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Preview: Comments on: On Emergent Life: Eugenically Speaking … Part Two

Comments on: On Emergent Life: Eugenically Speaking … Part Two



Christianity, Swimming, and Current Events from Right of Center



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By: Mark

Tue, 01 Aug 2006 13:30:14 +0000

Peter, This started as a response to your request for "arguments" why we might not be wary of casual treatment of embryonic life. I'm hoping to be more complete and am planning to move on to other issues next (which probably should include ESCR and abortion althouth the latter might be a little off-topic). I just chose eugenics as a starting point. I don't quite follow your argument on fashion. Yes fashions change, but fashion by definition is people conforming in their dress to a uniform standard. This is by defintion less diverse than one would have if everyone chose their dress without outside consultation or advice. That fasihon changes over time is not relevant to the argument that fashion uniformizes dress at any given time. Moving that to fashions of gene selection or modification, the argument is that if diversity is good (evolutionarily speaking) then our selection or modification of our offspring to match fashion is going to necessarily reduce diversity. Now you certainly can say that such a reduction is not a danger, but you haven't demonstrated it in any way and it is a valid argument against practicing eugenics. We restrict free access to antibiotics because of evolutionary pressure on bacteria, but for eugenics you plead for no restriction where the same (or even greater as it directly affect our species not just countering bacterial infection) danger is applicable. You advise "just keep watching out for individual freedom". Our individual freedoms have been waning for a very very long time (since at least say the 9th century). Right now we are far less free than just a few centuries ago, for there is very little you can do which does not involve government (and commercial, i.e., insurance) oversight and regulation. Your food is regulated, your drink, your dress, your home, car, travel ... everything in your life is regulated, yet you are (passively it seems) watching out for your liberties. And for a guy who preaches a quite libertarian cant, e.g., less restrictive the government the better, to at the same time praise our oversupply of litgants and our overlitigious society as a good thing is odd. Again, you asked for arguments against treating embryonic life casually, and your ultimate defense is "you worry to much" (is that the Bobby McFerrin don't worry be happy rhetorical method?) when faced with arguments about our lack of understanding of the effects of our tinkering and long term effects. As if what this world needs now is more short term thinking.



By: Peter

Fri, 28 Jul 2006 03:53:34 +0000

Regarding the first and second paragraphs, you're talking past my point. If I recall correctly, you are the one who introduced the idea of eugenics as a standard by which to evaluate my views. Again, I am not talking about widespread programs where anybody other than parents decide what to do about their children's genetic material. I don't want to compel you or anyone else to do anything with his or her mate or offspring. However, if I have the opportunity to try and tweak the genes of my kids in ways that I think will make them better, then I will. And I don't care what you or anyone else thinks about it. If you or anybody else wants to have seventeen kids with mental disabilities, more power to you. But I think that if science can give people a choice to do that or not, people should be allowed to make that choices. But I am only talking about individuals and couples, not about guided groups of any size beyond that. Thus, my view of genetic decisions does not go beyond the scale of mate-selection, so cut the eugenics stuff out of there, please, as I don't think (and never did think) it applies to what I'm saying. Regarding your third paragraph, if society changes so that people stop wanting to be unique individuals, I doubt it will happen in my lifetime. As well, if it does make that change, I suspect that those people in that generation will want it. Regarding your fourth paragraph, well, honestly, I just had to laugh when I read that. Your argument that fashion is uniform is to present a list of different fashions? C'mon, is that the best you can do? It's like saying that all literature is uniform, then giving a list of genres. Okay, you've hit the top level of classification. I'll do you one better — check this out, it'll blow your mind: everybody wears clothes. Superuniformity. Amazing. As to the "glossed-over" items, I think you worry way too much. I used to be that way. Then I started reading history and realized that people have been worrying about progress, well, at lease since people started writing things down. Then I started reading judicial opinions. Oh, lordy. If you want to have a moment of enlightenment, go to a law library and look around. What you'll see are rows and rows and rows and rows of books that are filled from cover to cover with stories of people doing the stupidest, most idiotic, dangerous, harmful, horrible things you could think of. Seriously. Then, if you want to really knock yourself out, pick an issue, start doing some legal research, and try as hard as you can to find something that hasn't been written about yet. My point (which I've been making rather obliquely) is that despite what people think, we have an enormously stable society. Our legal system is incredibly robust. Probably the best in the world. We have armies of attorneys who are litigating every last issue they can think of and we have armies of judges and clerks and research lawyers who are putting many hours into finding good, reasonable, socially acceptable solutions to problems. I don't worry one bit about parents suing over "features" not delivered in a child, mostly because I've already read cases where parents sued for wrongful birth, or children sued for wrongful life, and know that these problems have already come up. Guess what — society hasn't crumbled. As to the proposition that we "might also be suppressing linked evolutionary tradeoffs we also don't want to lose," well, maybe I'm totally out to lunch, but I'm pretty sure that we've already done some of that by the "natural" course of our evolution. I mean, look at us. We're pathetic little creatures. We've given up biological strength and traded it for technological pr[...]



By: Mark

Fri, 28 Jul 2006 02:26:47 +0000

Peter, Eugenics requires that the fit mate to produce fitter offspring and the unfit are prevented from having offspring. Only then will the gene pool by altered. Those you find unattractive or unfit you will discover looking about still manage to wed and have children. Thus marraige, even if I accepted your argument that we fall in love (which I don't) and select our spouse with a mind to our progeny, fails your eugenic analogy because it does not prevent the reproduction of the unfit and thus does not affect the gene pool. Only in my (limited) knowledge of history has a eugenic program of any scale been applied, that is by the Nazis in considering if not applying forced sterlization of "unfit races" (and as well by just killing those "unfit" instead of sterilization of course). If you know of other past attempts at eugenics by a society or a government, which is not so ethically bankrupt, please inform me. The idea of filtering genetically our progeny and aborting the unfit is the only other similar program with eugenics in mind. That is the reason they enter into this discussion (and as well Mr Huxley's distopia). On the second, I didn't say you were claiming that you wished to keep the unfit from breeding, but that is the only other way besides "screening emergent life" of doing eugenics. You must either prevent the unfit from reproducing or with new technology somehow insure that you detect and destroy the unfit before birth. On the third, you are an optimist if you think our society and culture will stand for all time. Yet you wish to the technology accessible which will make such a regime more possible. Perhaps we could develop "personal breeder reactors" to power our houses. This might be "good" in some ways, but might also make Plutonium no longer a scarce metal. Which might be bad. If you make cloning, for example, cheap and easy, what would prevent a society like Mr Huxley's which feels that "stability" is the highest good might not avail themselves of this technology and to really reduce diversity in the next and all following generations. And if I might anticipate your objection that genetics does not predict all. It doesn't, but it does predict and set much of who we are. Babies exhibit different personalities from the moment of birth than their siblings ... before society has a chance to mold them. It's not all environment either, but a mix. You see no uniformity of fashion. Really, "business attire" is quite uniform, and in the "age of Aquarius" when "being ones 'self'" and individuality was the rage, fashions of those individualists was strikingly uniform, you know long hair, bell-bottom jeans, tie-die and whatnot. Fashions in the past at other times have been even more un-uniform. Fashion by it's very nature is un-uniformity. It is an art form of dress which people by choice imitate "the fashion of the day". If we start resorting to filtering our young, or worse gene therapy to modify them set by fashion there can be no other result than to have diversity diminish. The points your glossed over on which you failed to comment include the 3rd and 5th bullet items. To summarize, the former allows that by removing some traits from our species we "think" we don't want we might also be suppressing linked evolutionary tradeoffs we also don't want to lose (and they might be subtle enought we don't miss them until they're gone). The latter was that if the "features" ordered or promised are not delivered that the parent will seek "damages" and not love the child.



By: Peter

Thu, 27 Jul 2006 21:43:57 +0000

First, I heartily disagree with your assertion that marriage "normally it is not done with an eye to the excellence of progeny." It may not be conscious, but the impulse is there. Our whole idea of what constitutes an attractive person is based on what appears to be healthiest and most fit. Why else would we have adapted that mechanism of choice if not toward the goal of having offspring with a greater chance of success? Second, I am not promoting the restriction of breeding for some class of "unfit" persons. Rather, I am arguing that if people want to try other methods to create more successful offspring, they should not be restricted. Third, your repeated referral to the Nazis is getting old. The Nazis tried to effect centralized control that was a comprehensive plan of both proscription and prescription. I advocate neither centralized control nor a comprehensive plan of proscription or prescription. Rather, I advocate freedom for private individuals and corporations to do things that other private individuals and corporations may disapprove of for moral reasons but for which they have no other sound public policy reason for proscription. Fourth, again my argument is not that technology is not good enough to create a completely homogenized and socially dead society. The technology, if not good enough yet, will shortly be. Rather, our social system is not susceptible to that technology no matter how good it is. To analogize, we have technology that is good enough to destroy every living thing on the planet, yet we refrain from doing so. Why? Because our technology is not good enough? Or because or social system will not tolerate it? Fifth, I see no uniformity of jeans and t-shirts. Rather, I see a wide variety of fashions, even within the specific categories of "jeans" and "t-shirts." Thus, I find your analogy nonsensical. Sixth, I am not sure what you mean where you are asking for glossed-over points of public policy. Could you be more specific?



By: Mark

Thu, 27 Jul 2006 01:12:16 +0000

Peter, Marriage is not eugenics for two reasons, normally it is not done with an eye to the excellence of progeny and more omporantly eugenics requires two facets of which your view presents only one. Eugenics is the breeing of the "good" to increase "good" traits and preventing the unfit from breeding. Only the Nazi race theorists and now pre-natal screeners do the latter, the sterilization or killing off of the unfit. Heh, it seems we, in our misundestandings seem to find the other putting arguments in the others moutn as you are doing it to me as well. But you specifically trust technology to do what you require on the one hand but deny it is good enough to do what we might fear. Currently ESCR has exactly your criteria. There is in fact no public policy prohibiting research in ESCR. There are also limitation on public funding for it which is a different beast. On fashion and uniformity, do you really think the uniformity of T-shirts and blue-jeans is from centralized authority. Faashion can be very uniform indeed. There are public policy reasons for careful regulation of antibiotics. With eugenics, which has just as far reaching impact for the survival of our specieas (if not more) you think no regulation is required. On your critique of public policy points, what ever happened the points you glossed over, that is trade-offs, and the final point on parents not so loving if their child isn't as advertised. And no, I don't think America is soon going to become a totalitarian state. But, as I commented to you on your blog, but Yukayama (sp) notwithstanding this is not the "End of History". Eugenics can do much to the makeup of our species but it is a tool which can be misused ... just like the chain reaction of U235. There is reason to not rush in before we have an understanding of what we are doing as yet.



By: Peter

Wed, 26 Jul 2006 17:56:50 +0000

First, we've been genetically engineering people to fit our fashion purposes for thousands of years. How did you choose your wife? Did you look for the dumbest, least healthy, must unfit person you could find? Or did you try to find the smartest, healthiest, most attractive woman you could get? Or, more generally, did you look for someone who had lots of positive characteristics that appealed to you, or did you look for someone who had lots of negative characteristics that appealed to you? People look for a mate with good qualities, then they reproduce, hoping that their children will have similar good qualities, both from themselves and their spouses. Second, you are once again putting arguments in my mouth. (Would you stop doing that, for crying out loud?) I did not say (or even imply) that "a tyrannical regime will fail to succeed in using eugenics, psycho-pharmacoepia, indoctrination from an early age, and other methods of bringing hearts and minds to beat to its drum … because technology is not that good." Read again what I wrote, particularly the part you quoted, particularly the phrase "unless you believe that your genetic material is so determinative that you can’t escape it." The argument is not that our technology isn't good enough, but that in order to fear social homogenization by genetic engineering, you have to believe in genetic determinism. Unfortunately, science is not on your side if you believe in genetic determinism. That's my only argument. As for "psycho-pharmacoepia, indoctrination from an early age, and other methods," it's indoctrination that is probably the strongest. Religion can do more to destroy heterogeneity in a population than genetic engineering will ever be able to do. That's why I am far more concerned about Christians like you implanting religious doctrine in the minds of your children than I am about genetic engineering. But again, overall, you're missing my point, which I shall reiterate again: I am not making a positive argument for abortion, genetic engineering, or any other program. Rather, I am saying that I don't believe there is a viable reason of public policy to prohibit those methods. And, so far, your reasons of public policy have been limited to fiction (Huxley) and imaginative hypothetical situations that fail to account for things like the differing preferences of the individuals in our society: given the option to try and determine some aspects of their child, there is no default set of characteristics that everyone will pursue, nor is there any reason why some would opt to exert less control over the outcome. Your arguments seem to come from a world where a centralized government authority decides that everyone should have the same DNA and then enforces that with its police power. Sorry, but that is not going to happen. If you think it will, you have an extraordinarily pessimistic and cynical view of people, especially the American people, and what they will allow.



By: Faith At Work Blog :: Main Page

Mon, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000

Wyden’s Tax Reform initiative but agrees the tax code needs reform because it is unwise, unjust and immoral in Is the Tax Reform Man Coming? Mark Olson at Pseudo-Polymath discusses arguments against eugenics from a purely utilitarian viewpoint http://www.pseudopolymath.com/?p=1642. Barbara Sanders of Alabama at Tidbits And Treasures comments on the ministry of Bill & Gloria Gaithers, some of the best, if not the best, Christian artists of our time God's "Interruption" of the Gaithers



By: Mike McLoughlin's Blog :: Main Page

Mon, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000

Wyden’s Tax Reform initiative but agrees the tax code needs reform because it is unwise, unjust and immoral in Is the Tax Reform Man Coming? Mark Olson at Pseudo-Polymath discusses arguments against eugenics from a purely utilitarian viewpoint http://www.pseudopolymath.com/?p=1642. Barbara Sanders of Alabama at Tidbits And Treasures comments on the ministry of Bill & Gloria Gaithers, some of the best, if not the best, Christian artists of our time God's "Interruption" of the Gaithers



By: Res Ipsa Loquitur

Mon, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000

the discussion that began as an argument that embryonic stem cell research should not be prohibited and has turned into a broad discussion of genetic engineering, abortion, and social control. You can find some of it over at Pseudo-Polymath, here and here. Another part can be found here at Res Ipsa Loquitur here. And, if you're really curious, the discussion really got started with my post here and Mark's response here. To sum up the broad strokes of the discussion, Mark thinks no good can come of