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"Would Eugenic Programs Work ? A Thought Experiment", Dorothy C. Wertz
apparently tries to argue against the application of Eugenic policies,
claiming in her conclusion that Eugenics is not grounded in science...
However, in her selective attack of Eugenics she only takes into account negative Eugenics designed to eliminate genetic diseases: ignoring positive Eugenics, and ignoring selection for traits - the most important of which being intelligence. Eugenicists have long been aware of the difficulty of eliminating recessive single-gene diseases - because they are virtually everywhere. Trying to eliminate them would require wiping off the entire species... But this is in no way an argument against Eugenics: it does not mean that practicing Eugenics for the improvement of intelligence, for example, would fail. Nor is it an argument against what most of us consider the most important part of Eugenics: positive Eugenics(i.e. encouraging the reproduction of those with desired traits).
Still, her arguments are weak: for the cases of dominant gene diseases that have high mutation rates - I still think they should not reproduce. Is it not like claiming that a fire should not be put out because another one might start somewhere else ? Why bring into the world a child who will have the disease, or who will potentially raise the frequency of the disease in the gene pool ?(Unless the person in question has outstanding intelligence, which should be passed on in my opinion, raising population intelligence being more important than reducing the frequency of genetic diseases)
"Let's start with disorders that have dominant inheritance. Only one copy of the gene (one parent) is required, each child has a 50% chance of inheriting the gene, and possession of the gene inevitably leads to disease, usually after the person has already had offspring who may also have the gene. Huntington disease (HD), which usually manifests itself around age 40 and leads to relentless mental and neurological decline, is a good example. There is no treatment for the underlying condition. HD has few "new mutations" (cases that appear with no family history of the disease), and until a few years ago such new mutations were believed impossible. At least in theory, HD could be eliminated in one generation if everyone who has the gene decided not to have any children. About ten years ago, as scientists zeroed in on finding the Huntington gene, some geneticists actually predicted that HD would be eliminated within a generation. Presumably everyone at risk (about 30,000 families in the U.S.)would be tested to see whether they had the gene, and everyone who had the gene would avoid passing it on to their children, either by having no biological children or using prenatal diagnosis to identify and selectively abort fetuses with the gene. This has not happened. Only a minority of people at risk (about 20%) have asked for testing, and only a handful have used prenatal diagnosis. Most people do not wish to know whether they will develop an incurable disease. Some think that by the time a potential child reaches age 40, a cure may exist. In any case, that child will have had many good years of life." [my emphasis]
That's exactly why I think voluntary Eugenics alone will not be particularly effective: people are idiots, people are selfish, people don't care. The population is majoritarily composed of Homo Americanus Bovinus, a species that cares about nothing except what is going to play on TV tonight. So the results mentioned above were entirely predictable by anyone who has even the slightest sense of realism.
"Clearly, voluntary testing has not worked to eliminate HD. Could we still eliminate it, once and for all, from the population? Yes, but only in a police state with a universal registry of Huntington disease families."
However, I fail to understand why she immediately equates mandatory
eugenics with a Nazi police state of arbitrary and forced sterilization. There
could simply be laws prohibiting people of a certain IQ(if IQ is one of the
traits to be selected for) to have more than a certain number of children,
based on IQ. Eugenic laws coupled with voluntary eugenic programs could have
immensely effective results. And the objective, after all, is not to totally
eliminate a disease - which appears to be very difficult, if not impossible -
but to raise the frequency of a certain desired trait, and to lower the
frequency of some undesirable traits. The goal is NOT to sterilize every
individual with undesired traits, it is to lower the rate of reproduction
among those who have less desirable traits and to raise the rate of
reproduction among those who have more desirable traits, with various
government incentives such as fines for disobeying eugenics regulations, in
the case of mandatory eugenic programs(for more details about mandatory
eugenics, see my article Why Optional Eugenic Programs are not Enough).
Then, on the subject of multifactorial traits, she claims:
"Genetic factors begin to take precedence only towards the very bottom of the IQ scale, among those profoundly or severely retarded, most of whom are unable to reproduce anyway. "
Amazingly, she is ignorant enough to assume that IQ variation has little to no genetic significance except in cases of mental retardation, despite all evidence to the contrary. From this false premise she concludes:
"Sterilizing everyone with mental retardation does nothing to "improve" the gene pool or to reduce the incidence of mental retardation in succeeding generations."
I will ignore her crude and simplistic view of how intelligence can be improved, and will concern myself with her claim that, in theory, intelligence could not be raised because there is little to nothing genetic about high intelligence. Empirical data shows that this is completely erroneous, and that in all likelihood the causes of variation IQ, and 'g', are more importantly genetic than environmental[Mainstream Science on Intelligence, Intelligence and Social Policy: A special issue of the Multidisciplinary journal INTELLIGENCE, Heredity or Environment ? An excerpt from David Duke's book "My Awakening: A Path to Racial Understanding", The Limited Plasticity of Human Intelligence, Sources of Human Psychological Differences, Professor Shockley's Experiment]. This means that a Eugenic program that involves changing the reproduction rate according to IQ - whether voluntary, mandatory, or a combination of voluntary and moderately mandatory - WILL work. It's efficiency will essentially depend on what compromise one is willing to make between individual freedom and the rate of improvement of the population's intelligence(it all boils down to the question of individual versus collective rights, in a way). In other words, if you choose more voluntary and moderate eugenics methods, you will also get moderate results. If you choose both private AND government involvment(with laws, funds for Eugenic institutions and programs, etc.), you are likely to get more results, even though it involves a bit less "freedom of reproduction" for the masses.
"Some voluntary programs, however, have led to a significant decline in the numbers of children born with certain disorders."
Then, she goes on to admit that voluntary programs DO have an impact with
certain diseases(now imagine what could be achieved if instead of selecting
against diseases one selected for intelligence !).
She ignores every evidence that Artificial selection, just like Natural Selection - works. We have been practicing artificial selection on animals with astonishing results. Evolutionary Biogerontologist Michael Rose, for example, succeded in doubling the lifespan of fly populations by artificial selection. Could not the same thing be done for humans with intelligence, considering the important genetic influence behind it ? The Jewish "system" of Eugenics[Judaism as an evolutionary strategy] is an excellent example of how Eugenics can be applied in practice in human societies. But, more importantly, if artificial selection can have no impact on shaping one's intelligence, for example, then how did Evolution occur ? And if the question is how in practice will it be applied, then why not at least start with voluntary Eugenics(after all, Dorothy C. Wertz herself appears to be in support of voluntary Eugenics as long as it does have an effect) ?
Simon Ouellette, 14/01/2001
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