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more evidence that eugenics won't work

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Showing 1-22 of 22 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 16, 2012, 9:27:39 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 16, 2012, 9:28:29 AM PST
Eugenics claims that by not allowing persons with "undesirable" traits to reproduce we can reduce or eliminate the prevalence of these traits in the population. A study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine recently provides more evidence that this is not true. The authors sequenced the coding regions of more than 21,000 genes in 100 persons with IQs less than 50 and their unaffected parents, and found 79 de novo mutations in 53 patients. This indicates that eugenics would not be able to eliminate the occurrence of several intellectual disability in the population.

Posted on Nov 16, 2012, 9:50:09 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 16, 2012, 9:51:42 AM PST
John Donohue says:
Since I learned more about how evolution works I have been skeptical of eugenics for reasons additional to those arpard noted above: the strength of evolutionary adaptation is that organisms have many hidden variations and in the aggregate these variations have the virtue that one of them might be just perfect for an unforeseen change in the environment that our human predictive models would never guess at.

What is most likely with eugenics is that people would choose traits that are fashionable in some sense -- I would bet that skin color, height and straight teeth would be high on the list of what people would choose for. After that maybe high SAT scores or something similar. Problem is, there is no particular reason to think these traits are particularly adaptive for a future that we cannot actually predict.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012, 9:54:49 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 16, 2012, 9:56:09 AM PST
Agree that genetic variation is a good thing. The 1000 Genome Project just published results of analysis of 1092 sequenced human genomes indicating that the average human genome has over 3 million single nucleotide polymorphisms, over 300,000 indels, and over 700 larger deletions! No doubt some of these would be adaptive under certain circumstances in ways we can't predict.

This may also explain why even in supposedly "well understood" organisms like e. coli the function of many of the genes remain unknown: they may have specific roles in specific enivronmental situations which we aren't aware of.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012, 10:10:50 AM PST
John Donohue says:
A version of eugenics might be able to eliminate some horrible genetic diseases however. I do reserve a bit of concern over the possibility of unforeseen consequences.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012, 10:52:59 AM PST
It would take many generations of selective removal of homozygotes from the breeding population to significantly reduce the frequency of an autosomal recessive gene in the gene pool, and this only if the prevalence of de novo mutations were low, which in some simple Mendelian diseases like hemophilia A is not the case. Plus you would be denying to homozygotes the equal protection under the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012, 1:59:51 PM PST
John Donohue says:

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012, 3:36:39 PM PST

you cannot prove a negative

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012, 6:24:59 PM PST
Gomb says:
This just sounds like something ugly people say to make them feel better.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 17, 2012, 8:14:34 AM PST
Your post sounds like something a person with a severe intellectual disability would say.

Posted on Nov 17, 2012, 8:45:48 AM PST
Lessfatman says:
The data presented does not warrant the conclusion drawn.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 17, 2012, 8:55:32 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 19, 2012, 7:21:48 AM PST
Are you referring to the conclusion presented in the title of this thread or the conclusion in the abstract?

Edit: Oops, my mistake. I thought the OP had pasted an abstract. Sorry.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 18, 2012, 10:06:33 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 18, 2012, 10:07:08 AM PST
Hypothesis: preventing those with congenital severe intellectual disabilities (IQ's less than 50) from reproducing will markedly reduce or eliminate the prevalence of persons with congenital severe intellectual disability in our society.

Fact: the study cited indicates that the majority of cases of congenital severe intellectual disabilities are due to de novo mutations (i.e., not present in the parents).

Conclusion: even if we prevent all persons with congenital severe intellectual disabilities from reproducing, there will still be a significant incidence of new cases due to de novo mutations.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 18, 2012, 10:52:23 AM PST
Lessfatman says:
I did not see any figures about the offspring of these 50s and under.
Is there data?

As far as I've read the abstract these intellectually disabled people of G2 were mostly carriers of novel mutations.

There was no mention of the mental abilities of the G3 generation.

I cannot read?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 18, 2012, 4:25:58 PM PST
I think it's pretty safe to assume that these mutations are dominant and that offspring of those with these mutations will be similarly affected.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2012, 2:36:50 AM PST
Lessfatman says:
was there offspring?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2012, 3:48:40 AM PST
I dont know.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2012, 7:14:27 AM PST
I provided a link to the article.

The point is not whether the offspring of these congenitally severely intellectually disabled persons will or won't be severely intellectually disabled. The point is that even if you prevent them from having offspring, there will continue to be a significant incidence of persons with congenital severe intellectual disability because over half such persons in this study were shown to have de novo mutations, i.e. mutations not present in the parents.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2012, 8:31:47 AM PST
Lessfatman says:
Talking about evolution or natural selection I do think it is quite important to know whether there was offspring to the sub 50s and what kind of life did they lead if they existed.

As for eugenics in this particular context, I fail to see the importance. There are some real points in the real world where hereditary diseases can be avoided if the current knowledge is properly applied in genetic counseling etc.
Your point seems to be: Eugenics=Bad.
Am I reading you right?

Posted on Nov 19, 2012, 8:39:11 AM PST
Lessfatman says:
...and your chances of getting intelligent offspring increase markedly if you manage to get pregnant an intelligent woman. Not fair!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2012, 11:04:52 AM PST
I don't think there was anything in the article about offspring. I can't read the whole article because of a paywall but nothing was mentioned in the abstract about studying the offspring of those with severe intellectual disabilities.

The point I'm making about eugenics is that traditionally it maintained that one could significantly reduce or eliminate undesirable traits, specifically including "feeblemindedness", by preventing them from reproducing. E.g. there was the notorious Buck v. Bell decision of the Supreme Court in 1927:

Buck v. Bell 274 U.S. 200 (1927), is a decision of the United States Supreme Court, written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., in which the Court ruled that a state statute permitting compulsory sterilization of the unfit, including the mentally retarded, "for the protection and health of the state" did not violate the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The decision was largely seen as an endorsement of negative eugenics-the attempt to improve the human race by eliminating "defectives" from the gene pool.

The study I cite clearly shows this wouldn't work for eliminating "feeblemindedness" since the majority of cases are due to de novo mutations.

I'm not arguing that modern genetic counselling based on scientifically correct understanding of genetic causes of disease is wrong. I'm arguing that the traditional notion in eugenics that all "undesirable" traits can be markedly reduced or eliminated by preventing persons afflicted with them from reproducing is clearly wrong.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2012, 6:40:43 PM PST
Lessfatman says:
I do not think you would find many people arguing for the traditional eugenics.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012, 9:09:53 AM PST
I certainly hope not.
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This discussion

Discussion in:  Science forum
Participants:  6
Total posts:  22
Initial post:  Nov 16, 2012
Latest post:  Nov 20, 2012

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