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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Ross Cevenst: on 12/1/14 at 8:32am UTC, wrote Hi Judy, do you have a blog or email at which you can be contacted? I'd...

Peter Jackson: on 6/6/14 at 23:27pm UTC, wrote Judy, I see your essay is on the brink, I hope it gets in. Thanks for your...

Jeffrey Schmitz: on 6/5/14 at 14:09pm UTC, wrote Judy, Eugenics is a controversial issue, which your well-written essay...

Anonymous: on 6/2/14 at 22:24pm UTC, wrote Dear Judy, If I understood you correctly, you are suggesting to...

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Aaron Feeney: on 6/1/14 at 3:04am UTC, wrote Hi Judy, Your essay takes on an important and difficult subject. I am glad...

John Hodge: on 5/31/14 at 15:35pm UTC, wrote Thanks for your comment on my essay. Your suggestion by publishing in FQXi...

Judy Nabb: on 5/29/14 at 7:46am UTC, wrote Daniel Do identify yourself. That type of research is very difficult and...


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FQXi FORUM
October 22, 2019

CATEGORY: How Should Humanity Steer the Future? Essay Contest (2014) [back]
TOPIC: Is a better future possible from Eugenics? by Judy Nabb [refresh]
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Author Judy Nabb wrote on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 12:37 GMT
Essay Abstract

Eugenics to some degree is already long established and widely practiced, but is still an uncomfortable subject for many. Advance of technology has opened greater opportunities for well informed intervention and the range and capabilities of eugenics are likely to widen. We argue that continuance and intensification are inevitable with recognised benefits but equal dangers. How long before ‘designer babies’ become the norm? Should we continue along this path? If so, will it just be because we can, or as a strategy to secure our future? Our knowledge of biology and the human genome will bring ever increasing power to reduce morbidity. Better recognition, consideration and discussion of the issues and practice is essential. But by who?

Author Bio

Working in biology and medicine, specialising mainly in reproductive systems, physiology, embryo and human development in practice, academia and research. Gained Degrees in the UK. Headed up departments at two universities and moderator at a third. Also a specialist book editor.

Download Essay PDF File

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Georgina Woodward wrote on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 22:28 GMT
Hi Judy,

a very brave decision to discuss such a controversial and almost taboo subject. You have done it sensitively even considering the feelings of those that might have been considered 'worthy' of termination. The practice of genetic counselling and screening of embryos can prevent the heart break of bringing another sick or disabled child into the world. Selection of fit embryos can be carried out prior to implantation rather than abortion of fetuses already naturally implanted. Using the same kind of techniques for designer children is not such an admirable prospect. Diversity is in itself a measure of fitness (for survival) of a population. It would be a shame to reduce that population fitness for the sake of fashion or desire for conformity to an imagined "ideal" phenotype.

You have not mentioned the problem of the abandonment or termination of many girl children in China as some parents have regarded a son only child as more desirable.That has now left an imbalance of the sexes in the population, which will I expect lead to future problems with not enough women to become wives of those sons. I have read that termination and abandonment of girls is also a problem in rural India, as there also boys are regarded as more desirable offspring.

An informative, thorough discussion of a difficult, sensitive topic. Good luck, Georgina

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Author Judy Nabb replied on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 08:10 GMT
Thank you Georgina. It's a very sensitive and difficult subject for people to face. I tried to focus on the more social than biological issues. Unfortunately I ran out of time to really pull it all together.

I did briefly mention China and the long history of the practice of abandonment, but the results of China's policies are a big and complex topic themselves. As something not likely to become common practice (due to pre-natal science) it can distract from the bigger picture, but then who knows!

I enjoyed you essay, but what techniques do you proposes to l keep population constant? Eugenics would be essential, so 'designer babies' the norm!

I see the evolution of the way we use our brains as far more important, bringing focus on post natal development and teaching. From Peter's work I'm greatly impressed with the way Architects are taught to think. It seems to be a two hemispheric multiplication; never 'assuming', visionary and clinically analytical. We can't generalise that with biology. Can we only do it with a different type of teaching?

Judy

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Anonymous replied on May. 2, 2014 @ 12:14 GMT
Hi Judy,

Don't really want to go there, as we agree it is a very sensitive topic . However these are some ideas that I see might be useful in maintaining the fictitious population.

1. Many people opting to be child free for the health benefits, freedom and lifestyle that allows.

2. Societal /peer pressure to be child free rather than the expectation of parenthood.

3. Planned parenthood with suitability testing i.e. sufficient desire to be a parent, intelligence and health to carry out the demanding full time role.

4. An attempt to maintain genetic diversity within the gene pool for population health and to prevent genetic drift towards a particular type.

5. For those who would make good dedicated parents there might be selection of healthy embryos for implantation where there is genetic disease in the family, as occurs now at the request of some families.Or opportunity for adoption.

6. Gametes of the non reproducing population might be kept for possible future fertilization and implantation, so the actual gene pool is larger than just the reproducing individuals.

Designer babies, no. I don't see that as inevitable.

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Author Judy Nabb replied on May. 3, 2014 @ 08:40 GMT
Georgina,

"Don't really want to go there"

Precisely the point of my essay. Everybody wants the ideals you list, that's the easy bit, yet few want to face the realities of implementing them, or implementing anything that will he the slightest effect. To analyse;

1. We have that choice already.

2. Didn't work in China. Low effectiveness even AFTER effective change.

3. Totalitarian. Who dictates if we can have children? Doctors!

4. Non-contributive secondary matter.

5. Ditto, and over 99% prefer the natural way when they have choice.

6. Ditto.

You see the only effective method of reduction is the totalitarian one. Ideas are fine, what I'm saying is that when it comes to planned effective actions we need realism! At present nobody is facing up to that. I hope you can see that your utopia can never exist in the first place without either a) those hard choices, b) war, c) plague or d) genocide. Would we not best 'steer' by making those hard choices to avoid the other options, if reduction is really needed?

Also none of the choices seem to address the real need, to accelerate evolution of intellect. The need seems clearer to me than the need for ideal 'physical perfection'. But I see as expected that most people still prefer fantasy idealism to the pain of reality. Your essay is doing exceptionally well and mine very poorly.

Good luck in the results.

Judy

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James A Putnam wrote on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 00:40 GMT
Judy Nabb,

An objective presentation. My knee didn't move. Thank you.

James Putnam

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John C Hodge wrote on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 14:44 GMT
I echo G. Parry’s comment.

Nature solved these problems a few generations ago. The technology increase is causing us to reevaluate our morals in many other areas.

Many ancient societies killed (exposed) babies born but unwanted. Some problems become evident only after birth. Would you comment on what to do with unwanted babies/children?

The other end of the life span has a similar problem. What to do with unproductive old people and, more restrictively, with people who want to die – assisted suicide?

Hodge

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Author Judy Nabb replied on Apr. 26, 2014 @ 08:24 GMT
John,

The danger is desensitisation. It's the same human response as convincing ourselves that science is 'self correcting' when the real evidence shows it's far from it. For me the best reason for better pre-natal screening is to reduce the post natal problem.

The present case of the mother who killed her 3 children who had serious disorders is tragic. Should she be jailed? Committed? Clearly such stress is more than many humans can take. In a way we are to blame for leaving her to it with inadequate support. I genuinely think, not knowing the details, that after 'going through due processes' publicly that her punishment should perhaps only be compulsory therapy.

The issue is really about not encouraging parents of any other 'imperfect' children to believe they may have some right to take life.

Judy

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Member Rick Searle wrote on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 14:45 GMT
Hi Judy,

I wonder if your ideas regarding eugenics assume far to much genetic determinism than has proved to be the case. Back in the 1990's and right after the Human Genome was sequenced there was all sort of talk of finding the "gene" for this or that. I can remember articles about twins separated at birth who both ended up becoming firemen and loving pizza as if there were genes for both.

What we have found, for most conditions, is far more complex. Multiple genes interacting with environmental conditions go into the manifestation of any disease or behavior. There are effects beyond our own genes- microbial effects- implicated in diseases such as Crohn's and allergies which we are just beginning to understand. Genes obviously can't be the most important factor in violence given how societal levels of violence can vary within very short periods of time.

The immediate danger of eugenics rhetoric is that it gives parents a false sense of sovereignty over what their children will be like. The FDA is already investigating companies tapping into the competition anxiety of would be parents to peddle bogus genetic tests:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/25/us-23andme-f
da-warning-idUSBRE9AO0MG20131125

Whatever one's view of abortion there are children already conceived who were not brought into the world because some parents falsely thought they had more control over the future than was actually possible.

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Author Judy Nabb replied on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 22:05 GMT
Rick,

I agree. I'm concerned we're in danger of interfering too much through lack of knowledge.

ok it may be better for sensibilities to find major deformities and terminate earlier rather than later, and remember many will have another, healthy, child who may not exist had the disabled child been born. However he temptation is to go much further.

What happens is that we focus on purely physical attributes, easier to 'control' when our real shortcoming is in mental ability, i.e. more sophisticated intellectual capacity, reasoning power, objectivity and maturity. That means training our brains better AFTER birth.

Preventing war and advancing scientific understanding can only come from that approach. Take physics; It's not about advancement at present so much as maintaining status quo, childish spats and self aggrandisement. Just take a look at the 'Classical sphere's blog I'm discussing on at present. Peter Jackson has a ground breaking advancement in understanding but most are quite blind to it. The problem seems too endemic.

I believe it's clear that only improving mental abilities, visualisation powers and application of the potential we have will secure the future of mankind. If we better train people how to use their built in quantum computers the rest will follow.

Thanks for your interesting points. I'll read you essay too.

Judy

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Anonymous replied on Jun. 2, 2014 @ 22:24 GMT
Dear Judy,

If I understood you correctly, you are suggesting to genetically enhance the intelligence of mentally second-class people like me and the rest of the world who are too blind as to see Peter Jackson's geniality.

My comment is hidden in a more easily understandable story: A ship is suddenly facing an iceberg immediately in front of it. The captain decides: full power ahead and sound our hooter. A miracle happens; the ship stops still in time. All power is consumed for tooting.

Regards,

Eckard

topic/2021

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Anonymous wrote on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 16:36 GMT
Dear Ms. Nabb,

Your courageously written assay was truly illuminating, and I do hope that it does well in the competition. May I just make a comment about it?

As I have pointed out in my essay, REALITY, ONCE, everything in the real Universe is unique, once. Whether eugenic practices are adopted or not, each real baby that is born will be born in a unique fashion at a unique moment. Each real baby will have a unique appearance and composition. Each real baby will live a unique life.

Regards,

Joe Fisher

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Author Judy Nabb replied on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 22:13 GMT
Joe,

I agree entirely. Not only no two people but no two cells are absolutely identical near the Planck scale. Even assuming electrons are identical will one day be proved a serious error I'm sure, but currently beyond our resolving power.

The 'difference' is one of the most important parts of our survival. As many people as there are with near fatal allergies to bananas will survive the most devastating event to hit Earth.

I'll certainly read your essay given the time.

Judy

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Peter Jackson wrote on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 20:28 GMT
Judy,

Nice essay, very brave, and important, and agreeing my own conclusions on intellectual evolution. I suggested in my '2020 vision' essay we may have a step change in 10 years, but I'm not yet entirely convinced. The theoretical rut may now be too deep.

My ears perked up today what I heard a plug for a BBC radio 4 programme tomorrow (tues)at 11.00am discussing that very thing. If you aren't aware or don't catch it I'll try to listen and report back on it. You've now got me very interested.

Well done and thanks for your support of my own thesis and essay as describing as a significant break through. I'm pretty devastated so few seem to have seen the implications yet. You're one of the few with a head NOT buried somewhere without a view! Thank you for restoring my faith.

Best wishes

Peter

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Peter Jackson replied on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 11:04 GMT
Ooops, sorry, I missed it. May be on BBC 'I player', if we can find what it was called!

Do see Alan Kadin's essay. It's gives a well argued case for for population reduction. Any ideas how without virtual babies? Can we solve the big issue at the same time by only letting highly intelligent people have children? Who decides what intelligent is? I suspect many considered 'intelligent' now actually aren't.

P

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Peter Jackson replied on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 17:51 GMT
And is this really a good thing? Human cloning by nuclear transfer confirmed.

PJ

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Peter Jackson replied on May. 26, 2014 @ 13:29 GMT
Judy,

Thanks for your supportive comments on my blog. I'm check and ensure Doug didn't misunderstand about both spin 1 and spin 1/2 being covered.

While here I do recommend you read Ross Cevenst's interesting essay if you haven't yet.

Best wishes

Peter

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Author Judy Nabb wrote on May. 1, 2014 @ 00:55 GMT
Peter,

That's a shame, I missed it too. I'll read the Kadin essay when I get a chance but I'm overloaded with marking and exam work at present.

I rather shudder at the though of human cloning. It's not eugenics and I think fraught with serious issues. Those doing it shouldn't be left to decide how far they go.

Judy

(P.S. You may have missed a post in the spheres blog)

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Tihamer T. Toth-Fejel replied on May. 21, 2014 @ 01:45 GMT
Dear Judy,

I don't understand why you shudder at the thought of human cloning, but seem to condone genetic engineering. What is the difference? At least with the cloning of an adult, you have a proven DNA sequence that you knows works. With genetic engineering, it's a brand new experiment every time (on a non-consenting human no less).

I can see that you tried to be even-handed in...

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Peter Jackson replied on Jun. 6, 2014 @ 23:27 GMT
Judy,

I see your essay is on the brink, I hope it gets in. Thanks for your support. our appreciation of addressing fundamentals over symptoms is rare and valuable. I know you're travelling but we may currently be closer than you think, send an email to the address in my end notes an we may even get to meet up. If you get a moment do also look at Alex Macrea's slightly fantastical version of eugenics, but who knows what the future holds.

Very best of luck.

Peter

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Domenico Oricchio wrote on May. 5, 2014 @ 10:53 GMT
Thank you for reading my essay.

I think that the technology, and the politics, can help to obtain a best world, if they are used well: I think that the environment change the genetic, the technology, the politics in a similar way, it is only necessary to act not as individuals, but as a democratic society.

Your essay is interesting.

I think that there are problem with unethical eugenetic, for example is right to choose the gender of the future child (in India)? Is it right to terminate a future child like Hawking? The phenotype don't give, until now, information on intelligence, ethic, but the human life determine the persistence; I am thinking that a good practice is to require to have not child for person with severe genetic disease, with adoptions or egg donation, rather to use the eugenetic.

I read of Chinese study for eugenetics of the intelligence, to obtain more intelligent people, but the problem is that there is not a natural selection of the intelligent people, so that it is possible to have intelligent persons without good interaction with the other people (asociality), so that I think that the human life is the better choice for the better individuals (there are some characters that cannot be evaluated, now and forever, with a genetic study).

I am thinking that a natural eugenetic is obtained helping the best individuals to perpetuate the species, with grants, houses, facilities; this is a usual method that governments apply to choose the best individuals in the best position, and the ethical problems disappears.

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Author Judy Nabb replied on May. 8, 2014 @ 07:28 GMT
Dominico,

I fear the ethical problems may not disappear that easily. Eugenics of the intelligence may be essential to promote advancement. For instance I'm having a conversation with a full professor in the blog on the EPR paradox solution and his shortcomings in applied logic (for a mathematician) are shocking. Yet arrogance means all are convinced they're brilliant!

That sort of thinking in such positions is probably the greatest barrier to intellectual and scientific advancement we face. I don't think the Chinese, or any study has found any solution. We first have to ask what is intelligence? And are social skills equally important (in the above case those mirror the logic level).

There are essays here with brilliant new scientific perceptions able to propel us rapidly in the right direction. Peter Jackson's is certainly one. He's correctly termed the real problem as 'intellectual inertia'. My foray from my own field deeper into physics has been shockingly enlightening.

The entrenchment of flawed doctrine here seems to be a massive block to progress. It's commonly justified as 'rigorous falsification' but is quite the opposite. Eugenics can't yet help. That's where far better education is needed.

Thank you for your kind comments. I hope your essay does well.

Judy

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Don Limuti wrote on May. 7, 2014 @ 02:40 GMT
Hi Judy,

Very nice reminder that we are steering the future eugenically, and perhaps we should be more conscious about it. Thanks for the fine essay.

Don Limuti

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Author Judy Nabb replied on May. 13, 2014 @ 06:51 GMT
Thank you Don. Much of humanity and certainly theoretical physics seems to be blundering around blindfolded. My broader field also shows the symptoms which is why I felt the need to write my essay. To steer we must first know where we are, and are heading.

Judy

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Lawrence B Crowell wrote on May. 10, 2014 @ 21:31 GMT
With regards to designer babies we are probably entering an age of designer biology. This means designer crops, animals, diseases and so forth. I suspect it will not be too long that subtle forms of bio-warfare will be conducted. For example company A has a product that they intend to release in six weeks, but company B has a competing product that might take more of the market. Company A then...

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Author Judy Nabb replied on May. 12, 2014 @ 20:00 GMT
That's a horrifying picture you paint Lawrence but one which could well be possible, which is why I had to write the essay. These things are creeping in by stealth with no forethought or 'steering'.

Frankly that now surprises me less than it did a few months ago. My world is clinical, intelligent, precise and normally with excellent ethics. I had no idea that physics had fallen so far from acceptable standards in all those areas, with the rot seemingly led from the heart, the centre and upper middle.

Doctrine clearly needs updating, yet the whole subject is based on NOT being inclusive and assessing potentially far better hypotheses.

Is it fear? That's certainly what it looks like, sheer terror at the idea of finding cherished beliefs and learning will prove to be false. There also seems to be inherent dishonesty. It seems that the horrific behaviour and abuse of editorial power at arXiv and many journals is only acceptable as the background ethics level is so low. It seems those leading fqxi are far from immune. Eugenics of the intellect is now the one important area we desperately need and the only one we can't effect.

I've seen much honesty and intelligence overwhelmed by the majority. Is it now too late to steer physics back out of the shocking behavioural cesspool it's sunk into? I fear medical science being dragged under too.

Is the state not recognised from within? Is there a viable escape route?

Judy

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Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on May. 13, 2014 @ 10:21 GMT
Congratulations Judy you have written an eminently readable essay on an important and sensitive subject. Biology and medicine have advanced so much in the past decades that the science, social implications and ethics of interfering with human reproduction need to be discussed frankly and openly. The possibility of making mistakes, let alone making intentional 'evil' decisions - as did the Nazis - using such advances makes it the more important to educate and instruct at every level. As you imply there is already a creeping acceptance of many cases of interference with the natural progress of conception and childbirth.

As with many things in our modern world the implications are mind-boggling, and making hard decisions almost impossible because so much is changing so fast. For example, genetic manipulation after birth might one day cure some of the diseases and disabilities that eugenics may want to minimize - should not that curb some possible eugenic scenarios?

Wisely you did not mention the terrible overpopulation the world is experiencing today and in the next decades. A policy like China's to limit population growth would seem to be necessary, but almost impossible to implement globally. It is an enormous problem and needs to be faced courageously by us all.

Is a puzzlement!

Vladimir

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Author Judy Nabb replied on May. 17, 2014 @ 09:00 GMT
Vladimir,

I agree overpopulation is a problem in some places and may become a major one if our intelligence and understanding of nature don't keep up. I highlight the hard choices we face if we wish to limit it.

Humanity is very inadequate at facing hard choices or challenges to complacent beliefs, as you seem to agree.

Judy

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Member Travis Ty Norsen wrote on May. 13, 2014 @ 18:32 GMT
Hi Judy. I enjoyed reading your essay. You certainly raise a number of challenging bio-ethical questions that people are going to have to confront, and soon. I think my only complaint was that I arrived at the end of the paper without yet having a very good sense of how you would answer the questions posed. Do you have specific answers to recommend, regarding what should be permitted, who should get to decide, etc.? Or is your point more just that, to steer the future for the better, we need to face up to the existence of these looming and difficult questions, and start thinking and talking about them?

Travis

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Author Judy Nabb replied on May. 17, 2014 @ 09:14 GMT
Travis,

I don't presume to 'take' the decisions facing mankind because none are obvious and all have different complex implications which need thinking about. First we need to recognise where we are going. 'Steering' to a goal is useless if we don't know our start point.

I do identify what I conclude is the most essential change we have to make; Improve the way we use our brains, to improve our understanding of nature. The way we think is not far from primeval. Not only are we belief based but we're poor at identifying key steps forward and implementing them. For me most essays here are semantic, stating the 'B' obvious, or pie in the sky.

Perhaps only one hits all the matters I identify, which is Peter Jackson's, promoting a better way to think and showing a stunning result which will effect real advancement. The problem is that science thinking is so far behind in that 'rut' that it probably won't even be recognised. So the solution is in our heads.

Thanks for your comments. I'll try to read your essay.

Judy

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James Lee Hoover wrote on May. 14, 2014 @ 21:26 GMT
Judy,

A brave subject to broach. I wonder if the most important question you pose is who decides in you abstract: the criteria, the goals, and termination, for example. Eugenics, I see as only one consideration in steering the future. The big considerations, I see, are how we determine who steerers, what the goal is and how we get there.

My essay has solutions but not necessarily how to get there.

Jim

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Author Judy Nabb wrote on May. 17, 2014 @ 20:12 GMT
James,

That's the problem. Nobody is really steering and few have any idea how to implement the endless 'solutions' identified. How do we know which solution we need before we know which is the greatest problem.

I believe it's clear we no need to improve intellect in science and take major steps in fundamental understanding, such as that in the Jackson essay and a few others discussing education. Only such real and wide advancements can guarantee success.

I'll try to look at your solutions.

Judy

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Anonymous wrote on May. 18, 2014 @ 00:57 GMT
Judy,

I was just going to leave this subject alone, because sight unseen I would have answered your essay question, "Hell, no." You kindly commented in my forum, however, so I will return the favor and deal with the content objectively, though in opposition:

Eugenics programs are simply not rational. That is, they are based not on a scientific correspondence of theory to experiment; rather, they belong to the class of scientific tinkering. One should know this, even from Galton statistics. The principle of mediocrity, or statistical regression to the mean, tells us that we cannot cross the threshold of efficiency without sacrificing system effectiveness. Georgina is absolutely correct that diversity is our measure of fitness. If we would cultivate fitness, we would allow a diverse variety of forms to grow stochastically, because we already know that biological life is self-limiting to adaptability within the fitness landscape.

I can't really comprehend why you seem to equate intellect with ethics. Nazi researchers were certainly convinced they were doing good for the greater humankind. Well intentioned, indeed.

Your essay does help me understand how those who favor empirical data over science (vice using empirical data to support the science) are misled into the belief that nature should be efficient. Nature is demonstrably not efficient; it is creative and effective. If we would be natural human beings, we would maximize our own individual roles as co-creators in the cosmic dance -- not by eliminating possibilities but by increasing them. No free person is enslaved to their genes.

I won't vote you down, though I would always vote against the proposition that genetic perfection is to be found in eugenic tinkering.

Best,

Tom

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on May. 18, 2014 @ 00:58 GMT
'twas I.

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Author Judy Nabb replied on May. 18, 2014 @ 23:19 GMT
Tom,

That's a strange response. You've agreed most of my conclusions but described your comments as 'in opposition'. I'm not sure you picked up my main thrust.

From a generally reasonable starting point of warning parents of problem pregnancies and malformations we're now somewhat 'sleepwalking' on many fronts into very dangerous territory without public discussion. Just disagreeing with that view or ducking the issue are the greatest dangers.

You may have noticed I don't tend to duck important issues. The most important is the poor way we employ our brains. Eugenics can't solve that problem. I don't directly 'equate intellect with ethics' as you suggest, but point out that the most intelligent of mankind tend to have the best developed ethical standards. Would you deny that?

Just this evening I watched an excellent discovery channel programme on divergent thinking; 'Redesign our brains'. It showed how our brains are consistently fooled by our assumptions and that imaginations and processing can be far better trained to reach more rational judgements.

If we put just 1% of the focus on that which we currently put in less helpful areas then I think understanding of science and the human condition can advance dramatically.

Judy

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on May. 19, 2014 @ 03:01 GMT
"I don't directly 'equate intellect with ethics' as you suggest, but point out that the most intelligent of mankind tend to have the best developed ethical standards. Would you deny that?"

I certainly would. No evidence supports it, and no theory of intelligence predicts it, since no general theory of intelligence even exists.

I would not mourn the death of paternalism or any other form of hierarchical guide to social policy. It's a bad seed.

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Anonymous wrote on May. 19, 2014 @ 19:56 GMT
Hi Judy,

An interesting and "controversial" read. There are certain topics that no matter how they are approached will start by putting people on their guard. The example you give of Cuckle rejecting the use of the term "eugenics" to prenatal genetic screening shows how delicate this subject is.

And on the surface say one could offer potential parents a baby with top immune system,...

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Douglas Alexander Singleton replied on May. 19, 2014 @ 19:57 GMT
I got logged out. The above was me.

Best,

Doug

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Author Judy Nabb replied on May. 22, 2014 @ 06:20 GMT
Doug,

The Chinese government found they were 'drawn in' to specify sex because, as is normal, nobody had thought through the likely consequences of the first edict.

That's the point about the inadequate way we use our brains (in government and science etc. generally and not just in China), Unintended outcomes are the norm and will remain so all the time we suppose we can't judge intelligence. Tom's view above epitomises the problem well.

What I argue is that we CAN'T determine intelligence before birth, so eugenics is next to useless and nearing dangerous. What we need then is far better education. Science and particularly theoretical physics seems prone to such intellectual failure. I include our current approach to eugenics.

Talk of the scientific method is ironic in theoretical physics and cosmology, which are so absolutely reliant in beliefs and seem to worship only the false god of mathematics, which brings us back to the Chinese child policy!

I agree completely non fuzziness, which escapes maths at the foundations. Nothing is certain and all is unique. 'Screening' for autism for example is very imprecise. It's a complex subject but there are certain markers which act as indicators. This may be looked upon in some ways as targeting all with dark skin in an anti drug swoop because statistics show there may be a 12% (or whatever)better chance of success. The unacceptability and dangers of such motivation are often ignored.

Thanks for the interesting questions.

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Margriet Anne O'Regan wrote on May. 21, 2014 @ 07:26 GMT
Hello Judy ~ Who should decide the number & characteristics of each new generation?

Answer : Women should. At least once our women folk have relearnt all of the reproductive wisdom we have lost under patriarchy.

As I say in my essay 'How Should Humanity Steer the Future?' by Margriet O'Regan, evolutionary biology not only maps out our evolutionary journey with crystal clarity, but also details exactly who & how we will achieve whatever end we do achieve.

'Evolutionary viability as critically relies on female centrality as it does on sufficient & suitable subsistence resources'.

The reason we are currently staring omnicidal oblivion square in the face is the direct result of 'patriarchy' - the name we have chosen to give to that state of affairs in which the human male controls everything.

Because they do not possess the organs of primary reproduction, nature has not given men the knowledge (whatever its source) to deploy that equipment.

Sadly women no longer possess this knowledge either, but unless our womenfolk relearn how to reproduce our kind in the manner in which nature intended, & then re-arrange our social structures so that women are afforded everyting they require to bear & raise our children at our optimum reproductive level, we are doomed.

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Author Judy Nabb replied on May. 24, 2014 @ 08:44 GMT
Margaret,

Well done for taking the part of a matriarchy in the debate. You argue it well but I think expose it's limitations. There are no absolutes, but I've worked in all female professional environment and found that they fail.

Decisions and reactions become more emotionally than objectively based. I think even in a balanced group the scientific method is too little applied, men are as guilty as women, but it's a matter of outlook and emotional stability.

I also suspect that your suggestion could be as bad for society as all male environments. I don't find the resistance to women as strong as many women suggest. In the UK the majority of institutes in my field now have female presidents and equal representation at all upper levels.

Going a step further as you suggest may cause a back reaction equivalent to militant feminism so I certainly can't agree it's a useful direction to steer humanity. Both men and women need to learn to make better use of the potential of our brains in foreseeing consequences of actions and escaping old beliefs.

I suggest that setting any section of society against any other is likely to be just another problem not the solution (but here we're judging the essays not the propositions themselves). We do need to escape our current established direction, but I wouldn't choose matriarchy.

Judy

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Stephen Tuck wrote on May. 22, 2014 @ 08:18 GMT
Dear Judy,

I appreciate your delightful comments about my work in Theoretical Physics. You are right that my work is not warmly accepted in the poor state of modern science (if you could call it that). It isn't that my equations are incorrect, it is that they are too revolutionary. I have advanced the Unified Field Equation probably as far as I can at this time because of the difficulty in...

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Author Judy Nabb replied on May. 24, 2014 @ 08:55 GMT
Stephen,

Thank you. I agree with most, and the view shared with Peter Jackson that we still have much intellectual evolution to undergo. That will be a long process if we don't recognise the need and see the opportunities for more rapid leaps.

Judy

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Raymond Law wrote on May. 22, 2014 @ 12:31 GMT
Judy,

I fully support eugenics in pre-screening out DNA's negative effects to humans health and wellness. but the ' fine line ' of execution on any eugenics action due to skin colour, body built, etc. has to be utmost respected and never crossed. But I am sure that at the rate of technological advancement that in the not too distant future, eugenics' technology could be implemented for the good of all human beings without trespassing that ' fine line ' .

Keep up your good workings !

Raymond Law

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Wilhelmus de Wilde de Wilde wrote on May. 22, 2014 @ 15:44 GMT
Dear Judy,

Thank you for your comment on my thread, it is a pleasure to sent you the text of an article I read in "The Daily Galaxy" wher Stephen Hawking mentions the "The Self Designed Evolution" :

quote:

For billions of years, simple creatures like plankton, bacteria, and algae ruled the earth. Then, suddenly, life got very complicated. Recent discoveries from Canada's...

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Wilhelmus de Wilde de Wilde replied on May. 22, 2014 @ 15:46 GMT
Could you pls if you have questions or remarks post them on my thread ? (topic 1991)

thans

Wilhelmus

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Hoang cao Hai wrote on May. 23, 2014 @ 10:18 GMT
Many thanks for your visit to my essay

The choice to focus on health and biology is really very important for Humanity's baggage when go to the future - we need "to be still alive" and afford to can to make as every dream .

10 points for your choice - Hải.CaoHoàng

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Ajay Bhatla wrote on May. 23, 2014 @ 18:45 GMT
Judy,

Very well written essay on a tough topic, difficult to read, but must be read. Thanks for a many faceted view on eugenics.

I fully subscribe to a future full of "all babies born strong and healthy."

I wish you had elaborated much more on "engineer greater intellect" and "attitudes" and especially "intellectual development seems to be immune from genetic engineering". If I may use a word I am more familiar with it is the word "think". I believe that people can be taught to think, but it all breaks down when "attitudes" and responsibility raise their heads - two factors that make consensus on what to do problematic.

Your point about "improved methods of thinking" requiring broader and broader fields is spot on. Your essay made me think.

I will appreciate your comments on my essay (here). I celebrate difference as a definer of humanity's future, which I'm glad your essay says will always exist.

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Author Judy Nabb replied on May. 24, 2014 @ 09:18 GMT
Ajay,

Great advancements are being made in understanding how the brain neurons work and which areas are active for what type of decisions, but we're a long way from being able to influence 'intelligence' biologically.

The best description by far I've seen is Peter Jackson's, considering how Architects are re-taught how to "think" then giving proof of it's success in his essay. The problem seems to be that however correct and logical, no such 'leap' in the right direction is possible while the majority, in the sciences at least, are NOT taught to think properly.

The brain is still an underutilised tool. Peters rightly refers to it as a 'quantum computer', but I note a typical scientist on his blog asked "can you prove that?"! But we mustn't give up hope. I'll read your essay.

Judy

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Robert de Neufville wrote on May. 23, 2014 @ 23:36 GMT
Fascinating essay, Judy. This is a difficult topic, but one that we very much need to discuss. You raise really important questions, and I learned a great deal from your tour through the eugenics debate.

In my own essay—which I would love for you to look at!—I argue that one way or another we are likely to transform ourselves as a species over the course of the next century. Reading your essay it seems clear to me that the question is not whether we will engage in some form of eugenics, but who should be making these vital life-and-death decisions. Your essay is a great step toward tackling that question.

Best,

Robert de Neufville

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Author Judy Nabb wrote on May. 24, 2014 @ 09:43 GMT
Thank you Robert.

I hope I point to an important issue. Did you know that if blindfolded and asked to walk in a straight line we'll invariably walk in a circle? It seems true of physics that we're wandering blindfolded in circles, wearing an ever deeper groove, but in eugenics we're wandering aimlessly following paths of least resistance.

I see the only escape in both cases is a more intelligent and objectively considered approach, which should allow the major advancements in understanding we need. The real leap forward will be from removing the blindfold and seeing that nature is really coherent, unified and beautiful not the hotch potch mess of our current beliefs.

If we don't quickly improve our understanding we probably won't even survive to transform. I've found very few essays here go beyond semantics to real advancement in understanding of nature and thus ourselves. That shows most have little idea how and where to steer.

According to the current leading essay it's looking back, and a better library! As Wilhelm's quote above from Hawking says, most present information is garbage.

I'll try to get to your essay.

Judy

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Brent Pfister wrote on May. 26, 2014 @ 02:54 GMT
Judy,

Financial cost needs to be a factor in deciding how far to take eugenics. I think in the past, in vitro fertilization sometimes led to many low birth weight babies. They needed medical care costing more than the parents would make in their lifetimes. Insurance and the hospital picked up most of the cost and passed it on, making everyone indirect stakeholders. Giving everyone science fiction-type health care would cost more than the GDP, so limits are necessary. Government panels like the USA Independent Payment Advisory Board could decide how much that insurance or government would pay the hospital for each procedure. In 2030, a worldwide economic crisis may boil over resulting in triage. Your essay said eugenics can reduce costs, so eugenics is likely to be used in low risk situations and not in higher risk situations with potential costly complications.

I get the impression that modern medicine has also had an anti-eugenics effect. Keeping babies and children alive that would have died in the past or in less developed countries might partly explain increasing food allergies and other problems.

Eugenics is limited by technical complexity. The video Nova: Cracking Your Genetic Code at 38:00 says height and other characteristics are determined by hundreds of genes that would be very hard to manipulate together.

Regarding intelligence, there are too many factors besides genetics. In sports, sometimes the first player drafted really is the best, sometimes it turns out to be a late round pick, often the whole team matters most. Intelligence is even more difficult to predict and judge.

Thank you for writing your essay!

Brent

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Author Judy Nabb wrote on May. 26, 2014 @ 10:18 GMT
Brent,

It's a good point that ALL decisions on maintaining life beyond natural limits is 'eugenic' in effect, including improved medicines. That's a simple example of the thinking and analysing beyond immediate consequences, which we're short of.

From what I've read here it's clear few really have any idea how to actually 'steer' anything, or don't even agree mankind does so anyway whether consciously or not! The subject has exposed our inadequate ability to derive consequences from actions.

Very few give fundamental concrete proposals, i.e. from how to unify physics upwards, and those are little recognised, proving my point on methods of thinking. Some of the partisan dismissive arguments from some parties here also reveal the problem.

As you say, there are levels of complexity, some great but we're presently a long way from understanding even the basic one needed!

Thanks for your comments. I'll try to get to your essay.

Judy

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Anonymous wrote on May. 27, 2014 @ 08:44 GMT
Hi Judy,

Your main message, if I have it right, is very interesting - that we are sleep walking into an age of consumer eugenics without a public discussion. I think its hard to argue against people wanting healthy babies, but I sometimes imagine an age of fashion-eugenics where parents select for children based on their perception of what is 'successful' or 'desirable'. For example,...

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Ross Cevenst replied on May. 27, 2014 @ 08:46 GMT
Apologies the system logged me out - above post was me. Also the correct link to my paper is here.

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Author Judy Nabb replied on May. 27, 2014 @ 22:41 GMT
Ross,

Many thanks. Your assessment is excellent except you didn't seem to extract what I meant from the section on intelligence. I point out that eugenics is probably worse than useless in that regard yet there lies the greatest need so we need to vastly improve the way we think, so teach.

Thanks for the comments. I've now read and a scored your own very interesting and valuable offering.

Judy

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Ross Cevenst replied on May. 28, 2014 @ 10:01 GMT
Ah yes I see now, thanks for pointing that out. Perhaps in regards to intelligence there is a greater role for social science and psychology to play. As we know at least half of an person's intelligence is non-genetic (if you'll excuse the gross simplification), that leaves us a lot of potential room for improvement. At this point in history, education certainly seems to be focused around cramming knowledge into the brain rather than making it more intelligent, so perhaps there is hope. Still I'm not overly optimistic in the short-term.

Thanks for your comments on my own essay! People seem to either love or hate my entry when they read it, so I'm really happy to see you in the former category. Thanks again!

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Ken Hon Seto wrote on May. 28, 2014 @ 16:19 GMT
Judy,

I enjoyed reading your essay. The sections on intelligent and designer babies are most interesting.

I invite you to read my essay. Also with your background in biology I think that you will find my paper in the following link entitled "The origin of life as interpreted by Model Mechanics" to be interesting.

http://www.modelmechanics.org/2011life.pdf

Regards,

Ken

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Author Judy Nabb replied on May. 29, 2014 @ 07:42 GMT
Thank you Ken.

I see it's not a live link but I'll take a look as soon as I get a chance.

Judy

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Anonymous wrote on May. 28, 2014 @ 18:21 GMT
Hi Judy,

Nice essay. I'd love to see more work on how various selection pressures, including deliberate decisions by prospective parents and their societies, will affect humanity's long-term genetics. It's not an area I know much about, but it seems like it could be interesting.

Best,

Daniel

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Author Judy Nabb replied on May. 29, 2014 @ 07:46 GMT
Daniel

Do identify yourself.

That type of research is very difficult and long term.

Judy

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John C Hodge wrote on May. 31, 2014 @ 15:35 GMT
Thanks for your comment on my essay.

Your suggestion by publishing in FQXi that physics and science philosophy should have input on eugenics is intriguing. The advance of technology is mostly responsible for the question being raised. I think you are correct. I wonder how?

Hodge

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Aaron M. Feeney wrote on Jun. 1, 2014 @ 03:04 GMT
Hi Judy,

Your essay takes on an important and difficult subject. I am glad you discussed the related but further concept of human augmentation in your "Designer Babies" section. If we could engineer organ and limb regeneration into our offspring, massively increase their intelligence, or double their life-span, why wouldn't we? At some point, we would produce beings that might look much like us, but would be largely unrecognizable to current humans. Would that be a bad thing? These kinds of modifications will be possible within a generation, but it is anyone's guess as to if or when they might be utilized.

Your essay addresses an important topic and is thought provoking. I have rated it highly and thank you for your contribution.

Warmly,

Aaron

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Christian Corda wrote on Jun. 2, 2014 @ 21:01 GMT
Dear Judy,

As I told you in my FQXi page, I have read your beautiful and topical Essay. Here are my comments:

1) Eugenics give me both of enthusiasm and a bit of fear. Thus, I completely agree with your statement that continuance and intensification (of eugenics) are inevitable with recognised benefits but equal dangers.

2) I am an endorser of anthropic principle. Than, I find it is a good thing that you cite it.

3) Your statement that "we will soon be able to map a child's full genetic code at or prior to birth"and the following discussion gave me a shiver running down my spine because my wife is pregnant at the present time.

4) It should be "Stephen Hawking condition" rather than "Steven Hawkins condition".

5) I completely agree with you that 'normality' is a subjective and relative, not an objective and absolute concept.

6) You are correct in claiming that we are all different and nobody can, in turn, really judge who else is intelligent or sane.

7) I agree that bare mathematics cannot be the 'only' language of physics. On the other hand, I think that new ideas must be must be properly formulated and plausible scientific proposals.

In general, you discussed a very topical (not only for the FQXi Contest, but for the whole human society) and controversial issue in an excellent way. I am going to give you an high rate accordingly.

I wish you best luck in the Contest.

Cheers,

Ch.

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Jeffrey Michael Schmitz wrote on Jun. 5, 2014 @ 14:09 GMT
Judy,

Eugenics is a controversial issue, which your well-written essay takes full on. As you point out in your essay, eugenics is something that has been around in one form or another since before recorded history. One might argue that the great change in our current society is a lack of eugenics. Modern eugenics would be a difference in degree from what was practiced in the past, instead of just visual inspection we could detect genetic issues and instead of leaving an infant out on a hillside, we could terminate a pregnancy or even stop conception.

In a long view of human history eugenics is the status quo and has lead to our current state of civilization with all its triumphs and flaws.

To me are great issue is the opposite of eugenics. We look at creatures like sharks and houseflies that to us appear identical, yet on a genetic level have a far greater level of genetic diversity than humans. The problem with humans is that superficially we look very different but genetically we are all close cousins. The truth of the matter is there are no human races. What we need is an increase in diversity and part of that could be allowing humans that are not what we consider genetically ideal to be part of our gene pool. We need to genetically expand the definition of human and that means an increase in alternative genetics and not just what we currently think of as ideal.

All the best,

Jeff

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Ross Cevenst wrote on Dec. 1, 2014 @ 08:32 GMT
Hi Judy, do you have a blog or email at which you can be contacted? I'd like to ask you some further questions on this topic if you have time... you can contact me by thecitizen at auswww.com

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