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February 18, 2003

Sanitizing the Gene Pool

Eugenics. Such a naughty word. But read this article on Jews targeting 10 diseases that afflict them proactively, and you see its shadows at the edges (thanks to Steve Sailer for the link). But, this is all voluntary and decentralized. Good stuff from what I can see.

But the line between Tay Sachs and other diseases that cripple, but don't kill, is a fine one. Groups that are part of the disability rights movement like Not Dead Yet should keep a close eye on these trends toward purging the gene pool of predispositions towards crippling ailments that lead to the "alternative quality of life" championed as having equal value by them. Many of the more crippled memebers of Not Dead Yet obviously can't have children, and are in no position to adopt-they in fact depend on deleterious genes to sustain their subculture. More benign ailments like deafness might be able to cling on in the Promethean Age because they can procreate and economically self-support themselves [1].

Of course, those worried that excising what to our ignorant human minds seem to be deleterious genes might rid the human race of crucial parts of our inheritance, god or nature given, need not worry. Traditionalist religious groups such as Catholics will almost certainly remain a reservoir of genetic diversity in a world of cheap & easy genetic testing and screening....

[1] Ah, could we dream of new races born afresh from the mind of man? WASP women that can cook spicey food, JAPs that break out of their Quantum-enforced self-absorption, Chinese that are picky eaters (will eat snake tongue, but not the fried skin) and blacks that are proud nerds who speak softly in the hallways? I have a dream, of boys & girls of all colors who can manipulate the content of their character like they do their parents' emotions....

Posted by razib at 01:24 AM

Will this eugenics program have the unintentional effect of selecting against high IQ?

Posted by: Jason Malloy at February 18, 2003 01:39 AM

you mean the stuff in dr. cochran's piece on overclocking that indicated that heterozygotes that carry the deleterious genes might benefit intellectually? good point-but i hope that the near future possibility of gene therapy and the like to boost IQ will counteract the purging impact of getting rid of the deleterious genes. more food, less guilt?

Posted by: razib at February 18, 2003 02:12 AM

Since inbreeding results in a reduction of the fraction of heterozygotes, the outbreeding that the program promotes won't change gene frequencies(at least not so much) as it will increase the fraction of smarter heterozygotes

Posted by: Rob at February 18, 2003 08:47 AM

Voluntary eugenics , what I like to call soft Eugenics, will merely exagerate the sexual selection that already goes on.

Using economic models as a guide, one can easily predict what easy and cheap genetic screening will do to a heterogenous gene pool (ie: clustering around the ideals espoused by each of the major groups in society).

Think of it this way, with globalization of trade, have we seen an increase or decrease of cultural diversity?

Posted by: Rahul Virmani at February 18, 2003 08:54 AM

Another thing. Tay-Sachs kills by, what did the article say, about age 5? No one is living with Tay-Sachs to enjoy the diversity of disability. No one has tay-sachs kids with enough personality to get worked up about, unlike say Trisomy-21, whose victims are like well behaved dogs, and often nicer than other people

Posted by: Rob at February 18, 2003 09:08 AM

well-i was thinking of diseases where heterozygotes have mild problems, so that couples might even selectively abort babies that test as heterozygotes. but you might right in enough (most) cases where it is a good enough aproximation....

(i think the ? that is curious is, what if your kid has a 10% chance of getting a crappy disease, but a 100% chance of being a bit smarter if they are a heterozygote, would you take the risk???)

Posted by: razib at February 18, 2003 11:07 AM

I'd take the risk (then again - i'm a risk taker)-the potential benefits outweigh the potential costs. I think this is an example where Steve Sailer (if i recall correctly)is bang on when he says that high school students should take stats course(s) at the expense of some other math courses that aren't as readily applicable to the real world.

Posted by: the alpha male at February 18, 2003 12:08 PM

Razib, too cute on the Eugenics angle, no?

Where the morality, baby? This post, and your other posts, are funny, and blogs are usually heavy and humorless, so that's good. But the use of humour allows you to avoid any statements of what's right and what's wrong (again, in your view). As I've said before, I think that's the interesting bit.

So, what you think of "purging the gene pool" of crippling but not killing ailments? And what methods are acceptable, in your view? Maybe "purging" ought to be obligatory, since you (the parent) have no right to take risks with your child?

(I don't visit your blog as much as I ought to, so this recurrent complaint may be off base. you tell me.)

Posted by: Ikram Saeed at February 18, 2003 05:36 PM

oh, muhammed christ superstar ikram, you want to throw out a treatise out there. humor & flippancy are cheap time wise, so resort to them, i'll be honest about it.

i'll address stuff in more detail at some point...some point...but i need to do it when i do have time....

Posted by: razib at February 18, 2003 05:39 PM

Many of you are probably aware that the field of breast cancer research has been one of the hottest areas of cancer research for some time. You may not be aware that BRCA1 mutations are found in 1 of 40 Ashkenazi Jews. I just attended a lecture where this was brought up today, and reading your story made me think. I've always wondered why breast cancer is the model system of choice for hormone sensitive cancers, and I always figured it was because it's the most common, but it's not. Prostate cancer is actually more common. I don't know the history of how things got started with breast cancer research(one of my pointless hobbies is to wonder how certain practices came into being), but I do seem to remember some good publicity and a good deal of money coming available to support research on breast cancer, starting a while back. Does anyone care to speculate about this being just another facet of the practice mentioned in the article?

Posted by: Grady at February 18, 2003 10:23 PM

Fair enough. I did quick check through your archives to see if there was anything there. Some brief stuff.

I'll wait for the Opas.

Posted by: Ikram Saeed at February 19, 2003 07:15 AM

well ikram, assume that you don't ban the science/engineering, they don't imply one set of moral/ethical choices-obviously. my perspective is shaped by western liberal democratic values. the chinese or unreconstructed communists might look at things differently....

Posted by: razib at February 19, 2003 12:47 PM

my perspective is shaped by western liberal democratic values.

I would never have thought otherwise. But within that tradition, there is a tremendous ideological span. Even among utilitarians, you can go from Rawls (yes, he is one) to Hayek. I know you mostly do science reporting on this blog, but you also have some advocacy (affirmative action, etc) Some sense of right and wrong must inform that advocacy.

And I do have an ulterior motive for asking this. I don't get how race realism is compatible with liberalism. I feel like liberalism is based on not just a moral equality of man, but also a broader view of equality.

(Here's a concrete example: if we are blank slates / generally-equal-across-social-groups, I can see why affirmative action and quotas are unnecessary. But if we are not equal (and this is what your race realism implies), it seems to me that quotas are necessary.)

This is not to say that race realism need not be investigated. Rather, we may have to junk liberalism.

My views are uninformed and vague on this. Which is why I was aking you for your thoughts. But I can wait.

Posted by: Ikram Saeed at February 20, 2003 05:20 PM

i'll start working on something that is more coherent after my liberalism & islam piece.

Posted by: razib at February 20, 2003 07:24 PM

No Hurry. The liberalism and islam piece might work better as a stand alone. If you're taking requests, the title I'd like to see is "Liberalism and race realism: Compatible?". Perhaps at the tail end of your series.

I enjoyed your liberalism and Germnay peice, but was surprised not te see any mention of 1848, or the Kulturkampf. Pop US media focus so much on Hitler that many don't realize the scope of liberalism in northern Germany (other than Prussia). Odd, since the failed revolutions of 1848 brought so many liberal emigres to the USA (St. Louis, Texas Hill country, Midwest).

Posted by: ikram saeed at February 20, 2003 08:00 PM