Monday, May 19, 2008

Problems with Eugenics (1967)

A few months back we looked at a clip from the February 26, 1967 episode of CBS's 21st Century. The episode includes an interview with James Bonner, who advocated for human eugenics in the future.

Today, we have a clip of the retort by Harrison Brown, who raises questions about whether eugenics is as "common sense" as Bonner insists. Interestingly enough, Harrison Brown and James Bonner co-wrote a book together in 1957 titled, The Next Hundred Years.

What are the outstanding virtues we should attempt to breed in to our population? You might say intelligence, but what kind of intelligence? You might say attractiveness, but what kind of attractiveness?

The episode, "The Mystery of Life," can be found in its entirety on the A/V Geeks DVD, Twenty-First Century.

See also:
21st Century Eugenics (1967)
Future Shock - Babytorium (1972)
Instant Baby Machine (1930)


. said...

Eugenics as forcibly applied to populations is unethical. However, aren't we all eugenicists with regard to our own offspring? Don't we choose our mates in part based upon genetic fitness? When we adopt, doesn't the genetic fitness of the baby factor into it?

Rejecting eugenic imposition does not imply that the notion of selecting for favored traits is a faulty one. We just cannot force it on people, which means that pairing people off according to genetic fitness is a non-starter, besides which eugenics is sloppy and imprecise, resulting in all manner of unintended side effects as anyone who owns a purebred dog can tell you.

No, we need a means that is a hundred times as precise and entirely voluntary; what we need is genetic engineering. In this manner there needn't be any universal notion of what is "superior" or "inferior", the decision of what traits the child has will be left up to the parents. This way we get all the benefits of eugenics with none of the drawbacks.

Drunk Debate Staff said...

Tentatively, I agree with the comment above. Eugenics seems slated to fail without enough care paid toward precision to rein in the complexity. Still, I don't think there's harm in suggesting, like Richard Dawkins did in the John Brockman "Dangerous Ideas" book, that "If you can breed dogs to be smart within remarkably few generations, you can do it with humans."

But, more apropos: very interesting video.