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Genetic Engineering and Eugenics

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Genetic Engineering and Eugenics
Post by tjthw8s   » Sun Aug 12, 2018 4:51 pm

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These are topics which crop up in many scifi environments. And I often wonder about real-world opinion; i've had a few it's-almost-last-call discussion.

Recently, the Honorverse forum has seen this crop up in relation to the Harrington family tree and the Mesan Alpha line threads.

I have a scenario that I think anyone looking at "directed evolution" or 'Planned eugenics" should ask themselves (and those idiots on the Mesan Long Range Planning Board really should Have). To wit:

A panel of brilliant gorilla geneticists gathered together to design the super gorilla next generation the species.....do you think they would have come up with Homo Sapiens?
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Re: Genetic Engineering and Eugenics
Post by Imaginos1892   » Sun Aug 12, 2018 5:41 pm

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I don't think anybody trying to design an intelligent species would have invented us.

If they did, their reaction would probably be 'Oops, try again' or 'Oh shit, what went wrong?'
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Re: Genetic Engineering and Eugenics
Post by Dilandu   » Mon Aug 13, 2018 4:34 am

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To put it simply - there is nothing wrong with eugenic as science, as long as it doesnt became mixed up with political rhetoric. Yes, eugenic is perfectly workable, and we already use it a bit - in therms of pre-parenthood genetic tests, to avoid genetic diseases. And yes, we could use eugenic to improve human race.

Problem is, what exactly should be considered "improvement" from scientific point of view? We could more or less safely agree that elimination of hereditary genetic diseases from mankind population would be improvement; but what about such ill-defined parameters as "improved intellect"? We still havent got universal means to neasure intellectual capabilities. And so we could not be sure that "improvement" would really be for good.
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- Scarecrow from Oz; he was strawman before it became political.

P.S. - And he have Russian twin, to watch his back)
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Re: Genetic Engineering and Eugenics
Post by Weird Harold   » Mon Aug 13, 2018 5:51 am

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Dilandu wrote:...We could more or less safely agree that elimination of hereditary genetic diseases from mankind population would be improvement; ...


Even there, some genetic 'diseases' are linked to 'survival traits' -- sickle cell anemia, for example is linked to some survival trait for living in high-temperature climates -- and eliminating the disease also eliminates the survival trait.

I don't remember the details of the sickle cell link; the linked trait isn't really applicable to first-world conditions. (It might become relevant if "global warming" matches the doom-sayers' predictions, though.)

There's a lot of "unintended consequences" possible in the details of "improving the race." Especially since a comprehensive eugenics program almost has to involve politics.
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Re: Genetic Engineering and Eugenics
Post by The E   » Mon Aug 13, 2018 6:24 am

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Dilandu wrote:To put it simply - there is nothing wrong with eugenic as science, as long as it doesnt became mixed up with political rhetoric. Yes, eugenic is perfectly workable, and we already use it a bit - in therms of pre-parenthood genetic tests, to avoid genetic diseases. And yes, we could use eugenic to improve human race.

Problem is, what exactly should be considered "improvement" from scientific point of view? We could more or less safely agree that elimination of hereditary genetic diseases from mankind population would be improvement; but what about such ill-defined parameters as "improved intellect"? We still havent got universal means to neasure intellectual capabilities. And so we could not be sure that "improvement" would really be for good.


And that's the issue here. There are a few things where we can agree that no human being should have to live with them (degenerative diseases like Alzheimer, for example. Or cancer.), but the amount of issues where we can't make a clear and definitive statement and which can also be "improved" via gene editing is far larger.

And that's why, ultimately, eugenics is abhorrent. Gene therapy can, hopefully, do wonderful things for us. But as soon as you start improving things that really do not need improvement (like, say, skin color), you are opening up a pandora's box with a bunch of really nasty people in it.

And that's before we get into the discussion about whether or not we currently have enough knowledge about how our genome actually works to make this happen without sideeffects.
Because, as any ecologist will tell you, once you start replacing something that has grown naturally with something designed by humans, you will have to spend lifetimes monitoring the system and adjusting it for things you initially overlooked or did wrong.

Weird Harold wrote:I don't remember the details of the sickle cell link; the linked trait isn't really applicable to first-world conditions. (It might become relevant if "global warming" matches the doom-sayers' predictions, though.)


People with sickle-cell anemia are immune (or, in the case of heterogenous carriers, partially immune) to malaria.
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Re: Genetic Engineering and Eugenics
Post by Dilandu   » Mon Aug 13, 2018 6:56 am

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Weird Harold wrote:
Even there, some genetic 'diseases' are linked to 'survival traits' -- sickle cell anemia, for example is linked to some survival trait for living in high-temperature climates -- and eliminating the disease also eliminates the survival trait.

I don't remember the details of the sickle cell link; the linked trait isn't really applicable to first-world conditions. (It might become relevant if "global warming" matches the doom-sayers' predictions, though.)

There's a lot of "unintended consequences" possible in the details of "improving the race." Especially since a comprehensive eugenics program almost has to involve politics.


Yep. So, basically, eugenic itself is sound, but our current understanding is definitely not sufficient to actually go for "homo superior". In future - highly probably, yes, that mankind would implement at least some large-scale eugenic projects to reduce the accumulation of defects in our genome.
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- Who would won in battle between strawman Liberal-Democrat and strawman Conservative-Republican?
- Scarecrow from Oz; he was strawman before it became political.

P.S. - And he have Russian twin, to watch his back)
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Re: Genetic Engineering and Eugenics
Post by Weird Harold   » Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:30 am

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The E wrote:People with sickle-cell anemia are immune (or, in the case of heterogenous carriers, partially immune) to malaria.


Thanx.
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Answers! I got lots of answers!

(Now if I could just find the right questions.)
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Re: Genetic Engineering and Eugenics
Post by aairfccha   » Sun Aug 19, 2018 11:08 am

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The E wrote:People with sickle-cell anemia are immune (or, in the case of heterogenous carriers, partially immune) to malaria.

...at the cost of a pretty debilitating condition for people inheriting it from both parents.
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Re: Genetic Engineering and Eugenics
Post by Dilandu   » Sun Aug 19, 2018 1:51 pm

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aairfccha wrote:...at the cost of a pretty debilitating condition for people inheriting it from both parents.


Still it's a clear demonstration that not every seemingly-"useless" trait could be actually completely useless. One of the major problems of eugenics programs is exactly what we could exclude from humanity genetic pool without causing some collateral damage.
------------------------------

- Who would won in battle between strawman Liberal-Democrat and strawman Conservative-Republican?
- Scarecrow from Oz; he was strawman before it became political.

P.S. - And he have Russian twin, to watch his back)
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Re: Genetic Engineering and Eugenics
Post by TFLYTSNBN   » Wed Sep 05, 2018 8:50 pm

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Weird Harold wrote:
Dilandu wrote:...We could more or less safely agree that elimination of hereditary genetic diseases from mankind population would be improvement; ...


Even there, some genetic 'diseases' are linked to 'survival traits' -- sickle cell anemia, for example is linked to some survival trait for living in high-temperature climates -- and eliminating the disease also eliminates the survival trait.

I don't remember the details of the sickle cell link; the linked trait isn't really applicable to first-world conditions. (It might become relevant if "global warming" matches the doom-sayers' predictions, though.)

There's a lot of "unintended consequences" possible in the details of "improving the race." Especially since a comprehensive eugenics program almost has to involve politics.


You beat me to making my point. Certain genes can be a huge disadvantage to individuals in the wrong environment. Put that same human being in a different environment and those same genes can be extremely adaptive.

Humanity's chromosones contain an enormous genetic tool kit that enables the race to adapt to varying environments.

CELRBRATE GENETIC DIVEESITY.
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