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Author Topic: Why doesn't Eugenics work?  (Read 8189 times)

lyner

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Why doesn't Eugenics work?
« on: 02/02/2009 10:40:29 »
For thousands of years, humans have been selectively breeding animals to produce the characteristics they want.
Eugenics clearly has moral issues associated with it and we, rightly, reject it. But, bearing in mind that it really hasn't been practiced over many generations, is it really possible to reject it on the grounds that it just doesn't work?
There is more than sufficient reason for rejecting it on humanitarian grounds but can we also reject it on the grounds that it is 'bad Science'? Is that doing Science justice?


 

Offline Bored chemist

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Why doesn't Eugenics work?
« Reply #1 on: 02/02/2009 12:35:31 »
The Kennel club recently realised that it had two choices- reduce the requirements for their canine eugenics program or watch the dogs become extinct.
Eugenics doesn't really work because biodiversity is a good thing. It applies just as much to humans as to rainforests.
 

lyner

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Why doesn't Eugenics work?
« Reply #2 on: 02/02/2009 13:48:16 »
But haven't they taken it to an extreme? Also, the characteristics the Kennel Club go for are 'ridiculous', in many respects and the breeding is pursued to an lunatic degree.
When you look at the more sensible aspects of breeding in agriculture, they have certainly had some productive results. It may have gone a bit loopy recently but the 'rare breeds' are fairly robust.

Recent techniques for embryo selection and even neo-natal care are providing eugenic-like pressures on the human population. It will be interesting to see the long term results. Perhaps the last thing we should be allowed to choose is our offspring.

I am just trying to bring the subject out of the PC closet and have it discussed with Science hats on and not just dismissed as a matter of principle.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Why doesn't Eugenics work?
« Reply #3 on: 02/02/2009 18:56:55 »
The point about eugenics is usually to take it to an extreme- wiping out a race for example.
 

blakestyger

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Why doesn't Eugenics work?
« Reply #4 on: 02/02/2009 22:54:37 »
I think I understand what you're getting at but eugenics is really an application of science to a political and idealogical end. When Francis Galton first proposed it he had in mind the "the study of all agencies under human control which can improve or impair the racial quality of future generations".
The science is already in place - using it in this way removes the essential moral neutrality that science has.
 

lyner

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Why doesn't Eugenics work?
« Reply #5 on: 02/02/2009 23:31:58 »
I take on board both your comments. However, I am not sure that you can assume that calling the process by another name affects the outcome or changes the moral situation.
IVF and many other procedures are not morally neutral either but they are accepted / condoned / encouraged with little thought of the final consequences way down the line. They can't help but affect some of the major characteristics of future generations.
The problem with fertility treatment is that it is performed by highly interested parties (medics, for fascination and glory) on other highly interested parties (desperate, would-be parents) so where is the incentive to moderate it?
 

Offline lancenti

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Why doesn't Eugenics work?
« Reply #6 on: 04/02/2009 02:43:41 »
I'm on the side of thinking that it's not nice to go around killing people but that Eugenics probably works in the sense that it will eliminate certain classes of genes.

Very much like all other organisms, our genotype dictates our phenotype, barring those caused by accidents and maladies. We inherit these through the same mechanism as all creatures which sexually reproduce - in other words the fusing of chromosomes from the parents.

So in theory, by removing everyone with undesired phenotype and genotype should work though a mutation further down the line may bring it back.

But the real problem is figuring out what is a good or bad gene for elimination. For example, Sickle-Cell Anaemia which is considered a really bad disease actually confers immunity to Malaria. Similarly, we could have genes which we THINK are bad but are actually good and messing it up may lead to a whole group of "purified" people from dying to random germ in the air which we never noticed before. Think of it like Corn Crops which are genetically identical.

I don't think it's fair to say it doesn't work because, like you said, we haven't exactly tried it on the human population itself but I'm pretty sure if we did it probably will.

 

lyner

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Why doesn't Eugenics work?
« Reply #7 on: 04/02/2009 10:10:54 »
Purposely trying to eliminate a characteristic from a population is very risky because you could also find yourself removing other 'useful' characteristics orf introducing/ encouraging undesirable ones. Also, it is very hard to achieve because of unregulated breeding which you can't stamp out without steralisation.

I am also interested in the other side of the coin - encouraging 'unsuitable' characteristics by artificially interfering with natural selection. Perhaps that, too, is such a superficial exercise (considering the vast population) that it will have little long term effect.
 

Offline BenV

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Why doesn't Eugenics work?
« Reply #8 on: 04/02/2009 11:40:12 »
Purposely trying to eliminate a characteristic from a population is very risky because you could also find yourself removing other 'useful' characteristics orf introducing/ encouraging undesirable ones.

I think that's the crux of it - we don't understand enough to make it work.
 

lyner

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Why doesn't Eugenics work?
« Reply #9 on: 05/02/2009 13:38:48 »
Yes, and you can't just bin bad results or send them to the knacker's yard.
 

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Why doesn't Eugenics work?
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