Why Eugenics Is Wrong and Why It Still Matters Today
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William Reville: Eugenics is wrong about Down syndrome
This separates us from the animals! During a recent interview with Io9, Gary Karpen, a UC Berkeley biologist, has said flat-out that, given all possible genetic information about a child, it is in no way possible to predict intelligence. There are too many traits bound together, too many ways that genes might be expressed.
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The leader of the Human Genome Project, Francis Collins, said the same in his own book , claiming that no amount of genetic tinkering could give people designer babies with intelligence to order. Well, what about other things?
The problem is there is no one smart gene, or fertile gene, or strong gene. Mix the DNA of two geniuses and, even assuming somewhere in the soup of their DNA intelligence is passed down, it drags a net of other traits along with it. Those who manage animal breeding notice the same.
When one can breed in a trait like swiftness in horses, or health and fertility in chickens, it generally comes with any number of other characteristics. One study in poultry husbandry showed that even moderate increases in hen fertility and health came with increase in aggression, hysterical behavior, weird imprinting responses in the young, and odd sexual behavior. Good luck with that mixed in to the human population. But surely eugenics, at its most benign, can be used to eliminate the more terrible genetic conditions in a population?
No one could actually approve of a human child suffering? Since the beginning of the concept, this was the most socially acceptable side of eugenics.
Even the elimination of genes that cause genetic disorders can pose a problem. For a some time, it seemed that genetically heritable diseases such as Tay Sachs and sickle cell anemia were biological mysteries. Why would any population pass down a disease that would kill the next generation? Recently, though, it was found that the sickle cell anemia allele helped protect against malaria, arguably the most widespread killer of humans, and that the allele that caused Tay Sachs protected against tuberculosis, another famous killer.
Again, a complete elimination of these genes from the human population may very well lose humankind the capacity to naturally guard against two widespread non-heritable diseases. Instead, the widest array of genes should be supported. Differing genetics should be seen as opportunities to understand the hidden strengths of different human beings.
And we should understand the many ways that stubborn genetic diversity benefits our society.
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