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27-08-2009, 01:10   #1
Treora
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What are the philosophical arguments against eugenics

Hi, I am really looking for the authors and their works upon which the whole concept is based.

I must clarify what I mean by eugenics. I don't mean sterilisation, abortion, infanticide, genetic manipulation or selective pairing of parents. I mean the selection of a specific egg and/or sperm by normally occuring parents. This happens today where one person has a certain genetic ailment.

I doubt that any fundamental religious work would have conceived of naturally occuring parents removing random conception and so they can probably be excluded.

The only works that I image that could disagree with this type of eugencis are ones that:
-fear technical errors (wrong sperm, egg paired),
-inequity of access (only the wealthy have access),
-armful intent (technicians introducing unwanted DNA into the mix) http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/editp...ost&p=61812489
or evolutionary fragility on medical grounds (removing too much of a certain type of DNA from a gene pool might weaken the species survival in a mass extinction event).

Any references would be appreciated.

Last edited by Treora; 27-08-2009 at 01:14.
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27-08-2009, 01:59   #2
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Don't know of any author who deals specificly with eugenics, but this area would be covered as Bioethics. If you are going to make an ethical argument against eugenics, it would be best to know the arguments from both sides.

A couple of into texts on bioethics in collage are:

Beauchamp, T., & Childress, J., Principles of Biomedical Ethics, OUP, 1994.

Singer, P. (Ed), A Companion to Ethics, Blackwell, 1993.

Don't know if they are any use to u.
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27-08-2009, 04:03   #3
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Thanks, somewhere to start. BTW I wasn't going to make an agrument one way or the other. I just wanted to know what the arguments against it were.
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27-08-2009, 11:23   #4
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Are you looking to discuss the morality behind eugenics, or are you just looking or books so that you can broaden your perspective on the whole idea?
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27-08-2009, 15:11   #5
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Arthur Schopenhauer maintained that the selection of a 'mate' was something that was unconscious and irrational but was the way nature worked and was for the overall best.
http://www.flatrock.org.nz/topics/so...hopenhauer.htm

Personally, I would perhaps have more trust in 'nature' than in humans, as nature would probably provide more diversity and I would hate to see a world full of perfect 'nerds'. There is also a danger of xenophobia creeping in, as humans may try to filter out undesirable racial characteristics.
I suppose, some of my suspicion comes from 'history', as humans can use technology for destruction and war and brainwashing others to their way of life and point of view etc.

Anyhow, below are some links.

http://books.google.ie/books?id=o5pe...loning&f=false

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leon_Kass

Last edited by Joe1919; 27-08-2009 at 15:23.
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29-08-2009, 03:33   #6
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Are you looking to discuss the morality behind eugenics, or are you just looking or books so that you can broaden your perspective on the whole idea?
Neither. Just as the title says "What are the philosophical arguments against eugenics?"
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29-08-2009, 03:57   #7
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Arthur Schopenhauer maintained that the selection of a 'mate' was something that was unconscious and irrational but was the way nature worked and was for the overall best.
http://www.flatrock.org.nz/topics/so...hopenhauer.htm

Personally, I would perhaps have more trust in 'nature' than in humans, as nature would probably provide more diversity and I would hate to see a world full of perfect 'nerds'. There is also a danger of xenophobia creeping in, as humans may try to filter out undesirable racial characteristics.
I suppose, some of my suspicion comes from 'history', as humans can use technology for destruction and war and brainwashing others to their way of life and point of view etc.

Anyhow, below are some links.

http://books.google.ie/books?id=o5pe...loning&f=false

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leon_Kass
Thanks for illumination, but the book is on cloning and the question has nothing to do with cloning. Schophenhauer is a little close but deals with mating, which unfortunately has been empirically reduced to to testosterone/estrogen, dopamine and oxitocin. Kass holds more substance, but when I read that he was placed on the USA's national bioethics committee by George Walker Bush I found that his credibility was totally undermined, that and the fact that he went from being a high brow secularist to bible philosphiser.

You suspicions on humans doing the morally wrong thing is a constant, George W. Bush comes to mind. They look to their own children in vanity or unfulfilled dreams. The unsuitability of some to raise a child will not, nor should it, stop children being born and raise by those with poor parenting skills. It is more a case of the child having the best chance in life (and yes that is subjective, but most value judgements are) that could naturally arise from his or her parents.

Thanks for your point of view.
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29-08-2009, 11:27   #8
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Don't forget the argument on 'the importance of diversity'.

For example,( and I don't want to cause any offence here), if some time in the future it was discovered that a certain 'gene' gave children a probability that they would inherit a characteristic that may be undesirable to their parents e.g. the children may have an 'addiction' or 'gay' gene and the parents may want to correct this......etc.

On the other hand, you could argue that a certain amount of 'selection' took place in the past anyhow. In some societies, babies were removed from their mother's immediately after birth and shown to the elders of the tribe. If the baby had the wrong characteristics, it was left out to nature to die.
Even in Ireland (if you read the 1835 poor law report), there was a certain amount of infanticide and unwanted children were often abandoned and ended up in 'foundling hospitals' where most done poorly and died. There were strict social 'taboos' against undesirables and even children and 'bastards' of undesirables and some have hinted (e.g. Emmet Larkin) that the famine was used (to some extent) as a means of ridding the country of undesirables and misfits (including religious misfits). ('....that the famine eliminated much of the nonpracticing underclass while leaving largely unscathed an already observant class of better-off farmers. ') (para 4, original source on JSTOR) Indeed, religion seems part of this selection process.
http://www.novelguide.com/a/discover..._01_00102.html

So one could argue that the selection of eggs is at least more humane than this.

Last edited by Joe1919; 29-08-2009 at 11:47.
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30-08-2009, 02:33   #9
Treora
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Don't forget the argument on 'the importance of diversity'.
That's basically the second, third and fourth points from my original post, just repackaged. The armful intent should have read harmful intent. These are purely pathos arguments and no logos or ethos arguments.

Thanks for the link, but it appears to be irrelvant to the question. However it does advocate the right for priests to be women and/or marry; that farmers are elitists (!); and that everyone is human, should practice safe sex, that everyone is essentially athetist/agnostic & organised religious practices are only followed by the masses when it suits them.


So there appears to be no moral proclivities against positive eugenics.
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30-08-2009, 10:43   #10
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That's basically the second, third and fourth points from my original post, just repackaged. The armful intent should have read harmful intent. These are purely pathos arguments and no logos or ethos arguments.

Thanks for the link, but it appears to be irrelvant to the question. However it does advocate the right for priests to be women and/or marry; that farmers are elitists (!); and that everyone is human, should practice safe sex, that everyone is essentially athetist/agnostic & organised religious practices are only followed by the masses when it suits them.


So there appears to be no moral proclivities against positive eugenics.
Not entirely. There are still other arguments that I can think of.
Morality is often more about custom and value. There is an aesthetic and cultural element and of course, people are very reluctant to change.

Also, it could be argued that in any change, the potential benefit must me compared to the potential harm. Men, for example, may argue, that all this research is undermining their position and role in fathering children (family etc.), as this type of research could lead to women having children without their participation etc.

What really is driving and motivating the medical industry? Helping mankind or making money.

Much of this suspicion probably comes from mankinds experience with technology and especially the armaments industry. When the canon (big gun) was brought into England in the medieval period, the poet and humanist John Donn said that he thought that this weapon would save hundreds of lives.
Of course, the gun had a huge and indirect effect on the whole European 'society of orders' . Noble's invention of dynamite also lead to abuses (that why he sponsored the peace prize I think). Nuclear technology has also the potential to lead to the possibility of total anileation etc.

Of course, in medicine, one of the first principles should be 'Primum non nocere' or 'First, do no harm.' and it could be argued that the burden is really on the medical industry to prove that these changes are beneficial and will do no long term harm. etc.
So if I was on the side arguing against you, ( I don't really know enough to have a particular view of this) I would say that the onus is on you to prove that this technology that you propose will be of overall benefit to mankind and will do no harm.

PS You could also research the GM food controversy and see what arguments were used there. Many of these controversities (including the one on cloning) have parallel arguments.

Last edited by Joe1919; 30-08-2009 at 10:51.
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31-08-2009, 23:36   #11
Treora
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people are very reluctant to change.
So true, Kahneman (2002 Noble prize winner of economics) called it anchoring and it along with suggestibility is the man point of irrationality in people.



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Men, for example, may argue, that all this research is undermining their position and role in fathering children (family etc.), as this type of research could lead to women having children without their participation etc.
That research has already been done. My post specifies naturally occuring parents. This normally required a father (with some exceptions).

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Of course, in medicine, one of the first principles should be 'Primum non nocere' or 'First, do no harm.' and it could be argued that the burden is really on the medical industry to prove that these changes are beneficial and will do no long term harm. etc.
Today it is really 'Do no harm unless it is worth the money' These are narually occuring eggs and sperm, a million years of homid evolution has proven the point. And besides humanity should not fob off its own rights and reposibilities on a subset of itself, which happens to have a god complex. If anything people should be able to dictate to the doctors what they can perform and the doctors have the right to decline, they are licensed by the state i.e. the citizenry. It is up to the democratic majority to step up to the plate and state without prejudice their opinion and wishes.

I am searching for the philosophical arguments against it not anything else. I am not proposing it. Plastic surgery is elective as is IVF and IVD treatments. Inserting 3lbs of plastic encased fluid (breast implants) is dangerous and occasionally they explode killing the patient, but there is no onus on the doctor to proove that his skill will be of over all benefit to mankind. He just has to find a willing client and a reasonable amount of safety checks. Since IVF has already passed those safety checks for positive eugenics then there is no logical onus on anyone to prove anything new.

The cloning argument is totally different, the caveats in the OP are vital to understanding the question.

I want there to be philosphical arguments against it, makes for a more interesting idea, I just cannot think of any serious, strong and legitimate ones (religious one's don't count - my god says everyone has to hop on one foot is just not a credible stand point for rational debate).
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01-09-2009, 01:34   #12
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Many of the arguments that I have thrown up are the standard arguments that appear (disguised in different forms) from time to time against such 'radical' changes as the introduction of multichannel TV, conterception, divorce , abortion, sex education in school, electronic voting etc. and have been successful to some extent in delaying change.

To be honest, I think a better stragedy for someone that wanted to promote eugenics would be to show personal and positive situations where eugenics can help ordinary people ( and especially little babies) as in many cases its persuasion that wins the day.

Im not sure if I can help any further. I'm still trying to figure out if the world exists or not.

Last edited by Joe1919; 01-09-2009 at 01:46.
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01-09-2009, 11:23   #13
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I just had a thought..................I'm just after coming back from my local shop/post office and it was crowded today with young girls and their buggies. (Children's allowance paid today, first Tuesday of month).
One of the newspapers headlines is that we are having a 'baby boom' at the moment.
http://www.independent.ie/national-n...e-1595151.html
This led me to think of the 'fashion' in terms of babies names and back to your post and then I thought 'If parents could influence the look and shape of their babies, what would these babies look like?' Would particular 'fashions' or trends emerge from time to time?

An interesting area of research would be to look into babies names over the years and try to evaluate what influenced the choice of names etc. as this may be indicative of the type of thought and mentality of potential parents.

I suppose this raises the question that if some type of 'selection' is to be made, are young parents always qualified to this? (I have a teenage daughter) Should limits be put? Should the state be allowed to interfere?
Is their a possibility of future gender imbalance? e.g. In poorer countries, male babies may be preferable etc.

I not saying that these would be necessary a bad thing. But they are food for thought.

Last edited by Joe1919; 01-09-2009 at 11:25.
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17-09-2009, 23:38   #14
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Is their a possibility of future gender imbalance? e.g. In poorer countries, male babies may be preferable etc.
Over all no, as there has been research into personal preferences in western society. While some prefer one gender over another for their first born, the number of males to females will be the same. However Islam and eastern society will have to evolve to a point where women are as prized as men.

That said many countries are having female booms. There is a city outside of Moscow with something like as 80:20 female:male ratio. Chemical works and the likes tend to throw this up. Nature fights back as this is the easiest way to ensure survival when there is a pathogen to fight.
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18-09-2009, 00:04   #15
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Funnily enough I just watched an old episode of TNG on Eugenics called "The Masterpiece Society". It's amazing how much of that show resonates differently with me now that I'm no longer a child.

"They’ve given away their Humanity with this genetic manipulation. Many of the qualities that they breed out – the uncertainty, self-discovery, the unknown – these are many of the qualities that make life worth living. Well at least to me. I wouldn’t want to live my life knowing that my future was written, that my boundaries had been already set." - Picard

There is something rather disturbing to me about people in lab coats deciding what lives and what doesn't. Eugenics, like a lot of things, seems like a great idea on paper. But in reality it would be a nightmare. Perhaps the government doesn't have enough farm hands so orders that stronger people are born with low intelligence. Eugenics is precisely what Orwell feared in 1984, but instead of droning tunes and a lottery to keep the proletariat distracted, the lack of interest in the government would simply be bred into them.
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