RE: the term "eugenics"

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Thu Aug 23 2001 - 19:44:56 MDT

Anders writes

> 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.

Quite so.

>> Suppose that a small community has on its hands someone who can't
>> or won't support himself, and lies about on main street annoying
>> the productive citizens who pass by (who find that they must feed
>> him to keep him alive, and wear earmuffs to keep his insane shouting
>> from driving them nuts). Now [should] this small community have a
>> [legal] right to 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 ... 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.

In our current, complex societies, I agree. But I guess we disagree on some
real cases that have come up historically, and possibly will come up again.

> > 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?

Just because the U.S. has gotten away with this over the last 250
years doesn't mean it's universally practical. The U.S. had no
powerful neighbors, and came into being just before the first time
in history it was possible for typical families to feed and clothe
ten kids apiece. If France, say, had taken up your suggestion in
1500, France would have soon ceased to exist. It would have turned
into another Poland or Yugoslavia or worse.

> Why do you think IQ would help societies? Remember that it is very
> weakly correlated to anything useful.

I think that IQ is *very* useful. To quote an example given by the
hated and heretical "The Bell Curve", consider a busboy. An intelligent
busboy will be more efficient in the restaurant than one who is dull,
because the intelligent one will make fewer unnecessary trips to the
kitchen and in other ways simply organize his work better. There
really are only a few tasks where intelligence does not add efficiency,
and the more advanced a society is, the truer this becomes.

> 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.

Yes, it's very hard to think of any historical situation in which
forcing a change in the way people reproduce would be productive.
One can even go back to ancient Sparta in its contest with Athens
to see the disadvantages. I confess, however, that if I had been
an Athenian, what the Spartans were up to would have scared me to
death; just as I used to really worry that the Soviets were going
to win the cold war because of their greater focus and uniformity.


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