AI: Eugenics

We’ve been a bit light and fluffy around here lately, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but here’s something a bit heavier for you to chew on.

In the comments to my latest post on human evolution and “stupidity”, it was suggested that perhaps I underestimate the support for eugenics among skeptics. History aside, I personally can’t get past the fact that it just feels wrong. Not very objective, I know; i’m still thinking about it. It seems to me that it commoditizes human life in a way that can never be ethical.

What do you think? Could a human selective breeding program be carried out ethically? Is this something you think will be necessary to the future survival of humanity?

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  1. I have one condition for an ethical selective breeding programme: The informed consent of all participants. That would make it very hard to sustain over multiple generations of course.

    But from a practical standpoint you’d have to wonder why you’d bother. Spend 30 years or so perfecting recombinant DNA genetic modification and you’ll outperform any selective breeding programme by orders of magnitude.

  2. We already have selective breeding programs. We limit the amount of access that people convicted of violating laws or who have mental inllness have towards breeding. It’s part of humanity’s attempt at domesticating ourselves.

  3. I would be in favor of eugenics as long as it respected well-established constitutional and human rights principles. The ideal eugenics program would be completely pro-choice, with only positive incentives. There would be no forced abortions, sterilizations, or pregnancy. There would just be tax credits for each child produced by people with higher intelligence.

  4. I’m not sure about the question. In one sense people selectively breed all the time by choosing our partners and deciding whether to have children. This is completely ethical. There is another sense to the question where an outside agency decides who reproduces. This could never be ethical nor would it ever be successful. We just don’t know enough. Look at the carnage we create just by trying to breed faster horses and cuter dogs.

  5. I think it’s possible to improve the human genome through eugenics but there is no group or individual that I would trust to carry it out ethically. Including myself.

  6. We already have selective breeding when Muffy and Buffy can only marry people named Trevor or Scooter. This is definitely not necessary to the future survival of humanity.

  7. The problem with eugenics is that it is institutionalized selective breeding. Humans selectively breed all the time, whenever you choose one person over another based on their attractiveness or intelligence that’s selective breeding. It accounts for many sexually selective characteristics in humans. Eugenics tries to guess what is most fit and codify it, that’s a problem.

    When we do start messing around with our genetics directly I don’t know what will happen. I think it may be inevitable that we will. In vitro fertilization already lets parents screen for certain genetic diseases and sex so some of those ethical issues are here. I see no problem with selecting an embryo that doesn’t carry Huntington’s but I’m very uncomfortable with the idea of selecting a sex or an embryo with the genes for blue eyes.

  8. I’m sympathetic to the idea of improving the genome insofar as we can remove things that are objectively bad, like Huntington’s disease. I’m not at all comfortable with the notion of breeding to suit some subjective or poorly-defined concept (like “intelligence” or “attractiveness”).

    Beyond that, eugenics programs seem inherently unpalatable because they typically make judgments about who can procreate (and sometimes, with whom), which is a major infringement on personal freedom, and for a questionable return on investment.

    By and large, we have a pretty good fucking system (so to speak). Let the genetic dice roll, and take the resources you’d put into a eugenics program into more worthwhile things, like education and medicine.

  9. Forgive me for my half lucid thoughts… I’m half asleep as I write this and possibly not sober but I’m too tired to know if I am or not.

    Wouldn’t a major problem of eugenics be that we’re assuming the traits we like about people are the ones that make us suitable for continued existence? Especially considering we don’t know what selective obstacles we’re going to face next year, in 50 years, 1000 years. And we don’t know what genes that may seem wholly undesirable might be beneficial for survival in the future.

    For example, while sickle-cell anemia is a horrible and painful disease which can cause early death… however, it’s beneficial in that those who have it also are genetically more resistant to contracting malaria. So if you managed to breed out sickle-cell genes, people in malaria prone areas are at greater risk of dying out from infection. (Which is a gross over simplification, I know… but let’s just pretend I get that and am trying to make a point and move on from there.)

    The thing is, we don’t know what our malaria will be in the future… and we don’t know if there may be a sickle-cell-savior in the future. If we breed out our undesired traits, we may be breeding out genes and traits that could save us.

    The thing is, we are here the way we are because this is our best adaptation for life as it has been dealt to us thus far… and our best way to continue to survive is to continue to breed and let nature do the discriminating… she will anyway… and it’s quite likely she wouldn’t agree with the choices we make for ourselves.

  10. @Steve: This is how I’ve always felt. Same with cloning. It a great scientific breakthrough, but I wouldn’t trust any human to be completely ethical/fair about it. I think the rich and powerful would get too much control of it all, then we’d be up to our armpits in GWBushes!

  11. @Elyse: I agree, although I am inclined to think it’s a good idea to eliminate CF or Huntingdon’s etc etc

    And by “Nature” I think you mean “Evolution”

    Although there were some pretty smart/attaractive Lebensborn Kinder

  12. @Elyse: Just to amplify your comment, I will note that Global Warming is predicted to allow malaria-carrying mosquitoes to move farther north into the US. So if sickle-cell anemia does provide a significant barrier to malaria infection, we will have precisely the kind of scenario that can lead to evolution of a species (in this case, human beings). Again, much oversimplified, as you already noted. But it does bring up the fact that over-optimizing the human genome to “current” environmental conditions makes a big assumption about the continued stability of those same conditions.

    For my money, I think we’d be better off cross-breeding humans with camels, given the likely future availability of fresh water.

  13. I’d say if we can prevent children to be born without certain serious genetic diseases or disabilities, I think it should be a no-brainer: we should do it. And we don’t even have to use eugenics for it, we don’t need to decide who breeds and who doesn’t. With in-vitro fertilization and advances in genetic screening, people with particular bad genes can have the children they want without the risk of their kids inheriting the bad genes.

    I understand the worry of the slippery slope, but as some have pointed out, we’re already on this slippery slope. I think if we’re careful, we can go out on the slope a little bit more without sliding all the way down. The potential benefits are too great to not attempt it.

    I also understand the worry that this sort of technology will only increase the rift between the rich and the poor. And indeed, it probably will. That’s what makes it even more critical to have a universal healthcare system that would give access to this sort of technology to everyone.

  14. Slightly off-topic but, do universal contraceptive impants count as Eugenics?

    If we fit all pubescent girls with a contraceptive impant, to be removed at say, 20, in a stroke we’d eliminate teenage pregnancy.

    On the one hand we’d been preventing many unwanted pregnancies & reducing the number of abortions but on the other we’d be preventing women from exercising their reproductive rights.

  15. A little bit of James, a little bit of Elyse. Who determines what should be selected for? And if they determine X, how can we know that X is what will be needed in 1994 when a runaway planet hurtles between the Earth and the Moon, changing our world into one of savagery, super-science, and sorcery?

    While I think there are some objective goods that can come from genetic therapy and removing certain diseases from the gene pool (for example, some of the diseases that make end-of-life so painful and annoying, but don’t affect reproductive success), it comes down to who makes the decisions, what decisions are made, and what degree of coercion is used in making the decision.

  16. There’s a fairly old news story that I keep in my bookmarks for when situations like this come up:

    here it is.

    The story doesn’t say, but when it was first published, it included a photo of the woman. And you can’t help but speculate if part of the reason she was chosen for this “program” was because she was black.

    Granted, we’ve progressed since then. We’ve become more accepting, more tolerant, science has advanced, and we understand genetics better than we did back then.

    But at the same time, do we really trust our government enough to hand over to them a fundamental part of our humanity? Do we really believe that the potential benefits outweigh the risk of the whole process degenerating into bureaucracy? Do we forget the inescapable human capacity for corruption?

    I’ll admit, it seems like a good idea on the surface, until you throughly think it through. Many people who think this kind of eugenics is a good idea probably think it would be someone like themselves who get to choose who breeds and who doesn’t. But it’s not that simple. What if it wasn’t smart people like us who get to stamp the bottom of the clipboard? What if it was “them”, trying to weed us out of the gene pool? Would you put your reproductive rights into the hands of the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly? I thought that’s what we were supposed to be fighting against.

    It’s a fundamentally bad idea that should never go beyond semi-formal discussions like this.

  17. On the conversation thus far
    1)Governmental control of breeding is pretty much inevitable barring the complete breakdown of society (nuclear war/pandemic/etc). So fundamentally bad or not, the question isn’t if there should be large-scale communal control of breeding, but what our options are.
    2)Although I would agree that narrowing the gene pool in a significant way is dangerous, I think there is a lot of misplaced faith in evolution here. Far and away the most common thing evolution does is kill off species. We aren’t special. We aren’t well situated.
    a)Mother nature isn’t above seriously narrowing the gene pool (including taking us out completely).
    b)Modern genetics makes it perfectly feasible that our gene pool could be much more diverse as a result of fiddling. For instance, We now have the ability to pass genes across species.
    c)Gene modifications would have side effects. There is no a-priori reason to assume that completely random mutations will have more beneficial long-term effects than human engineered ones.

  18. @Elyse #11

    I could be wrong, but I have just been studying this; isn’t being a carrier of the sickle cell gene what gives people the stronger resistance to Malaria? Actually having sickle cell anaemia isn’t a good thing.

    That is actually a great example where eugenics could be useful. By genetically testing the population they could be warned when planning to have children that they’re both carriers of the sickle cell allele and that they’ll have a 1/4 chance of their child having sickle cell anaemia. Even if they still choose to have children, many people wouldn’t and the prevalence of sickle cell anaemia will drop (while the prevalence of the malaria resisting allele will not).

    Of course the conditions in the regions where sickle cell anaemia is common may not make this something that could be done yet.

    Anyway, I fully support voluntary genetic testing and voluntary genetic “compatibility” testing, which could be seen as a form of eugenics.

    In terms of more traditional and controversial eugenics – although I often joke about how we should breed out stupid people and make similar comments. I actually would strongly oppose non-voluntary eugenics. Apart from the unclear connection between intelligence and genetics (the strongest predictor of intelligence and academic achievement is socio-economic background), I support equal rights for all people whatever their abilities and I reject the notion that some people have more right to breed than others.

  19. @SteveT: 400 to 150 years ago malaria was endemic as far north as Canada. Wetland preservation and creation is much more likely to cause malaria to spread north as doing away with malarial mosquito habitats (wetlands) is what caused the range of malarial mosquitoes to move south. Nearly as important is to what degree people live in typical malaria areas and most developed countries have substantially urban areas which are not typical malaria areas, as well as modern hygiene and medical care which are the main reasons people don’t spread the disease. This is not likely to change in the future.

    There is essentially no malaria in Mexico. What component of global warming will cause malaria to spread north of Mexico if it doesn’t exist in Mexico? And I’m not aware of a single country in north or South America that would knowingly allow someone to enter their country who tests positive for the parasite.

    I don’t mean to be pedantic but it never does the environmental and global warming discussion any good when very unlikely scenarios are tossed about as some kind of fear making argument.

  20. @owheelj: Genetic counseling for prospective parents where there are genetically transmitted diseases present in one or both parents has been common practice for many years.

    I expect most future eugenics will be market driven and involve the rich being able to choose gender, eye color and to screen for grandma’s depression gene.

  21. Am I wrong here? I thought eugenics was breeding for a better human race… socially, class wise, and aesthetically. Not eliminating a single genetic component (e.g., CF or Hodgkins) from the pool. Eugenics is breeding for tall, attractive, smart, athletic blonde people, not just a world of people without Down’s Syndrome.

    My sickle-cell example wasn’t “breeding out sickle cell is eugenics” but rather an example of how “undesirable” traits can be helpful and that you don’t know what you’re actually breeding out.

    No, sickle-cell is not a good thing, and I’m not saying it is… in fact, I think I said the opposite. What it is is beneficial in a way that perhaps we didn’t expect.

    Anyway, yes, carrying the trait is all that matters… though it was my understanding that you have it from one parent and it’s sickle-cell-sucky but live to reproduce vs from two parents when it’s sickle-cell-deadly and you don’t live to reproduce. It’s been a while, I could be wrong about when the trait actually becomes the disease. That’s kind of not the point… the point is that sickle-cell, while awful, was a beneficial trait to carry and that genes are not good vs. bad and they don’t carry one consequence. So creating a “genetically superior” human race might actually be a horribly unfit human race.


    Yes, by “nature” I mean “natural selection”. Not some benevolent or non-benevolent force guiding our destiny based on arbitrary desires and whims… I think there was a book like that though… Kirk Cameron talks about it. Something about bananas.

  22. @Elyse: “Eugenics has, from the very beginning, meant many different things to many different people. Historically, the term has referred to everything from prenatal care for mothers to forced sterilization and euthanasia. Much debate has taken place in the past, as it does today—as to what exactly counts as eugenics.[24] Some types of eugenics deal only with perceived beneficial and/or detrimental genetic traits. These are sometimes called “pseudo-eugenics’ by proponents of strict eugenics.

    The term eugenics is often used to refer to movements and social policies influential during the early twentieth century. In a historical and broader sense, eugenics can also be a study of “improving human genetic qualities.” It is sometimes broadly applied to describe any human action whose goal is to improve the gene pool. Some forms of infanticide in ancient societies, present-day reprogenetics, preemptive abortions and designer babies have been (sometimes controversially) referred to as eugenic.

  23. I sometimes peek into skepchick, though my not particularly numerous comments were generally not enthusiastically received [no offence, it happens], so i thought i would avoid commenting. Well, apparently i can not live up to my resolutions.
    I would like to make you aware of some less western centred approach, after all, most skepchicks embrace diversity [which i am personally not always fond of]. Apparently considering the ethics of eugenics, and discussing the necessary limits is a rather western, more particularly, anglo-saxon way of passing time. In many places of the world it is just not something considered worthy of much discussion. Especially in the East-Asian part of the world, eugenics is just another tool we are going to use. It is a bit like polemics about stem cell research that resulted in transferring the research to China and other parts of the world.
    If you are interested in a short but insightful article on the eastern approach to eugenics, i might recommend the following by John Derbyshire:

  24. The entire argument seems moot to me, since genetic engineering will become a far more useful tool to modify our genes than selective breeding, given that any sort of selective breeding will, by definition, take generations… and lots of generations to reach desired results, anyway.

    Now if you want a real argument, let’s talk about the rights of parents to choose the genes of their children. To remove genetic diseases, sure. What if they want to change their hair color or eye color? What if genes for eyesight are discovered?


  25. This is an argument I’ve had several times. It always comes to a dead end. Eugenics sounds like a great idea, when it comes to preventing myopia, cystic fibrosis, MS, Alzheimer’s, and the like. It starts to sound like a really bad one when you realize there are people out there who would pick their kids’ eye colors the way they pick shoes at the mall. Then the government would regulate things. *shudder*
    Just like communism. Sounds good on paper, but try putting theory into practice and doing it without fucking it up.
    As for survival, who knows? It may eventually come to that, and I hope my progeny can figure it out. We certainly couldn’t.

  26. Against!
    1. Eugenics involves force castration or abortion of undesirables.
    This is unconscionable, it takes away the rights of people, of human beings.
    2. Eugenics prefers selective breeding for certain traits, at the expense of others.
    Our understanding of the heritability of traits like intelligence is not well understood at the moment, and optimizing for some kinds of intelligence might come at the expense of others.
    Concisely, given all we don’t know or understand about what makes people into the kinds of people they become, it is irresponsible to act on a eugenics plan.
    3. Eugenics favors the extinction of undesirables so that desirables can flourish.
    This is bad for the human species because biodiversity is very important for species survival.

    It’s late, I’m tired. Sorry if this is rambly gibberish.

  27. A hair-raising (and fairly accessible for non-scientists) history of Eugenics in the US is available from the American Journal of Public Health (open access):

    People tend to forget the huge eugenics program directed against Native Americans:

    A very nice book on the topic is “American eugenics: race, queer anatomy, and the science of nationalism” ( Nancy Ordover)

    Her thesis: When you think that sexuality, intelligence, poverty, and crime are genetically based, then you have the stage for rationalizing/institutionalizing eugenics.

    Generally, everyone thinks something in Eugenics sounds like a good idea. As long as it’s happening to SOMEONE ELSE.

  28. I’m all for people making informed choices about whether or not they want to pass their genes on, and no one else having a say.

    Unless we’re talking some peri-apocalyptic scenario…

  29. Even if we are not talking about the eugenics of government making a super race. Part of the reason for Humans success on this planet is diversity. Having a certain amount of the population with blue eyes or a shorter hight or blond hair might seem like a trivial decision.

    But fast forward a couple hundered years. Having the bulk of the population be blond by turning off genes for other hair colors, just because its popular. Might also be turning off genes necessary to thier survival from something else trivial that has evolved naturally, say a flu virus, that now has an increased effective mortality rate on a large number of people. Not because they are blond but because of other changes effected by their parents decision to make them blond.

    If I were to have children, I would want to know if my partner and I were likely to pass on something dangerous like CF or Downs. I would also not be personally against having a pregnancy terminated if the fetus tested positive for one of those conditions.

  30. Steve makes a good point. “Who watches the watchers?”
    I could support the idea of trying to eliminate genetically-carried diseases such as hemophilia, but as to HOW to do it ethically…that’s another story entirely.

  31. The major problem with eugenics is that in addition to selecting for what ever the system is designed to select for it also selects for gaming the system. Gaming the system is much easier than evolving new physiology to support the behaviors or traits that the system calls for, so any eugenic program really amounts to selecting for gaming the system.

    There was a study where they tried to select for chickens that produced more eggs by selecting the chickens in a henhouse that produced the most eggs. What that actually selected for was “mean” chickens, chickens that destroyed the eggs of the other chickens. The egg productivity of the whole henhouse went down. Destroying another’s productivity is much easier than increasing your own productivity.

    That is what current mate selection does, it selects for (primarily) guys that are good at “gaming the system”, that is players who are good at lying to women, convincing them they are a “good catch” and getting them pregnant. That selects for guys who are players and for women who are susceptible to the lies that players tell. I think that a lot of what people call “chemistry” is sex-linked susceptibility to “gaming styles”. A peacock’s tail can be looked at as a sort of “gaming”. The only reason peacocks have big tails is because peahens like them. Peacocks with big tails being successful selects for peacocks with big tails and for peahens who like big tails.

    I think that it is primarily “gamers” who are anti-choice and anti-sex education. They want their reproductive success to be “locked in” as soon as they get a woman is pregnant by any means, including lying to her and rape.

    Putting so much emphasis on economic success in mate selection selects for economic gaming like what we saw in the financial industry crisis. It is much easier to “game the system” than to create wealth. It is much easier to make everyone else poor by decreasing their productivity than to make yourself rich by increasing your own productivity. This is a generic problem in using “competition” to determine outcomes. Gaming the system is usually the optimal strategy, especially the more “competition” there is. At some level of “competition” gaming the system may be the only way to be successful.

    I see lying in politics as “gaming” the political system. When the system is dominated by those gaming it, the system is broken and cannot achieve its original aims.

  32. I’m not for this.

    I think if you reverse the description some you can see why. If you hand off reproductive choices to a third agency than what happens to the ability to choose for a person like myself that doesn’t wish to breed?

    If I were found to have desirable traits it very probable in a system like this that I would be forced to have children against my judgment and against my will.

  33. No and no.

    Ethically, how do you justify telling people who to mate with? Or forcing people not to mate? I’m not a strict anti-law person who feels that everything should be permitted, but there’s no situation I can imagine in the real world that justifies eugenics. Personal choice, especially on matters like reproduction, trumps a lot of other considerations just as a matter of principle.

    The facts are these: we can’t predict the outcome of a mating between two “ideal” candidates any more than we can predict the outcome of non-“ideal” candidates. Even if we could, we definitely can’t predict what will make our species more fit in the future. We just don’t know what will happen in our environment or what new selection pressures will arise. We could make the wrong sickle-cell trade-off, eliminating a trade considered purely deleterious now that, by being absent, opens the door for some horrible disease to wipe out the species in the future.

    So no, absolutely not.

  34. @russellsugden:
    If we fit all pubescent girls with a contraceptive impant, to be removed at say, 20, in a stroke we’d eliminate teenage pregnancy.

    Seeing how it appears to be nearly impossible to control population growth, something like this seems to be the least invasive method of not only controlling the growth, but also reducing the burden on society placed by teenage pregnancies.

    What’s more, with the progress on mapping the human genome and figuring out which genes cause which genetic disease, it seems like at some point, artifivial insemination will become preferable to playing nature’s lottery. It’s not about choosing to have a baby with blue eyes, it’s about choosing NOT to have a baby with Huntington’s or a whole array of other debilitating genetic diseases.

    In fact, people are already cheating on the lottery by merely having babies while nature had already decided they couldn’t …

  35. I’m totally against eugenics, and I think the level where you get to pick your child’s eye colour is unconscionable.. I was even involved in a debate recently about whether its right that parents decide to have their children circumcised.. unless its for a valid medical reason (which doesnt include aesthetics), I dont believe parents should make that decision that the child has to live with for the rest of their life.

    Its a bit of a sticky one, this.. Even if we’re just talking about eliminating genetic disorders, its asking for a Gattaca-type society where those who havent been fiddled with are discriminated against, whether its socially (basically mating rights), or financially (jobs, life insurance premiums etc). Sure, you can make discrimination illegal all you like, but that wont ever truely end it, and making the eugenics program a legal requirement wont end what we currently consider normal sexual reproduction – there will always be those ignoring the law.

    Its a very slippery slope, and we could already be headed for a extremely bipolar society where you have the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ and no amount of socialism will be able to bridge the gap.

  36. *sigh* here goes take two.
    I had quite a post about the slippery slope mentioned by the poster above.

    Essentially, my point was that if some kind of screening for heredetary diseases becomes available, it would be the parents’ responsibility if they decided to play natures lottery and end up with a baby that has a – by now – preventable hereditary disease like huntingtons, MS, Down, etc…

    There’s a world of difference between deselecting for specific heredetary defects (i.e. screening) and positively selecting certain desirable traits (i.e. Gattaca-style build-a-baby scenarios).

    And since so little is known about which genes are responsible for which traits, it’s best to leave as much as possible to chance, and only weed out the worst, lest we end up creating generations of rich kids with an unforseen deadly susceptibility to a simple disease.

    I think even at this point, medical science is ethically objective enough to be able to tell the difference between throwing away a bad embryo because it has a genetic defect, and searching through the petrie dish for the designer baby with blond hair and blue eyes.

  37. Has anybody read “Freakonomics”. It seems like the mere fact that we have legalized abortion has already given us “voluntary eugenics”. For those of you who haven’t read that controversial chapter, basically once Roe v Wade happened, about 20 years later the crime rates all over the country apparently plummeted. And the guy’s theory is that it’s because unwanted children, who were statistically likely to grow up and become criminals, quite simply weren’t being born. And a generation later the crime rates drop.

  38. Eugenics is already here and has been used for some time. Prior to the 1970’s, pregnant women were tested for possible Downs using the embryonic fluid. They were then recommended to abort and the majority did. Children born with obvious, severe defects were allowed to die rather than keeping them alive at all costs.

    Eugenics continues today in the form of fertility clinics. People who cannot by nature have children are doing so; often at a great financial as well as physical cost to the children. Look at any multiple births touted in the tabloids today and all have resulted in some genetic deflect that handicap the child. I personally know of two couples who used fertility clinics, and while they only had one child each, those children will be dealing with chronic medical problems all their lives.

    There is an article in the NY Times today regarding the selfish decisions of parents who waste their time and money on fertility clinics when they could better the life of a child through adoption.

    Considering girls are now reaching puberty at 9-years of age, I am all for contraceptive implants to keep them from suffering the burden of a childhood pregnancy.

  39. @OnlyCheryl:

    The adoption argument is crap… total crap. People who don’t use fertility treatments are not bound by any moral obligation to save teh babbys but couples who have issues conceiving are? That’s outrageous right there… but moving on is the whole idea that adoption is a way to save the world.

    Unless you’re willing to adopt an older child out of foster care, you’re not adopting a child that isn’t going to find a family. Not everyone wants to turn their house into a center for charitable causes, and not everyone is willing or able to take on the risks and work involved in adopting a child out of foster care.

    Adoption costs tens of thousands of dollars, completely out of pocket (vs fertility treatments which are covered by insurance usually) and there’s waiting lists. The waiting lists are for couples to wait for available babies. Waiting for women in 3rd world countries to pop out babies so we can save them in America.

    And there’s the fact that countries open and close for international adoption because of issues like kidnapping children from strollers at parks and selling them into adoption because it’s so incredibly profitable in a poor country.

    You also have to jump through hoops to get a child through international adoption. Got arrested for drinking in college? Denied. Treated for depression? Denied. Are you fat? Denied. Disabled? Family history of mental illness? Wrong religion? Wrong age? Wrong ethnic heritage? Denied.

    In fact, UNICEF has been working to stop or tighten up adoption regulations for a long time.

    Adoption is a fine way to build a family… for many people it’s their only choice. But as a means to save the world… it’s hardly that. It’s disingenuous to act like fertility centers are a pox upon humanity and forcing children to starve to death in developing countries. It’s not a moral vs immoral decision, it’s a decision that each family needs to make for themselves.

    Also, fertility drugs do not cause disgusting deformed and flawed babies. I don’t know what to say other than… wow… no… that’s just plain false.

  40. @Jon D:

    I was even involved in a debate recently about whether its right that parents decide to have their children circumcised.. unless its for a valid medical reason (which doesnt include aesthetics), I dont believe parents should make that decision that the child has to live with for the rest of their life.

    Its a bit of a sticky one, this.

    It only gets sticky if you don’t wash it properly.
    Remember, lather – rinse – repeat. Always repeat.

    I am a Hedge

  41. @Elyse: Adoption from the state of a foster child does not cost the adopting parent anything except perhaps nominal licensing fees. However because of the risks associated with older foster children who are typically neglected or abused, or infants who have been drug exposed or who’s parents have known mental health histories that are likely genetic, the real life costs can be extremely high.

  42. @James Fox:

    Yes, I meant to include that. It’s still a few thousand dollars, but I believe that is reimbursable depending on your state… but it’s a commitment not everyone is capable of making… for many reasons, like the ones you list.

  43. @Mark Hall:

    There are some places that offer “adoption loans”, but most people either save up save up save up or take out home equity loans. We’re not talking like 5-7K, we’re talking $20-50K (sometimes more). The agencies (and countries for int’l) expect to be paid in full in order to complete the adoption.

    For a foster-child adoption though, it’s around 2K or so… and many people have that kind of cash available or at least easily accessible. But like @James Fox and I said, the investment in a foster care adoption is not monetary.

  44. I think a key point is that if some kind of mandatory future-science birth control device thingie-majig prevented children/girls under 18 from even getting pregnant, then foster homes would be a whole lot emptier in my opinion.

    The only people having kids would be those who consciously choose to do so.

    If you think about it, such a device would have a drastic impact on society.

  45. Given that parents have been attempting to influence the development of their children while still inside the womb, it seems a little ironic to be concerned about the ethics of it now that we’re getting close to being able to influence physical characteristics.

    I find it amazing that we’ve gone from an animal that looks like a wolf and created ‘things’ like shi-tzu’s and dachsuns by selective breeding, but when we introduce drugs and genetic manipulation into the mix people start considering the “ethics” of designer pets. I don’t think humans are any different. Either it’s okay to pick what traits your kids have or it’s not. If playing music, talking softly, etc in order to influence your child’s behavior isn’t wrong, then how can selecting eye color, hair color, etc be wrong?

    You can harm a child far more by choosing the wrong name than you can by giving him/her blue hair, designer birthmarks, etc.

    Anyway, where am I going to get my mutant army without eugenics??

  46. @Elyse: Wow… that makes naming your son “Sue” look positively kind.

    My momma went to the doctor ‘fore she had me
    And had him play around with my enn ay dee
    To make me a man who had somethin’ new
    Now, I don’t blame her cause she run and hid
    But the meanest thing that she ever did
    Was before she left, she went and gave me boobs.

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