Monday, June 15, 2009

Back to Eugenics and Richard Dawkins

Ok, so the Xians don't like Richard Dawkins. That's fine, I don't like him either. But if you wish to criticise his book "God Delusion", do so. There's plenty of things to criticise in the book :-D
Now, when you start spreading malicious gossip and lies about Richard Dawkins and smudge his reputation and persona to counter "God Delusion" then you have stepped over the line.

I read that Richard Dawkins promotes Eugenics. I wasn't surprised, considering that I think Richard Dawkins is very similar to Norman Finkelstein and David Irving. But I always double-check the information, and, sure, he didn't do any such thing.
Richard Dawkins is asking for A DEBATE on Eugenics. He thinks that we are not to define things as bad simply because someone we define as bad defines them as good. Hitler was also vegetarian, and that is not the least "bad". We should be able to justify our judgement.
One could for example discuss why it is ok for humans to breed animals but not humans, and what's the difference in trying to promote certain qualities before birth and after birth.
A blogger with a pseudonyme "Orac" continued by speculating whether the decision of not getting children if you have a defect gene or genetic disease, could be defined as Eugenics. In an earlier article he talks about other forms of Eugenics.

Neither of these men supports Eugenics, but part of the Christian internet community is being very goody-two-shoes while spreadig malicious lies about the men at the same time...

Philip Bell says: "it seems incongruous with his (R.Dawkins') recent support for eugenics, on the grounds that 60 years is enough time to reconsider some of Hitler’s ideas." which is a very devious and nasty way of twisting his words to mean something he didn't mean.
Richard Dawkins said: "I wonder whether, some 60 years after Hitler's death... ...we should stop being frightened even to put the question?" The question being the morality of designer babies and enhancing specific qualities in a child.

It's not as bad as Hilary White's version though. She says Richard Dawkins says "Nazi regime’s genocidal project “may not be bad”"!
"Eugenics May Not Be Bad" is the subject line Sunday Herald gave the snippet by Richard Dawkins, not what he said!

On the other hand, Hilary says "eugenics is the social philosophy that the human species or particular races ought to be improved by selective breeding or other forms of genetic manipulation" and someone says eugenics is "pseudo-science".
Neither is true, though. Eugenics is the study of, or belief in, the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits."
It is not "a social philosophy" nor "pseudo-science", just like breeding dogs, cats or cattle is not a philosophy or pseudo-science. Eugenics is simply breeding humans.

Eugenics has a bad name because some states, like Germany and United States, have used it to "improve the race". When you start the road to "intelligently designing" human beings, the people with "undesirable" qualities will be "unnecessary weight". It is acceptable to take care of this "unnecessary weight" as long as the society works well - economically, as well as in other areas. When the society starts working poorly, the "unnecessary weight" is the first to go. It can be seen in our modern "civilized" and "moral" society as well; people who are seen as "weak" for any reason, be it that they are old, sick or handicapped, people who live in slums and edges of the society, will be the first to be ignored. During depression, we see how poor children will get poor quality education, there is no freetime activity, health care is becoming the rich people's privilege, euthanasia is being discussed as a viable alternative, social security rules get tightened... It would be more honest to just shoot them all... and everyone knows who "them" are...

Daniel Macintyre says
"Eugenics is FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG, because it's coercive and it needs a "coordinator" to choose who lives and who dies."
There is nothing in Eugenics that says it MUST be coercive. WHO makes the decision of which genetic qualities are seen as desirable or undesirable is not defined. It can be the state, the church, the elders, the parents... It is also not defined what are the desirable qualities, why one is doing this and how is it to be done.
If you try to influence the genetic qualities of a child before it is born, you are engaging in eugenics.

For example:
A mother saying that her white son may not marry a black woman, because she is worried about her grandchildren - being born from mixed marriage would cause them problems in life.
Parents decide to abort a pregnancy because the child would be handicapped.
A woman chooses the father to her child by his looks, achievements, education and job, either from a sperm donor agency or as a live human being.
We don't call this eugenics, because it is not put in practice by state or another authority.

Now, how is it different in trying to influence the child's qualities after it is born? What gives a parent, a teacher, a coach the right to pick one or two and actively work to support this one on the cost of others? Why would it be morally acceptable to raise children to be athletes, musicians, scientists, what nots, but not breed them for that purpose? why is it morally justifyiable to give some children with certain characteristics, qualities, "talents" better education than to children who lack these? Most children are multitalented and would do quite well in any profession with proper training and possibilities.

Also, I suppose caring for animals' rights is something bad in the eyes of the Christians also... "Common to many utilitarians, Singer is also an ardent animal rights activist". Caring for the wellbeing of animals is not a bad thing, even though they say Hitler did that too. >:->
Peter Singer: “I think it's complete nonsense ... saying we're sacred and should not be changed…to say we've got a perfect genome and there's some sanctity? I'd like to know where that idea comes from because it's utter silliness”
So humans were created perfect but animals not? It's ok to clone sheep, breed dogs, cats and horses, it's ok to take bits and bobs from animals and use them to "improve" other animals, but human animals are "sacred", "perfect" and "untouchable"?
So, Hilary, you are saying that Louise "world's first test-tube baby", her sister Natalie (4th test-tube baby)) and their children, are abominations, because God clearly intended the sisters' mother not to have children? Don't you think God had a reason to block Lesley's fallopian tubes?
then I read “The Inherent Racism of Population Control” and got fuming mad... don't read it. It has absolutely nothing worth reading to say. I have to say something though:

1995 some world food organization says that the world food production has doubled in 40 years... during the same time the world population has MORE than doubled. 1955 the world population was about 2.5 billion, 1995 it was 6 billion. Every 4 seconds a person dies of hunger on this planet. 3 of 4 are children. Might be that this planet COULD produce enough food for the population, but what does it matter, when countries like United States stop producing food because they won't get paid for it, because 90% of world population cannot afford it!
"Grain production has slowed in the United States, but that is because stocks have grown so large that additional production could not be stored"
The "pro-lifers" would do better if they demanded that the state sends the surplus FOR FREE to those who NEED it, instead of complaining about people who educate people about birth controll and STDs.
I think it is morally indefencible to oppose "reproductive health services, contraceptive (birth control) services; emergency contraception; screening for breast, cervical and testicular cancers; pregnancy testing and pregnancy options counseling; testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases; comprehensive sexuality education, menopause treatments; vasectomies and tubal ligations, etc." 100 years ago "reproductive problems" were the biggest cause of deaths to women and children. It is still that in the "third world". "Planned Parenthood" has saved more lives than any prolifers ever.

Another question that arises is the philosophical "eugenics"... the "racism" of mind. Why do you think some philosophies are better than others and should be promoted in the society? Or the belief that some people are worse in God's eyes and deserving their "bad" position in life?

Then I read Vox Day's thoughts on the issue, because Orac was referring to it in his blog entry.

Yeah... I'm not surprised either. It really didn't take long for the Fundamentalist Christian Evangelical Apologetics to start spreading lies about people they don't like.

Now, this Vox asks a question: "on what basis does the atheist prosecute the individual who digs up a few kilos of rotting flesh in order to have sex with it?"
On what basis does a Christian prosecute that individual? The Bible says nothing about respecting cemetaries and graves or about necrophilia.
There are laws on grave peace. Society has made these laws based on consensus, not on what some God might think about the issue. Most people want their beloved ones to rest in peace and they want to be sure their graves won't be disturbed in the future.

I have a question to you, Vox. How does a dead person consent? By not resisting? I have more defined requirements for consent than you do. According to Christians it would have been quite acceptable, even desirable, if Michael Schiavo had had sex with his wife Terri while she was in coma, unconscious and in vegetative state. Would it? Or do you think there's something more in human beings that dictates what is right and wrong than "God says so"? God doesn't say "thou shall not have sex with your unconscious wife", or "thou shall not have sex with your wife while she is unable to refuse you", so what stops a Christian man from having sex with his severely disabled wife?

I know many thinking atheists who are not nihilists. It's not that they are not capable of reason or logical thinking, it's that values and ethics have nothing to do with God. I think some Christians' inability to see why Secular Humanism works says more about them than Secular Humanists... THEY (these Christians) would have sex with rotten corpses if they weren't afraid of Heavenly Punishment, because the only way they can differ "right" from "wrong" is "because God says so"... What makes this really interesting is that God doesn't says "no!" to necrophilia. Of course, if one has to "dig up a few kilos of rotting flesh in order to have sex with it", it might be "grave robbery", and then one isn't to do that because "thou shall not steal". But if you OWN the grave, if it's the body of your wife, then it should be quite ok by the Christian logic.

Also, the Christians don't even do what God says! Jesus, their God, said "Thou shalt not bear false witness"... Claiming that Atheists are Nihilists (or illogical idiots), necrophiles and support Eugenics is indeed bearing false witness of your neighbors. Richard Dawkins and "Orac" do NOT support Eugenics. Charles Darwin was NOT social darwinist, NOR Atheist.

"music lessons are provided with the consent of the parent of the individual, so it's ok" says Vox. "so if eugenics is practiced with the consent of the parents, it's ok too."

One shouldn't treat men and women like dogs because they have HUMAN-given rights. Living with other people require some sort of commonly agreed rules. Democracy was not invented by Christians nor because some God commanded it. Most civil rights are there not given by God but by atheists. "Liberty, brotherhood and equality" is a slogan invented by Atheists.

The Christian God commands his disciples to pay taxes without arquing, protesting and murmuring about it. Luke 20:25: "He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” In every dollar, dime and cent there's "United States of America" written. So why do so many American Christian complain about taxes? Every dollar they own belongs to the United States of America, according to Jesus.

Vox also writes a response to Orac

Well... actually, I don't think Orac was that far off. Sure, slightly exaggerating, but saying that an Atheist is either a Nihilist or a hypocritical, illogical idiot is much worse exaggeration. After all Vox says that an Atheist shouldn't see anything wrong in necrophilia, and the step from thinking necrophilia is ok to being necrophiliac isn't long. Of course, they are not the same, but, hey, if you can't understand how people who invented democracy and secular judicial system would be able to prosecute people violating secular laws, how would you see the difference in thinking something is ok and doing it?

Nevertheless, to answer your question, no. The example you give is not antisemitic... per se... Using the question "why it is acceptable for the Israelis to oppress Palestinians, but not for Europeans to oppress Jews" as an example of questions one might ask when discussing antisemitism is antisemitic though. The idea it conveys is that the Israelis are Jews and they do what they do because they are Jewish and as the representator of the Jewish people and it equates Holocaust with the current political situation in Israel and Palestine and the Palestinians with the European Jews. The question is also illogical by assuming that the state of Israel oppresses Palestinians and that it is acceptable. But, never mind. The statement in itself is not antisemitic, and Richard Dawkins original post is not pro-Eugenics.

I haven't read many of Dawkins' books, because I think they are badly written and illogical. Nevertheless, I don't think one has to be "overly suspicious of the man" to suspect that he would be delighted to head up a department of evolutionary eugenics at Oxford or anywhere else. I think one has to be prejudiced and seriously dislike the man to suspect that.

Then Vox claims that "Orac goes on to discuss a theoretical justification of voluntary eugenics" which Orac does not do. Orac doesn't even "skate lightly over the coercive element inherent in the term "breeding". He says loud and clear that Eugenics is nothing but breeding, how ever voluntary it seems to be. Really, I wonder what Vox is reading and reacting to, because it's not what Orac writes in his blog.

Now - why does Vox find it necessary (and probably humorous) to insult Shannon Doherty is beyond me. I don't know what Shannon has done to Vox to deserve public mocking due to something she cannot do anything about - her asymmetrical face - which, BTW, is something EVERY HUMAN BEING HAS. I suppose she "deserves" it for being so ugly she makes Vox puke. We really should lock all the ugly people in, so that they wouldn't offend sensitive men like Vox.

Really, might be that "not every inquiry by an influential public intellectual is an innocent one", but one should also remember that one is to be considered innocent until proven guilty.
Richard Dawkins most surely has ulterior motifs to bring up the question. He is poking the wasps' nest and the wasps react, always stronger than necessary, always with the "shoot first, ask questions later" attitude. Richard Dawkins doesn't like organized religion, especially Christianity, so he's a bad guy and everything he does must be bad. So if he asks why is it not ok to even discuss Eugenics, it MUST be because he is a Nazi and a proof of that he both digs up rotten corpses to have sex with AND burns Christian babies in his heating furnace as part of the Black Masses of his Satanic cult coven.

Anyway, Daniel Macintyre disagrees with me and thinks Vox is a genius and Orac is an idiot.

Orac already told everyone why Eugenics is wrong, Daniel. But let's see what Daniel says.

"Now, I have no problem with people trying to choose the best spouses possible for themselves"
"Each person tries to improve the species starting with his own offspring."
That's a form of eugenics, Daniel. There is nothing in the definition of eugenics that demands some central authority to force their decision on people. The definition of eugenics is breeding, choosing the parents to produce an offspring with desired qualities, be it intelligence, beauty, what ever.

"Eugenics = Socialism" Huh? What the heck does he think Socialism is?

Most people make wrong choices. Most people choose a person that in some way reminds them of their mother- or fatherfigure as their spouse. Some people choose no spouse at all, just make babies with the "best genetic material available" (genetics), some try to choose intellectually. Some people are so fucked up they never dare to seek a mate or will accept anything because they don't think they are worth anything better. Some are so afraid of loneliness they take anything. Humans are not animals. We have the whole darned psychological ballast.
The "success rate" to people "choosing the best for themselves" is like 50%, probably even worse, because people's happiness in their marriages and relationships isn't being measured. Interestingly enough in cultures where people do NOT choose for themselves, the happiness in marriage is higher than in cultures where people choose. It is a huge relief to be able to blame someone else for the mistakes...;-) Joke aside, I live in a Socialist country. Sure, it's "soft Socialism", but nevertheless, people in Sweden are happier than people in USA. So, according to Daniel, Eugenics is a good thing...

"the normal course of social evolution" is social darwinism, which doesn't work. If you leave the responsibility of the society to the "fittest", you end up with a dictatorship and - big scale eugenics. Just look at Germany in the 30's :->

We don't live in a jungle, Daniel, where we need to fight for our survival. We live in a society where everyone is taken care of and seen as a valuable part of the society, each one according their specific qualities and resources. The strong ones will protect the weak ones, who will cook tasty food, decorate the cave and in the evening tell interesting stories and thus highten the life standard. If the strong ones leave the weak ones to die, because they are weak, and that's the "natural selection" and "their natural rights", the art will vanish quicker than tigers.
Stephen Hawkins need constant care. He wouldn't live a day without someone choosing someone else's best over her own best. Thankfully someone does. Because of this person chooses someone else's best over her own, the society benefits too - you, me, everyone.

Now - nothing stops a "central authority" from choosing all kinds of qualities to be "desirable". Nothing says that a "central authority" must be limited in its choices, not consider all kinds of variations and possible situations where the designed person would find itself and consider possible genetic problems, so that is not an argument against eugenics. In fact, that would be an argument FOR eugenics - it is possible that a central authority would "rescue" genes that would be lost in the "natural selection". A shy person, a person bullied at school might not even dare to seek a partner. (For exampel both Tyra Banks and Claudia Schiffer were both considered ugly at school - how many pretty girls are hiding behind dirt and fat due to the bullying? How much intelligence is lost because it was inside an ugly girl? How many "good" genes were lost because they were hidden inside a "looser"?)
Frankly, Daniel, you are doing an excellent job in DEFENDING eugenics!

"The other issue of implementation is unintended consequences. Often, selecting for a desirable trait can lead to consequences that make the net gain less substantial or even possibly a loss."
As if that doesn't happen in "natural selection"? Have you seen some mutts?

I also disagree with you about our greatest strength :-) I would say some of our greatest strenghts are curiosity, creativity, the capasity to socialize and kindness... now, if I disagree with you, I'm sure a lot of other do too, and a lot of people disagree with me. It makes sense that we would all work for selecting the specific qualities we appreciate best. Then the social conscience kicks in... Of course I would try to make the best choice for the best of the society and humankind, which means that I would consider not only what is the greatest strenght but also what is NECESSARY, and also, what is DESIRABLE... beauty would be the first quality to disappear, because it's totally useless in a society with eugenics, besides the plastic surgery is very much developed now-a-days. We can MAKE the people pretty, what ever their genes would have caused they look...

Now, about the Azhkenazi Jews... are they an example of "natural selection" or "eugenics"?

What ever. Anyway, read the second and third part of the discussion. It's just as muddled as the first one, and equally entertaining.

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