Monday, July 30, 2007

Eugenics, what's in a term?   posted by Razib @ 7/30/2007 07:30:00 PM

Ross Douthat is concerned with the "New Eugenics." He linked to my summation of some of the data which Armand Leroi has collected on the rise of selective abortions & genetic screening. Ezra Klein isn't buying Ross' characterization of course; actually, like Ezra I think there are serious differences between the old eugenics which emerged from the biometrical school (which became quantitative genetics) and the new eugenics which is predicated on the ubiquity of genomic & fertility technology. Nevertheless, in the proximate sense, for example in our life spans, it might not make much of a difference whether the selective abortions are of heritable traits or those with would result in sharply reduced fitness anyhow (like Down Syndrome). It seems to me that to some extent the Left, which does not fear reproductive technology, is allergic to the term eugenics because of its historical resonances. I'm not going to argue over a word. But, I will offer that Richard Dawkins, no Ross Douthat, is willing to bring up the term in reference to the trends in genetics. I think that sentiments and dynamics reminiscent of the old eugenics is pretty much inevitable now that "we have the technology," it really doesn't matter what you call it.

P.S. And once we get government backed health care in the USA I'm pretty sure that the element of coercion will come into play (perhaps we'll call it "incentives for terminative preventative care" or something).