So You Want to Talk About Eugenics

It is a truth universally acknowledged via various classifications of fallacy (ad hominem, guilt by association, and so on) that one cannot discount an argument or premise solely due to its origin. On the other hand, to argue that a concept is meritorious because a hypothetical version of it that has never existed in reality would be a lovely thing (especially if the concept has, thus far, in practice, wrought far more harm than good) is incredibly disingenuous.

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Among atheists, those lovers of yelling out “fallacy!”, both these errors of reasoning are often called out, and rightly so. The first is usually in the form of theist’s oft-cited — and untrue — claim that Hitler was an atheist, or that those murdered under various manifestations of Communism represent victims of atheism (or, even more bewilderingly, secular humanism). As for the latter, its most common form is when a religious person engages in NALT-ing or a form of One True Scotsman where they will claim that any negativity stemming from religion is a result of a lack of “true [insert religion here].” When it comes to discussing ideologies that are not religious among those without religion, then, it makes sense that the patterns established by critically discussing religion would show up again. The ideologies with which the atheist in question disagrees might be, for example, lampooned as dogmatic and arguments in favor of it dismissed as citing a hypothetical version of it that doesn’t actually exist.

The problem comes in when the first line of reasoning is the default when the second deserves at least some consideration. Not all concepts that began in infamy stay that way, and not all concepts with negative associations are wholly negative, but forgetting origins and associations is to lack any modicum of consideration for reality.

More than once, I have heard some atheist incredulously declare that they, often a well-educated white person, cannot comprehend why a person of color would view science with suspicion, often to the mocking laughter of those around them. “How silly,” they all nod, agreeing that science’s objectivity is not contingent on those engaged in it. In one particular instance, a young STEM student (link unrelated, but cool) I met at a conference flippantly remarked that a woman of color had (“hilariously”, according to him) made connections between evolutionary/medical science and problematic matters of race.

He also mentioned eugenics and expressed his annoyance at the resistance he faced when discussing the concept. “People who think like that lose the argument,” he concluded, “because of Godwin’s law.”

If you have ever had that thought, or anything like it, you may, instead of being ashamed, consider the next paragraph to be rife with links hand-selected for your personal benefit and growth as a human being

It isn’t Godwin or Hitler that comes to mind when many American people who are not white and/or poor and/or have disabilities, especially women, contemplate the word “eugenics.” It’s the history, legacy, and reality of the country whose eugenics program inspired that of the Nazis: the good ol’ US of A. Oppression is born when prejudice meets power, and in the case of American (and, later, German) eugenics, it was “white” prejudice against the “non-white”* paired with medical science, done under the auspices of the scientific method and afforded all the respect that science commands.

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It may come as a shock to many, but the phrenology speech from Django Unchained was uttered not by a man who believed that he used the auspices of the scientific method to confirm his prejudices, but by a man who believed that he arrived at his beliefs in a respectable, scientific fashion. Phrenology might be considered laughable today, but it wasn’t then.

Think about that for a moment. Then think about how male scientists didn’t even consider studying female ducks when trying to figure out the penis shape of the aforementioned fowl. Then think about evolutionary psychology as it currently exists.

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This by no means discredits science in general or suggests that science or all scientists are cesspools of racism, or sexism, or any other form of oppression. The beauty of science is that it, unlike religion, has self-correcting mechanisms built into through the scientific method itself as well as the peer review process. There is no doubt that medical science, despite any darkness in its past and present, will continue to move away from its oppressiveness and into a far more egalitarian future. Indeed, it’s our best hope to move towards that future.

In order for science to become more objective, more people of more types need to be in science to check any biases; mocking and dismissing science’s checkered past won’t exactly attract people from among the groups oppressed by it into it in recent memory. To forget its past and present wrongs will accomplish exactly nothing in the way of helping it not only to progress socially, but to advance as a discipline, one made closer to objectivity through its self-awareness of its own shortcomings.

Eugenics, as a word and concept and in practice, has only existed as a Very Horrible Thing for the populations most targeted for forcible action. There would need to be a major PR overhaul before anyone can use the term and not bring to mind white male doctors forcibly sterilizing the poor, the disabled, the non-white, and anyone they deemed unfit. To use the term without considering its implications is an ill-founded move for anyone who wants as many people as possible to become more and more accepting of science.

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Especially if you’re a prominent, powerful white male scientist admonishing everyone to calm down about Nazis after you say something about eugenics.

*Addendum: Many people who would, in modern times, be perceived as “white,” would have been persecuted under eugenics programs. Indeed, many of the main groups that suffered under eugenics programs were Eastern European. Modern definitions of “white” do not apply here. The Nazis defined white as “Aryan” or “white with non-Jewish elements.”

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So You Want to Talk About Eugenics

117 thoughts on “So You Want to Talk About Eugenics

    1. 1.1

      I was somewhat responding to him, though I have had the history of science on the brain lately. I saw his point, scientifically speaking, but took issue with his tone with regards to addressing those whose response to the word “eugenics” is a resounding “no.”

  1. 2

    I introduced an acquaintance of mine to the term eugenics just the other day. He had talked about having the government stop women who were addicted to drugs sterilized, so they would not have babies addicted to drugs. I asked him why he thought eugenics was the answer and who gets to choose whom gets sterilized. He had never heard of the term and googled it. Shortly after educating himself, and becoming sicked by what had been done in the past, he changed his mind.

  2. 3

    Well said Heina. I really really hate the way people misuse Godwin’s law to shut down discussion. That’s not what its meant for. The way some people screech “Godwin” it seems like its somehow unfair to compare the Nazis to Hitler.

    1. 3.2

      Well Eugenics… EUGENICS. That was like, the Nazi’s thing man…

      But point taken, if the comparison to Hitler doesn’t apply, I will compare people’s tyrannical thoughts to Vlad the Impaler.

  3. 4

    Eugenics, lol. Evolution selects traits based upon true survival pressures. Eugenics is breeding people for traits thought to be beneficial, but often have no bearing on survival whatsoever, nor any respect for genetic disorders it may create (traits aren’t created in isolation…).

    Also, it’s funny that people thing selecting GENES will eliminate SOCIAL problems.

    1. 4.1

      Also, it’s funny that people thing selecting GENES will eliminate SOCIAL problems.
      Sure, it will. Has the strange fact, that alcoholism is much less of a problem among peoples who have a long tradition of drinking it, occurred to you ? Those who were prone to becoming addicted to alcohol were obviously weeded out of the gene pool. So yes, there are social problems that can be solved by breeding (of course some cannot be). The fact that you find eugenics distasteful or immoral does not mean that it does not work.

      1. OK, this should be good. What type of modified Neuremburg Laws do you propose to enact to oppress already disposessed Native Peoples and solve their rampant, offensive alcoholism?

      2. Sure, it will. Has the strange fact, that alcoholism is much less of a problem among peoples who have a long tradition of drinking it, occurred to you ? Those who were prone to becoming addicted to alcohol were obviously weeded out of the gene pool.

        Just because you say words like “fact” and “obviously” does not make what you’re saying actually true.

      3. //The fact that you find eugenics distasteful or immoral does not mean that it does not work.//

        Durrr. Maybe some indigenous populations drink a lot because they’re oppressed? And maybe some don’t even drink much?

        And even if what you said was true (which it’s not), if people had evolved to not have alcohol addiction, it would’ve been evolution, not eugenics.

      4. The eugenics argues, only smart people should breed, because it will create smarter people and ignores the fact that educating people will create smart people.

        Eugenics works inside the heads of armchair intellectuals like Nador, but the whole 20th century provides evidence to the contrary.

        1. So you suggest, that people – who are totally unlike other animals- can not be bred for certain heritable traits. As it happens intelligence has a heritability somewhere between 0.5 and 0.8, so it would be possible to breed for intelligence. Whether it should be done is another question. But it certainly could be done.

          1. Sources? Also lots of fallacy in your thought line.

            #1 – Social problems can be bred out
            Completely misses the cause as to why social problems exist and is naive to think because people have certain traits, they won’t still cause problems. (Intelligent people also become drug addicts, commit violent crimes, or are poor)

            #2 – Stating that environmental factors are greatly secondary to genes is a dubious claim
            Ignores environmental factors related to intelligence (Einstein likely wouldn’t be Einstein the physicist if he grew up in the slums in a family that removed him from school at 12 years old)

            #3 – Selective breeding =! natural selection.
            Natural selection means that whoever survives environmental pressures breeds sends on inherited traits that are suited to survive the environment. This is often quite different than what humans consider valuable or can predict.

            #4 – Ignores genetic disease eugenics could introduce
            Breeding for selective traits has the potential to also cultivate physical genetic disease. Lots of purebred dogs have major health issues. Many times this isn’t predicted ahead of time.

            Baseline is Eugenics, is a badly thought out bullshit idea full of human rights violations intended to create someone’s equally bullshit vision of utopia.

            I’d advise you to transcribe your ideas into some fiction on how you think eugenics will definitely work out ideally and magically make our world better. I’m sure you’ll be real successful.

          2. dr.dr.professor:

            1. I never stated that all social problems can be bred out, only that certain heritable ones can be.

            (Intelligent people also become drug addicts, commit violent crimes, or are poor

            Sure, but i never said those things you put in my mouth. What is more, it is clearly not intelligence that prevents people from becoming addicted to e.g. alcohol. Intelligence only helps in case of alcoholism by understanding, that if one has many alcoholic relatives one probably is prone to addiction, hence it is wise for him to avoid alcohol entirely. Also, the fact that there are intelligent poor people does not mean that there is no correlation between those two things.
            2. In modern environment adult intelligence is highly heritable. Obviously you can always come up with extreme environments like severe abuse and malnutrition, but that is not the norm in the first world. Your first and second paragraph just illustrates your inability two think about stochastic phenomena.
            3. Selective breeding and natural selection are really not that different. The only difference is that for selective breeding to exist one has to exclude human beings from the environment. Which is a rather strange choice.
            4. Yes, pleiotropy does exist. Nobody claimed there are no trade-offs.

          3. dr.dr.professor
            you also wanted sources:
            you can look at twin studies – adult heritability is close to 0.8. You can find links to the appropriate studies in the wiki article: here
            If you prefer SNP based GWAS – the minimum of narrow sense additive heritability is 0.4-0.5. here

          4. 1. I never stated that all social problems can be bred out, only that certain heritable ones can be.

            //Intelligence only helps in case of alcoholism by understanding, that if one has many alcoholic relatives one probably is prone to addiction, hence it is wise for him to avoid alcohol entirely. Also, the fact that there are intelligent poor people does not mean that there is no correlation between those two things//

            So intelligence can be inherited so what. Someone isn’t going to be intelligent though if they’re not taught well, and that’s what happens in poor communities, people get shitty education and rough socialization. Doesn’t even mean they’re genetically stupid. You’re insinuating poor people are poor because they’re stupid, which is a typical eugenics propent’s fare.

            2. In modern environment adult intelligence is highly heritable. Obviously you can always come up with extreme environments like severe abuse and malnutrition, but that is not the norm in the first world. Your first and second paragraph just illustrates your inability two think about stochastic phenomena.

            Yes yes, poor people are poor because they’re not genetically intelligent. http://stormfront.org agrees.

            3. Selective breeding and natural selection are really not that different. The only difference is that for selective breeding to exist one has to exclude human beings from the environment. Which is a rather strange choice.

            They’re hugely different. Natural selection breeds for survival traits, selective breeding breeds for traits desirable as hand-picked by a society which don’t necessarily translate to survival.

            Many breeds of dogs for instance aren’t terribly good at surviving on their own in environments where humans don’t live.

            4. Yes, pleiotropy does exist. Nobody claimed there are no trade-offs.
            Yes I’m aware that eugenics proponents are okay with terrifying trade offs. That’s why in the modern day you guys are looked at as monsters at heart.

            Eugenics in the modern age is a rejected idea, and yes, people will shoot it down with emotional appeals about “human rights”. Again, I’d suggest you write some fiction about the perfect little world you’re imagining, I’m sure it’ll go over well in the racial supremacist circles.

          5. Many breeds of dogs for instance aren’t terribly good at surviving on their own in environments where humans don’t live

            They are pretty good at surviving in their own environment which is living with people.

            Yes yes, poor people are poor because they’re not genetically intelligent.

            The more meritocratic a society is, the more the above statement is true. Wealth also correlates with extroversion and conscientiousness.
            I suspect stormfront also agrees with most environmentalist ideas. Hitler was for animal rights… Your point is?

          6. ////The more meritocratic a society is, the more the above statement is true. Wealth also correlates with extroversion and conscientiousness.
            I suspect stormfront also agrees with most environmentalist ideas. Hitler was for animal rights… Your point is?/////

            And there we go. It only took a little discussion to get your true feelings out.

            I don’t worry that people like you will make any change, because most of us in society see you for the for the dehumanizing pieces of shit you are. Eugenics as a solution is dehumanizing, and well, stupid, and it’s been definitively defeated in the west.

          7. And there we go. It only took a little discussion to get your true feelings out.
            I don’t worry that people like you will make any change, because most of us in society see you for the for the dehumanizing pieces of shit you are. Eugenics as a solution is dehumanizing, and well, stupid, and it’s been definitively defeated in the west.

            It is funny, i originally only argued that eugenics can work, not that it should be done. If you want to know, i would support voluntary eugenics in the form of IVF fertilisation + genetic screening before implantation. That is not an option now, but there is a good chance that it will be possible in 50 years. I actually do not support forced sterilization.
            But at the and all you could come up with is calling me a piece of shit. That’s fine by me, but that doesn’t really count as an argument.

          8. //That’s fine by me, but that doesn’t really count as an argument.//

            Yeah because I’m done arguing. You think that poor people are there because they’re genetically stupid? That’s ridiculous & elitist & definitely UNTRUE. I work in the poorer neighborhoods in Chicago as a volunteer math & science tutor/educator, and see many kids who would qualify as “stupid” initially rise to be deft with complex technical concepts & move onto excellent colleges & good careers. What they needed though was a push, they weren’t “genetically stupid”.

            And it’s this condescending view (of which I’m sure you have plenty more…) coupled with your “voluntary eugenics” hopes (in order to breed out people who don’t even have undesirable traits…) which earns you the POS title.

  4. 5

    Has the strange fact, that alcoholism is much less of a problem among peoples who have a long tradition of drinking it, occurred to you ?

    Citation needed.

    1. 5.1

      Actually, I think this can be falsified by simple inspection. Aboriginal Australians make up 2% of the population. Even if every one was an alcoholic, the overwhelming number of alcoholics come from the dominant mostly Caucasian ethnic groups. I assume roughly similar figures apply for Native Americans.

      1. Even if every one was an alcoholic, the overwhelming number of alcoholics come from the dominant mostly Caucasian ethnic groups.

        THANK YOU. Uuugh. Seriously.

      2. You need to consider the proportion of the population that suffers from alcoholism, not just overall numbers. There may be much higher numbers of Caucasian alcoholics than there are Australian aboriginal alcoholics but there are much higher numbers of Caucasians than Australian aboriginals. So a fairer test would be comparing the percentages of alcoholism that exist within each group.

        1. But then all you know is that (numbers pulled from my ass) 5% of 1.5 million caucasion people are alcholics and 55% of 200,000 of [insert minority group] are alcoholics. It doesn’t seem like that’s a great comparison, because the poluation for [insert minority group] is VASTLY smaller than the caucasion group. I imagine there are ways to handle such statistics, but I do wonder about people latching on to that information as if it, alone, comes to the conclusion they think it does or want it to.

  5. 6

    It’s almost certainly possible, if some authority can decide for people who they get to breed with, to artificially select for easily definable traits such as blondness, height, blue-eyedness or big-nosedness. A horrible means to an entirely unsympathetic end. Almost certainly biologically feasible but highly undesirable. Who selects which traits to breed for? Who selects who doesn’t get to have children?
    The old “I’m not a racist but…” followed by an outrageously racist statement is so well recognised by now, it’s practically a cliché.
    Eugenics is what tends to follow “I’m not a member of the Nazi party, but…” because it’s so thoroughly a part of the Nazi ideology with the idea that there are traits that are more desirable than others and that it’s ethical to attempt to control people’s breeding in order to “improve” upon the population.
    Obviously, you can be in favour of some things that the Nazis without being one yourself – I find that cars and motorways are probably, on balance, a good idea and I think it’s only sensible to warn people of the ideas of smoking, for example.
    However, if the popular-with-the-Nazis-idea that you choose to champion is one of the specific things that made the Nazis so fucking horrible, then what you are may not be a Nazi, specifically, but it isn’t something nice either.

    Now, about the alcoholism: As it happens, there exists a country with huge problems with alcoholism and where the majority of the population belong to an ethnic group that typically process alcohol very poorly: It’s Greenland. It’s got other big social problems as well, most notably rampant child abuse and HIV/AIDS.
    I’m sure the people of Greenland would love to hear how these issues could be solved with eugenics.

  6. 7

    Why can’t there be positive eugenics? Encourage people with desirable traits to breed and discourage criminals, psychopaths from breeding, without using force. For example provide financial incentives for people carrying the desired genes to be bred.

    1. 7.1

      The problem there is defining what traits are “desirable,” as it were. Those who will determine what the “desired genes” are, and, on the flips side, who is a “criminal” or “psychopath,” won’t necessarily be determining what those categories mean based on a standard that is at all ethical. German and American eugenicists didn’t think they were being racist, they believed themselves to be doing what you claim is “positive.”

      1. But we already do judge people. For example we try to put murderers behind bars. By your logic we should do nothing, since we can not be entirely sure, that the judges and other authorities will make a decision based on a standard that is ethical.
        One could argue that desirable and ethical are not the same – which is true but they are neither entirely separate. People tend to make ethical judgements by two incompatible methods (roughly speaking): principle based and utilitarian reasoning. (For interesting details and more please see. And utilitarian reasoning certainly involves optimising for a desirable outcome.
        Deciding what desirable is will always be subjective in the sense that it depends on the person (or sometimes group of people) who decides. You can not eliminate this aspect of life by not making judgements or decisions at all, since some people will do so, and to stop them from that activity you would need to do the same judging and decision making.

        1. I think you misunderstand my argument. I never said anything about the judgement or punishment of murderers nor did I advocate for doing nothing. If one believes in bodily autonomy, it is consistent to believe in punishing people for crimes against others and to simultaneously be against forced sterizilization.

          1. Then I do not understand your argument at all. By locking up criminals we do prevent them from reproducing (alas not particularly effectively, in the US criminals have a slightly higher fertility than non-criminals). As a consequence applying general criminal law end enforcement does alter the reproductive success of certain groups of people. Eugenics does not necessarily be done by sterilization. Successful law enforcement tend to select against physically aggressive behaviour and low impulse control. It is no wonder that Chinese Americans have a lower rate of (violent) criminality than white people if you consider that the Chinese empire was rarely “absent” in the last 2 thousand years.

          2. Er.

            Then I do not understand your argument at all. By locking up criminals we do prevent them from reproducing (alas not particularly effectively, in the US criminals have a slightly higher fertility than non-criminals).

            Seems that we’re NOT preventing criminals from reproducing, and it’s not just “not particularly effective”. Indeed, it seems the oposite of effective.

          3. marilove:

            I suspect criminals would have even higher fertility if there were no law enforcement. We do prevent them from reproducing while in prison, hence we do alter their evolutionary fitness. The harsher punishments used traditionally probably did a better job… In societies where there is no state people who commit violence tend to be much more reproductively successful*. The statistic i mentioned about criminals is i believe based on criminals that still live. Nowadays** that is not a particularly important distinction, but in the past it probably was.
            * *I mean after the industrial revolution, or more precisely since we no longer live in the Malthusian trap. That is a very important difference. The children of many criminals these days are effectively kept alive by welfare and various state interventions. That is a very recent change in the game. I should have not left out these things when i added that quip about current reproductive success of criminals just to prevent accusations that i do not know how the world now is.
            * From Jared Diamond: the world until yesterday – ultimately from Chagnon:

            “[T]he anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon calculated, from Yanomamo genealogies that he gathered, that if one compares Yanomamo men who have or haven’t killed people, the killers have on the average over two and a half times more wives and over three times more children. Of course the killers are also more likely to die or to be killed at an earlier age than are non-killers, but during that shorter lifespan they win more prestige and social rewards and can thereby obtain more wives and rear extra children…. In some societies the shorter lifespan of warlike men is likely not to be compensated by an ability to attract more wives per decade of their shorter life. That is the case for Ecuador’s Waorani Indians, who are even more warlike than the Yanomamo. Nevertheless, more zealous Waorani warriors don’t have more wives than do milder men, and they have fewer rather than more children surviving to reproductive age.”

            So essentially there is an optimal amount of violence depending on environment and other factors, one of which is central state and its law enforcement.

          4. I suspect criminals would have even higher fertility if there were no law enforcement.

            “Suspect”? Really? Why is that? This speculation is riduclous and distracting.

            The children of many criminals these days are effectively kept alive by welfare and various state interventions.

            Oh for fuck’s sake. CITATION NEEDED.

          5. I suspect criminals would have even higher fertility if there were no law enforcement.

            “Suspect”? Really? Why is that? This speculation is riduclous and distracting.
            Since it is rather difficult to impregnate women while in prison? Do you need a citation for that?
            I am pretty sure children of criminals are overrepresented among children in foster care, but i am still looking for an article….

          6. marilove:
            I found data for women (mothers):
            You can read the whole, but here are children in foster care from page 10:

            Of the 8,586 children where information existed, 2,874 (33 percent) had mothers with a criminal record (see Fig. 1). Among children whose mothers had a criminal history, 1,629 children or 19 percent of the entire cohort, had mothers who experienced incarceration

            And you should note that men are much more likely to be criminals. I know the really relevant data would be the aggregate welfare + foster care and other things for children of criminals, but this one is still somewhat relevant.
            pdf

          7. You know Nador, randomly cobbling together statistics =! truth of your statements.

            //The children of many criminals these days are effectively kept alive by welfare and various state interventions. //

            Racist psychobabble.

        2. //One could argue that desirable and ethical are not the same – which is true but they are neither entirely separate. People tend to make ethical judgements by two incompatible methods (roughly speaking): principle based and utilitarian reasoning. (For interesting details and more please see. And utilitarian reasoning certainly involves optimising for a desirable outcome.
          Deciding what desirable is will always be subjective in the sense that it depends on the person (or sometimes group of people) who decides. You can not eliminate this aspect of life by not making judgements or decisions at all, since some people will do so, and to stop them from that activity you would need to do the same judging and decision making.//

          Ramblings like this is why I never go to any organized skeptics conferences. This is just flawed hyper-skepticism intended to push your badly thought out view on Eugenics.

          1. When i say positive eugenics i mean NO forced sterilization. I mean incentives for desirable traits to be bred more. And i also don’t mean to say that all traits are genetic in nature, but don’t you think children growing up in broken families, to alcoholic or violent parents will grow up to be just like them? Why not encourage functional families to breed more, thus creating more happy/fullfilled citizens?

          2. but don’t you think children growing up in broken families, to alcoholic or violent parents will grow up to be just like them?

            “will grow up to be just like them”? No. I don’t. Is there a higher chance they MAY grow up to be like them? Yes, there likely is. But “just like them”? No, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, and no, I also don’t think every child of every alcoholic or every criminal WILL grow up to be JUST like their parents.

            For anectodal evidence, alcoholism and drug addiction run high on both side’s of my family. 2 of my sisters have dealt with alcoholism and/or drug addiction; myself and my other sister do not have a problem with either. Indeed, it seems to me that each generation of my family, on both sides, seems to have LESS of a problem with alcoholism or drug use; each generation seems a bit better…

          3. And yes, this is not data. 🙂 But the idea that “EVERY child from an alcoholic parent WILL turn out JUST like them” doesn’t sit will with me.

          1. Exactly, so if you’re a criminal, violent person, alcoholic, drug addict, your children might be brought up to be just like you. Why not enable people who haven’t done any of the previous things be encouraged to breed more? All the while NOT sterilizing anyone…

          2. You are right, that’s why i DON’T condone forced sterilization, or sterilization of any kind…just incentives for certain groups to breed more.

    2. 7.2

      //desired genes to be bred//

      Define “desired genes”. Name a few specifically.

      //criminals//

      Parents automatically transmit social behavior onto their children genetically? Like the social problem of historical racism & poverty causing people to become desperate & turn to crime has nothing to do with it? Seem like this whole eugenics thing would be disproportionately focused on specific minority & indigenous communities.

      Also, ignoring the fact that it’s an ENORMOUS human rights violation. Doesn’t anyone think that using eugenics is a really naive solution to social problems like alcoholism & crime? Like, you could practice eugenics, but be baffled when crime continues because the underlying causes of that crime haven’t been solved…

      1. It’s especially gut-churning for those of us who know we are the ‘undesirables’.
        Really a slap in the face. Nightmarish to think about.
        And no hesitation to add insult to injury if you try to defend your own human rights.

    3. 7.3

      Well, since you put it that way, sure, let’s do that.

      Hello.
      Are you a criminal or perhaps a psychopath? Then we, the public, would like to ask you a favour. It’s a simple thing that requires little effort. In fact, as it’s something that we’re asking you not to do, it really doesn’t require any expense or effort at all!
      Sounds interesting?
      All right, here it is: if it’s not too much trouble, could you please not breed? See, we’d really like to have a crime- and psychopath-free society so it would really be for the best if you just didn’t pass your genes on.
      Thank you so much for listening. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programme.

      There, sorted!

  7. 8

    Here you are:
    http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0001881
    And if you are interested in some excerpts:

    The alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH) are widely studied enzymes and the evolution of the mammalian gene cluster encoding these enzymes is also well studied. Previous studies have shown that the ADH1B*47His allele at one of the seven genes in humans is associated with a decrease in the risk of alcoholism and the core molecular region with this allele has been selected for in some East Asian populations. As the frequency of ADH1B*47His is highest in East Asia, and very low in most of the rest of the world, we have undertaken more detailed investigation in this geographic region.

    The selection distribution is more significantly correlated with the frequency of the derived ADH1B regulatory region polymorphism than the derived amino-acid altering allele ADH1B*47His. Thus, the real focus of selection may be the regulatory region. The obvious ethnicity-related distributions of ADH1B diversities suggest the existence of some culture-related selective forces that have acted on the ADH1B region.

  8. 9

    “Especially if you’re a prominent, powerful white male scientist admonishing everyone to calm down about Nazis after you say something about eugenics”

    I’m skeptical that this attitude is pervasive among only the white educated male as repeatedly stated in the opening thread. I’m originally from India and it is the educated dark skinned Indian males like me who are ultimately responsible for the cruel patriarchal eugenic abortions that are regularly performed when a fetus is discovered to be XX instead of XY.

    1. 9.1

      I didn’t say that educated white men were the ones actually doing eugenics, just that they seem to be insensitive about the fact that eugenics, as a term and as a practice, is problematic.

  9. 10

    The problem with “positive” eugenics is that there is an inevitable slippery slope of having government officials decide who can breed (I’m going to side with the libertarians on this one and say that’s inherently a bad thing). Sure, nobody would argue against wiping out cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia within a generation, but then what? Breed for intelligence? Who decides how we measure intelligence, Charles Murray? The whole concept behind reproductive rights is that reproduction is a decision that you can only make for yourself. Consequently, preventing somebody from reproducing is just as bad as forcing them to. I don’t know a lot about British history, but here in the States, no matter how well intentioned they were, forced sterilization programs have proven to be nothing but horrifying. As a result, we’ve decide that it is too much power to give any group of people over another. Dawkins is right on one point. Simply invoking the specter of National Socialism shouldn’t be enough to shut down arguments over eugenics or anything else. If eugenics is wrong, we should be able to bring up cogent arguments against it without resorting to name calling.
    However, there is another argument against eugenics that I take from Charles Darwin himself. He points out in Origin of the Species that the most important thing a species can have is not some particular trait it currently finds advantageous, but variability (just so long as the species doesn’t become so variable that it breaks up into sub-species, which humans are not even close to doing). This is because it is variability, not any particular trait, that makes a species most adaptable to change, which is the most important factor in determining whether or not a species is successful. This is because there is no way of knowing whether some gene that isn’t advantageous now would become so in the future. Long story short, eugenics shrinks the gene pool, something Darwin argues against. I like to use this argument against creationists who claim that “Darwinism” leads to eugenics.

  10. 11

    Thank you for this article. The fact that people can still cavalierly throw around terms like “eugenics” as a positive thing makes me think that more people need to read books like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Western scientists have a very dark history in terms of their treatment of non-white communities, and after reading that book, I could completely understand why there is a lot of distrust for scientists and science in general in some communities. As a scientist myself, I think it’s incredibly important to acknowledge that scientific knowledge is not produced in a vacuum, free of cultural/personal biases; we need to be much better about keeping that in mind when we’re communicating to others about science if we want to attract a larger, more diverse audience.

    1. 11.1

      It’s not just PoC, it’s also people with disabilities. (just adding another group that gets sick to out stomachs when you talk about it like it ain’t no thing)

  11. 12

    Active Eugenics programs were, until somewhat recently, a regular activity for many states and segments of the medical community in the US of A; and it should be remembered that eugenics is/was not always about race or skin color. The neurologically impaired and mentally ill were being sterilized legally by more states than not in this country as recently as the mid 1970’s with the state of California leading the way (If I remember my past reading accurately) with the most sterilizations and as one of, if not the, last to end the practice. Prophylactic sterilization of some people with significant mental impairments still happens with appropriate legal representation and medical consultation for those with significantly diminished capacity. And people who are impaired to the point of needing lifelong institutional care certainly do and will have sex despite prevention efforts. However in past generations the laws allowing this practice were a product or early 20th century eugenics theory and the goal was to prevent breading by those deemed to be lesser humans and not to prevent the harms of an unwanted pregnancy. American doctors and scientists who supported eugenics theories wrote books that were quite popular among many German fascists who greatly admired the practice in the US before WWII.

  12. 13

    OK so How do we reconcile the statement by Nador that “alcoholism is less of a problem in peoples who are used to drinking it” with the linked papers related to an ADH variant that is “most frequent in East Asian populations and virtually absent anywhere else?”

    So now Western populations lack the gene for alcoholism resistance despite drinking alcohol for millennia.

    This rather disproves Nador’s hypothesis and reemphasises the point that biological evolution is a painfully slow process compared to cultural evolution which is rapid and therefore more important and effective in addressing social problems.

    1. 13.2

      Some European populations do have problems with alcoholism, for example Russians and to a lesser extent Scandinavians and Eastern Europeans. People in the Mediterranean region handle alcohol much better, and had agriculture and alcohol for much longer. Probably there are other genetic variants important to susceptibility to alcoholism than ADH1B*47H. It is reasonable to suspect so, since the heritability of alcoholism is about 0.5-0.6. see table 1

      1. //had agriculture for much longer//

        Okay, and do you have a study to prove that’s why they’re not alcoholics. You’re stating something you just postulated in a comment like it’s fact.

        The truth is that society at large has rejected eugenics, and fools like you who propose it are rightfully laughed at. Go preach your case at http://stormfront.org, you might find more sympathizers there.

        1. It is difficult to find direct evidence, but all the data suggest that the adoption of agriculture changed the selective pressures on human beings and thus the people who adopted farming.
          Please read it. Especially the scatter plot between the time of adoption of rice agriculture and ADH1B*47.
          Or table two here
          You can also try this one.

          Genetic studies
          utilizing twin and family approaches have clearly
          shown considerable role of genetics in alcohol
          dependence, albeit only few gene variants have
          been identified unambiguously (Stoltenberg and
          Burmeister 2000 and Nestler 2000). Risk for
          alcohol dependence is likely to be the result of a
          large number of genes, each contributing a small
          fraction to the overall risk.

          I think it is reasonable to assume that alcoholism historically decreased the fitness of the affected, so it seems very plausible that it was not only weeded out in east Asia. You might need to wait a few years till the European versions are found.

  13. 14

    No, I’m not okay with people like me being ‘encouraged not to breed’.
    Fuck you. And Fuck You again for my children. And Fuck You again for my ancestors who survived eugenics programs and attempted genocide.
    Holy Science doesn’t get to decide who is acceptable or undesirable breeding stock. We’re human beings, you arrogant bigot.
    What is wrong with you?

  14. 15

    The data used to support the idea of eugenics has other interpretation. Twin studies do not isolate the effects of genetics from environmental effects. If MZ twins were exposed to thalidomide, and DZ twins were not, the effects of thalidomide on the MZ twins would be interpreted as a “genetic effect”.

  15. 17

    What i imagine positive eugenics to be like:

    Identify where undesirable traits, like psychopathy, violent behaviour or certain inherited disorders originate. Do they originate because of genes? Do they originate from the child’s environment? Then, if a clear connection can be made between the characteristics of the parents and those of the offspring, one might find what type of couples have children that will grow up to be criminals, psychos and so on. This may be linked to ethics obviously.

    First of all: genes. If you know (or it can be determined) that there is a great chance chance that your child might be born with a crippling disability, because you or your wife carry a certain gene (simplistic, i know), would it be ethical to procreate?

    Second: childhood environment. If you know that you are irresponsible, violent, psychotic or have other traits that might (be proven to) traumatize your kids into disfunctional adults, would it be ethical to procreate?

    Third: positive traits. If you know (or it can be determined) that you can raise your kids into happy, functional, inteligent (insert desirable trait here), would it be ethical to have more kids than the average number? You know, just to try and make society a better place.

    Fourth: effectiveness. As a government, before encouraging people in the positive traits group to have more children, how can one determine if this positive eugenics system would work? By testing on animals, humans, computers? And what degree of confidence would be necessary to be able to implement positive eugenics?

    China (not a bastion of freedom, i know) had this one child policy for many years. This however doesn’t constitute eugenics since presumably there is no selection (apart from a forced one at birth, which favors male offspring). What if there was a partial lift of this ban? Certain people can have as many children as they want but others just one. How would this work? Would this be ethical?

    1. 17.1

      Blakut,

      Before you face the anger from everyone here, I highy recommend that you end this line of thought. Your positive eugenics could only lead to a disastrous GATTACA-like totalitarian society. Even for folks who have lethal genetic disorders such as Huntington’s Chorea would I not advocate positive eugenics. Also, you seem to completely ignore the power of adjusting the sociocultural side of the equation (ie. addressing issues like poverty) that impact traits which are heavily influenced by genes. Using your line of reasoning folks with bipolar disease should not reproduce. Rather would it not be more rational to provide an enriched environment free of poverty, hunger, unemployment, etc… to allow such individuals to be successful contributing members of society? Would you seriously advocate a policy that would prevent someone like Robin Williams to have children?

      1. “Blakut,

        Before you face the anger from everyone here, I highy recommend that you end this line of thought.”

        I am ready to face their arguments, and if wrong, to change my mind.

        “Would you seriously advocate a policy that would prevent someone like Robin Williams to have children?”

        Of course not, that’s why i call it positive eugenics: anyone can have children, but certain people would be encouraged to have more.

        I’m also asking questions and about people’s opinions, i’m not convinced this is 100% going to work. The quiestions i wrote in my post above are not rhetorical, i really want to know what people think.

        1. After all, people choose not to have children because of less important things, like the economy, or not having a house. So already some people unkowingly practice a sort of eugenics by not having children every 9 months.

          1. What I hear you saying is that you want us to move forward and do what’s best for the human race so that we can bravely meet the challenges of forging a new world.

            Did I get that right?

        2. Blakut, we probably are wasting our time by reasonable arguments. Most people here reject eugenics for ideological reasons. There is one thing you could try though ( i do not feel like carrying this one through, besides, I am already an evil racist nazi stromfronter…). Most people at Skepchick support abortion rather unconditionally. I suspect they are fine with prenatal screening, probably with prenatal genetic screening as well. You could ask whether they are fine with aborting foetuses with down syndrome. In an other thread the majority of them would likely support it. And actually that would mean they support certain forms of eugenics already.

          1. Nador, that is a debate I would be interested to join. I have my own reservations about prenatal screening being used to ensure that nothing bad happens to anybody, ever. Especially as people have a hard time putting into perspective probabilities of rare events. We may find that we are on the same side in certain cases. Is this the time and place though?

          2. Well the thing is, when you let Eugenics become a credible argument, you let false ideas like “poor people are more likely genetically stupid” to become policy. People like you who have this golden ideal of a meritocracy, whose rules are likely put in place by priveleged fellows like you (I assume you’re white and grew up in a non-poor home…), it becomes a discriminatory system.

            So yes, Eugenics should be mocked and cast as evil ideologically because its powers for abuse have been shown to have been realized in the 20th century by all societies that practiced it. And when proponents of it like you come in and say “the more meritocratic a society is, the more the statement that poor people are genetically unintelligent is true” it shows that human rights abuses will probably continue in any implementation of it.

            So yeah, I’m going to continue to mock it, because I believe the quote “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” stands true. Eugenics as a policy is a human rights violation, and it should be continually mocked because of that.

            /////I suspect they are fine with prenatal screening, probably with prenatal genetic screening as well. You could ask whether they are fine with aborting foetuses with down syndrome. In an other thread the majority of them would likely support it. And actually that would mean they support certain forms of eugenics already.////

            This is a matter of INDIVIDUAL choice (and plus down’s syndrome is due to an error in meosis, not genetics). What you are advocating is making prenatal selection for intelligence & other traits encouraged a matter of policy, there’s a big difference there. The government should never ever advocate eugenics as policy.

          3. Jack99, alas even a troll like me has limited amount of time. And frankly skepchick might not be the right place for it either. Are you interested in the technical aspects, or the moral ones? My moral stand on these issues are probably outside of the boundaries what most people here would consider acceptable, so I would not discuss those things at skepchick.
            As for the technical details: while I am interested in population genetics (not professionally), and like to read statistics about human behaviour way too much, I am not particularly knowledgeable about the details of prenatal screening.

            Especially as people have a hard time putting into perspective probabilities of rare events.
            That is a general problem: some (most) people have trouble interpreting and understanding stochastic phenomena. My experience is that it is extremely difficult to change this. Even thorough and extensive education is of little use. Acting rationally about rare events seems to be even more difficult. Even for people who are otherwise very good at mathematics and are extremely intelligent. See Paul Graham’s essay.

          4. dr.dr.professor

            I thought we have already settled that I am an evil piece of shit. You are just repeating yourself.

            And when proponents of it like you come in and say “the more meritocratic a society is, the more the statement that poor people are genetically unintelligent is true” it shows that human rights abuses will probably continue in any implementation of it.

            I presume you would find it much more convenient if such “hate facts” could be banned in the name of human rights. Besides it was only an answer to your ridiculous claim that only stormfronters might think that economic success and intelligence are correlated. Also, you did not even seem to have noticed, that “the more meritocratic a society is, the more the statement that poor people are genetically unintelligent is true” is rather close to a tautology. In a completely meritocratic society success would be almost completely determined by genetic factors.

            The government should never ever advocate eugenics as policy.

            So you think Israel should stop screening for Tay-Sachs.

          5. //“hate facts”//
            Yeah the thing is, what you’re saying is not fact, it’s poorly formulated opinion. There’s no research on the genetic intelligence of poor people that shows they’re stupider :P. Also in a “pure meritocracy” (which doesn’t exist, no theory of governance ever works out as planned) that an entitled white guy like you would create, I assume there would be little social support, and it’s quite likely poverty & crime would be an even worse problem when people start becoming desperate.

            //In a completely meritocratic society success would be almost completely determined by genetic factors.//
            This is horrrrribly misguided & poorly thought out idealism. It totally misses the mark on what causes social problems & success in the first place. I mean, if you claim to understand stochastic processes so well, then how can you believe such a society would ever exist? It’s completely contradictory to the divergent outcomes that are generally predicted from a stochastic process, especially when considering something so complex as human society.

            //So you think Israel should stop screening for Tay-Sachs.//
            Durr, screening two parents to avoid their child having a genetic disease is a lot different than selective breeding for traits like intelligence.

            //That is a general problem: some (most) people have trouble interpreting and understanding stochastic phenomena. My experience is that it is extremely difficult to change this. Even thorough and extensive education is of little use.// + //I am interested in population genetics (not professionally)//
            You’re SO full of it. Many of us here have advanced scientific or engineering degrees & specializations, and deal with stochastic processes & systems professionally (I used to deal with stochastic processes & analyses quite a bit when dealing with aerospace structural engineering). Just because we don’t agree with your fucked up non-professional interpretations of genetic theory & evolution, doesn’t mean we don’t understand stochastic phenomena.

            What you mean to say, is that even though you don’t do population genetics professionally, until someone agrees with you, they don’t understand stochastic or probability theory. Right…

            //My moral stand on these issues are probably outside of the boundaries what most people here would consider acceptable//
            Yeah, we know. That’s why we think you’re a POS. Probably best you go discuss them on some flimsy eugenics forum. It’ll give you the illusion that your ideals will ever see anything but public ridicule.

          6. dr.dr.professor

            You have difficulties with reading comprehension.
            I have not said that pure meritocracy is achievable. What’s more, i do not even find pure meritocracy a desired option -it would require enormous meddling with people’s lives – you just imagine that i wrote or implied such a things.
            “almost completely determined” was indeed a bit strong wording. You can guess the variance due to luck if you compare identical twins reared apart. They tend to have very similar life histories by the way.

            Durr, screening two parents to avoid their child having a genetic disease is a lot different than selective breeding for traits like intelligence.

            Why? What is the huge difference? A significant part of “stupidity” is due to genetic load. Besides, I have never mentioned that i would like to select for intelligence. It is another thing that you project on me.
            You obviously did not read Paul Graham’s Essay, also missed the point, that i was answering to Jack99’s comment regarding rare events.
            I have the impression, that you are not actually argue with me, but with some imagined enemy.

          7. dr.dr.professor

            I used to deal with stochastic processes & analyses quite a bit when dealing with aerospace structural engineering

            I am very willing to accept that you can actually understand stochastic processes. (Though your initial claim that “intelligent people can also be … poor” suggested otherwise. That statement is true, but is in the same class as claims like “people who have smoked since they were twelve can live long and cancer free”.)
            You are apparently morally outraged by the ideas I have presented. That unfortunately seems to prevent you from engaging these ideas as coldly as you would engage e.g. structural stress test of an airframe. Maybe that is also the reason for your frequent misinterpretation of what i wrote – I mean it is rather natural to expect the worst from one’s immoral enemy.

          8. Dr Dr, well said. The extreme weakness of the data on genetic causation of phenotype variability is not appreciated, even by most people working in the genetics field. The data is completely consistent with genetics playing only a tiny role, and playing no role at all in “normal” development.

          9. You say: “A significant part of “stupidity” is due to genetic load.”

            A statement that does not have data to support it. Twin studies are not data about genetic load. MZ twins share an in utero environment where they grow from a single cell to ~10^12 cells. What basis is there for emphasizing their shared genetics and not their shared in utero environment? Other than bias?

          10. Daedalus2u:

            Twin studies are not data about genetic load.

            Of course. But I wrote that twin reared apart can give data about the variance due to luck. Not that MZ twins were good for studying genetic load. You purposefully misinterpret.
            There is a reason to suspect that genetic load does play a role in intelligence. Intelligence is correlated to different indicators of general health (like aerobic capacity, grip strength…) at around 0.2-0.4. Read this, if interested.
            But really, in your previous comment you claim that most phenotypic variation is probably not even due to genetics, so if we are to have a discussion, we should start there. If it is as you claim (and i agree), that most geneticist do not agree with this, then probably it is you, who should start with providing evidence for this claim.

          11. Most people at Skepchick support abortion rather unconditionally.

            This conclusion is based on what evidence?

            As a contributor here, knowing the other contributors here, and having been a commenter here for a long time, I would say most people here support women’s reproductive rights unconditionally, including being free from state intervention into whether or not or how or when she should reproduce. This is not the same thing as “supporting abortion rather unconditionally.” People are able to separate out the legal arguments from the ethical/moral arguments. I would propose that we probably have widely variable views on the ethics of abortion practices.

            For example, if I think sex-selective abortions are ethically problematic (which I’m not sure I do…), I would not want a law passed outlawing it because I support a woman’s right to access abortions unfettered. She can grapple with the ethics of her choices without mine or the state’s input. This does not mean I agree with abortion for any and/or all reasons.

            Do you see the distinction?

            By the way, I reject eugenics for multiple reasons. Of course there is an ideological component (as there is to the horseshit Blakut is peddling). There are also scientific reasons and ethical reasons. Your screed really is all your assumptions and opinions and has little basis in the reality of the subtle and complicated ways that most of us think about these topics.

          12. ////Though your initial claim that “intelligent people can also be … poor” suggested otherwise. That statement is true, but is in the same class as claims like “people who have smoked since they were twelve can live long and cancer free”.)////

            See the difference between, physical stochastic systems, and abstract stochastic systems like society is that the random variables in physical systems are rigorously defined (meaning the random variables are clear physical phenomenon which are known be random). When you’re talking about a stochastic system like “society” there’s no rigorous way to define that system, and often stochastic models of society only predict behavior in very specific conditions under very short timescales.

            Trying to draw a corollary between “poor people aren’t poor because they’re genetically unintelligent” and “people who smoke since they are 12 aren’t at risk for cancer” is completely ridiculous. I’d challenge you to come up with a rigorous mathematical correlation between those two things.

          13. Will,
            By ” [aborotion] rather unconditionally” i meant that you mostly require only one condition, which is the woman should want it. You seem to agree with that. I probably should have been more clear about it though.

          14. dr.dr.professor

            I do think society is a physical system. People are not only abstractions, they are very real physical beings. I guess your problem with my comparison is that you think society is a causally dense [i.e. with very many variables that might influence the results we are interested in] case. I still think that the comparison with cancer is rather apt, since cancer is also causally dense. There are many process that can cause it – carcinogen molecules [a poorly defined category], viruses, radiation…. Sure one man is less complex than a set of men, but I would claim that “human” is also ill defined if you require that all random variables be rigorously defined. [do you include the numerous bacteria, and viruses in them, the interactions with all the environmental factors etc.]
            p.s. Please clarify “between those two things”. I am not sure what you are exactly referring to.

          15. You implied I don’t understand stochastics well because I don’t believe that poverty is linked to intelligence.

            And I said, there’s no freaking stochastic model that predicts what you’re talking about.

          16. Nador,

            Even if you had worded it that way, I would still say that you’re way oversimplifying and totalizing the views of a diverse set of people based on nothing but your opinion. You have not gathered the data to be able to make the conclusion you are making, so you should probably stop trying to make it. The fact is, you don’t know the views of “most of the people that post on Skepchick” concerning abortion proper. You’re right that most contributors and probably many commenters are pro-choice, but to assume that’s a monolithic position where we all agree on everything about abortion is just an assumption and not a fact.

          17. dr.dr.professor

            I indeed implied that you don’t understand stochastic well [and also said, given new information on your profession, I am very willing to change my mind], but not for simply not believing intelligence and wealth are not linked. The reason is: you used the “but there are intelligent poor people too” argument. Such statements -while strictly speaking correct- are generally used to dismiss correlation between the relevant variables. One can assume two things: either the opponent is deliberately using irrelevant arguments as if they were relevant [i.e. he debates in a rather dishonest way] or does not understand that the above statement, while true, does not disprove the correlation between the variables.
            As for models, you might read this article
            If you want a more statistical physics like model, imagine the following:
            There are many variably lucrative “jobs” that require a certain minimum level of general intelligence to do. [real life example: not everyone can come up with a better search algorithm than Sergey Brin, but basically everyone can mow a lawn]. There are also many people. Let assume there are somewhat more jobs than people. So let’s start filling up the vacancies: We can assume that people prefer better paying jobs, but also can assume, that they do not have perfect information, so let’s say each person will land a job in the following manner: he will have to choose from the still vacant jobs that have an ability threshold lower than his. The probability that he get a given job can be weighed by exp(salary) – thus we provide the preference for higher pay. So the probability of landing the i-th job is P(job_i)=exp(salary_i)/(sum[for all j=1->n possible jobs for this given person](exp(salary_j))) As the pool of jobs for more intelligent people is bigger in this model, they will have a higher expected value for income. One can fine tune this model with playing how much preference people have for higher salary, or one can change the distribution of pay for jobs….
            I am not saying that this particular model would be a very good one, just that it is not so difficult to come up with one that links income to ability.

          18. As for models, you might read this article

            Ok, I’m sorry, I’m not a statistician or anything, but that article sounds very fishy to say the least:

            The study’s subjects are fairly homogeneous: they are all exceptionally intelligent, generally from middle-class families, and living in California.

            For the treatment effect analysis, we want to ensure that we have a homogenous sample.
            60 males attrited from the sample before 1970, or it was impossible to establish contact. We
            keep only white participants – excluding the children born on Indian Reserves, and those
            whose parents are potentially non-white (from South Africa, the Caribbean, and China).
            Their experience in school and the labor market might or might not have been affected for
            example by prejudices, #differential treatment, and the like, we do not want to make the
            matching assumption for them. Since ex post it is impossible to verify whether they were
            indeed just as the other participants in the sample, we judge it to be most conservative to
            not include them in the computation of the treatment effect.

          19. Myoo,

            That article deals with with a very specific demographic. I just linked it because dr.dr.professor claimed there can not be anything like that.
            The excerpt part that you found problematic is mainly just saying that since they did not want to deal with the racial aspects of the problem, they went for a racially homogeneous sample. Also, if one wants to measure the influence of IQ on lifetime earnings it is easier to do so if other variables are held constant (as much as possible).

          20. //but not for simply not believing intelligence and wealth are not linked//

            I didn’t say intelligence and wealth aren’t linked. I’m saying you have no proof that genetically inherited intelligence makes someone more likely to be successful. Dropping a study link doesn’t amount to a scientific consensus, especially when you’re dropping a study where all whites are selected 😛 as the demographic (which totally ignores the greater society we live in…).

            Intelligence & competence has many forms, most of which are not a given thing at birth. A lot of intelligence is learned, and who learns what varies greatly on the starting privilege of the person. You can be born with excellent capability for intelligence, but if you’re raised in a very poor neighborhood and go to a series of schools that are struggling, and can’t easily get into a college because your school is rated low, and you have zero staring money for college, you may never become rich. If you’re Mitt Romney, the son of the governor with lots of rich & powerful friends, well, I’d say your chances are much higher, even if your inherited intelligence is average.

            And this is my huge problem with your arguments… you largely ignore all these giant social variables, and classify people who are rich as genetically intelligent, and who are poor as genetic underdogs. Then you try to back it up with ramblings about stochastics, give me break dude. This is why I have such a problem with eugenics, people with priveleged worldviews come in, justify their opinions on what’s desirable and worthy with the reverse scientific method (forming a conclusion and then looking for evidence to support it) and then say “it’s for the best, ethics be damned”. It’s tyrannical & terribly stupid.

            // I am not saying that this particular model would be a very good one, just that it is not so difficult to come up with one that links income to ability.//
            Yeah and this is the BIGGGGG difference between stochastic models of physical phenomenon & stochastic models of society. In physical models, your random variables are generally extracted from physical laws. In models of airfoil flutter for instance, your model is basically derived from the conservation of momentum, and your random variables (such as reynold’s number) are variables which are consequences of the conservation of momentum as applied to fluid & structural dynamics. OR, if not physical laws, your random variables behavior you notice that is overwhelmingly repeatable (such as in polymers, where the exact physical model is not known, but there are thousands of experiments which show the same behavior of a particular variable).

            When people come up with models of society, they’re usually just making assumptions about the system they’re modeling, many of which are BAD and unrepeatable. And so sure, you can make a probablistic model prove your point, but it doesn’t mean it’s at all true. You can make a lot of bad points with statistics depending on how you model it.

            And often, I think this what eugenics folk do, they create shitty models of society to prove their point based on bad assumptions that they consider axiomatic, and claim it as ‘proof’

            Eugenics is scientifically a turd, and morally no better than hitler’s plans. And people keep trying to polish that evil turd and re-sell it.

            So yeah, you’ll get not respect when you talk about it here. Especially when it’s clear you’re coming from a highly privileged background and are casting people who are less privileged as undesirables. I’d suggest, maybe build a time machine and go back to 1920, you’ll have more luck being credible there.

          21. @Nador
            What Dr. dr. Professor said was:

            […]often stochastic models of society only predict behavior in very specific conditions under very short timescales. […]

            and

            You implied I don’t understand stochastics well because I don’t believe that poverty is linked to intelligence.
            And I said, there’s no freaking stochastic model that predicts what you’re talking about.

            The article you linked to is related to very specific conditions, namely an all white, middle-class sample of men, all of whom have IQs higher than 135, living in California. That’s an incredibly specific set of circumstances, one that specifically excludes the effects of racism and other discrimination factors.
            Not only that, but nowhere in the study does it link poverty to to low intelligence. At best it says that higher IQs are related to higher wages, and even then, personality traits also have an important effect on wages.

          22. dr.dr.professor,

            I’m saying you have no proof that genetically inherited intelligence makes someone more likely to be successful.

            Look, the study I previously linked offered evidence for it for a specific demographic cohort [since you categorically denied such things, a specific case seemed sufficient to prove you wrong, so i lazily picked an article I’ve read recently]. It should not be difficult to find a more representative one, but I doubt that it would change your mind.
            Look, I frankly have trouble understanding people, who implicitly claim that being more intelligent does not make one more likely to succeed. I am pretty sure that in your everyday life (i.e. when not arguing with me but let’s say hiring people) your working assumption is that all things equal, more intelligent people are more likely to accomplish whatever they have to or want to.
            We seem to have wildly different ideas not only about how the world should be, but also how the world is. For example you think that “A lot of intelligence is learned”. While I think that a lot of knowledge is learnt, but learning only marginally enhances intelligence. As a consequence I find that you constantly misinterpret what I say [to the extent that i occasionally suspect malice] and think that you are setting up a new straw-man every other comment… Probably you find my answers similarly dissatisfactory.
            So there is really no point in continuing this argument as it would not convince either of us. I continue to believe that you have delusions about how society and people work because seeing it as it is would contradict your moral imperative, and you continue to believe that I must be an evil privileged nazi to think those things that I do. Clearly, at least one of us must be engaging in doublethink.

            Especially when it’s clear you’re coming from a highly privileged background and are casting people who are less privileged as undesirables.

            I generally do not like to discuss my background, as I consider it irrelevant, but you seem to be fixated on it. I am not American, I am not even a native English speaker. I come from a family with means very close to the median [in absolute amounts that would be probably equivalent to “poor or very poor” in the US]. And I find the whole “privilege” business in the US highly ridiculous. [Though, i think that it is your privilege of living in a very successful country that allows you to afford such delusions about the world and to play status games of the “I am holier than thou” kind.]

            So, I think it is time we ended this debate for it is unlikely to be fruitful and consumes much time. If you think that we can still end up with a useful debate then tell me and we can continue.

          23. //i occasionally suspect malice//

            Gee you do? How ever did you get that impression?

            //While I think that a lot of knowledge is learnt, but learning only marginally enhances intelligence.//
            Yeah, I know. You’re wrong.

            //moral imperative//
            Yeah, you know, those of us who aren’t sociopaths have those. I am not interested in debate, I’m busy with running a growing company, you can continue to waste your time if you wish debating with people offline, but I really don’t know how you think that’ll usher in your golden eugenics age. Seriously, go post on stormfront or some eugenicist subforum of some futurist site. You’ll feel more at home with your fellow sociopaths there.

  16. 18

    So, how long is this Neo Nazi fucker going to be allowed to ramble on? Are we waiting for him to go away?
    Because I think he’s too full of himself to shut up, and he’s spouting some sick shit.

  17. 19

    I don’t think i’m o the same page as you Nador. I don’t advocate any form of coercion in the case of positive eugenics. I’m just asking if it is always ethical to procreate given a set of initial conditions.

    1. 19.2

      But where does a discussion on the ethics lead to? Does the discussion even matter? I think it’s rather unimportant. And, personally, I think it’s unethical to even discuss it.

      There are so many other things we can discuss that actually are important and that can actually be helpful.

      For instance, we could make it more likely that people will make educated decisions about having children if we discuss and address other problems that aren’t as ethically shaky.

      Because to be honest the whole discussion seems like a pointless derail.

    2. 19.3

      AND, I really hate this idea that arbitrary “bad traits” are ultimately so bad, as to almost be evil. There is no way that humans are ever going to be perfect, and why can’t that be OKAY?

      Some of the most brilliant people have been imperfect. Alcoholics. Mentally ill.

      I mean, STEPHEN FRY is bi-polar, people! And I’d Nador would probably say that being bi-polar is undesirable and should maybe be “bred out”.

      But then maybe we won’t have any more Stephen Frys. And what would this world be without HIM?

      And what about someone like Craig Ferguson? One of my favorite comedians? He’s an alcoholic. He wouldn’t be as brilliant an entertainer (and writer!) and Pea Body winner without that experience as an alcoholic. Which he’s overcome.

      This idea that we need to “breed out” negative traits is bullshit, because sometimes even the “bad” things can create really awesome human beings.

      1. From what I can tell, this ‘positive eugenics’ would marginalize people by shaming them for having kids, as if we don’t hear that we shouldn’t breed from bozos like this all the time.
        People who consider themselves ‘desirable’ are really free and easy with these social engineering plans. And they feel justified in entirely ignoring history – real things that happened to real people as a consequence of this thinking – in order to blather on about grand plans for (some of) humanity.

        1. I honestly feel like this whole debate is pointless. Eugenics is a bad idea.

          We should focus on other things.

          The end.

          But you know, some people like to endlessly debate shit. Haha.

          SO HOW ARE YOU, punchdrunk? 🙂

      2. //I mean, STEPHEN FRY is bi-polar, people! And I’d Nador would probably say that being bi-polar is undesirable and should maybe be “bred out”.//

        This is EXACTLY it. Eugenics is a terribly thought out idea in the first place. So it’s not only evil, it’s also very stupid.

    3. 19.4

      It might be easier if you stop trying to view everything from a black-and-white perspective. Asking the question “is it always ethical” is kind of pointless, because we can’t really answer that. Ethics are more context-dependent than that (well, depending on what kind of ethical system you subscribe to).Whatever the “initial set of conditions” are is not going to mean the same thing across time and space and cross-culturally. Different ethical and moral ideas may be applied to those conditions for myriad reasons.

      I also think it’s problematic to think that the ethics of something like “positive eugenics” stops at procreation. I think the pushback you’re seeing from a lot of other people is that you seem to be ignoring the complex and interconnected ethical issues that intersect with such a “program,” which historically has been the further marginalization of socially oppressed peoples. Frankly, it doesn’t seem to me that any amount of good will or “non-coercion” (which, by the way, what do you consider “encouraging”? That seems coercive to me, trying to convince people of something…plus, as has been pointed out, this will undoubtedly lead to social stigma and shaming) is going to overcome the negative consequences of such a program.

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