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Thread: The ethics of Eugenics

  1. #1 The ethics of Eugenics 
    Forum Ph.D. verzen's Avatar
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    Many picture Eugenics as being what Hitler did and forcing natural selection to take hold by killing those people who he did not want to see reproduce. We can all agree that this is unethical behavior. But what if we were to perform Eugenics a different way?

    Now we can all agree that if we put bad genes within an embryo, than that would be called immoral. But what about genes that have beneficial effects?

    A gene called LRP5 is capable of increasing the capacity of the LRP5 gene function. This causes the human to have stronger bone density.
    I am positive there are multiple mutations that cause beneficial effects such as this within the human species. My suggestion is to genetically engineer a human embryo with various strands of DNA which are obtained from these specific humans. We could literally create a human race who don't break bones or who have a better capacity for burning energy and sustainability within our bodies so that we don't burn energy so quickly.
    Is this really immoral to do? Or is it immoral to refrain from altering 'all' embryos with these beneficial mutations?


    "Democracy is a problem because it treats everyone as equals." - Betty Fischer

    "back in the 50's or 60's Nicky Criuz was a gang leader who met David Wilkerson in New York City. After much discussion over months or years, i forget how long, Wilkerson's wife became pregnant. one day Cruz decides to test God, he basically prayed--God if you are real let the baby be born a boy-- it was a boy. "
    - Logic of a creationist

    Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur
    ""What can be asserted without reason, can be dismissed without reason. ""
     

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  3. #2  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard spuriousmonkey's Avatar
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    This is nonsense since most genes have pleiotropic effects.

    LRP5 is a wnt co-receptor. Whatever you want to do, you DO NOT want to fuck around with wnt signaling.

    First of all, it is important in almost all developmental processes at many many stages.

    Secondly, it is one of the major cancer pathways.

    SO NO!


    "Kill them all and let God sort them out."

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  4. #3  
    Time Lord
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    Unsure I'd want my children to have heavy bones. :? See, there're always trade-offs. Why natural selection hasn't produced superman.

    But you asked about ethics. It is unethical to divide the species. By that I mean not just technically (can't breed) but also practically (don't breed). I imagine that eugenically enhanced humans would hold a sort of racism against the shabby normals... and vise versa. At best, these populations wouldn't mingle on equal terms.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
     

  5. #4  
    Moderator Moderator TheBiologista's Avatar
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    Eugenics does not "force natural selection to take hold". It's not natural selection. It's selective breeding.

    Setting aside your example, genetic engineering is not the same thing as eugenics and it presents a different set of ethical issues entirely. Or are we talking about the combination of the two? Genetic engineering does not demand breeding restrictions, as we can re-modify at each generation. Though enforcing restrictions would reduce the workload, that would then be straying into eugenics. So the freedom to reproduce is not impacted unless we start to import elements of eugenics into the system. An important consideration would be access to the engineering. If only the rich can do this, that immediately widens social divides.

    We're already starting to bring genetic engineering to the clinic in form of gene therapy. This is restricted to the replacement of defective or non-functional genes and transformation is not inheritable. And in most countries access to gene therapy should be quite broad as it is a medical rather than "cosmetic" procedure.
     

  6. #5 Re: The ethics of Eugenics 
    Time Lord
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    Quote Originally Posted by verzen
    Many picture Eugenics as being what Hitler did and forcing natural selection to take hold by killing those people who he did not want to see reproduce. We can all agree that this is unethical behavior. But what if we were to perform Eugenics a different way?
    What kind of safeguards would you put in place to prevent it from becoming the Hitler kind of eugenics? If I remember right, the original idea of the eugenics program was just to sterilize people with bad genes, not kill anybody.

    Trouble is that people quickly saw that they could use it as an excuse to pillage and plunder, just by modifying it slightly. Once it became about killing, then suddenly there was all this unclaimed property ..... just lying around....


    Now we can all agree that if we put bad genes within an embryo, than that would be called immoral. But what about genes that have beneficial effects?
    So, you're looking to a far away future when computing power becomes so incredibly fast that we can not only map, but thoroughly comprehend our genes, and then engineer them to be any way we want?

    Question for Biologista: Is this version of gene therapy possible, and would it make the effects heritable?


    Quote Originally Posted by verzen's signature
    "Democracy is a problem because it treats everyone as equals." - Betty Fischer
    This part of your signature is very telling.
     

  7. #6  
    Forum Ph.D. verzen's Avatar
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    Kojax - I actually use her quote because I disagree with her. In fact, my entire sig line is against creationist Christians.
    I think 'everyone' should be treated as equals.
    "Democracy is a problem because it treats everyone as equals." - Betty Fischer

    "back in the 50's or 60's Nicky Criuz was a gang leader who met David Wilkerson in New York City. After much discussion over months or years, i forget how long, Wilkerson's wife became pregnant. one day Cruz decides to test God, he basically prayed--God if you are real let the baby be born a boy-- it was a boy. "
    - Logic of a creationist

    Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur
    ""What can be asserted without reason, can be dismissed without reason. ""
     

  8. #7 Re: The ethics of Eugenics 
    Moderator Moderator TheBiologista's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Question for Biologista: Is this version of gene therapy possible, and would it make the effects heritable?
    If you transform an embryo, preferably a zygote, and the transformation is stable, preferably integrated into a chromosome at a safe locus, then yes. I'd say this could be done with current technology, though it would be an error prone process and would require multiple embryos to be transformed with stable transformations selected for implantation.
     

  9. #8  
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    Nowadays the term 'eugenics' might have different shades or might be semantically - loosely - associated with quite different techniques - premarital psychological/genetic counselling, prenatal diagnostics (with abortion decisions in some - hopefully extremely rare - cases but also with early therapeutic interventions), gender preselection (other cases of spermatocyte in vitro selection?), gene therapy and genetic engineering, sterilization (or hormone therapy?) of sex criminals (voluntary? forced?), genetic testing for career advice etc. I am sure (nearly) all of these options create a wide field for disgusting abuses and could be applied to humans only under a vigilant control. On the other hand, I am not convinced any of them should necessarily be considered a kind of legacy of Hitler, Dracula & sons, and excluded from any serious consideration.
    And when it comes to genetic engineering - it is true many genes may show strong pleiotropic effects; but nature shuffles and mutates genes all the time and it does not follow any ethical code. Our 'Mother Nature' seems rather to be an emotionless randomizing machine.
    Last edited by Post_nacz; September 8th, 2011 at 04:34 AM.
     

  10. #9  
    Moderator Moderator TheBiologista's Avatar
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    Zombie thread. If you'd like to talk about the ethics of eugenics, please start a new thread.
     

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