Hixie's Natural Log

2002-06-10 14:29 UTC Further eugenics debate

Nadia has joined the eugenics debate. She makes some good points,

Hixie claims this is "scientifically proven fact." Besides the (scientifically proven) fact that nothing in science is ever a "fact" (sorry, couldn't resist) [...]

My apologies; indeed, I should have said it was scientific theory with evidence to support it. This is, as you point out, as close as science ever gets to claiming anything as "fact".

I don't think that the arguments presented are nearly convincing enough that intelligence as measured by IQ is the absolute driving force in our civilization.

Indeed, as I pointed out in my last post, coming up with the exact criteria is the hardest part of the problem. There are various criteria that would have to be taken into account. This would not be a trivial matter to resolve, it would have to be under continuous scrutiny and much research would have to be done on the subject.

Hixie states, As far as an innate intelligence test goes, universities seem quite happy to rely on school grades to determine someone's innate intelligence. For a system like a university, of course the university is going to admit people that they believe can succeed in, and benefit from, the environment that they offer. Past grades are the closest existing measure for that purpose. But the university makes no guarantee that you do not deserve to exist if they don't admit you... you'll just have to take a rather more circuitous path to success.

A lot of the arguments against eugenics seem to stem from the assumption that people have an innate right to exist. Yet, before they are born, they have no such right (if you follow the argument that they do, you end up with some pretty ridiculous conclusions). So deciding who has a right to procreate doesn't actually have to be completely fair. Take humanitarian eugenics as a form of population growth control where instead of the licenses for births being given randomly, some thought is put into the process.

Sure, us "intelligent" people would like it if everyone else in the world were happy and enlightened as well.

That sure would be nice.

Lastly, well, if we do devolve, so what?

If we devolve, our descendents will have living conditions worse than we do. That, for me, is unacceptable.

Evolution will take care of us. It always does.

Evolution is not a humanitarian process. Survival of the fittest is a natural result of the way DNA and reproduction work. Personifying evolution by saying it will take care of us is misleading at best, in my opinion.

Perhaps the outcome might not be what we like, but that's suitable payback for our current arrogance.

Why should our children pay for our arrogance? If you follow that argument, why should we bother cleaning up our pollution?

There is an alternative to eugenics which doesn't require anyone to judge anyone else, and that's genetic engineering of our offspring. Unfortuately this is not currently a workable solution, because the human race does not yet understand genetics well enough.

2002-06-09 01:20 UTC Much more on humanitarian eugenics

JJ followed up (sorry — I couldn't find a permalink) on my last post with some interesting comments.

I don't in any way mean to belittle your belief

This isn't really a belief; I carefully avoid the word in general. As I point out on my personal home page, I have no beliefs. This is an opinion, based on scientific evidence and concern for the future of our species.

I think the source of my confusion comes from the fact that the material I've read about eugenics tends to describe with great conviction the desired outcome, but is tellingly silent about how that outcome should be achieved. Does the end justify the means?

The means is pretty simple. In fact, JJ, you summed it up pretty nicely in your last post (see below). Society has to agree to stop breeding without a license from the state. Much like you cannot adopt children without a license, in a eugenics programme you would not be allowed to bear offspring without a license. This has multiple potential benefits: reduction in population growth, reduction in the number of children born in unhealthy environments (assuming abusive would-be-parents were identified and denied a license), and of course, an improvement if the quality of the gene pool.

[A] societal change of this nature would be incredibly dirty work. It would involve radical changes not only in the structure and nature of our governments but also in the very way we think about each other.

This is a large and intractable problem. It will almost certainly require a large and complicated solution.

It would create an entirely new kind of class separation based on often arbitrary measures of innate intelligence.

This class separation is by no means new. Look at US non-immigrant visa requirements, for instance. Look at qualification requirements in employment offers. Look at game shows (from the awful commentary on our society that is The Weakest Link to the even more thought-provoking Survivor), where people voluntarily subject themselves to such judgments.

Furthermore, like sexism, racism and wealthism before it, intelligencism would merely be an issue that society has to deal with. Our past successes in such matters encourages me greatly. (Despite the fact that a side-effect of those successes, the political correctness movement, is largely to blame for the problem itself.)

I also disagree with your statement that eugenics is about enforced population growth control such as in China. That may be another outcome of the process, but as I understand it eugenics is more about what kinds of children are allowed to be conceived rather than how many.

Since the process limits who may have children, rather than forcing couples to reproduce, it will automatically result in population control. That is not, however, a primary goal of humanitarian eugenics.

Discriminatory reproductive control, though, seems to create more problems than it would claim to solve.

It aims to solve merely one: the devolution of our civilisation. That this is happening, and that it is a logical outcome of the egalitarian "political correctness" that our society is obsessed with, is a verifiable fact.

In order to be taken seriously, eugenics supporters will have to [...] Define innate intelligence in quantifiable terms and be able to reliably test for it without error.

There is no such thing as "without error". This, though, doesn't seem to be an issue with some societies. For example, many states in the US still practice the death penalty, even though the US judicial system is not without error. Killing potentially innocent people seems a lot more dramatic than not letting certain people procreate.

As far as an innate intelligence test goes, universities seem quite happy to rely on school grades to determine someone's innate intelligence. Why would a system which currently decides the outcome of someone's entire life be suitable for that but not for the purposes of deciding whether they are likely to have children with above-average intelligence?

Prove that higher innate intelligence makes a person a stronger contributor to society.

See section 2 of the paper which started this discussion.

Likewise, prove that lower innate intelligence makes a person a lesser contributor to society.

Mathematically, that is a logical restatement of the previous point.

Demonstrate that innate intelligence is the only genetic trait worth distilling. For instance, is an extremely intelligent person with a debilitating genetic physical disease worth more than a physically superior person with lesser intelligence?

Not to the future of the human race's gene pool, no. If the aim is to protect our genetic diversity while increasing the genetic quality of the population at large, then successful candidate parents must be overall above average. How this is determined is up to the scientists and psychologists tasked with the question (I am certainly not qualified to answer it myself). Note that half the population is above average! This is not a small number of people.

Coming up with the criteria is the hardest part of the process, but it is one which can be constantly reviewed, and it could be linked to the legal system so that appeals could be made if sufficient ground existed to challenge a denial. This is not a unique problem; how do we decide who deserves state support? How do we decide who is allowed into a college and who is not? Who gets a job in a competitive market?

Outline a workable plan to legislate and enforce reproductive control while preventing violence, discrimination, and classism.

Again, that is a problem that is not specific to eugenics, so I see no difficulty here.

The biggest problem I see with supporting eugenics is the bad name it has aquired, through being associated with the Nazi movement, for instance. I'll leave that problem up to the PR folk to solve.

2002-06-08 22:51 UTC More on humanitarian eugenics

Jason Johnston argues that the eugenics paper I quoted in my previous entry is flawed.

He first references Gattaca. Gattaca is a good film, but I didn't like it because it had some pretty serious plot holes. First, there is no reason why genetic screening would be extended to people driving around, as in the film. (I don't think it is ever fully explained in the film, although I could be wrong, it's been a while.)

Second, genetic screening for employment is typically illegal, if the condition being used as a reason in favour or against employment has no bearing on the job. We already have medical screening for jobs where your health is important. This is merely an extension.

So the film is not a likely outcome, even if we do start controlling the DNA of our children. (Note that the film actually speaks of genetic engineering to control our offspring's DNA, rather than eugenics, but that is a minor detail.)

JJ then says I believe that civilization improves by people striving to better themselves and help those around them, not by innate intelligence. However, I know of no evidence to back up this wishful thinking. Indeed, civilisation improvements I've seen around me have been from intelligent researchers doing work that interests them, funded by intelligent business men trying to make money, not by altruism. Most altruistic people tend to help individuals, as far as I can tell, not improve civilisation. (This is not in any way meant to belittle the efforts of group such as the red cross, who do amazing work to help groups that are suffering because of the actions of idiots.)

He also asks will we need to forcefully implement another system to replace it?. If we don't follow the path of guided humanitarian eugenics, then we will instead have to follow the path of genetic engineering. Unfortunately we have not yet reached a point where our understanding of our DNA is ready to be applied to all our offspring. In time we shall get there, but for now... eugenics is all we have.

Note that humanitarian eugenics is not about "pulling a trigger". It's about enforced population growth control, something which the Chinese have been forced to adopt due to their massive over population, and something which the western world will have to adopt sooner or later as well. This is also not about taking away human rights either. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights doesn't give you an innate right to bear a child, only the right to found a family. This is simply about ensuring that the children who are born to this world are improvement our society, rather than adding to the stupidity.

2002-06-08 11:50 UTC Humanitarian eugenics

I discovered a paper today which explains in detail my opinions (based on verifiable scientific proof) on the dangers of promoting equality in reproduction. It is a rather sad reflection on our society that Political Correctness is being favoured over science when it comes to politics and the future of our race.

On the long run, if we don't change our attitude towards breeding, it's likely that these people will get their way anyway, which would be sad.

2002-06-06 11:55 UTC Rejoicing

Dictionary.com is back up!

It is a happy time indeed.