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What is Eugenics ?
Eugenics is the genetic "improvement"(of course improvement is a
subjective word, since objectively all that counts is survival - "fitness") of
a population by conscious, deliberate, willed, directed evolution(in the
genetic sense of the word - Eugenics having less to do with culture than with
biology, although Francis Galton, its founder, saw it both as cultural AND
genetic improvement). Eugenics can also be called "Artificial Selection", or
How Does it Work ?
Eugenics can be applied in different ways, but the essential principle is virtually always the same: to reduce the reproduction rate of individuals possessing undesired trait(s) (Called Negative Eugenics) and/or to raise the reproduction rate of individuals with the desired trait(s)(Called Positive Eugenics). The majority of Eugenicists(i.e. one who supports the idea of Eugenics) agree that the most important trait in human, and therefore the one we want to see improved in humanity, is intelligence.
Defining intelligence is an obvious problem, everyone having more or less their own definition of intelligence, but science has found the controversed 'g' factor, which appears to be the measure of intelligence itself as a general mental ability. IQ strongly correlates with it. One of the reasons why 'g' seems to be a "general intelligence" is because it has been observed that, statistically, one who is particularly successful in one intellectual "area" will also tend to be more successful in any other intellectual areas. Thus, less intelligent individuals tend to be less able in any cognitive area than the more intelligent, which can often excel in several different intellectual areas(Leonardo Da Vinci comes to mind, for example). In other words, there appears to be a general, all-encompassing intelligent "essence", that is measurable.
The principle of Eugenics, although often criticized for being "reductionist" and "simplistic" in ignoring the particular genetic conditions - such as recessive one-gene traits, genes with high mutation rates, multifactorial traits - actually works in statistic terms. That is, although the children of an individual with an IQ of, say, 130, may not necessarily have 130 of IQ(the mean variation within a family is of 12 IQ points), statistically and in the long term, there WILL be an increase in IQ if that person has more children than someone who has an IQ score of 110, for example. Thus, because of the "statistical characteristics" of population genetics, simple artificial selection will generally produce an increase in whatever trait is selected for, or a decrease in whatever trait is selection against, even though there are some exceptions - such as a lot of genetic diseases(especially single- gene illnesses that have high mutation rates, and recessive single-gene diseases that are simply too abundant in the population in question).
How can we produce those evolutionary differential birthrates ? Several methods have been proposed, and they are not mutually exclusive. I personally think that, ideally, we should resort to virtually every single eugenic measure that will be discussed below - if we are to have optimal results.
Voluntary eugenic techniques:
- "Sperm Banks", artificial insemination and In Vitro fertilization: Cryopreservation, i.e. the use of liquid nitrogen in order to freeze and preserve living organisms, allows semen, eggs, or even embryos to be preserved and shipped to almost any location. Thus, banks of frozen eggs or sperm selected from highly talented, healthy, and intelligent individuals could satisfy sterile couples' wish to have children, with either artificial insemination or In vitro fertilization. An example of this is the "Repository for Germinal Choice", founded by Robert K. Graham and Hermann J. Muller, in 1980. It was originally intended as a sperm bank for Nobel Prize Winners, but was later expanded to a wider range of healthy and outstanding donors. According to the Los Angeles Times, in 1997 the Repository had contributed to the birth of 218 children, in at least 5 different countries, all "bright and healthy." Another example is the Chinese government-run "Notables' Sperm Bank," opened in June 1999. It accepts donors in three categories: intellectuals with at least a master's degree; top businessmen; and successful artists, entertainers and athletes. The clinic's purpose is to "seek 'select sperm with high-quality characteristics' to fulfill a popular demand for 'attractive, intelligent' children." Thus, this could be a eugenic solution for those who want children among the approximately 15% of couples that are sterile.
- Cloning: This technique consists in replacing the nucleus of an egg by the nucleus of an adult cell. The resulting offspring will not be a phenotypic duplicate of the adult that donated the nucleus, nor will it be its complete genetic duplicate. The nuclear genes, those on the chromosomes, will be duplicates, but the mitochondrial DNA will be provided by the egg. This technique is interesting for eugenics in that it bypasses the genetic recombination taking place at meiosis, the chromosomal crossing-over and the random sampling of a half-helping of genes into the haploid gametes that combines at fertilization. Thus, the resulting offspring possesses an 'already proven' diploid genome. This would result in a reduction of the regression toward the mean with multifactorial traits, and would allow to duplicate traits that result from particular, rare combinations of genes, such as it is suspected of creative genius(and I am referring to the rare geniuses - the prodigies - not the "moderate" geniuses) - instead of simply slightly raising the possibility of their re-occurrence as in normal selection.
- Pre-natal diagnosis and Abortion: Various procedures are available that allow for the pre-natal diagnosis of chromosomal anomalies and various single-gene disorders. Combined with abortion, it is thus a eugenic possibility that may help reduce the occurrence of certain diseases, although its essential purpose is to prevent giving birth to children who will have to suffer from a severe hereditary disease. An example of success resulting from this eugenic measure is Tay-Sachs(among Askenazi Jews) and Down's Syndrome, which have now become a rare occurrence, thanks to pre-natal diagnosis. This may eventually become a procedure by which embryos with an abnormally low intelligence can be detected and replaced with a more intelligent baby - an interesting eugenic possibility.
- Pre-implantation diagnosis and modification: This is essentially genetic engineering, or "gene therapy". In vitro fertilization provides access to the embryo during its earliest stages of development. The cells of early embryos are totipotent stem cells, when separated each is capable of producing a complete individual. Thus, cell mass division of the early embryos can allow to produce many duplicates, on which various diagnostic and transgenic procedures can be practiced without fear of damaging the original. The cell on which the most successful transgenic operations have been carried out can then be implanted for gestational development. Various transgenic procedures include "knock-outs" - the "disablement" of some previously functional genes - and gene substitution techniques in which new functional genes are implanted, even ones from other species. For example, monkeys have been developed which possess the bioluminescence of jellyfish. Right now, however, this technology is not developed enough to be applicable in useful ways upon humans. But in the near future, this may be an excellent way to give a "boost" to the eugenic evolution of mankind, by implanting genes that are beyond the naturally occurring variation in some important traits. The discovery of technique for genetically improving the intelligence of humans can become an outstanding development for eugenics.
- Government operated positive reinforcement for sterilization among below-average IQ individuals via financial rewards or similar measures. Positive reinforcement for high-IQ individuals to have more than a certain number of children(according to IQ), by financial support for the children(which would alleviate the financial weight of having more children, and would probably encourage otherwise restrained high-IQ individuals to have more children) and/or rewards for having more than a certain number of children(again, according to IQ). For the second part of this system to be implanted(i.e. financial help/rewards for high-IQ individuals who have many children), it would of course be necessary to have some kind of institutionalized system of "mass" verification. In other words, we have to keep track of who we want to have more children, and whether or not they do have more children. This could represent a practical difficulty, but I think it could be feasible to verify all this(IQ level, and number of children) in the hospitals. Each time a woman delivers a baby, the couple's IQ is verified(and kept in some kind of record at the hospital, maybe) as well as the number of children they have. When the "quota" proportionally to the couple's IQ level is reached, government financed help and/or rewards are given. Establishing the quotas is a more or less arbitrary process, and should be accomplished by competent geneticists, psychologists, etc. But my suggestion would be something like: Having more than 2 children for IQs above 110 should be rewarded, and having more than 4 children for IQs above 140 should be additionally rewarded. Or, children for IQs above 130 should be receive financial support from the government, no matter how many children the parents in question have. Determining the exact, "perfect" policy would require some experimentation, but trial-and-error, so that the most efficient technique can be found. More sophisticated techniques than only looking at the parents' phonotypical IQ should be developed, but the basic point would be to reward parents with a high-IQ "genetic background" over those of a more average "genetic background" as far as intelligence is concerned. Such centralized, government-controlled eugenic programs should, however, be limited to intelligence as a trait, because it is perhaps the only trait whose importance does not vary according to "ecological niche" or environment. In other words, there is no necessary "diversity" of intelligence, and we are certain to want more of it - whether other traits, such as low aggressively, would not be necessarily interesting depending on objective to be achieved and the environment in question. It also could have negative, unforeseen secondary effects on personality which could end up causing damage to the population. Thus, government, or centralized involvement in planning for traits other than intelligence(the single human universal trait that is everywhere important) could be hazardous.
- Legal and Free Abortion: If abortion were government financed, free and accessible to anybody, it probably would have a eugenic effect(aside from other positive effects). There are two reasons for this. First, if eugenic policies are to be effective, accidental, unwanted births should be prevented as much as possible. Second, because of the fact that unwanted birth is inversely correlated to intelligence and educational level, the accessibility of abortion would, in theory at least, decrease the number of unwanted births, thereby decreasing the number of lower-IQ births(again, statistically speaking).
"Approximately one-fifth of the births between 1960-1965 in a U.S. sample were said by the parents to have resulted from unplanned, unwanted pregnancies; two-fifths of the remainder were also accidental, but claimed to have been intended for some future time (Bumpass and Westoff, 1970). These figures tend to underestimate the total percentage of unwanted births because there is "considerable rationalization" in parents' reporting, and because illegitimate births are not counted." - Unwanted Births and Dysgenic Reproduction in The United States, Marian Van Court, The Eugenics Bulletin, Spring 1983.[Unwanted Births and Dysgenic Reproduction in The United States]
- Higher-education incentives to have more children: Colleges can be excellent places for assortative mating. Generally, college students tend to be above the average in intelligence, and providing an environment suitable to mate selection could allow more assortative mating(higher IQ couples), thus producing a eugenic effect.
"What are the practical steps that could be taken to strengthen the role of the campus as an area of mate selection and family formation?
*Help in obtaining employment, both for students and non-student spouses
*Low-cost heavily-subsidized housing which provides a pleasant, healthy, and safe environment in which children can grow up
*Free day-care centers
*Free provision of children's nurses and aides to the parents
*Special scholarships and fellowships
*Partial forgiveness on student loans for each child born, up to 100 %
*Relocation allowances for married students moving to attend the institution
*Fully-paid and adequate maternity leave from work at the university
*Low-cost and comprehensive health insurance for children of student parents
*Increases in university salaries for each child born" - How Can We Encourage Bright Young Couples to Have More Children ?, Nathaniel Weyl, The Eugenics Bulletin, Spring-Summer 1984 [How Can We Encourage Bright Young Couples to Have More Children ?]
Mandatory eugenic techniques:
- Negative reinforcement for not reproducing among the low-IQ individuals, with financial fines for reproducing.(additionally, there could be a certain limit number of children for the average IQ individuals, and various IQ strata with their associated maximum number of children). Negative reinforcement for not having a certain minimum number of children among high-IQ individuals, with fines. (??? is this feasible in practice)
- Removing welfare.
Examples of Eugenics in practice. Jewish eugenics, selection on animals: successes. Unverified: Nazi eugenics, and ancient eugenics.
Along with all those practices, there should be a new education about seeing having children as a duty for intelligent people, etc.
Why Eugenics ?
- Survival of civilization
- The ideal of continued human evolution
- As a new, quality-oriented life philosophy.
WHITNEY, Glayde, Reproduction Technology for a new Eugenics, The Mankind Quarterly, Volume XL Number 2, Winter 1999.
VAN COURT, Marian, Unwanted Births and Dysgenic Reproduction in the United States, The Eugenics Bulletin, Spring 1983.
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