Monday, June 07, 2021

Professors defend Eugenics

Philosopher Peter Singer is famous for arguing that some animals should have more rights than handicapped people, and other outrageous ideas, and now co-authors this paper:
In recent years, bioethical discourse around the topic of ‘genetic enhancement’ has become increasingly politicized. ... Here, we address the question of whether ‘eugenics’ can be defended ...

The term ‘eugenics’ (which means ‘good birth’) was coined by Francis Galton in 1883 to capture the idea that we should use insights from the new science of hered-ity to improve the welfare of future people (Levine 2017). But as Galton understood the term, eugenics involved both the study of heredity, and the use of this knowl-edge to by parents to shape their reproductive choices. It is more common now to sharply distinguish the study of genetics (a term that wasn’t coined until 1905) from eugenics. For example, in their recent book The Ethics of the New Eugenics MacKellar and Bechtel define eugenics as involving ‘strategies or decisions aimed at affecting, in a manner which is considered to be positive, the genetic heritage of a child, a community, or humanity in general’ (2016, p. 3). If we use this definition, many contemporary bioethicists support eugenics ...

The important conclusion is this: everyone who considers pre-natal testing justifi-able, or who thinks women should be free to weigh genetic information in the selec-tion of a spouse or a sperm donor is a eugenicist.

This is becoming a hot issue because of CRISPR, but the debate goes back 140 years. For decades, it was an obvious good that most sensible intellectuals endorsed. Then it became so unpopular that few dared to even use the term. For decades, the subject was considered unworthy of debate.

It is worthy of debate. As the paper notes, many eugenics ideas have quietly become accepted without using the term.

Population control is similarly controversial. Libertarian Jacob Sullum writes:

In a 2015 HuffPost essay titled "In Praise of China's One-Child Policy," Israeli environmentalist Alon Tal cited the famines that killed an estimated 45 million Chinese in the late 1950s and early '60s as evidence that strict population control was necessary. ...

The assumption that coercion was necessary to reduce China's birth rate is contradicted by trends in other developing countries that never adopted such a policy.

The Libertarian view seems to be that people have a right to make a billion excess starving babies if they want to. The better strategy is to make all the women fat and lazy, so then they would not want kids.

China is a horrible Communist country, but at least they make long-term planning for the good of their nation.

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