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    Eugenics: Is Genetically Engineering Babies A Moral Obligation?
    By Hank Campbell | October 24th 2012 11:30 AM | 15 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Both eugenics and social Darwinism had their moments in their sun, the optimistic goal of progressive techno-elites 100 years ago who wanted to use science to make the world a better place.

    Sounds terrific, right?  Isn't that what vaccines and genetically modified food do also? 

    Indeed, but vaccines and GMOs are for all people and not against some, the way eugenics was.  The experience of eugenics may be why so many progressives, the group that embraced and mandated and enforced it as social policy, are so anti-science today; they don't trust science or themselves when science is under their control.

    Yet not all progressives are conservative about the benefits of the scary, modern world. Some are exorcising the demons of their tortured science past and say that greater understanding of genetics today can not only lead to better understanding of existing disease, it can perhaps keep people with disease from ever being born. That's eugenics - well, sort of. Forced abortion and sterilization, as advocated by progressive legends H.G. Wells, John Maynard Keynes and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, is not the same as genetically optimizing a sperm and egg before it is a baby.

    Ethicists, who are basically the cultural postmodernists of today and exist to write claims debunking any accepted position, take choice even farther and claim 'designer babies' are a moral obligation for parents.  They say such children will even grow up to be more ethical people knowing they were genetically optimized.  And if choosing to have a baby at all falls under parental (well, mother anyway - fathers are not protected under laws) choice, why is choosing the gender of the baby considered taboo? All people will feel better about their gender if they know it was the best solution for society's current need. 

    It sounds creepy when ethicists discuss anything (see their take on abortion after babies are born) but the rationale eugenics starts with is always reasonable; if we can screen out debilitating diseases, why not do it?  In the past, those theoretical aspects fell apart in real-world testing and even today, like then, a new cycle comes around and people forget that society is a poor laboratory and instead assume we are much smarter than people of the past when it comes to culture.  Eugenics is already here, really, we just frame it in a nicer way.  So we need to be thinking about it in a new light.

    When 'choice' becomes more than whether or not to have a child, it is inevitable that the choice will be to screen out gender or even personality traits.  What concerned parent can resist that trend when it is allowed?   The parent not doing it becomes the irresponsible one, they are dooming their children to mediocrity. If, as some claim, genetic traits hardwire personality ones, wouldn't a conscientious progressive make sure their child was genetically progressive too? They owe it to society.

    "Where genetic selection aims to bring out a trait that clearly benefits an individual and society, we should allow parents the choice. To do otherwise is to consign those who come after us to the ball and chain of our squeamishness and irrationality," Oxford ethicist professor Julian Savulescu told Richard Alleyne at The Telegraph.


    If you could genetically choose to give birth to a world-famous pianist and a world-class martial artist, would you do it? How about one Democrat and one Republican? Credit: Shutterstock.com

    Eugenics is coming, the public relations efforts will just give it a nicer name.  As genetic testing becomes cheaper, interested mates will begin to request genetic information about each other, like HIV or any other tests now. They will make informed choices about each other and their offspring and then genetically modify kids to fit also.

    But that is the future. Until then we are stuck with a much messier interim solution. I would rather have society focused on curing diseases than aborting fetuses until the right genetic match comes up, but I am clearly old and was not genetically optimized so I lack the inborn ethical compass the future holds for 21st century children.

    Comments

    How boring would be, if we all decide to be alike. I mean the world is already striving to do that while being different. We don't need an incentive to create genetic sameness. A lot of times our defectiveness physically and mentally is the reason for greatness, and people who are genius. Also the one thing you can't prevent is human nature which often brings the need of superiority or in other terms Alpha needs to be over Beta.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    if we can screen out debilitating diseases, why not do it?
    Because a lot of people with 'debilitating diseases' have made very significant contributions to society. 

    For example, if all people with the genetic predisposition to suffer from motor neurone disease or Lou Gehrig's disease had been 'screened out', there would be no Hawking radiation to reassure us all that any micro black holes that are currently being formed in the Large Hadron Collidor (LHC), the largest physics experiment in the world or anywhere else on this planet in similar scientific collidor experiments, emit radiation and are harmlessly decaying and cannot eventually grow big enough to threaten or engulf our planet Earth. Stephen Hawking who developed this theory suffers from a form of motor neurone disease. I also would also probably have been screened out of existence as my mother contracted this disease, though Hank might consider that a very positive reason for genetic screening!

    According to CERN's Large Hadron Collidor Safety Advisory Group (LSAG) and their LSAG report 'Any microscopic black holes produced at the LHC are expected to decay by Hawking radiation before they reach the detector's walls'. The safety of the LHC and micro black hole formation is also publicly discussed by CERN here and also claims that it is Hawking radiation that makes them safe :-
    The overwhelming majority of physicists agree that microscopic black holes would be unstable, as predicted by basic principles of quantum mechanics. As discussed in the LSAG report, if microscopic black holes can be produced by the collisions of quarks and/or gluons inside protons, they must also be able to decay back into quarks and/or gluons. Moreover, quantum mechanics predicts specifically that they should decay via Hawking radiation.
    Nevertheless, a few papers have suggested that microscopic black holes might be stable. 
    The paper by Giddings and Mangano and the LSAG report analyzed very conservatively the hypothetical case of stable microscopic black holes and concluded that even in this case there would be no conceivable danger. Another analysis with similar conclusions has been documented by Dr. Koch, Prof. Bleicher and Prof. Stoecker of Frankfurt University and GSI, Darmstadt, who conclude:"We discussed the logically possible black hole evolution paths. Then we discussed every single outcome of those paths and showed that none of the physically sensible paths can lead to a black hole disaster at the LHC."
    Professor Roessler (who has a medical degree and was formerly a chaos theorist in Tuebingen) also raised doubts on the existence of Hawking radiation. His ideas have been refuted by Profs. Nicolai (Director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics - Albert-Einstein-Institut - in Potsdam) and Giulini, whose report (see here for the English translation, and here for further statements) point to his failure to understand general relativity and the Schwarzschild metric, and his reliance on an alternative theory of gravity that was disproven in 1915. Their verdict: "[Roessler's] argument is not valid; the argument is not self-consistent."
    The paper of Prof. Roessler has also been criticized by Prof. Bruhn of the Darmstadt University of Technology, who concludes that: "Roessler's misinterpretation of the Schwarzschild metric [renders] his further considerations ... null and void. These are not papers that could be taken into account when problems of black holes are discussed."
    A hypothetical scenario for possibly dangerous metastable black holes has recently been proposed by Dr. Plaga. The conclusions of this work have been shown to be inconsistent in a second paper by Giddings and Mangano, where it is also stated that the safety of this class of metastable black hole scenarios is already established by their original work.

    So, let's hope that Stephen Hawking is correct and that any micro black holes that are currently possibly being created at the LHC or elsewhere are unstable and will decay by Hawking radiation before hitting any of the LHC's walls and let's be thankful that Stephen Hawking was not genetically screened out of existence himself as an embryo because without his theory we might not be feeling quite so confident :)

    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Hank
    You think ALS made Stephen Hawking smart?  If not, I can't see the reason for 400 of the 450 words in this comment.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Maybe someone else would have come up with the theory or maybe not? Anyway it probably wouldn't have been called Hawking radiation if he had been genetically screened out of existence. Campbell radiation maybe? 
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    A lot of geniuses, and very highly talented people from the past and present actually have had evidence that there is some form of "mental disability" and majority of the time that "disability" is the cause of such genius and talent. If you select such things out then we leave the world in mediocrity and dullness.

    This is actually a common myth amongst disability advocates, but it is certainly untrue. It is one of those "big lies" that Hitler and Stalin spoke about so frequently.

    The truth is that no, they didn't suffer from mental disabilities. Many of them struggled with other issues (depression being common), but no, not mental disabilities.

    In reality, we would in fact select for intelligence (so, against people like you) - people of particularly high intelligence would have their genomes analyzed for what made them so smart.

    Gerhard Adam
    The parent not doing it becomes the irresponsible one, they are dooming their children to mediocrity.
    Well, that depends what else might develop as traits if we begin tinkering.  We've already seen such effects through breeding programs in animals, where some desirable traits are often accompanied by undesirable ones.

    So, anything short of "perfection" would raise the ethical question about whether one generation has the right to make such decisions for all future generations.  After all, the parent that elects to modify their child, is also making that decision for all the descendants that may not agree with that choice. 

    It is also already known that may of the things that people may find desirable may not be fully controlled by genes.  Given the role of the microbiota in brain development and the development of the immune system, then it is entirely possible that genetic manipulation may be inadequate to create a healthy, intelligent child.  When one factors in epigenetics, etc. the downstream effects [which will likely NOT be medically monitored] may produce more undesirable side-effects than the initial desire to "improve" things.

    What I find interesting is that people are naive enough to believe that genetic manipulation can be exploited in this way.  Perhaps we can do that to deal with genetic diseases, but anything beyond that seems pretty presumptuous. 

    Well, maybe that's just the transhumanist in me that feels like that.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    Another interesting thought is that with all the interactions involving genes, the role of epigenetics, the "nature vs nuture" issues, and the microbiotia, I can only marvel at the lawsuit potential of such genetic tinkering.

    Lawyers and malpractice insurance companies will be in heaven.
    Mundus vult decipi
    car2nwallaby
    I think this is somewhat of a false equivalence.  Eugenics is taking something away: either life from a pre-existing individual, or the choice to reproduce from a potential parent.  Screening eggs and sperm for genetic diseases or even for desired traits doesn't take away life or choice.

    Another quick side bar: equating whatever "progressive" means today to the eugenicists of a century ago doesn't make much more sense than calling Barack Obama pro-slavery because that's what antebellum Democrats were.

    Hank
    I think not to show the comparisons and differences would be irresponsible.  If someone discusses modern conservative attitudes but does not mention the historical events that got them here, it leaves out a large part of the story.  

    And you echoed the same point I made: "Forced abortion and sterilization...not the same as genetically optimizing a sperm and egg before it is a baby."
    Slavery was more of north versus south phenomenon. It was not republican versus democrat as is commonly confused /promoted by many.

    reminds me of that movie, Gattaca
    imho, I think it will happen. You just can't stop it. What's best/profitable for society sooner or later becomes moral.

    It will happen!! The only thing holding it up is religion and the pharmaceutical companies! Imagine the money they will loose if disease were no longer in existence!!

    Hank
    You could have said this in 1912 also.
    To "TD":
    Hitler and Stalin did not support "mental disabilities" they actually were against it and for a perfect non flawed race; aka genetic perfection. ADD, Aspergers, Autism, Dyslexia, etc. all are "mental disability" labels. A lot of the time the geniuses do have these. Yes you have to be intelligent too along with said disability but the disability itself actually is apart of the genius. There are many documents and studies supporting this. Many intelligent "normal" people always dismiss these found data /evidence because that means they are not like their favorite scientist, artist, etc. I guess finding evidence and data that strongly supports a theory is just up for opinion.