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Hey, I'm in the middle of exams, I need to procrastinate.
Nowadays, Eugenics has pretty much been consigned to the scientific rubbish bin. Talking about it seriously is the equivallent of shooting your scientific credibility in the foot. In the public mind, eugenics is only really discussed as the rationale behind the holocaust, as some cold and malicious ideology which lead to the deaths of millions of healthy people, and of course, as a great doctrine for bad guys in James Bond films.
But what this view of history ignores is the fact that eugenics, as a science, was invented in Britain. Winston Churchill, who opposed the Nazis, was nonetheless a keen advocate of eugenics. In America, eugenics was supremely popular for about two decades before it was discredited, and many states had policies regarding marriage or sterilization to attempt to preserve 'good breeding.' There were organizations like the American Eugenics Society, the Fitter Families movement (which distributed medals to 'eugenic' children) and the American Breeders Association. Eugenics was already widely accepted in large parts of America when the Nazi party were still trying to convince Germans about it.
Anyway, the point wasn't about history. The point was to ask a question over whether Eugenics should ever have a viable place in scientific thought. After all, the core argument of eugenics, that the positive characteristics of human beings can be accentuated and the negative characteristics weakened through control over breeding, has been proven in animals for hundreds of years. Is the possibility that we might be able to gain an element of control over our development and evolution worth accepting a degree of control or limitation in our reproduction? What is the alternative.. Is the human race doomed to stagnate genetically through uncontrolled, unselective breeding? After all, there are no significant threats to our lives, and therefore no natural selection.
I'm not a supporter myself.. I think even if there is a grain of truth in the eugenic argument, it's not worth the risk that someone would use the doctrine of eugenics to repeat the holocaust. Supporting eugenics means relegating humans to the status of animals with certain genetic characteristics, rather than individuals with their own characteristics, which may be genetic, but may also be learned and acquired through experience. This ignores the great thing about humanity, which is our ability to learn and evolve within our own lifetimes.
But hey, what do you think? Was eugenics cut out of the scientific mind too early in an attempt to seperate us from the Nazis. Is it time for a rethink on how we approach human evolution.. Does the idea of a world in which everyone is fitter, stronger and more intelligent appeal? Or do you think things are right the way they are?
We'v talked about this at length in college. Sustainability being the biggest issue. As the divide between economic classes grows, those in the upper reaches actualyl breed less than those in the lower. This of course acentuates the high percentage of money in a low percentage of the population.
The lack of medical treatment also promotes the rapid spread of deformities and disease. As a race, human-beings have been doing nothing but weakening our natural genetic strengths. While we have compensated "wonderfully" with medical science, and people are "living" longer and "healthier" lives, think about how common general inefficiency is in the global society, with particular attention paid to America. For example, eyesight...more and more people require corrective lenses, the "progressive" solution? Corrective surgery.
How does that fix the degeneration of eyesight? It doesn't.
It gives it another chance to manifest in the next generation.
Common Bone deformities like Pectus Excavatum are so common because they aren't being screened through the "survival of the fittest test."
Allergies anyone? ASTHMA?
We are allowing inefficiences in our systems to run rampant through our gene pool.
I personally hate it.
I don't agree with the Nazi's, I'm half-Korean myself and I love it.
Although I wish I was full Korean, but that has nothing to do with this.
What does apply is that my entire family needs glasses, all of my father's children have asthma and I have concave chest. If my mother had known this would happen she would not have had children. She, being some-what old-style Korean, believes you shouldn't set children up for hardship of this nature. While I want children, I don't know if I will ever have any because I think it is unfair to set them up for life in a lesser and unfit position. I don't want to add to the weakening of the human race.
I was at McDonalds the other day (Note: I hate eating at such an unhealthy place) and this woman and her husband, who looked rather good for their age (at least 55, for real), came in with a daughter, who was frighteningly obese. This is a huge problem in America, I have multiple friends who deal with obesity in their families who have spent their entire lives fighting it. This lady walks up to the counter and orders an "Asian salad" (Don't get me started on that...), looks at her kid and asks, "What do you want?" The child responds with but a mere glance at the menu above her (I doubt she could actually read despite being half my size, I'm a rather tall 19 BTW and my sister can read and she is younger than this child) and asks not for a Happy-Meal (a travesty all on it's own) but one of their "regular" sandwhiches. I can't remember what exactly she got but that is more because I find the idea of her ordering a double-quarter-pounder w/Cheese unbelievable now that it's been a few weeks, than me simply forgetting. Anyway, the Mother agrees without a thought and the Father says nothing.
What the HELL is wrong with this? These parents are setting this child up for a lifetime of sorrow and self-loathing. Had they given an inkling about the childs over-all life they wouldn't be feeding her this junk. You can see this sort of thing in most places, especially America. It's honestly horrifying to me. If the public outcry at being told not to procreate would NOT result in outright war, I would be all for it. Eugenics makes sense, so long as you keep the good-of-all in mind rather than the racist extremes of those such as the Nazi Regime. We are constantly changing our enviroment to fit a weaker species rather than changing ourselves to whether the coming storm of natural disaster from our own over-population and general abuse of the planet earth.
I'm sure i've left some gaping wholes in my rant and left out some points I honestly wanted to make and I realize my example is not directly related to the subject but it is not so off-topic I didn't include it.
Anyway, things to do,
Sig by:Knape, The Celestial, and Marlinspike, thanks guys!
As a Biologist, I can tell you that the principles behind you Eugenics unfortunately came from a well intentioned ideal. Unfortunately, genetic diseases are a growing problem for our society as we all know. Beyond the obvious things like soaring Cancer rates, Cystic Fibrosis etc, a simple benchmark for this can be Myopia.....yes wearing glasses.
I myself own a pair of glasses, I need them to drive as I have short-sightnedness in one eye. Now in our species, Myopia is no longer such a problem...we have established ourselves at the top of the food chain. No longer are we selecting against individuals who have short-sightedness (inherent defect it may be).
In the space of the last few years, Myopia is an epidemic (think of all the people who wear glasses, myself included)... In the Uk for example, approximately 50% of the population has Myopia (Source). With this as an example, forward thinking scientists (before even the advent of genetics) saw ahead to this 'weakening' of the population, and considered ways to solve this problem before other more serious diseases became a problem e.g. the rising Cancer rates of today.
With the advent of the genetics era, the concept grew of building an 'improved' human. While clearly odd and rather blasphemous if your a religious person, it was again of a well intentioned scientific perspective. If we could remove the genes for Cancer, cystic Fibrosis etc....why not? Why not go further and remove the genes for alcoholism, depression...shortness? Why not go even further? I'm well informed (as a final year Biology student) on this particular subject as I just completed a readup on this technology. Imagine if we could replicate this in humans? Humans could regrow lost limbs and end the need for prosthesis. Life-threatening injuries could become relatively minor...
Unfortunately like many things, the idea quickly became inferior as people utilised the concept for their own ends, particularly the idea of 'superior' genetic lineages. Hitler used it to justify the execution of the elderly, mentally ill, infirm, disabled and of the Slavs (whom the Nazis declared 'subhuman;. Eugenics became not about trying to fight genetic disease, but about the killing off of those with genes declared undesirable. Because of the moral debate it causes, Eugenics is sadly a well intentioned idea that will never ever happen. After all, tinkering with human DNA is rather close to trying to trying to 'play god', even if it would cure Cancer.
For those who haven't seen it, I highly recommend the film 'Gattaca' on this subject. It's one of my favourite films and close to my subject.
I remember loving that film when I saw it like, what...over 6 years ago?Originally Posted by Addoran
It was cool.
Sig by:Knape, The Celestial, and Marlinspike, thanks guys!
One of the biggest problems with any kind of selective breeding program with humans is the length of time between generations, with an absilute minimum of 14 years between generations, it would take too long to get the kinds of results that you'd be after. Even with genetic manipulation, you can't know how successful it is has been.
With animals selective breeding works well, because you can have a new generation at least every year, except with some of the larger animals.
Then there is the problem of deciding what the most useful attributes are, and how best to "include" it in the genetic makeup. I know that the whole "strong OR intelligent" line is so much nonsense, but there still is a corrolation with how things actually work out. Just because one person seems to be "perfect" until you do DNA typing, you can't know of any genetic timebombs hidden in the code. Even though the Human Genome Project has successfully completed their mapping of human DNA, they still do not know how a vast majority of the information is used by the body. Until that is known, it is useless to even attempt selective human creation, because it is more than likely that something will slip under the radar and instill a fatal genetic instability into the so-called "perfect" people.
Oh, and where's the fun in creating people in a lab? :shifty:
Mysterious Member of the ANZAC Clan
Nice replies all..
I guess we need to break the original question down a bit. Initially, I wasn't really pondering the practicalities, more just the idea of attempting to control human breeding. But, assuming you were to incorporate eugenic ideas into policy, there seem to be several ways you could do it.
I'm going to call one line the 'positive' methods, because they're based on the promotion of good characteristics. This is what organizations like 'fitter families' were promoting in the 1920s by rewarding or celebrating 'good breeding.' In this kind of situation, you try and promote traits like intelligence, physical fitness and the like by encouraging those who possess these traits to produce children (either naturally or in a lab, now that that's possible.)
As mpd said, however, this is hampered by the fact that human genetics are so obscenely complicated. Even as you accentuate one characteristic, you could be unknowingly breeding in weakness in another area. Also, and this is one of the major flaws of eugenics, it's much harder to measure 'progress' in these areas. It's easy to see that when two people with blue eyes have a child, the child is likely to have blue eyes too. It's much harder to see the effects of trying to breed in something like intelligence.
I'm going to expand the topic a bit and suggest that, in the future, positive methods could come to mean deliberate manipulation of human genes to accentuate favourable characteristics. Though that's not technically eugenics, it's a similar kind of 'self enhancement.'
The other side of the coin involves what I'm going to call 'negative methods.' This involves the deliberate targetting of weaknesses or hereditary flaws in the human population.
In the past, this often meant forced sterilization, and I'm not suggesting we go back to the days of snipping convicts and psychiatric inmates. However, recently this kind of thing has come back on the agenda. For example, family planning and certain types of IVF treatment involve creating many human embryos. Is it only right that we should screen these embryos for negative genetic charactetistics, and only allow those without the characteristics to grow?
Certain parents with hereditary diseases have also expressed a desire to use this method to have their children screened, allowing them to have children without the risk of them carrying the defective genes. Is this acceptable? Although it involves deliberately creating and then killing many embryos in order to get one healthy one, it can also prevent a child, as well as future generations, suffering from an unpleasant disease.
If so, how far are we prepared to go with this? Should we start screening embryos for myopia, or cancer vulnerability. Should we be encouraging everyone to concieve their children in a lab, where the embryonic cells can be deliberately multiplied and screened.
It's this kind of thing where I think the real potential is, because you're not trying to produce some abstract result like 'intelligence,' rather, you're eliminating or minimizing specific weaknesses in the human genome. It's like an artificial simulation of natural selection, in many ways.
But could it work in practice? And more importantly, is it worth the effort. If we don't start, are we doomed to devolve our immune systems into uselessness, permanently ruin our eyesight, or even lose our intelligence and the characteristics which have made us so successful (like the Eloi in 'The Time Machine,' for those who never read it or only saw the abseloutely mangled film, the Eloi were the remains of the upper classes who, having created perfect lives in which they no longer needed strength or intelligence, had debased to the point where they possessed neither, and were basically docile humanoid cows.)
Alternately, is it all just rubbish.. is the human race fine the way it is.
Last edited by The_Giant_Mantis; May 26th, 2006 at 03:58.
To address the original question, I can understand and support the idea of eugenics to a degree, although not as a means to direct the overall evolution of the human race towards a â€˜betterâ€™, â€˜flawlessâ€™ humanity deprived of all genetic variety and deviation, only on an individual basis when parents must decide what life they are willing to offer their children in case preconceptive or prenatal tests show severe genetic defects that would affect the childâ€™s life significantly.
However, eugenics as an overall concept I must oppose against. Not only from a personal point of view (Iâ€™ve accumulated so many genetic defects myself that I would likely be banned from the human gene pool for the good of the race ), not only from an ethical point of view (there would without doubt be created a â€˜superiorâ€™ subgroup of humanity who, even if they werenâ€™t intentionally oppressing us â€˜flawedâ€™ specimens, would be given more and better opportunities than the rest of us simply due to have an edge in the competition for such goods as jobs and health insurance), but also from a scientific point of view. I very much doubt that eugenics would actually be â€˜for the good of the raceâ€™; in fact, it might easily weaken our race and put it at risk for extinction!
The reason for my concern is the aforementioned genetic variety and deviation. Itâ€™s true that the human race have accumulated many genetic changes over the millennia, and that some of these appear malign in their nature; however, isnâ€™t it presumptuous to believe that we can actually determine the true purpose of our entire evolution? Mightnâ€™t it be that many of these genetic â€˜flawsâ€™ are actually beneficial for us as a race?
It might sound odd to you that I claim genetic diseases are actually an evolutionary advantage, but all research points towards the idea that some of them actually are just that. Cystic fibrosis protects against the toxins of the cholera bacteria, a great killer before modern sanitation. Sickle cell disease protects against the malaria parasite. Autoimmune disorders protect against cancers. Many recessive genetic disorders actually seem to have given their carriers an evolutionary advantage before the onset of civilisation.
Furthermore, widespread genetic variation is to be preferred over the idea of a genetically uniform human race. Today, there is no epidemic disease regardless of its severity which can kill off more than some 80% of a given population; the survivors must necessarily have a genetic advantage that makes them more resistant to the infectious bacteria or vira, as it happened during the time of the Black Death in Europe when the population actually became immune to the plague over a few decades. This immunity persists even today, and might even give us an advantage against such diseases as anthrax and HIV.
As Mpdscott says, itâ€™s simply impossible to know what everything in the entire human genome is actually good for. By removing perceived flaws we could easily put ourselves at risk from pandemic diseases that would otherwise not have spread epidemically due to inability to overcome the genetic variation of the human race. Limiting our gene pool to a few select individuals would be a really bad move, evolutionary speaking.
"Girls are nice and cuddly on the outside, and freaky on the inside." ~ Lost Nemesis.
Well my first point will be that Eugenics is a lot older than has been stated by The Giant Mantis, in fact if you read The Republic By Plato (Which i have) a book that is older than the new testament by the way, Plato Advocated Eugenics as a way to breed the perfect "Gaurdians" and a perfect society with Three class of People Bronze Silver Gold. The Bronze are the workers whom own all the land and produce all the goods. Now The Gaurdians are the Silver and Gold (think of them as the Civil Servants) they own nothing everything that they require being provided for by the repbulic and as such they have the duty to defend and fight for the people, those whom are gold are the best of the best and mating outside of Caste would be forbiden and only the very best would be allowed to breed. Having stated that even Plato allowed for variation for instance someone born in a lower caste being able to be elavated through his abilites and vice versa.
So eugenics is not a new idea rather the opposite (i would advise everyone if able to read The Republic as it's a great book). Now like Greph i have a lot of Gentic Disorders Myopia, Eczma, Thrombphilia and i had Perthes at the age of 12 meaning that i will get Arthritis in my right hip and will have to get a hip replacement (hopefully in my 50s) would i be screened out for the defects that i have. To be honest i feel that my defects don't make me weak but rather the opposite i find that they give me strength.
Gattaca was a good film. I would also Suggest reading A Brave New World by Auldous Huxley, there have been two films made of this book one in the 60s (that sticks closest to the original text) and a recent update with Leonard Nimoy.