The issue of eugenics is popping up from time to time and I am exploring it in my own work as well.
Apparently Richard Dawkins has been blabbering about “positive eugenics” yesterday in a way that is almost funny if it was not so incredibly sad coming from an “educated man”. It makes you wonder if “@RichardDawkins” is actually operated by an 18 year old pretender/fanboy.
“Richard Dawkins” wrote:
My liberal tribe is horrified by positive eugenics. But want there to be a better objection [sic] than just “Hitler did it so it must be bad.”
People “engineer” their children to be musicians or mathematicians by education. Genetically engineering the same is objectionable. But why?
Since I had a post like this in mind for a while, this is as good a moment as any other.
Dear “Richard”, it is not about Adolf Hitler
“Richard” asked: “But why is genetic engineering [of people] objectionable?”
*sighs, grabs fountain pen*
Dear “Richard Dawkins”,
Have you EVER considered power, class and affordability in your pretty white fantasy world where everyone is probably equal as well? And where discrimination probably only happens when you “deserve it”?
Have you ever considered the effect of genetic modifications and improvements when you have a class of “have’s” and “have not’s”?
Only people who are privileged and to whom poverty is like: “another filthy person sleeping on my favorite bench in the park” and where you can state: “when I feel ill I go to my doctor” and where you can think: “yes, but the Western world is a free world where who you are and what you can become is a choooooiiice” can probably honestly ask why genetically engineering (of people) is such a bad idea.
But “Richard”, maybe you do not give a shit about people in your own country and elsewhere who already cannot afford a full meal and already are about to lose their houses. As it was Aristotle who once said: “Fuck the poor. They are not part of our in-group and only good when they are dead or slaves.”
It is not about Adolf Hitler. And honestly, I do not give a shit about Richard Dawkins either.
The big problem
The big problem is society itself: a global spanning pisshole with mostly ignorant and misinformed people (including myself) of whom some earn a very good living by professionally fucking other people over on a day to day basis. People who — mostly within their profession — are constantly busy creating new systems of inequality to further support the already existing systems of inequality we all grew up in.
Eugenics is just another possibility to make things even less equal between people.
And on a more simplified meta-scale this problem of eugenics can be sketched in six bullet points:
- Crowd of other people
- Eyes closed
- BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
- Broken bones, blood, a lot of pain and some wounded and dying people all around.
Wikipedia on Eugenics:
Eugenics is the applied science of the bio-social movement which advocates practices that improve the genetic composition of a population, usually a human population. It is a social philosophy advocating the improvement of human hereditary traits through the promotion of higher reproduction of more desired people and traits, and reduced reproduction of less desired people and traits.
I will approach this mostly from a mechanical point of view. Neither good or bad. Then I will focus on the political issues.
I do not intend to be complete. I kept it short as well. A topic like this offers enough sides to fill a book.
Improvement of the human gene pool
Gene pool and inbreed
The human gene pool has been flattened out a long time ago. It is like: “Done. Let’s ship it. What? Yes. They come in black, yellow or white and they are interchangeable.” You will find more differences in human culture and from the influences from consumed foods than in the variation of human traits from genetic influences. Meaning that the average person from Africa or China will match the average person in Europe or India in everything.
The biggest negative influence on the human gene-pool is by inbreeding. People conceiving children from relatives, brothers, sisters and parents.
Inbreed leads to an increase in specific defects.
Eugenics on humans is old. In breeding programs with slaves — done by a lot by European and American slave owners — eugenic selection took place centuries ago. The strongest, most well fit parents were used to breed even stronger slaves.
The same has been done with crops and animals, from stock to domesticated pets. The incredible variation in specialized dog-breeds is one example in this.
The good parts
In principle there is nothing wrong with the concept of eugenics. To reduce diseases, flaws in the “design” of the human body, to make it more resistant to specific factors and less prone to others is awesome.
To wipe away factors leading to depression, to remove triggers leading to heritory diseases is great. Healthy people. Stronger people. Happier people. Smarter people. Longer life expectence. Less chances of cancer. Less chances of organ failure or things like Alzheimer and inherited mental diseases. To eredicate the possiblilties of children born with a defect. Great!
Who does not want this to happen?
The bad parts
But what about inequality? The moment you start improving the gene-pool by deliberately changing specific aspects, this will lead to improvements specific to those who have been altered or changed. The changes can be relatively small (reducing defects), to relatively large (improving mental capacity and physical strength).
It is probably possible to create and breed people who are smarter, stronger and more fit than your average natural person. The traits we now mostly base on bullshit, broken theory and wild assumptions on alleged superiority and inferiority CAN become real.
It is possible to create new classes of people.
Scenarios and factors
Below we will look at several scenarios and factors including
- Social implications — Who pays for it? Who can access this? What differences will that create?
- Ownership — Who owns the modifications? What are your liberties once they have been applied
- Place in society — On whom and why have improvements and alterations been made? How are these people percieved?
1: Social implications
Cost and sponsorship
To apply eugenics involves cost. These costs can be covered in several ways:
- By the parents — Save money. Have the sperm and eggs investigated. Some sort of alternations done. Some reduction of specific factors implemented and/or reprogrammed. Faulty genres removed or re-programmed. Whatever.
- By the government — Provide sponsorship. Cover the cost. Help parents improve the future generation.
- By third party — Which can be “the industry” or the army.
These costs will be determined by several factors:
- Competition — How many others can provide the same services? How many places can you visit to have the same treatment done?
- Sponsorship — Who else has interests in improving the human gene pool? How much of the costs will be covered by the government and eventually the people paying taxes?
More competition means prices will be closer to real cost. Less competition and price-agreements can lead to multiple increases on the actual costs, making the treatments 5 times to 10 times more than base materials, investments and labor done. Making it a cash-cow.
Who will be able to access this technology? The answer is mostly in the type of society available and the reasons and types of modifications.
- Breeding super-soldiers — One use can be to breed super soldiers. The question of ethics is relative. We already are sending people to war and to be murdered in that war. It depends on need and proper packaging of the message mostly if and when this will happen. The big advantage of humans is — as with any type of animal — that they are relatively easy to produce, program (conditioning, proper belief systems) and raise.
- Everyone — The best and most democratic way would be to allow everyone access. Uplift an entire population.
- People with money — It is possible to keep prices high so only the wealthy can buy the treatments, creating a separate class of people.
- Special purpose people — Like with the super-soldiers, the technology can be used to create people with specific purposes. Like: “we keep most of our population normal, but we need specific people for specific tasks”.
The main factor in this is society itself.
- Maturity — How mature is that society? How mature are the people within that society? How educated and aware? What belief systems are there? What concepts are there about equality and inequality? Is everyone involved or only a small group?
- Structure of power — What structure of power are there now? Who are the elite? Who are excluded now? Is there poverty? Are there extremely wealthy people? Does it serve people within that power-structure to keep (most) people out?
Who owns the modifications?
Let’s start simple. Who can be the owner of your modifications?
- You — You bought it, you implemented it. You have no debts to the provider.
- Your sponsor — Your sponsor paid for it. You owe your sponsor. Your debt is either nullified or for a specific period of time
- Your provider — Even though you paid for it, the modifications itself will never be yours. When you procreate, the genetic changes might be distributed and — even though you provided the organic materials, the ownership of the modifications is still to the provider of the changes.
Debt or debt-free?
Depending on the social and legal structure of your modifications, you will hold a debt or not.
- No debt — The modifcations are provided without strings. The genetic changes are not patented and not copyrighted. Before they become part of your genetic material, any ownership is already waivered.
- With debt — Your modifications cost more than you could afford. Sponsors provided the money but “owe” you for the debt they covered. This debt can be presented in several ways:
- “Tax” — You pay a periodical amount of money to pay for debt and interest.
- Ownership — You are owned by your sponsors. As all modifications are paid for by someone else and your modifications serve a specific goal, you yourself have become a property.
- Not your intellectual property — The changes in your body are not yours. The genetic code used is patented and owned. By this, part of you is in debt to the owner of the patent. This can lead to tax or ownership as well
Permanent or per human?
Will the changes be permanent? Meaning that improved traits will be passed on to the next generations? Or will they be personal? Meaning that — in order to have these traits as well — your genetic material will have to be doctored again for your offspring to have those same or similar traits as well?
3: Place in society
Where do you fit as a modified person?
- Specialized use — Your modificatiosn serve a specific goal. You are human, but for specific use. For instance “soldier”. Outside this use and context, you are considered an outcast. There is no real place in society for your type of people.
- Elite / upper class — Your modifications are only available for a few. They are generic and can be applied to everyone and anyone, but are made available for only a few by law, special agreements, class or pricing-strategy. The modifications really help you to distinguish from the rest of the world. You ARE a special snowflake. The rest of the world IS inferior to you and your genes.
- The excluded — You have not and will not recieve modifications. Either price or politics has excluded you (and or your kin) from the treatments.
- Like anyone else — Everyone has received the same modifications. There is no distinction.
- Not good enough — As you did not receive treatments you are either too ugly, dumb, generic, short, tall, thick, thin.
- Part of the group— As you are all equal, with equal modifications, it does not matter. You are equal within that group.
Who decides what is wanted?
- The privileged few — A few people will decide what is wanted from the people at large. Intelligence, specific qualities, specific attitudes, specific physical traits. Beauty, what is considered to be ugly. What is considered to be important within those parameters.
- The sexualized gaze — What are considered to be sexe-specific traits? What about homosexuality, bi0-sexuality, poly-sexuality, a-sexuality? What about specific cultural biases on “male” and “female” traits?
- Personal traits — What kind of population do you desire? Docile? Putting the group before the individual? Self-thinking individuals? What about — again — cultural bias regarding sexuality? And normality? What do we consider to be illness? Deviations of the mind and of mentality we consider “broken” or “defect”?
- Sort of improvements — What do we improve? Where do we stop? Will we create humans with better resistance against illness or will we go further and improve certain physical traits as well? Better brains? better bodies? Correct flaws from the trial/error process called evolution in the human body?
- The others — What about the others? Other countries? Other groups? What will they do? Are those changes wanted?
To me this whole discussion is interesting from an academic point of view. I think we will not be able to stop this development and I think a lot of terrible things can happen as a result, where the worst scenarios imaginable will be implemented.
- Slavery — The creation of specific types of people used in specific context and engineered in such ways that they will never be free.
- Genetic Elite — People with clear improvements the rest of the population will not receive. A group of people bordering the “supernatural” in many aspects by physical and mental capabilities: enhanced extra by technology.
- Equality — A population in which improvements are implemented for all.
- Debtors and free people — Depending on the social/economic structure of a place, both free people and people in debt will be possible.
Society will define mostly when, how and why a population will be improved. Some reasons:
- Economical — Improving the entire population might improve the economy
- Protection of privileges — By keeping people out you will get and keep specific privileges. In this case: superiority over others in the population. You are stronger, faster, smarter and better than most. Your position becomes unchallengable by the population at large as they are too far behind.
- Need/force — Some need asks for specific people. While you would not do this on the population, the need forces you to make that step and produce specific type of people.
It is possible and likely all scenarios will become reality. The main outcome will be more variation and an incredible increase in inequality on more levels than we experience now.
The problem with eugenics is not eugenics, but the people who will apply it an the people they apply it for, be it individuals, governments or specific groups of privileged people.