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Thread: Richard Dawkins on Eugenics

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    Department Head Apologiaphoenix's Avatar
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    Richard Dawkins on Eugenics

    What's the big deal about eugenics?

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    Should you trust a biology professor on eugenics? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    Richard Dawkins has a penchant for saying things that aren’t too bright. Now in all fairness, when he writes a book that focuses on science, it’s really quite fascinating reading. I like reading this Dawkins. Even if I don’t agree with him, it’s enjoyable and I see a great love nature in him.

    Yet sometimes he steps out of that and that’s when things go wrong. Think The God Delusion. Think Outgrowing God. (Which my ebook response to is coming out soon.) Think The Magic of Reality. In all of these books, there is talk about theology and it’s consistently bad.

    Or think about statements he’s made. Dawkins has said he couldn’t condemn the mild pedophilia that he experienced at a boarding school growing up. (Prediction, within a few years, Dawkins will be seen as someone ahead of his time, though still with bigoted viewpoints in thinking pedophilia is harmful at all. There have already been TED talks trying to normalize this awful practice.) He has also said that if a baby is diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome, abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring such a child into the world if you have a choice.

    So after awhile, you realize that he’s fine when studying zoology, but when he goes outside of that area, disasters happen. Such is the case with a statement he made yesterday on Twitter. Dawkins has decided to talk about eugenics this time.

    “It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds. It’s quite another to conclude that it wouldn’t work in practice. Of course it would. It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses. Why on earth wouldn’t it work for humans? Facts ignore ideology.”

    I will leave it to the scientists to discuss if eugenics would work on humans or not, but I find this kind of statement disastrous. For one thing, Dawkins overlooks that ideology could be factual just as much. There are moral facts out there. Perhaps it’s a moral fact that one shouldn’t try to farm the human race to breed superior humans and weed out weaker ones and deny them a right to life.

    We can also be sure that Dawkins does not see him as one of the humans that would be eliminated with eugenics. Those who advocate eugenics tend to see themselves as the superior ones. It’s the same way I approach the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. If you believe in your cause, lead by example.

    Now to be fair, Dawkins does go on to say that he thinks a eugenics policy would be bad and shouldn’t be done, but quite likely most people will not read the follow-up comments unless they are separate tweets themselves, which they are not. That is their fault if they are not, but sadly, Dawkins will still have stuck his foot in in his mouth and people will run with it.

    However, whether it would work or not is irrelevant. Why bring it up if it is wrong? I am sure we could come up with a plan of an untraceable murder and it would work, but it should still not be done. It is fine for Dawkins to want to defend science, and really he should, but eugenics is much more an ideology than it is a science. It might be fine to breed dogs or cats or horses a certain way, but humans are different.

    It’s important to consider that humans are different and if we agree (And sadly, not all do), then we have to ask what is the basis of this fact? Because we’re smarter or more evolved or something of that sort? Could it be there’s something all humans uniquely share that makes us different? Maybe. Just maybe.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters

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    tWebber Starlight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Apologiaphoenix View Post
    Dawkins has said he couldn’t condemn the mild pedophilia that he experienced at a boarding school growing up. (Prediction, within a few years, Dawkins will be seen as someone ahead of his time
    It seems unlikely, since the secular world seems to be getting more against pedophilia - increasing legal penalties steeply over time, rooting it out of religious organisations and condemning them for it.

    “It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds. It’s quite another to conclude that it wouldn’t work in practice. Of course it would. It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses. Why on earth wouldn’t it work for humans? Facts ignore ideology.”
    It's true that it works... but not massively well. I do scientific research associated with a breeding program (not for humans ), and yes, you can tinker round the edges and squeeze some small 'improvements' out of each generation to the next. But there are limits. We're talking like 1% 'improvement' each generation with regard to the specific things you're trying to select for. And you hit upper limits because you're bounded by the total genetic diversity in the population... try as you want to breed a flying pig, you can't because no current pigs have anything remotely close to wings. So which two pigs would you breed together to have a winged pig as an offspring?

    HOWEVER, the science is getting pretty close to being able to do arbitrary gene editing, where, in theory at least, you could alter any animals DNA any way you liked, and if you wanted a pig with wings you could splice in genes for wings from a bird into a pig. This sort of thing is currently pretty limited to things that happen to be simple, e.g. jellyfish have a simple glow-in-the-dark gene which can be spliced into sheep, and our current understandings of how genes work and what pieces of DNA you would put where to make something work are pretty rudimentary. Plus there are currently extremely strict legal limitations on this practice, though those are gradually being lifted as the practice has shown itself not to be dangerous, and the technique is gradually being improved. However, at the moment it can still go wrong - e.g. this American company was trying gene-edit horns out of their cows, and did so, but mistakenly spliced bacterial DNA into the cows - it's the equivalent of a surgeon sewing up the patient with some of his tools left inside.

    It would seem dumb on the face of it to spend hundreds of years trying to 'breed' better humans, when by the end of our own lifetimes, chances seem good scientists will be able to alter human genes at will to incorporate whatever traits they want.

    Looking at a few dictionaries, it seems like having an injection to change your genes and 'improve' yourself (or your baby-to-be) wouldn't be counted as "eugenics" per se. (It's what I think of when I think of sci-fi eugenics, but apparently not what the dictionary thinks eugenics is.) But that seems the more relevant moral topic to explore, as that one's actually already beginning to happen. e.g. in 2018 a Chinese scientist inserted genes for HIV resistance into human fetuses, which have been born successfully. (Fairly unusual as gene-edited embryos currently have a high rate of death because the current process of opening them up to put the new genes in tends to do damage) Here's a paper discussing the lack-of-ethics of it.

    If you were about to have a baby in China right now, and you knew you could insert (without mistakes) genetic immunity to the coronavirus into its DNA, for example, wouldn't it be moral to do so?
    Last edited by Starlight; 02-18-2020 at 03:10 AM.

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    Department Head Apologiaphoenix's Avatar
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    There are some things I wouldn't have much problem with, but I also think that with much of the science will enable us to play god and opening that box will have effects that we don't want to have.

    And yes, pedophilia will be normalized.

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    tWebber Starlight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Apologiaphoenix View Post
    There are some things I wouldn't have much problem with, but I also think that with much of the science will enable us to play god and opening that box will have effects that we don't want to have.
    "If man were meant to fly, god would have given him wings"?

    In a wide variety of areas, better technology gives us powers we didn't previously have. But the morality of using them is going to be nuanced. And it seems pretty clear that gene-editing technologies will get used to some degree or another. Whether or not it will / won't be a Pandora's box I guess is determined by how far it goes.

    And yes, pedophilia will be normalized.
    Methinks you're projecting religious institutions' tendencies to allow it in secret onto the secular world who's been condemning them for it. Thus far, the trend has been that the more atheists there are in politics, the steeper the penalties for pedophilia have become.

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    Department Head Apologiaphoenix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starlight View Post
    "If man were meant to fly, god would have given him wings"?

    In a wide variety of areas, better technology gives us powers we didn't previously have. But the morality of using them is going to be nuanced. And it seems pretty clear that gene-editing technologies will get used to some degree or another. Whether or not it will / won't be a Pandora's box I guess is determined by how far it goes.
    Excuse me if I am concerned about a society of elites building themselves up more and more in an Animal Farm kind of scenario.

    Methinks you're projecting religious institutions' tendencies to allow it in secret onto the secular world who's been condemning them for it. Thus far, the trend has been that the more atheists there are in politics, the steeper the penalties for pedophilia have become.
    No. I am seeing the natural progression. Once you remove one sexual fence, you have to start removing all of them.

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    tWebber Starlight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Apologiaphoenix View Post
    Once you remove one sexual fence, you have to start removing all of them.

    Just cos someone has a different set of criteria to your own regarding what is right and what isn't, doesn't equate to them having no criteria. Just cos they reject one of your rules as silly, doesn't mean they'll reject all of them or put no rules in place instead.

    Two of the key moral ideas in modern secular thought are informed consent, and doing no harm. Pedophilia violates both of those because the child can't give informed consent, and the psychological harms to the children are well-documented. That's why the modern secular world has been drastically increasing the legal penalties for pedophilia and angrily clamping down on religious organisations where it was previously tolerated.

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    Evolution is God's ID rogue06's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Apologiaphoenix View Post


    So after awhile, you realize that he’s fine when studying zoology, but when he goes outside of that area, disasters happen. Such is the case with a statement he made yesterday on Twitter. Dawkins has decided to talk about eugenics this time.

    “It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds. It’s quite another to conclude that it wouldn’t work in practice. Of course it would. It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses. Why on earth wouldn’t it work for humans? Facts ignore ideology.”

    I will leave it to the scientists to discuss if eugenics would work on humans or not, but I find this kind of statement disastrous. For one thing, Dawkins overlooks that ideology could be factual just as much. There are moral facts out there. Perhaps it’s a moral fact that one shouldn’t try to farm the human race to breed superior humans and weed out weaker ones and deny them a right to life.
    Apparently Dawkins is unaware that a century ago evolutionary biologists like Thomas Hunt Morgan and Reginald Punnett were responsible for demonstrating that the racial theories of eugenicists were as scientifically unsound as they were morally objectionable. For instance, the latter, back in 1917, calculated how many generations it would take to reduce what was termed “feeblemindedness” if everyone so diagnosed were sterilized in each generation. He concluded that to reduce the frequency from 1/100 to 1/1000 would require 22 generations, and to 1/10,000 would require 90 generations. To put this into perspective, 22 generations takes us back to before the Black Death reached Europe.

    I'm always still in trouble again

    "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
    "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

  8. Amen Leonhard amen'd this post.
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    Department Head Apologiaphoenix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starlight View Post

    Just cos someone has a different set of criteria to your own regarding what is right and what isn't, doesn't equate to them having no criteria. Just cos they reject one of your rules as silly, doesn't mean they'll reject all of them or put no rules in place instead.

    Two of the key moral ideas in modern secular thought are informed consent, and doing no harm. Pedophilia violates both of those because the child can't give informed consent, and the psychological harms to the children are well-documented. That's why the modern secular world has been drastically increasing the legal penalties for pedophilia and angrily clamping down on religious organisations where it was previously tolerated.
    Wait and see what happens. I stand by my prediction that this will start to be more and more normalized as it becomes a "sexual orientation."

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    Evolution is God's ID rogue06's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Apologiaphoenix View Post
    Wait and see what happens. I stand by my prediction that this will start to be more and more normalized as it becomes a "sexual orientation."
    The normalization of aberrant behavior is commonplace now. And I'm not just talking about gays or allowing men into women's restrooms and competitive sports if they happen to feel "girly" on any given day. Take a look at Utah, for example, which just decriminalized polygamy.

    But the concept of a slippery slope or the camel's nose in the tent are fallacies. Riiiiiiight.

    I'm always still in trouble again

    "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
    "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

  11. Amen MaxVel amen'd this post.
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    Troll Magnet Sparko's Avatar
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    So Star, if society does start to normalize pedophilia will you reject liberalism and join us conservatives?

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