged populations", please consider the overpopulation problem. I don't mean to be harsh, but the more medical aid we provide to "disadvantaged populations" the more starvation and warfare we are going to see there. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be educated and/or industrialized, but if all we do is give them medical attention they will continue to do the only things they know: fight and breed. Educating all the "disadvantaged populations" is a very commendable goal, and would go a long way to reducing their dependence on the "advantaged". I fully believe once sufficiently educated (and perhaps moved from deserts into a climate actually capable of supporting advanced human life) they would no longer be "disadvantaged", which would solve that problem altogether.

Of course, personally, I'm in favor of Voluntary Human Extinction but I realize that might be a bit extreme for most people. :)

Bah (none / 0) (#97)
by Irobot on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 06:42:28 PM EST

Try to be at least subtly contradictory. In particular:
Hopefully, we realize that at birth we all have a shot to be intelligent, we just need the right upbringing. Even if you believe that people may have a genetic predisposition to be more intelligent, I have yet to hear a serious claim that people's intellectual capacity is entirely dependant on genetics rather than their home environment.
There's little difference between the position that intelligence is entirely due to a person's genetics vs. a person's upbringing. And your claim that "at birth we all have a shot to be intelligent" is so narrow-minded as to make me fume. Especially when I get every indication that you're talking about IQ intelligence and no other form.

My brother was born with cerebral palsy. He'll never reach beyond a 3rd-grade mentality - if I remember correctly, an IQ of around 70. Even though he does OK, there was no chance that he would ever have "had a shot to be intelligent," and I consider such a statement to be a slur against my mother. Do try to put a little more thought into it before you post.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Ok (none / 0) (#100)
by gsabaco on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 08:20:30 PM EST

You are right, I didn't put nearly enough thought into that one. Again I post before going to sleep rather than while I'm fully awake and I don't make myself clear. I apologize for that and I didn't mean to insult you or your family in any way.

I wasn't referring to IQ intelligence. For me intelligence is a rather more abstract term. I've heard phrases like "EQ", "emotional intelligence," and "moral intelligence" and I don't think they really cover it either. Frankly I don't know a good term for it. I wish I did so if anyone reading this knows a better term let me know.

There is also some issue that I really wasn't implying that everyone has a shot at being a quantum physicist, just that they have a shot at doing more than farming with their bare hands. This also isn't to say that farming with bare hands is any demonstration of worth or lack thereof. What I'm trying to say is that everyone has this level.

I don't know, I think I'm getting muddled again. I hope I've clarified things a little. I sorry for upsetting you.

[ Parent ]

Off guard (none / 0) (#102)
by Irobot on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 11:52:03 PM EST

You seem to have caught me at a bad time; I usually don't react like that. I also don't care for my using my brother as an argumentative device - which, reflecting on it, is effectively what I did. Thinking about it objectively, I'm sure that I've done the same in the past and was not aware of it.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

ah... that clarifies things... (none / 0) (#131)
by basj on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 10:26:28 AM EST

So, everybody has a shot at some "abstract" intelligence, which is only caused by upbringing? And you don't know a better term for it than "intelligence".

How about "upbringing"; it's only caused by upbringing and, well, everybody gets a shot at it.
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

I am reminded of a Star Trek : TNG episode (4.66 / 3) (#86)
by krek on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 11:20:31 AM EST

There was a planet that was colonised by humans several hundred years before, and they had set up their society to be genetically closed; breeding programs were set up and adhered to stictly, in this way they ensured that their society was self perpetuating and self-sufficient, but in this way they became dependant on the environment and their society had stagnated technologicaly.

At some point in their future their planet was being threatened by some disaster, a stellar core fragment that was hurtling through space I believe, and Enterprise showed up to save the day. They were having a rather large amount of difficulty figuring out how to deflect the stellar fragment enough to prevent catastrophic techtonic upheaval on the planet, when Geordi LaForge, the blind Cheif Engineer of Enterprise, thought to use the technology in his visor, the device that was created to allow him to see, to modify the energy beam so that the core fragment could be safley deflected.

The plan worked, and Geordi made an observation; that the only reason that they were able to save the colony was by using technolgy that was invented to alow a blind man to see, a blind man that would never have been born on the colony that they were trying to save.

My point, originally Gene Rodenberry's point I guess, is that striving to overcome is what makes our species great. Without adversity, we stagnate, without confrontation, we do not grow. If we were to eliminate all of those things that we find bothersome, like Downs Syndrome, Parkinsons Disease, baldness or blindness, there is nothing to overcome, and thus no reason to push the envelope and create. I am not saying that genetics is something we should ignore, I am just pointing out, as Jeff Goldblum once did, just because we can does not mean we should.

Problems with Eugenics (4.33 / 3) (#95)
by jolly st nick on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 05:03:59 PM EST

This is the essential dilemma of eugenics.Is it at all possible to breed humans like dogs without negative consequences?

I think the comparisons with dog breeding is a useful one, since it shows the practical and fundmental limiations of breeding for human traits.

First of all, there is the problem of time. Dogs reach sexual maturity in about a year, at which time the traits which we are interested in are fairly quantifiable. Humans take over a decade to reach sexual maturity, at which time the traits we are most likely to be interested in cannot be measured except very crudely. We do not know whether an thirteen offspring of Einstein, say, will contribute to society anyting remotely like what Einstein did; at best we have only a crude guess. Another decade at least is necessary to have some guess as to the overall quality of our results. While in rare instances you may have a young Mozart who gives you clear early data, by in large the great contributors to society are not child prodigies or former ones.

So, in breeding dogs for speed, twenty years can provide twenty generations of breeding choices made on the best of information, whereas it scarcely suffices to examine the potentials of a single human generation.

While dogs can be bred for their coat color and the shape of their jaw, one hopes humans are less frivolous regarding themselves.

This points out another difference between the breeding of humans and dogs. People are quite sensible about their choices of traits to breed into dogs. Traits that are measurable, and directly controllable through genetics, or which are directly controllable through such factors: fur color and length, geometry of the legs. When we turn to ourselves, we foolishly try to breed traits like virtue, character, social status and intelligence. Even when dog breeders are interested in difficult to measure traits such as docility, they can draw from relatively uniform pools of individuals who are themselves the results of thousands of generations of selective breeding.

It is also important to understand that human character is very complex, and many human traits are polyvalent -- they can manifest themselves in positive and negative ways. This is illustrated by the old Iroquois myth of Hiawatha and Tadadaho . Tadadaho was a terrible man-monster and sorcerer. He had snakes for hair, and a fearsome appearance. He murdered Hiawatha's daughters. Hiawatha confronted him, and combed the snakes out his hair. His human appearance was restored, and then Hiawatha made him a chief, and he proved to be a wise and capable one.

The meaning of this myth is this: many times antisocial behaviors come from the qualities of leadership thwarted. This quality of misapplied and undirected energy is represented by the image of Tadadaho's writhing snake-hair. To this day the wise men of the Iroquois say the best way to hanle troublemakers is to turn them into leaders.



more (none / 0) (#101)
by nomoreh1b on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 09:15:36 PM EST

Actually, some breeds of dogs are specifically bred for intelligence. Border collies are an example of a breed where ability to follow complex orders is a highly desired trait.

The bigger issue with human genetic selection:
Folks in positions of authority have this nasty habit of deciding the particular characteristics they possess are obviously the most desirable characteristics and those which should be expanded as widely as possible.

As hard as it is to be really disciplined when it comes to selective breeding of animals to which one becomes attached, it is even harder when these decisions involve oneself or ones relatives-or some kin group with which one identifies. Personally, I don't trust any government I've seen to make decisions in this area for my family. I do intend to get my children the best education I can in the area of genetics so that they can make the best possible choices of a spouse as possible.

Interestingly, the father of the modern western concept of eugenics was Frank Galton. He was also an advocate of mass immigration. What he failed to see IMHO is that any elite that promotes mass immigration risks loosing the authority that gave it the power to consider eugenic decisions in the first place.

[ Parent ]

What makes folks think that eugenics is new? (4.00 / 1) (#96)
by nomoreh1b on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 06:39:35 PM EST

It is clear that some slave societies practiced selective breeding of people. The Ottoman Empire had "livestock shows" with human slaves up to the 19th century. Now, from what I've read, they were selecting mainly for looks--a highly subjective set of traits.

The big problem with selective breeding of people: there is bound to be a lot of disagreement over what traits should be selected for. Personally, I think that the types of intelligence use in creating new technologies and longevity are interesting traits to select for--but I'd expect a lot of folks would disagree.

What is a tragedy IMHO today is that that backlash against the eugenics movement has gone so far it is almost taboo for folks to make conscious genetic decisions in their choice of spouse.

Gender Selection/Eugenics (none / 0) (#110)
by nomoreh1b on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 11:20:18 AM EST

One of most significant applications of modern technology in recent years has been selection of male children in China/India. There are already technologies in place that allow couples to select the gender of their child with about 95% accuracy. Within a few years, this technology may become cheaper, more accessible and more accurate.

We are already seeing some backlash against gender selection in India where it is becoming apparent some of the men produced may have serious trouble finding wives. In animal breeding practices, it is common to use hybrid females for production of livestock but to refrain from using hybrid males. I'm wondering how long it will be before we see some government actively encouraging some folks not to have male children. In polygamous societies, this might be used to realize some serious adolescent fantasies(the muslims might really get their 50 virgins for every man).



The Plague of Little Boys(TM) (4.00 / 1) (#138)
by texchanchan on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 11:45:16 PM EST

Selecting for male children is here, and will get easier in the next few decades. As these unbalanced cohorts age, it will be mighty interesting to see what the boys, then the men, will do, since they can't get wives and many live in societies that condemn homosexuality.

Unaffiliated men (unmarried, not in the army/an impi/a fraternal organization, etc.) have a higher probability of causing trouble than men more closely integrated into their community. Now some places are going to have lots more of them.

[ Parent ]

Market Gap (none / 0) (#144)
by nomoreh1b on Thu Jul 11, 2002 at 01:00:21 PM EST

Something that deserves consideration here:
One of the incidental outcomes of artificial insemination is that about 70% of the offspring(without some other intervention) are female.

Now, I think there is a serious market opportunity for some culture to start producing females, particularly those that might appeal to high-acheiving men. There are places in Africa where it is customary to pay a brides family a "bride price" which is sometimes quite substantial. If these folks would figure out where the market opportunities are, I suspect they'd find themselves in quite an influential position.

[ Parent ]

Neverending Story . . . or is it? (none / 0) (#112)
by pkesel on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:24:20 PM EST

The idea of breeding a superior race is either a never ending saga or a self-defeating saga.  Either the manipulation of genetic features is mastered and fully controlled, or we find that our attempts may augment some aspects of genetics only to similarly augment particular liabilities.  

In the first case, there will be a continual desire to use genetics to augment some feature to set one's offspring apart.  We may all be super strong and intelligent, but not everyone can have all that and just the most popular shade of eyes or hair.  And when the manipulation catches up with the latest fad, the next one will start.  And then someone will have a gene for the second thumb on the left hand that works great for dialing a cell phone.  That'll be the rage for a while.  And then someone will rediscover the gene for growing a tail, and everyone will want that.  It'll never end.

Or in the other case, making a super-strong and intelligent kid might come at the cost of an extraordinary overbite.  Or an inability to see well in low light.  Or who knows what.  Maybe we'll never master genetics enough to make it as risk-free as we'd like it, and it'll all die out and we'll be back to social, political, and religious inbreeding.  

Either way, who cares?  Each generation exists mostly to destroy the moral norms of the generation (or two) before it.  Whatever develops now will be undone in another generation or two anyway.  

Eugenics is good (1.00 / 1) (#129)
by Puzzle on Wed Jul 10, 2002 at 05:55:39 AM EST

There's a lot of people in the world that shouldn't have been allowed to exist.  People that do not contribute to society in other ways than using (consuming) products.
What we need are bright people that create, research and contribute to society.

If we had continued eugenics, we would have smarter and more interested students at schools (and less bullying from the not-so-smart students), less diseases (especially heridatory ones), fewer people to feed (and more resources on this planet) .. in general, the world would be a better place to live.

However, I do agree that eugenics was in many cases used against the wrong people back in the old days; sterilizations were often carried out because of racism.

The new discoveries that inevitably will come during the next decades will hopefully make life better for all of us.


The Shortcomings of Eugenics | 146 comments (143 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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