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    Eugenics - Coming To A Rich Country Near You
    By Hank Campbell | July 16th 2012 05:00 AM | 23 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone...

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    Eugenics, the darling of elite, educated progressives 100 years ago in their quest to create Utopia, has been out of favor since those crazy Germans took it too far in the late 1930s, but there is one sound reason it found favor; why wouldn't we eliminate serious diseases beforehand instead of treating them after? 

    Obviously there is a difference between voluntary and involuntary solutions to diseases and mental illnesses - Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes spoke for America's highest court that a rape victim should be sterilized because he believed she was a whore and she would be the “probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring, likewise afflicted”. It's not very tolerant, but progressives never claimed to be liberals, they were social authoritarians then just like they are now. It isn't liberals claiming you are too stupid to be able to buy a Big Gulp, it is elite progressives.

    Yet while progressive eugenicists got it all wrong by using legislative and judicial fiat to create their leftist Utopia, a voluntary genetic test for genetic issues is a good thing - we are just on the razor's edge culturally and therefore ethically.  If we turn over more and more choice to government, like in health care, the potential for social authoritarianism similar to a century ago creeps back in.  If we all have to pay for your medical care, maybe you shouldn't be allowed to smoke or eat Happy Meals or get vaccines - the majority can become tyrannical toward minorities, as witches in Salem and Republicans in the humanities surely learned when they were driven to extinction.

    Social authoritarianism under the guise of compassion already happens. For my last two children the hospital ran tests to see if the babies had Down's Syndrome, the obvious reason being to tell you to abort the child if it was there.  Yet since society will pay for medical care in 2014, what if parents chose not to have an abortion if the potential - or reality - of a serious illness were there?  Would that be child abuse? Irresponsible? Could society, with the full, unstoppable might of law, force an abortion or sterilization?  

    Don't count on ethicists to get us out of this issue intact.  Modern ethicists don't subscribe to any notion of morality or even logical formalism.  If you can abort a baby before birth, they contend, you can abort them after too.  Modern ethics is more like ancient sophistry so they are no help.

    As odd as it sounds, society may have to fall back on religion to help figure out where the line is. The NHS kills off 130,000 people a year, a doctor there claims, so even doctors, traditionally the last line of defense, are being trained to obey protocols and government rules in defiance of their instincts and oaths.

    The advantage we have regarding genetic testing today is a historical one; we have seen the horrors of eugenics and people are more skeptical of 'experts' than they were in the past as a result.  A hundred years ago if H.G. Wells or John Maynard Keynes endorsed a policy that led to 60,000 forced sterilizations, their popularity meant something to the public. They were experts, even though out of their fields. People are a lot less trusting of expertise today because of past mistakes.

    In the "I, human" session at  the Euroscience Open Forum 2012, Professor Armand Leroi of Imperial College London said 21st century eugenics is already here.  Genetic testing is cheap and partners will request scans of each other, the way they hopefully get HIV tests now(1).  And aborting over Down's syndrome is just eugenics framed in a nicer way, further proof that framing is an intellectual cesspool that needs to be banished where it belongs, in the muck of the early 2000s. Eugenics will increase, even if it is under the guise of positive improvements.

    Religious people are the ones resisting this creepy "Gattaca" future. “Our priorities should be to develop treatments and supportive measures for those with genetic disease; not to search them out,” said Philippa Taylor of the Christian Medical Fellowship to the Daily Mail.

    It would be wonderfully idealistic to believe eugenics will be used to just wipe out diseases, but as we have seen in the countries with the least freedom and most social authoritarianism, it is routinely used to select for genders and various other factors.

    You can't have both government control and freedom, though it would be nice to have been able to select kids that would be both prettier and smarter than me.   I love the mystery too much to have ever gone through with that, though.

    NOTE:

    (1) It will even change romantic comedies. Here is "Gattaca", except about love, in a 2010 movie called "TiMER":

    Comments

    UvaE
    It would be wonderfully idealistic to believe eugenics will be used to just wipe out diseases ...
    Even at that, we would likely experience unintended consequences.
    For example if one would eliminate embryos with sickle cell alleles, one would not only reduce the frequency of disease-causing genes, it would also lower the percentage of people with protection against malaria. 
    And who knows how many other favorable characteristics are associated with the genetic susceptibility of other diseases?


    Exactly - widespread eugenics would result in the the human gene pool becoming like that of the cheetah. The cheetah is very beautiful and very capable, but if its environment changes or if a new disease comes along for which the current cheetah gene pool isn't adapted, we can probably say goodbye to that species.

    rholley
    TiMER — the film received a 58% rotten rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 12 reviews (Wikipedia).


    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Hank
    I don't think any science romantic comedies have ever scored well at Rotten Tomatoes. 
    ur a moron: genetic testing would have led ur parents aborting u, if they weren't so emotionally retarded.

    Gerhard Adam
    Well, Jon ... perhaps you should come back when you study a bit more, learn to spell, and stop acting stupidly.

    At present, you're just an annoying twit.  In the future, you may be annoying, but you'll also be deleted.  Have a nice day.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    You raise some valid points, but your framing of them is horrible.
    ...a voluntary genetic test for genetic issues is a good thing - we are just on the razor's edge culturally and therefore ethically...
    No, it's NOT a good thing and can never be a good thing, because such "voluntary" actions will be used as information by others against those that don't volunteer such information.  It becomes the de facto standard, after which it becomes mandatory.  The driving force will be corporations.  Specifically it will be insurance companies that lead the way, because they can always rationalize such "voluntary" measures as being necessary to save/make money.  As a result, they will be able to couch in terms of being "voluntary" and only necessary if you actually expect to get insured.  After all, when it comes to business, blackmail and extortion is legal.  After all ... no one is forcing you to get insurance.
    If we all have to pay for your medical care, maybe you shouldn't be allowed to smoke or eat Happy Meals or get vaccines - the majority can become tyrannical toward minorities
    Your argument is flawed since you're arguing about everyone paying for your medical care, yet you're failing to take into account that all these arguments have already been made and in some cases enforced.  So what is clear, is that the insurance concept isn't any less tyrannical.  Smoking isn't scheduled to be banned in 2014, it largely is today and it is occurring precisely because of the tyranny of insurance companies.
    Yet since society will pay for medical care in 2014, what if parents chose not to have an abortion if the potential - or reality - of a serious illness were there?  Would that be child abuse? Irresponsible?
    What do you think happens today?  Do you think people are paying their own medical bills?  Do you think that Octo-mom had IVF and eight kids because she was independently wealthy?  I know you aren't really making the argument that somehow all these diseases are being paid for by people personally. 

    As long as there is some intermediate third party, then we are ALL paying the bills.  It doesn't matter whether its a corporate entity or the government.  Health is inherently not insurable, so as long as we insist that it can somehow be contrived to become a valid economic model, we will have this fiasco.  The argument that young people should be allowed to be exempt is simply wrong, just as the basic notion that somehow we should expend all available resources simply to allow someone to live one day longer.

    If we aren't prepared to make the hard decisions, then perhaps we should stop pursuing the science that forces us to be mature enough to handle it properly. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    No, it's NOT a good thing and can never be a good thing, because such "voluntary" actions will be used as information by others against those that don't volunteer such information. It becomes the de facto standard, after which it becomes mandatory. The driving force will be corporations. Specifically it will be insurance companies that lead the way
    A parent choosing to not have a child with a crippling, incurable disease that has a genetic marker well before it is viable human life is a platform for going off on corporations and insurance companies?

    Gerhard Adam
    No, but are you also prepared to argue that should no such markers be found, then the information will be destroyed?

    BTW, you know that I'm not just going off on corporations and insurance companies.  You know that such information would be abused.  You know it would be a violation of people's civil rights, and you also know that it would become the de facto standard by which policies would be set.

    This isn't some radical notion, it is already common practice for life insurance companies, so you really mean to tell me that they wouldn't use such data if it were available?  Perhaps they don't find a debilitating disease, but instead find a propensity for heart disease?  You really mean to tell me that no one is going to use that information?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    Sure, that is a simple policy issue. You're going to have better success putting in privacy restrictions than eliminating every corporation on the planet.
    Gerhard Adam
    Perhaps.  I'm not particularly worried about the corporations, because they will go the same way the concept of serfs/lords fell by the wayside.   ... but that's a different discussion.

    You may think I'm simply being rabidly anti-corporation, but my real concern is that if we aren't carefully paying attention, corporations will begin to exert even greater policy influence than they currently do.  Once that occurs, we can kiss any concept of government good-bye, because it will be a return to the aristocracy, except instead of royalty it will simply be corporate officers.

    This isn't exactly rocket science, if economists knew anything about economics. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    You may think I'm simply being rabidly anti-corporation

    I don't mean to offend, but yeah, in fact the tone reminds me of many of the creationist that show up. I can tell you're passionate about it, in fact it seems personal, but it comes across many times as irrational.
    I'm not trying to poke the bear, but provide some feedback.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    Sure.  More specifically it is important to understand that I very much favor the nature of free markets and how humans have utilized that in order to create complex social organizations and interactions.  There's no question that it is probably one of the most crucial elements of how we have developed the modern society that we have.

    However, I'm concerned over our own sense that "if a little is good, then a lot must be great".  Nothing works that way, and infinite growth isn't possible.  With corporations I see the first problem is that they tend to consolidate power and influence.  Instead of promoting diversity and increasing the competition in the marketplace, they stifle it and strive for control.  The last thing a corporation needs/wants is competition.

    By consolidating the control of wealth and influence they become the "elephant in the room" that reduces the numbers of jobs, creates a kind of artificial competition [usually within its own ranks] and prevents anything that might be disruptive from occurring.

    We need innovation and solutions, while corporations are the completely wrong vehicle for achieving such objectives.

    In addition, we already know that any organization will have it's primary "mission" be its own survival, so again, we are stuck with a situation of where we have people being arbitrarily placed in a role of preserving the corporation and not necessarily doing what is right for the society they live in, or even as individuals.  This is also readily seen when we view large governmental organizations.  It isn't that people are evil, it is that they are placed into an organizational structure that forces them to compromise themselves in order to fulfill their obligations to the organization.

    Do I believe corporations pollute or often behave in an anti-social manner because the people running them are evil?  Absolutely not.  But as I just mentioned, we have encouraged such behaviors because we have created this artificial construct and made people responsible for its survival.  That isn't how businesses should ever operate.  Corporations do not have an intrinsic right to survive.

    From this we also can see that the notion of an "economy of scale" reaches a maximum point before it becomes impossible for an organization to get larger and yet supposedly become more efficient.  Again, because there is little or no competition, we don't see the ability for the market to act.

    Does anyone truly expect me to believe that oil companies compete with one another?  Power companies [i.e. energy producers].  Do we really believe that retailers are competing with one another?  Name the industry, and I will show you a uniformity of behavior, pricing, products, etc. that clearly indicates that competition is the first casualty of such an organization.

    I also recognize that there are some instances where certainly types of business may be impossible for single individuals to operate and so I do recognize the need to consolidate resources, etc.  However, that should also be done as a business, not merely as a vehicle for investors [i.e. the stock market] to dictate arbitrary requirements for returns regardless of whether it is in the long term interest of the business or society.

    Those are my issues.  Certainly, any one of them could be expanded upon, but in general, just as there are size limits to biological organisms, such that it simply isn't feasible for something to become infinitely large.  I'm also convinced the same holds true for such human inventions as corporations.  I would love to see them dismantled and give rise to more discrete, competitive businesses that are accountable to the market and their customers.

    Basically I view corporations as being an economic problem, not some arbitrarily "evil" entity.  Everyone recognizes that corporations are not engines of job growth.  They are not competitive.  Yet, we do little to support entrepreneurs or small businesses.  Instead I would argue that if you looked over all the laws and governmental intervention pertaining to business, you would find a disproportionate amount of it relates specifically to corporations [i.e. protecting them].  It is appealing to see how much money/power they control and imagine that they are powerful engines of economies, but they aren't.  They are resource sinks.  They suck all the life and innovation out of an economy and consolidate it for their own protection.
    Mundus vult decipi
    It is very easy to restrict the influence of life insurance companies. Make a simply law, something like "hey, you are not allowed to ask a client for its DNA code or if your clients unborn son will have Down Syndrome". Its common practice in Europe and it works great.
    America should learn to learn from others. To have more government is not always a disadvantage. The health care system in France, Germany or Sweden is far superior to the US system and most importantly, their systems work very well (not perfect of course, as this is not achieveable). It is a shame for the US to still have a health care system at a level of a third world country. A health care system has to be there for all members of the society, also for the ones that have no money - even the ones that live unhealthy. That is what insurances are for. The insure the unpredictable. At least the information on individuals where they have no impact (e.g. their genetic predisposition to disease) has to be a black box for the health insurances.

    MikeCrow
    The health care system in France, Germany or Sweden is far superior to the US system and most importantly, their systems work very well (not perfect of course, as this is not achieveable). It is a shame for the US to still have a health care system at a level of a third world country.

    I have very good healthcare, and all of the anecdotal evidence I've read on national heathcare systems leave me feeling that the average person doesn't get high quality prompt care in them.
    As for third world, it's my opinion most of the advanced methods of care and technology are developed in the US, and when the very rich around the world need the best care they come here.
    Never is a long time.
    Hank
    There are two things that are relevant- first is that things that are not free, no one in Europe wants.  Brits have the reputation for such bad teeth because it is not covered by the government. Europeans are a lot more culturally docile about expertise and leaders because they have been trained to be dependent on government. The only thing that gets Europeans fired up is oppressing the minorities they recruit to work to support their social services. 

    Second, toward Mike's comment, it's great to personally have terrific health care but could you afford it if your company did not pay for it?  We have great health care - at the high end - and that is why very rich people travel here from other countries. What we lack is a reasonable way for poor people to have access to that same quality health care. That isn't a great model to me. "Get rich" is not really a social policy.  We spend far more per capita than anyone else but if we did not include a lot of poor people who don't have any health care in that average, our cost is astronomical per person.   Obamacare is not the solution, obviously, but there has to be something better.

    My recommendation was to make health insurance interstate and make it a tax write off for individuals the same way it is for companies.  'Benefits' are a holdover from World War II-era wage controls, when benefits were the only way to compete for new employees, since they could not offer a higher salary.  It is a very high amount of medical bills before an individual can write health care off their taxes but companies get to write it off from dollar one.
    MikeCrow
    I managed to continue to pay for it, my Cobra was very expensive, and when that was running out and I couldn't find insurance to cover my wife, I joined a small business collective that provided access to insurance, again not really cheap, but about the same cost as her medicines were, and myself and the rest of the family was covered.

    I recognize there are issues, but I think to offer no preexisting conditions insurance, everyone has to buy insurance, the individual mandate. But I think it should have been put on the ballot, and let the chips fall where they may.
    And yes I also agree about competition across state lines and tort reform.

    But, I'm also not so happy that as Obamacare becomes the norm, unless I can pay for concierge doctors retainers, my access to quality care becomes less likely.
    Never is a long time.
    Yes, the US has very advanced methods of care and technology; the problem is that it is not accessible for all the poor individuals. Of course, if you have a good paying job, everything is fine. (Some of my relatives travelles regularly to Germany to get treatment, because its faster and cheaper with good quality treatment).
    Let me give an example: From a good healthcare system I would expect that a workless person who finds blood after going to the toilet, has the possibility to go to the hospital and gets a colonoscopy, for free, the same day and - if something serious is discovered, e.g. a cancer, that a high-quality treatment, again- the same day- can commence. For free.
    Can the US healthcare system provide that?

    Hank
    No, but neither can Europe.  There is a reason so many people in Europe are critical of their own health care - but it is the people who have serious issues who complain, not people who just get a cold or a broken arm.  There is no chance in Europe you are thinking you have an illness and you are going in the same day and getting a diagnosis, much less a treatment.  If you get all those things within 6 weeks, you are lucky.

    But as I said, on those serious issues, the US is far better.  For the bulk of people, whose kids get a broken arm or something minor, Europe is better because the costs do not drive families to bankruptcy.
    Hi Hank,
    I have to disagree with you.
    I lived in Germany and Sweden and I and my friends and family always could get immeadiate help in the hospital when it was needed. Just last week, a friend of mine, who is currently without a job, had exactly that problem that I described (well, thats the reason I described it ;-). He went to the hospital in the evening (about 10pm), 15 minutes later he got a first examination of some world class experts in the field; after some preparations (emptying of the bowels), about 4am in the night, he got a colonoscopy. During this colonoscopy they removed several benign polyps they found. The same morning he could leave the hospital in healthy conditions. It did not cost him a cent.
    Try to get that in the US.
    My mother in law had a similar problem and they told her to wait 3 month for her colonoscopy !! (you could be dead by then).

    MikeCrow
    Try to get that in the US.
    My mother in law had a similar problem and they told her to wait 3 month for her colonoscopy !! (you could be dead by then).

    The Cleveland Clinic advertises on the radio that you can call and get an appointment the same day, including a colonosopy. And the Clinic is one of the best hospitals in the world.

    I'm afraid that our new healthcare is going to be more like what your MiL recieved, and less like what you can get today at some places.
    Never is a long time.
    Hank
    I think something has to change. I am not nationalistic enough to think this way is perfect - a lot of us already pay European taxes and poor people get nothing. But for all of the claims about health insurance for 'uninsured', including tens of millions who don't need it, 21 million in the US are going to pay more and it is not 'the rich', it is just people who have jobs and make health care work within the system and now will be penalized.  

    For that reason, I hope the health care taxes - and there really are 21 of them, that is not hype - are repealed.  While I agree the current system is flawed, there are no instances where a bad change has been improved by government later. People get entrenched. 
    *lol*!! don't you love it how we've gotten social discrimination down to a science? :)