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Thread: Eugenics

  1. #61
    Donor Aea's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smuggo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Lallante View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Smuggo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Aramendel View Post
    Seriously, do not even try to play the "Evolution" card here. It so massively is in favor of eugenics it isn't even funny.
    Really?

    Let's look at an example of eugenics in action that many of us will be familiar with, Dogs. For thousands of years we have selectively bred traits that seem desirable to us into dogs while ignoring others. This has resulted in many breeds having persistent health issues including arthritis, breathing problems and neurological conditions.

    So I'm not convinced evolution is in any way in favour of eugenics.
    You realise those health issues are the result of poor genetic material resulting from inbreeding - something that would not only not apply to genetic eugenics BUT BE IMPOSSIBLE under it?
    I think maybe you don't understand why inbreeding causes these problems? It's because problematic genes tend to persist where they might not otherwise and over longer periods of time develop to the point where they become extremely common as in many pedigree dogs. Inbreeding itself doesn't result in "poor genetic material" any more than procreation between unrelated individuals, it just tends to accentuate a variety of traits that are already there to extremes over long periods.
    The whole point of eugenics, especially screening is to prevent detrimental mutations from being expressed. Mutations which are commonly fixed within in-breeding populations. Eugenics would seek to eliminate the negative outcomes of inbreeding.

    As for inbreeding not resulting in the expression of poor genetic material? One, it's patently incorrect since most of the harmful hereditary diseases that effect humans are recessive or are expressed late in life. Inbreeding causes an increase in recessive allele frequency and subsequently an increase in individuals expressing the disease or being disease carriers. But perhaps this argument is that there is no such thing as "poor genetic material," which I can argue is also entirely incorrect. As I had mentioned before, the majority of mutations in most organisms including humans are entirely detrimental to survival and reproductive fitness. There are few exceptions of seemingly bad traits being conditionally useful (e.g. sickle cell anemia and malaria), but most are anything but.

  2. #62

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    In the UK, there are now more babies born with Down's syndrome than there were before screening was available.

    There was a drop, when screening became widely available, but then numbers rose again.

    It would appear, that people believe the UK is now a better place to bring up a child with the syndrome.

    In addition to this, would be the trend amongst some social groups for women having fewer children and having them later. A modern day 40ish woman with only 1 previous child, might be more willing to continue, than a 40ish woman with 3 previous children in the 80's, which were the kinds of mothers that the screening program was of more benefit to, way back in 1989 when things became widely available.

    Certainly, things have changed.
      Spoiler:
    One of my mother's friends had a child with the condition, this would have been around 1960, long before screening was available, and had 2 previous children. When she was shown the child by the doctor at the birth, she felt repulsed. And felt guilty about this for the rest of her life. She was also repulsed later, by such things as assisting the child with dressing, and bathing.
    It had a significant effect on the other two children too, because of the effect on such things as family trips, there was always the issue of "oh, we could go to...but what about...(child's name)".
    The child lived longer (30ish yrs) than doctors expected (5), and my mother's friend felt very upset yet relieved, because she was very upset at the idea that she might die before the child did.

    But, things are different now.



    So, people's reactions to genetic screening being available may not have the effect of reducing the incidence of a condition.

  3. #63
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    Arguing with Smuggo is pointless

    He's arguing with what he knows, which means he will outlast this thread by 3000 years.

  4. #64
    Movember '12 Best Facial Hair Movember 2012Donor Lallante's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smuggo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Lallante View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Smuggo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Aramendel View Post
    Seriously, do not even try to play the "Evolution" card here. It so massively is in favor of eugenics it isn't even funny.
    Really?

    Let's look at an example of eugenics in action that many of us will be familiar with, Dogs. For thousands of years we have selectively bred traits that seem desirable to us into dogs while ignoring others. This has resulted in many breeds having persistent health issues including arthritis, breathing problems and neurological conditions.

    So I'm not convinced evolution is in any way in favour of eugenics.
    You realise those health issues are the result of poor genetic material resulting from inbreeding - something that would not only not apply to genetic eugenics BUT BE IMPOSSIBLE under it?
    I think maybe you don't understand why inbreeding causes these problems? It's because problematic genes tend to persist where they might not otherwise and over longer periods of time develop to the point where they become extremely common as in many pedigree dogs. Inbreeding itself doesn't result in "poor genetic material" any more than procreation between unrelated individuals, it just tends to accentuate a variety of traits that are already there to extremes over long periods.
    Genetic engineering ("designer babies" for example) isn't about using "dad" dna and nearly identical "mom" dna to make a baby that has accentuated traits of mom and dad. Its about taking a full set of DNA and then tweaking individual characteristics - there is no increased risk of "inbreeding" genetic disorders.

    I think you fundamentally dont understand the difference, genetically, between selective breeding (which clearly results in a degree of inbreeding) and genetic engineering (which results in the opposite of inbreeding).

  5. #65

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramendel View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by definatelynotKKassandra View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Aramendel View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by NoirAvlaa View Post
    We will also always need someone to sweep the streets and take our bins etc.
    Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised at all if that would be done by robots in 50 years.
    Would you be surprised if it wasn't?
    Of course not. We cannot really reliably predict the future in such time periods. Too much stuff can happen.

    They are however a very realistic possibility. Just look at the room cleaning robots we have today.

    The point being is - "shit jobs" get eventually phased out with technological progress. How many people (in the developed world) actually *manually* plant seeds for a living? Or manually cure hides with piss? There will always be some sort of "lowest tier" for jobs, but the worst (and that usually means: most simple) jobs keep vanishing because machines can do them better.
    In the developed world, there's quite a few jobs in horticulture for that, in glasshouses and so on. Not all that many, but enough for horticulture to be a career.
    Curing hides, I only know one guy that ever did that sort of thing, and he was a gamekeeper on a sporting estate.

    Isaac Asimov's books had robots being cheap, capable and widespread by the 1990's.

    In any case, underemployment is already a problem, not just because of the economic situation, but even in good times.

    Lots of graduates are doing jobs that do not require their skills, displacing some non-graduates.


    Eugenics may exacerbate underemployment, which would have an effect on society.

  6. #66
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    Arriving late to this thread. Some interesting comments in here.

    As someone who works in genetics, I would say that a much more pressing and real issue is that of genome privacy. This is something that will affect our kids and certainly our kids kids.

    Human genome was first sequences about a decade ago. The total cost at the time was millions USD. Today you can sequence a human genome for a few grand and within a few years it will cost a few hundred dollars, perhaps even less than 100USD.

    Getting our genomes sequenced will become a routine matter, apart of our medical records.

    While our knowledge of our own genomes is ridiculously small, several alleles have already been identified that can confer an increased risk of this or that. People will allele A have a 15% higher incidence of developing breast cancer. People will allele B are more likely to develop addictive habits.

    What I am wondering about is how this data will be controlled in the future. Who will have access to it?

    If you are 40 years old and interviewing for a job, do you want your potential employer seeing you genome data and noticing that you are the proud owner of an allele that raises your risk of early onset alzheimers?

    Will be interesting to say the least.

  7. #67
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    I haven't been following this thread that closely, but my biggest problem with eugenics is that barring a benevolent, all-powerful AI (which would solve 90% of society's problems anyway), it would be far too easy to exploit such a program to suppress a population. In the wrong hands, a well-intentioned eugenics program is a slow genocide.

    The only way I could see the concept of "designer babies" not resulting in greater economic disparity is that if it was a considered a right and its access was universal regardless of income.

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  8. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tarminic View Post
    I haven't been following this thread that closely, but my biggest problem with eugenics is that barring a benevolent, all-powerful AI (which would solve 90% of society's problems anyway), it would be far too easy to exploit such a program to suppress a population. In the wrong hands, a well-intentioned eugenics program is a slow genocide.

    The only way I could see the concept of "designer babies" not resulting in greater economic disparity is that if it was a considered a right and its access was universal regardless of income.
    1st point : This is an arguement against a centrally controlled "targetted" program, but is it an argument against individual couples being given the choice if they want it?

    With regards 2nd point : its no different from the arguements for and against private schools - if people can afford to improve their childrens' eduction (or in this case, genetic capability), why should we stop them just to level the playing field at the lowest common denominator? Shouldnt we instead aim to make the process cheap enough (or a public good) so that everyone gets access?

  9. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lallante View Post
    With regards 2nd point : its no different from the arguements for and against private schools - if people can afford to improve their childrens' eduction (or in this case, genetic capability), why should we stop them just to level the playing field at the lowest common denominator? Shouldnt we instead aim to make the process cheap enough (or a public good) so that everyone gets access?
    That's an excellent point, and I agree with it. My concern is that there will be a very large time gab between when the technology becomes commercially available and when it could be politically and financially viable to offer as a public good. And in the mean time, it'll create an underclass of genetic haves and have-nots.

    Granted, I don't think it'll ever turn out as terribly as is portrayed in Gattaca, but I still consider it a valid concern.
    Last edited by Tarminic; July 27 2012 at 05:33:32 PM.

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  10. #70

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    [QUOTE=Tarminic;521569]
    Quote Originally Posted by Lallante View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Tarminic View Post
    With regards 2nd point : its no different from the arguements for and against private schools - if people can afford to improve their childrens' eduction (or in this case, genetic capability), why should we stop them just to level the playing field at the lowest common denominator? Shouldnt we instead aim to make the process cheap enough (or a public good) so that everyone gets access?
    That's an excellent point, and I agree with it. My concern is that there will be a very large time gab between when the technology becomes commercially available and when it could be politically and financially viable to offer as a public good. And in the mean time, it'll create an underclass of genetic haves and have-nots.

    Granted, I don't think it'll ever turn out as terribly as is portrayed in Gattaca, but I still consider it a valid concern.
    The production of an underclass of that type would, by its nature, take an entire generational time period at least, in order for it to even start to form.

    Given the rate at which new technologies reduce in cost, I think your concern is unfounded.

  11. #71
    Tarminic's Avatar
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    Hm, good point.

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  12. #72
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    I have two basic concerns with the issue of putting genetic selection in the hands of the parents:

    First, the problem is that most genes code for more than one thing, and currently we only have limited knowledge of a limited influence of a limited number of alleles. To continue on cheeba's line of reasoning: People with allelle A might have, on the average, 15% higher IQ than people with allele B. However, people with allele B who also have allele C could have greater self-control, or people who have B and D could be less likely to suffer from depression.

    It is difficult to find out all interactions between different genes, which is why we use statistics today: "Allele X means 25% more chance of...", which could be a result of an interaction with two out of eight possible other alleles, OR interaction with another gene AND environmental influence ... etc. etc.

    Until we understand all interactions within our genomes, parents would only follow trends - everyone would go for the smarter gene, for instance - and thus lose some genetic variation we did not understand was important for some other reason.

    And the 'trending' issue is another problem, even if and when we understand all interactions, because people will mostly pick the 'popular' options, wishing the best for their children in the current environment. Human phenotype would completely become dependent on the meme pool of the time.

  13. #73
    Donor Aramendel's Avatar
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    The "genetic variation" card again...

    You act like genes would get snipped out and thrown in the trash and be lost forever, but that is an highly unrealistic viewpoint. When the editing of our offsprings DNA becomes commonplace there *will* be gene databases of "unmodified" human DNA. We do that already for endangered species. There will be no permanent reduction of the human genetic variation. If we can put it out we can put it in.
    If a certain mix causes "problems" (higher amount of suicides, mental illnesses, etc) do you think it will be simply ignored?

    I highly doubt "trending" will be a real problem - you are kinda contradicting yourself there. As you said, we only have a very limited understanding of the effect of alleles and use probabilities. But despite that we will be able to identify a "master" allele for "intelligence" which is so clearly superior to everything else that everyone uses it?
    No, I do not think so. "Intelligence" will be one of the more important factors, but it is a gem with many many sides. Would you want your children to do math easier? Or maybe be able to memorize things faster? Or be good in music? Or be good in learning languages? Or be more emphatic towards other people? These are all aspects which can be paraphrased as "intelligence". It is highly doubtful that we get a mix (at least in the early days) which is good in all aspects. And which are important to someone varies wildly. And nevermind that there are other things, too. Would you want your child 15% "smarter"? Or maybe 10% "smarter" and 10% "healthier"? And then how exactly "healthier"? Cancer resistance? Longevity? Better immune system? Etc, etc, etc.

    No, I really really do not think we are in danger of everyone getting the same genetic mixture.

  14. #74
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    I am not implying we will lose something 'forever' or 'in full'. I am just talking statistics here. A change in frequency of a single allele from, say, 8% in general population to 22% in general population might bring about changes in society and healthcare that would have been impossible to forecast. Solid empirical evidence for results of gene-meddling would, by definition, have to wait a generation or two, by which time serious damage might be done.

    And I insist that trending *would* be a problem. No, we won't *all* choose the same, but take a look around and say how many people make rational, informed and logical choices, and how many just copy what the majority is doing. Again, an allele that has spread to 25% of population might have a serious impact on the society as a whole.

    My primary points are:

    1. We are very far from knowing exactly what each combination of alleles does, especially when we take into consideration that genes can express differently under different environmental influences, but we are not very far from being capable of choosing genetic mix for our babies. Any genetic choice before that time would appear to be chance-based as we don't know all possible interactions - you would order a '2 in 10 chance of greater athletic ability', a '5 in 7' chance of longer life span, a '2x reduced chance of cardiovascular illness' etc.

    2. Even when information is readily available, people, in general, do not make rational and informed choices. They are not capable of doing that when buying a house, a car, a computer or a gadget, and they certainly won't be when 'buying' their designer offspring.


    Some potentially useful examples for this debate (really cannot search for sources now, sorry):

    Gene that provides increased resistance to malaria when inherited from only one parent produces sickle-cell anemia when inherited from both parents. This one is a no-brainer. If we can choose genes at will, in time everyone can have exactly one resistant gene and everyone would be more resistant to malaria and no one would have sickle-cell anemia. However, if no parent has that particular variation, they obviously cannot have a child with that trait (resistance to malaria). Also of note: What if the malaria-resistance gene also carries some other drawback we are not currently aware of, something that we simply weren't testing for? A doubling of the chance to develop colon cancer, or 2cm smaller penis? Would anyone ever choose the malaria-resistance gene if it had *any* other drawback, or would people just avoid tropical locations?

    Indirect evidence from a German study suggests that there are two main variants of a gene responsible for intelligence. Let's call them 'smart' and 'common'. A 'common-common' individual would be average in intelligence, a 'smart-common' individual would be above average, and a 'smart-smart' individual would be high above average. However, many mental health studies indicate that very high intelligence increases risk for a great number of mental diseases. Does the 'common' gene provide greater psychological stability in general or only in specific cases which might be avoided during upbringing?

    Still-unconfirmed evidence from an Italian study suggests that there is a 'gay' gene, which makes women more attractive and extroverted, but can make male offspring gay, with a greater chance of making a gay after the first child. The first interesting question this raises is - would eugenics eliminate gay population? Would all parents simply choose to have a daughter with a single 'gay' gene (so she can have greater chances of having non-gay sons), and sons without the 'gay' gene (so there would be no chance they would be gay)? Are there any other benefits of the 'gay' gene? What if it has a 25% chance of making you gay, but also a 33% chance of making you more creative, more empathic, or just more extroverted? Would anyone ever choose the gay gene for their male child?

    I don't know. But I love not knowing, I find it interesting.

  15. #75
    Donor cheeba's Avatar
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    worth remembering something else - there are two types of genetic screening at play here.

    Passive - we already do it. When performing IVF you can select embryos for specific genetic traits. Be this to avoid a disease, create a saviour baby or even select a sex. This has medical applications but in places like china, the wealthy can already 'pay for a boy' through embryo selection.

    Active - instead of just screen and selecting, we add genes that werent there before - ie true GM humans. This - while interesting in concept, IMO will not be taking off for a long long time, if ever. Why? Two reasons, firstly its becoming increasingly clear that having gene A gives you phenotype A. Secondly, messing with the genome results is unpredictable and dangerous. More often then not you end up with aborted or grossly deformed foetuses. Sometimes you'd be amazed.... tinkering with a 'insignificant' gene for eye colour ends up massively perverting development and you can baby mice that look like something out of a horror movie. Genes are not beads on a string, easily swapped out or changed. They act with other genes, promoters, repressers, chromosomally-associated proteins etc etc. Cutting out and pasting in genes would be as risky as taking as looking at a 747 and saying 'lets take out this bit here and replace with this other bit'. It might work, but odds are not.

  16. #76
    Donor Aramendel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Logan Feynman View Post
    ...might bring about changes in society and healthcare that would have been impossible to forecast. Solid empirical evidence for results of gene-meddling would, by definition, have to wait a generation or two, by which time serious damage might be done.
    I have several problems with this.

    Firstly, Define "Serious damage". You are here making vague predictions and as only reason why something (undefined) bad might happen "we do not know everything".

    Secondly, we never have a complete understanding of the consequences of new technologies before we implement them. You could have used "might bring about changes ... that would have been impossible to forecast" as arguments against the initial use of combustion motors or the switch from a hunter-gather society to farmers.

    Thirdly, the only real way to see what the effect of something complex is, is to actually do it. We would only get solid empirical evidence in a generation, yes, but without doing it at all we would get it never. We would never get the more complete understanding which you think is necessary to implement it.
    Saying "But we need a complete understanding what each gene does before we do it" is for me just another way of saying "We should never do it at all".

    Even when information is readily available, people, in general, do not make rational and informed choices. They are not capable of doing that when buying a house, a car, a computer or a gadget, and they certainly won't be when 'buying' their designer offspring.
    My point is not that they make rational choices, but that they make different ones. Does everyone buy the same type of house, car, computer or gadget?



    Generally - of course does genetic manipulation (or just a little bit of gene shuffling) carry risks. But seriously, that applies to a lot (most) of other technologies as well. If we would go "We only start using X when we completely understand it to avoid mistakes" we would have no real progress basically everywhere. In most cases to see what the effects of X are you have to actually do X.

    Genetic manipulation of humans will be done eventually. I do not think it will happen in our generation, but I see it likely to happen in the next. It really depends how fast the field will develop. It might be as fast as nuclear power (aka no real advances) or it might be as fast as computer science (from zero to hero in less than a generation). I am not arguing that we should be doing it *now*, our understanding is still too poor for that, but we will most definitely do it before we have a complete understanding.
    Last edited by Aramendel; July 29 2012 at 09:21:09 AM.

  17. #77
    Logan Feynman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramendel View Post
    My point is not that they make rational choices, but that they make different ones. Does everyone buy the same type of house, car, computer or gadget?


    Generally - of course does genetic manipulation (or just a little bit of gene shuffling) carry risks. But seriously, that applies to a lot (most) of other technologies as well. If we would go "We only start using X when we completely understand it to avoid mistakes" we would have no real progress basically everywhere. In most cases to see what the effects of X are you have to actually do X.

    Genetic manipulation of humans will be done eventually. I do not think it will happen in our generation, but I see it likely to happen in the next. It really depends how fast the field will develop. It might be as fast as nuclear power (aka no real advances) or it might be as fast as computer science (from zero to hero in less than a generation). I am not arguing that we should be doing it *now*, our understanding is still too poor for that, but we will most definitely do it before we have a complete understanding.
    I agree with you that, if we waited until we completely understood all side-effects of any technology, we would not have progress. Progress requires experimentation and reasonable risks are ok.

    However, I have a problem with experimenting with human beings in this way. When adopting new and untested technology (GM crops, cell phones, CT scans etc.) people are making a choice whether or not to accept the risks. With gene manipulation, we are passing the risks to children which had no choice whether to accept them or not. I don't think an entire generation of humans is an acceptable test subject.

    That said, we probably *will* be making designer babies. It will probably become legal in one or more countries (China?), and wealthy potential parents will fly over to that country to have their baby tailor-made. That country and a generation of rich hipsters will be the ones to test the consequences. Fine by me.

  18. #78
    Donor Aramendel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Logan Feynman View Post
    When adopting new and untested technology (GM crops, cell phones, CT scans etc.) people are making a choice whether or not to accept the risks. With gene manipulation, we are passing the risks to children which had no choice whether to accept them or not. I don't think an entire generation of humans is an acceptable test subject.
    That's not entirely true. All your examples are used on or effect children as well. A 5 year old won't get asked its opinion before you fed him something made by GM crops. If you get a 10 year old a cell phone as birthday present you are using it as "test subject" for the effect of EM radiation. You do not ask a 12 year old if it wants to do that CT scan, you ask its parents.

    Genetic manipulation isn't really different here. Parents will not "sell" their child as test subject, they will use GM in an attempt to help their child because they think the possible benefits outweigh the risks. And if they think the risks are too great they won't use it. Just as some parents refuse to buy their children cell phones because they are afraid the radiation from them might have bad effects on their development.
    It is perfectly normal for parents to weight possible advantages and disadvantages of something their child can be effected by and act accordingly what they think is best for the child.
    Last edited by Aramendel; July 29 2012 at 01:26:50 PM.

  19. #79
    מלך יהודים Zeekar's Avatar
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    Comparing designer babies to the effects of non ionizing radiation, gm crops or to a CT scan is simply dumb. We know how those things operate, we know the effects, dangers and risks they represent while we simply do not understand how gene manipulation in humans would pan out and the first generation of designer babies would be test subjects without a doubt.


    

  20. #80
    Logan Feynman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramendel View Post
    It is perfectly normal for parents to weight possible advantages and disadvantages of something their child can be effected by and act accordingly what they think is best for the child.
    And still I don't think people make rational choices when weighing advantages and disadvantages. Some will scream 'GM children! The horror!' and others will scream 'I want the best start in life for my child!' and neither will ever look at the other side's arguments. Meanwhile, a great majority will do whatever everyone else in the middle is doing, because 'all my friends are doing/not doing it'. None of them will think rationally about it. Most of them will believe they are making the rational choice, however.

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