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Neo-Eugenics


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#1
Outlook

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Eugenics was a movement in the early 20th century that dealt with improving the human gene pool by way of artificial selection.

Neo-Eugenics is the rebirth of this ideology in the 21st century, and maybe earlier, that mostly deals with the improvement of the human gene pool by way of genetic engineering and/or artificial selection.

Feel free to correct my definitions.

What do you think of it?
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#2
Alislaws

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A big danger/resurgence in old style eugenics will happen when we gain a better understanding and measurement techniques for human qualities like intelligence.

 

Aside from a few IQ test advocates (who, I suspect, all score highly on IQ tests) most people today would agree that we don't have the ability to accurately measure someone's value in a way that is not hugely subjective. 

 

Even attempting to single out specific attributes e.g. something theoretically easy and measurable like "physical fitness", is difficult because while person A might run faster than person B that doesn't mean person B won't live longer and have fewer health problems if they have a genetic or lifestyle advantage over person A. 

 

What happens in the future when we have more sophisticated testing, (possibly powered by machine learning systems or later advanced AI?) If there actually was a way to rank all humans according to their 'objective' value to humanity/society these sort of ideas could come back in a big way. 

 

Obviously the evils of eugenics depend a lot on what you're doing once you have separated the "worthy" from the "unworthy" by whatever criteria you're using. 

 

If your eugenics plan is to pay men differently for their sperm bank donations based on some criteria, that's a very different thing from a program to forcibly sterilise everyone who fails to meet said criteria. 

 

In terms of Neo-Eugenics old style eugenics solutions would be a huge problem until we master changing our genetics at will.

If you are genetically altered before birth and then grow up being told you are superior to all those around you due to our superior genetics you're likely to end up as a complete dick (unless it turns out there's actually a gene for that in which case you wouldn't have it)

 

But If a 20 year old can tweak their genes, then most of the really sinister eugenics "Solutions" like mass sterilization or straight up killing people become very unlikely so we have to hope genetic re-engineering comes along before Genetic engineering of humans really takes off.  


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#3
starspawn0

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"Eugenics" is one of those words that has become shorn of its context and probably much of its original meaning.  Nowadays, people like Richard Dawkins speak favorably about the idea, interpreting it to mean,  simply, "fiddling with the DNA before birth."  

 

It's like how when something is shared on the internet, after a few "sharings", allmost all meaning is lost.

 

In the case of Eugenics, there was a whole ideology around forcing people not to have kids.  Probably there were futurist horror stories (the early 1900s equivalent of Idiocracy, but without the comedy) about humanity falling into ruin, the smart and rich being forced to support the weak, etc.  



#4
Alislaws

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"Eugenics" is one of those words that has become shorn of its context and probably much of its original meaning.  

Given this, it was pretty fortunate that Outlook started this thread by defining what "Eugenics" is referring to.

 

The stuff Richard Dawkins talks about is Neo-Eugenics under outlook's definition and the forced sterilization of thousands of Americans because some guys in lab coats decided they were unworthy would fall under Eugenics?

 

I did a quick google trying to find the total number of Americans sterilized for being "unfit" and ended up here: https://en.wikipedia...e_United_States

What a horror show! and its not like people have even stopped!

"In 2013, it was reported that 148 female prisoners in two California prisons were sterilized between 2006 and 2010 in a supposedly voluntary program, but it was determined that the prisoners did not give consent to the procedures."

 

Its bizarre to read this page and think about the fact that this is a nation that more or less began with:
 

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..."

 

 

Don't get me wrong, Britain basically invented this stuff (especially if you consider Darwin to be a eugenics supporter) its just weird to see how it continued even after WW2, right up to the present day.



#5
Zaphod

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I don't think we should call human genetic-engineering "neo-eugenics". Just the word "eugenics" evokes strong negative connotations due to its history. I would rather people explore this subject objectively, which is unlikely if you have a pre-exisiting negative bias to the name of the topic itself.


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#6
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you're against gene slicing? The big difference is the reality that people will want too in the future as it will be used to cure diseases, increase intelligence, increase height and life span.

 

People like you that stand against progress are part of the reason why we're not on the moon or going to mars. So it figures. It takes people of true greatness to push pass the idiocy to move forward. That is why I like Musk.



#7
Outlook

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Personally, for my own take on it; I share many sentiments with this article.

 

I don't think we should call human genetic-engineering "neo-eugenics". Just the word "eugenics" evokes strong negative connotations due to its history. I would rather people explore this subject objectively, which is unlikely if you have a pre-exisiting negative bias to the name of the topic itself.

 

I still think there is a difference between human genetic engineering and 'neo-eugenics'.

 

Genetic engineering is a technology that can be used to fix problems like sensory issues, debilitating diseases, etc. It's less so about improvement than treatment. However the eugenic use of genetic engineering is solely placed on the improvement of the human gene pool. Towards what 'improvement' is up to grabs here. Intelligence, strength, aesthetic design. It's going from gene therapy to designer babies or even harmless personal changes, like eye-color or melanin changes. Of course, there still is the implication that getting rid of genetic diseases is also contributing to improving the gene-pool, and that can be used by neo-eugenicists. But it doesn't detract from the idea that human genetic engineering is a tool, it isn't a concept. You can use human genetic engineering to deform a person as well, theoretically.

 

Under neo-eugenics, there are also other forms of technology and actions separate from genetic engineering. For example, genetic screening/PGD and the use of abortion to get rid of a deformed or undesired fetus. Of course, there are differences here in ethics. It's more of an abortion issue than a eugenics issue; but the implication or consequence still stands in that it is still 'improving' the human gene pool by disallowing one's existence due to the reason they hold undesirable genetic characteristics.

 

But these are all just implications. In reality, people don't actually think "I will improve the gene pool by aborting my hemophiliac baby." Neither do people with hemophilia think of an ideal eugenic society when they think about having children. It's more about judging whether you want to bring someone into this world that suffers from a debilitating illness. Still, in the topic of eugenics, it is a thing. So we can look at two sort of lights here, neo-eugenics as a concept of the human-gene pool 'improving' whether directly or indirectly by people's actions, and the idealist view of neo-eugenicists with the improvement of people's genetic make-up using technology and mass social movement.


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#8
Archimedes

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you're against gene slicing? The big difference is the reality that people will want too in the future as it will be used to cure diseases, increase intelligence, increase height and life span.
 
People like you that stand against progress are part of the reason why we're not on the moon or going to mars. So it figures. It takes people of true greatness to push pass the idiocy to move forward. That is why I like Musk.


He's not "against" it, he's saying that calling it neo-eugenics is a bad idea.
 
 

I still think there is a difference between human genetic engineering and 'neo-eugenics'.


That's your opinion, but most people are probably going to knee-jerk against it hard if human GE is called that. You have to realize that many people will jump to conclusions before you give them your definition (or even think you're trying to slip something past them after they get the definition).

 

"Eugenics" has a lot of baggage associated with it, and not unfairly IMO. And I honestly doubt that will change for the foreseeable future.


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#9
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[quote name="Outlook" post="264800" timestamp="1558723375"]
I still think there is a difference between human genetic engineering and 'neo-eugenics'.
[/quote]
[qoute]
That's your opinion, but most people are probably going to knee-jerk against it hard if human GE is called that. You have to realize that many people will jump to conclusions before you give them your definition (or even think you're trying to slip something past them after they get the definition).

"Eugenics" has a lot of baggage associated with it, and not unfairly IMO. And I honestly doubt that will change for the foreseeable future.[/quote]

I think the issue of distinction here is that genetic engineering for the sake of improvement is eugenics regardless of what it's called or how people sugarcoat it. You're right that the term has a bad run, but it's also disingenuous to call it something else. I'm not a fan of gearing ideas around optics, it just exacerbates the disintegration of the truth in postmodern society. We can have a discussion around voluntary eugenics without accusing people of being fascists. It's not like the clinics that give treatment in the future will advertise it as eugenics anyways. And opening up a conversation like this may also call some much needed negative attention to the horrors still happening in the American prison system as Alislaws mentioned. Which for the record, anyone involved in that program should be permanantly professionally exhiled and rehabilitated because they're clearly sick and insane. Jesus, reading that up there actually made me gag.

Edit: formatting whyyyyyyyyyyy ;-;

Double edit: On second pass perhaps we need a different word altogether for voluntary improvement. There is clearly a distinction between genetic engineering (GE) for treatment and GE for improvement. That is an undeniable fact. Eugenics is tied to being involuntary. Is voluntary gene editing still eugenics? Then again, "improvement" is relative to a societies base "normal." Could such a thing ever be truly voluntary? For example, say a black person changes their skin color to match that of a less marginalized group. It's hard for me to call that change voluntary when they were pushed into it out of frustration with their culture, not due to any self identified thing they want to change. It's not all growing neon hair lads.
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#10
Outlook

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  Probably there were futurist horror stories (the early 1900s equivalent of Idiocracy, but without the comedy) about humanity falling into ruin, the smart and rich being forced to support the weak, etc.


I'm reminded of H.G. wells' Time Machine where the rich and well-off became uncaring, beautified, defenceless creatures while the labourers were beast-like savages living underground and not used to the light.
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#11
Alislaws

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In the context of this discussion we should maybe use some other term for voluntary/opt in  eugenics programs. 

 

In wider society I think calling it neo-eugenics is a really good way to get people to take it very seriously because this is a terrifying ethical minefield.

 

Worst case: the gap between the haves and have-nots widens to the point where they're literally different species.  Considering our issues with treating people equally when we are all the same species it would be a horrible nightmare!

 

On the flip side maybe everyone ends up immortal, perfectly healthy people and things like skin colour could end up as purely cosmetic choices as we all look exactly  how we choose to look, which would be pretty great!

 

(I think we should make everyone green, mainly so they can photosynthesise. I know it would make very little impact nutritionally, I just think it would be neat to be slightly solar powered.)

 

The core ethical issue with eugenics have stemmed from the fact that there's no way to improve an individual. With this changing, there would be a wide range of much more ethically supportable methods to 'improve humanity'.  


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#12
Archimedes

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I think the issue of distinction here is that genetic engineering for the sake of improvement is eugenics regardless of what it's called or how people sugarcoat it. You're right that the term has a bad run, but it's also disingenuous to call it something else. I'm not a fan of gearing ideas around optics, it just exacerbates the disintegration of the truth in postmodern society.


The very word eugenics is strongly associated with genocide and forced abortions.

 

You can think that unfair but that's the facts. Often the popular definition is considered as or more valid than the official one. Which means at the end of the day your average person probably won't consider voluntary GE as eugenics to begin with.

 

If you want to stop the disintegration of the truth, you should start closer to the root. I assure you starting off with the word "neo-eugenics" would be counterproductive to both voluntary gene-modification AND trying to keep truth alive.


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#13
Outlook

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Ah, I get it. So you want to call it voluntary eugenics. It's eugenics but where the people are voluntarily allowed to be discriminatory and classist and commit voluntary genocide.


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#14
Archimedes

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Ah, I get it. So you want to call it voluntary eugenics. It's eugenics but where the people are voluntarily allowed to be discriminatory and classist and commit voluntary genocide.

 

It seems I'm not doing well so I guess I'll stop.



#15
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Wait I haven't really delved into what this topic is about but after reading this last exchange between Archimedes and Outlook is Outlook somehow implying that directed evolution, "eugenics", enhancement, transhumanism, or whatever term we shall coin the modification of the thing we call human as "voluntary genocide"? 

 

Even if the consummation of such an act were to come to fruition to term it genocide would first of all conflate extinction, which if the "human" race were to disappear would be a fair term, with genocide- voluntary or otherwise. As for an argument against enhancement on the grounds of potential discrimination it seems to me as daft an argument as one where those who wish to acquire literacy and education would be deprived of such a thing on the grounds that their "enhancement" would provide grounds for discrimination against those who opt not to enhance themselves. It would be an egregious imposition upon the liberty of those who wish to better their existence by those who wish to be appeased by an appellation to the trite placard of "we don't want to change so you won't either because it's threatening to us.".  Now this is not to say that those who acquire literacy and education will not be vastly superior to those who opt not to as history has clearly shown us it has, but to say as much is not to argue that enhancement is inherently bad. To enhance the human race via organizational or societal institutions as opposed to some sort of modus operandi of genetic origin is most likely simply a matter of scale as opposed to something fundamentally different. 

 

As for "classist" I don't know what this makes reference to but I will presumptuously presume that it refers to the inability for poor people to exert much influence upon these expensive modifications or their development. Of course at the end of the day if the modifying technology is potent enough then those at the bottom will most likely have the same choice those at the top have which is to modify or to opt out. Myriads of caveats are blatantly apparent to this simplistic supposition with plenty of room for totalitarian, despotic dispensation of those unable to afford modification but those caveats notwithstanding I don't know how this would be "classist".

 

Again I didn't take the time to review the context or the back and forth between outlook and archimedes so excuse me if I come off as pompous by pretending I had any reasonable excuse to intercede in their exchange. 


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#16
Outlook

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Lets clear up everything here regarding names. Eugenics is what it is, it does not matter the consequences and methods of its adherents, but the very concept of eugenics is what it is-- that being the genetic improvement of humanity by manipulating our genes.

 

I have not really made clear my position on this neo-eugenics. I was really more-so against Sciencerocks thinking other "races" have naturally lower IQs and need to be equalized by use of genetic engineering in that race doesn't exist, increasing IQ doesn't even matter in the context of what makes a person wise and intelligent, and the ethics of doing so is questionable at best.

 

On the idea of improving one-selves using genetic engineering; the act itself, if it is safe, shouldn't really matter. Birthing to chosen characteristics as opposed to chance is not unequal, and can even be seen as morally right since nobody wants to be born ugly, or unintelligent. I always believe that someone not being happy with the way they look sounds more like a mental issue than a physical issue, but if it is within the wish of that one person and within the ability, why should it matter to me? Likewise, I'm pro-choice, so the act of abortion itself does not matter to me.

 

Rather, I think that in the current capitalist system, where there is great inequality between rich and poor, as well as the opportunities given to them-- and still with the prevalence of discriminatory thinking based on beauty and social status; do you guys seriously think that genetic engineering past treating illnesses is a smart thing without any sort of risks and hazards? There should be regulation to prevent its use 

 

 

 As for an argument against enhancement on the grounds of potential discrimination it seems to me as daft an argument as one where those who wish to acquire literacy and education would be deprived of such a thing on the grounds that their "enhancement" would provide grounds for discrimination against those who opt not to enhance themselves.

 

No, it's more like disallowing the use of literacy and education by the aristocracy to become dis-proportionally greater than the poor. Even then, it is a false equivalency. Education is not  "genetic improvement". One has to deal with the very make-up of a person, while the other is a virtuous action. The state forcing education upon you is acceptable, but forcing genetic improvement?

 

I go back to parroting my previous link, I think it speaks more volumes than I could on the risks of neo-eugenics:

 

Once we begin genetically modifying our children, where do we stop? If it's acceptable to modify one gene, why not two, or 20 or 200? At what point do children become artifacts designed to someone's specifications rather than members of a family to be nurtured?
 
Given what we know about human nature, the development and commercial marketing of human genetic modification would likely spark a techno-eugenic rat-race. Even parents opposed to manipulating their children's genes would feel compelled to participate in this race, lest their offspring be left behind.
 
Green proposes that eugenic technologies could be used to reduce "the class divide." But nowhere in his essay does he suggest how such a proposal might ever be made practicable in the real world.
 
The danger of genetic misuse is equally threatening at the international level. What happens when some rogue country announces an ambitious program to "improve the genetic stock" of its citizens? In a world still barely able to contain the forces of nationalism, ethnocentrism and militarism, the last thing we need to worry about is a high-tech eugenic arms race.
 
In his essay, Green doesn't distinguish clearly between different uses of genetic technology -- and the distinctions are critical. It's one thing to enable a couple to avoid passing on a devastating genetic condition, such as Tay-Sachs. But it's a different thing altogether to create children with a host of "enhanced" athletic, cosmetic and cognitive traits that could be passed to their own children, who in turn could further genetically modify their children, who in turn... you get the picture. It's this second use of gene technology (the technical term is "heritable genetic enhancement") that Green most fervently wants us to embrace.

 

 


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#17
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The issue isn't the name.

 

The issue is that the concept of eugenics is flawed based on breeding or engineering the perfect human. It's a mythical way of thinking that revolves around a linear evolution model that is complete horse shit.

 

It's also predicated on the idea that we are just picking the best parts and removing the worst, which shows a complete lack of understanding of how genes work. Genes encode for a limited number of proteins, those proteins frequently pull double (triple, quadruples and many more) duty. you lose things as you gain things. and you break things as you fix things.

 

And on top of it all is the underlying conceit that other existing people are somehow inferior. Because you can't try and make a better human without the implications the the base from which you are trying to create your ideal is inferior.

 

Evolution and ecological construction has taught us that the eugenics modes of thinking are grossly flawed, and as likely to result in bringing the worst out in people and society.


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