Re: the term "eugenics"

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Thu Aug 23 2001 - 16:15:29 MDT

On Thu, Aug 23, 2001 at 09:17:47AM -0700, Lee Corbin wrote:
> Anders wrote
> > It was different between different nations, but many of the eugenics
> > proponents did lobby for various government initiatives that in many
> > cases amounted to force. The sterilization programs in the US and
> > various european nations were one result, for example.
> This thinking is not as extinct as some might think.

True. But that doesn't make it *right*. In fact, it is very much against
the view of human autonomy implied by the extropian principles,
liberalism and humanism. Humans are responsible for themselves, and even
if others dislike their choices they have a right to make them as long
as their freedom doesn't interfere with the freedom of others. This
tends to get emotional when it comes to originating children, but the
same arguments that make it ethical within this framework to genetically
modify children also allows parents who have notable genetic flaws to
pass them on - it might be bad, but forbidding it or imposing force to
prevent it is far worse.

> Now does this small community
> have a right to (i.e., do the people reading this agree that it's okay)
> to seize this person, hospitalize him, and even sterilize him? As a
> member of a small, rather isolated community typical of many in the
> history books, I would cautiously endorse such actions.

I think the only case where this might be ethically acceptable from my
position would be if his agency was seriously hurt, i.e. he was not
acting as an autonomous person any more and the treatment would restore
his autonomy. Sure, drawing lines here is notoriously tricky, but it is
possible to do. Forcing autonomous persons that do not infringe on the
rights of others is a very bad thing to do.

> > > I recall the right-wing William Shockley proposing that we pay
> > > $1000 per I.Q. point below 100 to people to not have children.
> > > If I had a real nation, and I cared about whether it prospered
> > > in a competitive world, I think that I'd go along with his
> > > proposal!
> > Would you allow immigration? Think about it. And how do you make sure
> > people with < 100 IQ don't cheat on the tests to get lower scores?
> Well, this is a huge *IF*, but *if* I had a real nation, and cared
> about whether it itself prospered and thrived in a competitive
> world, then the only immigrants that I'd allow were those of the
> same cultural background as my own people, and who would seemlessly
> fit in, without fracturing the society into different groups.

OK, you do that. I, the benevolent ruler of the neighbouring nation will
allow your tired, poor huddled masses to immingrate freely. OK, it is
going to be messy, but which nation do you think will be richest and
most dynamic 300 years after its funding?

> High IQ in most historical epochs would definitely help a society,
> but yes, perhaps not so much as free trade and openness do.

Why do you think IQ would help societies? Remember that it is very
weakly correlated to anything useful. It is better to create systems
that promote useful behavior than to try to fix complex underlying
factors, especially if you risk trampling people's rights in the
> > Not to mention the ethical problems with a government using tax
> > money to reward lack of intelligence.
> The funds could be raised voluntarily. In the 20th century it's hard
> for us to appreciate doing things without a strong government, but
> every time that Benjamin Franklin or others in his city wanted any
> community projects undertaken, thing done, they'd go around door to
> door getting "subscriptions". In most cases, that's how things
> should be done. Freedom has worked very well, every time it's been
> tried, so far as I know.

OK, sorry for implying you had a statist agenda, although it sounded
like it from the benevolent ruler context of this thread. I don't see
any ethical problem for people to voluntarily set up funds for this
kind of project - it is still a waste of money and might have unwelcome
cultural influences, but people are free to waste money even on sinister
causes (and similarly, on counteracting them).

All in all, I think the IQ issue is pretty irrelevant here. What really
matters in the current thread is the ethics of forcing vs. supporting a
change in reproduction for some global goal.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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